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AFB  ®
Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
From the American Foundation for the Blind
 March 2007 Issue  Volume 8  Number 2

Editor's Page

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 answers.

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.

Jay Leventhal
Editor in Chief

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Copyright © 2007 American Foundation for the Blind. All rights reserved AccessWorld is a trademark of the American Foundation for the Blind.

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