Personnel Changes at Freedom Scientific
In March 2001 Deane Blazie and Ted Henter exchanged their positions as Vice Presidents of Freedom Scientific for new roles as Senior Consultants on Technical and Industry Matters for the company. Deane Blazie founded and owned Blazie Engineering, and Ted Henter founded and owned Henter-Joyce; both companies were acquired by Freedom Scientific in April 2000. Bryan Blazie, 13-year veteran of Blazie Engineering and former Vice President of Product Management for Freedom Scientific, announced his resignation in March 2001 to pursue other interests. For more information, contact: Freedom Scientific; phone: 727-803-8000; web site: www.freedomscientific.com.
In February 2001, the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board) issued its final accessibility standards for electronic and information technology as required in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (1978). Section 508 requires that electronic and information technology used by federal agencies be as accessible to federal employees and members of the public who are disabled as it is to nondisabled people. The new standards provide technical criteria that specifically relate to various types of technologies, such as software applications and operating systems web-based information or applications, telecommunications functions, video or multi-media products, self-contained, closed products such as information kiosks and transaction machines, and computers. The standards also address compatibility with adaptive equipment used by people with disabilities for information and communication access. For more information, contact: The Access Board; phone: 202-272-5434; web site: www.access-board.gov/news/508-final.htm.
Also in February 2001, U.S. President George W. Bush released the Freedom Initiative on Disability, a set of policies that are designed to promote greater inclusion of people with disabilities in society. Among the proposals detailed in the initiative are: increase the federal investment in assistive technology research and development, expand funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, integrate people with disabilities into the workforce, and promote full access to community life. The initiative also calls for the following: low interest loans for people with disabilities to purchase computers and other equipment that would allow them to work from home, increased federal funding of low interest loans for the purchase of assistive technology, and additional funding for the purchase of assistive technology by small businesses to help them comply with ADA. The Freedom Initiative on Disability is available online at www.fcc.gov/cib/dro/#headlines. For more information, contact: Disability Rights Office; phone: 888-835-5322; web site: www.fcc.gov/cib/dro.
Interact with Your Television
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, WGBH National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM), and America Online (AOL) plan to enter into a research partnership to utilize NCAM's Access to Convergent Media Project to explore ways to make graphically rich interactive television products, like AOLTV, accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired. NCAM plans to use AOLTV as a model to produce a set of guidelines designed to provide accessible design guidance to cable TV providers, set-top box developers, and manufacturers of over-the-air digital television receivers. Initial efforts will focus on improving the accessibility of EPGs (electronic program guides) by integrating text-to-speech technology to facilitate audio output of graphical information.
For more information, contact: National Center for Accessible Media, WGBH Educational Foundation; phone: 617-300-3401; web site: www.wgbh.org.
Swap e-Books at New Internet Library
Benetech, the nonprofit technology company that was formed when Arkenstone was acquired by Freedom Scientific, announced its new venture, Bookshare.org. The web site is designed to be an Internet library for people who are blind or visually impaired to legally store and share scanned publications. The e-book format provided through Bookshare.org will be based on the DAISY/NISO standards, and e-books featured on the site will be formatted so they can be read by screen-reading programs; a Grade 2 braille extension is also expected to be implemented. Bookshare.org will be launched in 2001. For more information, contact: Benetech; phone: 650-603-8880; web site: www.benetech.org/projects/bookshare.shtml.
New Digital Talking Book Standard
In March 2001, the U.S. Library of Congress published a proposed standard for Digital Talking Books, which is based on W3C's XML and SMIL. If approved, the proposed standard will become a formal NISO standard in May 2001. For more information, contact: NISO; phone: 301-654-2512; web site: www.niso.org/Z3986.html.
Shh! I Can't Hear the ATM
Over 1,400 talking ATMs (automated teller machines) will sweep the Eastern states from Maine to Pennsylvania, according to recent announcements made by Fleet Bank and Mellon Bank. Fleet and the Boston-based Disability Law Center (DLC) announced their intention to install 1,420 talking ATMs in Fleet's Northeast retail service area. The groups also announced intentions to provide print materials to patrons in braille, cassette, and large print and to improve the screen-reader accessibility of Fleet's web site, www.fleet.com. The talking ATMs, 16 of which are already in place in Massachusetts, feature universal audio jacks that output private audio instructions that can be received on listening devices, which will be distributed by the bank to patrons with visual impairments.
In February 2001, Mellon Bank launched its pilot program to provide accessible ATMs by equipping 11 ATMs in Pennsylvania with voice-guided technology. The voice-guided feature is designed to allow visually impaired customers to insert a conventional set of audio headphones into a jack on the modified ATMs and operate the ATM by following spoken instructions on how to conduct basic ATM transactions.
For more information, contact: Fleet Customer Service; phone: 800-841-4000; web site: www.fleet.com/home.asp or Mellon Bank; phone: 800-635-5662; web site: www.mellon.com.
Listen to Listening In
CrissCross Technologies announced plans to offer subscribers to Listening In, its bi-monthly publication designed for advanced computer users with visual impairments, on CD. Listening In is also available on cassette. For more information, contact: CrissCross Technologies; phone: 718-268-6988; web site: www.crisscrosstech.com.
Dolphin Computer Access has moved. Its new contact information is: Dolphin Computer Access, 60 East Third Avenue, Suite 130, San Mateo, CA 94401; phone: 650-348-7401; fax: 650-348-7403; web site: www.dolphinusa.com.
Document Conversion Software
Premier Programming Solutions offers three Venusoft products: Scan and Read Lite 3.0, Scan and Read Pro 3.0, Text Cloner 3.0, and DocReader. Scan and Read Lite is a scanning, optical character recognition (OCR), and reading package that has its own voice synthesizer; it costs $89.95. Scan and Read Pro supports 12 different languages, features MP3 conversion, and soon will have the capability for user-designed scanning templates; it costs $149.95. Both the Lite and Pro versions are designed to magnify text up to 400 percent. Text Cloner is an OCR package that is designed to work with a screen reader and features a built-in spell check; it costs $69.95. Doc-Reader is an application that is designed to convert electronic documents into MP3 files; it costs $49.95. Premier Programming Solutions offers free copies of Scan and Read Lite to eligible schools in the United States and abroad. For more information, contact: Premier Programming Solutions; phone: 517-668-8188; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; web site: www.premier-programming.com.
LCD Telephone Software
Adaptive Innovations released BrailleStream-LCD 1.1, the newest version of its software product that is designed to translate the print display of LCD telephones into braille, speech, or large print via screen-reading software or screen magnification software. The cost is $1,500. For more information, contact: Adaptive Innovations; phone: 905-737-6388, extension 1139; web site: http://www.adaptiveinno.com.
Web Access and Screen Magnification Software
Freedom Scientific recently released Connect Outloud and MAGic 8.0. Connect Outloud can be installed on a computer with Microsoft Windows and is designed to provide speech and braille output for web browsers and accessories. The cost is $249.00. MAGic 8.0 Screen Magnification with Speech Software combines magnification features with the option of speech; a MAGic 8.0 without speech is also available. The cost is $295 for magnification only and $545 for magnification and speech. For more information, contact: Freedom Scientific; phone: 800-444-4443; web site: www.hj.com/MAGic/MAGic8.html.
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