Wednesday, April 30, 2008

ESPN The Magazine article examines prosthetics and athletics

It had to happen.

With the continuing evolution of the quality and durability of prosthetics, and the on-going understanding and improvements of bionics, these facets of disability would come to impact the domain of competitive athletics. Has it come down to the point where an athlete with a disability is seen as actually having an unfair advantage over his non-disabled competitors?

The current edition of
ESPN The Magazine
Has an article examining this very topic. ESPN thought it was important enough to deserve the front cover, so I believe it merits attention here as well.

That article includes photos and presents a good, thorough discussion about the pending battles in athletics. These battles are for meetings among the ruling athletic authorities, and the outcomes won't all be decided on the playing field.

While the tide has already begun, with the International Olympic Committee ruling against a runner who runs with prosthetic legs, saying the Cheetah Flex-Foot legs gave him an unfair advantage, there is much more to examine. In coming months and years, officials will have a lot more to consider . There are so many factors to be discussed and ruled upon on this subject. Athletic organizations, both amateur and professional will need to address this as time moves forward. Technological advances do not diminish, they only continue to improve. And, with that improvement will come more people using the enhancements to excel at their chosen sports.

The following information is from the article’s news release:

The prosthetic-enhanced athlete will be able to run faster, jump higher and pitch harder than mere mortals…this brave new world is just around the corner and the cover story for this week’s issue of ESPN The Magazine, on newsstands Wednesday, April 23. From an idea lab at MIT to a prosthetic design company in Iceland to amputees who see no limits to what their bodies can attain with prosthetics, ESPN The Magazine’s Eric Adelson, in “Let ‘em Play”, takes readers
into the lives of athletes who represent the future of sports and prosthetics, and demonstrates that new ideas and technology will change the way we think about what is possible for the human body to achieve.

“In many ways, we are facing the advent of the bionic man,” says MLS commissioner Don Garber. “It’s something that our industry has to start thinking about.”

Bioethicist Andy Miah predicts: “I suspect it will become an imperative and the responsible course of action to reinforce one’s body through prosthesis when competing at an elite level.”

This issue showcases split covers featuring Iraq War veteran Jerrod Fields of Chula Vista, Calif., who uses a leg prosthetic to play basketball, and Anthony Burruto of Orlando, Fla., whose double leg prosthetic keeps him excelling on the baseball field.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Next edition of the Assistive Technology Blog Carnival hits the web

“Ladies and Gentlemen, the barker announced in his resonant, commanding tone. “Step right up and enjoy the carnival!”

Yes, this means that the latest edition of
The Assistive Technology Blog Carnival
is now up and running.

There is a collection of twelve posts gathered there on a variety of subjects. These run from using AT to play computer games to using both audio and eTexts for accessing textbooks. There’s even a piece about a virtual world that was created for people with autism in the Second Life realm.

Go read the carnival and leave a personal favorite in the comments. Also, give some thought to becoming a member of this growing community and submitting a post for the next installment.

Some Q&A on WebAnywhere - a screen reader on the go

Last week, I read a post on
Fred’s Head Companion,
about a new and innovative screen reader being developed at the University of Washington.

After reading that, I was interested enough to visit the official
WebAnywhere – a screen reader on the go
site to learn more about this forward-looking web-based application.

Here is the initial information presented on the site:

“WebAnywhere is a web-based screen reader. It requires no special software to be installed on the client machine and, therefore, enables blind people to access the web from any computer they happen to have access to that has a sound card. No $1000 software program required!”

“WebAnywhere runs on any machine regardless of what operating system it is running and regardless of what browsers are installed. This is its advantage over existing products like SA-to-Go. “

The launch date for this ambitious project is late May, 2008. Keep watching the product’s site for the official release.

Additionally, there is a link on the home page to a Youtube video demonstrating the product in use by a blind student. Alternatively, one can also download the file and play it on your own computer.

Okay, as a screen reader user for over 10 years and having a keen interest in assistive technology, I’ll admit that after reading that on the home page and checking out the video, I was even more intrigued by the promise of what they were presenting. I had a few questions I wanted answered and emailed Jeffery Bigham, a graduate student with WebAnywhere who is listed as the project’s contact person to find some answers. Below is our dialogue.

Q: This is a web-based application that serves as a screen reader. Do I understand correctly that it is only in the web browser that this application speaks, not in any other application?
If this is true, are there plans to make it more functional in future generations, so that it might also read email in pop3 clients or documents in .doc, .pdf, or even .txt formats?

A: WebAnywhere speaks only the web, but the web is becoming a platform on which all the other applications on your desktop will be running in the coming months and years. Only having web access would not be sufficient now, but web trends indicate that it may enable access to almost everything users want to do in the near future. Currently, you can already access your email, PDF files, etc. using various available web applications.

Q: This appears to be cross platform, as I do not see a specific web browser mentioned. Is this correct, or is it maximized to work better in one browser over another?

A: Our goal is to make a screen reader available on any computer or device that would provide a sighted person web access. WebAnywhere is entirely web-based and will work on any web-enabled platform using any web browser. That means it will run on the Linux, Windows, Mac operating systems and in Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Opera, etc. And, not only on full computers, but also on mobile devices like smartphones and PDAs.

One current problem with screen readers is that they're always playing catchup. A new physical device is released and screen reader users have to wait until someone comes along to write a screen reader for that device before they can use it. With WebAnywhere, access is immediate on any web-enabled device.

Q: I assume your team is familiar with the recent announcement of the Accessibility Is a Right (AIR) Foundation, which provides the System Access To Go screen reader by Serotek free of charge to any blind computer user with a web-enabled computer. What sets your application apart from the SAToGO software?

A: The SAToGo software is a great development and for some people it may be most appropriate. But, SAToGo will only run on Windows from Internet Explorer, and SAToGo won't run on locked-down public terminals because it requires permission to run new software. SAToGo takes 3-4 minutes to download, compared to almost instantaneous loading for WebAnywhere. WebAnywhere is also open source, which means that anyone out in the community can improve it.

All of that said, in cases where users can run SAToGo in the short term it might be more appropriate for them.

Our initial goal is to provide a base level of accessibility to the web on ANY computer or device that is available. As we move forward, we'll work to improve this interface to make it even better.

Q: I don't recall reading anything regarding cost for using the WebAnywhere application. Will it be offered free to the public or will there be a cost involved?

A: The short answer is that WebAnywhere was designed from the start to be free. We've also released it with a minimally-restrictive open source license, which means that anyone that wants to use it, modify it, or host it, can do so.

But, the devil is in the details, and we're still sorting some of them out. For example, we don't yet know how we'll actually support a public version of WebAnywhere if it becomes popular. The costs of such a system are relatively low per user when compared with other systems, but, depending on how popular the service becomes, it could still require a lot of resources. This isn't to say that it's impractical - popular existing services like YouTube, MySpace, Gmail, etc. also require a lot of resources. They, however, are fortunate enough to be supported by large companies with many servers. We've been actively talking to a number of companies and organizations who have expressed interest in trying to get this off the ground. Nothing is final as of yet.

Q: Will there be any registration process?

A: Initially there will not be a registration process, but, as the system matures, we might move in that direction. Many of the components used in the system could be used for both good and bad purposes. Without a registration process, it's difficult to control which purpose are using it for. One of the traditional ways of getting past this is to use a CAPTCHA - we'll obviously not do that.
Registration also has benefits in preserving users preferences regardless of what computer they're accessing their information from.
Registration would not, however, affect the cost of the system (it would still be free), and we hope to always make some version of the system available for free.

Q: Realizing that WebAnywhere is being built with the trend towards the future use of web apps, will it work on release with any of the already available web-based apps, such as Google docs or Google Spreadsheets?

A: WebAnywhere does not yet support Google documents or Google spreadsheets, but it's definitely one of the things (among many) that we're working hard to support. One of the advantages of WebAnywhere being a web application is that in many ways it's easier for it to interact directly with other web applications.

One of the reasons why we made the project open source is to hopefully attract other developers to the project.

Q: I think the work you are doing is definitely worth sharing. I would like to publish a post about WebAnyWhere and include some information from the answers you've shared on my blog and in email correspondence with both my professional and blind peers. Would that be all right.

A: Feel free to share my responses with whoever you want. To make the project really successful, we need to get the word out and hopefully get some people to contribute to its development!

My sincere thanks to Jeff for taking the time to answer my questions, even when in the middle of a trip to China.

So, do you have any questions I haven’t covered here? In one of my next few posts, I’ll share my initial thoughts on the on the go accessibility that WebAnywhere promises to bring.

Also, please share this with anybody you know interested in assistive technology in general, or screen readers specifically.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Freedom Scientific updates thumb drive version to JAWS 9.0

Freedom Scientific has finally updated the portability of JAWS. Yes, I’m talking about the USB thumb drive version that allows blind users to run JAWS on any computer that has the video intercept file installed. I loved it when they originally released this, but that was JFW version 7.0, and the computer world has evolved a good bit since then.

First, JAWS itself has evolved two full upgrades since then, and there is now even an update for JFW 9 toJFW 9.0.2152. Also, since that first portable version of JAWS, Internet Explorer 7 launched with lots of new features, and Microsoft launched the Windows Vista operating system.

For my own use, I still use Windows XP and have come to love the tab browsing features of Internet Explorer 7, but when on a public computer with IE 7, the portable version of JFW 7 doesn’t work with the tab browsing. Now, that’s all about to change.

If you would like to download the portable version of JFW 9, and the necessary video intercept file, you can find that information, as well as the latest improvements in JFW on the following link.

Freedom Scientific also offers the following notes on the USB thumb drives:

The JAWS 9.0 and MAGic 11.0 thumb drive releases run on Windows Vista, Windows XP, and Windows 2000. However, when using the thumb drive version on a Windows Vista computer, keep the following in mind.

It is recommended that you disable User Account Control (UAC) by opening the Control Panel and selecting User Accounts. The thumb drive version works when UAC is enabled, but speech and tracking are limited for elevated programs.

The Microsoft Ease of Access Center loads when you start the thumb drive release on a Windows Vista computer. Once JAWS or MAGic loads you can close the Ease of Access Center window by clicking the Close button or pressing ALT+F4.

Disability 411 podcast is back with new episode

One of my favorite disability service professionals is back in her podcast groove.

Beth Case, of the
Disability 411 podcast
Recently surfaced with her latest D411 episode.

There was a hiatus for a while, but if you’ve unsubscribed or quit checking for a new episode, go back and grab it. There is no guest, just Beth updating her listeners of what is going on.

If you’ve not heard her podcasts before, check her out. Beth is a sign language interpreter, as well as a long-time provider of disability services and has been active in the professional DS field in many capacities.

I understand that it isn't what puts money in the bank, but I'm sure glad to see D411 back up and running, Beth.

Are we all Web 2.0 crazy?: A blog that is more than it appears

I’ve found another good blog to share with you. This blog's author's name will be familiar if you've read recent comments left back and forth between Ruth and myself.

While it is relatively new and the blog’s title does not indicate that it deals with assistive technology, don’t let it fool you.
Are we all Web 2.0 crazy?
Has recently Jumped feet first into the quest for web accessibility.

Ruth is a librarian at Oxford University…yes, that Oxford…and works with students with disabilities. She has a keen interest in assistive technology and web accessibility. Though sighted, she has recently tackled a few well-known web pages with JAWS to see just how accessible they are with a screen reader.

Check out Ruth’s blog and share feedback on her findings. If you’ve got a site that you’d like Ruth to check out, drop her a comment. I’m sure she’d love to hear from you.

While this blog may be new, I find Ruth’s insightful writing fresh and interesting. I’ve got her in my personal RSS feeds so I can keep up with her writing. You can also find her blog on my blogroll on the side.

Monday, April 21, 2008

ComputerWorld article examines issues that are 'maddening' for blind users

In my news alerts last week, my patience was tested after I saw a link to a ComputerWorld article about assistive technology that sounded like it would be something I would be strongly interested in, but the link in that Google email alert would not load the page. I knew the title and source site of the article, so I attempted several different methods to pull up the page, but none worked. Feeling frustrated would have been an understatement in describing how I felt. They say patience is a virtue, but I wasn’t feeling too virtuous after not being able to read the article.

Finally, over the weekend, I saw that one of my favorite assistive technology blogs,
The Ranger Station
Had the article with a link that actually worked. Hurrah!

After reading this article,
Blind users still struggle with ‘maddening’ computer obstacles,
I realized just how interested in this article I really was. It was definitely worth the time and patience to finally get to read this well written and researched article.

Though it is a bit long, it is a fairly thorough overview of the blind computing experience. The authour has done a good bit of homework, citing several recognized and respected names in the assistive technology realm. It touches on each of the primary issues of concern for most, if not all blind computer users. It begins with an overview of how blind computer users go about navigating the screen, but then delves into problematic issues such as evolving operating systems, inaccessible “inhouse applications” which can cause an employment roadblock, web content, and that blasted, inaccessible CAPTCHA problem which continues to linger. The article even touches on smart phones and the inaccessibility of touchscreens on devices such as the iPhone.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Chicago Lighthouse provides blind people toll-free tech support

This is definitely a service worth noting.

Any blind person in the U.S. needing assistive technology help can call the toll-free Chicago Lighthouse assistive technology support line at 1 (888) 825-0080. This is for tech support regarding any software or hardware issues regarding assistive technology, just as long as the person is visually impaired. They also encourage those who work with visually impaired people, such as employers, teachers, and counselors, to also contact them.

For providing this useful piece of news.

* * * * * *

Contact: Dominic Calabrese 312/997-3662

Chicago Lighthouse Assistive Technology Computer HelpDesk Hopes to Expand Service

CHICAGO - In an ongoing effort to accommodate people across the country who are visually impaired and in need of technical support, The Chicago Lighthouse hopes to expand its toll-free telephone assistive technology support line.

Since it was developed in 2006, the service has accommodated over 1,500 requests for assistance from individuals in 48 states, Canada, China and South Africa. Servicing the calls is Ray Campbell, a former engineer with Lucent Technologies who now works in the Lighthouse's Adaptive Technology program.

"I've taken requests from Delta Junction, Alaska to Pilots Knob, Missouri; from Bird Island, Minnesota to Sasketoon, Saskatchewan, Canada; and from Lanzhou, Cansu, China to Somerset West, South Africa," Campbell notes.

"Our intent is to offer a one stop place where people who are blind or visually impaired can get the assistance that they need," he says. Campbell points out that he is able to listen to what JAWS or WindowEyes is saying and walk the caller him right through their problem.

"I've assisted people with everything from installing Antivirus software to helping someone navigate the site using JAWS to assisting organizations with designing an accessible website to showing someone how to find Game Day Audio on the Major League Baseball website, to assisting someone in accessing his credit card statement on-line," he continues.

Campbell's assistance has been well received across the country.

"I've got one gentleman in South Carolina that calls me two to four times a week to ask for my help," he says. One lady Campbell assisted in San Francisco wrote a letter thanking the Lighthouse for offering the HelpDesk service and praising Campbell for his assistance. "People contact me as they value my opinions on what technology they should buy, and while that's a bit scary it also feels very good," he smiles.

Campbell adds that if he can't resolve the issue over the phone or through e-mail, he will schedule an on-site visit as long as the customer resides in the Chicago metropolitan area. The program was made possible when the Lighthouse successfully matched a $41,000 grant from The Boeing Company.

"We're tremendously grateful to Boeing for their support and we intend to use the support line in strengthening our level of customer service and showcasing the Lighthouse as a national leader in adaptive technology," says William Bielawski, program manager for adaptive technology and office skills training at the Lighthouse.

Bielawski notes that any blind or visually impaired person could contact the support line regardless of what product they're using. "It can be any hardware or software relating to assistive technology as long as the customer is visually impaired," he says. Bielawski encourages calls from employers, counselors, teachers and other individuals who work with people who are visually impaired. "We're excited to have an opportunity to make it easier for people with visual impairments to take advantage of the many technological advancements that are now more readily available."

The Chicago Lighthouse is one of the nation's most comprehensive social service agencies. Housed under its roof are the nation's oldest low vision clinic; one of the few remaining clock manufacturing facilities in the U.S.; a nationally acclaimed school for children who are blind with multi-disabilities; a VA program serving veterans in all 50 states; and a radio station. The agency provided education, referral and direct services to more than 70,000 people in fiscal year 2007.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

No Limits to Life blog and Assistive Technology carnival

Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later.

I guess it can be called information overload. I get a little overwhelmed, read a good number of some good articles and posts and, with all good intentions, bookmark them to come back later and write about them. Then, sometimes, things happen in my non-blog life, distracting me and I get a little slow in getting the post written.

This time, my hesitation has led to me being trumped.

For over a week now, I’ve had Lon Thornburg’s
No Limits to Life
Blog bookmarked, planning to write a post here about this smartly written assistive technology resource.

After leaving a comment on one of Lon’s posts last week, he checked out Access Ability and has written a very complimentary post about my humble blog. Thanks, Lon. (He also sent me an equally complimentary email about Access Ability.)

Despite looking like a tit for tat exchange, I’m still going to rave about No Limits to Life, though. This is one of the most intelligent and realistic perspectives I’ve seen presented on using assistive technology. I feel this is a great sister site that anybody who reads Access Ability would find of interest. The issues and concerns shared on it are timely and of interest to those in the postsecondary disability services field, as well as anybody with an interest in disabilities and assistive technology.

As an extra topping on this sweet dessert, Lon has also begun the
Assistive Technology Carnival.
If you’re wanting to familiarize yourself with the carnival style presentation of ideas, do check out this site.

The way the carnival works is that different bloggers write posts related to the proposed theme by the deadline and the host site writes a brief piece, linking to each of them. Last month’s theme on the initial round was “How you use assistive technology.” I had just read that round of the carnival when the deadline had passed, so I missed out on that one.

This month’s theme is “My favorite post” and the only restriction is that it must be related to assistive technology. The deadline for inclusion is Friday, April 25, 2008.

Like the blog says, “Any level of user is welcome. This is not just for experts.” So, if you are so inclined, submit your favorite blog post (or link to it)by email to

Alternatively, you can also submit your post directly to the blog carnival site at

I’ve also added both the No Limits to Life blog and the AT Carnival blog on my blogroll for future reference.

I’ll see you at the carnival!

Monday, April 07, 2008 offers potential for free, portable OCR

I’m not certain how well this would work, but there is a web-based application that may provide the same functionality to blind people that the KNFB Reader Mobile provides. And, if it works like it supposed to, portable optical character recognition (OCR) can be had for free!

Is an innovative tool that allows a person to take a picture with their cell phone camera, send it to ScanR, and, within seconds, receive an email with an attached pdf document with OCR performed on the image. (ScanR uses the ABBYY OCR software, so if you’re familiar with that OCR engine, then you have an idea on what to expect as far as the quality of the OCR work.)

Because this service employs some of the common tools available on today’s smart phones, which are a requirement to run either of the commercially available mobile screen readers, this seems like an ideal fit for blind people who use these phones. It employs digital photography, email, and the reading of PDF documents. is a subscription service, but does have a limited free service, allowing a user to submit five images a month at no cost. Free documents are returned with the ScanR logo on them. The logo is removed when subscribing to the subscription program. After all, while the fee costs money, it is still very reasonable-- only $3 per month or $30 a year.

I’m interested to know how well this works for blind people. Perhaps it would be the ideal solution for a restaurant menu, or a handout at a meeting. Being that I don’t have a data plan with my mobile phone service, I’m not in a position to personally try this. If you or somebody you know does and you’re willing to try this, I’d love to know how well the service works. If so, please leave a comment.

If it works as well as it is presented, when compared to the cost of the latest model of the KNFB Reader on a Nokia N95, with its $2000+ price tag, the fee-based ScanR offers a significant value.

Additional reading:
I originally learned about this service through an article in the
New York Times.
There are also a couple of good write-ups from last year in the
Wall Street Journal

Friday, April 04, 2008

Accessible PDF Reader from Claro

The following appeared on the
Fred’s Head Companion
Blog. I found the post enlightening and useful and am offering it here for your information.

PDF files are great for printing but they can be really difficult to use if you want them read out to you or you want to change the colours and fonts used.

People who have low vision or dyslexia find it easier to work with text when it is spoken aloud or has different colours or contrast. Accessible PDF is
a free program from Claro Software that lets you read PDFs with the colours and fonts you want and makes it easy to read the text aloud with other programs such as
. You can zoom in and out, use high- or low-contrast colours, and save your PDF as text or a web page for future use. You can even follow internal contents links to let you navigate the document.

Click this link to download Accessible PDF Reader from Claro.

Cell phone application has potential for being useful tool for blind diabetics

Its been interesting to watch cell phones evolve into the mini computers that they have become. Today’s mobile phones are running more and more computer applications and letting their users do computing tasks without the computer.

There is a story in today’s Houston Chronicle reporting on how
more people are using their phones for data services.
(The Chronicle maintains its links for only a limited time, so I apologize if too many days have lapsed and this link no longer works.)

One particularly nifty tool, which I learned about in this article, is a glucometer application. As blindness is one of the serious side effects that can stem from diabetes, I’m wondering if this application would work with a cell phone screen reader such as Talks or Mobile Speak? If so, this nifty and useful gadget can allow all diabetics the freedom to travel with one less piece of equipment.

From the article:
“Through his Wellness Wireless company, the CEO and president of Diabetes Centers of America has embedded a glucometer into a cell phone so diabetics can automatically track their blood sugar when they check it. The data also gets shared with nurses back at the office. If blood sugar is especially high, a patient will get a message from a nurse asking whether he feels OK. If he says no, the nurse will call him with instructions. They might even have a video conversation.”

“Wellness Wireless also offers a health-based application for nondiabetics that uses other metrics such as blood pressure, height, weight, age and gender. The health information is used to recommend exercise plans and meals, and companies including NutriSystem and Whole Foods pay to suggest recipes and shopping lists.”

While it doesn’t appear to be initially constructed as assistive technology, if this glucometer works with the screen readers as I suggest, then it would definitely become just that. It would allow blind diabetics the same information that they currently get from their specialized talking glucometers. And, with the connectivity with the nurses that the program provides, that makes it even more useful than the glucometer.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Accessibility Resources: A rich site for web and software developers, as well as users of assistive technology

While researching some accessibility issues this morning, I came across a rich web site with an abundance of worthwhile links regarding computer and software accessibility. The great news is that it is a global perspective, with information being provided by not only sites in the U.S., but from several companies in Europe as well as Australia.

Accessibility Resources
Is the simple, but succinct, name of the site. It is subtitled the HCI Webliography and offers more than 200 links regarding an assortment of accessibility matters.

The offered links are categorized into the following headings : first choice, companies, discussion, guidelines, organizations, papers, resources, and tools.

There will be some familiar names for those who live or work in the field of assistive technology, but there are many other useful resources offered whose names you’re probably not familiar with. Take some time and look over the site. There are items offered on the expected ADA, Section 508, and W3C concerns, but there are also some you might not expect. It is encouraging to see that the compendium includes links on making Apple, Ajax, and Adobe’s Acrobat and Flash products accessible.

If you’re like me, you’ll bookmark this page and return here for further reading. There is just a whole boatload of information here.

Note: I went through some of the linked web sites to peruse their information and found almost all of them interesting and useful. However, one of the offered resources links is a link to the site for I opened the site and it was a shocker for me. The page presents fine, but then there are a whole bunch of unrelated, adult-themed links at the end of the body of the page. The titles of the links contain filthy language I wouldn’t want my child to read. If presenting a business as a legitimate one, there should be no presentation of this type of language. I have written the editor of the Accessibility Resources page and informed him of this.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Premiere Assistive Technology becomes Premiere Literacy

There is a new press release , announcing the name change for Premiere Assistive Technology, Inc., in which the new name will be more reflective of the role this strategic assistive technology company excels at.

The new name of the company is
Premiere Literacy.

If you’re already familiar with this company, then you know that they develop assistive hardware and software solutions to assist in reading and writing. The company’s focus of creating solutions that work has always been accompanied by the thought that these are only usable if they are affordable.

The change in name is reflective of a broader understanding of their clients’ needs, which the company has come to grasp in their years of operation, as well as the evolution of technology in the role of literacy. This is also augmented by alliances they continue to build.

This is all perhaps summed up best in the words of Dr. Steve Timmer, the company’s VP of Research,:
"It simply doesn't matter WHY you can't read, whether it's due to a cognitive processing difficulty, a physical vision problem or a cultural challenge (e.g. English as a Second Language). The fact that anyone struggles to read and write means that literacy technologies can help them. That is why Premier Literacy is making it possible for students and adults everywhere to have access to the tools that can make a wholesale difference in their life. With the accelerating shift to a world of digital content, shortfalls in literacy skills are a greater liability than ever before. Literacy in the 21st century has become so much more than just 'reading a book.' Just consider that systems like Google, Facebook, MySpace, wikis, etc. barely existed only 3 years ago. Now think about the future only 3 short years from now. There is a rapid growing universe of content that WILL NEVER APPEAR IN A HARDCOPY BOOK. Literacy skills must now include the ability to not only 'read' content, but to 'search,' 'find,' 'sort,' 'filter,' 'summarize,' 'translate,' 'download,' 'convert to audio,' 'communicate / collaborate online' and 'even publish to the Internet.' Premier Literacy's core commitment is to target our energies and resources to drive innovation in the development of solutions to meet all of these current literacy needs and those that will materialize in the future."

And, to avoid confusing anybody, even though the name of the company has changed, the address for their web site remains the same,

College President makes personal effort to understand perspective of students with disabilities

If his recent perspective-taking outing is fully appreciated, then William F. Messner, the President of Massachusetts’ Holyoke Community College, gives a new meaning to the term “top-down management.” His effort resulted in the top man sitting down for a spell.

What Messner did was to
put himself in the role of one of his students with a disability.
He spent two hours in a wheelchair and attempted to navigate his way to different areas of campus. He quickly came to understand the challenges his campus offered and the inaccessibility of one particularly concerning area, all the while gaining the valuable insight of what students in this situation face daily. On another day, Messner also spent another two hours wearing glasses that limit and restrict his vision.

While many college and university presidents honestly claim to appreciate the effort their students put into pursuing their education, few, if any, others have made this specific effort to gain the particular insight that students with disabilities face on their campus. So, “Bravo” to President Messner for leading by example. It is definitely one worth repeating.