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AFB  ®
Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
From the American Foundation for the Blind
 March 2001 Issue  Volume 2  Number 2

Editor's Page

A primary message that assistive technology advocates try to convey to mainstream technology companies is that accessibility should be built into their products from the beginning. This approach leads to products that can be used by the widest possible market and saves time, money, and aggravation in the long run. Retrofitting accessibility into an existing product, as Microsoft did with Office 97, leads to solutions that are incomplete.

In this issue, we are excited to feature an article by Gordon Kent and Mike Mandel—two professional musicians and music producers who are blind—reviewing accessible music production software. Gordon performs regularly and has done production work for groups including The Village People and Ashford and Simpson. Mike's credits include production work for ABC television sports, HBO's "Sex in the City," and Fox's "America's Most Wanted." They both worked with the developers of one program, Cakewalk, to greatly improve its accessibility to screen reader users. They also review two other programs—Sound Forge and Cool Edit—as well as cover several utilities that come packaged with the Sound Blaster sound card. They provide instructions for using these packages with JAWS for Windows and Window-Eyes—the two most popular screen readers. This article will be of interest to anyone with fantasies of making musical sounds come out of their computers, as well as to professional musicians who have been wondering whether they should "go digital."

Mark M. Uslan and Kevin Dusling evaluate an office machine that was designed with accessibility in mind from the beginning—the Universal Access Copier System from Pitney Bowes. It incorporates speech recognition to communicate with workers who cannot read its display and includes controls that are placed low enough to be reached by wheelchair users.

The chances are pretty good that at some point you have purchased a software package that was not totally accessible (a description that, unfortunately, covers just about all the Windows software out there). Crista Earl and I list some of the most useful advanced screen reader features. We present situations in which using these features will improve your access to Windows, and we list the appropriate screen reader keystrokes.

Assistive technology can be the bridge to a new job, a promotion, an infinite amount of information on almost any subject, and more. But, many people are denied these opportunities because of technology's price tag. Deborah Kendrick reports on a program in Missouri that uses a state tax surcharge on telephone lines to fund assistive technology for its residents. Perhaps the "Show-Me" state is giving us a sneak preview of the future of assistive technology funding.

In February, some of you received the first issue ofAccessWorld Extra, the new e-mail edition we send to sbuscribers of all formats at the beginning of each month in which AccessWorld is not published. It includes a lot of assistive technology news, a Q&A column, previews of upcoming articles, and feedback from readers. Don't miss the April issue! To receive the next edition of AccessWorld Extra, send an e-mail message to accessworld@reu.com with the word "subscribe" in the subject line, and the name or account number to which your regular edition of AccessWorld is mailed in the body.

Crista Earl was recently promoted to AFB's Director, Web Department. She will continue to write web-related articles for AccessWorld.

Jay Leventhal

Editor in Chief

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