In 1997, Microsoft released Active Accessibility (MSAA)--a set
of programming-language enhancements and standards for programmers to follow. MSAA
provided programmers with access to the information they needed to improve the performance
of screen readers and screen-magnification software. However, working with MSAA requires
frequent updates and new versions to keep up with changes in off-the-shelf programs.
In December 2006, IBM announced new application program interfaces (API) called
IAccessible2. IAccessible2 is based on open technology that IBM originally developed
with Sun Microsystems to make Java and Linux accessible to those with disabilities
and, in Windows, will provide access to advanced features in software programs, such
as editing functions, hyperlinks, charts, and menus. The adoption of IAccessible2
requires work by both vendors of assistive technology and developers of mainstream
software. Freedom Scientific, GW Micro, Mozilla Project, Oracle, SAP, and Sun Microsystems
are the first to pledge support for the technology. IBM's announcement also
holds promise of access to OpenDocument Format. IAccessible2 represents another example
of IBM's leadership in accessibility. AccessWorld will keep you informed
about how IAccessible2 is implemented.
In this issue, Darren Burton reviews the Prodigy and the Advocate, two new talking
blood glucose meters. Even though more than 3 million of the 20 million Americans
with diabetes have some degree of vision loss, there are significant barriers to
their independent use of these tools. Blood glucose meters have revolutionized diabetes
care by allowing individuals with diabetes to have more active control over their
condition. If you are not able to operate the meter and read the results, the meter
is not usable, and you have a much lower chance of keeping the ravages of diabetes
at bay. Find out how well these new meters perform.
Microsoft has finally released Vista, the long-awaited update of its Windows operating
system. I contacted manufacturers of assistive technology to learn when they will
offer upgrades of their products that work with Vista. This article provides their
Lee Huffman, of AFB TECH, evaluates the Jitterbug phones from GreatCall. The Jitterbug
phones are easy-to-use cell phones with large buttons, bright, easy-to-read screens,
and a wide range of adjustable volume both for the ringer and for listening to a
call. These cell phones offer a good alternative for people with low vision who do
not require phones that are packed with features.
Debbie Cook and Mark Harniss, of the University of Washington Center on Technology
and Disability Studies, discuss the accessibility of distance education. Distance
learning is increasingly preferred by both instructors and students for the delivery
of courses in schools (from elementary schools to universities), businesses, governmental
organizations, and almost every other conceivable kind of organization. This article
discusses some tools that are specific to distance learning that may present barriers
to access by people who are blind.
Deborah Kendrick reviews the Telex Professor Desktop Audio System. The Professor
allows you to listen to commercial audio CDs, DAISY CDs, MP3 CDs, FM radio, standard
cassettes, and the four-track, half-speed cassettes that are distributed by the National
Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Find out how well this
versatile machine performed.
I report on the eighth annual conference of the Assistive Technology Industry
Association (ATIA), held on January 24-27, 2007, in Orlando, Florida. The
ATIA conference featured many new products and updates of products, as well as a
number of sessions of interest to people who are blind or have low vision. Learn
what we found in the exhibit hall and conference sessions.
Editor in Chief
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