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AFB  ®
Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
From the American Foundation for the Blind
 May 2000 Issue  Volume 1  Number 3
Dr Harry Murphy

Caption: Dr. Harry Murphy, CSUN Founder and Man of Vision

In This Issue . . .

Editor's Page

Interview

Product Evaluation

On-the-Job Profile

Product Evaluation

AccessWorld News

Calendar


Editor in Chief Paul Schroeder
Contributing Editors Crista L. Earl
Deborah Kendrick
Jay D. Leventhal
Mark Uslan
Managing Editor Sharon Shively
Marketing Manager Sharon Baker-Harris


Editor's Page

I am pleased to announce some reader-requested changes in AccessWorld subscriptions. Beginning in March, subscribers to our Web edition have been able to download the complete text of an issue in one file. We have added clear indicators separating articles and advertising. And now AccessWorld is available as an ASCII file on a floppy disk. However, before you change your Web subscription to disk, I hope you will consider the convenience of the Web version with its links to relevant past articles, additional information and company Web sites (both from within articles and from advertisements). I continue to believe that AccessWorld's Web space provides convenience and special attractions for readers, and I would be interested in your feedback on how we can use the Web to provide additional services.

As you can tell, feedback is very important to us, and we are pleased to fine-tune this magazine to meet your needs. Are our product evaluations providing the right depth and breadth of information to you? What about the content of News and Calendar? Do you have ideas for feature articles? Perhaps you have some technology tips you would care to offer your fellow readers. Please E-mail me at <pws@afb.net> with any comments or suggestions.

In News, you will find information on many new product updates, since manufacturers often time their releases with the CSUN (California State University at Northridge's "Technology for People with Disabilities") Conference, which took place the end of March. Even old veterans of this annual gathering will probably find some new nuggets in our interview with its founder, Harry Murphy.

We return to screen magnification programs in our evaluation of Dolphin's LunarPlus, which combines magnification with a simple screen reader and provides access to Windows NT. The other evaluation is an overview of braille display access to Windows. Although the evaluation, along with the profile of Georgia Griffith, show the power of braille access, they also show that U.S. screen reader developers in the United States have failed to take full advantage of this approach.

In the July issue we will put the spotlight on Microsoft, examining its commitment to accessibility and assessing its efforts in making software more accessible. AccessWorld editors will be attending the consumer and professional conventions in July, and we hope to see many of you there.

Paul Schroeder

Editor in Chief

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Interview

Dr. Harry Murphy: A Man of Vision

Throughout the assistive technology industry in the United States and elsewhere, CSUN has become synonymous with one of the most revitalizing events of the year. Actually called the "Technology for Persons with Disabilities" conference, the event has been informally referred to since 1984 by the acronym for its sponsoring university, California State University at Northridge.

Dr. Harry Murphy, the man who has orchestrated the CSUN conference and whose leadership has shaped it into a major international gathering, retired at the end of March 2000. This seemed an opportune time to pay tribute to the man who has set a standard for excellence in arranging exhibits, workshops, and speakers, and providing all appropriate accommodations during the event to the constituency who use assistive technology products.

The 2000 CSUN conference hosted nearly 4,000 participants, over 150 exhibits, and scores of concurrent workshops covering every disability type and level of technology. "Accommodation" is not just a word to the CSUN staff, but a genuine way of conducting all activities.

At a special recognition dinner for Dr. Murphy, staff and friends in the technology world paid tribute to the man whose energy, charisma, foresight, and organizational genius have somehow never inflated a humble opinion of himself. In song, dance, poetry, and speeches, friends and colleagues roasted and toasted a man who is clearly loved and widely respected. The CSUN conference, of course, will continue to serve as a reminder of his gift to the disability community as he moves on to do other things.

At 63, Harry Murphy has far from slowed down. In the final months on the job, he made the 350-mile drive from San Francisco (where he now makes his home) to his office at the Center on Disabilities on the CSUN campus twice weekly. He is involved in a number of projects at both ends of the state. As he quipped in his remarks at the retirement dinner, "This is a good time to announce that I am accepting a new position—as CEO of myself." What follows are excerpts from a series of conversations (largely conducted via E-mail) with Harry Murphy.

Kendrick: What was your original connection to disability? Did you have a family member or friend with a disability who led you into this field?

Murphy: I was a teacher of high school English in Camden, New Jersey, and hated it. I was ready to quit education and become a part of my uncle's hardware firm. Then I got an invitation to teach at the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf in Philadelphia. This came about through Temple University's (my alma mater) placement bureau. I had no family relationship to disability, so I "came in the back door," as we say.

Kendrick: What were the steps between the teaching assignment at a school for the deaf and a position as director of services to disabled students at CSUN?

Murphy: After becoming a teacher of the deaf, I won a national scholarship to come to CSUN for a master's in leadership. [The degree is officially called a master's in administration and supervision, and Dr. Murphy later earned an Ed.D. as well.] When I finished, I worked in research at John Tracy Clinic in Los Angeles, and then was principal of a school for the deaf. I first came to the CSUN campus in 1972 as assistant director for the National Center on Deafness, where I wrote grants for student services, interpreting services, telecommunication training programs, and so on, until 1979.

Kendrick: Can you talk a bit about how the CSUN conference originated, what the purpose was, and how many participants were involved?

Murphy: I created the conference in 1984 as a result of students with disabilities and school counselors asking me what I had to offer students at CSUN in the way of computers. The answer then was nada. We had not a single one: not for administration, not for students, none. I have a background in meetings, so it made sense to bring people together from two camps: those who knew what they were doing, and those who wanted to know. We were in the latter camp, so by running the conference, we gained the most knowledge. At the first conference, I expected 200 people regionally, i.e., from southern California. We were blown away when 600 people from all over the United States and several foreign countries showed up. That was a highlight for sure. I actually thought that we had missed the curve on technology. After all, we had Apple IIes. What else could there be in technology? So much for vision!

Kendrick: Which came first for you: an interest in disability or an interest in technology?

Murphy: Disability came first. I am a techno-klutz myself. I don't know how technology works and don't care. I also don't know how my refrigerator or toaster works. I just want cold milk and hot toast. I do understand the power of technology to change the lives of people and that is where my motivation comes from.

Kendrick: What are the personal milestones in your career—that is, which are the highlights that make you smile to yourself, proud that you were there?

Murphy: I was the facilitator of the work of an incredible staff. They have provided magnificent services, such as counseling, tutoring, and computer services to thousands of students with disabilities during my time here. The conference was created, and I got out of the administration of it very quickly, and turned it over to staff who made it the biggest and, we think, the best of the technology conferences. Training across the Pacific was created, and when we phased out of that, staff created an even better training program, our Assistive Technology Applications Certificate Program. I am grateful to the university for permitting me to travel all over the world to make this truly an international program.

Kendrick: CSUN is a conference where the needs of blind and visually impaired participants are genuinely addressed and met. This is not necessarily the case in many cross-disability contexts. Can you talk about how that came to be?

Murphy: Like most things, it came about through evolution. Exhibitors with products for the blind came, and then blind people came. The more blind people who came, the more exhibitors, and so on. We have tried to supply all persons with disabilities exceptional access—physically and electronically.

Kendrick: Why are you retiring? And what do you plan to do next?

Murphy: I am of that age (63) and have had a wonderful 39-year career in disability. I've accomplished all (and more) that I ever set out to do. There is great young leadership in the center, and the center is in very good hands. I wanted to leave while things were going well—and they are. I wanted to retire while I was still healthy and enthusiastic for work and life—and I am. I have purchased a home in northern California, 11 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

I've become active in the San Rafael community, especially in the arts. I love the area, my neighbors, and am now a five-minute walk from my partner of the past 13 years, Dr. Deborah Gilden, of Smith Kettlewell Eye Research Institute. And yes, I know how very lucky I am.

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Product Evaluation

The Quiet Touch: An Overview of Braille Access to Windows

Do you use a Windows screen reader and a speech synthesizer? Are you tired of hitting the "Spell word" command over and over? Do you have trouble knowing whether columns of text are lined up properly? Are you confused when you try to listen to a customer on the phone and your computer at the same time? Do you suspect that your screen reader is not telling you everything you need to know about what is happening on the screen? We have a suggestion: Why not try using a braille display?

Why Dash to Dots to Access Windows?

At least in theory, braille offers a number of advantages for accessing Windows. For example, in word processing programs, braille shows all the spelling mistakes, extra spaces between words, and punctuation problems that are not so easy to catch with speech. A braille display should allow you to write a letter or navigate Web pages in silence, without a synthesizer chattering at you. With braille, you decide how to pronounce names, acronyms, foreign words, and technical terms, without constant distraction from mistaken pronunciations issued from your synthesizer. Theoretically, braille should also show you the format of the screen in Windows and help to make sense out of how Windows works.

When Braille Is a Must

People who are hearing impaired as well as visually impaired rely on braille as their main way of communicating with the world. It gives them the ability to communicate by E-mail or letter. It opens doors to employment in a wide range of jobs.

Some jobs are ideally suited for braille access. Customer service representatives spend much of their time on the phone with customers while looking up information in a database. Braille access to the database allows them to search while paying full attention to the customer. They can then read account information from a braille display. Braille allows programmers to check their work, quickly spot mistakes, and then position the cursor to make corrections.

How Braille Access to Windows Works

Displays typically have a variety of keys for navigating around the information on the screen. Some displays have a great many more keys than others. A braille display, like a speech synthesizer, requires software to run. In Windows, it is screen reading software that provides the interface between the braille display and the computer applications you need to use.

Because the screen reader presents information that appears on the screen and determines the relationship among items, the screen reader manufacturer is responsible for providing the programming that allows a braille display to handle navigation. This interplay between the braille display and the screen reader software makes it difficult to sort out the unavoidable access problems that come up while using a display. It is usually unclear whether a different screen reader or another braille display would work better or if the quirk is an intrinsic characteristic of braille.

We used two braille displays in preparing this article. The Alva Satellite 544 has 18 keys plus two rows each of 45 touch cursors. The PowerBraille 40 from Blazie Engineering has six keys plus one row of touch cursors. And you know how many commands your screen reader has—probably hundreds. Therefore, some screen reader functions cannot be issued from the braille display, and to perform others involves pressing up to four controls—a task best suited for a trained octopus.

Toto, We're Not in DOS Anymore

If you loved access to DOS-based applications using a braille display, maybe you are wondering: What happened? In Windows, information is not displayed in a convenient 80 by 25 grid as it is in DOS. Characters on the screen in Windows are not all the same size, the way they are on a DOS screen or on a braille display. And, unlike previous DOS-based versions, current braille displays do not come with software that finds what is on the screen and gives a few simple commands to view it (and lots of great efficiency features once you have read the manual).

Instead, a braille display must rely on the screen reader to know what is on the screen. Windows screen readers are notorious for getting confused about what is there. Have you ever had your screen reader tell you characters were missing that you were sure you typed or that some were present that turned out not to be on the screen? A screen reader cannot give more accurate information to the braille display than it gives to the speech synthesizer.

Accurate information is only one thing you need. The presentation must be made in a meaningful way, too. Is your screen reader capable of delivering the information to the braille display in a way that is useful? For example, when you press the button on the display to move to the previous line of text, who determines what constitutes the "previous line?" In a word processor, the text is displayed to mimic the printed page, so determining the previous line might seem straightforward, at least if it is being done by a human. But in a dialog box, the "line" as a unit is meaningless. A braille display, though, has only a line to offer. So, the screen reader must break up the screen into lines, regardless of the reality of the method of display. Switching screen readers, or display modes in one screen reader, can make a big difference in how the relationships among parts of the screen are presented.

Much of the Windows screen is occupied by graphics. How does a braille display handle those? That, too, is determined by the screen reader. If your speech synthesizer calls something "graphic 203," that label is likely to show up on the display as well. Another approach is to use specific braille symbols to indicate the beginning and end of a graphic. How does your braille display know the name of the graphic? Your screen reader has a "dictionary" of graphics and labels. Who labels the graphics? Probably, you do.

How Well Do Windows Screen Readers Support Braille?

Since braille displays must rely on a Windows screen reader, will everything you love about your screen reader with speech hold true for braille? And, can you assume that its shortcomings with speech will affect your use of refreshable braille in the same way? Not all screen readers offer support for refreshable braille displays, and no two offer the same level of support. In North America, JAWS for Windows from Henter-Joyce, Window Bridge from SynthaVoice, outSPOKEN for Windows from Alva Access Group, WinVision from Arctic Technologies, and Hal from Dolphin Computer Access support refreshable braille displays (although each was first developed as a screen reader for speech output). In Europe, where more government funding has been available for purchasing assistive technology and where many languages are spoken in a small geographical area, WinDOTS from Papenmeier and Virgo from Baum are examples of braille-only support.

Although braille theoretically offers silent access to Windows and layout information not easily gathered using speech, we found that screen readers generally lacked complete implementation of their features. In other words, we were not always able to get adequate layout information, and we found braille-only access from U.S. manufacturers to be rudimentary indeed.

In general, we found that braille was treated as an afterthought. The screen readers popular in the United States clearly favored the speech user. Documentation for braille commands was typically scant, and often information was given to the synthesizer and not to the display. Occasionally, just to keep us going, we were surprised to find information on the display that we had not heard from the synthesizer.

The Downside to Braille

The biggest negative to braille access is the cost. It still costs about $70 to manufacture one refreshable braille cell. If you multiply that price times 40 cells and add the cost of manufacturing the rest of the braille display, you see why the cost is so high. With the price of a 40-cell display ranging somewhere around the price of a 1996 Ford Taurus in excellent condition, it is worth at least thinking twice before making a commitment.

What Do Other Users Say?

To get a wider perspective, we contacted some members of the American Foundation for the Blind's Careers and Technology Information Bank (CTIB) who use braille displays to access Windows. The CTIB is a database of more than 2,000 people who are blind or visually impaired and willing to be contacted to discuss how they perform their jobs and the technology that they use. Short surveys were E-mailed to 30 CTIB members who use a variety of screen readers and braille displays. Fourteen people responded. Thirteen said that they use JAWS for Windows as their screen reader, and one uses Virgo. (See the On-the-Job Profile in this issue for one individual's perspective on using braille displays.)

When asked for which Windows tasks they find braille most useful, the respondents almost all mentioned checking the format of documents, proofreading, using spreadsheets, and programming. These tasks all require attention to layout and detail. They especially noted checking numbers in spreadsheets and checking the syntax of programming languages.

When we asked for which tasks they preferred to use speech over braille, most mentioned reading long documents and reading for pleasure. Other tasks included: browsing the Internet, changing from one application to another, and reading E-mail.

Braille Dreams

Several CTIB members mentioned standardization of braille commands among screen readers and among braille displays. They also want access to tables and grids, such as those in calendars, Excel, and Access, and more creative use of braille-only features. They would like manufacturers to take better advantage of braille's strength— showing screen layout.

Connecting the Dots

Is refreshable braille for you? If you read braille and you are hoping to be able to check the spelling of words more accurately and check for syntax errors in programming, there is no question that braille will be a useful tool. Making the difficult choice between this useful but expensive device and a Ford Taurus is more a personal matter. The authors have found a braille display more useful, easier to restart after a crash, and safer to operate.

On the other hand, if you are considering a braille display because you are hoping for silence in the office, you might find the current state of screen reader development a source of frustration. Much work needs to be done to bring braille access to the level of speech access, and additional work is necessary to coordinate both to make one powerful Windows access tool.

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On-the-Job Profile

When the Only Windows View Is Braille

For some people who are blind, braille is the preferred channel for accessing information. For others, it is the only way.

Georgia Griffith, an Ohio woman who is deaf-blind, has worked with computers since the early 1980s. Friends pooled funds to purchase her first computer device, a tape-based VersaBraille, and Griffith recognized it almost immediately for the virtual lifeline that it could be for her to a universe of communication, information, and connection to friends worldwide.

Since 1982, Griffith has worked as an independent contractor for CompuServe, managing enormous databases of information. Currently, she is responsible for eight forums.

Griffith works out of a small office in her home, crowded with two desks and a variety of equipment. She has three Powerbrailles from Blazie Engineering (believing that the likelihood of all three failing simultaneously is next to none), two PCs, a laptop, and a Blazie Engineering Versapoint embosser. Her approach to technology has always been twofold: first, a more serious commitment to making mainstream products work for her and, second, the whimsical attitude that everything, particularly in the computing world, is fair game for humor and parody.

TeleSensory's ScreenPower for Windows 95 (which is no longer on the market) was Griffith's first choice for access into the Windows environment. This product offered the advantage of being the only Windows product developed initially for braille, with speech as an afterthought. (All other screen readers for Windows have been developed for use with speech synthesizers, useless to a deaf person, with braille access being added later.) Although she still sometimes uses Syntha-Voice's Window Bridge, her screen reader of choice is Henter-Joyce's JAWS for Windows. "I can't hear the racket that is part of today's computing," she says, "but I consider that a blessing."

That comment might astonish blind users accustomed to the feedback of a speech synthesizer, but Griffith maintains that she is able to do everything she needs to do in Windows with braille alone. Windows 98 Second Edition makes a number of things easier, she says, so that she has worked out quick and efficient keystroke routines for countless tasks.

To remain employed and in touch, Griffith sees working in Windows with braille as a necessity. She does so competently, but not always joyfully. Her penchant for renaming everything inspired the pet name "Crashnet" for the Internet, and although she is able to run her forums, do research, read newspapers, and converse with others on-line in a Windows environment with braille, she says that Windows often "wastes time" getting things done that were once much simpler.

When upgrading to Windows 98, for example, Griffith was annoyed by the rearrangement of certain elements on the screen. Still, she says, it is important to work with the tools that others around us are using. It takes time to figure out new approaches to doing things, but she maintains that she is able to do everything she needs to do in Windows with braille.

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Product Evaluation

Dolphin's LunarPlus Version 4.01 for Windows 95/98/NT

Looking for a new screen magnification program that is NT compatible? This Product Evaluation reviews one of the main players—Dolphin's LunarPlus. For reviews of the other two contenders—Ai Squared's ZoomText Xtra and Henter Joyce's MAGic— see the January and March issues of AccessWorld.

Companies that make screen magnifiers now either include a screen reader with their product or offer "seamless" compatibility with a screen reader in their product line. Dolphin offers both options. LunarPlus 4.01 for Windows 95/98 and LunarPlus 4.01 for Windows NT combine screen magnifiers with a simplified screen reader, and Supernova combines Lunar and Hal, Dolphin's full-featured screen reader. Ai Squared offers a simplified screen reader as part of ZoomText Xtra. Henter-Joyce offers JAWS, a full-featured screen reader that is compatible with the company's screen magnifier, MAGic.

We conducted tests on LunarPlus for Windows NT in a Windows NT environment and used both Windows 95 and Windows 98 for testing LunarPlus for Windows 95/98. We watched for instances of crashing and we looked at magnification, panning and tracking, color selection and speech on Microsoft Word 97, WordPad 1.0, Excel 97, and Internet Explorer 5.0. Whenever possible, comparisons were made with MAGic 6.1 for NT and ZoomText Xtra 7.02.

Get Ready … Get Set … Help?

Both versions of LunarPlus (Windows 95/98 an Windows NT) were easy to install. .LunarPlus was very stable in all three Windows operating systems.

LunarPlus for Windows NT will not run if either ZoomText Xtra or MAGic are already installed. This could be a serious problem in an NT environment with multiple users, who may prefer different screen magnifiers on the same system.

A helpful installation guide is available in large print and on-line. However, no user's guide was included—only on-line help and an on-line quick reference guide, which proved insufficient. Graphical illustrations would have been useful; without them, we had to switch back and forth between the on-line help and the feature we were learning about in the actual program. On-line help was also less than helpful when we attempted to use the color changer and image smoother options that are enabled by hotkeys. We had to call Dolphin to find out that we needed to make changes in the control panel to perform these functions; the on-line help did not include these instructions. Also, the index in the on-line guide does not list all keywords. For example, the word speech is not included.

Can You Have It All?

Users who have sufficient vision to see the icons in a graphical control panel, which can reduce the need to memorize commands, may be disappointed not to find one in LunarPlus, which offers only hotkeys and a text-based control panel. Pressing hotkeys is faster than clicking icons on a graphical control panel, but some users may want to have both options, as they do in MAGic and ZoomText Xtra. LunarPlus has so many hotkeys that a first-time user must constantly look them up in the hotkey flashcards provided. Also, some hotkeys, such as the "Where Am I" hotkey, did not work.

Holy Magnification!

LunarPlus provides up to 32x magnification, which is greater than either ZoomText Xtra (16x) or MAGic (20x). Most users do not need 32x magnification, but those who do will appreciate LunarPlus' unique feature. LunarPlus, like ZoomText Xtra, provides horizontal and vertical magnification stretching, which is the ability to adjust magnification horizontally to make it wider or vertically to make it taller.

See It Your Way

Like ZoomText Xtra and MAGic, LunarPlus offers many different display modes in addition to the primary one, which is just the magnified display. In the horizontal-vertical split-screen mode it is possible to split the screen horizontally or vertically, allowing one portion to be magnified and the other to remain unmagnified. The various "lens modes" allows a section of the screen to be magnified in either a static or movable and resizable rectangular frame. With "auto lens," one line of a document or a control is magnified within a rectangular frame.

LunarPlus has a unique line-view mode, in which the document is displayed on the screen as a single line that can be scrolled and panned automatically. Like ZoomText Xtra, LunarPlus offers a "hook" option, which captures a portion of the screen and displays it in a static window anywhere on the screen. Up to 256 static windows can be made. For example, users can hook the current page number in Word, spreadsheet coordinates in Excel, an important Web site in Internet Explorer, or the clock in all programs. This feature works well in all display modes.

In the overview mode, the screen reverts to no magnification, and the portion of the screen the current display mode represents is shown in inverse video. This functions as LunarPlus's only "locator" option—ZoomText Xtra and MAGic offer several. Overview can be activated from any mode except the line-view display mode.

LunarPlus provides additional Windows mouse options, but, unlike those provided by ZoomText Xtra and MAGic, these options do not provide greatly enhanced visibility.

Keeping Track

Tracking allows users to jump to a location on the screen when a Windows event occurs. As in ZoomText Xtra and MAGic, tracking features in LunarPlus include tracking the mouse pointer, menu bars, the caret, dialog boxes, and control buttons. Additionally, LunarPlus offers a tracking feature in which the mouse remains stationary in the center of the display while the screen moves. LunarPlus has easy options for tracking, as does ZoomText Xtra. LunarPlus handles screen shifting well except in one instance. In Internet Explorer 5, if the mouse is moved quickly over the controls, that portion of the screen becomes blank. The controls reappear when the mouse is slowly moved over the controls again.

Because a fully magnified view does not fit on one screen, LunarPlus shifts the screen to display the active Windows event. Mouse and text cursor tracking can be restricted to within user-defined boundaries, as in ZoomText Xtra and MAGic. The top, bottom, left, and right boundaries can be set separately on sliding bars in a dialog box. A unique feature in LunarPlus is the ability to use hotkeys to go to one of six screen quadrants.

Panning

Panning enables users to scroll through lines of text in all directions. In LunarPlus, panning is accomplished entirely through the use of hotkeys (with the exception of the line view mode mentioned earlier). The advantage is that it allows full control of scrolling speed and direction. However, holding down the hotkeys continuously makes it difficult for a user who wants to perform another task in conjunction with reading, such as taking notes while panning.

Colors and Smoothing

Like ZoomText Xtra and MAGic, LunarPlus allows users to invert the foreground and background in black and white. Like ZoomText Xtra, color, contrast and brightness can also be changed through an easy-to-use dialog box. A preview option shows how each choice will affect the screen before the choice is applied. LunarPlus' font-smoothing feature is simple and effective.

The Built-in Screen Reader

LunarPlus is roughly comparable to ZoomText Xtra in speech capabilities. Like ZoomText Xtra, LunarPlus provides speech for text in any Windows application and most of Windows buttons, menus, and dialog boxes. Unique to LunarPlus is the ability to provide speech for bitmapped images. Compared to ZoomText Xtra, LunarPlus offers fewer voice types and no control of verbosity (the amount of spoken detail). Just as in ZoomText Xtra, the volume, pitch, and rate of speech can be varied. The speech can be set to read the current word, next line, previous line, individual letter in a spelling pattern, or the entire document. LunarPlus_ screen reader handles columns (including those in spreadsheets), a feature ZoomText Xtra does not have. LunarPlus can identify blank spaces, read numbers using digits or words, and indicate capital letters through speech.

The screen reader easily read various documents in Wordpad 1.0 and Word 98. It had a difficult time with Internet Explorer 5. Most of the time it would not read a Web site automatically. A hotkey need to be pressed, and then it would only read the whole screen instead of just the homepage currently being viewed. When the arrow keys or the mouse were used to view the page, it would stop speaking. Pressing the hotkeys to activate speech would only send the screen reader to the top of the screen again.

Summing Up

LunarPlus' main strengths lie in its high magnification level, the large number of hooked areas it can make, its unique line-view mode, and its ability to access magnified areas quickly by going to different screen quadrants. Its biggest weakness is that the lack of a clear and thorough instruction manual. Other limitations include a number of hotkeys that do not work, a screen shifting problem in Internet Explorer 5, lack of useful mouse and caret enhancements, and the screen reader's inability to read a Web page in Internet Explorer 5 effectively. LunarPlus for Windows 95/98 is less expensive than ZoomText Xtra, but if you need the NT version, it is more expensive than either MAGic or ZoomText Xtra.

Manufacturer's Comments

"The security system of Windows NT/2000 does not provide a standard supported way to access screen information. Compatibility with competitors' access products is therefore often a matter of chance. We at Dolphin are absolutely confident of the reliability and stability of our method, which is the main concern for our customers.

"The reference to the "Where Am I Key" hotkey is a documentation error, which will be corrected immediately.

"Dolphin always follows the industry standards when implementing software. To perform a search of the On-line Help system, use the 'Find' property sheet, just as with Windows Help. The Index lists section headings rather than all occurrences of a word."

"LunarPlus ships with a full set of high-visibility mouse pointers. These are also available free of charge at <http//www.dolphinusa.com>.

"LunarPlus also includes the Orpheus software synthesizer, which comes with seven software languages. Also included is the SAM module (Synthesizer Access Manager), which provides compatibility with a list of over 20 different speech synthesizers."

Product Information

Products: LunarPlus 4.01 for Windows 95/98, LunarPlus 4.01 for Windows NT/2000

Manufacturer: Dolphin Computer Access; phone: 650-348-7401; e-mail: <info@dolphinusa.com>. Price: LunarPlus 4.01 for Windows 95/98: $395; LunarPlus 4.01 for Windows NT/2000: $795.

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News

Merger

Henter-Joyce has merged with Blazie Engineering to form Freedom Scientific Inc., a new company offering assistive technology products for people with sensory impairments and learning disabilities. Ted Henter and Deane Blazie will serve as vice presidents of the new company. Contact: Sharon Spencer, Henter-Joyce; phone: 727-803-8000; Bryan Blazie, Blazie Engineering; phone: 410-893-9333; or Steve Leese, Freedom Scientific; phone: 760-602-5232.

Talking Orientation System

Sendero Group, Mike May's new company, released GPS Auto-Talk in April 2000. The product, based on Arkenstone's Strider, is designed for use with a talking notebook computer and consists of a talking user interface, digital maps, and a GPS antenna. The cost is $799. Contact: Beyond Sight; phone: 303-795-6455; E-mail: <Sales@BeyondSight.com>.

Acquisition

Lernout & Hauspie (L&H) recently signed a definitive agreement to acquire Dragon Systems, gaining approximately 350 employees, including 170 research scientists and development engineers. L&H expects to accelerate work on projects with handheld and mobile devices. Contact: Lernout & Hauspie; phone: 781-203-5000; Web site: <www.LHSL.com>.

Screen Reader Updates

Syntha-Voice has released Window Bridge 2000 at a pricetag of $795 each for Windows 95, 98, and NT 4.0; the full suite costs $1,195. Contact: Syntha-Voice; phone: 905-662-0565; Web site: <www.synthavoice.on.ca/>.

Window-Eyes 4.0 will soon be available from GW Micro. New features include: braille display support, support for Windows Millennium, and enhanced support for Internet Explorer 5, 5.01, and 5.5. The cost is $595. Contact: GW Micro; phone: 219-489-3671; Web site: <www.gwmicro.com>.

outSPOKEN Ensemble 3.0 is ALVA Access Group's most current screen reader with braille and speech output for Windows 98 or 95. The new features include: a multilingual speech synthesizer and compatibility with Microsoft Office 2000 and other applications. Contact: ALVA Access Group; phone: 888-318-ALVA or 510-923-6285; Web site: <www.aagi.com>.

Braille Notetaker

The BrailleNote notetaker, recently released by Pulse Data International and HumanWare, operates on Microsoft's Windows CE operating system and includes an 18- or 32-cell braille display. It includes. a POP3 E-mail package and internal modem. Contact: HumanWare; phone: 800-722-3393; Web site: <www.braillenote.com>.

Braille Displays

ALVA Access Group announced a new series of portable and desktop braille displays. Both models can be used with Windows 95, 98, and Windows NT operating systems. Contact: ALVA Access Group; phone: 888-318-ALVA or 510-923-6285; Web site: <www.aagi.com>.

Medal for Kurzweil

Ray Kurzweil, chairman of Kurzweil Adaptive Technologies, received the National Medal of Technology for achievements such as developing the first print-to-speech reading machine—the Kurzweil Reading . Contact: Kurzweil Technologies; phone: 781-263-0000; Web site: <www.kurzweiltech.com>.

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Calendar

June 14–18, 2000

Designing for the 21st Century II: An International Conference on Universal Design.

Providence, RI, sponsored by Adaptive Environments.

Contact:

Designing for the 21st Century, Adaptive Environments Center; phone: 617-695-1225; Web site: <www.adaptenv.org/21century>.

June 28–July 2, 2000

RESNA 2000: Technology for the New Millennium.

Orlando, FL.

Contact:

RESNA; Web site: <www.resna2000.org>.

July 1–8, 2000

American Council of the Blind (ACB) Annual Convention.

Louisville, KY.

Contact:

ACB; phone: 202-467-5081; Web site: <www.acb.org>.

July 2–8, 2000

National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Annual Convention.

Atlanta, GA.

Contact:

NFB; phone: 410-659-9314; Web site: <www.nfb.org>.

October 19–21, 2000

18th Annual Closing the Gap Conference: Computer Technology in Special Education and Rehabilitation.

Minneapolis, MN.

Contact:

Closing the Gap; phone: 507-248-3294; Web site: <www.closingthegap.com>.

November 13–15, 2000

ASSETS 2000, Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Conference on Computers and the Physically Disabled.

Washington, DC.

Contact:

ACM; phone: 800-342-6626 or 212-626-0500; Web site: <www.acm.org/sigs/conferences/assets00/>.

January 24–27, 2001

Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) Conference.

Orlando, FL.

Contact:

Shana Peake, Assistive Technology Industry Association; phone: 847-869-1282; Web site: <www.atia.org>.

August 3–5, 2001

2001: A Technology Odyssey.

Sponsored by the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) and the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER). Pittsburgh, PA.

Contact:

Mark Uslan, AFB co-chair; phone: 212-502-7638; E-mail <muslan@afb.net> Barbara McCarthy, AER co-chair; phone: 804-371-3661; E-mail: <mccartbn@dvh.state.va.us>.

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