The start of a new year often makes us reflect on where we are and how far we have come. Just a few calendar years ago, which equals generations when measured in assistive technology years, we were consumed with the fear that we would be denied access to the Windows operating system and the basic applications we needed to do our jobs. As we enter the odyssey year of 2001, the assistive technology landscape has changed drastically. We have solid access to the Internet, Office 2000, and other widely used applications. It is ironic that we can now use Microsoft as a standard by which to judge the accessibility of other companies' products. In this issue, Crista L. Earl evaluates the accessibility of America Online (AOL) 6.0 and Microsoft's MSN Explorer. Both boast proprietary, easy-to-use features designed to be extremely friendly to even the most nontechnical user. Has AOL made progress toward fulfilling the conditions of the settlement of the suit filed by the National Federation of the Blind charging that their software was inaccessible? Has Microsoft created another product as friendly as Internet Explorer 5.0 and higher is with current screen readers?
Training is as crucial an issue as is accessibility for computer users who are blind or visually impaired. What good is the latest technology if we don't know how to use it and there are no good training materials? Deborah Kendrick reviews a CD-ROM-based interactive tutorial from TECSO, Inc. She also interviews visually impaired employees who have used Allstate's Center for Assistive Technology. Is this a model to be duplicated by other companies?
Mark M. Uslan and Kevin B. Dusling, an intern from the Cooper Union Institute's School of Engineering, continue our investigation of the accessibility of off-the-shelf products for people who are visually impaired. They review Microsoft's WebTV, Sega's Dreamcast, and AOL's AOLTV—three products meant to provide inexpensive, painless Internet access.
The merger of Blazie Engineering, Henter-Joyce, and Arkenstone to form Freedom Scientific continues to be a major topic whenever blind people discuss assistive technology and the future of the industry. In the absence of public statements and dialog with consumers by the company, rumor and speculation have taken over on electronic discussion groups and elsewhere. Paul Schroeder spoke with many of the players and presents what he found.
I have dreamed of having a publication like AccessWorld as a home for product evaluations since I began conducting them in 1988. I congratulate Paul Schroeder for bringing it to life. I am delighted to be the editor and intend to continue to increase AccessWorld's size and scope. This is an ideal time to send us your feedback and suggestions. It is also time for many of you to renew your subscriptions. If you have not yet received a renewal notice, you will very soon. But, why wait? Give us a call at 888-522-0220 and don't risk missing an issue.
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Editor in Chief
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