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AFB  ®
Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
From the American Foundation for the Blind
 September 2006 Issue  Volume 7  Number 5

Book Review

Blog On! Reading and Writing Blogs with a Screen Reader, by Anna Dresner

Boston: National Braille Press; available in hardcopy braille and PortaBook formats and download, $10

With the wonderful sense of timing that has become a familiar and welcome pattern, National Braille Press (NBP) and Anna Dresner have done it again! That is, they have recognized that a popular trend is flourishing in the technosphere and that people who are blind are just as eager to catch the wave as are their sighted counterparts. In this book, Dresner has assembled exactly the information that the average computer user who is blind needs to join the fun.

In a book that is mercifully short (one braille volume), practical, and concise, Dresner sets forth the basic tools for reading, locating, and writing blogs. She keeps it simple, offering just two blogs for examination--her own at NBP <http://nbpupdates.wordpress.com>, which serves as an ongoing updated log of information augmenting her own books, and that of Jonathan Mosen, blindness products manager for HumanWare, whose blog <http://mosenexplosion.com> is a rich combination of text, audio, information, and entertainment.

Dresner walks the reader through every step of reading and then writing a blog, always from the vantage point of doing so with a screen reader, providing keystrokes and sometimes work-arounds for points when a particular element is not automatically spoken. We learn what a blog is, the wildfire manner in which blogs have spread throughout the electronic universe, and how to find blogs that are of personal interest. We learn about carnivals and roundups (which have nothing to do with clowns or cowboys), which blogging services are free, and which blogging services are the most friendly to screen-reading software. An explanation of RSS (really simple syndication) readers and how to use them is an added bonus.

Another bonus is the brief introduction to HTML (hypertext markup language), the format used for writing most web pages. Dresner points out that the editing tools provided by blogging sites are typically not screen reader-friendly, so that knowing some basic HTML tags is useful to would-be bloggers who want better control of the appearance of their posts. An introductory summary of HTML commands is included as one of the book's three appendixes. Also included as an appendix is a list of many of the keystrokes for both JAWS and Window-Eyes that are needed to navigate web pages and blogs.

Dresner presents the information in a straightforward "just the facts" style that imparts information without being unnecessarily dry. Rather than assume that readers have a certain level of expertise--which many may not--she includes all pertinent information in her instructions, yet manages never to be condescending. The result is good, factual instruction that everyone can use.

The only thing that is not provided is a set of rules for spelling, grammar, and propriety--a tool that could benefit many an uninhibited blogger! But Blog On! gives users of screen readers everything else they need to jump on the "blogwagon" and join this reading and writing rage.

For More Information

Contact: National Braille Press, 88 St. Stephen Street, Boston, MA 02115; phone: 800-548-7323; web site: <www.nbp.org>.

Related Articles

Express Yourself: An Introduction to Blogs by Janina Sajka
Braille.com and Beyond, by Anna Dresner by Deborah Kendrick

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