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AFB  ®
Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
From the American Foundation for the Blind
 September 2000 Issue  Volume 1  Number 5
Is Microsoft Access-Friendly

Caption: Is Your Closed-circuit Television Making You Tired? What You Can Do About "Computer Vision Syndrome"

In This Issue . . .

Editor's Page

Make the Web a Better Place

Crista L. Earl and Jay D. Leventhal

CCTV Users Report Symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome

Mark M. Uslan and Alec F. Peck

Is Artic Running Hot or Cold?

Deborah Kendrick

AccessWorld News

Letter

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

Advances in information technology have brought about untold liberation and opportunities for people who are blind or visually impaired. Yet as this issue of AccessWorld shows, change can be hard and nothing can be taken for granted. The products we use today may be discontinued tomorrow. New releases or developments in mainstream products too often mean a loss in access as our assistive technologies and coping skills strain to adjust. And the devices that we find so liberating may also lead to new concerns, such as computer use that results in repetitive stress injuries.

As Deborah Kendrick points out in her article on Artic, the once strong and innovative developer of access technologies is now struggling to figure out its role in the rapidly changing world that has transformed even the access corner of the technology industry. Artic has lost ground, and though company officials vigorously claimthat it is "alive and well," users of Artic products are left to wonder about the future of its key products, such as notetakers and access software. Unfortunately, in this world of mergers and rapid developments, good things do not come to those who wait.

Mark Uslan and Alec Peck look at an area of emerging concern—visual and physical fatigue among users of closed-circuit televisions (CCTVs). Although more study is obviously needed, it is clear that users must take steps to ensure that they can benefit from these magnification devices without suffering undue hazards.

Crista Earl and Jay Leventhal explore one of the most promising information developments—the World Wide Web—and provide some digestible information about what separates a good Web site from a not so good one. And in the News section you can read about some positive updates on America Online, video description, and other interesting tidbits.

Finally, we need your ideas. We are beginning to hear more and more from AccessWorld readers and potential subscribers that there is a need for information about so-called "low-tech" products. What do you think? Sound off at our Web site (Web site address is: www.afb.org), via E-mail (E-mail address is: accessworld@afb.net), or good old-fashioned mail. If you want us to cover low-tech products, what kind of information would be most helpful to you?

Paul Schroeder

Editor in Chief

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Access Issues

Make the Web a Better Place

In this speed-learning environment, where does the student or professional go for information? To the Web. In addition to the freely available material on the Internet, many formally constructed distance learning environments and systems exist and are forming the universities of the near future.

What about learners with visual impairments—are we left out? To the contrary, we're leading the way. Will we see print textbooks and wall charts disappearing from our lives? Not yet, but Web-based information offers us the tantalizing prospects of using media we're much better equipped to deal with and avoiding the logistical difficulties of getting to the library or university.

Before you fling images and tables our way, we do readily acknowledge that all is not perfect in cyberspace. Assertions that the Web is inaccessible are not groundless. There are serious access problems. But most of these problems are solvable, and the solutions usually bring extra value to the Web for all users.

First Things First

Guidelines and guidance for creating an accessible Web site abound. The Web Access Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium has developed guidelines for creating accessible Web pages. (See the Resources at the end of this article for some useful Web sites on this topic.)

The following are highlights of the WAI guidelines, as well as some guidelines from the IBM Accessibility Center:

  • Label all images on Web pages so that screen reader users, and anyone else who is curious, will know what the pictures' functions are.
  • Provide captioning and transcripts of audio and descriptions of video so that people who have hearing or visual impairments have access to the content.
  • Use labels for links that will make sense to screen reader users who are navigating the page by moving from link to link. Avoid "click here."
  • Use headings, lists, and consistent structure. Use cascading style sheets for layout and style where possible.
  • Provide alternative content for information presented in scripts, applets or plug-ins because those features are not supported by all browsers and devices.
  • If you have to use frames, label them.
  • In tables, make line-by-line reading sensible and summarize the table in text.
  • Summarize the content of each graph and chart or use the longdesc attribute to link the description or data.
  • Label all edit boxes and buttons on forms.
  • Include a link that lets users jump past the navigation bar, which on some sites can be hundreds of links long, and get to the good stuff.

It is valuable to learn these guidelines, but it is not sufficient. If you are creating a Web site, it must be one that people can use comfortably. As with any other collection of information, a Web site must have a clear structure. If people can't find that interesting article on your site because they are trapped in a circle of links, then you have an inaccessible Web page. The problem may not be so much the "accessibility" of your page, but the "usability" of a page that is so poorly organized that it leads hapless surfers on a fruitless tour. A major part of accessibility is usability.

While you're browsing the Internet, you are likely to run across a site that seems to have problems. You'd like to be able to make clear to its Webmaster just why you feel the site could be improved and how to do it. Let's see what can be done to improve the Internet for everybody.

You're Using Version What?

Bear in mind that we won't all be using the same technology or the same techniques to browse the Web. You might be using JAWS for Windows 3.5 with Internet Explorer 5.5, and the person next to you might be using outSPOKEN 3.0 with Netscape 4.74. Will you both have the same experience? Not at all. Some screen readers can take advantage of capabilities of Internet Explorer that provide more information about the structure of a Web page and will likely read the page "intelligently." By contrast, Netscape doesn't give structural information to anybody, so your screen reader reads the page left to right, top to bottom. A specialized browser, such as IBM Home Page Reader or pwWebSpeak, gives structural information but may not support all the useful and silly things that can be done on a Web page. And in any case, you, the user, need to know how to use the equipment.

Browser-specific Web design is one of the major problems that plague the designers of any sophisticated Web site. Developers tend to design for their own equipment. So, using a fast computer and a state-of-the-art browser, they make a fabulous work of art—but viewed with last year's browser, the one most visitors have, the thing looks… pitiful. If the designers are sufficiently arrogant, they stick a "best viewed with" message on their front page and say it is the user's technical backwardness that's at fault. But if the designers want "most visitors," including blind visitors, to come to their site, then they need to consider the diversity of technology that makes up the Internet community. Blind people, too, are likely to be using older technology. In AFB's Careers and Technology Information Bank (CTIB), a database loaded with technical professionals, of the more than 800 Windows screen reader users, only 138 report using Internet Explorer 5.0 or higher.

Confusions and Solutions

One of the most common points of confusion on a Web page results from the use of unlabeled graphics, especially pictures indicating links. One university's site showed the photo of the head of the department as the link to go to that department's Web page. Good Web design calls for the use of Alt-text, the text labels associated with each picture. Alt-text is good design for the general public because it enables mouse users to hover the pointer over the picture and see words of explanation appear. So, pausing the mouse pointer over the picture of a gray-haired man with glasses might reveal the words "Department of Chemistry." Incorporating Alt-text also allows search engines such as Altavista (which rely on text) to find the page.

But we want Alt-text because it is the part the screen reader can use. If everything on the page is tagged correctly, you'll hear meaningful text, and someone using a browser with the images turned off will see the words of the Alt-text appear in the space where the picture was supposed to be. Image maps will appear as a series of meaningful words. To see what happens to a Web page when its designer forgets text labels, first tell your browser not to display images. Then go to CDNow's Web site address is: <www.cdnow.com>.

In the top left corner, what was the picture put there for? Who knows? Want to buy a movie? There is no link to anything that looks like it might sell you a movie. Very near the top of the page there is an image map with a series of links in it. With images off, it appears as blank space.

But using Alt-text isn't always enough. Some graphics give problems even when they are labeled correctly. For example, it is tricky to turn images off in some browsers, so screen reader users and people with slow Internet connections might have to leave them on. Some browsers don't show Alt-text when the images are displayed. To accommodate these users, redundant links are needed, one for the person who wants to click on the picture and one for the person who doesn't. For a nice example, try: <www.jewishbraille.org>.

What Color Is Your Mail?

It is possible to read every word on a Web page and still not know what it says. One of the things that page designers do to make their pages understandable visually is to group related items together. They might put two articles side by side and then give the two regions different colors. It should be obvious, visually, that the two parts should not be read as one. Is this structure apparent using speech? Here is a fun page to try: <www.springmail.com>.

The page designer explicitly tells you what was done to separate the parts of the page: "Log in on the blue side to check your SpringMail or the yellow side to check your regular MindSpring mail." This approach is problematic not only for blind and color blind users, but also for those whose browsers don't display colors, those with colors turned off, and those using devices without color displays. What can the Mindspring Web designers do to reduce the confusion? They can label the parts of the screen. At the beginning of the SpringMail form, for example, they can put the label "Log in here for your SpringMail account."

Your Table is Ready

Tables should not be used to achieve a strictly visual effect. When text displayed side by side does not belong together, the best the screen reader user can expect is mild confusion.

Tables should be used only for tabular information. To display a list of names and phone numbers, you might put the name of the person in the left cell of the row and the number in the right cell, so reading one row at a time yields the name and relevant phone number. But often when page designers simply wish to split the screen into parts, they will opt to use a table even though the items on the left and right have nothing to do with each other.

This design poses a huge problem for speech users. Why? Remember that a screen reader is an all-purpose program. It has to work well with your word processor, spreadsheet, and browser. In most situations, it reads the designated area of the screen in a left-to-right, top-to-bottom manner. If you've written a letter and you want to hear it read back to you, this way of reading is desirable, but not on a Web page with unrelated text displayed side by side. For the following example, we chose to use Netscape because it illustrates this "word salad" problem better than other browsers. Go to: <www.cnn.com>.

Skip the advertising to get to the short news items. Here's what we found today:

Food Despite previous opposition from GOP leaders, Rocker's December interview in Sports Illustrated Arts and Style Books the Senate easily passed Thursday a House-approved bill to require controversial secret tax-exempt organizations known U.S. economy grew at 5.5% rate in first quarter Philippine officials charge alleged 'Love Bug' Virus…

Visually, the page has three sections, displayed as columns. Netscape and most other browsers don't give structural information to the screen reader. A browser that can reveal the page structure, however, such as Internet Explorer 5 used with JAWS for Windows, Window Bridge, or Window-Eyes, can split up the table. Special browsers can also read the table in a far more sensible way than Netscape does.

But what is the right way to read such a table? In a name-and-phone-number table, there is clearly one way the author intended it to be done. But when the items in the table have no relationship, it's anybody's guess.

When we went to <www.cnn.com> with Internet Explorer and one of the three screen readers mentioned above, it was read in a somewhat comprehensible manner: first the navigation links down the left (including "Food," "Arts and Style," and "Books"), then the news in the next column, (including "Despite previous opposition from GOP leaders, the Senate easily passed Thursday a House-approved bill"), then the next column, ("Rocker's December interview in Sports Illustrated"), and so on.

Taking on a Form

Filling out forms on the Web can be one of the most frustrating experiences for screen reader users. Unfortunately, completing forms is a necessity if you want to find information or purchase merchandise. You must recognize where the form begins and ends, what information is being requested, and how to "submit" the form. These tasks are made infinitely easier if the person designing the form labels the fields with phrases such as "Name" and "CD Title," as well as that all-important "Submit" button. An example of a form that is very easy to use is: <www.seti-search.com>. This speech-friendly search engine consists of three controls, each clearly labeled, with no extraneous information. Results appear at the top of the next page that has no ads or navigation bar.

An example of a form that is a nightmare for screen reader users is the call for participation for the Closing The Gap conference called "Computer Technology in Special Education and Rehabilitation" at: <www.closingthegap.com>.

One major problem with this form is the extraneous text to the left of the fields, so, for example, the presenter's name will be read as "hotel shuttle." Another problem is inconsistent placement of labels for check boxes and combo boxes. We wrestled with this form for hours and finally managed to fill it out only by using a number of tricks. We may have missed a few items, though, such as the place to enter a second presenter's name.

I'll Have Tea Please

Java, a programming language developed by Sun Microsystems, and Java Script are used extensively by Web designers to liven up their sites. They can be used for advertisements, stock quotes, and shopping carts on e-commerce sites. The text that comes from Java is invisible to screen readers, except under rare circumstances. The Java text that appears on Web pages is ordinary, readable text to a screen reader. Some browsers, including some made specifically for blind users, do not support Java or Java Script, so any content that is provided on a Web page using Java or Java Script must be provided in an alternative manner.

Just Skip It

Besides the things a Webmaster can do to create a minimally accessible site, there are a number of features that can be added to enhance the usability of the site.

A painless way to improve the usability of a Web page is to place a link at the top to allow screen reader users to skip information that is repeated on every page. This link can be the first link in whatever is serving as a navigation bar. It should be labeled "Skip to Main Content," "Skip Navigation," or something equally meaningful. Then the screen reader user can quickly jump to the new content. See: <www.acb.org>.

Resources

World Wide Web Consortium's Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI): <www.w3.org/wai>.

WAI Quick Tips: A business-card-sized list of the highlights of the WAI content guidelines: <www.w3.org/wai/references/quicktips/>.

IBM Accessibility Guidelines: A similar list with some of the WAI's language made less technical: <www.austin.ibm.com/sns/guidelines.htm>. AFB's fact sheet on Web accessibility: www.afb.org/technology/fs_web.html.

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Survey

CCTV Users Report Symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome

If you experience symptoms of fatigue when using your closed-circuit television (CCTV), you are one among many. You should know that this fatigue can affect your health and safety and how well you do your job. In our recent survey of CCTV users, 76 percent of the 115 respondents reported serious fatigue symptoms when using their CCTVs, and many experienced the fatigue after fewer than 15 minutes of use.

Tired Eyes: Trouble at Work

Why do CCTV users feel this fatigue? When you think about it, the connection is obvious: Using a CCTV is a visually demanding task, and since users are visually impaired they are going to be especially susceptible to visual fatigue. Ironically, for most visually impaired people, using a CCTV is unavoidable—the vast majority of survey respondents rated their CCTVs as extremely important to them in their jobs. So, it is not surprising that visual fatigue is often implicated in workplace accidents.

Information about CCTV user fatigue in the research literature is nonexistent, but there is a wealth of information about a related subject: fatigue experienced by sighted computer users. Even though a CCTV is not a computer and sighted people are not visually impaired, a comparison can still be quite instructive. After all, both the CCTV monitor and the computer monitor are video display terminals, and both sighted people and visually impaired people rely on the same basic biological equipment to allow them to see.

In our survey, CCTV users reported eye fatigue, neck fatigue, back fatigue, and dizziness, and these same symptoms occur among sighted computer users. The recently coined name for the cluster of symptoms is "computer vision syndrome," or CVS. The main difference in the effects of CVS on visually impaired people and on sighted people is that sighted computer users experienced symptoms after many hours of steady computer use—not after one or two hours and certainly not after 15 minutes, as reported by many of the CCTV users.

CVS among sighted computer users is also commonplace. Estimates vary widely, but in a recent telephone survey of 1,011 video display terminal users, 41 percent reported CVS symptoms.

Symptoms

The symptoms of CVS are visual fatigue and neck, shoulder, and back pain. Visual fatigue refers to the following symptoms:

  1. painful eye irritation accompanied by tearing, reddening, and conjunctivitis
  2. double vision
  3. headaches
  4. blurred near vision and slowness in focusing
  5. light sensitivity.

What To Do

If you suffer from any of these symptoms when using a CCTV or a computer, the first thing to do is see a vision care specialist. There are also some things you should be aware of that can reduce fatigue.

Before computers were commonplace in work settings, lighting was often a problem because there was too little of it. The rule of the day in the computer era should be the following: All important surfaces in the visual field should be of the same order of brightness. The reason for this rule is not just that too much light causes bright screen reflections; it is also the case that every time you look from one light level to another, your eyes require time to adapt. The retina just does not perform well in uneven lighting. Glare is a particular problem because the eyes are drawn to a bright light source and become adapted to the higher illumination level. Then, in returning to the visual task, they are less sensitive and visibility is reduced.

Get the Light Right?

Here are some practical considerations to keep in mind if lighting-related visual fatigue is a problem when using either a CCTV or a computer:

  1. Try turning down the lighting.
  2. Use indirect lighting. Don't use reflective ceiling and wall paint.
  3. Don't use reflective surfaces, such as white desktops.
  4. Use several low-intensity light sources instead of one bright one.
  5. To avoid glare from windows, reorient the workstation to be perpendicular to the window, use window shades, and try tilting the monitor to minimize reflections and glare.
  6. Be aware that white clothing is very reflective and can create an annoying reflection on the screen.
  7. Don't forget to try increasing screen luminance.
  8. Keep the screen clean: dirt, smudges, and fingerprints can cause reflections.

Screen Polarity

Conspicuously absent from the above list of recommendations is screen polarity. It is well known that many CCTV users prefer positive polarity (white letters on a black background). Yet negative polarity (black letters on a white background) is less reflective than positive polarity and closer in brightness level to the surroundings than positive polarity. However, with negative polarity comes increased screen flicker. Even very subtle flicker can cause discomfort. If you are unsure if negative or positive polarity is best for you, the logical thing to do is try them both and see.

Posture and Workstation Design

Improper posture and poor workstation design can cause neck, shoulder, and back pain, and how you position yourself at the computer or CCTV can also cause visual fatigue. A few common-sense principles are always mentioned in the literature. First, maintaining the same body position for long periods of time can lead to musculoskeletal problems, so computer users should take short breaks and walk around or change position. The same can be said for CCTV users. Similarly, staring at the computer or CCTV for long periods of time can cause visual fatigue for the simple reason that it is accompanied by a reduced blink rate.

Seating distance is also important. The recommended distance between the user's eyes and the screen is 20-26 inches, which is more than twice the average distance used by respondents to our survey. The farther back from the screen, the less the need for "convergence" (the coordinated turning of the eyes inward to focus on a near point).

Another disadvantage for those who sit close to a big screen is the excessive realignment and movement of the eyes from one fixed point to another, leading to fatigue.

Looking up at the monitor causes neck strain and reduces blink rate. To set proper monitor height, the user's eyes should be level with the top of the monitor so that when the user is looking at the center of the screen there is a slightly downward gaze. The monitor should have a slightly upward tilt. Setting monitor height is primarily a function of seat height and table height, which implies that both should be height adjustable. This feature is particularly important when using a large monitor or an "in-line" CCTV, in which the monitor is mounted over the camera. Both in-line CCTVs and monitors larger than 17 inches were very popular among the respondents of our survey. Guidelines and standards for computer workstation design that promotes good posture are readily available (see <www.pc.ibm.com/healthycomputing>), but, generally speaking, too few people follow them.

So what is your experience with CCTV fatigue? Send us an E-mail to let us know at: E-mail address is: muslan@afb.net.

Alec F. Peck, Ph.D., is Associate Professor, Teacher Education Department, Lynch School of Education, Boston College. E-mail address is: alec.peck.1@bc.edu; <http://www2.bc.edu/˜peck/>.

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Interview

Is Artic Running Hot or Cold?

Since 1984, Artic Technologies International has been one of the major players on the assistive technology playing field. The company's early screen reader for DOS was once one of the most widely used products by blind and visually impaired computer users. Its innovative internal SynPhonix speech synthesizer and WinVision, a screen reader for the Windows environment, were significant competitors for the more pricey DECtalk and JAWS for Windows. But visibility and discernible progress for the Troy, Michigan, company have dwindled significantly in recent years, and rumor and innuendo are raising doubts about whether this erstwhile pioneer is still viable.

In the summer of 1999, Artic Technologies was glaringly absent from the exhibit halls of the American Council of the Blind and National Federation of the Blind conventions, both major venues for all vendors in the field to maintain contact with consumers and display new developments. Artic parts are not available for some products, and upgrades have not been made to WinVision. Similarly, the Artic Web site (address is: <www.artictech.com>) shows signs of neglect—it has not been updated since 1998. Perhaps most alarmingly, Dale McDaniel, one of the founding partners and Vice President of Marketing for Artic, has severed his association.

The reality, however, is that tough circumstances can affect the reputation of the best of companies, and AccessWorld staff concluded that the time was right to ferret out as much of the truth as possible regarding the present and future status of Artic's well-being. Kathy Gargagliano, Artic's Vice President of Operations, was glad we did.

The rumors, Gargagliano said, are completely exaggerated. "Artic is not dead," was her first emphatic comment. "We're going through some changes and are trying to figure out where our most advantageous direction in the industry will be, but the company is alive and well."

In the spring of 1999, Artic Technologies moved its manufacturing facility from one Troy, Michigan, location to another. It was due to that move, Gargagliano said, that exhibiting at the summer trade shows was not feasible. Since that time, the company has displayed its wares at Closing the Gap in October 1999, the CSUN (California State University, Northridge) conference in March 2000, and the American Council of the Blind convention in July 2000.

With the merger of three major companies in the blindness field—Blazie Engineering, Henter-Joyce, and Arkenstone—under the Freedom Scientific umbrella, Artic has chosen to sit back and study the situation before making the next move. "We know we will still be in the game," Gargagliano explained, "but we're waiting to see what the new conglomerate is going to do before we decide where our best options lie."

Meanwhile, Artic is pursuing two basic lines of business. First, maintaining old customers—many of them institutions of education and rehabilitation—consumes a fair amount of time for the Artic staff, which has shrunk from eight to six employees. Secondly, the company has committed the last year to finding a niche in the novice computer market with its "turnkey" i-Talk system.

With a target audience of senior citizens and school-age children, this system is promoted as "talking out of the box," with no installation required. It is a simple system, enabling new users to experiment immediately with word processing and Internet access. Artic reports that at $999, requiring only the addition of a monitor, the i-Talk has been selling well since its introduction a year ago.

Artic is also still selling speech synthesizers and notetakers, but no current effort is underway to update any existing products. Gargagliano reported that development is underway to make WinVision compatible with Windows ME, but not with Windows 2000.

What Artic Technologies will look like a year from now is anybody's guess. The company has already reserved space at Closing the Gap in October and at the CSUN conference in 2001. Certainly, those actions suggest that they intend to find a new niche and thrive. We'll all be watching with interest.

Artic Technologies International can be contacted at 1000 John R. Road, Suite #108, Troy, MI 48083; phone: 248-588-7370; fax: 248-588-2650; E-mail address is: sales@artictech.com; <www.artictech.com>.

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News

Major Boost for Video Description

On Friday, July 21, 2000, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted rules requiring the top television broadcast and cable networks to provide video description to make television more accessible to persons with visual impairments. Video description involves the insertion into a television program of narrated descriptions of settings and actions that are not otherwise reflected in the dialogue. In a 3-2 vote, the commissioners ordered television broadcast stations affiliated with ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC to begin providing approximately four hours a week of described prime time or children's programming by June 2002. The rule applies to stations in the top 25 television markets. In addition, cable systems and satellite systems with 50,000 or more subscribers will be required to provide video description for the same amount and type of programming on each of the top five national nonbroadcast networks they carry. Stations in markets of any size will also be required to carry any video described programming they receive, as long as they have the technical capability to do so. Video description will not have to be provided if doing so would be an undue burden on the provider. Additional details about the requirements are expected later this year, when the complete text of the rules are published. For more information, contact the FCC's Disability Rights office at <www.fcc.gov/cib/dro>.

AOL Agrees To Become More Accessible

America Online (AOL) signed an agreement with the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) to make the next software release, AOL 6.0, compatible with screen reader assistive technology so it is accessible to users who are blind or visually impaired. NFB had filed a suit against AOL late last year, charging that AOL's Internet service is inaccessible to blind people and violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. In response to the new agreement, NFB has withdrawn its complaint against AOL. The agreement can be accessed at: <http://www.nfb.org/agreement.htm>.

Aquisition

In June 2000, Freedom Scientific acquired the business operations and product lines of Arkenstone, Inc., a manufacturer of reading systems for people who are blind or visually impaired. Freedom Scientific was recently formed as the result of a merger between Henter-Joyce and Blazie Engineering. The Arkenstone engineering group, which includes Arkenstone's founder, Jim Fruchterman, will continue as a nonprofit entity in California. The new nonprofit group, named Benetech, plans to develop new adaptive technology products for people with disabilities. Fruchterman and the Benetech group have been engaged by Freedom Scientific to continue research and development work on the purchased software product lines, including future upgrades. For more information, contact: Freedom Scientific; phone: 760-602-5232; Web site address is: <www.freedomscientific.com>; E-mail address is: nancypowers@freedomsci.com; Arkenstone Web site address is: <www.arkenstone.org>; Henter-Joyce Web site address is: <www.hj.com>.

Synchronized Reading

In June 2000, Microsoft announced a licensing agreement with Labyrinten Data AB (a Swedish subsidiary company of the U.K.'s Dolphin Computer Access) and isSound. The agreement enables text-to-audio synchronization of eBooks created for Microsoft Reader using technology developed by Labyrinten Data AB and isSound, and gives publishers the option of including additional information in eBooks to accommodate synchronized audio narration. As part of the licensing agreement, isSound and Labyrinten will also create enhanced versions of the LpStudio/PLUS toolkit to support production of mixed media materials for Microsoft Reader. Text-to-audio synchronization in Microsoft Reader will not be included in the initial release, which is currently available, but will be included in a subsequent version. Contact: isSound Corporation; phone: 609-637-0099; E-mail address is: info@issound.com; Web site address is: <www.issound.com>; Labyrinten Data AB; phone: 011-46-515-821-75; E-mail address is: info@audiopublisher.com; Web site address is: <www.audiopublisher.com>; Microsoft; Web site address is: <www.microsoft.com>.

Internet Research

A report of the results of testing three Internet search engines for accessibility, "Access to information on the World Wide Web for blind and visually impaired people," can be found in Aslib Proceedings, Volume 51, Number 10, and is available online at <www.aslib.co.uk/proceedings/1999/nov-dec/02.html>. The Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) and the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative have produced Websites That Work, a free video on accessible Web design, which can be obtained from RNIB. For more information, contact: Julie Howell, campaigns officer, Accessible Internet, RNIB: E-mail address is: JHowell@rnib.org.uk; Web site address is: <www.rnib.org.uk/digital>.

Talking ATMs

In June 2000, Bank of America announced the operation of the first 15 talking automated teller machines (ATM), of the 1,600 talking ATMs the bank will install in California. The first cities to receive the ATMs include: San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Berkeley, and Oakland. In conjunction with the California Council of the Blind, Bank of America made the decision in March 2000 to install talking ATMs at each ATM location in its national network. For more information, contact: Ann DeFabio, Bank of America; E-mail address is: ann.i.defabio@bankofamerica.com; Web site address is: <www.bankofamerica.com>; Lainey Feingold, California Council of the Blind; E-mail address is: Lfeingold@california.net.

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Letter to the Editor

First, let me congratulate you on AccessWorld. It's a much needed publication, presents a variety of useful information, and I wish it every success.

In Volume 1, Number 1, there is a statement about the ATIA [Assistive Technology Industry Association] Conference that says ATIA was formed "as a result of product manufacturers' frustration with the way they were treated at other conferences, especially Closing the Gap."

This is not accurate. Although some of our members do have frustrations with some of the conference venues and have felt that relations could be improved, there are other members who are completely satisfied with the treatment they receive at all major conferences. As an organization, ATIA's relationship with both Harry Murphy at CSUN [California State University Northridge's "Technology for People with Disabilities" conference] and with the sponsors of CTG (Closing the Gap) have been quite solid and satisfactory.

ATIA was formed for two purposes. First, there was a general perception among industry providers that an East Coast venue for a conference was needed, and both CTG and CSUN did not have any interest in expanding to another venue. Second, there was a quite strong feeling that the time was ripe for an industry trade association, and a conference was the nucleus around which such an organization could grow.

As you know, our first conference was very successful. Our second will be held in January 2001 in Orlando. Our members' mission is to make the world an easier and better place for people with disabilities, but we can still have fun doing that, so we're pleased to announce that noted humorist and columnist Dave Barry will be our keynote speaker. We hope to see you there.

Larry Israel

President, ATIA

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Calendar

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 address is: <www.closingthegap.com>.

October 22–24, 2000

Access Expo 2000.

Sydney, Australia.

Contact:

Julie Stein, ParaQuad Victoria; phone: 011-61-3-9415-1200; E-mail address is: jstein@paraquad.asn.au; Web site address is: <www.paraquad.asn.au/expo/expo.html>.

November 9–11, 2000

4th Annual Collaborative Assistive Technology Conference.

Denver, CO.

Contact:

Colorado Assistive Technology Project; phone: 303-864-5100; Web site address is: <www.uchsc.edu/catp>.

November 13–15, 2000

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

Washington, DC.

Contact:

Association for Computing Machinery; phone: 800-342-6626 or 212-626-0500; Web site address is: <www.acm.org/sigs/conferences/assets00/>.

November 16–17, 2000

ACM Conference on Universal Usability.

Washington, DC.

Contact:

ACM; E-mail address is: instone@acm.org; Web site address is: <www.acm.org/sigs/sigchi/cuu>.

January 11–13, 2001

Technology and Media Division of the Council for Exceptional Children (TAM) Conference.

Albuquerque, NM.

Contact:

Department of Special Education and Rehabilitation Counseling, University of Kentucky; phone: 606-257-2609; E-mail address is: meb@qx.net; Web site address is: <www.tamcec.org/tam2001/index.html>.

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 address is: <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 address is: muslan@afb.net. Barbara McCarthy, AER co-chair; phone: 804-371-3661; fax: 804-371-3328; E-mail address is: mccartbn@dvh.state.va.us.

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