[nfbmi-talk] FW: [stylist] While we're at it ... letter to the editor

Fred Wurtzel f.wurtzel at att.net
Sat Feb 5 23:16:19 UTC 2011


Larry has been encouraging a campaign to send letters to editors and get
editorials in papers on issues of importance to us.  Here is an example of a
letter that a member of our NFB Writers division wrote.  In Lansing, the
Lansing State Journal would reject this letter based on length, although
they have accepted longer letters from me because they liked the letter.
So, if you do choose to write to your editor, check out the letter
guidelines for the paper you will write to.  An idea is to compose letters
at chapter meetings and then send them out or appoint a committee to write
letters.  If we got a letter a montnh printed in the papers, we would
significantly increase our profile at no cost to us.

This letter is meant as an example, you may wish to choose a topic important
to you like Braille literacy or Newsline.  Give it a try.

Warmest Regards,


The Accessible iPhone 3GS
by Josh de Lioncourt
On 19/June/2009, Apple Inc. released the new iPhone 3GS, the third iteration
of its
popular wireless handset and mobile computing platform. Most of the
countless reviews
from journalists and the technically savvy have praised it as a solid and
evolutionary release, but not necessarily a revolutionary one. For one
group, though,
this is unquestionably a
revolutionary device.
As touch screen technology has continued to infiltrate modern life, vocal
of the visually impaired community have had mixed reactions. Some have
decried the
technology as inherently discriminatory, and that it should not be used in
electronics. Others have simply been concerned that, with the snail's pace
at which
access technology innovations come, low- and no-vision users would find
left behind. And still others, like myself, have vocally voiced the opinion
sooner rather than later, this technology would be available to the visually
and that, like it or not, we will have to adapt to it. A virtually identical
arose twenty years ago with the advent of graphical user interfaces, (GUI),
and a
large percentage of the VI community feared being left behind then, too.
Today, the
vast majority of blind computer users are happily productive in Mac OS X,
or Gnome LInux.
With the release of the iPhone 3GS, Apple has released not only the most
in its line of iPhone handsets to date, but also the worlds first
gesture-based screen
reading solution, as well as the first screen reader that relies solely on
screen user input.
, first available for the version of OS X that runs on modern Macs, has been
with the iPhone with elegance and style, and with every decision of its
usage carefully
Going In
Before receiving my iPhone 3GS, I carefully read and reread the information
on Apple's web site, both on their
Accessibility pages
 and the
iPhone How To
 pages. Doing so before receiving my iPhone was the best thing I could've
done. Touch
screen technology, let alone a gesture-based screen reader, are entirely new
for the visually impaired. Understanding how the phone and
 operate before using one can eliminate most of the frustration a user might
when sitting down with the phone for the first time. Of course, you need an
mind as well. As with anything else, if you go in having already decided you
use the iPhone successfully, chances are you're setting yourself up for
This is a mistake many made with GUI's, and that some are making again with
the iPhone.
So How Does It Work?
 on the iPhone works remarkably well. Responsiveness is virtually
and the spoken announcements do not lag behind your fingers touch. Intuitive
cues offer additional feedback that further increase the speed at which you
can operate
the device.
There are two basic methods of operation for VoiceOver. One involves sliding
finger around the screen and allowing VoiceOver
 to announce what you're touching. Double tapping the item you are touching,
or else
tapping a second finger down on the screen while touching it, will activate
The second method involves quick flicks of your finger toward the left or
right to
move systematically from one item to the next on the screen. VoiceOver
 users on the Mac will find this method similar to the very basic
navigation commands. When navigating this way, simply double tap anywhere on
screen to activate the item that currently has focus.
After nearly a week with the iPhone, I'm finding that I use a combination of
methods, depending on the situation, though I lean heavily toward the "touch
tap" style. While the interface is strange at first after more than two
decades on
a PC keyboard, it quickly becomes second nature. The usage and interface are
fluid, and layout conventions are often quite similar from application to
so once you understand the common screen configurations, you'll find that
you are
able to use new apps more and more quickly.
For example, most applications that want you to have instant access to
several different
screens of information provide a row of buttons across the bottom of the
screen that
act much in the way that tab controls would on a desktop computer. In the
Phone app,
these include "Favorites", "Recents", "Contacts", "KeyPad", and "VoiceMail".
any of these will take you to the relevant screen, and
 will even indicate which is currently selected. This type of layout extends
many third-party applications as well.
There are a number of other gestures available to the VoiceOver
 user, two of the most useful of which are the flick up and down ones. These
act differently depending on the current situation and the
VoiceOver rotor setting.
The rotor is a virtual dial which can be.well, dialed.anywhere on the
screen. Imagine
that you have placed two fingers on a physical dial, one on each side, say
at the
nine o'clock and three o'clock positions. If you were to turn that dial, one
of your
fingers would naturally move up, while the other would naturally move down.
is the motion you will use to move the rotor control. THe nice part is, you
can use
fingers or thumbs from both hands, which is sometimes more convenient.
Turning the rotor allows you to change the setting for the flick up/down
If you're editing text, for instance, this will switch between moving
or word-by-word through the text. However, if you are on a web site, you
will be
given a whole hosted of options to move via headings, form controls, links,
and more.
Regardless of the setting, the left and right flicks will always move you
from item
to item on the screen. This only applies to the up and down flicking
What About Typing?
Typing is certainly the one area that will require the most getting used to.
are a variety of methods one can use for typing effectively on the iPhone,
and it
will largely come down to personal preference. This is true for phone with
QWERTY keyboards as well, though, and not a drawback by any means. Early on,
I found
myself gravitating toward the landscape keyboard in the apps that had it
due to the fact that it was larger. Now, I am typing almost exclusively on
the smaller
portrait-style keyboard.
I started out sliding around the keyboard to find the keys that I wanted,
then tapping
with a second finger to enter the key. This worked well and I found my speed
However, in the last couple of days I've found that this is unnecessary, and
is a faster and better way.
While holding the phone in both hands with the device in the portrait
(meaning it is taller than it is wide), I can simply use a thumb to touch
the key
I want to enter, an use the opposite thumb to tap the screen to enter it.
You will
rapidly develop the muscle memory to know where the keys are, and find
yourself sliding
around the keyboard less and less. After switching to this method, I can now
faster on the iPhone than I could on my Samsung Blackjack 2 with its
physical QWERTY
keyboard. Practice is key. Be prepared to spend some time really becoming
with typing on the phone.
What About the Included Apps
The iPhone comes with a large number of apps already installed on the phone.
range from the relatively simple Phone application to make calls, to the
Safari web
browser, and beyond. All of the apps are extremely accessible with
 and are fun to use. Did you ever want an accessible stop watch? You've got
it. What
about a talking calculator? You've got that too. The extensive functionality
of the
phone right out of the box is fantastic, especially given that everything
works beautifully
, something that could certainly not be said for any other phone with
built-in accessibility
Browsing the web with Mobile Safari is a very different experience from
the web on any other platform. I recommend resisting the temptation to do so
you've become at least marginally familiar with the basic operations of
 and the iPhone itself. Once you understand how it works, it is a compelling
solution that offers both a sense of context and visual layout with the
style of navigation, and also the more linear approach of the DOM, (Document
Model), style of browsing using the left and right flicking gestures. There
is absolutely
no question that this is a far superior browsing experience over my previous
of MobileSpeak Smartphone and Internet Explorer on Windows Mobile devices.
In fact,
I've probably done more browsing in the last three days on my iPhone, than I
in the year and a half I used MobileSpeak.
And What About All Those Third-Party Applications?
It's still early days for the visually impaired users of the iPhone, but
I've frankly
been astonished by the number of third-party applications that are
accessible right
out of the gate. Like on the Mac platform, Apple has built accessibility
into the
operating system, which results in a high likelihood that an app will be
 with no special work at all on the part of the developer. Some apps, such
as Facebook
and Pandora Radio, are even offering visually impaired iPhone users a far
experience over their browser-based interfaces.
To date, I've tried and kept NetNewsWire, the Facebook application,
Twittelator Pro
for Twitter, IHeartRadio, Fring for instant messaging, and even a few games
much to my surprise, worked quite well with
What Doesn't Work
Like with anything else, there are always going to be things that don't work
way you'd expect. At present, the iPhone's new Cut/Copy/Paste functions are
not available
. This is not as big of a deal as it might seem. The sighted community of
users didn't have that functionality for two years, prompting many
applications to
employ other methods for getting information from point A to point B. After
a week
with the phone, I have yet to run into an occasion where the lack of
was an actual nuisance. Some users have written to Apple, and it seems they
are aware
of this issue, so I expect we'll see a fix for it in an update.
In some third-party apps, the flick left/right gestures will not always move
through the controls on the screen. It appear that VoiceOver
 is not being notified of the changes to the screen. This, too, is easily
around. So far, every time I have experienced this behavior, the
touch-and-tap method
of navigation still worked flawlessly. In any case, I've only seen this
problem in
a couple of applications.
Is the iPhone Right For You?
No device is going to be absolutely perfect for everyone. Some will continue
to be
adverse to the whole idea of a touch screen. Others will insist upon the
of a physical keyboard. If you fall into one of those groups, the iPhone
won't be
right for you.
For those willing to take some time to learn an entirely new and innovative
the iPhone will likely live up to, and far surpass, your expectations. The
of third-party apps, and the fantastic extent to which they are already
means that the iPhone is a device with virtually limitless possibilities
beyond its
already impressive feature set.
The Future
In an industry that has been stagnant at best, or years behind modern
innovations at worst, VoiceOver
 on the iPHone stands out as an enormous leap forward for accessibility.
Apple has
embraced the notion of UNiversal Access, and has come to the table with
fresh minds
and new perspective. I think that a vast array of blind and visually
impaired individuals
will not only accept and benefit from the iPhone, but find it to be a
rewarding and
productive platform.
With the world's first gesture-based screen reader and wholly accessible
out of the box, Apple is paving the way for the future of access technology.
In a
few years, I predict that the VI community will agree that the iPhone was
the single
biggest game changing piece of technology for the assistive tech industry in
times, just as it has been a game changing device in the mobile phone
Oh.and Apple? I can't wait to see what's next.
The views expressed on Maccessibility.net are not the views of Apple Inc.
and Maccessibility.net,
Lioncourt.com, and related sites are not affiliated with Apple Inc.
 in any way.
Copyright C2007-2009 Maccessibility.net

-----Original Message-----
From: stylist-bounces at nfbnet.org [mailto:stylist-bounces at nfbnet.org] On
Behalf Of Donna Hill
Sent: Friday, February 04, 2011 3:04 PM
To: stylist at nfbnet.org
Subject: [stylist] While we're at it ... letter to the editor

Hi Friends,
This is the letter to the editor I sent out yesterday. Obviously, I 
can't say if it will be picked up, but three local papers usually print 
my letters. Any comments on any of this?


Dear Editor,

On Friday, January 29, history was made at Daytona International 
Speedway when a blind man drove a modified Ford Escape solo. The Blind 
Driver Challenge ^(TM) is a project of Virginia Tech's School of 
Engineering and the nonprofit National Federation of the Blind Jernigan 
Institute (Baltimore, the nation's only research and training facility 
run by blind people.

Jernigan Institute Executive Director Mark Riccobono, successfully 
navigated cones and obstacles at speeds between 20-30 mph, in a 
demonstration before the Rolex 24. A van dropped a box on the course as 
he was driving. After swerving around it, he passed the van. Riccobono 
test-drove the vehicle at Virginia International Raceway earlier this 
year and practiced at Daytona. He took his wife (also blind) and two 
young children for a ride earlier that week.

When Dr. Dennis Hong, director of VT's Robotics and Mechanisms Lab 
(RoMeLa) first learned of the 2004 challenge from NFB President Dr. Marc 
Maurer to American universities to develop a blind-drivable car, he says 
that he figured, "How hard could that be? We've already got automated 
vehicles." He soon learned that the NFB wasn't looking for a vehicle 
that would drive itself, but one in which the driver received 
information in real time through nonvisual interfaces and was actively 
involved in the driving process.

The Ford Escape used in Saturday's demonstration was equipped with a 
Lazar guidance system developed by TORK along with VT-developed 
/DriveGrip/ gloves and /SpeedGrip/ strips in the seat. Sensors on the 
knuckles of each hand deliver vibrations to the index finger of the hand 
indicating the direction to turn. Vibrations to the other fingers of 
that hand specify a sharper turn. Vibrations up the back and down the 
legs define changes in acceleration. The Ford is the second generation 
prototype; Riccobono and 20 blind teens drove a dune buggy at the 2009 
Youth Slam (the NFB's science camp) at the University of Maryland.

The BDC's purpose is to change public perceptions of the capabilities of 
blind Americans, who still suffer a 70% unemployment rate, a 10% Braille 
literacy rate and endure countless obstacles in their quest to take 
their places in society. Furthermore BDC seeks to excite scientists and 
developers about the need for and the possibilities of nonvisual 
interface technology. With the rise of touch screen technology, blind 
Americans are increasingly unable to use consumer products like laundry 
machines and ovens, which were easy, when manufacturers used knobs and 
switches. Office equipment, including fax machines and copiers, have 
been similarly affected, further limiting chances for employment and 

The ADA has made it illegal for architects and builders to ignore access 
to those in wheelchairs, but no similar provision protects blind people 
by ensuring access to products, software and websites. The technology is 
here; it's time to remove barriers to full inclusion of blind Americans. 
As your blind neighbor, I encourage you to help.

For further information visit:

www.blinddriverchallenge.org <http://www.blinddriverchallenge.org/>


Or read my in-depth BDC series on Suite 101:


Read Donna's articles on
Suite 101:
Ezine Articles:
American Chronicle:

Connect with Donna on

Hear clips from "The Last Straw" at:
Apple I-Tunes

Check out the "Sound in Sight" CD project
Donna is Head of Media Relations for the nonprofit
Performing Arts Division of the National Federation of the Blind:

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