Friday, December 14, 2007

National Sign Language Interpreter Database: an idea whose time has come

Given the shortage of sign language interpreters, have you ever thought about a database that would list sign language interpreters and let you find those nearest you?

Think no more about it, as the National Sign Language Interpreter Database, or NSLID, is up and running. They have a searchable web site at

According to the site, their purpose is to:
“Provide a free, national database of Sign Language Interpreters to improve the coordination and availability of support services on a local, state and national level.”

What's really neat is that this database works both ways, providing a listing of the interpreters to those who are seeking them, and also allows interpreters to list their services.

So, if you’re a sign language interpreter wanting to do some freelance work, you can post a listing with your contact information and also list the type of services you provide. (This also works great for agencies to list themselves so that anybody seeking services in their area can locate them.) There are areas to list one’s level of certification or specializations one may possess, such as theatrical or legal interpreting. Additionally, one can also post your pay scale by range and the distance you are willing to travel.

The site is not only about interpreting. The database also allows interpreters to list any specialized services they offer including speech-to-text providers such as C-print, Typewell, CART, as well as oral interpreting and cued speech interpreting.

Thanks to Bet Case of the
Disability 411 Podcast
for the information about this worthwhile database. Also, congratulations to Beth on her 50th podcast. We look forward to more D411 shows in the future.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

LD podcast offers good resource

I just discovered the
LD Podcast
Blog through one of my news alerts. Just looking over the subjects of recent podcasts, it appears very interesting and appropriate for anybody seeking an informational resource for learning disabilities.

The link above is for just the blog, which is how I found the podcast. However, there is a richer and more comprehensive web site, including the same text from the blog on the podcast's home page,

What first caught my eye, er, ears, was The podcast’s Show #72 which featured an interview with Ben Mitchell, Director of Admissions at
Landmark College.
For those who don’t know, Landmark is a college specializing in presenting a postsecondary learning environment for students with learning disabilities and ADHD.

From that firstintroduction, I checked out the blog and main web page much more thoroughly. I haven’t listened to any more podcasts yet, but, like I said, it strikes me as very interesting. And, the main web site is rich in supportive resources.

Additional: The interview with Ben Mitchell is a two-parter, concluded in Show #73.
Also, for trivia buffs, check out the second part, or read the blog to find out who is the most famous graduate of Landmark College.

Monday, December 10, 2007

On Segways, Veterans, and Disney

There’s an interesting article in a recent edition of
USA Today
About the non-profit group
and their Program which Grants Segway personal transporters to disabled veterans.

I thought the scenario the article opened with was interesting. Attempting to give a personal application of the segway’s benefits , the article notes that one man who lost a leg in Iraq used to avoid walking around the amusement park with his wife and 2-year old son, because it was too much for him. Now the man says, with the Segway, he can now stay at the amusement park.

I don’t know which amusement partk that was, but I don’t believe it would be a Disney park. If you don’t already know,
Disney has banned the use of Segways in their parks.

According to the above-linked MSNBC article concerning the Disney ban,
“Disney World isn't the only place to restrict the use of Segways. They're also prohibited at Disney's California parks _ Disneyland and California Adventure. Sea World Orlando says it doesn't allow them for safety reasons and San Francisco last year outlawed them on its sidewalks.”

However, the article notes that Universal Orlando, the resort city’s other major theme park has no policy on the transporters.

Personally, I don’t think that the park should be in the business of telling anybody with a disability what kind of assistive device they can use. While the FDA has not yet classified the Segway as an approved medical device, the machine has developed a niche following among folks with neurological disabilities, such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and spinal cord injuries, each of which can make it difficult for the impaired person to walk.

Instead of outright banning the segways, the parks could look at creating a policy which would be designed to regulate their usage. If the park is concerned because the top speed is faster than most motorized wheelchairs, then I feel certain that their legal eagles could wrangle some legal language to state just how fast they would be restricted to travel. Additionally, they could limit their use to just those with disabilities, indicated by the disabled parking decal or placard they display. The parking attendants could issue a permit to these people when they enter the parking facility.

Disney does not have to allow anybody the use of a Segway in their parks, and until made to change, I’m sure they won’t. Perhaps they believe that as long as they deny the use of Segways to everybody, they are not discriminating. I’ve read where they are being sued over this ban, but being the devices aren’t recognized by the FDA, Disney may be on sound legal footing. However, if the FDA should recognize them, then look out.

It is nonetheless still a sad footnote that the vets receiving these Segways won’t be able to go to the Disney parks with their families. At least not with their Segways.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Accessibility experience teaches how to include pdf presentations into Word documents

I want to present something today that isn’t exactly what Access Ability is about, but it is related as it comes from my own experience in creating accessible documents from inaccessible files.

What prompted the theme for this post was a phone call I received earlier this week, seeking a work-around solution to a document problem. The main file of a particular report was a Microsoft Word document, but there were other parts that included an Excel spreadsheet as well as a 4-page Adobe pdf document. Of course, the Excel portion was able to be placed directly into the Word document as both applications are Microsoft products and made to be integrated in reports such as this, but the pdf file was still an additional piece to the main report. The recipient of the document wanted the electronic report to be all-inclusive, not a Word document with an additional pdf document to be viewed separately. The caller was asking me if I knew of any solution that would save or convert the pdf document into a Word document, so that it could be integrated into the body of the other, main report.

This dilemma caused me to call upon my own experience of taking something and making it accessible, applying a work-around that I’ve used in the past. However, this expertise was something I had learned a few years ago, a time when pdf documents weren’t near as accessible as they are today. What I used to do was to open the pdf document, then print it up. I would then scan it back into the computer and process it with my Kurzweil 1000 OCR software to get the text of the document. (Of course, that was before I figured out what the Kurzweil virtual printer was!)

Now, to solve the caller’s dilemma, I suggested first that they print the pdf file. Then, they would only need to scan it into an open Word document.

That’s it. That would basically take the visual presentation and formatting features of the pdf document and put them directly into a Word document, assuring compatibility with the main body of the report. They would then only need to copy and paste that document into the proper place in the main report. It is what sounds like a simple solution to an apparently complex problem.

What causes me to take pride in this solution is that I was the one who presented it. I was the one who was called after the university’s own tech help desk and other resources had already been called upon, only to leave the caller with no working solution. There is some irony in that a man who is blind and cannot see the visual presentation of pdf documents being the person who resolved this problem when other, more technologically trained folks couldn’t.

I hope this doesn’t come across as being overly proud. I’m just presenting it here, as it may be of use to others. It is really an easy to resolve problem. I feel certain that there are software solutions that could have achieved the same end result in some fashion, but the method I presented worked and didn’t send the caller scrambling to find some program or add-on when time was of the essence. I hope that this work-around is of assistance to others some time in the future.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Is the GOP ignoring people with disabilities?

Access Ability does not usually tend to wade into political waters, but sometimes the worlds of disability rights and politics must inevitably cross. Most recently, they have seemed to do so on the front of the ADA Restoration Act of 2007.

However, some politicians, namely Republicans, would do well to offer an explanation for the events highlighted in a recent article titled,
Why the GOP is ignoring the disabled.

The article, from the online political magazine
spells out several recent occasions where the GOP is ceding the disability rights vote to the Democratic party.

Perhaps there is some greater agenda which the Republican party is pursuing. It does not make any sense for them to let this huge voting block of more than 50 million Americans with disabilities feel alienated.

The article highlights a shift to hardline fiscal conservatism as a possible reason for the GOP’s ignoring the disabled population. If this is because fiscal conservatism is a hallmark of being a Republican, then I would question the past seven years of heightened, Republican-led spending. To this argument, I say, “Damn your shifting definition of fundamentals and do the right thing.”

Then again, the fiscal conservatism argument might explain
Ted Poe’s sidestep
Reply when I asked him to support the ADA Restoration Act of 2007. (Ted Poe is my Republican U.S. Representative.) If this is what Congressman Poe believes, I wish he would have said so instead of dodging the question.

I identify myself as a Republican and have tended to vote conservative, but This may need to be adjusted. I’m but one voice in a sea of millions. More than just me, the Republican party may need to examine what Americans with disabilities are thinking as a whole. If they feel as I do, they are thinking, “If the party platform ignores my basic needs, why should I support the party or its candidates?”

If you haven’t read the article linked above, I encourage you to go back and do so. It presents some serious food for thought.

Texas Tech students seek accessibility

A group of Lubbock students is pursuing an interesting and worthwhile project at Texas Tech University.

The group of four students is proposing that the university make some specific building modifications to make the
Texas Tech campus more accessible
to students with disabilities. The students are emphasizing that one particular building, Holden Hall, be made more accessible. The well presented proposal cites the Americans with Disabilities Act as its support for the merit of such an undertaking.

Not being versed in the particular accessability concerns of the Texas Tech campus, I can not personally comment on the issues raised by the students. However, if the concerns are legitimate, which I will lean towards the students for being accurate, there are some definite needs on the Texas Tech campus.

The students have made a good faith effort to present their case. I wish them well in this pursuit and look forward to seeing the outcome of their work.