May 2007 Issue  Volume 8  Number 3

Editor's Page

A colleague recently purchased a new PDA (personal digital assistant) that is designed specifically for people who are blind. He was attached to his old, comfortable PDA, but now he has to learn new commands to perform tasks that were once second nature.

My colleague's frustrations remind me of what AccessWorld's product evaluators sometimes experience when we test a new, unfamiliar product. We try our best to treat the product as if we had just purchased it ourselves. We take it out of the box, read the manual, set the product up or install it if it is software, and start to use it. We experience the frustration of not knowing the commands to perform familiar tasks. We make mistakes. We wonder why the product is not responding. We read more of the manual and, when necessary, telephone the company for technical support.

Of course, we cannot totally re-create the situation of being beginners who are struggling to learn to use new products. But, we do our best to simulate what the typical user goes through on our way to producing our product evaluations.

In this issue, Lee Huffman, of AFB TECH, evaluates HumanWare's SmartView Xtend closed-circuit television. The SmartView Xtend aims to minimize the fear of "buyer's remorse" by providing one unit that can be customized and upgraded at a later time. Five different modules are available. Find out about the flexibility provided by these different options.

Bradley Hodges, of AFB TECH, provides an update on the accessibility of washing machines and dryers. Whirlpool and Sears Kenmore have both introduced controls that use tones of different pitches, in combination with easy-to-feel buttons and turn knobs. The new controls make these two already-usable product lines even more useful and accessible. Read about these products that reverse the recent trend toward appliances that are hard to use by people who are blind or have low vision.

Deborah Kendrick and I report on the 22nd annual Technology and Persons with Disabilities conference, hosted by the Center on Disabilities of the California State University at Northridge. Read our coverage to find out about new and updated products and a sampling of the hundreds of presentations.

Bradley Hodges, Darren Burton, and Mark Uslan, of AFB TECH, evaluate the Note Teller 2, the only device on the U.S. market for identifying currency. This review was prompted by a federal judge's ruling, in December 2006, that U.S. currency is inaccessible to people who are visually impaired. AFB TECH decided to test the technology, and this article reports on the findings.

Bradley Hodges provides a first look at pocket PC technology. What are the differences between smartphones and Pocket PCs? How are these technologies different from Symbian cell phones? If this revolution that is happening in the palms of people's hands is as important as the media say it is, how do people who use nonvisual techniques stand to benefit? This article answers these questions and provides an introduction to Pocket PCs.

Jay Leventhal
Editor in Chief

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