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AFB  ®
Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
From the American Foundation for the Blind
 May 2009 Issue  Volume 10  Number 3

Letters to the Editor

Facebook Mobile Edition

I recently read ["A New Way to Find Old Friends: A Review of the Accessibility of Facebook"] in the March 2009 issue of AccessWorld. While the review of the accessibility of Facebook was useful, I think that it would have been worthwhile to mention the mobile version of the Facebook web site at http://m.facebook.com.

This [version] does not have all the features, but it will let you find new friends [and] view information about existing friends, such as their profiles, walls and so forth. And you can also view your own inbox and your wall, of course. You can also join and use groups. I don't think you can use applications from this page, but for most people, m.facebook.com should work well.

Graham Page

Trekker Breeze

Your March article ["GPS Made Simple: A Review of the Trekker Breeze"] gives the basic functions for the unit. I just purchased one about two weeks ago. I live in a large city, Chicago, and there are some practical characteristics of the Breeze that should be explained more thoroughly.

I think that the Breeze is a helpful device, but it can require getting used to its "personality." For reasons that I do not understand on a technical level, the Breeze, like most GPS devices, can lose the satellite signal or give a false reading. I have had my unit announce, for example, an intersection after I have already crossed it. If I am moving slowly, it may think that I have turned onto a cross-street that I have only crossed. Usually, it will correct itself within 30 to 50 feet.

I have used the unit on buses and trains, and it is great to hear the streets we are passing in case the driver [is not paying attention] or an automated announcement system is not working. You need to make an effort to be near as much window area as possible. I found it most helpful to angle the front of the Breeze toward the front windshield.

On trains, which do not follow streets, I learned by experimenting, that when I push the large, Where Am I button, it gives me quite a bit of information. I am recording landmarks at the different train stations.

It is important to stay in one place and hold the Breeze still when first turning the unit on. They tell you that the functionality should come up in about 3 minutes. The first time, it will take about 20 minutes, so be prepared to leave on your journey early. In subsequent trips, the signal did come in much quicker, but, occasionally, it will get stubborn and make you wait.

Users of GPS systems for the sighted report that their units can give false readings or cut out, so it seems to be a part of the limitations of the technology.

In spite of these issues, I have found the Trekker Breeze to be a real help even in unfamiliar places because it gives street and point of interest information. As someone told me, it is important to use your own mobility skills and not to be totally dependent on the device. It can tell you that you are going east, once in a while, when you are actually traveling north. White canes can be used improperly as well.

When traveling in unfamiliar cities, the unit can give you street information, but if you are unfamiliar with the streets in a town, the names may not be helpful as with a full GPS system. On the Net, I found a demonstration of a person using his laptop with Internet connection and Microsoft Live in his hotel to locate, for example, a restaurant, and the route to go there. With the route and a Breeze, you have a good tool for keeping on course. I am very glad that HumanWare ventured into this simpler GPS environment. You also have the option of purchasing GPS maps for every state in the United States.

My advice is to take the time to read through the manual carefully and make notes where things get a bit tricky. You can load your notes into a Victor Reader Stream, another wonderful HumanWare product, and take all the info with you. Like most technology, learning the personality of the device takes a bit of time, but it is well worth it.

Wayne Smith

I personally have been into GPS and have seen many different GPS products. When I first herd about the Breeze, I was not too sure about it. Well, one day, a friend of mine let me use his. Let's just say I was amazed. I then had to by my own. I love its ease of use. It's much easier to travel and not have to always worry about pushing buttons on your GPS. You can use it with one hand and your cane or dog with the other. I commend HumanWare for this, and I hope the Breeze is here for years to come.

Mike Huckabay

Medal for Markey Represents Career of Advocacy

On March 5, in Washington, DC, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) presented Massachusetts Rep. Edward Markey with the Migel Medal--the highest award in the field of blindness--for a lifetime of pioneering work promoting the rights of people with disabilities. Perkins School for the Blind is pleased to echo the AFB's accolades. Congressman Markey's national leadership in authoring the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act is the most recent chapter in a career of constant and tireless efforts to make all media accessible for all Americans.

From Mr. Markey's own district--on Perkins' Watertown, MA, campus--we have seen firsthand the fervor with which he has worked to ensure that every person has access to the wealth of information in the media, particularly via videos and the Internet. Such universal access to information is vital to personal and financial independence for everyone. Passage of this new legislation will have a huge, positive impact on students, alumni, and families who are served by Perkins, as well as others across the country who have sensory impairments or other disabilities.

Congratulations to Rep. Markey, not only for his award, but for the decades of bipartisan, people-first advocacy it represents. When leaders take up the cause of those who are disabled, the whole of society benefits. We proudly take this opportunity to thank Ed Markey for all he has done and continues to do.

Sincerely,

Steven M. Rothstein

President, Perkins School for the Blind

175 North Beacon Street

Watertown, MA 02472

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