Association of Blind Citizens
Creating Opportunity One Step at a Time

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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:


PRESIDENTS NOTEBOOK

As I prepare this colomn on a rainy day in New England, I am considering the scheduled activities for the next several months. Some I will mention but others are not yet completed and I will discuss these in the future. This schedule is sure to keep me and the rest of the volunteers busy.

We had a beep ball meeting this past week to plan what tournaments the Renegades will attend this year. The renegades will be attending one additional tournament making this year’s competition a total of 3 tournaments. This is a very ambitious schedule, but we have enough volunteers and players to expand the program in 2006. We are also holding a pizza party at Joe’s American Bar and Grill Waterfront in Boston on July 20th to help give the team a proper world series send off. If you are in Boston, please come to the party and support a great group of blind athletes in their quest to bring the trophy to Boston. Please visit our web site in the announcements section for more details.

I had the opportunity to spend time with some of our members as we visited the Hammond Castle in Gloucester MA. We were given access to areas that are normally restricted and many items were removed from behind glass so that we could have a better experience. ABC is organizing the first cruise from Boston to Nova Scotia Canada. Unlike other organizations’ cruises, this is not raising money, but an activity that ABC will support financially.

The board and I hope you all have a wonderful summer Please visit www.blindcitizens.org to learn more about activities that are currently being planned. ABC's programs for the blind and visually impaired community continue to flourish. I welcome your feedback on what programs you would like to see ABC develop.

As I have said in the past, ABC is not looking to duplicate what other organizations are offering but is looking to offer new opportunities. ABC will only develop programs if the need in the blind community is not sufficiently met. During this year ABC will be looking for opportunities to partner with other organizations and businesses to strengthen our programs. If you have any contacts that you feel would be helpful to ABC's growth and expansion, please call the office and let us know how we can contact your friend, family member or associate.

In closing, I ask you to make a much needed contribution to help keep our programs alive and growing. ABC does not receive income from membership dues so we count on you to determine your level of membership and donate accordingly. We know that it is difficult to help every organization you would like in this tough economy. However, we hope when you sit down to determine your charitable giving, you will remember all of the lives we at ABC have enriched through our programs. Please help us continue to serve our community with your generous donation. More information regarding our programs is available on our website – in a time when charitable giving is focused largely on disaster relief, it will help us to keep our programs running to receive generous donations from our membership.


Beyond guidelines: Extra accessibility; AN INTEREST GROUP

Accessibility and Usability, by: Trenton

Posted: 2006/05/24

When creating accessible websites, most web developers and web managers tend to follow the W3C accessibility guidelines. And rightly so - they are the most comprehensive accessibility resource on the Internet after all. The W3C accessibility guidelines, or Web Content Accessibility Guidelines as they're officially known, could go slightly further however. Fulfilling the Guidelines will give you a very accessible website (remember though, they are just guidelines so shouldn't always be taken literally). For ultimate accessibility though, try implementing some of these techniques too:

Hidden text

Hidden text can be very useful for screen reader users. If there isn't sufficient text for these users to gain an understanding of a particular section, then you can simply create this extra information and hide it from sighted users. The most common and useful page items to insert invisible text for screen reader users include:

Headings -

Every single section on each page should have a heading placed immediately before it. This way, screen reader users always know that the preceding section has finished and a new section has begun. So, before the main navigation begins, you should insert a heading labeled, 'Site navigation'. Although this heading is extremely useful for screen reader users, it may look rather unsightly visually, so you can just make the text invisible.

• Form labels

Every form item must have a label immediately preceding it - otherwise, screen reader users won't know what the form item is about. Date of birth fields, with three separate fields for date, month and year, are common culprits of not providing form labels for each form field. So, place the date of birth label before the three form fields, and then insert an invisible label before each of the other two form fields, 'Month of birth' and 'Year of birth'.

Skip links

A skip link is an invisible link that's placed at the very top of the HTML file. It's a relative link within the page, allowing users to jump straight to a section on the page, usually the main content. Skip links are really useful for both screen reader and keyboard-only users who can jump straight to the content, without having to work through the navigation.

Succinct, front-loaded and conventional link text

As a method of browsing through a page, screen reader users can call up a list of links on a page and jump to the link in which they're most interested. It's common knowledge that link text should make sense out of context, and this is indeed a W3C guideline. Link text such as 'Click here' would obviously make no sense in a list like this. It's also crucial that link text is:

  • Succinct - so that it's quick and easy for screen reader users to work through this list
  • Front-loaded - so that screen users can understand the meaning of the link straightaway and jump down to the next one if they're not interested
  • Conventional - so screen reader users can alphabetize the list and jump to the link they're looking for (e.g. if the 'Contact us' link was labeled as 'Enquiries' it would be harder to find the website's phone number)

Link text is additionally important for users that find it difficult to read online, such as screen magnifier users and those with learning difficulties and dyslexia. For these users when they scan through web pages, they'll often be unable to make out specific words - instead, they'll see shapes and colours. Anything that's in a high contrast colour is obviously a link, so they can stop and read it. By making link text succinct and front-loaded, and using conventional link text, it's far easier for users that find it difficult to read online to immediately comprehend links and what their destination is.

Visible font resizer

It's crucial that text is resizable for web users with poor or limited vision - or so the theory goes. In actual fact, user testing has shown time and time again that few web users actually know how to resize text, or that this functionality even exists. By providing a visible font resizer all users are of course made aware that they can resize the text should they need to. To find out how to put a font resizer on to your website, read this article about stylesheet switching. (Incidentally, if you don't know how to resize text simply select 'View > Text size' in either Internet Explorer or Firefox; alternatively, scroll with the wheel of your mouse whilst holding down the control key.)

Place instructions first

If you provide instructions for any kind of functionality on your site, make sure that the instructions are placed before the functionality. This of course sounds obvious, but it's amazing how many times this rule isn't adhered to. Screen reader users listen to pages in the order that they're written in, so if any instructions come after what they're relating to then that's obviously going to be too late. Placing instructions first is also crucial for screen magnifier users. Screen magnifier users can only see a small section of the screen at any one time, so if instructions are placed in an out-of-the-way place they'll likely be overlooked.

Web forms are perhaps the most common type of functionality to contain instructions. Do be sure that any instructions are placed above the form and not below it. Mis-placed instructions usually include explaining which fields are required and error messages.

Large headings

Headings are crucial for all users to find what they're looking for quickly and efficiently. They are however particularly useful for any user that finds it difficult to read online, such as screen magnifier users and those with learning difficulties and dyslexia. When these users scan through web pages, they'll often be unable to pick up words and instead will see shapes and colours. By using a large font size for headings, these users will easily be able to spot these important headings.

Focus state for links

Keyboard-only web users can navigate through web pages by tabbing from link to link (and form item to form item). It can however sometimes be difficult to know exactly where you are on the page when relying on the tabbing method. By assigning a background colour to the focus state of each link, it becomes much easier for these users to orientate themselves on the page.

Large link target

Many web users with dexterity problems will use only the keyboard to browse through a website. Some will still continue to use a mouse but with rather limited control, so wherever possible do try increase the area of the link target. This is of course not possible for regular links, but for vertical based navigation lists it's easy to extend the clickable area to the full width of the column by assigning the style, display: block to each link.

Conclusion

The W3C accessibility guidelines are of course important, but if you want your website to be truly accessible then there's more that you can do. Following the advice in this article is of course a great

start!

This article was written by Trenton Moss. He's crazy crazy about web usability and accessibility - so crazy that he went and started his own usability and accessibility consultancy (Webcredible) to help make the Internet a better place for everyone. He's extremely good at running focus groups and likes to conduct a website evaluation as often as he can.

© 2003-2006 New Media Knowledge
Version 1.2.9


From a Poet's Failing Sight, a Novel 'Seeing Machine' Emerges.

Visual Language and Retina Prints By: Donna Coveney/M.I.T.

Article Tools Sponsored By DENISE GRADY

Published: May 23, 2006

A poet and artist has enlisted the help of scientists and engineering students to create a "seeing machine" that may eventually help people like her, with severely impaired vision, to read, look at pictures and explore landscapes and buildings.

Elizabeth Goldring's eyesight has come and gone over the years. Mostly, it has gone. Now 61, she has had juvenile diabetes since college, and the disease has pecked away at her vision, causing hemorrhages in her retinas, the fragile layer of light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye.

About 10 years ago, when she was nearly blind in both eyes, her doctor recommended a test to find out whether she had any healthy retina left at all. The test involved a large $100,000 machine called a scanning laser ophthalmoscope, which would let the doctor examine her retinas and project images directly onto them. If there were any live spots, the device might let her see.

It worked. She saw a stick-figure turtle. Ms. Goldring, a poet who has had three books published, asked to see a word. She was able to read "sun." It was the first word she had seen in many months.

"For a poet, that's an incredible feeling," she said. "I said almost immediately, 'I need to get in touch with the man who invented this machine.' "

She wanted a scaled-down version to use on her own, and she thought other people with impaired vision would want one, too. About 14 million people in the United States have low vision — deficits that cannot be corrected with glasses or contact lenses, according to the National Eye Institute. Diabetes, glaucoma and the retinal disease macular degeneration are among the most common causes.

Ms. Goldring had tried just about every device made to help people with low vision, but the doctor's machine was far better than any of them. She imagined using a home or library version of it.

The idea of creating a new device did not intimidate her: though she is not a scientist or engineer, she works at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"I was convinced it would work," she said, though she added, "at first people were really, really suspicious."

She and a team of M.I.T. students collaborated with the machine's inventor, Robert W. Webb, a researcher at Harvard and the Massachusetts General Hospital. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration paid for part of the project.

The result is what Ms. Goldring calls a seeing machine, a smaller, simpler desktop device that cost less than $4,000 to build. It consists of a projector, computer, monitor, eyepiece and a joystick for zooming in and out. It uses light-emitting diodes instead of a laser.

Ten people with severely impaired vision tried out the prototype as part of a pilot study, Ms. Goldring said.

Most had diabetes or macular degeneration, which is becoming more common as the population ages. The patients used the seeing machine to look at words and navigate through virtual architectural models.

"I can't think of a one of them that didn't respond very vividly and excitedly to the experience," Ms. Goldring said. She and her colleagues described the pilot study in a recent article in a medical journal, Optometry. But no seeing machines are available for sale yet. "Ten patients is great, but we need to do a large-scale test of the machine," Ms. Goldring said.

Dr. Webb agreed that more testing was needed but said he thought that the machine would ultimately be useful to only a small minority of people with low vision.

Even with the seeing machine, people with badly damaged retinas will not be able to read normally. Most can see only three or four letters at a time or tiny bits of a picture, and even that can be hard and slow. For people with vision like hers, she said, words like book and door can be almost indecipherable because the letters b or d followed by o create a weird visual effect.

For that reason, Ms. Goldring created a "visual language" that combines letters and simple pictures to represent hundreds of nouns and verbs. For example, the word book is a b, the outline of an open book and then a k. Door is a d, the outline of a doorway and then an r.

Patients in the study liked the visual language and it made reading easier and faster; one woman liked it so much she wished her recipes could be written in it, Ms. Goldring said.

She said she thought the machine might eventually be used to help people look at material from Internet libraries for people with impaired vision, so that the images were not too complicated for them to process.

The machine might allow people to study the layout of places they are about to visit, to make it easier to get around. Ms. Goldring said she tried this, asking students to videotape the interior of a building at M.I.T. that she had never entered. "It was too complicated, but I looked and looked," she said.

"Then I went by myself. My sense of confidence was something entirely different."

Just knowing the location of staircases or the arrangement of buttons in an elevator can be enormously helpful, she said.

She has also been using the machine to help her create artwork that she calls "retina prints," impressionistic, digital portraits of the world as she sees it, superimposed on faint images of structures of the retina, her own and other people's.

Ms. Goldring hopes that eventually the seeing machines will be mass produced and available for even less than $4,000. "My dream is that these seeing machines will make it out of my laboratory and into the hands of people who could use them," she said.


FOSS community, disabled users must learn to communicate. By: Marco Fioretti

Saturday March 18, 2006 (09:00 AM GMT)

Accessibility is an increasingly important issue for free and open source software (FOSS) developers and advocates. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has developed standards for ensuring that software is accessible to people with disabilities. Governments around the world often require that software procured for public use must meet or exceed accessibility standards. Disabled users and the FOSS community, however, still have a serious communication problem.

An example of the need for better communication between the FOSS community and disability advocates emerged last year, when government officials in Massachusetts announced their intention to transition to the use of OASIS Open Document Format for Office Applications (OpenDocument). FOSS supporters celebrated the announcement, noting that the switch would reduce public expenditures, guarantee perpetual access to data, and end discrimination. FOSS supporters, however, were unprepared for criticism from organizations that fight discrimination against the disabled, such as the Disability Policy Consortium (DPC) and the Bay State Council for the Blind (BSCB).

OpenDocument is a well-documented, modern, rich file format that can be used with any software program. Currently, OpenDocument is undergoing an accessibility review process. Some of its components, however, have already passed the W3C's Wide Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).

Last November, FOSS and industry representatives met with Massachusetts officials and representatives from disability rights groups such as the DPC and BSCB. The meeting revealed that the FOSS community fails to understand or appreciate the needs of disabled users, and that the disability community lacks interest in FOSS.

According to an unofficial report on the meeting, FOSS supporters explained the relationship between the ODF, open standards, and accessibility standards. FOSS advocates also outlined the technical limitations of proprietary software such as Microsoft's products. They maintained that accessibility in Microsoft Office has often been the result of reverse engineering, which must be done with each new release using tools from third-party vendors. The FOSS advocates also pointed out that the adoption of a FOSS-based accessibility infrastructure would open more jobs to disabled users, in positions such as Unix systems administration and Web site design.

It didn't matter. Disability advocates confirmed the position expressed in the Joint Statement on OpenSource & OpenDocuments in Massachusetts: “Without advanced training to develop a qualified pool of talent, new hires for state government agencies with OpenSource, OpenDocument platforms will be everybody but people with disabilities because of perceived or real training requirements. People with disabilities will not be on hiring lists for years to come.”

Actually, according to the report quoted above, the disabled users at the meeting just summarized this position in a clearer way, if one that might be shocking for FOSS fanatics: "Variety is bad, we don't want to have to change." Even if Office 12 will force them to change anyway, the disabled representatives request that, as a minimum, "all ODF applications have common functionality and [...] the same keyboard shortcuts".

In general, FOSS developers strive to meet accessibility standards. OpenOffice.org is compatible with the JAWS screen reader, for instance, though problems remain. The Free Standards Group's Accessibility Workgroup (FSGA) has asked for feedback on drafts of accessibility standards for Linux and Unix.

To understand the objections from disability rights advocates, we can look at the experiences of two disabled computer users in Italy, Fabrizio Marini and Paolo Pietrosanti.

A blind Italian Linux newbie

My first direct contact with accessibility issues was last summer, when I responded to a request sent to a local LUG by computer science student Fabrizio Marini.

Marini needed someone to install SUSE 9.2 in dual boot mode on his PC and then download, compile, and install the driver for his Braille terminal. I volunteered to help with the job. Since then, another Linux user, Fabrizio Sebastiani from LUG Roma, has also worked with Marini, helping him master Linux.

Marini was very pleased, for example, when he managed to make GRUB beep at the right moment. Now he knows for sure when it's time to select the operating system; he no longer has to guess based on hard disk noises. Recently, Marini tweaked Mutt and Postfix configuration files in order to make email work under Linux. To do all this, Marini has also been relying on “Appunti di Informatica Libera" ("Notes of Free Information Technology"), a guide to GNU/Linux that is an astonishing 8,839 pages long.

While proud of his accomplishments, Marini also feels that the situation is far from optimal. For instance, he has not found "a distribution that boots" and detects "Italian speech synthesizers, or Braille terminals with the brltty driver." For now, Marini says that the only solution is to find somebody without impaired vision who is willing to help install Linux.

After installation, Marini contended with the same problems other novices face. "Most Linux documentation is still too technical and difficult for newbies,"

Marini said. For blind users, there is the added burden of dealing with resources that aren't really accessible, including, ironically, some online documentation for Linux-compatible assistive technologies. Sure enough, when I read this, I did recall many a beginner's tutorial which was mostly a sequence of screenshots.

Marini is still testing speech synthesis and screen reader programs for Linux. His first impression is that, again, variety is not necessarily a good thing: “There are many projects, but all seem started with ambitious goals and then stopped more or less half way before being really usable. In my opinion, if more developers focused on only one product, or at least less of them, things would go better.”

A political point of view.

Paolo Pietrosanti, a member of the General Council of the Radical Party, became blind in 1993. This made him realize that "the disabled must be turned from costly assisted persons into taxpayers." Two years ago, the City of Rome announced that it would move some services to FOSS platforms. While GNU/Linux fans were celebrating, Pietrosanti asked in an open letter to Rome's mayor, "Do you know that choosing Linux means excluding blind users?" His arguments were similar to those presented in Massachusetts.

Pietrosanti has nothing against free software. "What really matters to me," Pietrosanti says, "is to establish and guarantee the right to access (both to information and to jobs), and the penalties when it is violated." Pietrosanti wants to ensure that open standards don't exclude disabled users from jobs and, if they do, he wants mechanisms in place so disabled users can sue to defend their rights.

Pietrosanti is equally indifferent to the heated debates over which operating system is superior. As he puts it, no one "outside of a madhouse would ever waste time figuring out which car model is better when the nature of the streets they will be used on must still be decided."

He gets to the heart of the issue when, just like FOSS supporters, he puts it in terms of freedom. "Proprietary or free (as in freedom) software are really the same to me. What matters is the actual freedom of each individual." As an example, his home page denounces the fact that, even in a digital world, blind users still aren't free to read everything -- not because of licensing issues, but because "this society is so insane that, not forcing all content to be available in digital format, practically forbids reading to blind users."

Pietrosanti says he can already do what he needs to do with his Windows system and software. What is the real issue, Pietrosanti asks: "The way the software was developed and distributed, or the way it limits or protects my rights?"

Conclusion

Both in Europe and the US, there is still much to do to reconcile disabled users and the FOSS community. Disabled users fail to perceive that they have the same needs and rights as everybody else, including full control of, and long term access to, government and their own private documents; or the fact that some types of software can create more local jobs than others, even for them. Such inattention can cost a lot in an all-digital world.

At the same time, there is no doubt that current FOSS-only platforms are not ready for many disabled users. Disabled users may be helping the FOSS community, or at least a large part of it, to finally acknowledge a general attitude problem. Pietrosanti's "actual freedom" reaction is not the one of a person with special needs. It is the same that most non-geeks would have when reading the GNU Manifesto, and this doesn't mean that they are stupid. Very likely, many office workers would like to sue, or at least to stop, any manager who told them, "next month you will have to use programs you never heard of before, with a different look and feel, because of some policy based on obscure theories about software engineering." Disabled users have the actual legal weapons to do it.

In the meantime, how can the FOSS community address the issues of the disabled? The most urgent task is to improve documentation. Perhaps you can make it a personal goal to be able to configure your favorite FOSS tool blindfolded while someone reads your improved instructions aloud. Your local LUG could organize ways to connect volunteers to assist disabled users with installations. Be sure to contact local disability rights groups to let them know what you're doing. They may also be able to provide more feedback about needs in your community.

For the long term, we also need to lobby for more public funding for research projects that advance the development of the FOSS accessibility infrastructure.

Another move that would solve a lot of problems could be to legally mandate that only accessibility software that also works with OpenOffice.org and Linux can be purchased with public money. If you have other suggestions, I welcome them. Please also let me know of any future cooperation between FOSS and disabled users.


GPS tracking systems help to make life easier for blind. By: Rob Seman

DAILY RECORD

MORRISTOWN -- Mike May and his companions had briskly walked down Madison Street when they came to a halt at the corner of South Street.

He and the group of other blind individuals could hear the bustling Tuesday morning traffic rushing in front of them, and their guide dogs kept still. But May wanted to make doubly sure of when it would be safe to cross.

May, with a microphone squawking away directions into his ear and his fingers running over a Braille strip on a keyboard-like device attached to his waist, reached out and pressed the button on a utility pole to change the traffic light.

"There is a user function telling me there is an audible signal at this location," May said just before the signal began its clicking countdown.

He was referring to the software that uses global positioning satellites to track where he -- or rather, the receiver clipped to his shoulder strap – is at the moment, and, more importantly, what's around him.

May is president and CEO of Sendero Group, one of three companies showing off their GPS-guidance systems for the blind to several people who use guide dogs at workshops hosted at the Church of the Assumption by The Seeing Eye Tuesday.

The Seeing Eye, which trains guide dogs and their owners, each month trains people who have purchased such systems on how to use them. But the organization wanted to expose those who did not have them to the available systems, representatives said.

The companies that brought their products to the workshops Tuesday included Sendero and Freedom Scientific, which feature systems in which the GPS signals are sent to a receiver and into software in a keypad worn on the waist.

The keypad has a Braille strip which raises as messages come through. Those messages are also transmitted audibly in an electronic voice either from speakers on the keypad or an earpiece.

Quebec-based Humanware also featured its system, Trekker, which can transmit the information to a smaller, personal data assistant.

On to cell phones

May and David Loux, manager of field operations for The Seeing Eye, said that future GPS systems will likely be adapted to cell phones. Marilyn Rodda, of Morristown, who followed May on a test run of the system, said she was considering the purchase of a GPS system and that portability would be an important feature to her.

Her friend, Carole Jaskula, of Roselle, said the devices could help her visit new places.

"I think it would take a little bit of adaptation," Jaskula said. "I think it could help me in a new area."

The systems range in price from $1,500 to $6,000, but price and size are gradually decreasing, Loux said.

May, a California native and alumnus of The Seeing Eye, said it was only years ago that others thought he was "out on the lunatic fringe," trying to apply GPS technology to help the blind. Then more companies sprang up with the same idea.

"It always adds credibility when you have competition," May said.

Dogs' role safe

Global Positioning technology is not being touted as a replacement for guide dogs, but rather as a secondary compliment to them. Though the companies said they have sought to include as much information as possible into the software, the programs are not precise, and much of the guidance still falls to the dog as well as the kindness of strangers.

That much was obvious as May's first group of walkers headed for Wilson's Interiors on South Street.

"We should be close," May said as he passed the Nonchalance bridal shop, a door down from Wilson's.

"Excuse me, where is Wilson's Interiors?," May asked a female passerby wearing a pink sweatshirt. She and a local television cameraman told him they were a door or two down. "We're right in the 12-foot bubble, so it's more accurate than it would normally be," May said.

The information beamed to the receivers by U.S. military satellites is supplied by various companies, such as MapQuest, and includes various stores, traffic signs and road map data. But the information varies between companies, and not all may include all the data necessary.

More and more info

"What is getting better is the amount of information it'll tell you," said Jeff Bazer, of Freedom Scientific, who is blind.

It also doesn't include up-to-the-minute information about possible obstacles, such as the utility work being performed at the corner of South Street and Elm, which could have caused a problem for the blind walkers, had their guide dogs not been there to lead them around the equipment and emergency signs.

"GPS is meant to get you to the vicinity," May said.

"It's not perfect," May said. But it made a recent trip to Spain a lot easier to traverse the country's roads and sidewalks than it would have been a decade ago, before he and other companies began creating such products.

Rob Seman can be reached at (973) 267-9038 or rseman@gannett.com.


This column was published in the March 2006 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine www.asimovs.com

THOUGHT EXPERIMENTS

MORE THAN HALFWAY TO ANYWHERE

By Joe Lazzaro

There exists an unbreakable bond between space activism and science fiction fandom. Many pro-space groups were born at science fiction conventions, inspired by the genre. SF encourages space activism with stories of space travel, space settlement, and scientific discovery in general. SF Cons were and still are a great place for fans to meet, plan, discuss ideas, and form groups. These included the legendary L5 Society, National Space Society, Space Frontier Foundation, Planetary Society, Space Access Society, Artemis Project, and other groups. SF cons also allowed pro-space groups to network, grow, and get the word out about the space movement, and the importance of becoming a space faring civilization with people both living and working in space.. SF literature also inspired many to become engineers, scientists, technicians, space buffs, and geeks in general. The diversity of the SF community led to the creation of numerous pro-space organizations, each with a different mission plan. (See Figure I for a listing of the major pro-space societies, their web sites, and mission statements.)

Robert A. Heinlein, SF grand master, inspired generations of fans with his stories of the future. Heinlein is known for his famous proclamation, "Reach low orbit and you're halfway to anywhere in the Solar System”. The point of Heinlein's maxim is that the same amount of energy it takes to go from Earth’s surface to Earth orbit is roughly equivalent to the energy required to travel from Earth orbit to the planets. The point is that if you can get to orbit, you have the capacity to also reach most of the solar system. For the long term survival of the Human species, it is a vital necessity that we expand beyond our home planet, and settle the Solar System and eventually emigrate to other star systems.

The Space Age began in 1957, when Sputnik was launched into low Earth orbit by the Soviet Union. This fueled a space race between the United States and USSR, culminating with the US landing on the Moon in July 1969. Since 1957, every astronaut or cosmonaut launched into space has flown on government rockets. In 1996, tired of waiting for governments to complete the vision of man living and working in space, the Ansari X-Prize Foundation http://www.xprizefoundation.com/ offered $10,000,000.00US to the first private company to create a rocket that could reach sub-orbital space and successfully repeat the process. The X-Prize Foundation was inspired by the Orteig Prize that Charles Lindbergh won in 1927 by successfully flying solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Cash prizes have been used throughout history to encourage the development of new and innovative naval, flight, and other technology, and space may be following a similar path.

The Winner of the X-Prize

In 2004, the first civilian astronaut flew a privately built spacecraft to sub-orbital space, and we got a lot closer to achieving the goal of a space faring civilization, and a private company called Scaled Composites, LLC www.scaled.com won the ten million dollar Ansari X-Prize doing it. Scaled Composites was started by Burt Rutan, a near legendary experimental aircraft designer and pilot. The company was also heavily backed by Paul Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft Corporation. On October 4, 2004, Scaled Composites won the X-Prize by being the first private company to fly a manned spacecraft to an altitude of 328000 feet twice within a 14 day period. The first flight was flown by Mike Melvill, who holds the honor of being the first civilian astronaut to go to space. For the second flight, Brian Binnie was at the helm, making the all important repeat flight to clinch the coveted X-Prize.

Mike Melvill has the right stuff, like the NASA astronauts of legend. But like all true heroes, He is the first to deny it. Melvill is a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, and has won their top award twice. When asked how he became interested in flying and space travel, he tells a tale that many science fiction fans can identify with. "I, like you, watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the Moon, and was lucky enough to meet those guys, so they've been a great inspiration to me."

While working for a company that made cardboard box manufacturing equipment, Melvill convinced his bosses to send him to flight school in order to reduce the cost of his frequent flights around the country on commercial airliners. But his first flying lessons were far from successful. "I had a lot of trouble in the beginning. My first lesson was only ten minutes long, and then I threw up, and we had to land. My second lesson wasn't much better, lasting about fifteen minutes before I threw up again.” But Melvill didn't give up, sticking to his guns, smiling about how his instructor helped him cure his weak stomach. "Ultimately, my instructor said this was ridiculous. You're not getting anything done. I'll take over the controls. Go open the door and throw up, and then we'll continue with the lesson.” Melvill laughs when telling the story, and how he finally got his unruly stomach under control standing in front of an open airplane door several thousand feet off the ground while the air roared by, heaving up his guts. "You can't make me sick in an airplane anymore, not after that."

Melvill went on to earn both a private and commercial pilots license. His love for flying increased and he wanted to share the thrill with his family. "It's very expensive to rent a plane, so we couldn't afford to fly very often.” This led Melvill to build his own plane, leading him to Burt Rutan, and eventually his current plum assignment at Scaled Composites.

The two men first met at the yearly convention of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Fly-In in Oshkosh Wisconsin. "I went because someone told me that you could build a plane for a lot less than buying one, so I headed to the convention to see what was available.” Melvill chose a set of plans from Burt Rutan, taking the plans back home, building the flyer in his workshop. "I was actually the first guy to complete one of Burt’s planes, mainly because I had the resources of a machine shop, and had been communicating with Burt by phone and by mail."

Once the home built plane was complete, Burt invited Melvill to his shop at the Rutan Aircraft Factory in Mojave. He helped Melvill flight test the new aircraft, and become familiar with its performance capability. "Burt put me in the back seat of an identical plane. First, he flew around the field, showing me how the aircraft handled. Then he put me in the front seat, letting me fly it around, and then he got out and let me solo.” This gave Melvill the experience to go back home and have a successful first flight with his newly built aircraft.

Melvill flew his newly built plane on company junkets, taking it to service clients in several states. On the return leg of one business trip, he flew the plane to Rutan's Factory, letting the designer see the finished product. "When Burt saw the plane, he offered me a job right then and there.” Melvill speaks proudly, "I've worked for Burt since 1978, and watched the company grow over time. We developed a lot of different airplanes together, and he thought that I had a talent for flight testing."

When Rutan started Scaled /Composites, he left Melvill in charge of the Rutan Aircraft Factory, further cementing their relationship. “We ran RAF for about a year, until Burt closed it down, then he brought us over to Scaled Composites.” At Scaled, Melvill did the bulk of flight testing for the new startup, doing the first flights for ten of Rutan's new designs. At the time of this writing, Melvill is currently a partner in Scaled Composites, and its general manager. Under Rutan and Melvill, the company has grown to employ 140 people.

  • Rutan has a reputation for designing airframes that push the envelope, and one day he approached Melvill with the dream of a lifetime, about building a lightweight craft that could reach into space. The vehicle would not be capable of reaching orbital velocity, but would be powerful enough to fly to about 70 miles altitude, a region considered space according to the rule books, an achievement that so far had not been accomplished by a private company. "I honestly thought he'd lost his mind at that point, as that seemed like such a huge leap for us to take."

    Rutan had successfully designed, built, and flown many innovative and lightweight aircraft, but this was a quantum leap ahead of anything else they had done in the past. It took Rutan five years to develop the design of the new system, thinking of all the possible ways to get the mission done, everything from launch to re-entry.

    Rutan developed a two-stage system to get SpaceShipOne off the ground and into space. The first stage was not a rocket, but a plane called the White Knight. The White Knight has a wingspan of about 90 feet, and is powered by two engines from a T38 jet. The mid-section of White Knight's fuselage is high off the ground so that it can carry another smaller craft, SpaceShipOne. The White Knight is analogous to the first stage of a rocket assembly, and only exists to carry SpaceShipOne to 50000 feet altitude, drop her, and then land back on the runway. Once the White Knight releases SpaceShipOne, she fires her rocket motor, flies to sub-orbital space, and then lands on a standard runway after the mission. Melvill speaks proudly about the concept, “SpaceShipOne works because if you launch her at fifty thousand feet, the atmosphere is very thin at that altitude. So, you can accelerate a light and relatively weak structure to high speed. The atmosphere is very thin, and you can accelerate very rapidly because you don't have as much air hammering away at the structure."

    SpaceShipOne's fuselage is in the shape of a 45 caliber bullet, and is comprised of lightweight carbon fiber and epoxy. She has a twenty foot wingspan, with seating for three. The pilot sits up front, and there are two side-by-side seats in the rear for passengers. Once SpaceShipOne is dropped from the White Knight, she accelerates to mach 3.3 in about eighty seconds. The engine is then powered down, and the ship coasts to roughly 70 miles up, officially entering the bonds of space. When asked what the ride was like, Melvill smiles, "Rocket motors don't accelerate gently. They're either on or off, and when they're on, they're running full blast!"

    Rutan also developed a unique solution to the tremendous heat created by atmospheric friction when re-entering the Earth's atmosphere. Rather than using a heat shield, such as the system of tiles used on the Space Shuttle, SpaceShipOne's wings and tail section fold forward to create drag to slow the ship. “It’s like a badminton shuttlecock that falls to ground very slowly.” During the re-entry phase of the flight, SpaceShipOne functions like a glider, similar to the Space Shuttle, but much lighter, and is brought to a landing on a conventional runway.

    Melvill was determined to come back from the flight with undisputable video footage to prove that SpaceShipOne had actually reached all the way to space, and that he was in free-fall, acting on the premise that it might be easier to get forgiveness rather than permission. He came up with an interesting idea, one that NASA astronaut John Young could not fail to be proud of. For the record, Young, an astronaut who walked on the moon, and flew the first Space Shuttle flight, is also known for smuggling a corned beef sandwich aboard the Gemini 3 space capsule in 1965. Young’s stunt caused complete and total horror among NASA Mission Control, as engineers and scientists contemplated thousands of tiny little crumbs floating into the sensitive computers and instruments.) In the spirit of John Young, Melvill opened a bag of M&Ms when SpaceShipOne attained zero gravity, causing the multi-colored candies to float around the cabin in weightlessness on camera, resembling little flying saucers, proving for all the world that the craft really was in micro gravity. “This really caught the media's attention, and I got a lot of accolades from people outside the company for doing it.” But when asked how the powers that be at Scaled Composites reacted, Melvill hints that he did receive some good natured teasing from his co-workers. But he got off light. Young’s sandwich smuggling incident drew him an official reprimand from NASA, and literally launched a congressional investigation. When asked, Melvill wasn’t worried about the little chocolate candies causing problems aboard SpaceShipOne, because they are easily squished. For the record, he used plain rather than peanut M&Ms for the freefall demo.

    Scaled Composites plans to build a larger craft, one capable of carrying more passengers. They have teamed up with Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic Airways www.virginatlantic.com, creating a new company Virgin Galactic www.virgingalactic.com to cater to the emerging space tourism market. Melvill is confident that tourists will want to go to space for the sheer adventure, "This is a spectacular ride! You watch the blue sky turn to black. You can see the planets when you get up there, as well as the brighter stars. The excitement of riding a rocket to space is incomparable!” At the time of this writing, Virgin Galactic has thirteen thousand tourists signed up to take a ride to space for the sum of $190000 per ticket.

    Other private companies are hoping to follow in the footsteps of Scaled Composites. Among them, XCOR Aerospace www.xcor.com has built and flown the EZ-Rocket, a fast and highly maneuverable rocket-powered aircraft. The engines are fueled with isopropyl alcohol and liquid oxygen, and are environmentally friendly. XCOR is also planning to one day build a craft capable of reaching sub-orbital space for paying tourists in the near future, and is seeking additional funding.

    Opening for business in June of 2002, SpaceX is a private company, working on building rocket boosters that they claim will significantly lower the cost for getting to space. Their first two launchers, Falcon I and Falcon V, are mostly re-useable rockets, capable of lofting 670 kg or 6,020 kg respectively into low Earth orbit. The company hopes to use their rocket boosters to launch satellites and other payloads into space at a profit.

    Other competitors in this new private sector space race come from all over the map and include Armadillo Aerospace http://www.armadilloaerospace.com, a small company building a computer controlled rocket called the Black Armadillo. The current design of the craft carries no passengers, but the development team plans to build a manned version in the future. Canadian Arrow www.canadianarrow.com is taking a “don't reinvent the wheel” approach. They are resurrecting the German V2 Rocket technology for peaceful purposes to send paying passengers into space. The da Vinci Project www.davinciproject.com is one of the most unconventional space launch companies. They plan to use a reusable balloon to carry their Wild Fire MKVI rocket-powered passenger craft to about twenty five kilometers altitude, fire the engine, and boost to sub-orbital space. The company is comprised of over 500 volunteers. Rocketplane Limited, www.rocketplane.com, is a team working on a 4 seater rocket powered airplane capable of reaching space. The plane will boost to the limits of space, spend about 4 minutes in zero gravity. Then land on a conventional runway. Starchaser Industries www.starchaser.co.uk is a project to build a passenger carrying rocket ship, one that takes off vertically, and then lands by parachute five miles downrange, after spending a few minutes in zero gravity at the limits of space. The designers hope to use the rocket ship to fly passengers to space for short tourist hops.

    Everyone agrees that we must drastically reduce launch costs, and many believe the best way to accomplish that is to jump start the power of the private sector. The X-Prize is trying to encourage private companies to build hardware, fly it, and succeed. Some believe the government should take their lead and get out of the way, and turn loose the private sector. According to Allen Steele, a hard SF writer, specializing in near-term space stories, “If I was a legislator, I would put together an omnibus space bill that would establish tax and commercial incentives for private space exploration. I would also ease regulations and offer seed money to new space startups.”

    The X-Prize Cup

    While the X-Prize may have been won, its mission is far from over. The X-Prize people aren’t resting on their laurels; They plan to offer future prizes for select space achievement milestones. The X-Prize Cup will be held each year, sponsored by the X-Prize Foundation, and will continue to inspire new space technology. The ultimate goal of the X-Prize foundation is to create new industries, not just one design or company. Diversity of ideas will give us the tools to develop new technology to get to space. It will take an entire industry to settle the Solar System, not just one company or type of craft. The X-Prize Foundation hopes to encourage the development of a self sustaining space industry, leading ultimately to a true space faring civilization for the Human species. It’s likely that SF fans will continue to be major backers of space flight, dreaming of solar system spanning civilizations where rockets land on pillars of fire, “like God and Robert Heinlein intended.”

    Figure I: Pro-Space Groups

    • Organization
    • Startup Date
    • Website
    • Mission

    British Interplanetary Society

      1933
    • www.bis-spaceflight.com
    • he world's longest established organization devoted solely to supporting and promoting the exploration of space and astronautics.

    L5 Society

    • 1975
    • www.l5news.org
    • Build self sustaining space colonies in free space, based on Doctor Gerard O'Neill's concept.

    National Space Institute

    • 1975
    • na
    • To keep interest in the NASA space program alive after the end of the Apollo missions to the Moon.

    Planetary Society

    • 1980
    • www.planetary.org
    • Support and fund space research and to educate the general public about space science.

    The Foresight Community

    • 1986
    • www.foresight.org
    • While technically an organization specializing in nanotechnology, its research and potential benefits are critical for space technology.

    National Space Society

    • 1987
    • www.nss.org
    • Promote the creation of a space faring civilization.

    Space Frontier Foundation

    Mars Society

    • 1988
    • www.marssociety.org
    • To further the goal of the exploration and settlement of the Red Planet

    Space Access Society

    • 1995
    • www.space-access.org
    • The sole purpose is to promote routine, reliable, radically cheaper access to space, ASAP.

    Artemis Project

    • 1995
    • www.asi.org
    • This is a commercial venture to establish a lunar colony.

    Moon Society

    • 2000
    • www.moonsociety.org
    • An organization that brings together individuals and organizations who want to develop the moon.

    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.

    Cultural Tour in Germany

    We are a young company organizing tours for blind and visually impaired people around the world. As a new idea we created a nature, sportive and cultural tour in Germany to show our home country to blind and visually impaired people from all English speaking countries. This fall we are running the tour for the first time!

    The tour is a combination of nature discovery, nature sportive and cultural activities to explore Eastern Germany. Visits of historical places and museum as well as guided city tours together with nature activities, canoeing and hiking compose a colourful tour to discover landscape, culture and modern life in Eastern Germany. Our first destination is Berlin, capital and popular city of Germany. There we visit the museum of the wall, where we explore story of the breakdown of the wall and talk with contemporary witnesses. As well we visit Köpenick, a part of old east Berlin full of history and an ancient castle! Besides we just breath the vivid and busy air of Berlin! Our accommodation is a modern and cozy hostel on a boat anchored on the main river in Berlin, the spree, where we will stay in two person cabins. Our second stop is the Mecklenburger Lakeplateau, north-east of Berlin. The diverse landscape with its unspoiled lakes and nature is home of many endangered species, especially birds. We explore the nature of this area by foot, canoe and an old bike handcar. Also we visit several places to learn about history and daily live. Our accommodation is on an ecological farmstay close to nature. Our third stop is the Harz Mountain region, south-west of Berlin. The former border between East and West Germany went straight through this region, rich of forests. We will hike on the former border, inform us about the history in the Brocken museum and visit former mining areas as well as a stalactide cave, typical for the Harz. To the mining museum we travel with the old steam engine railway which still is in use. As well we visit the ancient popular gathering place of famous witches in Thale, which are popular myth of the region. Naturesportive activities in this area will be mainly hiking trips. Our accommodation is a friendly guesthouse, where we cook for ourselfes, in a little typical village. Our final destination is Leipzig, a cultural vivid city in East Germany. There we visit the dialogue in the dark, an exhibition from blind organisations to show the world of blinds, dive into historic Leipzig and optional visit a concert. All our accomodations are simple but comfortable and in double rooms. Part of the tour we will be catered, parts we will cook and feed ourselfes. In Berlin and Leipzig we use the restaurant infrastructure. This way we discover different ways of German cuisine. Included in the price is a 1:2 assistance (one seeing, two blind/ visually impaired people). If desired we can organize a 1:1 assistance for an additional charge.

    Our contact address:
    www.visionoutdoor.de
    email: info@visionoutdoor.de
    Phone:0049-521-1640020
    direct link to the tour details: www.visionoutdoor.de/program_eastern_germany_tour1.html

    JGB scholarship

    The Jewish Guild for the Blind has created an annual scholarship program for college-bound high school students who are legally blind. Applications will be accepted from students at the start of their senior year, with recipients selected and scholarships awarded later in that academic year. The GuildScholar Program will award 12 to 15 scholarships of up to $15,000 each. For information about the program, log on to guildscholar@jgb.org; or call Gordon Rovins at 212-769-7801. To apply for the scholarship, please log on to www.jgb.org/guildscholar.asp

    The GuildScholar application process is on-line. The recommendations and personal statement must be submitted electronically in Word; other supporting documents may be in Word, PDF, JPEG or TIFF.

    CALENDAR

    • Application and supporting documents must be at The Guild by September15th.
    • Scholarship recipients announced by the December semester break.
    • Scholarships awarded by June 15th.

    Verbal Imaging Tours at The Jewish Museum

    The Jewish Museum offers specialized tours of its exhibitions for visitors who are blind or partially sighted. Verbal Imaging Tours, featuring in-depth descriptions of selected works, are available on the following dates and do not require reservations:

    • Thursday, July 13, 2006 at 5:30 pm– Eva Hesse: Sculpture
    • Thursday, August 10, 2006 at 5:30 pm– Culture and Continuity: The Jewish Journey

    Verbal Imaging Tours of all exhibitions are also available by appointment for individuals and groups. For more information or to be placed on a mailing list for programs and services for visitors who are blind or partially sighted please call 212.423.3289 or e-mail access@thejm.org.

    The Jewish Museum is located at 1109 Fifth Avenue, on the corner of 92nd Street and Fifth Avenue, New York

    City.

    Museum Hours (tours available M-F only):

    • Sunday-Wednesday: 11am-5:45pm
    • Thursday: 11am-8pm
    • Friday: 11am-3pm

    Admission Fees:

    • Specialized tours are free with Museum admission:
    • Adults: $10 Senior/Students: $7.50
    • Thursdays from 5pm-8pm: Pay-What-You-Wish

    ATIA 2006 Online Conference

    Did you miss the ATIA Conference in Orlando?

    If you made it, did you miss some presentations due to scheduling conflicts?

    Now you can access much of the valuable information shared at the ATIA Conference through www.atiaonline.org

    • Event Title ATIA 2006 Online Conference
    • Where at www.atiaonline.org - it's all online!
    • When? Now! Your virtual booth will be live through November 30, 2006
    • The Cost? Free access to over 50 presentations; $49.00 for access to all archives

    Over 100 hours of audio and video recordings were captured at the ATIA (Assistive Technology Industry Association) conference held in Orlando this past January. ATIA partnered with OcuSource to create the www.atiaonline.org website. The website, powered by OcuSource's subsidiary LetsGoExpo online conferencing service (www.letsgoexpo.com), brings recordings generated at the live conference to end users unable to attend the live event held in Orlando. The site has audio recordings, samplings of streamed video, documents and more.

    List of archived presentations:

    • A "Continuum of Learning" for Children Using AAC Systems
    • AAC Intervention with Children and Adolescents: Getting Results!
    • AAC Interventions for Communication Partners: Cross Cultural Applications
    • Accessible E-Learning Demonstrations Using IMS Accessibility Specifications
    • Accessible Information Technology in Education: An Awareness Video
    • Accessible Multimedia in E-books
    • AGE Appropriate Services for Adolescent and Adult Communicators with Severe- Profound Disabilities
    • AT and UDL: Teaming Up to Meet the Needs of All Learners
    • AT Consideration in the IEP: To Be or Not to Be
    • AT Outcome Data Collection Tools--Platform Independent and Web-Based
    • Avoiding the Pitfalls, Brick Walls, and Trees of Assistive Technology
    • Blogging the Accessible Way
    • Building Effective Campus-Based Teams with the ATSTAR Curriculum
    • Building Interactive Classrooms Through Environmental Engineering and AAC
    • Closing the Circuit: Building Accessible Modules from the Ground Up
    • Developing a Universally Designed Curriculum: One Unit at a Time
    • DISTANCE LEARNING: POLICIES AND PRACTICES THAT PROMOTE ACCESSIBLE DESIGN
    • Expanding the Benefits of Cooperative Buying: Sharing What We've Learned
    • Finding Their Bliss: Discovering Ways to Increase Active Participation
    • Getting Started with School-based Data Collection on AT Strategies and Tools
    • Guidelines for Submitting Manuscripts to Assistive Technology Outcomes and Benefits
    • Implementing AAC in Acute Care Settings Beginning in Intensive Care
    • Increasing Mean Length of Utterances on AAC: An Action Research Project
    • Inside the Trainer’s Studio
    • Instructional Strategies for Using Video Magnifiers
    • Integrating AAC Into Leisure and Learning
    • Interpretype for Deaf and Deaf-Blind Communication
    • Let’s Play! Selecting Toys with Universal Design Features
    • Low Tech Adaptations Across the Curriculum
    • Mastering Microsoft Word
    • Moving Students Forward
    • Note Taking Strategies Using Technology for Students Who Are Visually Impaired
    • Organizing my Space
    • Partner-Assisted Communication Strategies for Children Who Face Multiple Challenges
    • QIATConversations: 2006 Update
    • Sorting through Symbol to Text Systems
    • STFLS Meets Core Vocabulary for AAC Users: Supporting Language and Literacy Through Start-to-Finish
    • Supported Readings: Understanding Symbol Supports
    • Switching to Talk – Not Just Talking Switches
    • Tactual Literacy for Students with Severe Cognitive Challenges
    • Teacher Use of Kidspiration with Elementary Students: Impact of Teacher Training
    • Technology in the Preschool Setting: The Impact of CollaborativeTraining
    • The Assistive Technology Wheel for Young Children
    • The C.O.A.S.T.: A Framework to Facilitate Assistive Technology and Inclusion
    • The Economics of Developing Assistive Technology: A Hypothetical Case Study
    • The True Power of Teaching with Technology
    • The User Experience: Accessibility and Usability in the Online Environment
    • Thinking Beyond AT in the Classroom Phase 2 of ILT Project
    • Using Assistive Technology to Increase Undergraduate Student Engagement
    • Using Technology to Enhance Literacy and Language Skills
    • Using Written Assistive Technology Implementation Plans
    • Video in the Classroom on a Shoestring Budget
    • Visual Considerations for Individuals with Complex Communication Needs

    TIC Network

    The Talking Information Center (TIC) is a non-profit radio reading service that broadcasts newspapers, magazines, books and special consumer information 24 hours a day, seven days a week to over 23,000 listeners. TIC provides timely access to 15 newspapers and 73 magazines, not otherwise easily accessible to the print impaired population. Programming includes daily and weekly national and regional newspapers and magazines such as the Boston Globe, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek and Time. In addition, TIC broadcasts obituaries, medical updates, job opportunities, stock market updates, sports, supermarket specials as well as news items of local interest. TIC also includes nightly book readings and cultural programming.

  • All of the material broadcast at TIC is intended to connect those who are print impaired to the essential details of daily living. If you are one of the thousands of people in Massachusetts who are print impaired because of low vision, blindness or the mobility impairments of advanced age, injury, birth defect or disease, then TIC is for you!

    TIC is broadcast over a network of commercial and noncommercial radio and cable outlets. There is no charge for the service. Most listeners need special radio receivers that are provided on loan or can be purchased for $50. TIC is also available over the Internet. It is streamed live on www.ticnetwork.com. You can call 781-834-4400 or 800-696-9505 to request further information or to order a receiver.

    Products from Nuance Communications

    We've recently launched the Nuance Accessibility Suite which is the world’s most complete mobile accessibility solution. It provides handset users with accessibility needs with direct access to on-screen content so they can take advantage of mobile data. Whether through verbal feedback, visual enhancement, or Braille keyboard support, the Nuance Accessibility Suite provides the easiest way to retrieve information from today’s mobile handset displays. Among our new products are:

    • Nuance TALKS™ V2.5 - Nuance TALKS converts the displayed text on a mobile handset into highly intelligible speech, making on-screen content completely accessible to blind and visually impaired users. http://www.nuance.com/talks/
    • Nuance ZOOMS - Nuance ZOOMS magnifies on-screen content to enable low-vision users—who were traditionally limited in their ability to interact with a handset display—to take full advantage of mobile phone functionality. http://www.nuance.com/zooms/


    Jan's Tasty Tidbits

    GARLIC PASTA TOSS

    • 12-ounce package angel hair pasta
    • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 2 teaspoons chicken flavored bouillon
    • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
    • Grated Parmesan cheese, optional
    • Cook angel hair pasta as package directs;
    • drain. In small skillet,
    • cook garlic in oil until golden;
    • add water and bouillon;
    • cook and stir until bouillon dissolves.
    • In large bowl, toss hot angel hair with garlic and parsley.
    • Serve with Parmesan cheese, if desired.
    • Makes 4 to 6 servings.

    LEMONY HAM SLICE

    • 1 lemon
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 1 tablespoon mustard
    • 1 ham slice
    • Grate peel of lemon.
    • Cut lemon in half;
    • thinly slice one half;
    • squeeze juice from other half.
    • Combine peel, juice, brown sugar and mustard; add lemon slices.
    • Broil ham slice 4 inches from heat 5 minutes.
    • Note: I baked it at 350 degrees instead.

    LIME PARFAIT

    • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 3 tablespoons sugar
    • 1/2 cup Graham Cracker crumbs
    • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
    • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
    • 1 tablespoon grated lime peel
    • 1 cup chilled heavy cream
    • Melt butter in heavy small skillet over medium heat.
    • Mix in sugar and stir until bubbling, about 1 minute.
    • Mix in crumbs; stir until color deepens, about 3 minutes.
    • Turn out onto a plate and cool.
    • Stir condensed milk, lime juice and lime peel in large bowl to blend (mixture will thicken).
    • Using electric mixer, beat cream in medium bowl until firm peaks form; fold into lime mixture.
    • Place 1/4 cup lime mousse in each of six 8- to 10-ounce wine goblets.
    • Top each with 1 tablespoon crumb mixture, then 1/4 cup mousse.
    • Top parfaits with remaining crumb mixture.
    • Refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours. Makes 6 servings.

     



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