March 2006 Issue  Volume 7  Number 2

Editor's Page

You may have noticed that starting with this issue, the AccessWorld web pages have been redesigned. We hope you will find them both more appealing and easier to use. Article pages now resemble the AccessWorld home page, and all pages are more colorful and attractive. The navigation links are easier to find at the top of the right-hand column, and the AccessWorld Search is now right on the page, near the top. But if these links get in your way, you can also move them back to the bottom of the page by visiting the "Change Colors and More" page. Screen reader users can select the "Jump to Article" link to go directly to the article on a particular page. And, we have changed AccessWorld's subtitle to "Technology and People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired." We find that more descriptive, and it will help Internet search engines bring more potential readers to our site. Please e-mail us and let us know what you think of the new design.

To cut down on spam, some web sites and services require new users to type a word that is displayed in a graphic on the screen. The letters are slightly distorted by a background image. This is called visual verification, and it is not accessible for users of screen readers or many people with low vision. Some sites provide an audio pronunciation of the word as an alternative. However, the audio can be hard to understand, too.

Two major players on the web, Google and Yahoo!, use visual verification. They have so far been unwilling to create an accessible alternative. E-mail verification is one current alternative. More work needs to be done to ensure that people who are blind or have low vision are not shut out of online services.

In this issue, Lee Huffman, of AFB's Technology and Employment Center in Huntington, West Virginia (AFB TECH) , reviews ZoomText, version 9.0, from Ai Squared, and LunarPlus, version 6.5, from Dolphin Computer Access, two of the three most popular screen magnification products on the market. MAGic, from Freedom Scientific, will be evaluated in a future issue. Each product was evaluated on its documentation and electronic help, ease of installation, control panel, magnification and display features, and speech output. Its performance was tested in Microsoft Word, Excel, Internet Explorer and Outlook Express. Find out how these programs compared.

Deborah Kendrick interviews Glen Gordon, chief technical officer of Freedom Scientific. Gordon discusses his ongoing work on JAWS for Windows, his career before he joined Henter-Joyce and then Freedom Scientific, and more. Read about a key developer of one of the most popular products in the assistive technology field.

Janet Ingber, author and music therapist, writes about video description of television and movies. The article covers the history of video description, as well as previous attempts to legislate a requirement that networks include description in some programming. Ingber then profiles the players in the description field and explains how they create description and add it to programs.

Darren Burton and Lee Huffman, of AFB TECH, evaluate large stand-alone copy machines. The first in a series of articles to cover different types of copy machines, this one explores the accessibility of units that have been commonly used in offices over the past couple of decades. Future articles will examine the smaller, less expensive desktop units that are now available and review accessibility solutions from Canon and Xerox that have been designed to make their units more accessible and usable for people who are blind or have low vision. Find out how accessible these machines are.

Chris Hofstader, freelance writer and itinerant research scientist, contrasts the audio output of adapted computer games with that of screen readers. He points out that audio games provide access to information through multiple sound cues. In contrast, screen readers generally do not include sounds as additional information. Instead, they provide a single stream of speech output. Video game developers have led the way to many of the most interesting discoveries in mainstream computing. Perhaps audio games can perform a similar service.

I report on the seventh annual conference of the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA), held on January 18-21, 2006, in Orlando, Florida. The ATIA conference featured many new products and product updates, as well as a number of sessions of interest to people who are blind or have low vision. Learn what we found in the exhibit hall and conference sessions.

Jay Leventhal
Editor in Chief

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