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AFB  ®
Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
From the American Foundation for the Blind
 September 2012 Issue  Volume 13  Number 9

In This Issue

Editor's Page

More Information on Cell Phone Access

Cell Phone Access

An Evaluation of the New, Free BlackBerry Screen Reader from Research in Motion

by Aaron Preece

With the release of BlackBerry Screen Reader, BlackBerry devices may be a viable choice for people with vision loss looking for an accessible cell phone.

Accessibility Evaluation of the Samsung Gusto 2 from Verizon Wireless

by Jake Roberts and Aaron Preece

Many of our AccessWorld readers have told us they want a low-cost, accessible feature phone, but the Samsung Gusto 2 from Verizon Wireless is not the answer.

Book Review: Four Great Guides to Jumpstart your iPhone Journey

by Deborah Kendrick

National Braille Press stands apart with its four fabulous books that, together or singly, can jumpstart the novice iPhone user or augment the fun and practicality for those who have mastered the basics.

Product Evaluations

Glasses That Alert Travelers to Objects Through Vibration?: An Evaluation of iGlasses by RNIB and AmbuTech

by John Rempel

Retailing for $143.95, iGlasses are being marketed as a technology solution that will protect your eyes while, at the same time, detect objects in your travel path at waist level and higher.

Access to Textbooks

A Step Forward for Accessible Textbooks: A Review of the STudent E-rent Pilot Project

by J.J. Meddaugh

STEPP is a program that aims to overcome the obstacles of receiving textbooks in an accessible format, placing blind or print-disabled students on a level playing field with their peers.

Airline Travel Information

Before You Fly: The Transportation Security Administration and People with Visual Impairments

by Janet Ingber

Learn the general screening procedures each passenger must undergo and get some tips and information from the TSA to help your travel experience go as smoothly as possible.

The AFB Optics Lab

The American Foundation for the Blind's Small Visual Display Project

by William Reuschel

The purpose of the SVD project at American Foundation for the Blind is to identify and assign value to the characteristics of a display which contribute to its readability and, then, use this information to raise awareness for consumers about their choices in display quality and to influence manufacturers to improve the quality and readability of displays for all consumer devices.

AccessWorld News

AccessWorld News

Letters to the Editor

Opinions Vary on TV Access Article


Editor's Page

More Information on Cell Phone Access

Lee Huffman

Dear AccessWorld readers,

This month the AccessWorld team brings you information on an always popular topic, cell phones, with a review of four books that can help you finally master the iPhone, an evaluation of the Samsung Gusto 2 from Verizon Wireless, and an evaluation of the new free BlackBerry Screen Reader. For those of you who are back to hitting the books this fall, you will want to be sure and read about the STudent E-rent Pilot Project (STEPP), which makes accessible college textbooks available for rent for students who are visually impaired or print disabled. This issue also contains an explanation of how Transportation Security Administration (TSA) regulations affect people with vision loss as they navigate airport security. Learn about your rights, what to expect, and how to better prepare for airline travel.

This issue also contains an evaluation of RNIB and AmbuTech's iGlasses that detect objects in a person's path of travel and alerts them to the obstacle via vibration. Last, but certainly not least, AFB Tech's William Reuschel begins his series to update AccessWorld readers on its Small Visual Display project, which was originally introduced to our readers in 2009. His first article is an overview of the project, describing how the project has progressed, and his later articles will build upon this overview and become more detailed by discussing specific technologies involved in evaluating the quality of a small visual display.

As the days now grow noticeably shorter and students return to school, it's a logical time to begin thinking about work and careers. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and next month AccessWorld will recognize its observance by taking a closer look at new employment resources for people with vision loss as well as revisiting tried and true job search strategies.

The AccessWorld team hopes you will read each article in this and every issue to gain as much access information as possible. We encourage you to stay proactive in seeking out the access strategies that best meet your particular situation.

Sincerely,

Lee Huffman

AccessWorld Editor-in-Chief

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Cell Phone Access

An Evaluation of the New, Free BlackBerry Screen Reader from Research in Motion

In the May 2010 issue of AccessWorld, we evaluated Oratio, a mobile screen reader for BlackBerry smartphones made available through the cooperation of Code Factory, HumanWare, and Research in Motion (RIM). At that time, the product only supported the BlackBerry Curve 8520, and the screen reader was being sold for $449.99. RIM has recently released the successor to Oratio called BlackBerry Screen Reader, which is being offered for free on several BlackBerry Curve devices.

BlackBerry smartphones have long been a favorite of professionals and government agencies for their excellent security and networking capabilities. Previously, BlackBerry devices were mostly only feasible to those whose workplaces required their employees to use BlackBerry smartphones due to the cost of the software and the limited access that it granted compared to other popular options, such as the iPhone with VoiceOver. However, with the release of BlackBerry Screen Reader, BlackBerry devices may be a viable choice for people with vision loss who are looking for an accessible cell phone.

In order to determine if BlackBerry Screen Reader makes the BlackBerry smartphone a good choice for those with vision loss, this article will first evaluate the updated hardware that BlackBerry Screen Reader supports and the documentation for the device and screen reader. Next, it will explore the accessibility of basic cell phone functions, such as making calls and sending text messages. Thereafter, it will examine the accessibility of the features of the device that define it as a smartphone. Finally, it will evaluate the usability of the device from a low vision perspective and determine if there are any accessibility features designed with the low vision user in mind.

The Devices

The screen reader will operate on the BlackBerry Curve 9220, 9320, 9350, 9360, and 9370 models. For this evaluation, I used the BlackBerry Curve 9360. The BlackBerry Curve 9350, 9360, and 9370 are identical devices with only small differences in memory and carrier. We were able to find the Curve 9360 from AT&T for $29.99 with a 2 year contract and an unlocked device for $262 from Amazon.

The BlackBerry Curve 9360 is a candy bar-style phone with a solid black exterior. The phone weighs a rather light 3.5 ounces and measures 4.3 by 2.4 by 0.4 inches. The top, bottom, left, and right panels are slightly curved instead of being perfectly flat. On the front panel, the top half houses the 1.5 by 2 inch display. Below the display, there is a small, square trackpad used for navigation in place of a four way D-pad, which also doubles as an "Enter" key. On the left of the trackpad are the "Send" and "Menu" keys with the "Menu" key closest to the trackpad. On the right are the "End" and "Back" keys with the "Back" key closest to the trackpad. These four keys are not discernible by touch at all and feel as if they are part of the screen above them.

Below this row of buttons lies the signature BlackBerry QWERTY keyboard. The keys are black with white markings for all of the buttons on the front panel. Although there is only a tactile nib on the "D" key, the keys starting in the "T" column are slanted to the left, and those starting in the "Y" column slant to the right, making it easy to orient yourself to the keyboard.

On the top panel, there is a standard 3.5 millimeter headphone jack on the left side with a "Lock" key slightly to the right of it. The "Lock" key is not discernible by touch and feels like it is part of the top panel. This key contains the image of a gray padlock that is very small, so even those with sight find it difficult to see. The left panel contains only a micro USB port. The right panel contains "Volume Up" and "Volume Down" keys as well as a key called the "Right Convenience Key." This key is used in conjunction with other keys to use various BlackBerry Screen Reader specific commands.

Photo of the BlackBerry Curve 9360

Caption: The BlackBerry Curve 9360

The Software

BlackBerry Screen Reader has been developed solely by RIM and is offered as a free download from its website. There are two ways in which you can download the software. You can use Internet Explorer to download the software and transfer it to the device using the included USB cable. Alternatively, you can download the software using the device's web browser. However, this method requires sighted assistance.

The product greatly resembles its predecessor Oratio, using very similar keystrokes and the same Text-to-Speech (TTS) voice, Samantha from Nuance. This TTS voice is the same that is used on many other devices, including Apple's iPhone and HumanWare's Victor Reader Stream. The screen reader has many settings and commands in common with Oratio and other mobile screen readers, such as the ability to adjust the volume, speed, and pitch of the voice as well as the verbosity level and keyboard echo. We discovered that setting the rate of the Text-to-Speech voice above Level 5 causes the screen reader to not read certain words. The higher the rate, the less will be read. Until this issue is resolved by RIM, you would have to set the rate at a max of 5 to accurately use the BlackBerry device without sighted assistance as the screen reader will not read many icons, menus, and bodies of text at higher speeds.

The screen reader can be set to launch when the device is activated. The Keyboard Echo setting allows the user to set the level of feedback given when typing on the keyboard, and it is possible to set if passwords entered on the phone are displayed as blank space, as the asterisk symbol, or as the characters of the password. It is also possible to set BlackBerry Screen Reader to be muted both during calls and while the phone is locked.

BlackBerry Screen Reader has various hot keys for changing settings and reading content. These commands all involve the "Right Convenience Key" plus another key on the device. Pressing the "Right Convenience Key" twice quickly turns on Keyboard Help, so you can learn all of the device's keys. If there is a command associated with a certain key, this will be announced as well. With the hot keys, it is possible to adjust the pitch, rate, and volume of the TTS voice as well as adjust the amount of punctuation read, the verbosity settings, and the keyboard echo. With a quick keystroke, it is possible to check the battery level and signal strength, time and date, missed calls, and e-mail messages. It is also possible to read the body of an e-mail or webpage, a word under the cursor, and the current screen with a key command.

Screen Reader and Device Documentation

The user guide for both the BlackBerry Curve and BlackBerry Screen Reader are available as linked HTML pages on the BlackBerry website. RIM has created an accessible user guide for the BlackBerry Curve using simple HTML pages that only contain the information in the user guide. The regular HTML pages are also accessible with a screen reader, but they contain superfluous links that you have to navigate past before you find the content of the user guide. RIM's accessible user guide is well designed for screen readers. Even when images are used, they are labeled so that a user with vision loss knows what is being discussed.

The BlackBerry Screen Reader's user guide is organized in the same low clutter HTML format as the BlackBerry Curve user guide. Although the Screen Reader user guide is easily accessed and allows the user to start using the screen reader quickly, we found some minor issues with it.

The user guide provides various tips to make the BlackBerry easier to use for a person with vision loss. For example, RIM recommends that the user reduces the trackpad sensitivity to the lowest setting while getting used to the smartphone. However, the steps for achieving this are not given. Therefore, the user knows what they need to do, but they do not know how to affect the change. Several tips are described in this manner. In these situations, I recommend that RIM place instructions for finding the option, so the user can easily make the needed changes without fruitless searching through option dialogues.

Also, I discovered the user guide reports a reversed function for a few hot keys. The speed increase and decrease as well as the pitch increase and decrease hot keys are reported as the opposite of their actual function. For example, the guide states that you press the "5" key to decrease the speed when, in fact, "5" increases the speed. Other than these minor issues, the user guides for both the BlackBerry Screen Reader and the BlackBerry device are excellent.

Screen Reader Performance on Basic Phone Tasks

BlackBerry Screen Reader works well with the operating system interface. I was able to navigate the home screen mostly without issue. However, as I mentioned previously, with the rate of the TTS voice set above Level 5, many icons and menu options are not read by the screen reader. On the home screen, there is a button labeled "Notifications" above the grid of app icons. You can view received text messages and missed phone calls in this area, but the labels "Text Messages" and "Phone" that denote these sections are not read even at lower speeds.

Users are able to make calls easily with the phone. Pressing the "Send" button brings up the Phone app. However, this can also be accomplished by activating the Phone icon in the app grid on the home screen. When dialing a phone number, each number plays a tone followed by the name of the number. This is useful so that the dial tones do not override the announcement of the number entered. It is also possible to read the number that you enter before placing the call to be sure it is correct.

While on a call, you are able to use the trackpad to navigate the Speaker Phone and Mute options, and these are read by the screen reader. When receiving a call, you must press the "Right Convenience Key" to read the caller ID. This is useful especially when the phone is set to vibrate or silent settings. If the caller is automatically announced, it could possibly cause interruption during a meeting or class when you need the phone to remain silent. When you miss a call, a message box appears to alert you to that fact. You can then launch a Missed Calls screen. This process was completely accessible. When checking missed calls with the BlackBerry Screen Reader's Missed Calls keystroke, the phone reports the number of missed calls that are listed in the notification screen. You will have to go to each missed call and select it to keep BlackBerry from reporting them as missed every time you check your missed calls.

You can successfully send and receive text messages, choosing to read messages by line or by character. Adding a keystroke to jump by word would make editing much easier. It is possible to even send multimedia messages, such as picture messages. The only issue that we discovered with text messaging (other than the issue of not being able to navigate by word) was that I could not determine how many unread text messages I had. You can easily read your messages, discover the sender, find the time the message was sent, and read the message body without opening the message, but I could not determine if a message was unread. Also, the phone would not notify me that I had an unread message, so users would have to constantly check their notifications or Text Message app to see if they have received new messages.

I was able to accurately use the Contacts app with the screen reader. All of the edit fields are read correctly when highlighted, and users are able to read what they typed into the various edit fields. They are also able to accurately change the settings of the device. The screen reader reads the Option menus and any associated toggles or selectable items associated with these. The Calendar, Camera, and Clock apps are rendered perfectly by the screen reader and are simple to navigate even compared to other accessible mobile phones, such as the iPhone or a Windows Mobile phone with the Mobile Speak software from Code Factory installed.

Performance of the Screen Reader on Smartphone Tasks

Unlike the basic phone tasks that the screen reader performs well on, the screen reader does not do as well on several smartphone tasks. First, the screen reader performs very poorly when using the browser as compared with other accessible smartphone solutions, such as Nokia's Simbian operating system with the Mobile Speak screen reader or the iPhone with VoiceOver. The main browser window reads correctly. The screen reader reads the Bookmarks and History as well as the Menu. However, the screen reader does not read what is being entered into the combined search and address field. The screen reader reads the first character entered into the address field but it does not read the subsequent characters. To be sure that an address is correct, you must use the Right Convenience Key + Back to read the word under the cursor. This will read the address as a word then spell it for you. The process of scrolling away from the edit field and, subsequently, scrolling back into it reads the address as a whole as well.

Once a page has loaded in the browser, it is possible to read the contents of the screen with the keystroke Right Convenience Key + Send. This is supposed to read the page in its entirety, but many page elements are unread. The only navigation available in the browser is scrolling through a webpage with the trackpad. There are not any commands for jumping to headings or links, such as those found in other mobile and desktop screen readers. When scrolling, the screen reader announces the selected page element. However, many elements are not read even when selected. Overall, the browser support is lacking considerably in the screen reader.

Being a smartphone, BlackBerry devices have a large amount of third party apps available from the BlackBerry App World, which is accessible from both a computer and the Blackberry device itself. The website is easy to use, and you are able to easily download an app to the blackberry device after connecting it with the included USB cable. Unlike the download process for the screen reader, the App World website does not require Internet Explorer and can be used successfully with other browsers, including the popular Mozilla Firefox.

The App World app on the Blackberry device is barely useable with only the search results and some app information read by the screen reader. The summary, "Download" button, and app developer information are read, but the screen reader does not read anything else, including the price of the app. I tested the Pandora Radio app, and it is mostly accessible. The screen reader will read the station information and bookmarking abilities through the "Menu" key, but the track being played and the on-screen buttons, such as "Pause" and "Skip," were not read.

Other apps are very accessible. The calculator worked perfectly, which is an improvement over Oratio in which this app was not accessible. The Music app is completely accessible with the screen reader reading all options during music playback as well as the menus for selecting music. The BlackBerry device can be used as a flash drive, so you can simply use Windows Explorer to copy files to your device, including music. Other useful apps, such as the text Memo Pad, Tasks, and Voice Notes Recorder apps, are all completely accessible. The screen reader reads the files list in the Documents to Go app but does not read the document text itself. For this evaluation, I was unable to evaluate the accessibility of the Messages app due to issues with the local wireless carrier.

Accessibility for People with Low Vision

The BlackBerry Curve contains a few options to make the smartphone more accessible to those with low vision. It is possible to set the font to a size 14 and to use a sans serif font family, so letters are more identifiable without flourishes. The accessible options include the capability to change the screen display to reverse contrast or grayscale for easier viewing. Under the accessibility menu, it is also possible to set the number of icon columns on the home screen to one. This has the benefit of enlarging the app icons considerably.

The Bottom Line

RIM's offering of BlackBerry Screen Reader for free allows people with vision loss to access their BlackBerry smartphone for the same price as their sighted peers. The screen reader, though not perfect, provides solid access to the phone's key features. Even though the device's keys are not always discernible by touch, they are, nevertheless, very easy to use. There are still several major bugs in the screen reading software, most notably the rate of speech bug. Also, browser and App World support need to be much improved. Because of its low price tag, a BlackBerry device running BlackBerry Screen Reader may be a good option for a person with vision loss who needs an accessible phone for basic phone and organizer tasks. With the release of an update to the software mere months after the initial release, we hope RIM will continue to improve this software and correct bugs that arise.

Product Information

Product: BlackBerry Curve 9360
Price: $264 or $29.99 from AT&T with 2 year service agreement
Manufacturer: Research in Motion (RIM)
295 Phillip Street Waterloo, Ontario Canada N2L 3W8
Telephone: (519) 888-7465
Website: www.rim.com or www.blackberry.com

Product: BlackBerry Screen Reader
Manufacturer: Research in Motion (RIM)
Price: Free

Follow these links to learn more about BlackBerry Screen Reader and other BlackBerry accessibility solutions and download BlackBerry Screen Reader.

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Cell Phone Access

An Accessibility Evaluation of the Samsung Gusto 2 from Verizon Wireless

AccessWorld reviews of cell phone and other mobile technology have been among our most popular articles, and although much of the excitement in the mobile device world has centered on powerful smartphones, such as the iPhone and the various Android devices, many AccessWorld readers tell us they are interested in the simpler, more basic mobile phones known as feature phones. The Samsung Gusto 2 is one of these feature phones, and this article reviews the accessibility designed into this phone to accommodate people who are blind or have low vision.

The last feature phone examined in AccessWorld was Verizon's Samsung Haven, evaluated in the November 2010 issue. The Haven is a very accessible feature phone and quite popular with AccessWorld readers. The Gusto 2 arrived on the Verizon Wireless shelves just as the Haven was disappearing, leading many to assume that it was a replacement for the Haven, but our contacts at Samsung claim that it's not intended to be a replacement. Nevertheless, it's listed on Verizon's website as a phone that accommodates people with vision impairments, and that, combined with requests from readers, prompted us to examine this phone.

In evaluating this phone, we will take into consideration its physical description, keypad, voice output, the quality of its visual displays, menu navigation, documentation, and several of its features.

Physical Description

The Samsung Gusto 2 is a compact, dark gray rectangular flip phone weighing 3.5 ounces and measuring 3.8 by 1.9 by 0.75 inches when closed. It's about 7 inches long when opened up. The Gusto 2 features two visual displays: a 1.1 by 1.4 inch display on the outside of the device and a 1.75 by 2.5 inch internal display that can be viewed when the phone is flipped open.

Along the left side of the phone are two tactile volume buttons and the charger port. On the right side are a camera button, a speaker button, and the audio jack. Although the buttons are tactile and easy to feel, the audio jack is a nonstandard 2.5 millimeter jack that will not fit standard headphones. The camera lens is just below the outside visual display.

The phone features a standard 3 by 4 grid of dialing keys, which are slightly convex. Above those keys is a five-way navigation control with four directional buttons surrounding an "OK" button in the middle. Above the navigational control is a "Voicemail" button with soft keys to its left and right. To the left and right of the navigational control are an "In Case of Emergency" button and a "Text Messaging" button. Below the navigational control are the "Send," "Clear," and "End" buttons.

Photo of the Samsung Gusto 2

Caption: The Samsung Gusto 2

Documentation

We could not find any accessible user guides for the Samsung Gusto 2. It comes with print documentation that is in a small 9-point font, generally too small for people with low vision to read. We searched on the Internet for electronic documentation but only found an inaccessible, poorly designed user guide in PDF format. Although Verizon Wireless does have a useful website with some accessible user guides, the page only has the user guide for the original Samsung Gusto and not the Gusto 2.

Tactile Nature of Keys

The keys in the 3 by 4 dialing grid are slightly convex, providing a tactile feel that helps to identify and use them. Although the manufacturer does provide nibs to help identify the "5" key, they have placed two nibs to the left and right of the key instead of on the actual key. We would much prefer one nib in the middle of the 5 key, and it should be more substantial to provide a better tactile feel.

The five-way navigational control is easy to identify and use, and although the other control keys surrounding it are less tactile, one can get used to using them non-visually.

Voice Output

The Samsung Gusto 2 does have voice output, which is provided by a synthetic female voice. However, it's somewhat muffled and is not as easy to understand as we would like it to be. Also, unlike the Samsung Haven, whose speech output supports all of its features and functions, the Gusto 2 speech output supports a very limited array of features.

By default, when the phone is turned on for the first time, the voice output is not activated, and there is no accessible method to turn on the speech. When first obtaining the Gusto 2 phone, a sales representative or sighted helper will need to go into the menu and activate speech. Following this activation, the voice remains on and does not need to be reactivated.

You cannot adjust the pitch or rate of the speech. However, the volume of the built-in speech can be increased or decreased using the volume rocker on the left side of the phone. One somewhat frustrating aspect is the fact that the speech was lagging in its response with a delay of about a second or so before responding to key presses.

The Gusto 2 also has a clearer recorded human voice for speech output, but it's used only in conjunction with the Voice Commands features discussed later in this article

Menu Navigation

This is perhaps the most frustrating aspect of reviewing this phone. Although the voice does read the menus, albeit with an aggravating delay, you always wind up at a dead end. You can successfully navigate the menus and submenus with speech support, but as soon as you choose something to do, speech disappears, rendering this talking menu navigation absolutely worthless. It makes us wonder what the engineers were thinking when they designed something so ridiculous. Without question, every feature of the phone needs speech support to make it accessible to people with vision loss.

Caller ID

The Gusto 2 does have talking caller ID, but you will need sighted assistance to activate it initially. When you get an incoming call, the synthetic voice speaks the phone number of the incoming caller or the caller's name if you have it entered into your Contacts list. However, it speaks the caller ID information only once, and you can't repeat it if you missed it.

Voice Commands

Like the Samsung Haven and several LG phones from Verizon Wireless that we have reviewed over the years, the Gusto 2 has several voice commands you can use to control your phone. The Voice Command feature is activated by pressing and holding the "0" key or the "Speaker" button if the phone is closed. A clear, easy-to-understand recorded female voice then prompts you by saying, "Please say a command." You can then speak a command or use the five-way controller to arrow through your choices and then press "OK." The less clear synthetic voice will speak your choices as you arrow through them. The accessible commands are as follows:

"Call"
Call a person in your phonebook or your voicemail.

"Check"
Check your voicemail, the time, signal strength, battery status, volume level, and your account balance.

"Contacts"
Call, readout, create new, modify, or erase contacts.

"Redial"
Call the last number you called.

"Help"
Hear about how to use voice commands.

Other voice commands are not fully accessible, and they include the following:

"Send"
Send a text or picture message, but speech does not support the process.

"Go To"
When choosing this option, you are prompted by the clear recorded voice saying, "Which shortcut?" However, the process for setting up shortcuts is inaccessible. Additionally, most of the phone's features for which you would set up a shortcut are not accessible anyway.

"Search"
This option will open up an inaccessible Verizon Wireless Mobile Web search screen that sighted people can use to search the Internet.

"My Verizon"
This option opens an inaccessible screen with your account information, such as your minutes remaining and your balance due.

Contacts

The Contacts application on the Gusto 2 is the first item in the menu. It includes many features, such as the ability to add a new contact, browse your list of contacts, and create favorites, speed dials, and emergency contacts. Although none of those features are supported by speech, you can at least use voice commands to use some Contacts features. With voice commands, you can call, readout, modify, erase, or create a new contact. However, you can't browse through your contacts, so you will have to know the names of your contacts to access them.

Text Messaging

Although there is some limited accessibility with the Gusto 2 text messaging functions, it's not very useful at all to a person with vision loss. The major problem is that the speech will not support creating text messages. The synthetic speech will read you incoming text messages as you receive them, but it also speaks some fairly useless metadata that can be confusing. It only reads the entire message all at once, so you can't read by line, word, or character. Although you can use the menus to navigate to your inbox, the speech does not work as you scroll through your received messages. You could randomly select a message, and then the speech, surprisingly, will read the message along with the confusing metadata. However, this is not a very efficient or effective way to do text messaging.

Display Quality

The Gusto 2 has two visual displays: a small external display used when the phone is closed and a larger internal display used for menu navigation and advanced features. Both displays are bright, full color, and high contrast. The external display uses a large 20-point font, but even at the largest setting, the internal display uses only a 12-point font.

In the AFB Tech Optics Lab, we can measure the amount of contrast provided by visual displays. We found that the contrast for the Gusto 2 measured at 71 percent, which is in the middle of the pack as far as the devices we have measured. It's low, however, when compared to the 95-percent contrast ratio of the Haven.

Pricing Plans

When we purchased the Samsung Gusto 2 from Verizon Wireless in July 2012, the full retail price was $199. With a two-year contract, the price drops to $129, and we also found an online discount for $79 with a two-year contract. Those prices are for "post-paid" contracts, not for the pre-paid version of the phone that you can buy without a contract. Of course, those prices are subject to change.

The Bottom Line

If you have read this far, you obviously realize that we were not impressed by the accessibility of the Samsung Gusto 2. Only a few features are supported by speech, and that limited support has not been done well. Although a phone like this may have been acceptable five or ten years ago, we have now moved well beyond half-baked access, and we're definitely tired of talking menus that lead to absolutely nowhere.

Many of our AccessWorld readers have told us they want a low-cost accessible feature phone, but this phone is not the answer. Although Samsung did a very good job with the accessibility of their Haven phone, they practically missed the mark entirely with the Gusto 2. We contacted the folks working on accessibility at Verizon Wireless and told them how poorly the Gusto 2 performs from an accessibility standpoint, and they informed us that they have contacted Samsung to ask for accessibility improvements. As a result, Samsung has promised updates to the Gusto 2, but only the post-paid version and not the pre-paid version.

On a positive note, Verizon Wireless has just announced that they will be offering Code Factory's Mobile Accessibility, a screen access product, for their customers with vision loss who use Android phones.

Verizon's announcement says the following:

The Mobile Accessibility application is available on all Verizon Wireless Android devices that have an operating system of 2.2 or higher, and supports the Verizon Applications catalog. The Mobile Accessibility application is found in the Verizon Applications catalog on the device, in the Productivity & Tools section under Utilities. There is no cost to purchase the application, but data charges may apply when downloading.

You can go to their website to read the full announcement.

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Cell Phone Access

Book Review: Four Great Guides to Jumpstart your iPhone Journey

Over the past 20-plus years, National Braille Press (NBP) has carved a considerable niche for itself as a fabulous source for braille materials to assist users in navigating some of access technology's trickiest waters. The organization has published books on using various Microsoft applications and on such areas of interest as online shopping, blogging, social networking, and more, all aimed at the specific issues of blind and low-vision users.

With the unprecedented popularity in the last three years of the iPhone and other iOS devices among people with visual impairments has come an equally unprecedented clambering for guides designed to facilitate the learning process (or at least minimize the pain).

An iPhone user who is blind doesn't have to look very far to locate tips on becoming acquainted with these devices. A tremendous variety of tutorials, podcasts, webinars, and e-mail lists can be found online, and while the quality varies significantly, many are excellent.

If you want to get up and running with just one phone call or online visit, however, NBP stands apart with its four fabulous books that, together or singly, can jumpstart the novice iPhone user or augment the fun and practicality for those who have mastered the basics.

Getting Started

The first offering from NBP, Getting Started with the iPhone, by Anna Dresner and Dean Martineau, appeared in 2010 and was reviewed in the June 2011 issue of AccessWorld .

Available in three softcover braille volumes or electronically in DAISY audio, text, or .BRF files, this guide covers everything from taking the iPhone out of the box and setting it up to the gestures required for individual functions and a whole lot more in step-by-step practical language.

Because technology (particularly the iPhone) is a rapidly moving target, changes in the marketplace soon rendered that marvelous book an incomplete guide for users with visual impairments. NBP quickly stepped up to the plate, had Anna Dresner and Dean Martineau go back to the drawing board, and has published an updated version of the book. The 2012 version, Getting Started with the iPhone and iOS 5 for Blind Users, is still available in all formats: eBraille, Word, DAISY, and hardcopy braille. It is still only three thin softcover volumes. Dresner accomplished this by moving the section called "Anna's Journal" to the NBP website where you can read it, thus allowing space for the addition of material covering the use of SIRI and features available in iOS 5. The book is extremely well organized, detailed, and clear, and you will find yourself returning to it again and again as your abilities with the iPhone increase. This is not a book you will read once and put on a shelf. Rather, you will want to keep it handy for ongoing consultation to learn new techniques or review existing ones.

Getting the Picture

Apple has indeed done the heavy lifting by adding VoiceOver to the iPhone, thus rendering every item on the screen available through speech, but the first significant hurdle for a person who is visually impaired in using such a device is to visualize the words and icons as they are arranged on the touchscreen. While it's helpful to describe verbally that, for example, the status bar is at the top and the dock at the bottom or to "keep flicking right" until you hear the icon you're seeking, a picture is still worth a thousand words!

With the book iPhone Tactile Screenshot Quick Reference, a blind or low vision user can readily see the primary iPhone screens as they appear on the phone.

Designed by Tom Dekker with Tactile Vision and produced by NBP this wonderful little spiral-bound book is the perfect initial companion to the iPhone. Each page presents a bold, tactile representation of the iPhone screen with braille labels indicating exactly where the words and icons will appear. The raised illustrations are on the right with large print black-on-white representations on each left-hand facing page. Some drawings are exactly the size of the actual iPhone screen while others are larger for clarity, but all are in proper scale.

When you put your hands on the Home screen, for instance, the fact that there is a grid of 16 icons flanked by the status bar at the top and a dock of four choices ("Phone," "Mail," "Safari," and "Music") across the bottom becomes instantly clear. Similarly, when you see the familiar phone keypad in raised line format with the brailled numbers and letters ("2" [ABC], "3" [DEF], and so on) in each square, the fact that the iPhone's "Call" button is located directly below the "0" button and the "Delete" key below the pound sign is instantly apparent.

The book is 21 pages and includes only the most basic screenshots. Beyond the Home screen and depictions of the front, back, top, and bottom of the phone, the other screenshots facilitate examining the screens for using basic functions, such as the phone keypad, Contacts, Calendar, App Store, iBooks, and iTunes.

Like the Getting Started guide, this collection of tactile screenshots is one the user might initially study and then return to later for reminders or verification. While it's a fabulous tool, it doesn't go far enough, and some of the choices seem off-base to me. Five of the book's 21 pages, for instance, are devoted to iBooks images while text messaging is never even mentioned. The novice iPhone user will probably want information about sending and receiving messages before he or she is ready to visit the iTunes store, and might well want to set an alarm before downloading an iBook, but screenshots for Clock, Messages, and many other basic functions are not included.

As far as it goes, however, the Tactile Screenshot book is an excellent tool and one that both teachers and beginning iPhone users will want to have on hand.

It's All About the Apps

In 2011, the hottest iPhone book from National Braille Press was, without a doubt, Peter Cantisani's Twenty-Six Useful Apps for Blind iPhone Users, which I reviewed in the August 2011 issue of AccessWorld . This is a book you definitely want on your bookshelf.

Of course, much of the magic of iPhone use is in the apps (hundreds of thousands of them now), which can be downloaded from the App Store. Many of those apps are completely accessible to users with visual impairments, and Cantisani hand-picked 26 that are accessible and ones he found particularly useful as a user with a visual impairment. In that book, you'll find apps to tell you when your next bus is coming, take your blood pressure, label documents at work, identify the bills in your wallet, find the nearest pizza place, and more. Cantisani told me just a month or two after the book was released that there were already dozens more apps he wished he had included. (Remember that this technology is truly constantly evolving!)

Thus, just in time for summer 2012, NBP released a new iPhone tool, a little booklet titled Twenty-One iPhone Apps We Can't Live Without. The "we" in this case is Judy Dixon and Doug Wakefield, both longtime users and experts in the world of access technology.

Like Cantisani's book, this guide offers the basic information about 21 iPhone apps, all found to be completely usable by users who are blind. Issues that complicate life most for people with visual impairments are rooted in such activities as way-finding, transportation, and identifying print. So, it comes as no surprise that, in each of these little books, those categories are front and center. Two of my own personal favorites are among the Twenty-One iPhone Apps collection (Light Detector and iBlink Radio) as are several others having to do with music and visual identification. Dixon and Wakefield introduce us to an app that makes ordering a taxi almost fun, an app that helps you find out where you can find something to eat near your gate at the airport, and apps that take some of the hassle out of shopping. While more seasoned iPhone users may not find too many surprises, this is an interesting collection of apps presented in a clear and concise format, and nearly all of them are free.

Just as the iPhone itself is constantly growing so is the body of material designed to help blind and low vision users take advantage of the power of this remarkable technology. These four books from NBP are all outstanding tools written by people who are blind for people who are blind, and they are available in all the formats we love.

Ordering Information

With the exception of the Tactile Screenshot book, all of the above titles are available in a variety of formats, including hardcopy braille, downloadable Word, eBraille, DAISY, or any of the electronic formats shipped to you on CD. The Tactile Screenshots book is available in the print/braille format described above, spiral bound with tactile diagrams labeled in braille facing large print representations of the same screens.

Prices are as follows:

Getting Started with the iPhone and iOS 5, $22

iPhone Tactile Screenshots Quick Reference, $27

Twenty-Six Useful Apps for Blind Users, $9

Twenty-One iPhone Apps We Can't Live Without, $9

All items, unless otherwise requested, will be shipped as Free Matter for the Blind, so there are no shipping costs.

To order, visit the National Braille Press website, or call them: (800) 548-7323.

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Product Evaluations

Glasses That Alert Travelers to Objects Through Vibration? An Evaluation of iGlasses by RNIB and AmbuTech

Technology is increasingly trending toward simplicity and integration with our daily activities. This seems to also hold true for people who are blind or visually impaired. If you want to look up the weather forecast for the next few days, locate a specific address, find out if a financial transaction occurred, or scope out the nearest restaurant, this can all be done using a smartphone. For several reasons, including improved industry standards, an ever-expanding digital age, and stronger advocacy on behalf of consumers, people who are blind or visually impaired have come to expect a greater level of performance and integration with access devices these days. Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) in the UK and AmbuTech of Canada have partnered to create a pair of sunglasses called iGlasses that detect nearby objects and alert travelers through vibration. This product is the type of integrated and multipurpose design consumers are increasingly coming to expect, but are these iGlasses all that they're cracked up to be? This product evaluation will explore the pros and cons of this electronic mobility aid to help you better determine whether or not this product is right for you.

A photo of the iGlasses

Caption: Photo of iGlasses

Physical Design

iGlasses weigh less than three ounces, are black in color, and roughly resemble a pair of NoIR wrap around sun filters. They come with a soft protective pouch, and you have the option of charging the unit's built-in lithium-ion battery using an AC charger or the USB connection included with the device. The glasses come with a one-page, double-sided User Manual. You are given the option of clear lenses or tinted dark amber lenses, both of which provide UV400 protection. A small, inconspicuous thumbwheel on the underside of the right arm of the frame allows you to adjust the level of intensity of the vibrational signal the glasses emit when detecting objects. The small, rubberized power button is located on the outside of the right arm, and the glasses are activated by pressing and holding this button for one second. Pressing and holding the button for an additional second will turn the unit off.

Documentation

The manual that comes with the iGlasses effectively describes the basic operation and features of the device. The instructions are laid out in 14- and 16-point font along with diagrams. In light of this product being marketed as a mobility aid for people with little or no vision, providing a larger size font, such as 22- and/or 26-point, and including the manual in electronic format would provide a greater level of accessibility.

Features

Understanding How iGlasses Detect Objects

iGlasses are equipped with ultrasonic sensors located on the front of the frame, and when an object is detected, the iGlasses emit a pulsating vibration. The frequency of the vibration (time between each vibrational pulse) depends on two factors: the distance of an object and the size of its surface area. As you move closer to an object, the frequency of the vibrations increases. However, smaller objects (or objects that have less surface area) are not detected at the same distance as larger objects. For instance, during testing the iGlasses were able to detect a large tree at 122 inches (slightly more than 10 feet) whereas a wire fence was only detected at about five feet away. Not knowing the size of an object's surface area that the iGlasses are detecting can, therefore, make it difficult to determine how far away it is. The available thumbwheel control on the iGlasses lets you control the level of intensity of the vibrational signal when detecting objects, but it has no impact on the vibrational frequency of the iGlasses for object detection.

iGlasses are designed to detect objects in your line of travel that are at waist level and higher (objects that are not cane detectable). The iGlasses are sometimes helpful with detecting the distance of an object although, as mentioned earlier, the point at which an object is detected can also depend on its surface area. iGlasses are not capable of indicating where in the environment the object being detected is through vibration alone, whether it's overhead, on either side of you, or at waist level. Scanning the environment by moving your head from side to side and up and down may help to isolate the location of an object through the vibrational output of the iGlasses. The manual states, "iGlasses are a secondary mobility device and must not be used on their own without another primary device such as a long cane, mobility cane, or guide dog." This is sound advice since iGlasses are a head-mounted device, and using them to scan objects through head movement may negatively impact your ability to maintain a straight line of travel and orientation.

Putting iGlasses to The Test

iGlasses were put through its paces in a number of environments, including indoor settings, residential areas, business districts, parks, and trails. In indoor environments, including open hallways and a private residence, iGlasses did not prove to be very effective at accurately detecting objects within the line of travel. Its ultrasonic sensors seemed to have difficulties making sense of the environment, presumably due to the large surface areas in indoor environments. This caused a number of false alarms by indicating through its vibrations that an object was within close proximity when it was not.

Conversely, the iGlasses performed significantly better in open outdoor settings. In a park setting, the iGlasses were able to easily detect low-lying limbs and branches at head level, which could otherwise be a hazard if you couldn't see them. In more heavily wooded trails, the iGlasses were also able to effectively detect limbs and branches. The iGlasses would vibrate when passing close to and under some smaller branches that were located up to a foot above head level, which could be considered a false alarm since those branches were not directly in the line of travel and were, therefore, not a traveling hazard.

Passing closely by lampposts, even when they were out of the direct line of travel, also caused the iGlasses to vibrate. However, the vibration was brief, and the frequency was low. This was an interesting occurrence in light of the iGlasses not emitting any vibration when walking parallel and closely to buildings. The iGlasses did not vibrate when approaching objects that were cane detectable, such as recycle bins and trash cans. In these instances, the iGlasses effectively ignored these cane detectable objects, which it is designed to do.

iGlasses were put to the test on several street signs that were not cane detectable with mixed reviews. A "Dead End" street sign at head level measuring approximately three feet wide and two feet high was not consistently detected with the iGlasses unless it was approached head-on. A diamond-shaped "Road Work Ahead" sign measuring four feet across and approximately four feet in height at its widest point was also not detected with the iGlasses unless the sign was located in the immediate walking path. The sharp edges of this sign's irregular diamond shape were clearly a challenge for iGlasses and proved to be a serious hazard at waist level.

Other larger, square and rectangular-shaped signs, such as business signs in front of buildings, were easily detected by the iGlasses. Cane detectable sandwich signs located in front of businesses were bypassed by the iGlasses as they should be.

Because of their angle, guy wires, also known as support cables for poles, can often be travel hazards that are not cane detectable. iGlasses were able to effectively detect guy wires that have the protective plastic tubing around them but unable to consistently detect guy wires without this plastic tubing. Guy wires measure less than half an inch in diameter without the additional tubing and proved to be too thin for the ultrasonic technology of the iGlasses to effectively detect.

As with indoor environments, when iGlasses are used in some outdoor environments containing large surface areas that are not necessarily in the direct line of travel, they can give out false alarms. For instance, in one store front that had an overhang, some tables and chairs on one side, and brick walls about eight feet apart, the iGlasses sent out false alarms and were unable to provide accurate feedback of cane detectable objects.

Determining Battery Level

It takes approximately three hours for the built-in battery of the iGlasses to fully charge. According to EnableMart, one of the U.S. distributors of the device, a single charge lasts for approximately one week. This is only an estimate and is dependent on how frequently the unit is used. After the iGlasses are turned on, a series of one to four beeps indicate the level of battery charge with four beeps indicating a full charge and one beep indicating a 25 percent charge. A series of 10 beeps indicates that the battery level is too low for the unit to effectively operate. This is an important feature since it allows you to quickly determine whether or not to charge the unit.

Comfort of iGlasses

At less than three ounces, iGlasses are surprisingly lightweight considering the technology built into them. The arms of the iGlasses are also expandable by up to an inch, which allows you to adjust them to your particular head size. This adds to the overall comfort of the iGlasses since it reduces strain on the bridge of the nose and ears. The power button positioned on the outside arm of the unit is easy to access. The control used to increase and decrease the intensity level of the vibrations located on the underside of the right arm may be a little more challenging for some people to adjust, and for safety reasons as well as ease of adjustment, this is best done in a stationary position.

Learning Curve

The basic operation of the iGlasses is fairly straightforward, including the ability to charge the unit, understand the auditory battery indicator, and turn the unit on and off. What becomes more challenging is recognizing environmental traveling hazards by simply relying on the vibrational frequency of the iGlasses. Good orientation and mobility skills, effective deductive reasoning, and planning routes in advance are all crucial components to being a safe traveler. Learning to understand the vibrational frequency of larger objects in your path is easy since the frequency increases as you approach the object and decreases as you move further away from it. Smaller objects and/or objects with a smaller surface area are more of a challenge to detect using iGlasses, and additional training and experience will not necessarily equate to better object detection with the iGlasses since the unit itself has some limitations when detecting objects.

The Bottom Line

At $143.95, the iGlasses may prove to be a useful and affordable mobility aid for some people, especially in novel outdoor environments. In specific environments, there may be a series of false alarms of object detection since the iGlasses sometimes pick up objects that are slightly outside the range of your walking path but may still be cane detectable. iGlasses are also unable to pick up every non-cane detectable object, such as smaller-sized objects with very little surface area, and irregular shaped signage that protrudes at waist or chest level.

However, this doesn't detract from the fact that iGlasses may be an especially useful mobility aid in many situations. If you have maintained the upper-protective technique with your arm stretched across your body for any extended period of time, you'll know how tiring this can be. iGlasses also double as a durable pair of sunglasses that provide UV protection and physical protection from foreign objects that could enter your eyes. The low cost of the iGlasses and their multipurpose use make them a relevant and affordable option in the area of mobility aids.

Product Information

Product: iGlasses
Price: $143.95

Available From: EnableMart

Address: 865 Muirfield Drive
Hanover Park, IL 60133
Phone: (888) 640-1999.

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Access to Textbooks

A Step Forward for Accessible Textbooks: A Review of the STudent E-rent Pilot Project

As a recent college graduate, I've been through just about everything when it comes to obtaining textbooks in an accessible format. There were the publishers who took weeks to deliver an accessible version of the book. There were the books that, no matter how hard you tried, just would not scan well using optical character recognition software, and there was the persistent need to coordinate all of this with my disability resource office, a place that, at least in my case, didn't seem to exhibit any degree of urgency. While occasionally I would get lucky and find my desired title on BookShare or another similar source, a simple solution for obtaining my textbooks in a timely fashion perpetually eluded me.

Perhaps my experiences would have been much different had the STudent E-rent Pilot Project (STEPP) been in existence. STEPP is a program that aims to overcome many of these shortcomings, placing blind or print-disabled students on a level playing field with their peers.

Sponsored by a federal grant, STEPP was launched in 2010 by the Alternative Media Access Center and Georgia Tech University in partnership with CourseSmart, one of the largest distributors for college textbooks. Using the CourseSmart website, thousands of titles are available on a rental basis for online viewing. Titles are available for roughly half the cost of purchasing the physical book at retail price.

While other programs are available that offer textbook rentals for students, this is one of the few examples where practically the entire system is accessible. CourseSmart offers an accessible reader that allows for simple navigation and searching of the book.

Getting Started

To get started and search for available titles, visit the CourseSmart website. There is a link available for screen reader users at the top of the page, which leads to more information about STEPP and the accessible textbook service. The account creation process is simple and to the point, and users are able to browse and search for books by title, author, or International Standard Book Number (ISBN).

Once your account has been created, it's necessary to submit a request to enable the accessible reader. To do this, send CourseSmart an e-mail or call its toll-free customer service hotline at (866) 588-3197. I called the toll-free number shortly after opening the account, but the customer service person who took the call seemed unaware of the accessible reader and escalated our request. I was then e-mailed some information about reading books using the mouse and other information not pertinent to blind users. Luckily, my e-mailed message was answered efficiently, and access to the accessible reader was enabled without issue. So, using the e-mail method may be the most efficient way to accomplish this task. While an online form to request access would be a welcome convenience, this process is only required once, after which the reader is available for all books.

STEPP and CourseSmart deserve many kudos for making this process student-centered and for not requiring intervention by a disability services office. Blind and visually impaired students should be afforded the same rights for receiving and reading their textbooks on-demand, and the elimination of cumbersome and unnecessary hoops is a welcome departure from the policies of many publishers.

CourseSmart claims that roughly 80 percent of the titles on its site are accessible, including many that feature enhanced navigational elements such as heading and list tags. While there is no designation of a title's accessibility in the search results, titles are available for a 14-day free trial, during which the usability can be determined. In addition, users can request a book be tagged for accessibility, a process that takes between two to three weeks according to the CourseSmart Frequently Asked Questions. Some titles in the STEM fields, including technical manuals, may be harder to decipher but progress is being made to provide greater access to these books as well.

The Accessible Reader

The primary way to read textbooks accessibly with CourseSmart is the accessible reader. This is a completely Web-based solution that allows for browsing, reading, and searching books. I tested the basic functionality with multiple desktop and mobile Web browsers, and the experience was similarly positive across the board.

The layout is generally presented with links and options on the top and the text of the current page below this. You can use heading navigation to quickly move to the "Book Text" heading to start reading the page. If your screen reader has a place marker, it can be used to mark this heading and quickly return to it on subsequent pages. iOS users can use the rotor to select "Navigate by Headings" and, then, use the "Read to End" feature upon finding the "Book Text" heading. Android 4.1 users can find the book text section of the page using "Explore by Touch" and, then, swiping right or left to hear the content. Buttons to jump to the next or previous page are available near the book text.

Returning to the top of the page, several additional options are available. A "Go To" box allows the user to type in a specific page number to begin reading from that page. Alternatively, a "Search" box allows for a simple full-text search of the book. There is also a Table of Contents displayed, making it simple to jump between chapters or sections.

A handy Notes feature lets users attach information or jot down ideas on any page. These notes can then be viewed by page or all at once. One advantage of the reader application being Web-based is that these notes become accessible on any platform where the book is viewed.

Since the text is displayed and rendered using a screen reader's normal Web viewing techniques, copying and pasting is performed just as it would be on any other Web page. Conversely, there is a Highlight feature offered, but it's not currently accessible. Finally, up to ten pages at a time can be printed from the program, which includes any notes present on the page.

Perhaps one of the most useful features of the application is the ability to read books offline. This allows you to read a chapter or an entire book without an Internet connection on a single computer or mobile device. Offline viewing is only available with Firefox version 3.6 or later, Safari 5.1 or later, or the Google Chrome web browser. The process for checking out a book is simple and involves completing a quick form. The relevant portion downloads to the computer and is immediately available for reading offline using the same accessible reader. Simply return to this page and select "Check In" to return the book.

Mobile Apps

CourseSmart offers mobile apps for the iPhone and iPad as well as Android devices. Unfortunately, none of these apps appeared to include full accessibility. While it's possible to sign in to your account and browse titles, the actual text of a book is not presented accessibly. This is unfortunate as it's often more difficult to quickly navigate websites on mobile platforms. A mobile app with automatic text reading and other accessibility features would serve to improve access to the material available on CourseSmart and provide for a complete reading experience. We reached out to @CourseSmart on Twitter regarding this, and the reply stated to "expect gradual accessibility improvements for mobile apps over the next several months."

Conclusion

I'm thrilled to see yet another way for students and others to gain access to textbooks and other materials. The STEPP program brings same-day access to even more titles, many of which were previously not available from other sources. It's also one of the first examples where blind and visually impaired readers are expected to pay the same price for this access as anyone else who uses the system. While the service as a whole has created many positive benefits, we hope for continued improvements, including full access to the mobile CourseSmart apps, the ability to accessibly highlight text, and increased access to technical materials. STEPP should be commended for their efforts thus far, and I look forward to even more access in the future.

Additional Resources

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Airline Travel Information

Before You Fly: The Transportation Security Administration and People with Visual Impairments

Ask anyone who has traveled by airplane over the past 11 years about their air travel experiences, and chances are they'll have something to say about going through security. Some travelers have had positive experiences, others have had negative experiences, and still others, myself included, have had both.

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Congress passed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act on November 19, 2001, which created the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), purposed to strengthen the security of the nation's transportation systems. In March 2003 the agency was moved from the Department of Transportation to the newly created Department of Homeland Security. Many travelers, however, feel as though this organization makes flights more stressful rather than secure. In this article, I will explain the general screening procedures each passenger must undergo and provide some tips and information from the TSA to help your travel experience go as smoothly as possible.

Before You Leave

You can make arrangements with your particular airline to provide assistance at the airport and when you land, but some passengers prefer to do it all on their own. TSA regulations can change, so it's advisable to check them before you fly. (Contact information is provided at the end of this article.)

If you are between the ages of 12 and 75, you may have to take off your shoes when going through the screening process, so you should wear slip-on shoes if possible. You will also need to take off your jacket and empty your pockets, so keep this in mind when deciding what to wear and pack.

At the Airport

On the day of travel, make sure to arrive at the airport early to avoid long lines, particularly at the passenger screening. Whether the passenger has a visual impairment or is sighted, the screening procedure to board the plane begins with an ID check. The best form of ID for visually impaired passengers is official documentation, such as a valid passport or non-driver ID. If you need such documentation, you should begin the process of acquiring it as soon as possible.

The next part of the screening process involves placing personal items, such as a watch, coins, cell phone, keys, shoes and jacket, into a bin on a conveyor belt. If you are carrying a laptop or similar equipment, it must be removed from its bag and placed on the conveyor belt. Liquids, gels, and aerosols are permitted in three ounce containers placed in a one quart-size, clear plastic, zip-top bag with one bag per traveler. Have this bag separate from your carry-on bag. Liquid medication must be shown to the Security Officer.

As the line proceeds, you will eventually be asked to walk through a metal detector (WTMD). This is a very short, tunnel-like structure and takes only a few steps. Keep your hands away from the sides of the unit. If the metal detector sounds an alert, you will need additional screening.

Screening Passengers with Visual Impairments

The TSA has standardized screening procedures for people who have visual impairments. Nevertheless, there can be some variation depending on individual officers. One extremely important thing to remember is that you absolutely do not want to get into an argument with a TSA officer. You could miss your flight or worse. If you don't like the way your screening procedure was handled, you should make a complaint after the screening process.

According to the TSA, when you are going through the screening, you may ask the Security Officer to explain the process to you and give you step-by-step instructions. The officer can help you put your personal items on the X-ray belt as well as offer you an arm to move through the rest of the screening. You can request that an employee be available to accompany you through the entire process, or you can get directions from the officer, including where to find the metal detector and any particular obstacles you need to avoid in the path.

The officer can also do a hand inspection of any access equipment that you are carrying that could potentially be damaged by the x-ray inspection. At the end of the screening, you may also ask the officer to collect all of your carry-on and assistive items for you.

If You Use a White Cane

If you are a cane user, the TSA states that you will be allowed to keep your cane in order for you to move safely through the metal detector. Then, the officer will ask for your cane for its physical inspection, but if there is a need for your cane to be x-rayed, the officer will let you know.

When you are preparing to go through the screening, remember that, since your cane will set off the metal detector, you will need additional screening because the officer can't determine that it was only your cane that triggered the detector. However, if you let the officer guide you and the detector does not sound, then there isn't any problem.

Service Dogs

In mid-July of this year, Service Dogs of Florida, Inc., made an additional inquiry to the TSA for more information regarding service dogs and TSA security procedures. In the response published by that organization, the TSA states that your dog will be screened as well. Be sure to tell the officer that your dog is a service animal. According to this release, the dog's harness should be a sufficient indication that it's a service dog, but it may also be useful to carry documentation. You may hold onto your dog during the screening process, and you should not be separated from your dog by the officer for any part of the screening.

You and your service dog will be screened in one of two ways: a walk-through metal detector or a thorough pat-down. When walking through the metal detector, you can go before or after your dog while holding its leash, or the two of you can go together. If the alarm does sound, whichever one of you alarms the detector will have to have additional screening. As you wait for this screening, it's important that you don't touch anything other than the dog's leash until you and/or the dog have been cleared. If or when your dog is additionally screened, the officer will ask your permission to physically inspect your dog and any items on it, including its collar, the harness, and any pockets that might be on your dog's gear, but remember that your dog's harness won't be removed.

Medication and Relieving

You are allowed to carry any of your dog's medication through the security checkpoints after it has been inspected either visually or with the x-ray. You should follow the same rules as when carrying your own medicines and liquids. Anything weighing more than 3.4 ounces will have to have further screening, and you should let the officer know in advance that you are carrying medically necessary liquids for your dog that will need to be screened.

If you have to leave the secured area to relieve your dog while waiting to board your flight, you will have to go through the screening process again in order to return, but the TSA states you may ask to go to the front of the screening line after you have already gone through it once.

Rules for Additional Screening

Should a pat-down be necessary during your screening, the TSA has very specific guidelines regarding passengers with disabilities, which are further explained in the release provided by Service Dogs of Florida, Inc. The officer should be of the same gender, but you may have to wait for that person to become available. You can request a private screening at any time, which should always have an additional TSA employee present, and you may bring someone from your traveling party as well. You can ask to sit down at any point, and you should inform the officer if you have trouble raising your arms, have any areas that are painful when touched, or have any medical difficulties related to the pat-down.

The TSA is also using a new technology to detect any residue from explosives on your hands or carry-on luggage. Testing is done randomly, and the officer will only ask to swab your hands or personal items. Then, that swab will be placed into a machine, and you will have to wait for the results before you can be cleared.

Conclusion

With some preparation and patience, the screening procedure should be relatively easy, and the TSA is making a conscious effort to accommodate people with visual impairments. The best two pieces of advice are these: give yourself plenty of time, and if you experience a problem, stay calm. You can ask to speak with a supervisor or contact the TSA to explain your situation if there is any trouble with your screening.

Resources

I encourage all travelers to thoroughly review the following resources before your trips:

Transportation Security Administration website

TSA Cares (toll-free helpline) (855) 787-2227
Monday – Friday: 8:00 am – 11:00 pm
9:00 am – 9:00 pm on weekends and Federal holidays

My TSA app

For iOS devices and smart phones, this free app provides a great deal of up-to-date information.

GDUI (Guide Dog Users Inc.)

This site provides information for guide dog users, including travel information.

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The AFB Optics Lab

The American Foundation for the Blind's Small Visual Display Project

The use of small displays on consumer electronics and other devices has become commonplace. These displays, which we call small visual displays (SVDs), are found on everything from mobile phones to office document centers to home medical equipment, such as blood glucose meters. The ability to read the information displayed on most of these devices is critically important to a person who is trying to use the device, but the small size and poor contrast of many displays makes this difficult.

The purpose of the SVD project at American Foundation for the Blind's AFB Tech lab, first described in Lee Huffman's July 2009 AccessWorld article, is to identify and assign value to the characteristics of a display which contribute to its readability and, then, use this information to raise awareness for consumers about their choices in display quality and to influence manufacturers to improve the quality and readability of displays for all consumer devices. This article will serve as a brief overview of the major components of this project with more detailed articles to follow.

The planned outcomes of the SVD project are as follows:

  • An optics lab to identify and assign values to the characteristics of a display that are important to readability, such as font size and type, contrast, glare, etc.
  • A database containing all of the information collected using the lab, including an easy-to-use readability rating scale that will be made free to consumers.
  • Guidelines for manufacturers to follow based on the assigned values to characteristics which will produce a more readable, quality display image (image quality metric), currently in development.

Display Characteristics

Contrast and font size have long been accepted as the two factors that most affect readability. Contrast is simply the difference in the brightness we perceive between the foreground and background or, in the case of text, the font color against the background color. A display with high contrast and a large font is the easiest to read in almost all cases, such as black, 18-point font on a white background. During testing, the AFB Tech lab also considers reflections (glare) from external lighting, which cause a reduction in contrast in the analysis of a display.

AFB Tech considers two types of reflection in its measurements. Specular reflections are the type of reflections that you observe in a mirror. This is caused by a very flat, smooth reflecting surface. When light rays hit the surface, they bounce off of the surface at the same angle (but on the opposite side). This results in a sharp reflected image, which is what you see in a mirror.

Diagram of a Specular Reflection: light (arrow) reflecting off of a smooth surface in a mirrored angle.

Caption: Specular Reflection: Light is reflected at the same angle from the smooth surface.

Diffuse reflection occurs when the reflecting surface is rough on a microscopic level, which causes light to be scattered in all directions when it reflects. A perfect diffuse reflector produces no reflected image at all. A blank piece of white copy paper is a good example of a diffuse reflector. No matter what angle you look at it, the paper looks white and evenly illuminated. Any given surface can have a diffuse component, a specular component, or a combination of both.

Diagram of a Diffuse Reflection: light (arrows) hitting the rough surface at one angle and reflected back in many different directions.

Caption: Diffuse Reflection: Light is scattered off of the microscopically rough surface in all directions.

Display Technologies

There are several types of display technologies found on the market today, and the lab classifies them based on the way they operate. Conventional display technology is described as being either reflective or emissive and fixed-segment or pixelated.

The first classification describes how a display manipulates light to produce images for the user. A reflective display changes the way it reflects light to produce an image. Since the display reflects light back at the user, an external light is needed to view the display, and therefore, it can't be used in the dark. Sometimes manufacturers solve this problem by placing a faint blue or orange light into the display, which can be turned on and off. This light is usually called a "backlight," which is a bit of a misnomer since the light is technically in front of the display.

The alternative to a reflective display is an emissive display, which operates by giving off its own light. These displays do not require external illumination and can be used in the dark. In fact, using an emissive display in a lighted room will reduce the level of contrast produced, such as when it is difficult to read a cell phone's display screen out in the sun.

The second classification describes how a display screen changes to provide information for the user. A fixed-segment display is the type of display found on cheap or simple devices that only need to produce very specific information, such as numbers or labels. A good example of this is an alarm clock, which needs to have numbers for the time, labels for am and pm, and perhaps a symbol for whether or not the alarm is enabled. Numbers 0-9 are produced using seven small line segments, which are toggled on and off, while the labels and text keep the same form.

Photo of a reflective (needs external light), fixed-segment display

Caption: A reflective (needs external light), fixed-segment display

A more complex and flexible display technology is a pixelated display. This type of display uses a grid (or matrix) of tiny elements called pixels, which are turned on and off to produce images, text, or anything else that needs to be displayed.

Photo of an emissive (self-lit), pixelated (matrix of microscopic dots) display screen (color)

Caption: An emissive (self-lit), pixelated (matrix of microscopic dots) display screen (color)

Liquid Crystal Displays (LCDs) are the most common type of display screens found on consumer electronics. LCDs can be designed to be reflective or emissive and are commonly found as both fixed-segment and pixelated designs.

Photo of a reflective, pixelated (monochrome) LCD on a blood glucose meter

Caption: A reflective, pixelated (monochrome) LCD on a blood glucose meter

Light Emitting Diode (LED) technology is a purely emissive technology that produces very high contrast, but these displays are almost always limited to fixed-segment, simple displays like alarm clocks.

Photo of an emissive, fixed-segment LED screen on an alarm clock

Caption: An emissive, fixed-segment LED screen on an alarm clock

Organic LED (OLED) technology is a new type of technology emerging onto the electronics market. These displays are always emissive and usually are pixelated. Another new, intriguing type of display is known as e-paper, most commonly found on book readers because of its similarity to conventional print on paper.

The Need for an Optics Lab

When AFB Tech started looking at the problem of SVDs, there was intuition and research to prove that contrast and font size were important, but it quickly became apparent that, without a way to assign value to these measurements, there would never be any progress with manufacturers. The engineers for the manufacturers want to know to what degree a display needs to be made better, and more importantly, they want to know what a minimum standard for readability is. To answer these questions, AFB Tech made a plan for an optics lab, applied for funding from several sources, and enlisted help from industry experts, such as Dr. Ed Kelley, who was an integral part of creating the standards that are used throughout the display industry, and others. As a result of this effort, AFB Tech has a state-of-the-art lab using procedures developed for measuring contrast and reflection properties by experts in the field.

Photo of AFB Tech's Optics Lab

Caption: AFB Tech's Optics Lab

Database

To make this lab useful to consumers, AFB Tech is uploading the data collected into a publicly accessible database. Currently in development is a way to condense the measurement data into a more useful "rating scale," which will allow consumers to have a direct comparison of two products on the basis of the display quality and readability. The lab is currently purchasing products from the entire spectrum of consumer electronics in the following major categories to expand this database: mobile phones, home health equipment (blood glucose monitors, pulse meters, blood pressure monitors, etc.), home appliances, office equipment, e-book readers, and digital media players. This database is scheduled to be launched in November, and an announcement will go out in AccessWorld with an in-depth look at its features.

In the Future: Contrast Sensitivity and the Image Quality Metric

AFB Tech, in coordination with Dr. Ron Schuchard with the VA, is currently researching whether or not an image quality metric, which is simply a way of measuring how "good" an image looks to a person, can be used to predict the readability of a display. An image quality metric takes into account both a display's level of contrast and a user's contrast sensitivity, meaning the metric is specific to an individual/device pair. This type of metric has been previously developed and tested using people who are fully sighted on CRT monitors (older-style tube televisions) to measure perceived image quality. Now, the lab and Dr. Schuchard are retesting this concept for SVDs and looking for a link between image quality and readability.

The ideal outcome for this part of the project would be the ability to measure an individual's contrast sensitivity and be able to accurately predict whether or not that individual could read a particular display effectively. While this scenario is not likely to pan out in the near future, the concepts we learn about the needs of the human visual system (both with and without any specific pathology) can be incorporated into recommendations given to manufacturers to help improve the quality of their displays.

The next article on the optics lab will be a discussion of the image quality metric, its components, and its implications, along with a description of the contrast sensitivity simulator the lab developed to help illustrate the specific effect that reduced contrast sensitivity has on a person's vision.

Comment on this article.

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AccessWorld News

AccessWorld News

2013 Access Awards: Nominations Now Open!

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) has announced its official call for nominations for the 2013 Access Awards, which honor individuals, corporations, and organizations that eliminate or substantially reduce inequities faced by people who are blind or visually impaired.

Nominations for the AFB Access Awards should illustrate an exceptional and innovative effort that has improved the lives of people with vision loss by enhancing access to information, the environment, technology, education, or employment, including making mainstream products and services accessible. The effort should be one that has national impact or can serve as a model for replication on a national or international level.

Letters of nomination addressing the above criteria should be e-mailed to Joe Strechay, AFB, 2013 Access Awards Committee, at jstrechay@afb.net.

Nominations must be received no later than Monday, October 29, 2012. Product brochures, patent applications, and other materials of support substantiating the nomination should also be sent by the above date. Please note, materials submitted will not be returned.

The awards will be presented Friday, April 19, 2013 at the AFB Leadership Conference (formerly known as the Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute) at the Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel in Chicago, Illinois. Previous award recipients include Apple, Inc., Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Google, Lexmark, Leader Dogs for the Blind, CBS Television, Major League Baseball & MLB.com, NVDA, and Lauren Lieberman, Ph.D.

Early Bird Rate: 20% off ATIA 2013 Orlando Conference Registration

Assistance Overcoming Budget Delays or Cancellations

ATIA has just released its new early bird rate for the 2013 Orlando Conference, which is available until Friday, September 28. ATIA recognizes that registration and travel arrangements can be delayed or changed due to various circumstances. If this is your situation but you expect to attend the ATIA 2013 Orlando conference, the liberal, no-risk, early cancellation policy allows would-be attendees to register by credit card while awaiting funding approval or other confirmation. A full refund will be granted to cancellations made in writing on or before November 30, 2013.

Review Conference Sessions Online

You can find comprehensive conference education on all segments of access technology at the conference, and you can find a full listing of the sessions at ATIA's session directory. Plus, discover a series of Bring Your Own Device sessions (identified by the BYOD acronym within the room listing) designed for attendees to bring their own tablets or devices!

You can preview the abstracts for all pre-conference seminars, sessions, poster presentations, and hands-on labs online prior to registration. To learn more about designing your own personalized continuing education curriculum, follow this link to ATIA's Earn CEUs Program, and choose from more than 175 educational sessions.

Ai Squared, the Makers of ZoomText, Offers Free Training Webinars

To learn more and sign up for the following webinars, visit the AI Squared website.

What's New in ZoomText 10

This webinar is mainly for those who are familiar with ZoomText and want to hear about the new features in version 10.

Thursday, September 6th, 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm EDT

Thursday, September 13th, 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm EDT

New User Online Learning

This webinar is for those who are not familiar with ZoomText or want a refresher about the product. You will learn about the new features in 10, but the webinar will not go into nearly the same detail as the "What's New in ZoomText 10" sessions.

Wednesday, September 5th, 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm EDT

Wednesday, September 12th, 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm EDT

Increase your Productivity with ZoomText Hotkeys

This webinar will walk you through all of the most frequently used hotkeys in ZoomText.

Tuesday, September 18th, 11:00 – 12:00 pm EDT

Boston Accessibility Conference, September 15, 2012

If you are in the Boston area, you may want to attend the 2012 Boston Accessibility Conference held September 15, 2012 at the Microsoft New England Research and Development Center in Cambridge. To learn more about the conference, register, or obtain speaker information, visit the conference website.

Envision Conference 2012, September 12 – 15

This year's Envision Conference will be held September 12–15 at the Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark in St. Louis, Missouri. The mission of the Envision Conference is to improve the quality of low-vision care through excellence in professional collaboration, advocacy, research, and education. The focus of the Envision Conference 2012 is "Excellence in Education." For more information about the Envision Conference 2012 or to register, visit the Envision website.

Verizon Introduces Suite of Apps for Visually Impaired

Verizon Wireless has recently announced the Mobile Accessibility Suite, a collection of applications and services that will allow visually impaired customers to use their Android smartphones more effectively. The suite bundles together 10 separate apps that make it easier for the visually impaired to navigate their touchscreen device, and it offers features such as speech recognition, text-to-speech, and braille output. The suite allows users to quickly make phone calls, manage contacts, compose/read text messages, set alarms, browse the Web, create and edit calendar appointments, e-mail, access the time, find information about location and weather, and manage device settings. The suite is free to download and use, but it requires a data plan and a device running Android 2.2 or higher.

For more information, visit the Verizon Wireless website.

US Labor Department's Office of Disability Employment Policy Announces $950,000 Grant to Establish Accessible Technology Action Center

The US Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy recently announced the availability of approximately $950,000 to fund a cooperative agreement to establish and operate the Accessible Technology Action Center, a new national resource that will facilitate and promote the use of accessible technology in the hiring, employment, retention, and career advancement of people with disabilities. To learn more about this grant and its potential impact on people with disabilities, visit the US Department of Labor's website.

New Exhibit Allows Those with Visual Impairments to Experience Visual Art

Without sight, how do you experience visual art? How do you take part in a conversation about visual art? "BLIND. VisualEyes without Your Eyes" is an interactive art show that creates an opportunity for people who are visually impaired to engage in the conversation about and interpretation of visual art. The exhibit, created by Pete Brown, opens at Gallery 924 in Indianapolis on October 5.

At this show, guests are encouraged to touch, feel, listen, and interact. The pieces are created using different techniques and materials offering distinct textures to provide people who are blind with a chance to experience the work through touch. Unlike traditional exhibits where you are discouraged from physically engaging with the artwork, BLIND is an exhibition where physical interaction rounds out the whole experience.

From the beginning, BLIND was created with the input of people who are blind. A committee of people from varying backgrounds and experiences were brought together bimonthly to talk about how they experience art and life. Pete Brown then took this information and began to create pieces that allow people of varying abilities to engage with the visual art.

Brown has not only created pieces that are tactile, but he has also used technology to help tell the story of the art. Each work will have a Quick Response (QR) code, and a guest can use a smartphone or iPad to scan the code to experience an audio/video description and find out more about each piece.

Each piece in the gallery will be for sale. Funds raised by this event will benefit both the Bosma Visionary Opportunities Foundation and Gallery 924.

The goal of the show isn't only about making art accessible for people with visual impairments. It's also about educating the general population and breaking stereotypes around blindness.

"I've really come to learn how many inaccurate notions the general sighted community has about the non-sighted community," said Brown. "I hope to use my artwork as a catalyst so that Bosma Enterprises and the people they serve can share their culture and experiences in a new setting with a new group of people."

BLIND will open on Friday, October 5, 2012 at Gallery 924 in The Arts Council of Indianapolis, located on 924 N. Pennsylvania Street, Indianapolis, IN 46204 from 6 pm to 9 pm, and it will run through October 27.

For more information on the art exhibit, please contact Anthony Scott by phone at (317) 275-1352 or through e-mail. You can also visit the Bosma Enterprises website to learn more.

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Letters to the Editor

Opinions Vary on TV Access Article

Dear AccessWorld Editor,

I was pleased to see a nice travel article about Williamsburg and nearby attractions by Janet Ingber in AccessWorld. My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed visiting Williamsburg in the 1990s. This article rekindled my memories and made me want to return again!

I hope AccessWorld will feature more articles about travel destinations in the future. It is good to know of attractions that are touchable/accessible, but I also like to read about places that a blind person can enjoy traveling without a car. My husband is partially sighted. Neither of us drives, and we like vacation spots that are good walking areas and/or have good public transportation.

Last year we flew to St. Louis, took the tram from the airport to the Amtrak station, boarded the Missouri River Runner, and then we were able to walk from the station in Hermann to our hotel. We visited another city that week and then returned via Amtrak to the St. Louis Airport. It was fun doing all that traveling without having to once climb into a taxi! Our train hopping was made even easier with some wonderful backpacks we bought after visiting a website mentioned in Wendy David's book, Sites Unseen: Traveling the World without Sight (DB 73854), available for download from BARD or for purchase through National Braille Press.

Another good accessible travel book available through BARD is All Aboard: The Complete North American Train Travel Guide by Jim Loomis (DB 74132). My husband and I read this book and can't wait to do more train travel. It is one of the rewards I anticipate upon retirement: some slower paced, leisurely travel and exploration.

Sincerely,

Joni

Dear AccessWorld Editor,

Thanks for your excellent commentary by Paul Schroeder in the August 2012 issue of AccessWorld. I've been a fan of DVS ever since I first heard about it in the 90s. I still have quite a few VHS versions of some DVS movies, and I still actually have a small TV in my bedroom with a built-in VCR! In 2002, I attended the ACB convention in Houston and was pleased to find that there were more options, even quite a few movies on Lifetime and TNT, described by the Narrative Television Network (NTN). I returned home and spent the next two months or so recuperating from illness. Wow, was I ever happy to know that there was a good bit of described entertainment I could enjoy while recuperating, especially on Lifetime which was by far my favorite channel at the time! I'm glad the FCC ruling finally went into effect, and I can't wait to get my hands on an accessible set-top box. However, I've already been disappointed by the lack of knowledge about this by the DIRECTV tech-support staff.

Recently, I called DIRECTV after taking a survey about customer satisfaction and making it clear that I had serious concerns regarding the accessibility of their website and failure to listen to audio-described programming even with SAP turned on. A technician came out to try to help, but the best he could do was to tell me how many times to press the right-arrow after pressing the "Info" button to get to the English/Spanish setting and how many times to use the down arrow to reach the setting I wanted. We both thought that might be the most likely way to access DVS content. I've tried this several times on cable/satellite networks, such as TBS, with shows that I knew were being described. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to make it work with DIRECTV at all. I've been offered a two-year contract with DIRECTV, lowering my monthly fees and upgrading my equipment. Of course, no one at DIRECTV seems to know if it will work any better!

Do you think I may be better off to switch to something like Comcast? In Nashville, we have both Comcast and AT&T U-verse. Honestly, I think Comcast has a better variety of programming, and I'd switch in a minute if I thought it would be easier! At any rate, I hope that a day will soon come when it won't matter what provider you use and only maybe which set-top box!

Thanks again for a great article!

Jana

Dear AccessWorld Editor,

The biggest problem I have encountered is that the local cable company says they have no idea what Descriptive Video Service is, and they tell me to contact the networks.

Best regards,

Cindy

Dear AccessWorld Editor,

I was very disappointed with the "Watching TV" article in the August issue of Access World. For me, there are much bigger issues involved in TV than video descriptions, although that is also an important issue. For me, the most pressing issue is getting full access to cable TV and set-top boxes. As of now, I can't use many of the features, such as DVR and On-Demand, TV set-top menus, cable box menus, etc., that I'm paying for. I would have hoped that an article about watching TV would have included some of these issues, particularly contact information for letting our cable companies know we aren't satisfied with their accessibility. I've heard that Comcast has hired a blind vice-president for accessibility. It would have been nice to have had that info in this article.

The article was good as it provided links to information. It was just much more limited in scope than I have come to expect from AccessWorld.

Sincerely,

John

Dear AccessWorld Editor,

I was glad to read this last article in your series ["Removing the Stress from iOS"]. This debate about whether or not it's time to leave the note taking devices behind will go on for some time. I, for one, am about ready to do just that because I can take the notes I need to take on the iPhone or the iPad. I hadn't heard about the Plain Text app, so I'll get that today as I also use Dropbox.

Thanks for your valuable input.

Cordially,

Michael

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