Technology has opened the doors to myriad job opportunities for people who are blind or visually impaired. Screen readers, screen magnifiers, personal organizers and optical character recognition systems provide the necessary tools to complete our work efficiently. It is not surprising that assistive technology companies devote most of their resources to producing better tools for the workplace.
But what about leisure time? And, thinking long-term, what about retirement? Technology makes it possible for people who are blind or visually impaired to pursue their dreams—start a part-time business, do volunteer work, pursue a hobby, learn new skills, or increase their knowledge about something that has always interested them. In this issue, Deborah Kendrick explores the future for many of us, and the present for some. She interviews three people who retired young and are using technology to research health conditions, change the way they do tasks that they have performed all their lives, and keep themselves very busy. They provide three quite creative answers to the question: How will you fill your days once the novelty of not working wears off?
Amy Salmon, managing partner, and Doug Anzlovar, partner, of ComputAbility Today, an assistive technology training company serving the Chicago area, present the second of two articles evaluating the three leading screen magnifiers: ZoomText from Ai Squared, LunarPlus from Dolphin Computer Access, and Freedom Scientific's MAGic. They evaluated LunarPlus in July; this month they evaluate MAGic and ZoomText. Each program's performance in Microsoft Word, Internet Explorer, Excel, and Outlook Express was evaluated. Tests focused on color and contrast settings, tracking, and supplemental speech output. This month's article also includes features and ratings charts for all three products.
Ike Presley, National Program Associate, Literacy, at AFB, reviews the BrailleMaster, an instructional aid that can be used by people wishing to learn the basics of the braille code. The unit teaches and offers practice on braille dot patterns for letters, punctuation marks, contractions, and the most commonly used English words. The student types on a braille keyboard, and the BrailleMaster provides feedback through digitized speech. Find out how we liked the BrailleMaster as a tool for learning the ABC's of braille.
Amy Waldman, a Milwaukee-based writer, interviews the people creating the first bachelor's degree program in rehabilitation with an emphasis on assistive technology at Northcentral Technical College (NTC) in Wausau, Wisconsin. Certificate programs are planned in speech output technology, large print/OCR technology and braille technology. Core classes include Concepts of Assistive Technology; Introduction to Braille; Introduction to Visual Impairment and Other Reading Disabilities; Laws and Regulations; and Methods of Evaluation and Report Writing.
We launch a new web column in this issue which will focus on evaluations of the accessibility and usability of web sites. In the first article, Jim Denham of AFB's National Technology Program, and Sarah Lesko, a student at Northern Illinois University who has extensive experience with low vision issues, review the accessibility of four industry-leading travel web sites: <www.travelocity.com>, <www.expedia.com>, <www.priceline.com> and <www.hotwire.com>. They focus on factors such as clutter, contrast, navigation, textual description of graphics, use of graphics, and overall page layout. We welcome your input on which sites we should examine in upcoming columns.
We appreciate all your positive comments about AccessWorld becoming a free, web-based magazine in January 2004. Those of you who had subscribed to issues in 2004 should have received a letter about options for refunds. Don't miss the November 2003 issue—if your subscription does not include it, please call our customer service department and purchase that issue. We have big plans for AccessWorld on the web, and we want all of you to be there!
Jay Leventhal, Editor in Chief
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