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AFB  ®
Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
From the American Foundation for the Blind
 March 2008 Issue  Volume 9  Number 2

Editor's Page

I recently attended the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) conference in Orlando, Florida. Here are a couple of observations based on my visits to various booths in the exhibit hall.

GW Micro and Ai Squared announced that Window-Eyes and ZoomText, respectively, will include scripting. Scripting will allow the automation of tasks--you will have the ability to write a program that lets the software perform a number of functions with a single keystroke. Both companies say that their scripting will be easy to use. So, these products finally join JAWS, which has had a scripting language for years.

Several new closed-circuit televisions (CCTVs) were on display. There are more than 100 CCTVs on the market, with handheld models and laptop-compatible products leading the way. I realize that the market for low vision products is larger than the market for blindness products, but, can even this larger market support so many products? I would not be surprised if, in the next year or two, some of these CCTV manufacturers buy each other out, merge, or go out of business.

In this issue, Deborah Kendrick interviews Bill McCann, president and founder of Dancing Dots. McCann left a job as a computer programmer with a major company to start Dancing Dots and developed its flagship product, the GOODFEEL music translator. After 15 years of hard work, Dancing Dots now has customers throughout the United States, Canada, and 40 other countries. Read this entrepreneur's story and listen to an original composition provided as a treat for AccessWorld readers.

Stephanie Bassler, a writer and web-accessibility expert, presents an overview of Web 2.0 and the access challenges it poses. Web 2.0 is a new way of using the web that lets users collaborate and share information online. Web 2.0 sites allow you to do something, such as publish words and pictures or keep a group calendar. This article covers social networking sites; project-management sites; blogs; and "wikis," web sites that allow users to add and edit information. Learn about Web 2.0 and accessibility.

Lee Huffman, of AFB TECH, evaluates two new products, the Zoom-Ex and Zoom-Twix, both from ABISee. The Zoom-Ex is a portable, lightweight, computer-compatible document scanner that converts the scanned page to speech and magnifies and wraps the lines on the screen to eliminate the need for an x-y table. The Zoom-Twix incorporates the physical design and features of the Zoom-Ex and facilitates live-distance, desktop, and self-viewing through the addition of a second camera attached to the Zoom-Ex stand.

William S. Carter and Guido D. Corona, of IBM's Human Ability and Accessibility Center, provide an introduction to virtual worlds and propose ways of making them accessible to people who are blind. Virtual worlds, such as Second Life, are places where sighted people play interactive games; visit "islands" replete with buildings, museums, and people; attend college lectures; transact imaginary or real business; chat with others; manipulate objects; and more. This article proposes early solutions to how these virtual worlds may be made accessible.

Deborah Kendrick reviews Google It! A Guide to the World's Most Popular Search Engine by Jonathan Mosen with Anna Dresner, published by National Braille Press. This tutorial offers many tips and tricks to enhance your Google searches. Do you know how to use Google as a dictionary or to track packages? This book has something for everyone. Read our review.

I report on the ninth annual conference of the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA), held from January 30 to February 2, 2008, 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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