July 2009 Issue  Volume 10  Number 4

Editor's Page

To quote from an announcement posted on AFB's web site, "in June, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) announced the approval of a new budget that reflects significantly lower expenses. To ensure AFB is positioned to remain effective, AFB also announced several staff reductions triggered in part by the economic crisis, and in part by a strategic effort to maintain and strengthen AFB's financial structure." In addition, staff positions were relocated from New York to AFB's office in West Virginia.

My position is one of those that has been relocated to West Virginia. I have chosen not to relocate, so my last day at AFB will be July 31. I published my first product evaluation in 1987 and have been editing AccessWorld since 2001. I relish the challenge of learning to use and testing new products. Most manufacturers appreciate or, at least accept, our objective evaluations.

I have enjoyed bringing you information about the latest new products in AccessWorld. It has been fun working with Darren Burton, Brad Hodges, and Lee Huffman of AFB TECH. Deborah Kendrick has been here since 2000 and can write excellent articles on any subject that is thrown at her. A variety of other authors have covered additional topics. The best part has been hearing your reactions, questions, and comments. You can reach me after July 31 at jaylev7@verizon.net. To paraphrase Arthur C. Clarke, one of my favorite authors, I am not sure what I will do next, but I will think of something.

In this issue, Darren Burton and Tara Annis, of AFB TECH, present the second in a two-part series evaluating Wayfinder Access and Mobile Geo, two accessible cell phone-based GPS navigation systems that can be used in conjunction with cell phone screen-reading software. This article focuses on Mobile Geo and offers a comparison of the two products' features and functions. Find out how well Mobile Geo performed.

Guido D. Corona, marketing and accessibility consultant from Austin, Texas, writes about the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped's (NLS's) transition to Digital Talking Books. A growing number of readers are already downloading books from the NLS site. Others are participating in a beta test of NLS's new machines. This article covers the plans for the transition and walks you through downloading books.

Bradley Hodges, of AFB TECH, has been again scouting the stores for accessible appliances. His latest report contains encouraging news about stoves, washers and dryers, and air conditioners. If you are in the market for new appliances, you will want to read this update.

Deborah Kendrick reviews the Seika Braille Display, distributed by Perkins Products. Developed in Japan, the Seika is a 40-cell display. Its most compelling feature is a $2,495 price tag, making it far less expensive than other 40-cell displays. Read our review of this new display.

Janet Ingber, writer and music therapist, writes about two new ways to communicate with friends, family members, and coworkers. Twitter is a social networking site that allows you to post short messages that answer the question "What are you doing." Google Voice is a service that allows users the option of having calls ring on several phones at the same time (such as a home and a cell phone) and provides an online voice message mailbox and much more. Find out how easy it is to set up accounts and use these services.

Lee Huffman, of AFB TECH, writes about small visual displays. He describes how these displays are found on product after product, both at work and at home, and outlines the problems that these displays present for people with low vision. He then discusses the results of a recent AccessWorld survey on the subject of small visual displays.

Jay Leventhal

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