Low vision awareness month brings accessible experts to Accessible Insights

February is low vision awareness month.  To celebrate the raising of awareness and to acknowledge those who work to ensure that our world is a more inclusive place, I’ll be posting a series of interviews I’ve conducted  with accessibility, awareness and assistive technology experts.  Anyone in particular you want to hear about?  Click comment or contact and let me know. 


Thank you for your continued readership, and more accessible insights coming soon.



What is your favorite disability resource? Help build a directory

Most bloggers and webmasters use analytics tools to evaluate the scope of their reach.  The particular tool one might use is selected on the basis of the volume and specificity of the information desired.  Since I am no analyst myself, I use a simple tool for my blog and web sites.  The only information collected tells me where my readers are coming from, whether referred by a social network or a search engine.  One of the more interesting categories of data the tool provides to me is a list of the search terms used to find my blog.  What is interesting about these search terms is the vague or awkward language often used in the query.  I experimented with a few of these search terms, and was surprised at how little relevant information was returned.  I tried a few more queries, but was unable to retrieve a robust list of web sites and blog’s that pertained to sites specifically about blindness and low vision.


Yes, there were some, of course.  However, I was surprised that some of my own favorites were not listed on the first two pages of the search results.  Setting aside the conversation about SEO and marketing, I found myself wondering how a person who is entering into their senior years or a person who has recently struggled with vision loss might find the most useful information about how to thrive when learning to live with  low or no vision.


While I would not dispute the value of governmental or health related web sites, it occurred to me that the best sources of the kind of information that I believe to be the most relevant comes directly from those who are living the experience.  Is the National Institute of Health web site really the best place to find information on how to use technology to continue to run a business while losing eyesight?  Is a site advising a person on how best to collect government disability payments the best place to learn how to navigate city streets, cook for oneself, or stay connected online?


In my opinion, no.  The above examples contain more general educational information or theory than realistic day-to-day solutions.  That’s why I want my brilliant readers to help me to build a directory of web sites and blog’s that a person who is seeking useful information on coping, communicating, or care giving can turn to for real world advice.  Further, the best people to ask are those who avail themselves of these resources.  Therefore, I’m asking you to help build a directory that anyone can use to get real insights into how we live every day.


Please respond by either submitting a comment or using the accessible contact form link at the top of the page.  Please respond to the following questions:


1:  What is your favorite site for finding information about blindness or low vision? 
Note that the site can be a tech, issues, accessibility or independent living site.

2:  Why do you value the site?

3:  does the site or blog also have a social media counterpart?  Please provide links.


Finally, I’d just like to point out that this is  NOT a vote.  I’m putting together a directory, not a popularity poll.  think of it this way:  If you could dictate the Google search results for the search term "best sites for blindness and vision loss," what would the first page look like?


By the way, it’s okay to submit your own web properties.  Brag a  bit!  I’m here to support your efforts.



The Zoomtext app: first confirmation

Here it is, friends.  Follow this link to the Zoomtext blog for the first info on the newest AI Squared product, the Zoomtext app. 


Zoomtext joins the app race



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Zoomtext is going mobile!

Despite my best efforts to pry the details from my dealer rep, who had already been plied with far more desirable inducements than those which I possess, I could excavate no details.  Drat!  I was told to “stay tuned,” which I now must request of you.    I was promised that as soon as information was available, I could post it here.  So, keep your eye out for news of a possible mobile Zoomtext, and I’ll do my best to scoop it for you.


Considering that a dealer in Australia offered my rep a ride in his helicopter, a sail on his boat and even proffered a diamond ring, I suspect I won’t be first with the news.  It’s clear that I cannot offer her the same…uh, attributes.  I’m stuck with my winning personality.


More soon…



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The CSUN 26th annual persons with disabilities conference quick links

Okay, friends, it’s time to consider whether to attend the CSUN 2011 conference on disability.  It may seem early, but  registration is already open, and if you want to stay at the hotel in which the main exhibit hall is located, make your reservation now to get the conference rates.  Below is relevant data, summarized for your convenience, along with the link to the CSUN 2011 conference main page.


When:  March 14-19, 2011

Where:  Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel, San Diego, CA.


Conference main page

Be sure to use the hashtag #csun11 when tweeting about the conference.

Check out the Center on Disability on Facebook.

You can tweet to @CSUNCOD on  Twitter.

Subscribe to the CSUNCOD channel on YouTube.


If you are a vendor, be sure to submit  a comment containing your booth number,  and a few words to promote your product. 


See you there!



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Hotkey help for ZoomText and Windows Live Writer users

If you have recently upgraded to Windows Live Essentials 2011 version, you may be baffled by the new interface.  Programs such as Windows Live mail and Windows Live Writer now feature the "ribbon" design menus, instead of the familiar pull-down style menus.  If you use a screen reader such as Zoomtext, you may have already found the new design to be frustrating.  Below is a list of hotkeys, taken directly from the WLW site, which will prove useful when you transition to the newest version. 

I have already discovered a hotkey combination that directly conflicts with one of the Zoomtext hotkey combinations.  It is the "set categories" shortcut, CTRL+SHFT+C.  A half-dozen or so of my blog posts were published without appropriate categories, because I was unable to figure out how to add or set categories in the new Live Writer version.  Each time I chose the hotkeys to do this, Zoomtext enabled the "color enhancements" feature.  This conflict made it impossible to add categories to my posts, which disorganized my blog.  To disable this particular hotkey group in Zoomtext,  invoke the zoomtext user interface, select the settings menu, then select hotkeys.  the default selection in the hotkeys menu is "all hotkeys."  Simply scroll down to the color enhancements menu item  and then tab to the  "disable hotkey" button.  If you wish to retain the color enhancements toggle, you can easily reassign a modifier key so as to avoid conflicts.  

In the list that follows, I marked the hotkey conflict with an "*."  If you find others, please submit a comment.



Windows Live Writer keyboard shortcuts:
Create a new post
Create new page
Open a post
Save a post
Publish a post
Post draft to blog
Insert hyperlink
Add picture from computer
Add picture from the web


See post properties


Set categories*
Update blog theme
Change to edit view
Change to preview view
Change to source view

Text formatting shortcuts


Clear formatting
Center text
Align text left
Align text right
New paragraph
Heading 1
Ctrl+Left Alt+1
Heading 2
Ctrl+Left Alt+2
Heading 3
Ctrl+Left Alt+3
Heading 4
Ctrl+Left Alt+4
Heading 5
Ctrl+Left Alt+5
Heading 6
Ctrl+Left Alt+6
Set text direction from left to right
(Only available in RTL mode)

Ctrl+Left Shift
Set text direction from right to left
(Only available in RTL mode)
Ctrl+Right Shift

General shortcuts
Paste special
Ctrl+Left Alt+V
Select all
Show or hide ribbon
Get Help for Writer


Happy blogging…



Improve your writing with an old gem made modern

For bloggers and amateur writers, especially those who are somewhat, um, removed from English Comp in middle or high school, crafting your message with surgical precision can be frustrating.  I just finished reading a book that I cannot recommend highly enough.  If you are a writer  who wishes  to improve your technique yet who cringes at the thought of returning to school, this is a great read.  You may recall from the aforementioned school that a textbook called "The Elements of Style" was used in many English composition classes.  If you want to take a quick refresher course on the subject, get this book and read it again.  You will be amazed, as was I, at how much you will benefit.  After finishing the book, I immediately returned to page one and began rereading.  So inspiring is this little book that I have now embarked upon a reading binge consisting entirely of books about writing.


It is hard to find the time to join a writing club, take a college course through an extension or online program, or to find a teacher willing to regularly critique or correct your work.  This short text is the next best thing.  I bought my copy from Audible.com.  Getting the book in audio format is advantageous for several reasons.  One reason is the convenience for commuters and people with print disabilities.  another reason  this alternative format is useful is that the reader is encouraged to use his or her ears as a scalpel when editing.  It is valuable to hear the provided examples, along with the rules for effective  English usage.  Further, the notion of listening to your composition as you revise your drafts  makes use of my own writing secret weapon.     
At first, you may believe it to be a tip benefiting only writers who are blind, but I assure you my secret will benefit anyone.  give it a try.  It is simply a twist on the old advice to read your work aloud.  My secret is that I use a screen reader to read aloud everything that happens on the computer.  A person who is blind and who uses a computer must do so with the aid of this assistive tool.  Menus, icons, error messages, dialogue boxes, email, and word processing documents are read aloud by a text-to-speech reader.  The screen readers specifically for people who are blind are in most cases prohibitively expensive, but you can find simpler and cheaper text-to-speech readers that are not necessarily meant to be accessible for blind PC users.


How will this improve your writing?  If you do not have a friend  at hand each time you complete a draft, or you have difficulty in reading aloud while maintaining aural objectivity, the synthesized voice will be a helpful means by which to hear your prose.  Now I depend entirely on my hearing to revise my work, but I remember from earlier sighted days that there seemed to be a point at which I could no longer reliably look at my text and catch the mistakes.  I would often overlook punctuation and grammar errors, simply because I had reviewed the work countless times with fatigued eyes, thus diminishing accuracy.


Here’s the link to the book in audio:


The Elements of Style, revised.


Do you have a favorite book on writing to suggest?  I’ll be glad to post your recommendations below.  For me, writing is a great pleasure in life, partly because unlike life, I can edit, revise or delete the unacceptable.  Beautiful.


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President signs pedestrian safety enhancement act




Chris Danielsen

Director of Public Relations

National Federation of the Blind

(410) 659-9314, extension 2330

(410) 262-1281 (Cell)



President Signs Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act
Washington, D.C. (January 5, 2011): The National Federation of the Blind today commended President Barrack Obama for signing into law the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act (S. 841), which will protect the blind and other pedestrians from injury as a result of silent vehicle technology.

“The National Federation of the Blind is pleased that this critical legislation has been signed into law, preserving the right to safe and independent travel for the blind,” said Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind.  “The blind, like all pedestrians, must be able to travel to work, to school, to church, and to other places in our communities, and we must be able to hear vehicles in order to do so.  This law, which is the result of collaboration among blind Americans, automobile manufacturers, and legislators, will benefit all pedestrians for generations to come as new vehicle technologies become more prevalent.  We look forward to working with the Department of Transportation throughout the regulatory process.”

Because blind pedestrians cannot locate and evaluate traffic using their vision, they must listen to traffic to discern its speed, direction, and other attributes in order to travel safely and independently.  Other people, including pedestrians who are not blind, bicyclists, runners, and small children, also benefit from hearing the sound of vehicle engines.  New vehicles that employ hybrid or electric engine technology can be silent, rendering them extremely dangerous in situations where vehicles and pedestrians come into proximity with each other.