Letters to the Editor
Good Cell Phone Option
Thank you so much for the article in the March Access World entitled "You Get to Choose." I had already purchased an LG VX 4500 cell phone from Verizon Wireless back in September of 2004. The customer service representative at Verizon was very helpful when I explained that I was visually impaired and that I would need a phone that supported voice access. He also sold me the Mobile Office Kit which consists of software called Quick Link Mobile Phone Book, a USB cable, and some other software. This allows someone to manage their phone book on their PC and transfer it to the phone. This makes the phone extremely useful for the blind. I was able to use JAWS and ZoomText to input my phone directory into the QuickLink Mobile Phone Book and then write the entries to the phone. The mobile office kit costs $50.00 and is well worth it.
I recently took my phone back to Verizon Wireless to get the upgrade mentioned in your March article. This adds many more voice commands, like Phone Status, which tells you your signal strength, battery level as well as other information. The Call Someone command allows you to find the entry in your phone book and tells you the labels such as home, mobile, or office which you can use to call the desired number. Before the upgrade I could only call the first number for the given name. Although this is an off-the-shelf phone, the Mobile Office Kit and the recent upgrade make this a good option for the blind cellular phone user.
Other MP3 Options
I just finished reading your review of the iPod in this month's issue and would like to put forward some points you didn't mention, both about using the iPod itself and about other hard-drive based MP3 players that hold an equal or greater amount of data, are cheaper, and are far more accessible.
First, as to the iPod itself: Many blind people have found it far easier to use Anapod Explorer software <www.redchairsoftware.com/anapod/> to transfer files to the iPod. This program offers an interface much like Windows Explorer, and it allows people to use standard screen reader commands to transfer files, rather than needing to use the mouse cursor.
Further, Rockbox <www.rockbox.org>, firmware for the Archos line of players (which hold the same amount of data as the iPod and, unlike the iPod, are upgradeable to hold six times that amount of data), makes these players almost completely accessible. They will read the menus, spell all file names and speak folder names, and allow the reading of the battery gauges. When one plugs them into a USB port, they act like drives in Windows Explorer. Therefore, they require no other software to transfer files to and from the player. Unfortunately, the Archos players are now somewhat difficult to get new. Because of this problem, Rockbox is being developed for the Iriver line of players <www.iriveramerica.com>, and that development effort is nearing completion. These players, which are already very accessible, will then be able to speak their menus, speak or spell folder/file names, etc. The Iriver units, like those from Archos, show up as standard drives in Windows (or in other systems), and don't require software to be used in transferring files to the player. Further, both the Archos and Iriver units are far cheaper than an iPod of the same size.
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