This is just what I think and only what I think. I am going to keep it easy and simple. Don't be surprised to see one post about food and the next about stuff. I don't categorize anything. I look forward to your comments and more importantly calls and e-mail.

Friday, September 10, 2010

And When Do I Test for Access?

Web accessibility is a fluid moving target. As new technologies are designed and developed very rarely is accessibility considered. However, if you have the right mind set accessibility does not have to be like a dog chasing its tail. I am not going to talk about the general principles of good design but more about how to incorporate those principles in an accessible way. As in any development or design, technology testing and verifying is key. My general principles when thinking of testing and verifying always focus on the end-user. The marketplace is currently flooded with both free and expensive testing tools. Every one of these tools talks about how they help you comply with one standard or another. Automated web crawling for code violations in my opinion is like having a building inspector look at a Jell-O mold of your planned construction and saying it is structurally sound. Repeatedly websites pass automated evaluation tools only to be completely unusable when the customer tries. After all how does he automated tool know that the submit button on your website is labeled house.

This brings us to the question that I wanted to focus this blog on. When and how should you perform end-user testing? Many people are under the impression that if you code to the standards and only use known to be accessible technologies if you want to bring in end-users its right at the end. My opinion is that is way too late and way too costly. What happens when you find a showstopper accessibility problem at this phase? Many times, it never gets fixed or the redesign and reimplementation is cost prohibitive.

I like to think that the accessibility testing should always be interwoven to the development process. Even before you think about how your new website should be designed step back and look at what you already have. Bring in an end-user or two and watch them go through your current site take note of where the problems are and where the good things are. Understand what you are trying to accomplish with your website and set goals for your new design. Come up with a fixed list of what tasks, information and functions visitors will have. Ask the question, why are people visiting my website? Who is visiting my website question with the advent of wireless devices how are they visiting my website question but most of all what is the most important thing you want visitors to take away from your website?

Now that all these questions and criteria have been set up it is time to bring this information to your designers. Be sure they have a good understanding of what the product is. When the web designers have a first draft and/or a wireframe, it is time for a second quick review. This review does not have to be as in-depth or as meticulous. All you are looking for at this stage is structure and semantics. If you have multiple topics, are they broken down correctly? Do they all have headings and are all those headings laid out correctly? Is there any information being presented in non-accessible means? If you are using multimedia, how do you mediate that content? You will be surprised as to how much doing a review this early on can change your thought process and final product.

Even though you should not solely depend on automated tools, they do play a vital role in the process. Any good coder can be helped and saved hours of misery by a good validator. Searching for a bug such as an incomplete tag or an incorrect punctuation mark can be like cupping water in your hand. You might get a few drops but the majority has dripped away before it reaches your mouth. Looking for problems such as these is exactly what automated tools do best. Another thing most of these tools can do quite well is give the web designer multiple perspectives of their results. Many of the accessibility automated testing tools have the ability to show you various high contrast scenarios and text only versions of your site. This takes care of the majority of the support a developer needs on a day-to-day basis.

Now we are moving closer to the end of your process. You have all your content and your layout is complete. You're still fussing with a little bit of moving this here and putting that there. Finally, you think you are almost done. Now it is time for the true in-depth accessibility review. Bring in the tester or testers you have already used. However, now it is time to bring in users of various different skill levels and using various different methods to access your site. Provide each with a list of the different tasks and goals you set up back at the beginning of this process. Watch and observe them complete each of these. When problems are found fix and repeat.

Repeatedly it has been proven that doing these kinds of accessibility test not only improve the accessibility of your website but also improve your ability to be effective for all your customers. It may be a worn-out line but accessibility does equal usability. Much of what you have done for accessibility will always make your website more usable. The many other benefits have been spoken about 100 times before.

There is never any guarantee that any form of testing will catch any problem or any scenario. However, if you do diligence and have a wide enough scope with the willingness and openness to improve you will have a happier audience. In addition, your customers will come back for future visits. Visit the Berkeley web accessibility page and feel free to use our testing rubric as a development tool. This rubric can be used as a checklist throughout your development process to help you keep focused on some of the big accessibility roadblocks. I would like to thank the webaccess group at Berkeley for creating the rubric. We have been using it for over a year now and we have found it has made our clinics more effective and useful to the client.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

I love my job

There are very few people in a world that can actually make the above statement and mean it. There are some days that I may not feel that way but overall I feel that way most of the time. Every day I get new challenges and get to learn about interesting technologies and ideas. the thing I like most is the people I work with. The UC Berkeley campus has a lot of people who believe in the same principles and ideas I believe in. Working with developers on this campus has taught me that people in general really do want to help make things easier to use. In some ways, I feel I am very spoiled by the people I work with. It makes me forget that in the real world things do not often go so well in general working with people on this campus and testing websites really can be a lot of fun...

Yesterday I had a pleasant surprise most of the time I avoid browsing the Internet outside of work because I get so disappointed and disgusted what happens when I visit a website. Yes, there are many accessible websites out there and it is getting somewhat better but more often than not, I throw my hands up in disgust and go to my husband or my reader to do what I need to on the web. This includes entertainment and everything else. It is somewhat humiliating to have to go to another person to buy that person his or her birthday present. What to my pleasant surprise when yesterday I visited the last.FM website and found that it had changed significantly since the last time I visited. Finding a song was difficult but possible and marking it in tagging appropriately could happen. However, sometimes the song would be over before I found the right place to click. Yesterday I found the website had been redone. Boy oh boy is it good now it's funny but I still kind of get really excited and become a little childish when I find something like this. I had to call everyone I knew and tell him or her what a great website I had just visited.
Well done last FM and I will be definitely recommending you to all my screen reader user friends.

The new website lets me track things extraordinarily well. I can see what song is playing I can market an even better I can see if the artist is going to be in town soon. I have just the same access as everyone else now I can wander through the website I can play music and do whatever I want just like anyone else. The webpage refreshes properly the screen reader tracks everything. Everything is labeled and the information is all there for me to access or not as I please. I can sit back and listen to the music or I can find out information about the artist or move on to recommendations or do anything that an able-bodied user would be able to do on this site. If I ever had a stamp of approval this would be, an access aces site

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Has the ADA made a difference?

20 years later, we can look back at the historical event of the signing of the ADA. Quite often, I can hear people asking the question, if only in their head, what difference has it made. It is strange for me to be considering this, as I am not "American," so it feels a little odd passing judgment. However, I think I have a perspective that helps understand the importance of this law.

In the daily life of a person with a disability, many of the changes of the ADA have been lasting and impactful. However, to the mainstream individual who isn’t affected by a disability may not see the difference that the ADA has made. Things are never what they seem.
When people who are teaching or training disability awareness talk about "curb cuts”, it can sometimes seem like a broken record. However, the reason we do so is because it is the one thing people without disabilities are guaranteed to come in contact with in their daily lives. It is very unusual today to go anywhere and not encounter a curb cut. Yes, some older communities (and older is a relative term) may have unbroken curves. In general, Main Street, USA has curb cuts. Teenage skateboarders, wheelchair users, and elderly individuals using walkers, we have all made good use of curb cuts over the years. In the assistive technology world, this is one of our favorite scenarios to talk about. It is the least technical thing that almost everyone in the group can relate to. Just like curb cuts, many of the other changes the ADA has brought about have been incorporated into our lives to the point of forgetfulness. Living in California, this happens more often than most places. I can walk into many public buildings with the confidence that the signage is accessible, elevator buttons will be in reach, and doorways will be wide enough for people to walk through. All I have to do to remember that all these things were brought about by laws traceable back to Canada. The Human Rights Act in Canada is extensive, but does not reach as far and is not as aggressive as the ADA or the California Fair Housing laws. In California, our laws tend to reach farther and serve us more effectively. I am always shocked and appalled to go back to Canada and find that a brand-new restaurant or office building does not even have an accessible bathroom. For me, it is only natural to assume that whenever there is new construction or renovation, it is a legal requirement to make access improvements. In California, that’s a safe assumption, but in many other places it is not.
While I watched all the ADA celebrations that I could last week I kept asking myself, “How does this affect me and what is changed?” Living day-to-day it's really hard for people to understand that there has been change. There are many days that we get angry and resent all the things we have to do because of who we are. As a blind person, I resent not being able to drive. Being forced to use public transportation, not being able to find things as quickly or efficiently on the Internet, or not being able curl up with a good book that doesn't require battery or power can be incredibly frustrating. Many of us change this resentment into a drive or thirst for new technology. So-called positive thinking. Just two weeks ago a friend showed me a solar USB charger for my digital talking book player. Of course, I wanted it immediately. Every new toy or device that means I can be freer to be "normal". Every advance in technology brings me one step closer to true freedom. However on the days I'm down and the buses are running late, it's really hard to feel so optimistic. Twenty years ago I would be less likely to find ways to improve my situation though innovation and technology. I think there would be a lot of innovation and change through technology, but it wouldn’t have led towards accessibility as the changes implemented by the ADA have. This means that technology could've advanced and left me behind. Instead, just one month ago the Department of Justice declared that educational institutions could not adopt technology that was not usable and accessible to everyone. Each time one of these rulings is made, interpreting the ADA, my life gets more and more "normal".
Working in a university, many of the students I deal with on a daily basis have never lived without the ADA. Each new year I see students coming to campus that were born after the ADA passed. Not having ever gone to school or tried to ride a bus before the ADA is a vastly different experience as a youth. I'm not implying that students should experience life without the benefits of the ADA, however, a little retrospect and understanding of the history of disability management goes a long way. As the students go through school demanding their rights and accommodations, it's worth them asking who and how these accommodations were defined. What if, when we considered access to education laws, we did not include educational materials? It's hard to believe that we wouldn't have thought that the books were also part of education. But in a time without ADA regulations and laws, it might have easily happened.
I guess what I'm really asking for is, as the students go on into the future and make their own changes to the laws and regulations and peoples "normal existence”- that they had as much foresight and inclusion as there was in the past. If at any time they think one person is more important or can make a difference they realize they're wrong. The reason the ADA has worked as well as it has is because of the image that has been brought up time and time again this past week; the image of thousands upon thousands of stories making the complete picture. It is interesting how I can close my eyes and imagine I was there the day boxes upon boxes of testimonial were brought in to Congress to make the point that access was not only needed, but demanded by the people.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

It's all just a little crazy

If you felt that life has been a little difficult lately because of your disability it is about to get a lot worse. Just last week one of the primaries was won by a man who outwardly opposes the ADA. You would think someone who has said very clearly the government's job is not to help people with disabilities could never have gotten a chance at winning an office. However, people in the South disagree.

"Oh no" he will say "I'm not opposed to people with disabilities getting jobs but if they can't climb the stairs they should work on the ground floor." Heaven forbid him think about the type of accommodation I need to do my job. Actually, he might like that. After all I then wouldn't have a computer with a screen reader and Braille display and dictation software to write this blog. No I might have the computer but I would sit in a chair and the computer would be unused. In fact my job wouldn't actually exist if it wasn't for the fact that the federal government got involved and said students need to be accommodated. Let alone employees and anyone else with a disability. You might say The ADA hasn't done any good? YES! Many people say that without the ADA people in disabilities would still be able to do everything they can with it. However, I'm sure it would not be at the level they can today.

I remember going to school 20 years and more ago how much harder it was just to get access to a textbook. I would often count on classmates to read the tape. Today in the room next door to mine 450 textbooks or more get converted to one of many different file formats for each students reading needs. This is not unusual. This is happening in all schools around the country as a matter of course. Maybe students would've had access to textbooks without the ADA but with the ADA these textbooks can be accessible.

My whole life I considered myself a Canadian liberal. When I moved to the US I had to change my stance a little. Now I call myself a socialist but still very much a liberal. There's nothing wrong with the government getting involved with situations that can just be when someone's prejudice or someone's budget could limit anyone from receiving services for access to the same things that others can Use. When it comes to healthcare why not get the government involved. What's wrong with a person sick going to the hospital and receiving the services they need. If you're the kind of person that's very susceptible to flu why should you have to wait in line paying and paying again for flu shots? Why shouldn’t that is provided as part of standard health care benefits. If Donald Trump and Bill Gates get a flu shot why shouldn't any child in your local slum or the mother of the child or the father or the teacher or the classmates of that child also get a flu shot. Sometimes my idealistic dreams say that if we all got the healthcare we needed the diseases that we fight today might disappear. A little hygiene and a lot of care and prevention can go an awful long way.

Politicians that tell you the government needs to stay out of people's day-to-day lives in disabilities and health care no nothing. They have never had to suffer the indignities of crawling up a flight of stairs to go to a job interview or watch a child suffering from the disease that you can't afford the medicine for. I say if the government doesn't get involved who will ?why not after all we do pay taxes and the last time I checked I was opposed to weapons of war but I paid for those two.

Monday, April 19, 2010

It's All a Matter of Perspective

Being blind can lead to very humorous situations. These situations can go two different ways sometimes for the same person. You can either take offense at what happened and be offended or angered by your existence as a person with a disability or find the humor that really exists in the situation. This entry will detail some of these humorous situations.

Yesterday I was at the grocery store with my husband. We had forgotten an item so as I waited in line he ran off to pick up the last thing. This often is very awkward because it's hard for me to tell where the cart in front of me is, first not to hit it and secondly to make sure no one sneaks in. This tale however tells of a goof up I made. I was standing at the front of the cart and had already spoken to the man pushing the cart in front so I had already gotten over that part of the awkwardness. While I was standing there I noticed a bunch of flowers brushing my arm. I thought "it's been a while since we've had flowers" so I thought I would check them out. I picked up a bunch and smell them and made a face. They were awful smelling flowers. Bitter and fertilizer like. I put them down again and look to see if there were any other bunches. So I felt around and I found paper towels, box of pens, something soft and squishy, and unverifiable box. That's when I realized this was not an impulse buy cart but a customer's cart I quickly stepped back in embarrassment. Strangely enough no one ever said anything. There I was standing in the grocery store checking out someone else's groceries and they're too embarrassed to say anything. Looking back on this I found it extremely amusing.

Later on a friend of ours came over for dinner. And I recounted the story to him. We then proceeded to laugh about the following stories. We've been friends for many years and many times he claims to forget that I'm blind. I find this one of the biggest compliments people can give me. This means that our relationship is not model or guided or interfered with by my blindness. His personality has always been very genuine honest and humor filled. I remember the first night we met he joined some other friends of ours and came over for Sunday night dinner. We found a great deal on scallops and prepared them with bacon . This was only the second or third time we had done this so we weren't quite sure how long to cook them for. This was a big treat for all of us. Our other friends who had brought him with them were appalled when after taking his first bite he said, “I think you might have cooked them too long.” Since Mike's back was turned he didn’t see their expressions. Instead he took a bite and promptly agreed. He was right and they were probably a little overdone. Our two friends however just couldn't believe that he had been so forthright to tell us. Where as Mike and I agreed with them and fix the next batch. This was a start to a good friendship

A year or two later I experimented at bringing together a variety of groups of my friends for a poker party. As John sat down at the table and picked up the deck of cards he turned to everyone and said they wait a minute these cards are marked. Our other friend was there again and was absolutely appalled. He could not believe that John had made fun of the Braille on the cards. The general response from the blind people around the table was "and that's why I'm going to win and you're not". John tends to relax around our blind friends the way we all want him to. He has no problem telling someone who's totally blind to move away from the TV or they'll wreck their eyes. That's just what his mother said to him and it becomes a even funnier when he says it to a blind person.

One other memory was wonderful. It was Thanksgiving dinner and we had all finished eating too much turkey like usual. One of the other couples that were there was a blind woman with her sighted husband. We all know each other quite well. Everyone knew who was blind and who wasn't and if a blind person in the group had prosthetics or not. We are a very close group of friends. One of the women with prosthetics was having a little problems with a possible eye infection. She asked the spouse of the other friend if he could look into her eyes and see how it looked. He very seriously walked over to her tilted her head up and down asked her to open and close her eye. He then proceeded to say it looks a little glassy, completely forgetting about the prosthetics. This caused the rest of us in the room to begin laughing . He had no idea what was so funny. As a kind individual he just tried to use a descriptor and had momentarily forgot that she had glass eyes.

If you search hard enough on the Internet you will find many funny stories about blindness. My favorite is one called Over There. This short essay talks about the many times the blind person gets sent to "over there" and how as blind people we've never been over there. When interacting with the able-bodied world we always use the same language. We are brought up using it we understand it is part of our culture. When a sighted person first approaches a blind person the awkwardness and discomfort tend to lead to weird situations. People are so used to pointing saying and look out. The tax themselves thinking that phrases such as this will offend us. We however don't even notice until they become awkward. Yes sometimes you'll find a blind person who doesn't like to be told to look out but sometimes you will find a sighted person who reacts the exact same way. Don't be ashamed of your language unless your language indicates that you are truly frightened and made uncomfortable by something that is perfectly normal. And just remember- your perception builds up your world.

Friday, April 9, 2010

now for another kind of access

As a blind person I am extremely reliant on public transit. At least until 2018 or so when self driving cars hit the market. Being so reliant makes me vulnerable to the lack of responsibility and access in public systems. The other day I left work somewhat later than usual. It was about 5:30 or so on Wednesday. I got on the bus at my usual stop and told the driver where I wanted off. The driver confirmed by repeating the name of the street. I said thank you and sat down. The driver did yell at me at this point because I was looking for my seat and blocking the aisle. I don't understand why AC transit is not like other transit agencies that post signs and keeps seats near the front of the vehicle available for disabled and elderly passengers. Every other transit system I have written on follows these rules. The Bay Area rapid transit San Francisco Muni system and sam trans in the South Bay. Even in other states I've always found that the seats are made available and Free. Back in Canada there are also signs posting what the penalty is if passengers don't yield the seats. But Alameda County and Contra Costa County transit does not follow this federal law. So instead I have to fend for myself and if I block the I'll it’s also my fault. This transit agency after promising it for many years added automatic stop announcements last year. Interestingly enough the announcements that they added only meet the minimum requirements. This means that only key stops get announced. The bus route I take has interesting choices for the key stops. So for example, the first two stops are announced and then there is a long stretch of road with about eight or nine stops in a straight line with each other they do not get announced. It's very easy to count turns and changes in direction but when all the stops are in a straight line and if the driver doesn't stop at each one there's no way to know where you are. Then there's a very significant turn that can be identified with two stops right after it being announced. Up until December there were then four more stops straight downhill that were not announced. In December I was able to request a change. my personal stop was added. My stop was the last one along one of the straight-aways before the next announcement. If I missed my stop then I would be dropped off four or five blocks downhill below where I should be. I understand that the law says only key stops must be announced but really knowing where you are relies on a lot more help than that. So to finish my story the ride went pretty much without incident until, my stop announcement was made. As I heard someone else pull the bell I stood up immediately and waited at the front door for my stop. I felt the bus stop at the stop sign and then keep on going right past my stop. As the bus accelerated past my stop I asked why he was not stopping at my street. He said no one pulled the bell so he didn't have to stop I was certain I had heard the bell. I also explained that I had told him where my stop was when I got on. He said "I don't care you need to pull the bell and that's all there is to it everyone tells me what stop they need and I can't be expected to remember any of them." Every time I have ridden the bus when the bell is pulled OR someone is standing at the front door the driver stops at the next stop. Also drivers always ask me where I'm going so that they can help me remember where to get off. Most drivers actually care that a blind person gets off at the right stop. Being told by a driver that he doesn't care and that it doesn't matter what I tell him infuriates me to no end. I'd like to think that I am usually polite but people like him make me want to scream. Even just writing this has got me angry again.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Going viral

Now I'm home once again I started to look up who was commenting about the project. It's almost impossible to count them all. Everyone seems to enjoy and have fun with the idea. The SeeingY seems to get a life of its own. The Tweets the bloggers and anyone that knew about it all had a good laugh. I'd like to think Yahoo for letting me participate in this project. I've made so many more new friends that are important to me. This would not have worked without the support of the entire Yahoo accessibility team. Alan and Victor I appreciate all your support at the show. However the biggest heartfelt warm thanks goes to Ted I wish you were there having fun with the rest of us. I really appreciate all your hard work on the backend taking linking an all-around cleaning up made the project. Next time I hope you will be able to have as much fun as the rest of us. I'd like to encourage anyone out there to comment or tag any of the pictures that you recognize. This can only work if everyone else.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

CSUN last day

It’s over and I am worn out. I just turned in yesterday . so here is the last days report. View plus has a new spot dot. However this is a mammoth. It stands almost three feet high and two feet long. The only way I could describe it is to think of two small file cabinets side by side. The one in the back houses the paper and print mechanism. Then the front one is wear the Braille is produced. This is a very fast unit and can Braille both sides large format paper. I forget how fast she said it works but it seems to do a good job. This will never be a embosser most of us will ever want. A large production house might be able to keep it busy enough to make it worth wile. I wonder how many production houses there are any way.

I then took a quick trip over to APH . at long last there is a new book port. Although many of you will have a hard time recognizing it as a book port. This new model is a plex talk pocket that has different firm ware on it. The differences are all in the user interface and the navigation.

More familiar but smaller was the Envision America new id mate. To my frustration it’s much more of what I would want then the one I got only a few months ago. The summit as they call it is less than half as big as the Omni and works much faster. The software lets you change the settings without having to re write the files on your computer. in long descriptions you can fast forward and rewind the message. I asked for the next version to add a pause as well. I like to find some of the things in a recipe and then here the rest so that would help more.

My last two stops for the day were side by side just to make things easier. Perkins and Olympus. Perkins has there newer Brailler. I really wish that the old design was kept. As I was speaking to the woman a little boy came up and started to play with the unit. The lady proceeded to show him how to really use the unit. This little boy had used a Brailler in school and was only using it the way he knew how. This new unit takes a little more dexterity just to move the carriage back you must push down a button and squeeze a button and move all at the same time. It requires you to reach over the unit to do this. I had a bit of trouble doing this what about a person with soar hands or bad dexterity. I liked the old one better. The little boy was banging on the unit and after all if the unit can’t take a banging how would it hold up too Daly use in the life of a student. I will keep my old one thanks.

Olympus has a new voice recorder that is there most accessible one yet. Keep an eye out for it this summer. I praise them for making a player that we all can use. They have a good effort round of applause from me.
Victor and I then met and I handed off the pecan cam as it was time to go home. We spoke about what our next steps would be and you will just have to wait to see the next round. This was a lot of fun and I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did

Many people had travel problems as there was a water main break that shut the airport access off so I hope all of you that were at CSUN made it home safely. I would like to thank the hotel staff for there exhalent service. The staff all seemed to know just what to do and did not try to be over helpful. It’s nice to not be dragged here and there before you can say no. this is a massive hotel and it will be hard to learn it. I definitely found myself walking in circles in some of the wide open spaces. Next year CSUN let the hotel keep the chairs, tables and plants in the upper halls. They will provide land marks and places to have a short meeting or just rest from the excitement. See all of you at CSUN next year.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Csun day 3

CSUN 2010 day 4
Hello: today I saw a lot of fun things. I looked at a few aac booths and played with a new toy and went to a party.
There are a lot of venders selling augmentative devices here this year. It seems like when I walk through the door of the hall the first 5 or more booths are aac. I hope to have a few of them come up to cal and work with a few students that need new systems.
I went to a presentation on an RFID indoor navigation system this was a project at the Atlanta va hospital. They had a floor that was first designed with RFID for a cleaning robot. The robot would use the tags to make sure it cleaned the hole floor. This expanded in to a system that would tell a blind cane user wear they were in the building as there cane touched a tag. The reader is in the handle of the cane.
Then I went to the presentation about oratio for black Barry. This seems to have come a long way. The product first announced at CSUN last year is now out and shipping. I really like this and I respect the vender for being open with the audience. He came out and said clearly and without being asked if you asked me if we were better then talks or mobile speak I would tell you they have been around for ten years now and we are only new we might not be as clean or polished as them but we will get there fast.

The thing I thought was the best for today was the pearl from freedom scientific. It scanned and started reading faster than I have ever seen a ocr package work before. It started talking before I pulled my hand back. It was very small and I think it with a net book would rock. Dusty the product manager said he won’t ship it until its faster yet. Not a phone like the knfb reader but for a student more effective I think.

Well I am dropping on my feet here and I want to sleep. So no more for today. Next week I will do some clean up of these posts and see about adding links or more but not for now Lucy. . as fast as we can.

Lots more booths today and many more of the same ones I saw yesterday I am getting way to lost in the hall I keep going back to the same places. I saw ginger soft and tack tiles and a lot of cctvs. So many I thing I saw them over and over again. My favorite thing I saw today was the freedom scientific purl. It’s a new camera that will work with open book it was really fast. Dusty the product manager said he won’t release it un till its twice as fast as it already is. It took almost no time to scan and start reading a page. I could barely pull my hand back from pushing space before it would start reading.

day 2 CSUN 2010

Today I spent the day going around the exhibit hall. I cannot tell you how hard it is to be asking every two feet or so what booth is this.

The most outstanding thing I saw today was a product call Braille 2000. This software lets non Braille users format and transcribe brail. This sounds like a interesting tool for collaboration between Braille and non Braille users. I will down load a copy and play a little with it when I get home.
I sure like the nip on Braille displays. They have a new blue tooth model that will sell for a good price. I asked them to give me an approximate price and they said not definite but it would sell for less than 500 then the current low price on the market. It’s a very simple display so if you want a keyboard entry system it does not have it and the only thing it has is brailed with a single row of cursor keys. Simple Braille out and nothing fancy but , it does the job.
Well it’s getting late and I will check back in tomorrow got to sleep some time or pecan will wear me out smile

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

day one of CSUN 2010

Well today was more of a testing day then a reel working day. I met with the yahoo group at 10:30 this morning and they handed over the pecan cam, as everyone is calling it. We had a little trouble getting it to stay in place and I am still fighting it a bit but I hope to win this one by tomorrow after noon.
The reel problem is that if I stop moving the cam goes to sleep and the whole thing does not come back like it should. We have sent e-mail to the software vender and to nnokia to see if anyone can help us stop this from happening. I will update you all tomorrow about how that goes. Everyone here loves the idea and I am starting to set up a few interviews to post when I get home or before if I get the chance. People here are having a lot of fun and really want the project to work every one wants a chance to be on the pecan cam.

Now for my basic brake down of the day.
As much of the day was spent fixing the cam I needed to step in and out of meetings. However I saw a good presentation from a Dublin university professor and grad student. They were working on a mechanism to standardize tactile graphics and there elements. The goal of their project as I understood it was having a repository that people could contribute graphics to and others could ad audio labels to and yet others could sync both and so on down the chain. This looked interesting and I will keep a better eye on it in the future. I think they had some good ideas and I liked the open mottle they were using.
Next I when to a presentation from adobe and was frustrated to see them speak about digital additions and speak frankly about how in accessible they were. I was called away before the speaker got to the answers part of the presentation. I will check in with him again to get more information. At least they are saying that they know the problem, now let’s give them a chance to fix it.
Another interesting presentation was on audio menus. I loved this presenter he really put venders in their place he did not hold back and told it the way he saw it. He has been researching different ways to present menus quickly and effectively audibly. He spoke about spear cons and audio cons and ways to use pitch and volume to get information about the menus. Check out his work at the link on the stream.

At 4 today the exhibit hall opened and the reel fun began. I was able to get a few good views for all of you. We will get much more tomorrow. Whenever we could we linked to the exhibiter I was speaking with was added. If any of you want to add more please do so thanks. Hope some of you had fun watching today.
Well the last fun thing for the day was gw micro had an announcement party and they showed a new book sense with a screen witch I will try and get one for the lab and a new voice sense as well. Gw also announced the changes to the UI of window-eyes. The new interface will be a single dialog and you will be able to make configuration changes more quickly and all at once. Sounds good I always like being able to do things faster.
Time for bed, as tomorrow looks like it will be even fuller. I hope to make the gnome presentation and a presentation about eBooks. So let’s see how that goes.
Pecan is waiting on dinner so got to run

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Non-CSUN Tech

I am almost ready to leave for CSUN. I was doing one last check of my mail and was pleased to see all the responses. This is going to be very exciting and we will all benefit from the experience. If the advertising mail I am getting is any indication, there will be many iPhones at the show.

I thought I would take this last post before leaving to talk about one of the truly exciting things in my life. My husband Mike is working on the most exciting project/product in my world. For the past year, Mike has been working on an autonomous car. In his role as an advance development engineer for Sun Microsystems and now Oracle, Mike helps projects get off the ground. For this particular project, he is consulting for Volkswagen & Stanford. This collaboration includes many different Silicon Valley companies. Mike's part in the project will bring real-time Java into the car. He has written the hardware drivers that will allow for fewer computers to do many more jobs in the vehicle. Yesterday he said his software is now installed in the car and has already removed two computers.

For me, this project is extremely personal. My only real frustration and regret about being blind is transportation. Each day he works on the car it brings me one step closer to complete independence and autonomy. Mike and I have a long time understanding: when the first autonomous car is available our cashier’s check will already be printed and my name will be on the registration papers. Two years ago, I had my first opportunity to ride in an autonomous car. Tommy, one of the 2007 DARPA urban challenge finalists, was brought in for JavaOne. The Saturday before the conference, several staff and family were given an opportunity to ride through three Sun parking lots in the car. I cannot describe how exciting this was my first taste of freedom. It was a somewhat overcast day, which did not bode well for Tommy's GPS guidance. The first person to get a ride was one of the Sun VPs. The car gracefully pulled away from the meeting area and did a beautiful job following its course. Just as the car was returning to the group of excited watchers, it missed the last turn and drove up on a curb. No damage was done and people were still clamoring to be next. Very shortly after this, it was my turn. Mike and I climbed into the back behind one of the chief engineers who was sitting in the passenger seat. If you did not know better you'd think you were in England. But the steering wheel was on the left side of the car where it should be. It was a very short ride but one of the most exciting of my life. There was a point when we were under heavy tree cover that we needed to intervene. However, this was still a prototype 10 years before predictions say a autonomous cars will be commercially available. I could feel the tentativeness of the car as it moved its way through the course. I never felt that there was a problem. Even when we got under the trees, the car just stopped. Trust me- riding with a person is much more dangerous than that. I've been in cars where the driver scared the daylights out of me with their poor driving. Tommy was just young and maybe a little cautious.

The car Mike is currently working on, Shelley, is destined to climb Pike's Peak in the summer of 2011. She will travel at a constant speed of 130 mph. You can see a promotional video that Volkswagen made on youTube here: Stanford Audi Autonomous Vehicle.

The goal of the project is to examine how an autonomous car can maintain control past the limits of traction. This test may not be something a car ever has to do but the next time you slip on black ice you will appreciate the research and how far it is going. In the next two months or so, Shelley will have her first public tests. I hope to be there to cheer her on.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Follow the Flickr Photo Stream!

Just a quick note to pass along the link to the CSUN photo stream. The stream will be taken from my guide dog's harness handle.
I will do my best to make sure you have some great shots to tag.
The Flickr stream is sponsored by the Yahoo accessibility lab.
My guide dog Pecan is a six year-old yellow lab from Guide Dogs for the Blind. She has been guiding me for over four and a half years now. She is a small dog and she fits anywhere. This may mean that some pictures will turn out rather strange. It's all for fun. Any tags you can add to the stream will help any followers that are blind. Remember: this is a collaborative project so your comments are always welcome.

What Do You Want?

While preparing for my trip to CSUN I started thinking about what people might want to read on this blog. After going back-and-forth, I decided the only way for me to know is to ask all of you. Here goes. My interest for this year is Internet access. I plan on going to as many of the web accessibility sessions as I can. If anyone has a question about web accessibility please make a comment or e-mail me and if I do not know the answer, I will ask the experts.

Every year I go to a conference I am always looking for a new Braille display. Maybe this year all find the right one. Is there any device or types of devices that you would like me to look for, or is there an item that you want me to look up?

I want to keep this fun but also informative. Who knows: I may even interview one or two vendors and put the recording up for you all to hear. Well back to my packing in more tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

When We have access to it we like it

This week the Paralympics are on'm enjoying it quite a bit. This website has all the games they will even show you some live. I am finding it interesting for me as a former Paralympic.
Athlete to watch how much the Paralympics has caught on. The first day of wheelchair curling had an extremely full house. Who would have thought any form of curling could draw such crowds. Downhill skiing with all the different classifications was also very fun. I am looking forward to some of the later games in hockey as I understand they get very aggressive. I wonder if sledge hockey fights?

Monday, March 15, 2010

When it works it works well

Technology for me means many different things. However the more I use it the more I realize how flawed it could be. For example when I first started to write this entry I couldn't for the life of me get my speech recognition to work. All I did was close the program and reopen it and all of a sudden even the stuff I say a little rough comes through beautifully. Sometimes I wish that I just didn't use as much of this technology is ideal. It's frustrating when you know how well it can work and all of a sudden it stopped working. 95% of the time Dragon NaturallySpeaking works so well for me that I don't even have to think about or struggle with my writing. Other times like I just spoke about I wonder why I ever started using it.

Everywhere I go today some form of technology needs to be used. A machine to buy a ticket for a train of thought and to push for an elevator or the little pad the waitress carries that wirelessly sends your order to the kitchen. I am a long-time reader of science fiction enough to know that many of the things science fiction predicts may never come true. However more and more of them do every day. For me I consider this to be one of the most exciting times to be alive. At the same time I still think that I don't belong here in any way. As a blind person all these wonderful new technologies inevitably have the kicker. That little thing called called site means most of these new inventions won't work out of the box for me. Just a year ago I remember going out to hunt for a new stove for our kitchen. Even a simple gas stove with only one feature take your temperature had a digital display and non-tactile buttons. What on earth were they thinking what was wrong with the old dials that you could turn to a certain point and it would always be 350°. Instead even the still has a computer and an accessible computer at that. After all if they didn't have these computers manufacturing of stoves has come so far that if they made in the same way they used to improving on the original design they might never break we all know that things that never break yet exist otherwise the market for new items would disappear. Maybe I'm just a little bitter but all I really want is a computer that works consistently and is still that I can always be assured me my bread and roasted my chicken.