New release of Nutshell Mail to be accessible? Let's find out together.

If you are among those who use Nutshell Mail for aggregating all of your social media and email account information, you will be pleased to know that a new version will be released soon. According to Mark, who is with Nutshell Mail support and with whom I’ve exchanged email, the new release will be out sometime in the next two weeks..

When I first heard about the new version, I was concerned enough to write to Nutshell Mail, explaining that I specifically chose the service because it was accessible, and encouraged them not to abandon their users who are blind or visually impaired. Mark admitted that while they may not have specifically set out to achieve accessibility, he was pleased that the service worked well for me, and then invited me to participate in the early beta test group, so that I could provide feedback as to how well the new version functioned with my accessibility software.

Once again, I found myself so pleased that a company would not only care about the issue, but would actually invite my participation and feedback. The willingness to make adjustments so that the Nutshell Mail product can be used by everyone is such a statement about the company’s commitment to customer service.

Mark assured me that if for some reason the new version of Nutshell mail was not a comfortable switch for any user, they could revert to the “classic” version of the service. However, he pointed out that the “whole new Nutshell Mail would give users a much more robust way to message back into Facebook and Twitter.”

So, look forward to the new release soon, and my own updates as to how the new interface works with Jaws and Zoomtext.

Nutshell Mail is another example of my belief that good customer service is an equal opportunity opportunity.

LL

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Inaugural issue of the Bits of Insight newsletter

Being a perfectionist is a nightmare. Seriously. It is not a flattering quality, it is not a characteristic of which I am proud, and it is a trait I have sought to moderate my entire life. If acknowledging the problem is the first step, then simply by virtue of the fact that I’ve acknowledged there is a problem means there is an inherent flaw in my perfectionism that makes for a maddening ‘catch 22.” I’m forever trying to improve upon that which should not be improved. Clearly, I’m insane.

Sure, there is nothing wrong with striving for perfection, as long as you can accept that perfection isn’t possible. I’d like to think that in the failure to achieve perfection, I can arrive at excellence instead.

The way this plays out for me in real life is that I have trouble letting go of things. One of them is my writing. If it is true that writing is ninety-five percent rewriting, then I guess that makes me a bona fide writer. I rewrite endlessly, sculpting each sentence, each paragraph, to the point that I can no longer see any of it, so I have to put it away. I recently read a quote that said something like, “To be a great artist you have to be willing to forget about being a great artist,” or something like that.

The point of this is to say that I have struggled over the first issue of the newsletter to the detriment of my subscribers, and it’s time to send it out. For heaven’s sake, who died and made me newsletter queen? Just send it out, flaws and all. Geez. I’m not going to win a Pulitzer.

So, if you are interested in some tips and tools to help you support a friend or loved one who is elderly, disabled or who endeavors to be a more competent care giver, sign up for the free Bits of Insight newsletter, or send a gift subscription to someone you know.

Subscribe at http://www.inhomeinsights.comm.

I’ll just take a deep breath and think of it as a growing, evolving work in progress. I look forward to your contribution and feedback. By making the publication a collaborative effort, we will create a broader appeal and gain a broader reach.

Ready or not, here it goes…

LL

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Tweeple of few words

I’ll say this for Twitter: If nothing else, it’s a great place to collect quotes, if you love quotes. there seems to be a significant number of tweeple out there who use Twitter solely to tweet and retweet quotes. Since I have always loved language, the rhythm and musicality of words, I can’t resist a good quote. In some cases, though, I really enjoy the ones that just make me laugh. It requires a finely honed wit to be both humorous and economical. Not long ago I heard a famous funnyman say he would work for an hour to reduce a laugh line from twelve words to eight. That’s true wit.

Here are just a few quotes I’ve run across recently: :

When a man won’t listen to his conscience, it’s usually because he doesn’t want advice from a total stranger. ~ Lindsey Stewart

Arrogance not only prevents you from seeing the big
picture, it makes you think your view is the big picture. ~Sherrin Ross Ingram

“What is a committee? A group of the unwilling, picked from
the unfit, to do the unnecessary.” Richard Harkness

“Dogs like to ride in your car, in case the need arises for them to bark violently at nothing right in your ear.” Barry

What are your favorite funny quotes? Send them my way.

LL

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The perfect cell phone for aging eyes…

One problem I’ve observed with some of the cell phones targeted to seniors
is that they seem to be long on marketing and short on real-world usability.
Sure, there are definite advantages to simplicity, especially if
practicality is not compromised. Unfortunately, though, some of these cell
phones for seniors seem limited to the point of pointlessness. Once you
make a cell phone truly accessible, why take away all of the great features?

It’s really cute how some of the manufactures have lasered directly into the
boomers bracket by associating the phone with be-bop and simpler times gone
by, but I find the marketing somewhat repellant. How about a cell phone for
grown-ups? Yes, I’ve heard the expression, “once a man, twice a child’ as
it pertains to aging, but really, is it necessary to be so blatantly
condescending? If you want to buy your loved ones a gift of cell phone
freedom this year, here are some options that range in function and
flexibility, without
hijacking the 1950’s as though older people are somehow all stuck in a time
warp.

Your choices are between a mainstream cell phone to which you can add
accessible functionality, or a cell phone that is purposefully natively
limited. In the first category, I like the combination of Mobile Speak
software and
the Motorola Q phone. It is what I use. I am not a senior citizen but I do
require speech functionality. Mobile Speak is a software download that
can be installed into a variety of cell phones that use the Smartphone
platform. Simply put, it makes every aspect of the Motorola phone
accessible by making the phone speak each feature and function aloud. It
has a full QWERTY keyboard that is tactile and the buttons are not
miniscule. I can text with the best of them.

There is another text-to-speech option, by Nuance, which is based on a chip
that is
installed into a phone. It is called Talx (for my screen reader friends,
that is spelled with an “x” instead of ‘k s”), and it works in the Nokia
6600 series phones. I’ve used this, too, and while it is also very
functional, the phone itself is not current technology, the software
interface that allows you to sync the phone with your PC is not accessible,
and the cable required to do this is proprietary. that means you cannot use
standard USB connectivity. Finding this cable, called the ‘Pop Port,” is
practically impossible, if you wanted it. Not that it would do you any
good, due to the aforementioned inaccessibility of the sync software
interface.

If you do not require speech, an excellent option for seniors is the Doro
326i cell phone. Nothing to add, install or that requires
sighted assistance. It has large tactile buttons and a large font high
contrast screen. You cannot download software into the phone, but it has
enough features to make the phone appealing without being so feature-rich as
to be overwhelming. Best of all, you don’t have to be on one of those
pre-paid minute plans, or be on some sort of closed network that lacks
coverage in your area. It works with several service providers, and is
reasonably priced.

If sheer simplicity is what you’re after, and all you want is one step above
two cans and a string, there are plenty of those from which to choose, too.
In my opinion, though, if you’re going to go that route, you may as well get
that alert button from the ‘Help I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!” people.
It only calls one number, but if that’s all you need…

LL

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An overview of the Insights Empire

Eloquent Insights http://www.eloquentinsights.com/

If you need an educational speaker who will bring experience, eloquence and
excellence to your next event, go to Eloquent Insights and complete a
request for service today. Laura Legendary is a speaker, author and
educator specializing in disability awareness, advocacy, accessibility and
assistive technology.

In-Home Insights http://www.inhomeinsights.com

Bits of insight for greater independent living and compassionate care
giving. You’ll find elder care information and products to make life a
little
easier for everyone. Sign up for the free “Bits of Insight” newsletter for
caregivers by caregivers. You can even submit your own caregiving tips so
that others can benefit from your expertise.

Accessible Insights http://www.accessibleinsights.info

A site for sore eyes! Products and publications, resources and
recommendations for people with low or no vision. Check out the Accessible
Insights weblog and Laura’s List for tips on the latest assistive technology
solutions.

Legendary Insights http://www.legendaryinsights.com

Home of the Legendary Insights Foundation, a small private philanthropic
organization established in loving memory of Billy Ray Legendary.
Please make a donation today. Your contribution will be used to purchase
assistive technology devices to help individuals with vision loss to achieve
their vocational goals.

Follow me on Twitter: @insightsempire

Link to me on Linked In: Laura Legendary

Be my fan on Facebook: Eloquent Insights

LL

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Mobile versions of web sites make for great accessible alternatives

It took me quite awhile to become an Amazon shopper. It wasn’t because I
didn’t like to save money, or have merchandise delivered to my door, or
because I felt no desire to join the online shopping revolution. It was
that I was intimidated by the Amazon web site, which for someone who uses a
screen
reader, can seem overwhelming. In an effort to sell nearly everything on
Earth, Amazon has made for a serious time commitment for those who are
unfamiliar with the landscape. I’ve heard even sighted users complain about
the mind-boggling number of choices, and that navigating the Amazon web site
can be as formidable as navigating the actual South American Amazon.

Amazon is serious about getting your business. I know that because I
complained to them about a certain inaccessible feature that had prevented
me from using their site. I was subsequently contacted by a very
solicitous person from the executive customer relations department, who
immediately set about the task of correcting the problem. Further, he asked
me to advise him as to
other areas of the site that could use similar improvements. He thanked me
for my
contribution, and left me feeling as though I had made a real difference for
those who would follow in my screen reading footsteps.

He left me with a few tips, too. One of which has proved to be useful not
only for shopping at Amazon, but other web sites as well. He pointed out
that the mobile version of the Amazon web site was a more accessible version
of the main site, and it could be used by both desktop and mobile users. He
said it lacked the “bells and whistles” of the main site, which I
interpreted to mean the graphics, flash animation and other visual debris
that can interfere with efficiency.

This was very good news.

As it turns out, the Amazon mobile site is the most wonderfully accessible,
easy to use shopping interface imaginable. I can make a purchase at
lightening speed, probably faster than a sighted person could. Fewer
screens, fewer distractions, fewer “rabbit trails” that take you to a screen
leading to nowhere.

To see this accessible alternative, go to;
http://www.amazon.com/access.

My brother recently pointed out that Facebook also has a mobile version of
their site. Again, it’s all text, no graphics, and lacks the ads and other
happy hoopla that makes the site appealing to the light-dependent crowd.
Go to: http://www.m.facebook.com.

More sites are now offering mobile versions of their main web properties,
meant specifically for use with mobile phones. However, used with your
desktop, these alternative versions also provide some great accessible
options for anyone who is visually impaired, time-constrained, or who has
anger-management issues and who detests the graphic flotsam and jetsam of
most shopping or social media destinations.

Know of others? Send them my way!

LL

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Social media mania

Now that I’m all Linked In and Twittering away, I have to face it…I need
to be seen on Facebook. the other day I heard a young person say, “If you
don’t have a Facebook page, you’re just not cool.” Oh, well okay then. We
can’t have that. Besides, Andrea would hear none of it.; “You HAVE to have a
Facebook page! that’s where all your blogging entries and tweets go!”

Since Facebook is apparently the repository for all things social, the
glittering paradigm of coolness, the benchmark by which my worth on the
planet is measured, at least until the next big thing comes along, I must
resign myself. No sooner do I get the words, ‘What?…I have to have a Face
Book page, too?” out of my mouth, the “Welcome to Facebook!” email has
dropped into my inbox. Miss Andrea gathers no moss.

You’ll understand my skepticism…I’m a geek girl from way back, and I’m
doubtful that even the almighty Facebook can fix that. Yet, here I am,
already with five friends, which is more than I had in high school. By
the way, Nutshell Mail can aggregate my Facebook updates and messages, too,
so if you need another reason to try Nutshell Mail, I can say so far, so
good. I’m still doing every bit of my social media marketing from Windows
Mail. Easy, enjoyable, accessible.

LL

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Why should you care about web site accessibility?

My latest article is aimed at small business owners who question the
necessity of web site accessibility. Granted, it’s just another thing to
think about, along with design, branding, functionality and
“attractibility.” You want everyone to love your web site, right? You want
everyone to buy lots of your goods or services, right?

Well, does everyone really mean everyone?

Sometimes, attitudinal barriers can be more formidable than
architectural barriers. Making your web site accessible to people who have
low or no vision really isn’t that difficult and can be extremely rewarding.
Read “Why You Should Care About Web Site Accessibility” at Eloquent
Insights. Go to: http://www.eloquentinsights.com/articles

LL

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Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore…

Today I actually found myself at a web site called hashtags.org. THERE’S
someplace I never thought I would ever be. If you don’t know what a hashtag
is, consider yourself tragically un-hip, but if you are guessing, no, it
isn’t a price sticker for a Hormel product.

A hashtag is a way of calling attention to your tweets to those who
“subscribe” to the tag. I can explain no further.

Okay, I’ll try. First, a hashtag looks like this: #.ff or #jobs, for
example. The hash mark is the number sign, which is shift-3 on the number
row.

This would be a bit tricky if you are on a screen reader, as my screen
reader will attempt a pronunciation whether or not it reads an actual word.
You could slam your fists down on the keyboard and Zoomtext will attempt to
read it aloud. this makes for some really funny moments, especially once
you begin to realize that playing around with certain characters can alter
the way a word or sentence is read. Add a tilda (~) to a sentence, and
hilarity ensues.

There are some good Twitter tutorials out there, go to your favorite search
engine and type in: Twitter in plain English. You’ll get some articles and
primers on the subject. Some Twitter conventions were not implemented by
the Twitterati themselves, rather, the Twitter-obsessed community, now
referred to collectively as ‘Tweeple.” It’s all rather ingenious, once you
find the Twitterosetta stone. For you text-to-speech users, that was
“Twitter Rosetta Stone.”

The endless Twitter puns are pretty fun, too.

LL

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Two accessible solutions to enhance your social networking experience

In an effort to hop on to the social networking bandwagon (an utterly arcane
way to express the need to participate in an utterly of-the-moment form of
online communication), I have recently crept in to Twitter. Already, I have
a Linked In profile, my virtual assistant Andrea is building a Facebook page
for me, I have four web sites and this blog. To manage all of this
activity, keep it current and to attempt to
better communicate with my customers, I have really needed to find an
accessible solution to enable the greatest flexibility and independence.

Recently, I have discovered two accessible insights that may work for you.

The first is what I use to send updates to the Accessible Insights blog.
the blogging platform I’m using is Word Press, which is actually pretty
accessible all on it’s own. Again, it was my virtual assistant, Andrea of
Action Jackson virtual Assistants who set up the account and “pointed” it to
my site, but I found while exploring Word Press that there were many
features that I could use without sighted assistance, with only the use of
my screen reader software, Zoomtext. However, I spend a great deal of time
parked in front of my email inbox, and I wanted to find a way that I could
quickly and easily post blog entries from my totally accessible, familiar
and well-worn Windows Mail interface.

What I discovered was a neat little web-based “handshake” between my email
inbox and blog, called Blog Mailr. No, that is not a spelling error. If
you are using a screen reader to read this, you should know that “Mailer” is
spelled without the ‘e.” Their special little piece of unique, I guess.
everybody’s got to have a thing, right?

Go to http://www.blogmailr.com and read about how it works. The technical
aspect is beyond me, but the upshot is that you can send blog posts from
your email program. It’s a beautiful thing.

Accessible solution 2: Same idea different context. If you are one of the
millions of ‘Tweeple” out there who camp out on the Twitter site chirping
and tweeting away, take a look at Nutshell Mail. Go to
http://www.nutshellmail.com. You can get regularly scheduled (you choose)
email updates that allow you to keep track of your various social networking
activities, both incoming and outgoing. You can receive your tweets and
email messages from Twitter, My Space, Facebook and more. You can send
tweets, retweets, direct messages and perform other functions right from
your email inbox. Read the nutshell Mail site thoroughly, including the
blog. It’s entertaining and informative. To paraphrase one of the Nutshell
Mail blog entries: If you would prefer to live in the meatspace rather than
the geek-o-sphere, then you need Nutshell Mail. I agree. It’s another way
to make your life a little easier, more accessible and therefore, more
enjoyable and less stressful.

LL

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