May 2006 Issue  Volume 7  Number 3

Editor's Page

A large majority of the articles in AccessWorld deal with computer products. These products have been, and will continue to be, a prime focus for us. These products make it possible for us to perform daily tasks at work, at home, and at school. However, some of the most popular articles we have published cover products other than computers. Our extensive coverage of cell phone accessibility has been extremely popular, and we will continue to bring you articles on the latest developments in that area.

Accessibility creeps into almost every aspect of our lives. It seems that every activity we participate in involves something we need access to. It could be the playbill at the theater, the menu in a restaurant, a form to fill out in a doctor's office, and on and on.

Another important arena is household appliances. As innovation marches on, flat touch-panel controls and electronic visual displays are replacing easy-to-feel knobs and buttons. People who are blind or visually impaired are having a harder and harder time finding appliances that they can use independently.

In this issue, we present two articles about household appliances. Darren Burton, of AFB's Technology and Employment Center in Huntington, West Virginia (AFB TECH), presents the results of a usability study in which people who are blind or visually impaired tested the usability of a variety of household appliances. Stoves, microwave ovens, dishwashers, washing machines and dryers with different types of controls were tested. Read about the results.

Brad Hodges, a new staff member of AFB TECH, provides an overview of the current appliance market. He visited local and national retailers and examined products from brands including Whirlpool, Frigidaire, GE, and Sears Kenmore. Read about how these brands fared in accessibility, and our recommendations for which ones to buy.

Deborah Kendrick and I report on the 21st annual Technology and Persons with Disabilities conference, hosted by the Center on Disabilities of the California State University at Northridge (CSUN). As we have come to expect, the CSUN staff again put on the largest and best conference in the business. Read our coverage to find out about new and updated products and a sampling of the hundreds of intriguing presentations.

Deborah Kendrick evaluates the FreedomBox, an easy alternative to computing and surfing the Web for people who are blind. The FreedomBox Network and its rich content have evolved into an attractive option for advanced users as well. Read about this little-known product. Deborah Kendrick also interviewed FreedomBox users. The people interviewed here are not typical screen-reader users. One has multiple disabilities, one lost his sight late in life, and one had no inclination to learn to use computers after losing his sight. Find out why these people chose the FreedomBox.

Lee Huffman of AFB TECH evaluates the PC Mate from Clarity and the ClearNote from Optelec, two laptop-compatible CCTVs. This is the first in a series evaluating CCTVs that are laptop compatible, weigh less than 5 pounds, have a rotating camera that allows for near and distance viewing, and have the ability to take a "picture" of an image and save it to the computer. Learn what these products have to offer.

Lynn Zelvin, independent assistive technology trainer and web site designer, investigates the accessibility of commercial e-books. Commercial e-books are found online in bookstores and in commercial and public libraries. Some must be read on e-book readers; many can be read on a computer using a screen reader. This article provides guidelines on when and where to buy e-books.

Darren Burton and Lee Huffman evaluate desktop copy machines that might be found in a small business or a home office. These units are similar in appearance to a traditional printer you might connect to a computer, but with the additional capabilities of copying, faxing, scanning and e-mail to complement their traditional print functions. In our March 2006 issue, Part 1 of this series took a look at large, expensive, stand-alone multifunction copy machines that have been common in offices over the last few decades. The third and final article in this series will go back to the large machines, focusing on accessibility solutions from Canon and Xerox that have been specifically designed to make their units more accessible and usable for people who are blind or have low vision.

Brian Walker, of the Iowa Department for the Blind, evaluates the Brailliant Braille Display from HumanWare. This relatively new display is small and portable and offers USB and Bluetooth connectivity. Read about what this product provides for users.

Jay Leventhal
Editor in Chief

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