Code Factory announces release of Mobile Speak 4

The newest version of Mobile Speak Smartphone is set to be released either near the end of this year, or early 2010. According to the Code Factory newsletter, Mobile Speak 4 will feature a few very interesting upgrades.

One of these upgrades is the intriguing new cross-platform capability. You will be able to switch between Windows Mobile and Symbian-based devices for free. The new Mobile Speak will also support touch, and will include three voices that can be assigned to different applications or messages. There will also be new keyboard commands as well as new privacy and battery preserving features. Additionally, Code Factory claims that the new Mobile Speak 4 is ‘ready for the next generation,” but they do not spell out what that actually means.

Code Factory has a channel on Youtube, find it here:

http://www.youtube.com/user/CodeFactoryVideos

Code Factory, at http://www.codefactory.es is based in Barcelona, Spain. They are the leading providers of screen readers and screen magnification and Braille interfaces for the widest variety of mainstream mobile devices.

I have been using Mobile Speak with a Motorola Q phone. I have also downloaded a number of apps which are also accessible, such as Phat Notes, Sprite Backup and text editing software. Mobile Speak also supports Pocket PC and PDA devices. Combined with my phone’s qwerty keyboard, my mobile experience is totally barrier-free. I look forward to the new Mobile Speak 4, and of course hope it is also bug-free. I’ll let you know.

LL

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A grasshopper answers my phone!

Among the top-ranked tools available to entrepreneurs today is a virtual phone solution you should check out. Grasshopper.com has been listed repeatedly on the myriad “Top 10” tech and social media blogs which are so pervasive now. Everyone is looking for that perfect phone app or blog plug-in or social networking productivity tool, and I’ve found several I’ve mentioned here.

The latest, Grasshopper.com, is an inexpensive feature-rich virtual phone service that can provide you with either local or toll-free phone numbers that do just about everything but feed your dog. I’m betting someone is working on that, though. Picture it: A phone app that enables you to phone home and toggle on your lights, small appliances or your automatic dog feeder. It’s coming, I just know it.

I digress.

there is nothing you could possibly want to do with a phone system that cannot be done using Grasshopper. Grasshopper features include faxing, forwarding and phone numbers that you can take anywhere. You can accept phone calls, direct calls straight to voicemail, or have messages delivered to your email inbox. if you really need to be reachable, there’s no place to hide with Grasshopper.

The nice people who work there asked me to compose a guest post for their blog. Since the site happens to be screen reader accessible, they spotted me tweeting about that and asked for a small contribution to their Grasslands blog. Read it here:

http://grasshopper.com/blog/company/2009/11/18/an-unlikely-entrepreneur/

When you’re done reading, tweet at me just to say hi, then check out Grasshopper phone service.

LL

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A virtual cover girl?

Hardly. However, that heading might catch the interest of someone trolling through Google three days from now. In any case, The Virtual Entrepreneur Magazine has published their latest issue, available here:

http://www.tvemagazine.com/this-issue.html

Edited by Andrea Jackson of Action Jackson Virtual Assistants, the magazine is packed with articles and tips on every aspect of business as a VA. One of the many tasks performed by a VA is to promote their clients. To that end, the cover story in this month’s issue features yours truly in a piece entitled, “A Virtual Hero.”

Embarrassing an overstatement as that may be, check out the magazine and then write to Andrea and tell her how talented she is, then hire her for all of your administrative, marketing and web support needs. Wondering why you would need a VA? Read my most popular article entitled, “Top 7 Reasons to Hire a Virtual Assistant.” Find it here:

http://eloquentinsights.com/virtualassistant.html

LL

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Put down the flamethrower and slowly back away…

‘If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.” -J. F. Clarke

I’m hardly the first person to make this observation, but among the plethora of possibilities presented by the Internet is the opportunity to be unkind without consequence. The anonymity afforded by our screen names and questionable profiles (“fauxfiles”?) gives us the hit and run capability that emboldens the cowards among us.

As an educator and speaking professional for over ten years, one of the so-called “rules” of public speaking is a rule to which I closely adhere. It applies too other aspects of life as well, and I have often found it extremely useful to utilize tenets of other industries in my own. For example, there are principles of in-person networking that can be applied to social media networking. There are principles of real estate investing that can be applied to education. Innumerable coaching and sports analogies can be applied to just about anything.

this philosophy in particular, an admonishment to speakers to “know their audience,” is applicable to marketing.

when I speak to groups about disability awareness, I am quickly reminded that my audience is not stocked with attendees who see things my way. My job isn’t to point my finger at them and say, ‘Be nicer to people who are disabled because it’s the right thing to do.” If the “right thing to do” were sufficient a reason to do anything,we would not have crime. So, my job isn’t to spank my attendees in an effort to shame them into behaving a certain way. Rather, I see my role as more like that of a cultural anthropologist, excavating motives, interpreting the data, seeking to understand how the pieces fit together and how best to improve upon our interactions with one another.

To do this, I must know my audience. Speaking to a roomful of disability rights advocates does not achieve my purpose. Presumably, they already “get it.” Nor is my audience a roomful of individuals with disabilities. They are living the experience about which I speak, they are the proverbial “choir” to whom I would be ‘preaching.”

the same is true in marketing. the goal isn’t to create a market for a product that doesn’t exist, the goal is to identify an existing market and help them meet a need.

The point is, the Insights web destinations are not for the tech-savvy, html-markup sophisticates who are experts in web site accessibility platforms and protocols. My target market are the individuals who are struggling to find practical information about how to cope with their parents who are disabled, or those who are seeking ways to manage their own disability. they would be unlikely to troll the many jargon-intensive, informational tech blogs. they are unlikely to grasp the finer points of- Using tables for structure, layout and design rather than separating style from content using semantic markup ie css and (x)html. If you understood that sentence, my offerings may not be for you. I know my audience. For those who seek to further their own interests at the expense of others, however, this is a matter of no importance. They would simply prefer to humiliate. It’s faster.

Let’s back up and punt, shall we? the bigger picture is that if we do not possess dignity ourselves, we cannot give it to others. Criticism, flaming, ridiculing only weakens our message. Instead, examine the good works of people who take chances every day in guiding others through the minefield of differing viewpoints. the landscape is fraught with bias and resentment and past pain, which only serves to cloud our judgment and permit us to be hurtful. We humans have a long road ahead of us as life becomes more difficult, seems more savage, faster paced. If we allow ourselves to suffer the indignity of the pettiness of those who would silence us, we have no voice to lend to those who have no voice of their own.

It is a profound commentary on just how marginalized professionals with disabilities must feel that for some, it seems necessary to betray or belittle each other, despite our shared goals, our shared drive to improve the lives of others. For those of you who are advocates for people with disabilities, teachers of awareness, accessibility, crafters of assistive technologies and who actively seek to promote our abilities, thank you. If your efforts seem only to garner you scorn, ridicule, humiliation or sabotage, keep up the good work. You must be doing something right.

LL

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Good customer service is an equal opportunity opportunity.

In stark contrast to the customer service oriented, enlightened and inclusive attitude demonstrated by the Nutshell Mail staff as described in a previous post, I had quite a different experience with another company. Recently, I had a need to make some inquiries about creating and hosting audio products, so I went to a popular audio site that claims to offer “audio for everyone!’

Apparently, as I soon discovered, not quite everyone.

When I encountered some difficulty in navigating the site, I searched for a phone number to call for assistance in setting up my account. The sales rep who answered the phone informed me that he could not create an account via phone. The web site was the only way. I asked him if he might make an exception, considering that I am visually impaired and using a screen reader that seems to be having some trouble with the registration form.

the sales rep told me no, I must register for the service using the online form. Concerned, I explained that I could not access the registration form, and if the registration form wasn’t accessible, then the actual service might not be, either. this comment was met by dead silence.

So, I just came right out and asked, “Is your service accessible for users who are blind?”

After another few seconds of silence, the sales rep asked, “What does ‘accessible’ mean?”

Incredulous, I really had to check myself. while I find it hard to believe that in this age of technology, anyone who works for an Internet audio production and hosting service wouldn’t know what ‘accessible” means, every day proves to be a new revelation into our culture’s pervasive ignorance about people who have disabilities.
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Trying another tactic, I said, “Does your service work with a screen reader?” Silence. I went on, hesitantly,. “A screen reader is a program that reads text aloud for users who are blind.” Silence.

Finally, he responded. “I really couldn’t tell you. You’ll just have to try it and see.” I asked, hopefully, “Well, do you happen to know if you have any customers who are blind?”” I figured if the answer was yes, there was a strong likelihood that they used a screen reader like my own, and that would answer my questions.

“I really wouldn’t know. All I can say is to try it and see. that’s why we have the free trial period.”

that, I thought regretfully, was the end of that. There was no offer to consult with the tech support person, no attempt to connect with another staff member who might know, not even an offer to find out and give me a call back. Just a complete blow-off.

Now, I will grant you that a ‘free trial period” offered by a company is their way of mitigating returns and dissatisfied customers. However, I often say that attitudinal barriers can be as formidable as physical barriers. what this sales representative, and the company he represents, clearly fails to understand is that the investment of time and frustration required to make a simple determination as to whether or not a service is accessible can be a prohibitive one. A two minute conversation with a more knowledgeable staff member could alleviate this fruitless investment. Instead, I was dismissed, and left with a white-hot hate for this company and it’s product. this sort of uncaring attitude costs businesses in both dollars and goodwill.

In my opinion, this is not an accommodation issue, it is a customer service issue. there is absolutely no excuse for the sales rep’s deplorable attitude. As I am prone to do, however, I vote with my wallet. I’ll simply take my business elsewhere.

LL

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