Archive for May, 2007

new screenless mp3 player

May 30, 2007

I’m very excited to read about the imminent arrival of this new screenless, thus blind friendly (accessible) 1gb mp3 player the Creative ZEN Stone. it’s Audible compatible and get this!!! will sell for less than half the price of the equivalent Ipod shuffle, £27.99. Better still you can apparently move files to it in Windows Explorer as if it were any USB pen drive. no need for any horrid inaccessible proprietory software like Itunes. I'm front of the queue. Or at least, when I find a UK retailer who is taking pre orders or a release date I will be.

Update, Amazon have them and seem to be cheapest as it qualifies for free delivery. 6 colours available although for some reason the Red seems to be £2 more expensive and take longer to deliver at 2 to 4 weeks, the white, black, pink, lime, and blue taking 1 to 2 weeks. I've seen them a bit cheaper on a few sites but all then charge around £5 for delivery making them more expensive. Brian Hartgen has more details including free jaws scripts for the accompanying software and details on how to use with Audible books.

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RNIB host Shawn Henry on whats new in web accessibility

May 29, 2007

I for one will be at this one as Shawn Henry from WAI presents “What’s new, WCAG 2.0, and current issues” congratulations to the WAC team for scooping this one.

Launchy open virtually anything just by typing its name

May 29, 2007

Thanks to Christian Heilmannfor blogging about Launchy, the open source keystroke launcher for Windowswhich allows you to open pretty much anything just by typing its name, including applications, files and folders, web searches or just about anything else you can think of. perform the default keystroke of alt+space type what you want and press enter. if you pause typing a list of suggestions (which is visually there on the right the whole time) takes focus and can be arrowed up and down, press enter to choose your selection. you can add variables by pressing hte tab key and then typing. the manual suggests typing weather press tab and then type the name of your town/city, unfortunately for Brits Launchy currently uses weather.com for weather searches and this only gives US data but after a quick skim of the manual I think it should be pretty easy to set up a uk bespoke route to a preferred UK centric site.. if all this weren’t grand enough you can also run Launchy off a USB drive (by following instructions in the manual) so this makes it one of a small breed of accessible portable apps or portable assistive technologies if you like along with NVDA, and very few others although it is a very high calibre stable with the front runner to date being Mozilla Live which is a suite of Firefox, FireVox, and NVDA all of which can run footprint free from a USB drive or CD. Note the Mozilla live Link points to the downloadable ISO (190MB) from which you can burn your own Mozilla Live CD.

NVDA 0.5 released

May 25, 2007

Yeyy! version 0.5 of NVDA the free open source rather wonderful screenreader has been posted. major developments for english language users are:
comes with the E-speak synth bundled and selected by default so you can use it straight from a CD, USB drive, or network location even where the workstation does not have any speech synth installed.
a text find feature (control f) in IE and Firefox to aid speedy navigation on poorly structured sites.
better performance in outlook express
sounds like it works well in Windows Live messenger although not tried it for myself yet.

the release notes also claim a talking installer although I’ll need to investigate this more, not sure of the purpose as the software doesn’t require any installation. Excellent news though. we’re one giant leap closer to user friendly no cost access to the technology people who aren’t blind take for granted.

international legislation on Web access

May 24, 2007

Reading a few Bloggs on legislation effecting web accessibility around the world I was surprised to learn that in at least a countries, namely the Netherlands and Germany legislation applying to Government sites, all be it only those of central Government are retrospective, that all existing sites must also be made to comply. A move which the UK has always shyed away from in respect of the DDA, and not just on Websites. the view on access to goods and services in general has I think been that a reasonable consideration would be to make retrospective adjustments if and when the prove to be presenting a barrier and not before. or not at least until they under go pallned maintenance. Some background and links out here.

Hotels.com sued over accessibility

May 24, 2007

IJust picked this up on Outlaw.com Interestingly the online travel company which aledgedly treats accessible hotel rooms as an optional extra because it won’t guarantee reservations for accessible rooms via its Website isn’t being challenged under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because of previous rulings under that legislation which have brought in to questions its applicability to the Web. Very worrying.

It's an interesting area, companies who make 'special provision' but then offer this on less favourable terms, and one which I'd like to see tested. A situation which I am currently experiencing myself is raising just this question. Vodafone.co.uk offer visually impaired clients a mobile screenreader free of charge on compatible phones. However in order to get the package you can only buy your contract in store, not via there Website from where discount call plans are available. In short if I want the software I must forgo the three months half price line rental and 10% discount for the duration of the contract. Less favourable terms? I think so. One possible solution which has been put on the table is that I buy my package on the Website, take the handset in to the store who will then send it off for the software to be installed, have it returned to the store from where I can collect it one week later. This seems a little long winded given that I can easily download and install the software myself, all I would require from Voda is the licence code.

So the questions I am asking myself,

"Is this a reasonable adjustment?".

and if not

Given that I am saving the £150 it would cost me to buy the software myself (which is more than I stand to lose by purchasing from the highstreet rather than online) would persuing the matter in courts (if a satisfactory solution were not found) be looking a gift horse in the mouth.

or

actually is the bigger picture what counts?

you can't treat someone less favourably on the grounds of disability

Even if you are, offering, a bespoke service.

open source or standard conformant screenreaders

May 23, 2007

Following on from the previous post:

open source screenreaders was one area in which a number of people expressed interest. There are a number of these around in various states of maturity, se Screenreader comparisons on Wikipedia the one which is currently generating most interest and which in my own experience is quite promising is NVDA (none visual desktop access). However in terms of Web development and conformance testing I’d suggest that Firevox, the screenreader extension for Firefox is possibly the most useful thing out there. It’s user friendly for a start in that it reads the object in focus and nothing more so you’re not left grappling with trying to control the excessive verbage of Jaws, WindowEyes et al and it’s closer to a standards conformant screenreader than anything else out there.

Screenreaders and javascript

May 23, 2007

I’ve just listened to the podcast of the Web Standards Group meeting on May 17
in particular Steve Faulkners session on screenreaders and ajax and feel compelled to say a few things in addition to what has already been said by Bruce Lawson Mike Davis and others So, here goes.
First off, Steve is I’m sure right about what are the dominant screenreaders in the US and possibly australia but not quite so in the UK. Hal which he mentions as a 3rd runner is in fact much more commonly used over here than Window Eyes. W-E infact has a bit of a reputation as the tool of techis although as more people become frustrated with the perceived poor support from Freedom Scientific, makers of Jaws this is on the move a little. The Hal screenreader made by Dolphin systems, a UK company (which is also available in a screenreader / screen magnifier configuration called SuperNova) is although probably somewhere behind Jaws in popularity certainly 3 or 4 times more popular than W-E and so for UK developers most certainly a significant factor. This is unfortunately (in the context of Steves talk) bad rather than good news as although Hal does use the same virtual / browse concept as the other Two it is if anything further behind the other Two in terms of conformance.

re the issue of screenreaders and costs which some one raised, and here I am in agreement with Steve, there is minimal value in rushing out to buy, but what you get is the latest version licence which is backwared compatible with all previous versions so you can quite legitimately run every version to date should you so wish under teh one licence. My main reason for agreeing with Steve here though is nothing to do with cost but rather that as someone who doesn’t depend on the screenreader to get around an application you will never use it in the same way as some one who has that dependancy. Even Steve, who demonstrated considerable familiarity with Jaws during his presentation came a bit unstuck. Follow PAS78 and get someone who knows the tool to test it for you. access-matters is one site where you can post sample pages and ask those who do have the tools to do the work for you, and or learn from other posted samples. This is getting a bit lengthy now so I think I’ll leave other points for a new post.

Blogg revival

May 23, 2007

Just lately I’ve been involved in, or seen several things that have made me think “if only I could be bothered I’d Blogg that” and now at last it seems it’s reached a critical mass. So – here we go again, I’m going to have another go at this stuff and this time I really will try to post regularly on something that comes to my attension or on which I have an opinion to offer in the general arenas of access and accessibility and technology, sometimes but not always Web access. As a promise to myself I’ll try and use the next few days going and build up some momentum. – if you find any future posts useful or interesting go on, gimme a poke to keep me going.