Archive for the ‘software access’ Category

I’m off to ICC the international computer camp for blind students

July 20, 2007

On Sunday I’m off to Finland to lead a couple of workshops in this years ICC camp this is an annual event which shifts around Europe attracting up to 300 visually impaired students from over 30 countries across Two weeks. The first week for 14 to 17 year olds, the second week for 18 to 21s. I’m going along as a member of staff (for the first time) in week one to lead sessions on accessible portable applications, and on running Blogs, not something I know all that much about but hey I’ll be learning too. If you fancy keeping up with the camp then workshop attendees and I will be running a camp Blog at
please comment a plenty so that we all know people are reading.


Massachusetts use of open formats mightent be such a concern for screenreader users afterall

July 4, 2007

When the US state of Massachusetts mandated only using open standards conformant tools when executing government business back in 2005 There was much concern among the visually impaired community. Not because they (we) are a bunch of Microsoft loving no-nothings but because sometimes its better the devil you know. Then, as now there is no office productivity suite which works a tenth as well with assistive technologies such as screenreaders as does MS office. Indeed as far as I know not one of the big name open source alternatives supports any screenreader even for the most basic tasks such as document reading, writing, saving and retrieval.

however I see in news announced this week that Massachusetts kowtows to Microsoft.
or in less journalistic language, the latest draft proposal from the state of Massachusetts recommends approving Microsofts Office Open XML (OOXML) format as an open format meaning that once again employees are free to use MS Office, the most screenreader accessible option.

I’m sure there are many who feel this development is retrograde but for those Massachusetts state employees whose jobs were at threat because the tools they use to undertake their work are suddenly deamed none conformant this will be a great releaf.

adjustments were not enough

June 8, 2007

That was the decision of the apeal in the case of SamLatif versus PMI in regard to PMIs failure to make reasonable adjustments to accomedate a disabled candidate in assessment for a professional qualification. see the finding reported here and the original case report here This is a positive day for establishing the applicability of the DDA to education, Technology and assessment. Having read around the case a little to my mind it says more about exam and assessment arrangements than learning resources but is nevertheless valuable. Learning resources was an element of the course with which Sam struggled but it was not at the core of the case in question.

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.

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 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.

change to US copyright law allows VIs to break DRM on E-books

November 29, 2006

This looks like good news although it is probably the case that is simply the law catching up with what most people are doing anyway. The change is that visually impaired people are now legitimately now aloud to circumvent the DRM systems on any E-books which do not incorporate screenreader or text to speach features. The difference would appear to be that previously this were only aloud on titles which did not exist in another accessible electronic format. Unsurprisingly The NFB it seems were behind the move, more interesting is that there were no objections to the proposal. Is the publishing industry waking up to the requirements of VI people? or is it easier to ignore the issue and leave the work in the hands of the reader than to tackle it at source. more info at item number 4. Lets hope this lays down a marker which the UK can follow.