This one was the DC Adaptvie Technology meetup that was held at the DC Public Library in Washington, DC. The event was on Saturday December 1st, 2007, from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM in room 215 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. The Saturday Technology Trainning sessions are usually for users of Adaptive Technology like the JAWS screenreader, the Zoomtext magnifier, and anything else that is technical and useful someone. They are usually held the first and third Saturdays of each month. No, meeting the third Saturday of December because of the holiday season. These meetings are normally run by Patrick Timony.
I was one of only a few sighted people at this meeting, which had about twelve or fifteen people. This meeting included a demonstration of the ICON accessible PDA, a braille reader, and how to use the new Mac OS (Leopard) for better accessibility given by David Poehlman.
David showed everyone how to use the ICON PDA by LevelStar. This device which is the size of an old style manual light meter allows people to use the following tools a calendar, an address book, a music player to listen to music or your favorite pod casts, allows you to take notes yourself with the voice recorder and journal, and stay on top of your world with a word processor, web browser, and email. This device has wifi/wireless and comes with a comprehensive menu of pre-installed applications , 30GB hard drive, and Bluetooth® built-in.
Next, he showed a braille reader that you plug into your computer or I even believe the ICON PDA. Finally, David demonstrated how you can have the new Mac OS be turned on to read everything out loud to you. I forget how he said you turn it on.
After David got done Jerry Marindin of Freedom Scientific showed everyone how to use the new ONYX Desktop 17 (Closed-circuit television) CCTV. This device allows people with visual issues to magnify papers, books, maps, etc. It also comes in a model that does not have a camera, but plugs into your computer instead. With the remote control that comes with it you can zoom in or out on a document, flip the camera up to point at things in the back of the room and then zoom in on them. This would be great for people at meetings or classrooms that can not see distance. It also allows you to change the color of maps for those that are color blind. You can change the color contrast so if white text on a black background works better for you then you can do that.
I mentioned to Jerry during his presentation that the image under the camera was upside down and he said “I will show you later how to fix that”. He was then able to use the remote to flip the image on the screen to be flipped the proper way that you needed it. He mentioned that when he brought this producted to a meeting a while ago that one of the blind ladies mentioned that the remote when in audible mode said to push the “RED” button. She said what if I can’t see or if I’m color blind. Jerry took that information back with him the company and they fixed that problem. Now the remote says something like “Press the red button in the upper right corner of the remote”. See what happens when you test with really people, you find out things the engineers dont’ think of.
I learned a bit more after the meeting was over by just sitting and talking with the people that were still there. I asked some questions on what type of things bothered them on the web. It seemed the items that gave them the most grief were forms. Either the form had poor instructions or ones that were to long. They wanted to have short understandable instructions of what the form was for and what type of informtion went in the fields. The other things that bothered them was not telling them that a field was in error until like ten or so fields later or at the end. The one woman said she would like to know as soon as possible when things are incorrect, so she can correct it.
When I left the meeting I asked one of the people still there if they wanted help or they wanted to follow me out to the metro, one woman said sure. I had her grab my arm and follow me out. While getting to the metro I was trying not to tell her to go right or left or whatever, I figured that she would know were to go by where I was leading. She mentioned that at times people will yell “STOP” while she’s out walking somewhere. She was like why should I stop when I don’t know who you are anyway and whyÂ should I be stopping. The one other thing she mentioned when we crossed the streetÂ was the noise that some of the new crosswalk lights make is really annoying. I asked is it because it does not allow her to hear the traffic and she said “Yes”.
Two other things that I thought was interesting was that Patrick gave out two different agenda lists. One for sighted people that had really big text and one for non-sighted people that was in braille. The other item was that both Patrick and Jerry had business cards that were normal on one side and on the other used big blocky text, one card even had braille on it.
In the end I learned a few things, met some really nice people, and it gave me something more to think about while making my web pages more accessible and 508 compliant by using web standards.
So if you get chance go check out their next meeting, I plan on being there and will post when it is after the holidays.