The American Foundation for the Blind's National Technology Program began conducting product evaluations in 1987. In January 2000, AccessWorld became the home for our product evaluations. Last March, AFB opened the Technology and Employment Center at Huntington, West Virginia (AFB TECH). AccessWorld contributing editor Mark Uslan has relocated to Huntington and is the Managing Director there. Darren Burton has joined us as National Program Associate in Technology and will contribute to AccessWorld regularly. Two Marshall University students, Angie Spiker, a medical student at the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, and Karla Schnell, a mathematics major in the College of Science, are AFB TECH product evaluation interns. AFB TECH will focus on evaluating the accessibility of mainstream products, and provide the resources for us to bring you articles on topics that we have never covered before.
This issue features the first example of AFB TECH's work. Mark Uslan, Angie Spiker, Karla Schnell, and Darren Burton evaluate blood glucose meters. They provide some background information on diabetes and on how meters work, review five off-the-shelf meters to identify those that have the most usable features for diabetics who are visually impaired, review meters that offer speech output capability, and show how blood glucose meters are being used by four blind and visually impaired individuals. Finally, Caesar Eghtesadi, Ph.D., president of Tech for All <www.tech-for-all.com>, an accessibility consulting firm, describes how technology for monitoring blood glucose levels will be changing in the coming years.
The June 2001 implementation of the requirements of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and the publication of a white paper calling attention to the accessibility issues involving Portable Document Format (PDF) files in April 2002, by AFB, partnering with National Industries for the Blind (NIB) and the American Council of the Blind (ACB), have raised the awareness of a greater need for accessibility by Adobe in the development of both its authoring tools and its reading tools. Annemarie Cooke, Senior External Relations Officer at Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, spoke to Adobe officials and leading accessibility advocates, and reports on the current state of PDF access, as well as what we can expect in the future. She also describes what you need to be able to read PDF documents with a screen reader.
Deborah Kendrick writes about video description—an additional audio track that describes the visual elements on the television or movie screen not readily detected in dialogue or other sounds. On April 1, 2002, new regulations from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding video description for blind television viewers became effective. Kendrick gives a brief history of video description and focuses on the necessary equipment and the steps you need to take to bring video description into your home.
James A. Kutsch, Jr., Ph.D., Vice President of Technology for a global leader in outsourced customer service and billing, provides an overview of audio on the web. He explains what you need to listen to audio, and describes several sites that will get you started with Internet radio. He discusses voice chat–speaking to a group of people over the Internet–which, unlike some text-based chat software, is accessible to screen reader users. Find out where to go to hear music and other programming that has disappeared from your AM/FM radio.
Dawn Suvino, Coordinator of Blindness and Low Vision Services at the Westchester Institute for Human Development in Valhalla, NY, and the Project Coordinator for a three-year research grant at AFB, reviews Adaptive Technologies for Learning and Work Environments, Second Edition, by Joseph J. Lazzaro. She found the book, available in print and on CD-ROM, to be "easy to read and understand, even for the most inexperienced user." The book describes standard computer hardware, input systems, products for use by people with vision, hearing, motor, speech or learning impairments, assistive technology evaluations, specialized training, technical support and funding options.
Jay Leventhal, Editor in Chief
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