Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Keyboard Guides available for Internet Explorer 7

Change is expected and with technology, it is most certain.

Internet Explorer 7 is available now and, as I’ve cautioned previously, incompatible with older versions of assistive technology. However, we will all eventually switch to the safer and more advanced IE7 whether we want to or not.

The redesign of IE7 has included new keystroke commands that will impact the way users of screen readers navigate the browser. If you want a peek at some of the new keystroke combinationss, go to the post by Kelly Ford on the IEBlog at:

Then, if you want more, check out The Keyboard Lover’s Guide to IE7 at:

I've looked over these guides, and as a keyboard user for nine years, all I can say right now is, ”Oh boy!” (Note that is a feeling of dread, not excitement causing that exclamation mark.)

Monday, October 30, 2006

Gallaudet University update...board rejects incoming president

To update you,
Gallaudet University's Board has voted to search for a new president.
This means the student protests over the past three weeks were successful and, in response, the board has Rejected Incoming President Jane Fernandes.

There is still something to be said for student activism and standing up for what one is passionate about in today's world. The students from Gallaudet, the only U.S. liberal arts college for the deaf, can testify that their voices acting in unity made a difference, and, pardon the pun, did not fall on deaf ears. It will be interesting to see which direction the search for the next university president heads.

Some thoughts on assistive technology

Forgive me if the posts in the next few weeks lean a little heavier toward access technology, but the release of Internet Explorer 7 and pending release of Windows Vista are of particular interest, and will be greatly impacting, to those who rely on screen readers and magnifiers.

I just read a very good rant/discussion about
The truth about Windows Vista and the assistive technology industry
By Ranger1138 on
The Ranger Station, a blog written by “some dude in the assistive technology field.”

Ranger1138 brings up some good points about Microsoft’s approach to accessibility, costs of assistive technology, and how Microsoft is not the big, bad evil corporation, as many allege, but has, instead, provided the Windows platform that laid the foundation for uniformity in operating systems that has given blind folks the ability to use assistive technology to market themselves in the workplace today.

Another aspect of assistive technology I want to throw out today is open source. Are you familiar with open source software? It is a community approach to software development and has led to many innovations in the computer industry. Linux is the open source operating system. The code that makes open source software work is just that, open, and lets any software engineer work with it to tweak it as part of a bigger team. The added incentive is that many open source applications are free, or nearly free.

You may not know it, but there is an open source screen reader and magnifier program called
The engineers working on the Orca project are seeking input from users on what the program needs. The engineers will base their design on the input they receive.

In the Carroll Tech blog,
All About Access,
Joanie Diggs attempts to figure out why blind computer users are not participating in this ambitious and promising project. She seems flustered that the blind people who would benefit most are not providing input for the engineers who want to build a product that the group needs.

While her argument that this model of open source development is different than the current model in how blind users acquire assistive technology may have some merit, I think that the larger group of blind computer users either do not know about Orca or do not feel that they are tech-savvy enough to install and use the software, much less provide feedback on what it needs.


Friday, October 27, 2006

Accessible World offers resources and on-line diabetes symposium

AccessAbility has recently learned of another great location for blind and visually impaired resources.
Accessible World
Has a good selection of information related to accessible computing, as well as other areas of interest to the blind and visually impaired. There is an archive of technology training podcasts and also have list-serves on various topics.

Coming up on Monday, Oct. 30, there is a training session on scanning with the OmniPage program.

With the assortment of physical complications that are associated with diabetes, it is notable that they are about to host the First International Virtual Audio online Symposium on Diabetes.

The details from their web site about this event are as follows:

Helping Hands for the Blind
and The Accessible World Symposiums have formed a partnership whose main goal is to produce the first “On-Line" Symposium on Diabetes around the world scheduled for Wednesday, November 8, 2006 from 10 A.M. to 3 P.M. PST.

We have scheduled such prominent speakers as Gretchen Becker who wrote the Book "Living with Type 2 Diabetes," Dr. Bernard Mahaver who will discuss the various drugs in use to control Diabetes, an Endocrinologist from UCLA, and Finally, Dr. Anne Williams, a noted Diabetic Educator who will discuss Research and Trends in Diabetic care. The program will be followed by a discussion period with the Audience having an opportunity to ask questions of the guests and committee members.

> To participate in this interactive online event, you will need a computer running Windows, an Internet connection, speakers, a microphone and a sound card. Various agencies serving blind and visually impaired individuals in the United States and other strategic countries will also be providing a computer and space for blind and visually impaired persons who are not computer literate or do not have a computer at home to join this symposium.
However, it must be noted that anyone who has Diabetes or knows someone who does can also join this symposium.

To access the online conference room, go to:
and select the Auditorium link.

**Note: The Helping Hands for the Blind web site linked above has more links and services that may be of interest to your vlind and visually impaired students. Most notably, Helping Hands claims to provide financial grants to blind students and also help in transportation.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Gallaudet University demonstration news and links

An update on the student protest at Gallaudet University.

The demonstration against the incoming university president has now been going for more than 20 days. In the last week, several students, and faculty members who support them, walked en mass to Capitol Hill to call upon three U.S. senators who are on the university’s board, asking them to intervene on their behalf. Yesterday,
university officials brought in heavy equipment
to gain access to gates the students have taken control of to deny access to the campus.

Acording to the Associated Press story:

“Gallaudet University maintenance workers cut a chain that was being used to block a side entrance and used a construction vehicle to move a tent city the students had built, protest leaders said. Other protesters then used their cars to block the gate again.”

If you want to view images of the student unrest, Yahoo has a
slide show
chronicling the on-going protest.

A good discussion on the
sense of identity,
so strongly tied to the deaf community and central to this demonstration, is presented by Washington D.C. columnist Clarence Page. In his latest column, Page also offers a quick primer on the background of the current situation at Gallaudet.

While we should all applaud passion and students standing up for what they believe, I would predict the outcome of this demonstration will be for naught. The protesters have given reasons against the incoming president, Jane Fernandes,to cite her as being unqualified for the job, but the underlying reason is that the students, and many of the faculty, think she is not deaf enough. I understand passion and identity, but that is not a disqualifier folks.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Google Scholar: An accessible resource

It is the philosophy of AccessAbility that a truly good and useful resource is one that is readily accessible to all users. It is this aspect that makes
Google Scholar
A good and useful resource for students with disabilities.

Of course, the name Google tells you the power behind the technology that is providing the service. Now, the Google folks have taken their search capabilities and web savvy, applying them to scholarly literature.

One more aspect of accessibility that this database offers is that any computer can access it. Users are not restricted to only using the computers in the campus library nor do they have to be using a computer that is part of the campus network, as is required by many subscription databases that some schools use. Being that Google Scholar is web-based, they can search scholarly research from any computer with internet access. This gives users of assistive technology the ability to do independent searches of the wide compendium of archived work this powerful database offers. There is no longer the need to find somebody to assist in using the restricted campus computers that do not have assistive technology.

As a former university student who often experienced access difficulty when researching scholarly literature at the college libraries, I applaud this move by the 800-pound gorilla of the information age. I wish this technology had been around when I was working on those many research papers that were required for my classes.

The Google Scholar web site offers the following description of the services it provides:

What is Google Scholar?
“Google Scholar provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature. From one place, you can search across many disciplines and sources: peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, abstracts and articles, from academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories, universities and other scholarly organizations. Google Scholar helps you identify the most relevant research across the world of scholarly research.”

Features of Google Scholar
“• Search diverse sources from one convenient place
• Find papers, abstracts and citations
• Locate the complete paper through your library or on the web
• Learn about key papers in any area of research”

How are articles ranked?
“Google Scholar aims to sort articles the way researchers do, weighing the full text of each article, the author, the publication in which the article appears, and how often the piece has been cited in other scholarly literature. The most relevant results will always appear on the first page.”

Now, as with any other resource, don’t keep Google Scholar to yourself. Share it with others who need it as well.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Wiki model applied to Assistive Technology

For those who are web savvy, and already understand the concept of
the free, on-line encyclopedia that is authored by the very readers it serves, then there is an advent in the assistive technology world that may be of interest to you.

On Wikipedia, the articles are written by its users and readers are encouraged to update listings with knowledge they possess which may flesh out the entries. What makes it so useful is that it is completely searchable.

Wikipedia’s grass roots authoring model is now being applied by the folks at the Georgia Tech Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access. They have launched
An encyclopedia of assistive technology. They currently have 54 articles and are seeking input of more from professionals in the AT field.

Check it out. The site is a good resource for anybody working with people who use assistive technology, those they serve, and AT professionals. And, if you are knowledgeable in AT and have something to contribute, get to work and start writing.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Updated: Head's up! IE7 is coming

If you haven’t heard about the upcoming, imminent release of Internet Explorer 7, then let me be the first to tell you.

IE7is coming and will be sent to you in a manner you aren’t used to getting new software. This latest incarnation, touted to be the best and moste secure web browser Microsoft has made, will be coming to you via your computer’s automatic updates feature. Yes, your pc will automatically download IE7.

So, why am I writing about this on AccessAbility?

The reason is simple. IE7 will hit the automatic update circuit somewhere around November 1 and unless one is running the latest versions of many of the assistive software programs, blind and visually impaired computer users will have difficulty interacting with it. This will effectively shutt out those who rely on older versions of assistive technology to get information from the web. This could be you, if you use an older version of a screen reader or magnifier, but will also impact any of your students who use these either on campus or at home.

You will notice I directed the impact on students to computers on campus and home. Think about which computers you have on campus that are equipped with a screen reader or magnifier. If those computers are set to automatic updates, they will be affected. Installing IE7 may exclude the very students these computers are set up to accommodate. Also, it may be a good idea to give your students a head’s up so they can take action on their personal machine at home before Nov. 1 rolls around.

To help guide you through this troublesome period of upgrades, I offer the following from Rehabilitation Engineer Geoff Howard. This was originally posted on the NHBlind-Talk list.
• If your computer is set to automatically download and install critical updates, you could turn on your computer some morning and find that you’ve been updated. The current versions of most assistive technology products are not fully compatible with Internet Explorer 7.
• My first recommendation is to set the automatic updates feature to “Notify me but don’t automatically download or install”. This can be found in the Control Panel, under Automatic Updates. You’ll be able to view a list of available updates as they are released, just make sure not to choose the Internet Explorer 7 update yet.
• Internet Explorer 7 turns on “Clear Type” by default, which may cause some video corruption for large print users. This can be turned off in the Internet Options, Advanced Tab.
• ZoomText users: Ai Squared working on ZoomText version 9.04. This will be a free update to users of the version 9 product. Version 9.04 will be compatible with Internet Explorer 7. The release is expected in November. You can check for the update in ZoomText by going to “Check for Program Updates” in the ZoomText programs help menu.
• JAWS Users: JAWS 7.0 and earlier do not support Internet Explorer 7. JAWS 7.10 is recommended for testing, but JAWS will not be fully optimized for Internet Explorer 7 until the release of JAWS 8.0.
• MAGic Users: Version 9.50 and later can be tested with Internet Explorer 7.
• Window-Eyes: GW Micro has some registry tweaks for some items that they have found in IE 7. Information can be found in the knowledge base section of their web site. They detail support for IE 7 in the information section for beta 6, which can be found at


Wayne Merritt, a technology trainer at the Texas training center for the blind read this post and added the following.

“From what I understand, there will be a prompt that asks you if you want to install the new IE right now (or whenever you see it), later, or not at all.
You will be able to select a choice and go on from there. Thus, is not necessary, nor recommended in my view anyway, to alter how automatic updates behave.
Microsoft uses this facility to issue updates to what it defines as critical security flaws in its software. Changing how you receive automatic updates could prevent you from getting one of these security udpates, thus putting your system at risk. So, the bottom line, if you don't have a current version of the appropriate screen reader that supports IE 7, you will be able to choose to install it later, or not at all. Also, JAWS 8.0 and Window Eyes 6.0 will be able to be used with IE 7. JAWS 8 should be out sometime this month, and I'm not sure about Window Eyes. Check the GW Micro website
for more details.”

Thanks for the added insight Wayne

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Disability and employment resources

Being this is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, it seems logical to build on this theme a bit. To this end, I offer some resources.

First, think about the history of disabilities in the U.S. and the impact they have had. If you were like myself, and found that you were not well versed in the history of disabilities, check out
The Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities web site.

The site is very in-depth, with a link to Parallels in Time, a comprehensive six-hour history of disabilities. There is also a link to The Learning Center, with a catalog of more than 10,000 pages of documents pertaining to disabilities from 1976-1997. While these two links alone have a plethora of information that can consume several hours of time, consider the wealth of resources these give you for disability resources, especially when they are combined with the other offered resource links on the page.

Secondly, let me discuss the
Disability Site.

I came across this site doing some research on the web and found it interesting. I took some time to explore it and was fairly impressed with the linked information that was available. There is information about different disabilities, disability rights and laws governing them, and also contains additional resources.

However, this is a commercial, Google ad-supported site, whose ownership I was unable to determine. While I feel the site is rich in what it offers as far as resources, I have credibility concerns when I can not find information about who is presenting the information on the site. I offer it here solely as a possible link for its resources.

Thirdly, are you familiar with
Bender Consulting Services?

Bender Consulting Services is an employment agency specifically working to market people with disabilities, most particularly in the technology field. On the company web site, there are links for people with disabilities, employers, and a list of current openings. They also have affiliate sites serving the Canada and international markets. The founder, Joyce Bender, has several notable recognitions for her work listed on the “About Bender” link.

Finally, below is the text of a press release issued earlier this month by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission concerning a federal initiative to employ people with what are classified as “severe disabilities.” Please share this with your students who will soon be or are currently seeking employment.


Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2006 David Grinberg

(202) 663-4900

TTY: (202) 663-4494


Boosts Effort to Increase Number of Federal Employees with Targeted Disabilities

WASHINGTON – Giving greater presence to a pressing – and largely unknown – problem, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today launched a website section on its LEAD Initiative, designed to address the declining number of employees with severe disabilities in the Federal workforce.

The section, on EEOC’s website at
offers basic information on the initiative and on the declining number of disabled federal employees. As the effort progresses, announcements and updates will appear regularly.

The Commission launched the LEAD (Leadership for the Employment of Americans with Disabilities) Initiative in June under the leadership of Commissioner Christine Griffin, a legal expert and long-time advocate for disability issues.

“I commend Commissioner Griffin for her efforts to ensure that individuals with disabilities are fully included in the federal workforce,” said EEOC Chair Naomi C. Earp. “EEOC’s LEAD Initiative will complement the Commission’s outreach and enforcement efforts on behalf of individuals with disabilities.”

Commissioner Griffin noted, “In order to improve the overall employment rate for people with targeted disabilities, we have to begin with the federal government.
Congress directed the federal government to set the example for all other employers. Our example needs improvement. I fully expect the LEAD initiative to significantly contribute to this improvement. The LEAD website section will allow us to provide important and useful information to a broad audience, so I look forward to it having a positive impact.”

LEAD aims, ultimately, to significantly increase the population of individuals with disabilities employed by the federal government. This national outreach and education campaign is designed to:

* increase the awareness of hiring officials about the declining numbers of people with disabilities in federal employment

* reverse the trend of decreasing participation in federal employment

* educate federal hiring officials about how to use special hiring authorities to bring people with disabilities on board, particularly those with
severe disabilities

* educate applicants with severe disabilities about how to apply using the special hiring authorities available

* provide information and resources on reasonable accommodation.

The LEAD Initiative draws on educational events and seminars and focus group sessions with federal managers, hiring officials and other interested parties to explore the issue of declining employment for individuals with severe disabilities, and to come up with concrete solutions to address the problem.

People with targeted disabilities have dropped to less than one percent of the permanent federal workforce, continuing a long-term decline, according to data released in June by the EEOC. Targeted disabilities include blindness, deafness, partial paralysis, complete paralysis, mental illness, mental retardation, convulsive disorders, and distortion of limbs or spine.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires that federal agencies take proactive steps to provide equal employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Moreover, under Executive Order 13164, agencies are required to establish effective written procedures for processing reasonable accommodation requests, which are submitted to the EEOC for review.

Additionally, under the EEOC’s Management Directive 715, agencies annually report their efforts to implement a Model EEO Program; to identify and eliminate barriers to equal opportunity in the workplace; and to implement special program plans for the recruitment, hiring and advancement of individuals with targeted disabilities.

The EEOC is also striving to advance employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities through the President’s New Freedom Initiative and the agency’s Freedom to Compete Initiative -- a national outreach, education and coalition-building campaign launched in 2002 to provide unfettered access to employment opportunities for all individuals. The agency just launched the application process for its third annual Freedom to Compete Awards, with nominations due Dec. 13 for awards to be presented in June 2007.

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing the federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Additional information about the agency is available on its web site at

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

FDA approves new drug for Type II diabetes

Here’s a mixed bag of news for those with Type II diabetes. The
FDA has approved a new diabetes drug.

According to the Houston Chronicle story:

“The Food and Drug Administration said it approved Januvia, which enhances the body's own ability to lower blood sugar levels, after clinical trials showing the new pill works just as well as older diabetes drugs, but with fewer side effects like weight gain. The drug is made by Merck and Co. Inc.”

“The new drug's cost may limit its use, however. Merck did not immediately disclose what it would charge for Januvia, but it is expected to cost between $3 and $6 a day. Older diabetes drugs can cost 50 cents a day.”

“Januvia, also known as sitagliptin phosphate, works with a one-two punch: It increases levels of a hormone that triggers the pancreas to produce more insulin to process blood sugar while simultaneously signaling the liver to quit making glucose. The pill does that by blocking production of an enzyme, called DPP-4, that normally inactivates that hormone.“

So, take the news for what it is worth. It handles Type II diabetes with less side effects than existing medications, but at a higher cost per dose.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Come Walk in Our Shoes

This past weekend, I had the pleasure to participate at Come Walk in Our Shoes, an annual experiential educational event in Central Texas. Sponsored by the VIP support group in Temple, the event had a strong showing of support from the local public. While the event is designed to be an educational outreach for the sighted public, it also served as a good networking of blind resources and as an information gathering opportunity as well.

The event had several challenge tables set up where sighted people were allowed to don a blindfold and attempt to do various tasks they are used to doing, but taking away their ability to rely on visual input. This is what the original concept of the event was—educating those who do not usually know how blind people function, but are interested enough to learn. However, as the event has evolved over the several years of its existence, it has grown to also include an offering of information and resources to the blind people in attendance.

One of the presenters at the event was Mark Marvel, with the
Blind Ambitions Groups,
A blind support group based in Dallas. The group’s web site offers its mission and purpose as follows:

“The mission of Blind Ambitions Groups is to educate blind and visually impaired people and their families about available resources – and to encourage each person to move to the next step – whatever it may be for that person."

"PURPOSE: Through support, we teach blind and visually impaired (hereinafter referred to as blind) people to advocate for themselves in getting what they need to facilitate a better quality of life.”

I met with Mark and am impressed with the work his group is doing. While they are based in Dallas, he said they are planning to offer their services state-wide in the future. Already, they host two radio programs on the Reading Radio network, Eye on Employment and Sound of Sight. There are archived shows available for download on their web site. There is a strong emphasis on advocacy and Mark is a really dynamic spokesperson who seems to have a good grasp of his resources. He also said their web site was going to undergo some updates in the coming days.

Take a little time to check out the group’s site and look through the archives of past shows. They present a good resource to offer your blind and visually impaired students who are looking for information and will eventually be seeking employment.

Also, while I was at this event, I had the opportunity to investigate, first-hand, the
Kurzweil - National Federation of the Blind reader.
At my last position, my colleague and I had read several news articles about this innovative piece of OCR scanning technology. Since the time I had first heard about it, I had been very intrigued by what is in essence, a portable scanner that runs OCR software. It is built with a digital camera linked to a PDA running OCR software designed by the granddaddy of OCR himself.

I think the KNFB Reader does a good job in scanning the photographs it takes and extracting out the text, but has a couple of drawbacks. In this age where computers are always processing information faster with each passing month, this device seemed a bit slow. The Reader also seemed a bit bulky for my taste, in its traditional camera bag-sized carrying case. For $3,500, I expected something a little more compact and also thought it would process the images faster. Perhaps, these aspects are coming in a future build of the unit. I have to admit that the whole concept of integrating the technologies that this device does is putting the tools in place to make independence among the blind a fact of life, even if the pricetag is a bit hefty.

Additionally, representatives from the Seeing Eye, the Texas Division for Rehabilitive Services, and a technology trainer who teaches blind consumers how to use JAWS and Zoom Text were also present and sharing information about their specific services.

Overall, the Come Walk in Our Shoes event was very successful in its mission to educate and provide resources. I look forward to seeing how this event grows for next year.

Friday, October 13, 2006

October 15 is National White Cane Safety Day

I know, October 15 falls on Sunday this year, and campuses are pretty much shut down, but I still wanted to get this out here.
Below is the text of the official White House press release designating this day.


Olegario D. Cantos VII, Esq.
Associate Director for Domestic Policy
The White House
- - - - - - - - - -
Just a few hours ago, the President signed a proclamation, declaring
October 15, 2006, as White Cane Safety Day. I therefore wanted to send
the text to you right away. Please distribute this widely.
Commemoration of this occasion enables communities all around the
country to focus attention on the abilities, independence, and spirit of
blind and visually impaired Americans. Since (as you have recently
seen) October is also National Disability Employment Awareness Month,
the appropriate related themes tie in quite well.
If you would like to receive a framable copy of the Proclamation which
is worthy of prominent display (featuring the Seal of the President in
gold and the signature of the President), please fax requests to (202)
456-2806. (Note that such requests are not processed through my
- - - - - - -
Our Nation believes in the promise of all our citizens, and we must work
to ensure that the opportunities of America are more accessible to every
person. Many Americans who are blind or visually impaired use white
canes to enable them to enjoy greater mobility, engage in productive
work, and participate fully in all aspects of life. On White Cane
Safety Day, we celebrate the many achievements of Americans who are
blind or visually impaired, and we recognize the white cane as an
important symbol of their determination and independence.
My Administration remains committed to removing barriers that confront
Americans with disabilities. Since we launched the New Freedom
Initiative 5 years ago, we have worked to improve access to community
life, expand educational opportunities, strengthen training and
employment services, and promote the development of technology for
people with disabilities. We are building on the progress of the
Americans with Disabilities Act and working to make America a place
where all citizens have the opportunity to realize their full potential.
The Congress, by joint resolution (Public Law 88-628) approved on
October 6, 1964, as amended, has designated October 15 of each year as
"White Cane Safety Day."
NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of
America, do hereby proclaim October 15, 2006, as White Cane Safety Day.
I call upon public officials, business leaders, educators, librarians,
and all the people of the United States to join as we work to ensure
that the benefits and privileges of life in our great Nation are
available to Americans who are blind or visually impaired, and to
observe this day with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twelfth day of
October, in the year of our Lord two thousand six, and of the
Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and
- - - - - - - - - -
Olegario D. Cantos VII, Esq.
Associate Director for Domestic Policy
The White House
Washington, DC 20502
(202) 456-7330 [Phone/Relay]
(202) 456-5557 [Fax]

Gallaudet University update

To update you, the
situation at Gallaudet University
continuing to escalate.

The campus of the Washington D.C. university for the deaf has now been shut down for two days due to students staging protests over the incoming president. In the latest turn of events, the football team joined the protest. Students are blocking entrances to the campus. Meanwhile, police sit by and watch.

This is not the first time that students at Gallaudet have demonstrated in sucha fashion. It was 18 years ago that student demonstrators forced the university to appoint the first deaf president.

The actions of the students are truly a statement of the deaf culture. The underlying argument, no matter how else it is presented, is that the incoming president is not deaf enough.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

If you haven’t noticed the multitude of pink ribbons around us as a reminder, October is
National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Statistics on the incidence of breast cancer, according to the
National Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation, Inc web site
Show that:

“This year in America, more than 211,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 43,300 die.
One woman in eight either has or will develop breast cancer in her lifetime.
In addition, 1,600 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 400 will die this year.
If detected early, the five-year survival rate exceeds 95%.
Mammograms are among the best early detection methods, yet 13 million U.S. women 40 years of age or older have never had a mammogram.”

That last statistic is particularly interesting, as information on the
American Cancer Society web site

“The Best Early Warning System for Breast Cancer?
A mammogram. Every year. Every woman age 40 and older. For Breast Cancer Awareness Month, mammograms are In the Spotlight.”

There are more than enough resources for reference material at these three linked sites, and they are much more athoritative than AccessAbility can be, so I’ll leave it to them to provide you you with more information.

What I will do is to encourage your DSS office to take an active role in supporting breast cancer awareness. Co-sponsor campus events highlighting awareness and get out there with reference material and resources. Join with your student health center and do something to promote awareness.

Look at those statistics, then look around you. The odds are that you will know one or more women who are dealing with or have survived breast cancer. If not, you will.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

New computer mouse device for the foot is on the horizon

For people who do not have use of their hands, living in a digital environment where operating a computer is almost a must, creates quite a challenge. Of course, there are mice designed to be operated by the foot, but there is now a
wireless hardware device designed to be worn on the foot
and not as an external device.

According to the Ars Technica news article:

“The future of computing could include a foot-activated input device, according to some HP researchers in the UK. The researchers have filed a Patent for a foot-controlled user interface that is intended to be used with a wearable computing device, but may also be used with a desktop computer.

Unlike existing foot "mice," the wireless device is to be worn on the foot, not operated as an external device by the foot. This would allow a freer range of motion and presumably more natural use. It is intended to be strapped to the foot or shoe of the user and, using an accelerometer and magnetic sensor, a reference unit can calculate relative positioning of the foot to translate it on the user interface. Various foot movements could be programmed to mean specific actions, such as twisting the foot for a left or right click. Although this sounds like a sport only to be practiced while on the comfort of your own couch, the patent claims that the device could also be used while standing.”

I know of a drafting student who did not have use of his hands, yet functioned quite well with adaptive computing using his foot to operate the external mouse. I wonder if he would be able to find use of this device once it hits the market and what his thoughts would be.

Unrest at Gallaudet and the deaf culture

Have you been following the news about the unrest at Gallaudet University? If not, read how the intensity of student unrest has
surprised the incoming Gallaudet leader.

This is a strong example of how the deaf culture is so unique among the world of people with disabilities. If you have not spent time with either your students or the interpreters at your school, sit down and do so to gain some valuable insight to a world beyond that which you know. I can personally attest to the awakening I experienced when I did just that. I must add that learning about the interpreters’ education and training experiences were a big cultural lesson for me.

Friday, October 06, 2006

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Don’t forget that October is
National Disability Employment Awareness month.

This is a great time to coordinate activities with your college’s career counseling office. Just think, you may be able to educate the career counselors and potential employers in your area on what the needs of people with disabilities are. Go forth, dispel the false ideas, and share what you know!

Do you have anything planned for the month in conjunction with this designation? If so, please post a comment and share it with the rest of our readers.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Review of Dragon Naturally Speaking 9

If you’ve been considering a purchase of Dragon Naturally Speaking 9, but weren’t sure what the highs and lows of it were, or if you’ve been weighing whether it would be worth an upgrade if running an older version, then the following should be of interest to you.

The folks at Ars Technica have a very good, pros and cons
Review of Dragon Naturally Speaking 9.

Dragon is a powerful program that serves those with limited hand usage very well. That goes not only for motor and neurological disorders, but includes Repetitive Stress Injuries. Everyone say it together…carpal tunnel syndrome!

In the review, the author makes a comparison of the current version to that which existed ten years ago. Of course, the differences are dramatic. Dragon 9 boasts an accuracy rate of 99%, but I’m sure that comes with time and practice. Still, if you’re in the market for this program, check out the review.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Model Home Designed for Visually Impaired

An interesting concept is being undertaken by the American Foundation for the Blind in how to demonstrate assistive household devices to people who have lost or are losing their sight.

In a Dallas
model home for the blind,the AFB has a physical facility that allows the visually impaired person to take a tour of the actual adaptive devices and products that can increase independent living. The model home is already open to the public and will have its grand opening on Oct. 27. Plans are also in the works to make a virtual tour of the home available over the web.

The web tour will be helpful for those folks who don't live near Dallas. This will allow people to see what the house has who would not otherwise be able to check out the offerings, but this virtual tour is limited in its scope. You can only see the items on the video monitor and the target audience is visually impaired. It will take some smart web designing to effectively communicate the displayed information in alternate formats. It can be done.

Perhaps this model home is a concept that can be replicated. Maybe each state that has a blind rehab center for adults could set up a model home to show their clients when they are at the center receiving services. I know the Criss Cole Center in Austin has some aspects of this in the kitchen areas, in the communications department, and the tech center.

This model home is truly an innovative concept that can have broader application if applied to different disabilities. Think about a home designed for a quadraplegic. The adaptive devices that would be demonstrated would apply not only to somebody with that specific disability, but could be explored for use by people with other disabilities.

While this information is not specifically about higher education, it does concern a group that this blog is targeted towards and I'm posting this information here as a resource for any students that might find interest in what is offered.