There is very little research available on the usability of assistive technology. AccessWorld's Product Evaluations focus on how well screen readers, notetakers, screen magnifiers, and other products perform the tasks they are supposed to perform. In contrast, usability research focuses on the user. It tries to answer questions dealing with how easy the product is to learn and use, the user's expectations of the product, whether the product meets those expectations, and whether the user would recommend the product to others.
This issue features the results of a survey conducted by Alec Peck, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Lynch School of Education, Boston College, and Mark Uslan on the effects of using closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems. This article discusses problems experienced by CCTV users that are similar to those experienced by nondisabled people who stare at computer monitors all day.
This issue also features AccessWorld's first article on assistive technology training. The article in this issue is the first in a two-part series that discusses how to choose a trainer, what you should do before the trainer arrives, and what you should and should not expect from the trainer. The author, Lynn Zelvin, is a former trainer for the Columbia Lighthouse and now Web Coordinator for the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB).
Koert Wehberg, an intern with AFB's Technology Program for the past two summers, worked with me on evaluating IBM's Home Page Reader 3.0 during his spring break from Hamilton College in western New York. Joe Lazzaro, of the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind and author of books on assistive technology, evaluated Connect Outloud, a lower cost version of JAWS for Windows that works with Internet Explorer, Microsoft's Outlook Express e-mail program, and a simple word processor from Freedom Scientific. Both programs are aimed at beginners, including older people who are interested in web browsing and e-mail.
Deborah Kendrick's article on automated teller machines provides an overview of talking automated teller machines (ATMs)—how they were developed, where they are and will be located, and the advocacy efforts that helped to convince banks to install them. Do you use talking ATMs? Write to AccessWorld and share your experience with those of us who still have to wait in line at the bank for a teller or customer service person. Kendrick also reviews Word Wise 2000: An Intermediate Guide for Blind Users, produced by National Braille Press.
The June issue of AccessWorld Extra—the e-mail version we send out in the six months in which AccessWorld is not published—featured comments, letters, and questions from you, our readers. Don't miss the August issue, which will contain news about new products we learn about at the American Council of the Blind's and National Federation of the Blind's annual conventions. To be added to the AccessWorld Extra list, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word "subscribe" in the subject line and include the name or account number to which your regular edition of AccessWorld is mailed in the body.
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