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AFB  ®
Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
From the American Foundation for the Blind
 November 2005 Issue  Volume 6  Number 6

Editor's Page

Assistive technology is a relatively young field. The products many of us use currently have been around for only a few years. Earlier products, gathering dust on our shelves, are not really that old either. A good number of us went through school and our early careers without assistive technology.

One advantage of being a young field is having many of the pioneers still among us. We profit from their inventions and memories and from continued innovations. We recently lost one of these pioneers prematurely. Because of his unassuming manner, many of his company's customers did not know or realize who he was. In this issue, AccessWorld pays tribute to this major figure in assistive technology. From the Sonic Guide of 1976 to the BrailleNote mPower released in July 2005, many innovative devices aimed at assisting people who are blind or visually impaired throughout the world resulted from the work of just one man. Deborah Kendrick provides a tribute to that man, Dr. Russell Smith, founder and CEO of Pulse Data, now HumanWare. On August 7, Smith and his wife, Marian D'Eve, were killed in an airplane crash in New Zealand while returning home from a weekend conference. Read about the life of this passionate pioneer and leader of the assistive technology field.

Jamal Mazrui, Technology Specialist in the Industry Analysis and Technology Division, Wireline Competition Bureau, of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, provides an overview of the Portable Document Format (PDF) one of the most popular file formats for publishing on the web. He identifies features behind the popularity of PDF, analyzes their impact on accessibility, and discusses use of the Adobe Reader program with a screen reader such as JAWS or Window-Eyes. Find out why publishers love PDF and how access to PDF has improved if you have the most recent versions of both Adobe's software and your screen reader. AccessWorld Solutions, the consulting division of the American Foundation for the Blind, has worked with Adobe since August 2003 to help them to improve and enhance the accessibility and usability of several Adobe products for people with disabilities, including Adobe Acrobat and Reader products 6.0 and 7.0 versions. Jamal Mazrui is not affiliated with AccessWorld Solutions or the American Foundation for the Blind.

Just in time for the holidays, Janet Ingber, author and music therapist, reviews seven online shopping sites: Amazon.com, ToysRUs.com, Drugstore.com, PetDiscounters.com, BestBuy.com, Gap.com and LandsEnd.com. These sites and others present a convenient, welcome alternative to traveling to and shopping in crowded malls. Check out what these sites have to offer, and learn how to complete their registration forms.

Susan Mazrui, a writer from Virginia, recounts another side of shopping online--some of her humorous, and occasionally horrifying, experiences. Coverage of technology, assistive and otherwise, is often much too serious. Here we present the first in a series of Susan's reflections under the heading of Mazruminations, which will focus on the lighter side of technology. Let us know what you think of bringing some humor to AccessWorld's web pages.

Darren Burton and Heather McComas of AFB's Technology and Employment Center in Huntington, West Virginia (AFB TECH), evaluate the Scanning and Reading Appliance (SARA) from Freedom Scientific and the ScannaR from HumanWare, two stand-alone optical character recognition systems. These products are aimed primarily at people who are not sophisticated computer users. Find out how these two systems, which perform basic scanning and reading functions, compare with one another.

Janina Sajka, technology consultant from Washington, DC, writes an introduction to blogs. A contraction of the words "web" and "log," a blog is created on the World Wide Web and represents someone's "log" of their thoughts and activities. You have probably heard about blogs in the news, as they are a hot topic in the media. Find out more about how to read blogs and even how to start writing your own.

Deborah Kendrick reviews Braille.com and Beyond by Anna Dresner, published by National Braille Press. The book teaches you how to navigate web pages, follow links, save favorite pages to your Favorites folder, locate specifically desired information, and more. The main audience is new web surfers and inexperienced online shoppers, but a comprehensive listing of Windows and screen reader commands will be useful to others as well.

Darren Burton and Lee Huffman, a new staff member at AFB TECH, evaluate Mobile Magnifier, a screen magnifier from Code Factory for selected cell phones. Mobile Magnifier stand-alone features a separate magnified window providing an enlarged view of the active portion of the main window. Mobile Magnifier Plug-In works in conjunction with Code Factory's Mobile Speak screen reader to provide you with both screen magnification and speech output. Learn how well this product performs.

Correction

There are two inaccuracies in "Not What the Doctor Ordered: A Review of Apple's VoiceOver Screen Reader" in the September issue.

  • The correct command to type in a web address is Command-L.
  • There is now a spell checker in TextEdit. Press Command-Colon or choose Check Spelling from the Spelling submenu in the Edit menu to access it.

Jay Leventhal
Editor in Chief

Object reference not set to an instance of an object.

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Copyright © 2005 American Foundation for the Blind. All rights reserved. AccessWorld is a trademark of the American Foundation for the Blind.

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