This past Sunday my family and I accompanied some friends to Disney World. Living in Orlando, I guess it's not as big of a deal as it would be for the common tourist. I myself have always found it more or less enjoyable, something to do with the kids anyway. Last weekend I decided to satisfy my curiosity about a new audio description device that I had heard about somewhere, and while looking over the Disney website I was reminded of its existence once again. WOW! At the risk of sounding totally cliché, it's like I stepped into a whole new realm. I have always known Disney to take a special approach to all its guests. I mean, they're in the business of making dreams come true, right? I have never encountered issues with accessing any of the attractions. My guide dog has always been welcomed. In fact, Hurley was riding around with my Son and me in one of their go karts on this trip, with no one batting an eye, but I have to confess this past weekend totally rocked my view of Disney's effort to make their park a universal experience. The device with no real name is offered free for the duration of your visit with a refundable $25 deposit. It is a 7.2-ounce handheld computer with … [Read more...] about The Disney Standard
As you know, Serotek is not a conventional assistive technology provider. In fact, we take pride in our willingness to think outside the box and leverage products that make a distinct mark on the customers we serve, but, the price of pulling away from the pack means succumbing to all manner of speculation perpetuated by competitors and by customers who rely on bias reviews to direct their own decisions. We have never shied away from defending our approach to development, and so following in that tradition, today we address a question that comes to our attention from time to time: Is System Access a full screen reader?Well, to begin on common ground, let's first start by defining what a screen reader is. In the way of an impartial source, we can use the American Foundation of the Blind, which sets forth the following:"Screen readers are software programs that allow blind or visually impaired users to read the text that is displayed on the computer screen with a speech synthesizer. A screen reader is the interface between the computer’s operating system, its applications, and the user. The user sends commands by pressing different combinations of keys on the computer keyboard to … [Read more...] about System Access: The Alternative Commitment
I’ve spent a great deal of time publicly evangelizing the merits of cloud computing, both on this blog and on the Serotalk podcast. The next logical step was to expand, in the form of a book, on my experiences as an entrepreneur of a cloud-based business and share my thoughts on the effects of cloud computing on the information technology industry as a whole. Coming soon to your favorite bookstore is my first published work, entitled “Cloudy With a Chance of Profit: You, Me, And The Cloud That Binds us”. While you wait for the book to arrive, check out this exerpt.What is the Cloud? More to the point: why should you care? It's something I would have asked back in 1997 when I first began using that new platform called Windows and the only clouds I knew were the ones from my cigars or the fog machines in the clubs where I worked as a DJ. Back then, the concept of cloud computing had not been conceived, but the Internet was causing a lot of excited noise about what this new type of communication would mean for people and businesses. I don't think even computer scientists had a clue of how the Worldwide Web would grow into the beast we see today.Let me put it this way, the Cloud means … [Read more...] about Cloudy With a Chance of Profit: Preview
With the recent release of DocuScan Plus, the product development team would like to share with the community what we believe to be a new and exciting method of developing assistive technology. We feel that this tool is especially useful when developing assistive technology because of the unique challenges involved with creating this type of software. Assistive technology, unlike some other types of software, must be simultaneously easy enough for brand new computer user's to use, yet powerful enough to satisfy the needs of those with long term experience as well. In addition, developing a product that is so essential to so many people means that great care must be taken in every step of the design process.How software is traditionally developedThe traditional method of software development is for a design team to generate specifications for a software product. After mapping as much of the product out as possible, including features, UI (which stands for user interface and defines how a user interacts with the software,) the overall capabilities of the software, pipe dreams, Et cetera, the design team hands these requirements off to the programmers. From this point forward, the … [Read more...] about Crowdsourcing as a software development tool
A week or so ago, the American Council of the Blind held a Future of Screen Readers panel as part of the Information Access Committee seminar at the ACB annual convention. Serotek was one of the companies invited to attend remotely via Skype. Other remote participants were GW Micro and NVDA. Unfortunately technology failed (through no fault of Skype) and we remote participants did not get to contribute. But I thought the panel questions were extremely pertinent to all blind people and that it was important we add our voice to the conversation. So this blog post is Serotek’s way of making sure our voice, and the voice of many who share our view, is also heard. I’d like to begin with Question 6, because it separates us from most panel participants. I’ll come back and address each of the ten questions – which are included in their entirety at the end of this post. Question 6 said: “Imagine that you are participating on a panel five years from now. What do you hope you can tell us about the screen reader space and the role of your screen reader in it?” Serotek hopes wholeheartedly that in 2015 we can say the screen reader space has vanished. This change will be brought about through … [Read more...] about What is the Future of Screen Readers anyway?
This week, Serotek’s iBlink Radio app for the iPhone and iPod Touch is in the “Featured apps” section of the iTunes Store. On the surface, this may appear to be a nice feather in Serotek’s cap, but the implications go far beyond company recognition. This listing recognizes the blind community as a worthy market as well as putting Serotek on display as a contributor of high quality software and content. This is a first. The first time ever an application for blind people has been offered to the world at large, by a major marketing organization, without qualification or apology. It’s just there as part of the best of the best applications Apple has highlighted for its iPhone and iPod users.We created this application and placed it on the iTunes store, free of charge, for a number of reasons. First and foremost it is great content – a complete array of entertainment and information, all created by and for the blind and low vision community. This is everything a blind person needs to know in one place, quick and easy, accessible anywhere. This is my personal app of choice.Second, this is a valuable resource for sighted people if they or someone in their family is losing their … [Read more...] about A History Making Day For The Blind
This past Wednesday, Apple held a media event to showcase new products. With a musical theme, Apple announced many exciting developments, particularly of interest to people who are blind. With the introduction of the Voiceover screen reader for the iPod Touch and an updated Voiceover interface for the iPod Nano, as well as accessibility updates to the iPhone OS utilized on both the iPhone and iPod Touch, Apple clearly demonstrated its commitment to universal access across its product line. In an ironic twist, in fact, the blind community got much of what we have been asking for in terms of access to these devices, while the larger sighted world did not get what they most expected--a camera for the iPod Touch. To my knowledge, this has never happened before.It isn't all roses and candy, though. Apple also released iTunes version 9.0, which, while introducing many desirable features, such as the ability to share tracks from several computers in the same household and an expansion of the genius playlist options, also broke accessibility to the iTunes store. Access to the iTunes store has become more difficult and cumbersome on the Mac platform, and it has become all but unusable under … [Read more...] about Access to iTunes 9.0 is here!
The other day a friend of mine tried once again to interest me in World Ventures. He had tried once before – asking me to look at their Web site and see how it could be improved for accessibility. I did and the site had several flaws. I made contact with World Ventures/Rovia developers offering some suggestions which they apparently ignored. This time my friend forwarded a new web site showcasing Dream Trips and a PDF presentation. The new Dream Trips site is entirely in Flash that is not accessible. The PDF was scanned images so again, I couldn't read it. Basically the company has become less accessible, rather than more accessible. And they give no sign of being interested in making their services accessible to the blind – perhaps thinking, erroneously, that blind folks don’t travel.There really isn’t any excuse for not being accessible. ADA became law twenty years ago. The Internet accessibility rules – Section 508 – are more than a dozen years old. All of the major players – Microsoft, Google, Adobe, etc. have made their products accessible to adaptive technologies. Every major company has also worked to make its sites accessible. Sometimes we had to hound them a … [Read more...] about If it isn’t accessible, it has no value
I am a little tardy responding to Dr. Mark Maurer’s letter, at the end of this post, encouraging rehab centers to give their blind clientele their choice when it comes to selecting accessibility tools, such as screen readers. We agree with Dr. Maurer wholeheartedly. There are two considerations, however, that the letter did not address:1. To make an informed choice, blind consumers need access to all their options and valid, easy to access information about the plusses and minuses of each possible choice. They need to understand the functional capabilities and they need to understand how much time they will have to invest to become proficient using each potential tool. Not all rehab centers are currently able to present this information on all products.2. Choices have different costs. In a free market scenario the client would make his or her own cost-benefit choice. But if the product is being purchased by vocational rehab funds or other public sources, the client never sees the cost side of the equation. The vocational rehab center does, though. And a client who chooses an expensive product that has more capability than he or she needs, may be limiting the rehab center’s ability … [Read more...] about Dr. Mark Maurer’s letter encouraging rehab centers to give their blind clientele their choice when it comes to selecting accessibility tools
IBM gained a bit of press with its recently announced Social Accessibility Project which promises to broker a service that makes Web sites accessible to users of Jaws and Internet Explorer. Almost immediately thereafter, WebVisum was touted for its tools that make sites accessible via Firefox. Both of these efforts are stragglers, wandering onto the field some four years after Serotek announced C-Saw, which enlisted the blind and low vision community to help itself by making not-so-accessible sites more accessible with graphics tags, form fields, links, etc. Serotek has a library of over 4,000 heavily trafficked sites that have been made fully accessible via C-Saw.When we created C-Saw we approached every AT vendor and offered it to them, free of charge with the goal of making the Internet more accessible for everyone. We got no takers. So the work that has been done is the result of volunteers using Serotek’s System Access and/or the System Access Mobile Network. And these volunteers have done very good work indeed.It is disheartening to introduce a capability that benefits the community, offer it to everyone, and get the cold shoulder only to see a behemoth like IBM waddle … [Read more...] about Isn’t It Ironic?