Association of Blind Citizens
Creating Opportunity One Step at a Time

Bookmark 20/20 Access


Published by the Association of Blind Citizens

PO. Box 246, Holbrook, MA 02343

Telephone: 781 961-1023

Fax: 781 961-0004

News and Activities line: 781 654-2000

Vehicle donation line: 1-888-881-9090

Web Site: www.blindcitizens.org

IN THIS ISSUE:


President's Notebook by John Oliveira

Another busy year has come to a close and planning for the 2007 activities is well under way. In closing to 2006, I would like to say that the trip that ABC sponsored to Nova Scotia was very successful. We had a wonderful private tour that allowed the trip participants to have many new experiences. We were able to touch many of the fishing equipment used and visited a lobster pound where live lobsters were handled. We visited lighthouses and learned much about the history of the local fishing industry. We also had time to visit local merchants. The crossing over was very calm and we had the opportunity to visit the casino, watch movies, sample food and beverages and go out on deck and experience the sounds of the ocean.

This year, ABC had the highest attendance of our traditional holiday party. The attendees enjoyed some good food, the Yankee swap and lots of friendship. I am working hard to bring new and exciting opportunities to the blind community in 2007. Watch your email for the Spring trip and news regarding beep baseball and more events. ABC is going to have a busy year, so do not miss your chance to be part of the events that we organize. As the 2007 activities are being planned, a major concern is the funding to carry out these activities. If you are able to make a tax deductible donation to the organization, this would be a perfect time to do so. You can make checks payable to the Association of Blind Citizens, PO Box 246 Holbrook, MA 02343. I am looking forward to seeing you all.


Blind Boys of Alabama mix the seasonal with the divine in soul-stirring Disney Hall show

12/25/2006

From: Los Angeles Times, USA

By: Randy Lewis, Times Staff Writer

Go tell it on the mountain, indeed.

There's nothing like bona fide gospel music to cleanse the aural palate of the endless shopping-mall renditions of "Jingle Bells" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" at this time of year. That's the seasonal blessing the venerated Blind Boys of Alabama brought with their stirring "Go Tell It on the Mountain" holiday program Saturday at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

The long-running ensemble, fronted this night by founding member Jimmy Carter, brought spirit to the forefront, letting its commitment to the gospel tradition stand in for anything resembling proselytizing for this secular outing. Clarence Fountain, the group's longtime focal point, missed Saturday's show because he's undergoing dialysis treatment for his diabetes, according to a Disney Hall spokeswoman. Ben Moore handled his vocal parts.

Fountain's absence, however, didn't create a monumental void, especially given the torrents of vocal power unleashed by latter-day recruit Billy Bowers, a mountain of a man who looked like nothing so much as a chunk of granite in sunglasses and who consistently pushed the emotion toward the heavens.

The four-time Grammy winners mixed spiritually rooted holiday music with their cornerstone gospel songs in a program that was imaginatively conceived, enthusiastically executed and briskly paced. In fact, by the time they reached the end of the 90-minute show, it seemed they'd just gotten warmed up, and their departure came too soon.

Songs such as the concert-opening "Down by the Riverside" and "Go Tell It on the Mountain" are as ubiquitous in the gospel world as "Jingle Bells" is in the realm of holiday music, so it takes considerable smarts to lift them above the conventional. The Blind Boys put their stamp on "Go Tell It" by shifting its musical foundation from major to minor key, lending it additional heft with a tinge of darkness instead of the usual celebratory feeling.

And they delivered their answer to the pop world's mash-up mania with a rendition of "Amazing Grace" that replaced its exceedingly familiar melody with that of "The House of the Rising Sun."

Two mini-segments within the show contained the Christmas music, and the least familiar — "When Jesus Was Born" and "I Pray on Christmas" — fared best, although their turning of "Silent Night" into a soul scorcher also worked beautifully.

The only false note came during that number, when Carter left his spot at center stage, wound his way through the crowd and back onstage with a playful game of pretend-to-end-the-show while continuing to stretch out the song.

Near the end, he feigned fainting into the arms of one of his sighted bandmates. It was clearly a stab at adding a little entertainment dramatics, à la James Brown's multiple stage exits of yore. But it paled in the context of the genuinely overwhelming spiritual tension that gospel singers can create during a full-on church service.

It was the only time this six-decades-old performing institution appeared to forget the scriptural advice to be in the world but not of the world.


Blind man has an ear for fishing

From: Lincoln Journal Star, Nebraska USA

By: SUSAN COCKING / The Miami Herald

MIAMI — As Tony Caroleo prepared to cast his plastic worm to the edge of an Everglades canal, guide Billy Bob Crosno gave him instructions.

“Come to the right about 30 feet,” Crosno said. “Perfect.”

Caroleo cast where the guide told him. “You’re in one stem of a lily pad, so you might feel that,” Crosno said.

As Caroleo let the worm drop below the surface, his black Lab, Buddy, paced on the stern of the boat, whining.

“He’s the most impatient fisherman I’ve ever seen,” Caroleo said.

Caroleo bumped the June bug-colored worm slowly along the canal bottom and then felt the thump of a bass. He reeled the small fish up into the boat so Buddy could release it — by nosing it overboard.

Caroleo, 56, a retired American Airlines executive, saw none of this. He has been almost completely blind for about 20 years. Buddy is his guide dog as well as his faithful fishing companion.

“If there’s a fish in the water, Tony will find it,” Caroleo’s other longtime fishing companion, Jim DiMaggio, said.

Caroleo lost most of his sight because of retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic disease that caused his vision to close in gradually, starting at age 10. Today, he can only detect shadows.

He began fishing as a child in New York and has indulged in his favorite hobby all his life with little interference from his inability to see. These days, Caroleo fishes from the backyard of his beachfront home in New York; from charter and party boats in South Florida, where he has a second home; and on DiMaggio’s Alaska charter boat in the summer.

“I can hear fish working bait,” he said. “I can hear birds working and I cast to the sound. Fishing live bait, you just drop it down. With something like this bass fishing, I need someone to give me good instruction.”

In a couple of fishing situations, Caroleo’s inability to see has been an advantage. Fishing at night on one of the Kelley Fleets headboats out of Haulover Park, he amazed his fellow passengers by effortlessly tying bottom rigs in the dark.

“A guy said, ‘How do you do that so good in the dark?’” Caroleo said. “I said, ‘I practice in the daytime.’”

He also proved adept at untangling multiple knots that occur on party boats when fishermen’s lines cross.

“If you feel a knot with your fingers, you can tell which way the lines go and you can untangle it,” he said.

Caroleo had never tried bass fishing until recently, when a cold front accompanied by blustery east-northeast winds canceled his and DiMaggio’s offshore fishing plans. Not wanting to waste the day, they called Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World in Dania Beach, which recommended Crosno, the store’s in-house guide.

Fishing with Crosno in a remote canal on the edge of the Everglades/Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area, Caroleo and DiMaggio caught and released 34 bass in an afternoon trip using 6-inch paddletail worms topped with 1/16-ounce weights. Crosno cut a slit in the worms’ tails to make them bubble on the retrieve. The buzzing baits and splashing fish got Buddy so excited that he dashed around the boat, barking.

The two men enjoyed bass fishing so much that they went with Crosno again two days later. The lack of wind and the full moon slowed the bite, but they still caught and released 11 bass up to 3 pounds.

“He’s got a better feel for that worm than I would,” Crosno said of Caroleo.


Accessibility: Why It Is Easy

1/2/2007

From: WebProNews, Kentucky USA

By: Paul Grant, Expert Author

Anti-discrimination legislation did not happen

overnight.

Indeed, the process of inclusion for citizens of all demographics has been on the agenda of governments and human rights activists the world over for many years.

It's not a new agenda

Most policy makers and corporate watchdogs actively encourage the employment and inclusion of all people regardless of ethnicity, social or economic standing, religion, mental capacity or physical attributes.

Some countries also enforce these policies to create a fair and socially responsible business climate.

Private and public organizations likewise have long understood the importance of providing facilities for staff members and visitors with special needs, particularly in their legal place of business or operations.

Not providing such amenities would likely result in litigation, and so in many cases these companies feel compelled to address any inadequacies as a high priority business agenda.

What about the Internet?

Surprisingly many companies had not even considered the idea of ensuring their business' Internet premise was also accessible.

After all, why would a person that has vision impairment use the Internet?

Well of course they would want to use the Internet, just as any sighted person would want to access such a vast and rich resource. Vision impairment is also only one of many other conditions that can potentially inhibit the use of information resources like the Internet.

Many people who have difficulty using digital or interactive media may not necessarily be technically classified as having a disabling condition either.

Thankfully, there are now various technologies to aid users with special needs in their use of media.

Included in a large variety of assisting technologies are items such as screen readers or Braille machines for people with vision restrictions, subtitles for those with hearing difficulties, and speech recognition for those without the full use of their appendages.

In spite of the existence of these tremendous technologies, the ability of a machine to accurately render content in a meaningful way often relies on that content being formatted with careful consideration of accessibility standards.

Why is this suddenly so important?

The issue was not really even on the corporate radar until a recent lawsuit mounted by the US National federation for the Blind (NFB) on behalf of claimants with disabilities, stated that they were being discriminated against because a well known company's online content was only accessible by able-bodied people.

The NFB had raised concerns with the Target corporation (a major US-based discount retailer which operates more than 1,300 stores in 47 states) more than ten months before, and stated: "The website is no more accessible today than it was in May of last year, when we first complained to Target."

The issue bubbles away in boardrooms even now as legal teams scramble to advise their clients on the best way to conform to changes in the Disability Discrimination Act, Section 508, and other such legislative decrees from various governments of the world.

Whose problem is this?

Website developers have long known about the technical requirements and specifications as determined by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Any developer that has been in the industry for a length of time has already had acknowledge and adapt to changing technological standards both in hardware and software design.

Why aren't website companies just building accessible sites anyway?

Yet many website developers felt that the stringent requirements of the Website Accessibility Initiative (WAI) would restrict their design capability too much, when in essence the real issue was a reluctance to subject their working practices to higher standards that are easily measurable by anyone with a browser and a little bit of knowledge.

Their previously 'easy' way of doing things was in their opinion much quicker, cheaper, and visually more interesting.

The truth however was that this new (and improved) way of doing things would require busy agencies to take the time to retrain.

They do say that you 'can't teach an old dog new tricks'. In this case, there are now quite a few old dogs in the maturing digital media industry.

Are there any other benefits besides avoiding legal action?

Actually not only is designing accessible websites easy, it makes a lot of sense on many different strategic levels. Consider the following insights as documented in the "Guide to good practice in commissioning accessible websites" (British Standards Institute 2006, ISBN_0 580 46567 5):

* The Family Resources Survey [2] found that there are almost 10 million disabled people in the UK with a combined spending power in the region of 80 billion pounds per annum. Furthermore there are millions of other individuals that are affected by sensory, physical and/or cognitive impairments, including those resulting from the ageing process.

* Research undertaken by the DRC "The Web: Access and inclusion for disabled people" [3] has confirmed that people without disabilities are also able to use websites that are optimised for accessibility more effectively and more successfully.

* Content developed upholding World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) guidelines and specifications can be more easily transferred to other media, such as interactive TV, mobile phones and handheld computers.

* Accessible content, for example where a text equivalent is provided for graphical elements, is highly visible to search engines, often leading to higher rankings.

Certainly these benefits will be of interest to executives considering the perceived expense associated with building accessible interactive content, yet there are also other benefits in the form of corporate social responsibility and public relations.

What does the stakeholder need to do about accessibility?

Whenever a digital media project is commissioned by a company the only consideration to be made by stakeholders is to what level of compliance the content should adhere.

There is a small amount of flexibility in this context because there are some elements within the standard which are considered compulsory, some which are recommended yet are not necessarily essential, and others which are desirable to create something which has the maximum possibility of being viewed by any user, regardless of their situation.

Ultimately, a design or development company can adopt a more stringent approach depending on the design criteria set by executives.

Should the stakeholder be reading more about the standards?

There are a lot of technical and specification documents full of jargon that can be overwhelming to conscientious companies attempting to embrace the need for accessibility.

In reality all of this content should instead be assimilated by the agencies that intend to create the content rather than the corporations who simply want to develop an interactive strategy.

Why is everyone trying to sell consultation about accessibility?

Given that there is suddenly some confusion amongst the corporate world as executives scramble to become legally watertight, many so-called consultancies have sprung up to exploit these vulnerable companies by charging great sums of money to analyse current websites or digital content for accessibility inadequacies.

There are certainly tools available that can easily interrogate the code of a website and examine the structure to identify any obvious 'rule-breaking'.

Some consultants will go as far as to use these free tools to create reports on accessibility, when this is only one component of whether a website is usable and "friendly" for people with special needs.

These same 'consultants' would like to also have large corporations paying them to help with search engine optimisation (SEO), which should not really be an issue if a website is built correctly in the first place.

What alternatives are there to external consultancy reports?

Actually, corporate executives may be surprised to know that money spent on consultancy reports could be better spent simply paying some users with actual disabilities to visit the website in question and offer constructive feedback through a usability workshop.

So what about Usability?

Usability is a little different, and perhaps an even more important concept for consideration than the subject of this paper.

Usability could be defined very basically as how intuitive some content is for the 'average' person to use, regardless of any special needs.

If the website is accessible, is it also a good website?

It is possible to check all the boxes of the W3C Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and yet have a layout and content that actually makes very little sense to users of the site.

Usability on the other hand benefits everyone, which ultimately translates into a positive experience for all users as they interact with a company's branded presence.

A positive user experience logically leads to results, such as increased sales, brand interaction, positive word of mouth, and other business benefits.

Isn't accessibility a bit complicated?

Although there can appear to be some complexity (and therefore consultancy work) involved in building highly accessible or usable content, this is actually a fundamental service which should rather come as a standard inclusion with any development proposal that is worth its salt.

Indeed, commissioning an accessible website should be no different to commissioning any 'ordinary' website.

They are certainly the same thing in the eyes of an accomplished website development company.

It is really as simple as making sure the site is built correctly in the first place.

This means a good foundation, standards compliance, craftsmanship, good project management, together with attention to detail and great build quality.

Building a website is like building a house

The process could be compared to building a new house.

As the homeowner you would want an architect and builder who are abreast of the latest trends, techniques, standards and processes to build your house.

You would not expect them to charge you a consultancy fee on top of the house design and build fees.

How would you feel if you then found your brand new home was illegal because it did not adhere to the current building code?

The enforcement agents would instruct for your house to be razed to the ground.

Likewise, building a new website in the new millennium should take all current design and technical specifications into consideration by default.

What if I have existing websites that need to become accessible?

As opposed to building, renovating an existing house can be considerably more problematic.

What can seem like a single simple task may end up becoming five other quite complicated tasks.

This can make budgeting quite difficult, and milestones seemingly without a definitive end.

In the same way the processes used in the original construction of an older website will be dated and likely no longer compliant.

This often means that major re-engineering may be required to bring the site up to the standards set in legislation.

Sometimes, it can be easier to knock down the outdated house (or website) and start again.

Are there any websites that can be easily updated to conform to accessibility requirements?

Fortunately database driven dynamic websites have a distinct advantage over static websites when it is time to 'renovate'.

If the content is being loaded into a browser from a database, it is then also possible to modify the way that content is displayed (or rendered by aiding technologies) through page templates. These templates can be updated or replaced with greater ease to create an entirely new website that is completely accessible.

Will renovating an old database driven website be expensive?

Perhaps most importantly, this renovation process need not be tremendously expensive as there is no complete website rebuild, nor the creation of hundreds of new web pages manually as in the case of a static website rebuild.

Which websites will require a complete rebuild?

If a site has been built statically, it could be compared to a building that was originally set in concrete with steel reinforcement.

Unfortunately in these cases it is better to simply demolish and start again.

Of course this also affords the opportunity to use the latest trends and building techniques to create something fresh and contemporary, perhaps even prize-winning.

In these circumstances, the work (and therefore expense) involved in making the website accessible could be compared to a new build website project.

Recommendations for stakeholders

Certainly it could be said that if there is any one recommendation to be made in the design and building of websites, stakeholders should make sure that all content is dynamically driven from a database.

By doing this the company can ensure that the site can be continually modified as Internet technologies and standards change.

The content will at the end of the day always just be content.

Businesses that are maintaining websites with a content management system (or CMS) will have this functionality built in already and are a step ahead of the game.

That's not so hard, all in all.

So accessibility is not complicated after all, nor is it necessarily expensive.

The foundation of a great interactive and accessible project that returns measurable results is starting with a great interactive strategy.

* Define the market, milestones, means, and measurement methodology.

* Direct the organization to ensure company-wide commitment, content, continuity, and contribution.

* Design the technical and aesthetic solution.

* Develop the content and assets in keeping with the latest thinking in website design and construction.

Deploy optimised and accessible content, and then enjoy the added advantages of creating a resource that people all over the world can enjoy regardless of their accessibility constraints.


The Enabler: Engineer works to make computers usable by all

1/2/2007

From: IEEE Spectrum Magazine

By: Prachi Patel-Predd

In fifth grade, while Rob Sinclair was tutoring children with learning disabilities, he discovered a lesson that would shape his career. “I started to understand that there were people who learned in different ways,” he says, “that people with different abilities had completely different requirements.”Sinclair soon realized that disabilities could really set people back in today’s world, where technology infuses our daily lives. For those who have difficulty using a mouse, seeing, or hearing, even such straightforward computer tasks as checking a bank balance or sending e-mail can be challenging. But he found that technology can also help those people, transforming their lives—if it is applied carefully and thoughtfully.

As director of the accessible technology group at Microsoft, Sinclair is now in a position to improve millions of people’s lives. Since becoming director in 2005, he has been spearheading the company’s efforts to make computer software and devices more usable for people with physical or learning disabilities. Under his leadership, Microsoft has packed the Windows Vista operating system—which is scheduled to be released this month—with beneficial new features, including enhanced screen magnification, voice control, and dictation, plus improved compatibility with third-party assistive technology products.

But Sinclair has a loftier long-term goal for assistive technology: making computers more user-friendly and accessible for everyone, whether or not a person has a disability. “Today we humans continually adapt ourselves to the technology that we’re using,” he says. Instead, the goal should be “that the technology should learn how to adapt to humans.”

Sinclair grew up in Irving, Texas, and got bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science at New Mexico State University, in Las Cruces. After getting his master’s in 1997, he started to build a broad set of skills through various software development and management positions—including writing training software for the U.S. Air Force—before joining Microsoft’s premier support group, which provides business and technical assistance to customers. He moved to the accessible technology group a year later as a program manager and went on to hold various positions running the design and development teams.

In 2004, Sinclair’s passion for nature and wildlife photography led him to switch to Microsoft’s digital photography group, and he worked in that unit until the company asked him to return to the accessible technology group as its director.

He says he clearly remembers the first time he saw computers changing the life of someone with a disability—one of his college professors, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease. The professor was using an assistive technology input device, one similar to the screen of today’s tablet computers, but clunky, expensive, and not portable. It fed data into a computer sitting on the professor’s desk and converted his gestures into actions such as mouse clicks or print commands. Soon after joining Microsoft, Sinclair realized that the system his professor had used was unnecessarily complicated, in addition to being unwieldy.

Windows and other operating systems such as Linux and Mac OS X have long had some built-in accessibility features—including screen magnifiers, text-to-speech converters, and keyboard control of the mouse—but these features are often insufficient on their own to meet the needs of users with particular disabilities. Therefore, many such users rely on third-party software and assistive technology devices for a more enhanced set of features.

Back in the early 1990s, there was no standard method for a tablet input device or any third-party assistive technology device to easily communicate with, say, an e-mail program. Instead, operating system and assistive technology developers spent a lot of time and resources making the two compatible on a piecemeal basis.

Sinclair is hoping to bridge that gap with the Microsoft User Interface Automation model, of which he is one of the masterminds. The first version is included in Vista and through it, the OS and various applications exchange information that lets any assistive technology talk to any software application, he says.

For example, a screen reader can ask a word processor what is happening on the screen and read it out loud using synthesized speech. Or, using the speech-recognition software, you can talk to your computer and command it to open up an e-mail application, transcribe a dictated message, and send it.

“The idea about this is that there has to be some common way of exposing information from an application so that other applications can get to it,” Sinclair says. “It allows developers with special expertise to build the speaking application and developers who really understand e-mail to build the e-mail application.”

Sinclair says that user interface (UI) automation is one of the most significant technologies he has worked on. It could not only increase compatibility between PC-based assistive technology devices and software applications, it could also provide easier, consistent access across different computing platforms. Sinclair is now in the middle of talks with other OS developers to broaden UI automation into a standard.

Eventually, through UI automation, Sinclair is looking to expand accessible design into what he calls “design for all.” After all, most people, whether or not they have a disability, can reach a point where they are not at 100 percent of their abilities because of a number of factors, such as age, injury, or fatigue. “If we’ve been reading for 15 hours, our eyes are probably getting tired, so we start to slide down the scale in terms of visual acuity,” says Sinclair, who got firsthand experience using Vista’s new speech-recognition software while he was recovering from a shoulder injury a few months ago.

Creating user-friendly technologies to ease a person’s tasks is not new to Sinclair. His entrepreneurial skills kicked in when he was starting graduate school in 1995. He teamed up with three other people to create a consulting company that built customized software for people and businesses. His work involved going to a workplace to understand the work flow and then streamlining it with the right fit of technologies. For his master’s, he specialized n usability and user-centric design.

Designing user-centric software and assistive technologies draws upon the same principles even though the applications are very different, Sinclair says. “You’re trying to find a way of optimizing the input and output of the system for the human who is interacting with the technology so that he or she can get the work done quickly and efficiently and then move on to something else.”

One day, he says, he hopes to create an intelligent computer system that can adapt to every user’s needs or preferences. As an example, he describes a situation in which he is outside on a sunny day and is having difficulty seeing the display on a ­portable computer screen. He would like the device to sense the sun’s glare and immediately “start speaking [about something on the screen] instead of just showing me.”

But he is realistic about the goal of creating intelligent, accessible computer systems, acknowledging that they are a long way away. His team at Microsoft can play a key role in leading the effort, but he says it will take the cooperation of the entire group of technology, industry, and research communities to achieve that goal.


Blind Sharon's A Wonder In Wood

1/4/2007

By: STUART WOLEDGE

Those of us with no creative skills often sit in wonder at others who somehow manage to take the most basic of materials and fashion them into works of art.

This feeling is magnified further when we find out the creator has managed to accomplish this without the use of arguably the most important of the five senses - sight.

Sharon Ascott, 57, of East Grinstead, turned to woodcraft when she became blind at the age of 23.

Since then she has produced more than 50 pieces of furniture, designed and built the fixtures and fittings for her sister's bathroom, and has even renovated a 1930's Austin 7 which she bought for £5 and sold two years later for £4,000.

So just how did she discover her creative talents?

"Boredom," she said. "When I lost my eyesight I had nothing to do.

"I couldn't go for walks, do window shopping or things like that. It was pure boredom.

"When I was at school I wanted to learn woodwork. I went to the headmaster and he said go and speak to the woodwork teacher about it. So I went and saw him and he said 'I'm not teaching any girl'. I've always thought I was born in the wrong century." Self taught and working with "no eyesight whatsoever," Sharon has battled against the odds.

After 34 years she said her work is now in demand, particularly with family and friends, and has made a wide variety of bird tables, feeders, foot stools and light shades.

But her favourite piece is the oak dresser that proudly adorns her living room.

"I love oak, but I don't like working with it. With the dresser I did all the carpentry and found that I could not lift it. It's so heavy. It's not particularly difficult to work with unless you have to keep lifting it."

Without the advantage of formal tuition Sharon has developed her own method of working using paper templates as models.

Dismissing what professional carpenters would make of this, she shrugs her shoulders and simply says it works for her.

"I have to get a picture in my head of what I'm trying to make. I then work out how I'm going to do it. I get this in my own head and then I start doing it.

"I learn by my mistakes. If I do something and I've done it incorrectly I will make another one and try to improve on the one before.

"If a carpenter came in and saw my work they would probably slag it off. I do it as I think it should be done because I've never had carpentry lessons.

"I get so much pleasure from it especially if it comes out well. Sometimes I make something and I don't like it and say it can go on the fire. Other times I'll think what I've made is really good."

She added: "It takes up a lot of my time and gives me lots and lots of pleasure. I take my saws out into the garden and that lets my neighbours know I'm still around.

"I know when I've got to clean up because if I go into my workshop and have to empty my socks out, I know it's time to get the broom out."

Sharon lists other hobbies as baking, sewing and enjoying her new £6,500 television she has recently bought.

She said: "I've been getting so confused with all the remote controls that come with the different things you buy.

"I went in to buy a digital radio and found one but it wouldn't fit on the shelf. But then I found this telly with one remote which also has a CD player, a video a DVD and a digital radio"


Braille expert helps blind read, and more

1/4/2007

From: Port Huron Times Herald, Michigan USA

By: SHANNON MURPHY

Michael Geno wants all visually impaired people to know what it's like to be independent.

Geno, 54, of Port Huron is president of the Michigan Council of the Blind and works to make sure St. Clair County residents with visual impairments have access to Braille materials and other support.

His wife, Jeanette, is president of the Blue Water League of the Blind, a local chapter of the Michigan council.

Geno and members of the local chapter provide a service to translate items, such as library books and city newsletters, into Braille.

Geno and his wife were honored last year with the Spirit of Port Huron Civic Award for their work.

"Braille benefits not only our members but the community," Geno said. "Because we know Braille, we're sharing it."

More than 10 years ago, the group translated the Blue Water Area Transit system's bus schedule into Braille and is working on updating the document.

Geno was not always legally blind. He could see as a child but learned Braille as a teen after he began to lose his sight.

He knows how scary it can be for someone to lose their vision and uses that knowledge to help others.

"Being able to do things represents a message to those that are losing sight," he said. "For lots of people, losing sight can be very frightening. We're able to give examples of how they can do things."

As part of his service work, Geno helps translate material for the St. Clair County Library System's Library for the Blind. The library operates a program called Special Technologies Alternative Resources, or STAR, which provides patrons with books in large print, Braille and on audiocassette.

Barb Adent, outreach assistant for the Library for the Blind, said Geno has been invaluable for getting more technology for the library.

Adent said Geno secured a grant that paid for a computer workstation that has software for people who are visually or hearing impaired.

"Volunteers really make a difference," Adent said, adding Geno helped her learn to use the software when she started her job six years ago.


Blind man *Mike Zorick runs Honolulu Marathon

1/5/2007

From: The Desert Sun, California USA

By: Maggie Downs

Special To The Indio Sun

Caption: Mike Zorick (left), 59, of Indio, blind since shortly after birth, in training for his first marathon. He's being assisted by running partner Carl Garczynski, 70, of Indio. Ramon Mena Owens, The Indio Sun

January 5, 2007

When Mike Zorick takes a step, he doesn't see the bumps in the road, the potholes before him or the hills left to climb.

The 59-year-old has been blind nearly since

birth.

But the Indio man hasn't let that stop him from running.

In fact, he completed the Honolulu Marathon on Dec. 10.

"I heard there were other blind runners," Zorick said. "There were two others and I beat them both. That was the highlight of the race."

Zorick has already run a number of 10K races - he says 5Ks are simply too short for him.

This man likes to go the distance, and he does it to win.

"Even when I play checkers or Scrabble, I play to the death," he said.

Zorick often races alongside Carl Garczynski, 70, also of Indio, who ran beside him in Honolulu. That was Garczynski's 27th marathon.

"Carl has the patience of a saint," Zorick said. "If Carl had run by himself, he would have won his age group. I had a great partner."

Garczynski was unavailable for comment this week. Before the race, however, he discussed racing alongside Zorick as a guide.

"Mike kind of brought me out of hibernation," said Garczynski, who has not done a marathon since 1993.

"There's a unique feeling that goes along with being Mike's partner," he said. "He's been a nice inspiration for me."

Zorick has a long list of accomplishments. He's been both a concert pianist and a championship wrestler.

He credits his parents for giving him the self-confidence to reach his goals.

"I was so blessed growing up that my parents really supported me and taught me I could do whatever I wanted to do," Zorick said. "They wanted me to beat the sighted kids."

"And you have," Garczynski added.

Great strides

There are a number of blind marathoners, who have paved this path for Zorick.

One of the top-rated female marathoners in the country, U.S. Olympic runner Marla Runyan, is also legally blind.

She has only a little bit of vision and can see the track at her feet, but friends have to tell her if she won or lost the race.

And it was runner Harry Cordellos who inspired Zorick to give a marathon a try. Blind since birth, Cordellos has run more than 150 marathons.

Endurance

The Honolulu Marathon is the third-largest marathon in the United States and the sixth-largest in the world.

With approximately 29,000 participants, the race is challenging enough for sighted people - portions of it can be chaotic and crowded.

Zorick finished the race in just over 6.5 hours. He come near the 16,000th runner.

He plans to try again, but first he'll train harder and bring his weight down by 10 to 15 pounds to 130 or 135.

This will improve on the plan the two had for the race.

The two planned to tunnel their way together through the throng.

They would go fairly fast for the first 10-miles without stopping, hoping to leave much of the crowd in their wake.

They also had a new technique planned for the run.

On their practice runs, the two simply linked arms.

But during a long-distance run in Honolulu - where temperatures are expected to be humid and in the 80s - their arms would become far too sweaty and chafed.

So for the marathon, Garczynski planned wear a sweatband on his upper arm, which Zorick would hold as they run.

It's not difficult to run in such a manner, Garczynski said.

"It's just restrictive," he said. "You don't have the range of movement with your arms that you would normally have."

Another difference is that Garczynski has to watch for extra wide paths where both pairs of feet will go.

He warns Zorick if any obstacles are in the way.

"We haven't fallen yet!" Zorick boasted.

Their goal was to finish the marathon in less than 5 hours.

"I think we can do it even faster," Zorick said before the race.

"We'll see," Garczynski replied. "Let's just start first, OK?"


July 2006 Issue

Volume 7

Number 4

Untangling the Web

Can You Get the Music? A Review of Music Download Sites

Janet Ingber

About 10 or 15 years ago, if you liked a certain musician or a particular song, chances are that you went to a store to buy an album, cassette, or CD. First, albums vanished, and now cassettes are disappearing from the market. Thanks to new technologies and the Internet, it is now possible to download a huge selection of single tracks or entire albums directly to a computer or portable player.

With the advent of music downloading a few years ago, several web sites at which people could share music at no cost, including Morpheus, Kazaa, and Napster, became popular. The recording industry objected and obtained rulings that made the practice illegal. Napster transformed itself and is now a legal, pay-for-music web site. There are still sites that say that downloading music is free and legal, but do not be deceived.

Legal Music Download Sites

This article reviews six legal music download sites: eMusic, RealPlayer, Rhapsody, Napster, Wal-Mart, and iTunes. When you are looking for a legal web site, there are several things besides accessibility to consider. How are you going to listen to the music that you download--on your computer or on a mobile device? Will you want to burn the music onto a CD? What kind of music are you looking for--current and recent songs, classical music, jazz, alternative, or older songs? How much money do you want to spend? The going rate per song is usually 99 cents. Some web sites offer additional options, such as online radio stations and streaming audio. This article covers how to navigate online music download sites, install their necessary software, find songs, and download them to your computer.

Words of Advice

Before you download any software or music, carefully review the site's system requirements for your computer. This article gives the operating system that is necessary for each site, but more detailed information is available on each web site. Make sure that your computer is fast enough to handle the software and downloads. Music files can take up a lot of room on a hard drive, so check to determine whether you have enough space.

It is possible that you will need sighted assistance to install some software or to fill out a web site registration form. Software installation and registration took only a few minutes on each site.

When searching for music, be as specific as possible. Searching for a song by title will yield fewer results to wade through than will searching by the artist's name. All the web sites use a search form to locate music. Be familiar with edit boxes and combo boxes because you will need them for your search.

eMusic www.emusic.com

System Requirements

Using the eMusic site requires Windows 98, ME, 2000, or XP. The eMusic home page contains many unlabeled links, mostly consisting of the word go and then a string of numbers and letters. Even with this problem, it is still relatively easy to navigate. Once a registration form is completed, unlabeled links do not appear on any other pages. eMusic offers a free two-week trial and then has several payment plans if you want to continue to use it. The most inexpensive plan is $9.99 per month, which allows you to download up to 40 songs every 30 days, or 25 cents per song. You cannot roll over your unused downloads.

A big advantage of eMusic is that the songs download in MP3 format, so no file conversion is necessary; songs can be burned onto a CD; played on a computer; and be added to a portable player, including the iPod Shuffle. Once you purchase the music, you own it. A disadvantage of eMusic is that it does not have as much current music or as many well-known artists as some other legal download sites. However, eMusic's web site states that it has "more than 1,000,000 tracks from the world's leading independent labels. You'll find music in every genre from both established and emerging artists."

Registration

The registration form for eMusic is simple and straightforward. Once the form is completed, you can download eMusic's Download Manager software, which will allow you to download albums with one click. The software is easy to install. If you choose to download one song at a time, the special software is not needed.

Getting Music

eMusic's search form consists of an edit box, a combo box, and a Search button. The combo box offers many options, including artist, track, record label, and classical music. The search results are displayed clearly. To find them quickly, just go to the last control in the search form and arrow down to Search Results. There are also links to search by genre, release date, and editor's picks. Above the search form is an eMusic Shortcuts combo box. This combo box was not user friendly. When I turned off Window-Eyes' Browse Mode to fill out forms, using the down arrow did not move to the next item in the box; instead, it took me off to another page. The way to stop this from happening, with Window-Eyes or JAWS, is to open the combo box using the Alt-Down arrow. Then it behaves normally.

When I entered "Mariah Carey" in the edit box and chose "artist" from the combo box, there were two results, neither of well-known songs. The first result was "Mariah Carey, the Unauthorized CD Biography" and the second was "Mariah Carey Tribute Band." eMusic does have a lot of tribute-band recordings of popular artists, so it is important to check if the recording you are looking for is from the actual artist or a tribute band.

When I did an artist search for "Tim McGraw" without quotes, I got 111 results. I realized that eMusic gave me every artist it has with the name "Tim." "Tim McGraw" in quotes gave no results. "Beatles" did not yield any results either. For "Black Eyed Peas," my one result was a "Black Eyed Peas" tribute band.

I decided to search for Charlie Parker, the jazz saxophonist. I entered "Parker" in the edit box and chose the "artist" option in the combo box. My search yielded several artists named Parker, and Charlie was one of them. A list of Charlie Parker's eMusic albums was displayed. Sometimes, even with the window maximized, only part of an album's title is visible. When the album's link is activated, the full title is read. For each album, there was a link labeled, Listen. Once that link was activated, brief clips of each song on the album were played.

When the album's Title link is activated, more specific information, including the song title, artist time, and download links for each individual track are displayed. At the bottom of the track listing is a link to download the entire album. The information on the album is presented toward the bottom of the page. Above it are play lists from other members and editor's picks.

After I spent some time listening to clips of Charlie Parker's music, I settled on "Koko," a track from the album, The Best of the Bird. When I downloaded the song, there was no option to choose where the track went to on the hard drive. I found the track by doing a search for the track's name, "Koko." The track was in a folder called, My eMusic. The actual MP3 file was buried several folders into the My eMusic folder. First, there was an artist folder, and opening that folder revealed another folder labeled with the album's title. Once that folder was opened, there was the MP3 file. Once I located the MP3 file, I was able to rename it to fit the format I use for labeling my MP3 files and then move it to the folder that contains such files. When I downloaded subsequent tracks, I then knew where to find them.

If you are a classical music fan, eMusic may be a good web site for you. There are many classical tracks, and you can search by composer, name of composition, album title, conductor, or ensemble. There are also many classical music compilation albums. Jazz enthusiasts will also find many choices.

Getting Help

The Help link is located close to the top of the page. There are a variety of help topics, including frequently asked questions (FAQ), general questions, my account questions and technical questions. The information contained in each link is clear. There is also a Contact Us customer service form. In the first part of the form, there is a combo box in which you choose a specific topic. The options include "cancel account" and "defective tracks." This combo box had the same accessibility problem as the eMusic Shortcuts combo box. After the combo box is a standard form to fill out. At the bottom of the form there is a message indicating that you will receive an automated e-mail tracking number when your form is submitted.

The Bottom Line

eMusic is easy to use once you learn where information is located. Although the web site does not have a large collection of popular music, it does have a lot of material from both known and unknown musicians and composers. The MP3 format works with all CD burners and portable players.

RealPlayer <www.real.com

System Requirements

Although RealPlayer will run on Windows 98 or higher, for the most recent player, Windows XP is recommended. On the system requirements page there is information about which versions of JAWS and Window-Eyes to use. There is also a link to use an earlier version of the player if necessary. There is screen reader information within the Help topics. RealPlayer also provides a specific e-mail address for screen-reader users to send feedback about accessibility issues.

Links on the web site are clearly labeled, and there is a wide variety of material, including current and popular songs. RealPlayer uses its own .RAX protected format. This format will play on your computer, or you can burn it to a CD using RealPlayer's software. The .RAX format is different from the .RA music files because they are protected, and all purchases from the music store are in this protected format. In addition, if you plan to transfer your .RAX files to a portable device, check to determine whether your player supports this format.

Registration

Before you download music from RealPlayer, the RealPlayer software must be installed and an account must be created. Setting up an account is simple. The standard questions include password, credit card number, and address.

There are two different versions of the RealPlayer software. The free basic player lets you download and play music along with some other features. The RealPlayer Plus has more features, including the ability to convert some file formats. However, purchases from the music store, which are in the secure, protected .RAX format, cannot be converted. The fee for this player is $19.95. There is a link on the home page to get a 14-day free trial. Either version of the player will play other formats, such as MP3 and Windows Media.

Although the installation process is straightforward, there are check boxes and radio buttons that you need to read carefully. By default, the radio button for the free player is not checked. Also, the check box to have RealPlayer as the default player for all media is checked. Later in the installation process, there are also check boxes for receiving different information, such as e-mail notification of new songs and product updates.

Getting Music

RealPlayer uses a basic search form. There is an edit box and a combo box with the following options: artist, track, album, and composer. The final control is a Search button. Another option is to activate one of the genre links, such as Pop, Rock, Country, or Alternative.

When I typed "Mariah Carey" in the edit box and chose artist from the combo box, I received many results for performers named Carey. The top choice was Mariah Carey, and I selected that link. The search results were easily located.

I was presented with a list of Mariah Carey's popular albums, including her most recent, The Emancipation of Mimi. There was also a list of single songs. Activating an album's link brings up its track list. This list is displayed farther down the web page, below the album listings. Once you find a track that you want, there is a Click to Preview link and a Click to Purchase link. I downloaded, "We Belong Together" from the album, The Emancipation of Mimi. If I had put "We Belong Together" in the edit box and selected Track in the combo box, I would have gotten many fewer results, and it would have been easier to find that one song.

The music downloaded into the My Music subfolder of My Documents. As with eMusic, there were several subfolders before I got to the song, starting with the artist's name.

A lot of classical music is available at the RealPlayer music store. Searching for "J. S. Bach" brought up a long list of albums. Jazz fans will also find a lot to choose from. My "Charlie Parker" search brought up many album options as well. I found several tracks by the Beatles and separate links for each of the group's members. In addition, many results were displayed for Tim McGraw.

Getting Help

RealPlayer uses a knowledge base, links, e-mail, and telephone contacts for customer support. Activating a Help link, such as RealPlayer or Music Store, brings up specific information that is relevant to that topic.

The Bottom Line

RealPlayer is an easy site to use and has a wide range of material. Since it uses a proprietary format, not all CD burners and portable devices can support it. If the file format is not an issue, then RealPlayer may be a good choice for buying and downloading music.

Rhapsody <www.rhapsody.com

System Requirements

Windows 98 SE, ME, 2000 or XP. A high-speed Internet connection is required for streaming music. Rhapsody is available only in the United States.

Rhapsody's home page does not have any unlabeled links. There is a Learn More link on the home page. One of the options after the link is activated is Take a Tour. Unfortunately, the tour is all visual and does not have even one word of audio.

Although you can link to Rhapsody through real.com, they are separate entities. While RealPlayer is a music store, Rhapsody is a music subscription service where you can stream or download music, depending on the subscription option that you choose. There is an extra fee for burning Rhapsody music onto a CD. While RealPlayer uses the .RAX format, Rhapsody uses the more common WMA protected format.

Streamed music does not go to the computer's hard drive, but instead remains on Rhapsody's server. To listen to the music, you must be connected to the Internet and log into your account. Once your subscription is canceled, you no longer have access to your music on the server.

Rhapsody offers a free service called Rhapsody 25. With this service, you can stream a total of 25 songs per month for no charge. If you stream the same song more than once, it counts toward your 25 streams. CD burning is not an option with this free plan.

Registration

Registering for Rhapsody is simple. By default, the radio button for the free account is checked. Rhapsody did recognize my e-mail address and password from my RealPlayer account. To listen to streamed music from Rhapsody, its player must be installed. I did ask for sighted help for the installation.

Getting Music

Rhapsody uses a standard search form. The first control is an edit box followed by a combo box that includes artist, track, and key word. The final control is a Search button. It is also possible to search by genre, by first activating the Find Music link.

I inserted "Mariah Carey" in the edit box and "artist" in the combo box. My results were displayed similarly to the display in RealPlayer. I selected the same album and then the same track as I did with RealPlayer. I was presented with the option to play the track, but although Rhapsody has a music store, where you can purchase tracks or albums, I could not find an option to purchase the song.

Getting Help

Rhapsody's Help system uses a knowledge base and e-mail contact. Once I submitted my question, "how to buy tracks," which required that I fill out several forms, I received an auto reply e-mail saying that I should receive an answer to my question in 24 hours. In fact, I received an e-mail response in about 18 hours, but the response did not help me.

Next I called Rhapsody's technical support. The wait time was less than two minutes, but technical support did not completely solve my problem. In addition, I spoke to four people, three of whom had strong accents that were sometimes hard to understand. I was informed that I had the wrong version of Rhapsody, even though I downloaded it the day before. The last technical support representative sent me a link to get the latest version. The e-mail that contained the link had three spelling errors in it.

I then called technical support several more times and got a bunch of different answers, but no one could tell me the correct way to buy a track. These technical support representatives had strong accents as well and seemed to get impatient when I asked them to repeat what they just said. I repeatedly had to remind several of them that I was blind. Trying to get an answer to this one question was extremely frustrating. After spending hours trying to buy a song, I finally gave up on Rhapsody.

A couple of days later, I received a survey from Rhapsody wanting to know how happy I was with its technical support. I did not give it a good rating. I e-mailed the form the same day, but have not yet received a response.

The Bottom Line

If you just want to stream music, then Rhapsody is a good site to use. If you want to try Rhapsody and buy tracks, I hope you have better luck than I did.

Napster <www.napster.com

System Requirements

Windows XP or 2000 and Internet Explorer 5.1 or higher.

Napster is now legal and has a large selection of music, including current songs. It offers a subscription plan by which you pay a given amount a month and can listen to an unlimited amount of music on- or offline, by downloading the music to your computer. Your account can be accessed by up to three computers. When you cancel your subscription, you no longer have access to your music. Napster Light, which is an online music store, allows you to purchase songs at 99 cents per song. These are your songs to keep with or without a Napster subscription. Songs are delivered in the WMA protected format. Napster offers seven-day free trial.

Although there are some unlabeled links that start with the words, "duet registration," most of the links are easy to read. The FAQ section provides many answers. There are two search forms on the web site, the first consisting of an edit box and a Search button, and the second having a combo box and a Search button to search the top five songs by genre. The best way to use the edit box and Search button is to search by artist. The results are displayed under the form. The top five genre results are displayed under that search form. These forms are good for finding out information, but they will not help get music onto your computer. Once you are registered, a different search form is used.

Registration

Before you can use Napster, you must download its software and set up an account. The software was easy to download. I did have some difficulty filling out the registration form and asked for sighted help. When the Napster program is first launched, there is an option to sign in automatically. Choosing this option will eliminate one task every time you use the program.

My initial response when I opened the Napster program was frustration and disappointment. There were many links for songs, but it was initially hard to find the search form. The Browse Mode controls for Window-Eyes did not work. I eventually found a combo box with such items as artist, track, and album, but the edit box for entering text was not clear. I finally decided to call technical support and was surprised to find that I did not have to hold for more than a couple of minutes and that the person who assisted me spoke clearly and was eager to help.

Window-Eyes does not see the entire screen. For example, on the top left column of Napster, there are buttons for File, Account, and Help. On the top right of the program, there are buttons for changing the window size. Maximizing the window did not make any difference in what Window-Eyes spoke. Window-Eyes also did not see the buttons for the Library and Radio Stations. Even with these problems, Napster can work well enough to play, download, and purchase music.

Getting Music

When the Napster program launches, you are placed one tab away from the search form's edit box. Keep in mind that the edit box may not say edit box, but rather something else on the page. Type in what you are looking for and press the Tab key. The next control is the combo box to search by artist, track, album, and so forth. After you make a selection in the combo box, hit the Enter key. Napster's search form does not have a Search button that my screen reader could find. Using Ctrl-Tab will cycle you through the search form. You may hear some other words, not related to the form, but after one or two presses, you will be back in the search form. Another option is to close the program and then reopen it. You do not want to keep hitting the Tab key because doing so can take you to unrelated links.

I put the song title "We Belong Together" in the edit box and chose Track from the combo box. My results were right under the combo box. It said, "Most

popular track results based on your search." Underneath was the list of tracks and their artists. I found the track I wanted and, using the Window-Eyes mouse keys, put the pointer on the track title and did a right click. This brought up a Context menu with many options. The top option was Play, so I hit Enter, and the track quickly played.

Another option is to download a track to your computer. The music will stay on your computer until you stop your Napster membership. Since the Library button is not accessible with Window-Eyes, I had Napster download all my tracks to the folder My Music on my C drive. By default, Napster will download tracks to the My Music subfolder within My Documents. During software installation, there is an edit box to choose where the files go when they are downloaded or purchased. To download a track, simply choose the Download Tracks option from the Context menu. You can play the downloaded song as much as you wish, but you cannot burn it onto a CD or transfer it to a portable device.

It is easy to purchase tracks with Napster. As with playing and downloading tracks, right click on the track's name and choose, Purchase Tracks from the Context menu. This will open up a dialogue box, where you will be asked to enter your password. The Browse controls do not work with this form either, so just type the password. After the password is entered, pressing Tab will bring you to an unlabeled button with a long name. That is the Submit button.

Another page comes up that shows your searches on the top and then farther down displays the name of the track and its price. I needed to use the Window-Eyes mouse keys to read this page. There is a picture link that says Buy. Activating that link will start the download process. Since this track was purchased, I own it. If I discontinue my Napster membership, I will still own the track. Since the track was purchased, it can be burned to a CD or transferred to a portable player.

Getting Help

Napster has a FAQ link for people who are thinking about signing up. There is also a Quick Help link for Napster members. These links provide a lot of information. Within the Napster program, the User's Guide can be accessed through the Help button. However, this button was not accessible to me. I called technical support to ask if they could e-mail me the User's Guide, but they were not set up to do that. The representative directed me to the Quick Help links, but I had already tried that option.

Napster has an e-mail form for obtaining help. There is also telephone technical support. I had called them several times and never waited more than a couple of minutes. One of the representatives I spoke to seemed genuinely interested in how screen readers work. Without my asking, he gave me a verbal layout of the program and patiently walked me through how to find and play tracks.

The Bottom Line

Although some parts of Napster are not accessible, with determination and possibly a little sighted help, it is relatively easy to find, play, download, or purchase music. There is often a lot of extra information, not related to the search, so just be aware of it. Also, remember that part of the page may not be accessible.

Wal-Mart <www.walmart.com

System Requirements

Windows 2000 or XP. Available only in the United States.

No, your screen reader is not having a breakdown. Wal-Mart has music available for 88 cents per song. The music comes in the WMA protected format. The web site states that over 1 million songs are available. There is current music and a good selection of other songs. The web site takes some getting used to, but it is relatively easy to use. Besides, you can do some other online shopping while you're there.

Registration

To download music, you will need to install Wal-Mart's Download Manager software. You may need some sighted assistance with this operation. You will also have to create a Wal-Mart account. You do so through edit boxes and a few combo boxes. Once you have set up the account, you are ready to shop.

Getting Music

From the home page, activate the Music link. When that page loads, activate the Downloads link.

There are many links on the page, but just use form controls to find the first control of the search form. Wal-Mart uses a standard form with an edit box; a combo box for artist, song, and so forth; and a Search button, which has a long link that ends with "search.gif." To find your results, use your form keys to locate the Search button and then arrow down. Depending on your search, you may need to arrow down through many links to find your results. If you arrow down too far or go to the bottom of the page and arrow up, you may see the words, "Thanks for your order, your songs are downloading now." This message is misleading. Until you have checked out, your songs will not download. If you did not install the software prior to checking out, your songs cannot download.

Wal-Mart had the Mariah Carey CD, The Emancipation of Mimi, as well as other albums by Mariah Carey. I was able to find many other current songs, including, "You're Beautiful," by James Blunt, and "My Humps," by the Black Eyed Peas. Above the song's title there is usually an unlabeled link that says something like "PR (0)." Selecting this link will play a clip of the song. Another way to hear a sample is to select the song's album link, where, above each song, is a more clearly labeled link to play a sample.

If you find a song that you want, you will need to figure out how your screen reader adds it to your shopping cart. There is a link that ends with the phrase, "add to cart," and clicking on those words with your mouse pointer usually adds it to the shopping cart. However, I found that it sometimes takes several clicks or a click on the price (88 cents), which is located right above the link, to put the song in my cart. Although there are inconsistencies, with a little patience, the task can be accomplished. If you want to be sure that the song is in your cart, just arrow up the page to the shopping cart.

Once you have completed your shopping, it is time to check out. Here, too, the links may initially be confusing, but with a little practice, it is not too hard to navigate. Just below the search form is the information about your shopping cart. You will notice that it is in Shopping Mode. When you are ready to check out, just activate the link that says, Change. This will put you in Checkout Mode, and there will be a "log in" form. During the checkout process, you will have the opportunity to remove any songs that you do not want.

The songs will show up in the My Music folder in My Documents. They will also be available in Windows Media player. The main folder will be called Downloads, and then each artist will have his or her own subfolder that contains the downloaded song.

Getting Help

Wal-Mart has a FAQ section that provides many answers. There is also technical assistance by telephone. When I started working with the site, I called to check which file format Wal-Mart uses. The customer service representative was helpful and answered all my questions. Live help is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is a separate number to call if you are having problems with checkout.

The Bottom Line

Although there are some unlabeled links and many links that may get in the way, this is still a good site. After a little practice, it is relatively easy to navigate, and the customer service representatives are willing to help.

iTunes <www.itunes.com

System Requirements

Windows XP is required for iTunes. iTunes uses Apple's proprietary .AAC format. The iTunes music store is accessed through the iTunes software, which is loaded onto your computer. This is the same software that comes with the iPod, so no extra software installation is required. Even with configuration files for Window-Eyes and JAWS, iTunes is not totally accessible.

Lists of top 10 songs in a wide variety of genres can be found at <www.itunes.com. This site is the actual iTunes site and contains information about various iPod products and software. It is a good place to start looking for songs if you are not sure what is current and popular in a specific genre. There are links for all the genres and a genre combo-box form.

Registration

Before you can start making purchases in the iTunes music store, you must set up an account. This is not an easy feat. Window-Eyes did not read all the information and edit boxes, and there were times when I thought I had put the right information in a specific edit box, but it appeared in the wrong place. Also, the Browse Mode in Window-Eyes controls did not work in iTunes. I needed sighted help to set up my music store account. Fortunately, when you set up the account, there is an option to have iTunes recognize your computer, so you do not have to enter anything but your password if you want to buy tracks.

Getting Music

The iTunes music store has many current songs, as well as older material. To find a song, go to the Music Store item in the iTunes Source List and press Tab. You are now in an edit box. Type in the name of what you are looking for. If possible, use the name of the song to get the most accurate results. There is no combo box in the search form. After you enter the search term, press the Enter key.

It was necessary for me to use the Window-Eyes mouse keys to read the search results. There was a lot of extra, unrelated information on the screen, such as the names of tracks that iTunes was featuring and a list of items in my iTunes source list. I was able to find the Mariah Carey song, "We Belong Together," mixed in with other search results.

It is important to make sure that you are in the right place and on the right song before you buy it. Sometimes the screen is cluttered, and it is possible to click on a song with the same or similar title. iTunes will show the performer's name after the title and time of song. With Window-Eyes, I was able to play a short clip of the song by first using the mouse left click key to highlight the name of the track and then pressing Enter.

Once you choose a song that you want to buy, you will have to locate the Buy button, which is not clearly labeled. To find it, move your mouse pointer to the last digit of a song's price, which is usually 99 cents so your pointer will be on the second 9. Next, move your pointer one space to the right. Your screen reader may say the first letter of a different title, but ignore it and left click. If you are in the right place, you will be asked to enter your password. After you enter your password, tab to the Buy button and hit Enter. Your track will automatically download into your iTunes library.

Getting Help

Within iTunes, there is a Help menu that can be accessed by typing Alt-H. I found many instances in which the help descriptions involved clicking on graphics. Telephone technical support is also available.

The Bottom Line

Because of the way information is presented in iTunes, it can be cumbersome to navigate. Setting up the music store account is difficult, if not impossible, with a screen reader. The main reason to use iTunes is that its proprietary .AAC format can be transferred directly to an iPod.

In Short

eMusic is easy to use and delivers material in the universal MP3 format. The site does not have a lot of current music and does not carry materials from the major labels. After the free trial subscription, you must have a paid subscription to use the site.

RealPlayer has current music and music from the major labels. The site is easy to use but delivers material in its own proprietary .RAX format. This format cannot be played by all portable players and CD burners or by Windows Media Player. This is a music store, not a subscription service.

Rhapsody has current music and materials from the major labels. It delivers material in the WMA protected format. Rhapsody works well for streaming, but you must be on line to listen to your streamed music. It was impossible to buy tracks, and the technical support was poor and not helpful. Rhapsody is a subscription service and a music store.

Napster has current music and material from the major labels. Material is delivered in the WMA protected format. Although Napster is initially difficult to set up and not all features are accessible, it does work well for downloading music to your computer and purchasing music. You can listen to your downloaded music offline. It is easy to purchase tracks. Technical support is helpful. Napster can be used just as a music store, or it can be used as a subscription service with the ability to purchase tracks.

Wal-Mart has a lot of current music, as well as material from the major labels. Its tracks cost 88 cents each, rather than the usual 99 cents. Wal-Mart's music is in WMA protected format. There are many extra links on each page of the web site, but with some patience and practice, the site can be easily navigated. Technical support is helpful. Wal-Mart is strictly a music store.

iTunes has current music and material from the major labels. It uses Apple's proprietary .AAC format. When search results are displayed, a lot of extra information is also presented. This can be tough to handle. iTunes is strictly a music store.

Unfortunately, no single web site is totally accessible, has old and new music from major record labels, and uses a format that is compatible with all portable players and CD burners. Of all the download sites reviewed, however, my favorite is Napster.

For More Information

To learn more about portable devices, not only the iPod, visit two pages offered by Brian Hartgen:

Portable Media Player Portal, www/hartgen.org/portable.html.

On the page, you can find information about iPod configuration files for Window-Eyes and JAWS and information about how to join the Blind iPod mailing list. I found this list helpful. Some members of the mailing list use other portable devices than the iPod.

The Portable Player Portal Blog, http://portableplayerportal.wordpress.com

This blog is for posting new information and updates.

The iPod Experience, by Anna Dresner, available from National Braille Press <www.nbp.org is an interesting, firsthand account of the author's experience with the iPod Shuffle. The book also contains some useful resources.

Copyright © 2006 American Foundation for the Blind. All rights reserved. AccessWorld is a trademark of the American Foundation for the Blind.


Marketplace

The announcement of new products and services in this column should not be considered an endorsement of those products and services by the Association of Blind Citizens, its staff or officials. Products and services are listed free of charge for the benefit of our readers. "20/20 Access" cannot be responsible for the reliability of products or services mentioned.

Adapted Phones Available

Phone Merchants.com: http://www.phonemerchants.com/visim.htm carry telephones that feature big buttons and braille markings for each number in the keypad.

• All Phones.us: http://www.allphones.us offer adapted telephones with jumbo-size buttons and braille. One of their models also announces the numbers as you dial. In addition, when using one of its memory buttons, the phone will announce the name of the person you are calling.

Independent Living Aids: http://www.independentliving.com offers a variety of adaptive telephones, including some with built-in talking caller IDs. Independent Living also offers Bold Number Overlays for cell phones.

Maxi Aids.com: http://www.maxiaids.com is another distributor that has a variety of adaptive telephones. Maxi-aids also carry inexpensive large print overlays that may be used to adapt any telephone you may already have in your home or office.

Magnifies Inc.: http://www.thephonemonocle.com is the California company that holds the patents for magnifiers for cell phones, PDA's and Palms and GPS. These Phone Monocles" are available in seven popular colors and allows the screen of any phone to be enlarged for easier viewing. No more reaching for the reading glasses to answer and see the phone display. Video streaming and games are easier to see and play as well. The Phone Monocle is the name given to these screen magnifiers. The Idea behind The Phone Monocle came from a woman named Joanie Taylor. She has several years of Ophthalmology and vision experience.

The Giant Caller ID displays calls on a large screen with large text! The Giant Caller ID tells you the name, phone number and date of call. It also has a flashing new call indicator. There are 3 lines with large text so you can read the LCD display from several feet away without having to walk over. There's even a repeat call indicator so you can tell you're being called by the same person even if you forget the name or number. It stores 50 names and numbers so you can keep track of who called. It's also very easy to fit in wherever you want with a 6-foot long telephone cord included which could allow you to place it in a more visible spot than your phone might be. It has included wall mounts, as well as a 3-position pedestal that makes it very easy to stand on a desk or table. It requires 4 AAA batteries for a long period of use, and is 5? x 5? x 3? so it's big enough to be visible from far away but not too big so that it gets in the way.

Free Talking PC software for blind

A free screen reader has been launched this week by a not-for-profit company run by a blind couple. The utility, called Thunder, blind and partially-sighted people to use internet sites, shop online, and have their emails read out to them. It will also read out to them as they type, allowing them to create letters and other documents.

Thunder is being shown for the first time at the Sight Village exhibition of IT accessibility aids, which runs from 18 to 20 July in Birmingham. It can be downloaded from the site of screenreader.net, which is run by Margaret and Roger Wilson-Hinds from their home in Peterborough.

Says Roger: 'Our mission is to deliver free talking software worldwide so that blind people everywhere can benefit from the computer, the web, and emails. We see the talking computer as the modern Braille – providing a gateway to learning, work opportunities and a measure of financial freedom and independence.'

Commercial talking-computer software can cost up to £800.AccessibleNews - software that makes news websites accessible

Proaxsys Instruments Pvt. Ltd. launches AccessibleNews

Proaxsys Instruments, has launched a product in Assistive Technology, called AccessibleNews. It is an online tool that makes news websites accessible with screen readers. It is available at http://www.proaxsysreader.com/accessiblenews/

AccessibleNews removes navigation links, graphics, and advertisements from a typical news web-page, and makes the main article directly available to you. Thus, you avoid wasting time and energy searching for the article from among innumerable links and advertisements. Best of all, it works directly from the web, so you do not have to download or configure anything!

Olympus Appeals to Podcasters & Visually-Impaired With New Digital Voice Recorders

Olympus has added three new digital voice recorders to its DS-Series line, all of which are optimized for usage in podcasting. The DS-30, DS-40, and DS-50 come with software that aids in downloading podcasts, then automatically updates the content each time the recorder is synched with the PC. They are also specially designed to work with www.audible.com, a popular online provider of audio books and other spoken entertainment and information.

Each recorder boasts the highest sound quality in the firm's line: using a new XSHQ Remarkable Stereo Sound Quality mode, the devices can record and play back audio at 44.1 kHz. A Voice Guidance function can be activated to audibly guide users through selecting settings and set-up options: an added benefit for the visually-impaired. The instructional manual is also available as an audio file. The recorders, which connect to the PC for downloading MP3 and WMA files via USB, include a removable stereo microphone; and built-in memory that ranges from 256 MB to 1 GB.

“Olympus has done a fantastic job designing the new DS-Series, in particular the voice guidance feature will have great appeal to both commuters and the visually impaired community,” said Chia-Lin Simmons, Vice President Strategic Alliances, Audible, Inc. “This functionality is a great asset to anyone that relies upon Audible for its audio programming. We are confident that the combination of Audible’s vast audio selection with Olympus, the technology leader in digital voice recording, will be well received.”

“Our DS-Series voice recorders have been used for years by professionals such as doctors and lawyers to capture audio throughout their workday,” added Andy Flagg, Director, Sales and Marketing, Olympus Imaging America Inc. “These new devices have moved from the hospital and courtroom into their personal lives. With stereo headphones and up to one gigabyte memory, the new devices are optimal for holding virtual libraries of music, audio books and podcasts, as well as the traditional voice recordings.”

The speaker is located on the back, while recording and playback buttons are situated on the side of each unit. The front is dedicated to an arrow pad and buttons for menu navigation, and the high-contrast LCD screen, which displays file information, recording time, and settings. Each recorder also includes a sliding power on/off switch. Using an optional remote controller, podcasters can remove the microphone and clip it onto their shirt or tie for more comfortable use.

Additional features include timer recording; variable speed playback (up to 50 per cent slower and faster than real time); and up to 32 hours of continuous operation via two AAA batteries (AC power also available).

All three models are finished in metallic: the DS-30 in silver with an amber backlight LCD screen; the DS-40 in dark silver with a white backlight LCD; and the DS-50 in blue, also with a white backlight LCD. All three ship with the stereo microphone and earphones, USB cable, DSS Player Version 7 Software CD-ROM, and two AAA-alkaline batteries; while the DS-50 adds a remote control and carrying case. ESPs are $179.99 (DS-30); $239.99 (DS-40); and $299.99 (DS-50).


Jan's Tasty Tidbits


SALMON BAKE

  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 2 teaspoons chopped parsley
  • 4 salmon fillets or steaks
  • Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Blend mustard, butter and honey. In separate bowl, toss bread crumbs, pecans and parsley. Season salmon with pepper. Put in lightly greased baking dish. Brush salmon with mustard mixture. Sprinkle crumb mixture on top. Bake 10 minutes per inch of thickness or until salmon flakes easily.


FOIL-WRAPPED SPUDS

  • 6 medium baking potatoes
  • 4 tablespoons margarine, divided
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Split potatoes almost in half. Place each on heavy-duty foil and top with 2 teaspoons margarine, a few grindings of pepper and 1 tablespoon cheese. Wrap tightly. Bake in preheated 400 degree oven 1 to 1-1/2 hours or until done. Makes 6 servings, about 190 calories each.


GINGERED CARROTS

  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar or honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 to 5 medium cooked carrots, sliced, diced or cut into strips
  • In saucepan, melt butter or margarine. Add remaining ingredients; combine. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes or until carrots are seasoned. Makes 3 to 4 servings.

    If desired, add 1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped or sliced. A few raisins may also be added.