Closing The Gap
The Eighteenth Closing The Gap "Computer Technology in Special Education and Rehabilitation" conference was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota from October 18 to 21 at the Radisson South Hotel. More than 2,250 people attended.
HumanWare announced two products. The VoiceNote is a notetaker with a QWERTY keyboard and speech output. The Braille Voyager is a 44-cell braille display featuring the Tieman Express program designed to drive Microsoft Windows directly, rather than depending entirely on a screen reader. GW Micro released version 4.0 of Window-Eyes. The new version introduces support for braille and Windows Millennium. Freedom Scientific announced Connect Outloud, a stripped-down ($249) version of JAWS for Windows aimed at beginners that provides speech and braille access to Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, and the Windows Start menu, calculator, and other basic functions.
Widening The Gap
If you have attended the Closing The Gap conference, you are probably aware that the organizers have the reputation of being less than friendly to blind participants. Surprisingly, this attitude still exists. Examples at this year's conference include providing braille programs only for those people who register and request one by a certain date; omitting session descriptions and presenters' first names and company affiliations from the braille programs; continuing to hold the conference in a hotel that lacks enough rooms for guests, meetings, or exhibits, thereby forcing participants to shuttle among several hotels; and offering no braille menus and no training of staff on how to accommodate guests with disabilities in the overflow hotels and providing no reliable shuttle schedule.
International conferences of this size and scope offer extremely valuable opportunities to try new products, exchange ideas, and network. We urge the staff at Closing The Gap to make their conference more accessible to attendees who are blind or visually impaired. You can contact them at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
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