Various Thoughts on My Return

Well…At long last, life appears to be getting back to something that resembles “normal.” For all of you who have been asking about me, I appreciate your inquiries very much. As you can see, I am not dead.

In the past month, we had a death in our family, our wedding, a memorial, our post-wedding trip, out-of-town guests visiting for the wedding, etc. As an Obsessive Compulsive, I have to tell you that the clutter of wedding gifts, left-over party favors and decorations, and post-trip unpacking are making my order-craving brain hurt. Oh, yes…And I forgot to mention the new car we bought–as if we didn’t have enough on our plates.

Actually, the new car was kind of a necessary purchase. We previously owned a Mustang (fun but impractical), and a Blazer that was on its last legs. The Focus we bought isn’t nearly as sexy as the Stang, but it’s very fuel-efficient (important given the sky-rocketing gas prices).

Since many of you are male, I won’t go on and on about wedding dresses and flowers. Suffice it to say that, although the planning process was awful (the wedding industry is full of totally incompetent people), the wedding itself turned out beautifully. The only bump (and it was a very minor one) came when my four-year-old flowergirl developed a last second case of stage fright, and refused to walk down the aisle by herself. When I suggested she walk with me, though, she was perfectly happy, and we got through the whole ceremony with no melt-downs or upsets. Well…at least the child was quiet. My retired Black Lab, on the other hand, had plenty to say. Friends were holding her during the ceremony, but when she saw “mommy” walk in the room, she had to convey her excitement (and her displeasure at not being able to greet me in her typical enthusiastic fashion). Kaylor walked me half way down the aisle, and Jason walked me the rest of the way, and he (Kaylor, that is) was pretty content to sit with my sister and her guide while we took care of the getting married part. We’ll have some cool photos, as there were five dogs at our wedding.

We spent the week after the wedding in Toronto–seeing the sites and spending time with old friends. I lived in Toronto for five years, so it was fun to go home, and to introduce Jason to life in a more accessible and fast-paced environment. For those who have the opportunity, Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) has an amazing audio tour. There were probably around a hundred audio exhibits for me to listen to background on. Kaylor’s work was wonderful–especially since he’d never ridden a noisy subway before–but we did have trouble convincing him that the squirrels and pigeons weren’t food.

A few days after we got home, I met another friend with a guide dog, so we could take them to the Mall of America. It has been raining a lot here, and that has made it hard to exercise the dogs outdoors. I swear it was National Stupid Day at MOA last Thursday. From the woman who asked to pet the dogs while we were walking by her (with the dogs clearly engaged in their work), to the woman who asked my friend (who was buying a book about some religious subject) if she prays for sight, to the waiters at the restaurant who couldn’t figure out how to give a couple of guide dogs water in a plastic “to go” container, to the man who read the sign on Kaylor’s harness and proceeded to pet and talk to him anyway, it was definitely one of those days. Do you ever feel like you just want to give up and go home, and hide there until sometime the following week?

I recently started the process for getting services through our local State Services for the Blind. So far, the experience has gone very smoothly, and I’m happy to note that MN pays for tools related to independent living. Wisconsin didn’t when I did my internship there, and I always thought that was so stupid. How are you supposed to be employable if you can’t live independently. I mean, things like talking clocks and thermometers, bill readers, and braille labelers are not “nice-to-have” items–they are essential (especially if you live alone). When I did live alone, I was always so pissed off when people continually asked me “don’t you have a sighted person to (fill in the blank)?” It used to totally blow their minds when I would say “no. I live alone.” Admittedly, I am very grateful for some of the things that are made easier by having a sighted spouse, but there are times when you want the satisfaction of doing something yourself (or the choice to do it independently if you wish).

As part of the tech assessment portion of my plan, I’ve been doing some research about various technologies to see what I might want to ask for–what might make it easier for me to do what I need to do each day. One of the things I’ve been researching are those teeny-tiny laptops. I found a very comprehensive review of the Sony, the Lenovo, and the Fugitsu. The guy who did the write-up had some very valid points. He said that, although the laptops themselves are very portable and light (often around 2 pounds), by the time you add the various peripherals )external drives, extended batteries, docking stations, etc.) the computer ends up weighing around 4-5 pounds. He said that, in many cases, it is necessary to take such peripherals with you when you travel, as many of the little laptops don’t have enough thickness to accommodate standard connectors (like Ethernet). Since you can purchase a regular laptop of that weight for half the price, it definitely doesn’t make financial sense to have one of the smaller sub-notebooks. In addition, you often have to sacrifice performance, as the smaller machines often don’t have the faster processors that the larger ones do.

So then I started thinking about some of the new notetakers out there. They’re light, have braille displays incorporated in them, are instant-on, and are bluetooth compatible. However, they’re really expensive, and harder to keep up to date. I’m beginning to think the best solution is a standard laptop (on the lighter side), with a separate braille display. Not sure… I also want to look at those OQO computers–the ones that GW Micro’s SmallTalk Ultra are built on.

I’ll just have to keep looking around and reading reviews. Hope all of you are well and safe–whether you’re dealing with fires, drout, or floods.

Subscribe to the Blind Confidential RSS Feed at: Blindconfidential

Random Thoughts on a Sunday Morning

JAWS 9.0 Update


Last week, I downloaded the latest update to the JAWS 9.0 beta but, having read the release notes and making the assumption that they are mostly true, I think something must have gone wrong with my installation as lots of things I am experiencing do not correspond with the notes on the web site.  It wouldn’t be fair to FS for me to comment on whatever broken installation I have.


As for my report on JAWS 9.0 in Vista, I have had to postpone doing any testing as my brand new HP desktop shit the bed last week and we had to ship it back to the factory for repairs.  HP sent us a pre-paid FedEx box and we sent it off but I’ve no idea when it may come back.


My Accent Fetish


I must admit that I go absolutely nuts for women with an accent different from my own mixture of Jersey and New England.  The only accents I don’t find appealing come from the South Shore of Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island because they seem to combine all of the bad parts of the northeastern accents without any of the charm.


On Thursday, I spent about five hours in a dental chair.  The dental assistant came from Russia and had an accent so beautiful I could feel it in my pants pocket.  I did anything I could to keep her talking which helped make the time in the chair pass much more quickly than it would have otherwise.  I could not, however, get her to say, “We must get moose and squirrel.”


I guess my accent fetish started while watching Bullwinkle where Natasha Nogoodnik spoke with one of the sexiest voices (along with Jessica Rabbit and Penelope Pitstop) in the history of animation.  She didn’t look especially pretty but her voice stirred my youthful heart in ways I didn’t understand yet.


The next major influence on my appreciation of accents came from the mouth of Emma Peel on the Avengers.  As a kid, I didn’t quite get the overtones of S&M and sexual fetishism in the show but I really loved Emma’s voice and those cool leather riding boots and riding crop she always carried.


Eartha Kitt, as Cat Woman on the sixties vintage Batman show, wrapped in leather from neck to toe, purring in her cat like manner and speaking with her unique southern African American accent drove me wild when I was about six or seven years old.  I didn’t quite understand why all of that leather and that amazing voice made me feel so warm but I sure loved the feeling.


In my teens, I kept falling in love with girls who had accents.  I loved the Jewish girls from Long Island, the Latinas from Union City, the immigrants from Eastern Europe in Manhattan, the girls from the UK whom I met while traveling, the girls from Italy, Spain, Puerto Rico, black girls from Harlem and on and on.


As I started traveling around the world, any woman who spoke English with an accent immediately got my attention.  I went all over South America, Asia, North Africa, Central America and Australia and found pleasure in listening to the women talk.


More recently, I must admit that my friend Danielle who, although born in Long Island, grew up in London and Paris has the sexiest accent of anyone I know.  Danielle and I have a very close relationship and I think of her more like a sister (a fact that really destroys the fantasy) and her daughter Poppy is very definitely an adopted niece.  So, I love listening but I can’t touch.


Wondering About the Future of Software AT


Recently, Mike Calvo posted an article to the Serotek Blog called “The Coming Crisis.”  The article consolidated a lot of things Mike has said over the past few years and tells the reader why Serotek has such a different set of priorities and strategies than the more traditional AT software companies.


Mike’s article got me thinking about a broader range of challenges that all AT software companies, including Serotek, will have to face in the future.  The biggest obstacle to these companies come in the form of AT distributed without cost to users or institutions and from free (as in freedom with a lower case “f”) AT software that carries the GNU General Public License (GPL) or some other license similar to it.  Some of these screen readers, magnifiers, scan and read programs and on screen keyboards to name a few categories being addressed by the free, open source and without cost communities, are starting to gain some traction.


Recently, a friend showed me the new version of VoiceOver that will come with the Macintosh Leopard OS release.  The Apple team has included a number of truly innovative concepts and the software works much better than the version in OSX, Tiger Edition.  Apple includes the open source Safari browser in its operating systems, I recommend that they open up the source and slap GPL on VoiceOver as I am fairly confident that it is not a feature that drives profits in the Macintosh division of their business.


As the Apple Accessibility API is not terribly similar to those from Microsoft and Sun, they will probably not lose much to their competition and will probably gain some useful functionality if some hackers add support for iAccessible2 and, perhaps, the JavaAccessBridge.  An open source VoiceOver would push the art forward on both Apple and other platforms.


On the Windows side, Microsoft includes Narrator which is still not a fully functional screen reader but the Vista version is a major improvement over the one they shipped in XP.  It would also be useful if Microsoft made Narrator open source, slapped on GPL and let the bazillion Windows hackers around the world take a crack at it.  There are a ton of blind programmers who program for Windows who would enjoy the opportunity to hack away at a stable, albeit feature poor, screen reader.


A screen reader out of Australia called Non Visual Desktop Access (NVDA) is already a GPL release.  The software is written in Python and already does a lot of the DOM tricks for Internet and other programs.  The code base is reasonably stable and volunteers from around the world have already translated it into a pile of different human languages.  I know of a number of people who are already designing features and working to add them to NVDA.  This software, largely due to some technical similarities can probably leverage some code from the orca screen reader for GNU/Linux gnome desktop.


The gnome desktop first had gnopernicus which failed so miserably that Sun, who led the project, scrapped it entirely and launched the orca initiative.  I’ve been using orca on an Ubuntu distribution and, for what it does, it works pretty well.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t do a lot but it is available in a ton of different languages.  While the gnome desktop tries to make the user experience more similar to Macintosh or Windows, it is still a UNIX like environment and still requires difficult installation procedures, various edits to system text files and a number of tasks that are automated or wrapped in a clean and intuitive interface in Windows and Macintosh.  I like orca and gnome but I’ve also been using UNIX like systems since 1986, well before graphical interfaces arrived in that world and most tasks involved editing obscure text files.  For blind hackers, orca is a good solution.


Another GPL screen reader, written mostly in India, is called Screen Access for All (SAFA) and is more similar to screen readers like JAWS and Window-Eyes as it relies heavily on an off screen model (OSM).  If a good hacker could marry the SAFA OSM to NVDA all it would need is a scripting language and a bunch of volunteers to make a solid challenge to the industry leaders.


The last screen reader that is distributed without cost but not with source code or a GPL like license is called Thunder.  I haven’t had time to install it yet but I’m told it does a decent job of providing basic access to Windows systems.  Thunder shocked people who follow blindness related AT when they consummated a deal with the European Union to provide their program for free to blinks in Europe.


If we do a little math, we would probably find that consumers, dealers, institutions, corporations, educational institutions, etc. probably spend about $25 million dollars on screen readers each year.  Imagine a foundation or consortium that could dedicate less than half of that sum on free screen readers.  This hypothetical group could spend nearly its entire budget on design, development, testing, documentation, tutorials and nearly nothing on sales, marketing, packaging and other overhead items that are necessary for the commercial screen reader vendors.


In 2004, my last year at FS, the budget for the software engineering department came to approximately $1.3 million and had responsibility for PAC Mate, JAWS, MAGic, Open Book, StreetTalk, Wynn, various drivers for FS hardware, PAC Mate Remote, FS Reader and likely a few others that I cannot recall at this moment.  Imagine the same budget if spent entirely on a screen reader without distractions from all of the other projects, a team built of AT hackers from around the world, a bunch of volunteers and support from corporations and governments around the globe.


I think that someone out there will get something like this going, especially because government agencies, in the US and elsewhere are growing frustrated with high prices and the near monopolies Freedom Scientific and AI^2 have in their market sectors.


Is Accessibility A Right or a Privilege?


My friend Will Pearson has posted comments to this blog that quotes accessibility legislation in the EU, UK and US.  His quotes point out that such laws state “equal” access to various things.  Section 508 requires that all Federal Electronic and Information Technology purchases be accessible to people with disabilities.  ADA says that “reasonable accommodations” must be made to provide an accessible experience for people with disabilities.


Thus far in the United States, major Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) fill out a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) that explains how they meet the 508 requirements for different disabilities.  One prominent feature of many VPAT posted on ISV web sites regarding blindness and deaf blindness is a statement that says something on the order of, “Works with JAWS and/or Window-Eyes and, therefore, is accessible…”  Is such a statement acceptable under the equality clause as it clearly states that, while you can buy an employee a $400 computer, you must also spend between $900 and $1100 for adaptive technology?  Do individuals with disabilities who want to access computers have a right to go to Circuit City, Best Buy or an Apple Salon shop, buy the computer they like the most, bring it home and, like their sighted counterparts, turn it on and start using it by launching a screen reader that comes with the machine and, then, downloading a better one or is it only the privileged few who can afford the $1000 on top of the cost for their new computer?


Also, to fill in the blindness and deaf/blind section of their VPAT, an ISV probably needs to enter a relationship with Freedom Scientific or one of the other screen reader vendors.  In some Federal agencies, State, County and municipal governments and centers for the blind like The Lighthouse, the IT people have made the decision to only offer JAWS as they do not want to spend dollars retraining on another program or they prefer the convenience of one stop shopping.  Thus, even if an ISV gets its software working with Window-Eyes or HAL, they often find themselves talking to and paying FS to help them work with JAWS which adds to their cost and makes them a bit less friendly to the entire notion of accessibility.


A GPL based, free software solution that provides a scripting facility that uses standard languages (VB, C#, JavaScript, C++, etc.) can provide the ISV with a screen reader they can work with on their own and it will save the entire economy millions of dollars every year.  It will also open more doors to people with vision impairment as the AT can be had by downloading it from an Internet site without any cost to the user or his employer.  It will also promote a cottage industry of people who can help the ISVs extend and configure the software to work with their applications.


I can also see a volunteer community growing around such a bit of free AT as, unlike the commercial screen readers, they don’t have to pay $1000 for the right to extend the software themselves. 


Mainstream free software, programs like Apache and many others, run most of the Internet.  Numerous studies of “massive collaboration” have demonstrated that, when applied to software, the number of bug’s drops dramatically when compared to commercial programs with the same functionality.  A book called “Wikinomics” describes how massive collaboration works for software but also provides case studies showing how it can work in other, very diverse, markets as well.


Of Course, I Might Be Wrong


Ted Henter has always made the argument that competition and the free market is what drives innovation in the adaptive technology market.  This may be true.  Delivering a credible free screen reader may damage the commercial AT vendors ability to push the state of the art forward which might also cause the open source screen reader hackers to slow down on their efforts as much of their motivation will be to harpoon the shark.


In the past, I have written in this blog on the topic of how the free market and competition doesn’t work well in the AT market niche.  Today, JAWS and ZoomText have monopoly positions.  Both of these products hold shares greater than 80% worldwide and, in some cases, they are the only blindness products available in certain countries. 


As I wrote last week, I believe that JAWS 9.0 is much better than any of the last three releases of the industry leader.  I commended the JAWS team for doing a great job to improve quality, reliability and performance.  However, I also think that JAWS 9.0 is light on new features, contains few new ideas and is not innovative in any definition of the word I can find.


So, maybe competition fueled innovation in the past but when the leading screen reader and magnifier have virtual monopoly positions, what would motivate them to innovate or take risks by trying new concepts?


— End

Subscribe to the Blind Confidential RSS Feed at: Blindconfidential

JAWS 9.0: First Look with Windows XP

Over the weekend while in my hotel room in Minneapolis, I downloaded and installed the JAWS 9.0 public beta.  Yesterday, back home in Florida, I downloaded and installed the first bug fix patch to the beta software.  After I install it on Windows Vista and do some tests on the newer OS, I will report on my experience with JAWS 9 and the fixes its release notes discuss.  Also, when I run it on Vista, I will try it out with Office 2007.  Anything I mention about Office 2007, though, must be read with great skepticism as I don’t know it anywhere nearly as well as I do Office 2003 and I will assume that there will be a high probability of user error.


Yesterday, I did some tests in Windows XP on my one and a half year old, highly generic Toshiba laptop using IE 7 and Office 2003.  This post describes my findings thus far.  As all such reports contain highly subjective information, I will begin by discussing my highest priorities as what one person feels is valuable may be of no use to another.  Also, the release notes mention a number of new features for users with refreshable Braille displays – because my Braille skills are poor and I have no display attached to my computer, you should look elsewhere for information on such as I have no opinion on those matters.


My biggest complaint about JAWS 7 and 8 was the poor performance and bugginess in MS Word.  With great frequency, I need to work on fairly long documents with 25,000 words or more.  While using the two previous JAWS upgrades, I would switch to Window-Eyes when in Word as reading and editing Word documents became unusably slow with JAWS when one approached 5,000 words and it got much worse in longer documents.


My second priority is support for VisualStudio as I spend a lot of time using it and believe that FS should support it out-of-the-box.  I often use Skype and would like to see it supported by default in JAWS.  Recently, I have been using gmail a lot and would like to see it supported without needing to switch to the basic html mode.


As I’ve been discussing for the 21 months since I started BC, I would like to see the AT vendors, including FS, start paying more attention to interface models that users can employ to improve their productivity.  I would like to see greater use of sound, stereo and 3D audio effects, haptics and other concepts that I am not smart enough to think up on my own.


With that said, I will state that, for my single highest priority, using Word to write and edit long documents, JAWS 9.0 passes with flying colors.  My first test of JAWS 9 with Word 2003 included a Word document version of the BC item I wrote about 3D Web Interfaces a couple of weeks ago.  I don’t know the Word count in that document but JAWS 9 did an excellent job of reading it by line, by word and in a SayAll.  I then loaded a 25,000 word proposal I had worked on for a research project; again, JAWS 9 did an excellent job in every reading mode I tried.


One “feature” or “bug” (I’m not sure if it happened intentionally or not) in Word is that JAWS 9 reads the text augmentations by default during a SayAll.  These items like “non-breaking space” or “hyperlink field” break one’s attention on the content of the document and, in my opinion, should be turned off by default during a SayAll.  If this feature was requested by a lot of users out there who have a different opinion on the matter from my own, I’m sure I can turn it off in a configuration dialogue somewhere which will solve my dislike of the extra spoken text.


One long standing bug with JAWS in Word that I find very annoying remains.  Specifically, when Word puts up some dialogue like objects (the one that comes up when the auto-saved document is newer than the one you had opened for editing) JAWS can only see it using the JAWS cursor but, using the PC cursor the text in one’s document is partially obscured.  To close such dialogues, a user needs to poke around with the JAWS cursor to find a close button or get sighted help to click on the standard close box as the JAWS cursor can’t seem to identify it.  I’ve lived with this bug for a long time and thought something at the heart of a screen reader made it impossible to handle but such dialogues work very nicely with System Access so I know the problem can be fixed.


Overall, though, JAWS 9 kicks ass in Word 2003 and I’m happy to report that I no longer need to change screen readers to write long documents.


My second set of priorities are the applications JAWS supports by default.  On this matter, JAWS 9 using the application scripts and configurations shipped with the product fails.  To use VisualStudio .Net, one still needs to use the scripts written by Jamal Mazrui and the gang on the blind programming mailing list.  Skype is only supported with scripts one needs to get from Doug Lee but, although Skype is probably the most popular communication package out there today, the powers that govern JAWS features include AIM and MSN Messenger instead. 


The JAWS 9 release notes claim that it supports gmail in the standard (not basic html) mode.  My findings while using this yesterday is that JAWS 9 works better than JAWS 8 in the standard gmail interface.  I would not, however, describe its performance as “usable” at this point in the beta cycle.  I reported a pile of gmail issues to the folks at FS yesterday and hope to see them addressed before the final release of JAWS 9.0.  This is another area in which System Access outperforms the newest JAWS release.  I can’t speak to Window-Eyes with gmail as I haven’t tried it yet.


When Jonathon Mosen stated in the latest FSCast that one can use the word “innovative” to describe JAWS 9.0, I think that he and I must use very different dictionaries as our definitions of “innovative” seem radically different.  Jonathon may have been referring to some of the new Braille features that I cannot discuss with any credibility as I haven’t tried them and, even if I did try them, my Braille skills are so poor that I couldn’t give anything approaching a useful opinion.


If, however, Jonathon meant that the features that speech users get in JAWS 9.0, I must disagree entirely.  The copy and paste html documents with formatting preserved is kind of neat but does anyone really think of this as an actual innovation on the scale of something like Quick Keys or Speech and Sounds Manager?


Supporting the latest beta of AIM is more of the same old same old and I’m fairly certain it will show up in the other screen readers fairly soon as well.  Other items listed in the “What’s New” are very nice and some even rise to the level of nifty but none come all the way up to “cool” and definitely do not fall into my understanding of innovative.


As for Jonathon’s use of the adjectives, “stable” and “improved performance,” I agree entirely.  JAWS 9.0 is downright peppy and in the programs I use a lot it seems to work better than ever.  For users who spend a lot of time in Word, I think this is the best release since the JAWS 5.xx series coupled with Office XP.


Like my friend Darrell Shandrow wrote in his Blind Access Journal blog last week, I think that 9.0 is a very good release of the leading screen reader.  I also agree with Darrell, though, that this release probably did not warrant an upgrade that cost the users an SMA but, rather, should have come out as an update with a version number like 8.5 as, in my opinion, the most impressive aspects of JAWS 9.0 actually remedy problems in 7.0 and 8.0 which we users also paid for with our SMA dollars.  My personal opinion is that bug fixes and performance enhancements belong in free updates and new features which seem pretty scarce in 9.0 should go into paid for upgrades.


Of course, if I was still inside FS I would be screaming praise for this release as I would have experienced what I am confident was a ton of very hard work by the programmers, scripters, testers and, of course, Eric Damery to get this release out the door.  When viewing FS from the outside in, one tends to be blind to just how hard some of the challenges that face the team really are and how much effort the team puts in to get releases (updates and upgrades alike) out the door.  This is also true for the guys at GW Micro, Serotek and Dolphin but as I know the people who work on JAWS personally, I tend to think of them first when I think about working whacky hours to get some software ready for prime time.




There is one problem that exists in every screen reader I have ever tried.  Specifically, when one writes in English and puts something in quotations that ends with a comma, the comma goes inside of the quotation marks.  When one reads such a sentence aloud, though, the pause comes after the closing quotation mark.  Thus, one might read, “quote The pause should come after the quotation mark end quote pause” but, using every screen reader I’ve tried to date, with a punctuation level set to speak quotation marks puts the pause before the close quote.  I don’t know how hard this would be to fix but it would be a welcome change for all of us who do a lot of writing.


— End

Subscribe to the Blind Confidential RSS Feed at: Blindconfidential

Back in Florida

Yesterday evening, after four days in the Toyota mostly on I95 South, we got back to our home in St. Petersburg, Florida.  Our doggies happily romped around the yard as, up in Massachusetts, we had no fenced in area where they could play off of a tether.  In the month since our departure for the Boston area, some of our plants grew enormously.  Our fig tree grew bigger than ever and one of our banana trees obscures the path to our parking spot.  One of the real treats about living in Florida is the fresh fruit that grows in our yard.


Of course, when we got up this morning, the only place I could walk with X-Celerator contained no destination, just a rectangle around a number of blocks in the neighborhood.  While up in Cambridge, the X-Dude had a number of real challenges and, as he figured out more and more of them, he would strut proudly as he knew he performed tasks much more complex than here on this god forsaken sandbar.


The weather here in Florida is considerably hotter than in any of our stops along the way and, upon arriving at our house, where we had left the air conditioning off, the inside temperature read 88 degrees F on the inside of the house and it felt cooler than outside.  While I hate Boston area winters, I love the fall and spring weather which feels cool and the smell of the falling leaves reminds one of football season and playing in big leaf piles during our childhood.


I’ve about a million tasks to handle today and, tomorrow, we’re flying to Minneapolis to attend Dena’s wedding.  For those of you who might have wondered why she hasn’t posted in a while, I can attest to the fact that she has been swamped by last minute planning details for her nuptials.


A Note on Comments:


I had known for a while that a lot of very interesting people read Blind Confidential.  Some of them, Will Pearson, Mike Calvo for instance, also talk to me on the phone and we’ve maintained a friendship for a number of years.  Recently, though, Al Gilman and Joe Roder have posted comments to the blog which I appreciate greatly.


On the V2 standards committee that resulted in the ANSI/ISO standard you can read at http://www., I had the privilege of working with Al and Joe (along with a lot of other very smart people).  Al, in fact, is so smart that he would often present an idea that the rest of us would have to take about five minutes to figure out.  Al Gilman is, without a doubt one of the smartest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.


Joe Roder is no slouch either.  Joe, if I remember correctly, was the committee’s secretary and often had the responsibility of herding the rest of us cats to keep us on target.  Joe has a terrific level of insight into many topics regarding accessibility and understands both the geeky research stuff as well as how the good ideas can find their way into a useful product.


Now, with the likes of Al and Joe reading BC, I feel a bit of pressure to spend less time fucking around, writing gonzo fiction and random ravings about emerging technologies and wondering how or if the commercial AT vendors will ever get them into their products.


I feel a bit of pressure to articulate issues in a manner both profound and entertaining and don’t have all of the confidence in my skills or knowledge to please such an esteemed readership.  Or, I can just continue as always and hope that different articles appeal to different people and have fun with Blind Confidential as always.


On Joe Roder’s Comment:


A few days ago, Joe Roder posted an item suggesting that, in virtual worlds, blind visitors might have a C3PO like guide to help us navigate through three dimensional web sites.  I really like this idea but I would also add 3D audio presentations like those found in “Shades of Doom” that, in a manner more efficient than having a guide-bot speaking everything, many ambient sounds and things like footsteps approaching and lots of other cool ideas that I can’t think of right now, can possibly provide a richer experience.


Other than what I read in the link posted in a comment last week, I know absolutely nothing about VRML so I can’t speak to the information that software can glean from a description of a three dimensional, virtual space.  I will probably spend some time looking into this as I think it’s really interesting and would appreciate it if people could send me pointers to articles and such that they enjoyed reading.


Off to my dentist…


— End

Subscribe to the Blind Confidential RSS Feed at: Blindconfidential