DC Adaptive Technology Meetup

I found another great meetup by using Ross Karchner‘s DC Tech Events website.

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.

ICON PDA is a device that allows individulas with visual issues to listen to the web, podcasts, etc.

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.

ONYX Desktop 17 inch Closed-Circiut TVAfter 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.

pageof text under ONYX CCTV device

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.

txted zoomed in by the ONYX CCTV device

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 why should I be stopping. The one other thing she mentioned when we crossed the street 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.

Pedestrians Have the Right of Way?

I always thought that pedestrians the right of way, especially when they where in the crosswalk. On the walk home from the Metro after work. These four kids walked out of the 7 – 11 parking lot and into the street stopping in the turn lane into the store. This minivan stops just stop across from them.

I figure the lady in the van is telling them they needed to cross the street at the crosswalk. She talks to them for like at least a minute, while a few cars back up behind her. By this time I have stared to cross the street, once I get most of the way past the first lane and am about to enter the second lane the lady decides to start driving without looking to see if anyone is near her let a lone in front of her. As she goes by I put up my hand and shake it at her. She keeps going so I took a swing at her car with my hand and hit the back van window. You know the ones that have the funny lack, well it opened to my surprise.

At this point she puts on the brakes on and get out of the car and starts shouting at me for hitting her car. I tell her that she should pay attention and that pedestrians have the right of way. She keeps yelling and starts swearing at me, I’m upset for almost getting hit and the adrenaline is flowing so I start back at her for a minute and then just start to leave as she tells to get my “Fat ass back there”. At this point one the kids is walking towards me and  just leave. The kid follows me for a little bit, why I don’t know.

At this point I walk across the 7 – 11 parking lot and head home. I look out of the corner of my eye and the lady is in the left hand lane waiting to make the turn. Once I get to the side street she comes up stops her car again and gets out. She starts yelling again about she can’t believe I hit her car with my hand. At his point a young woman pulls up and tells me to just get in her car, she must have seen what had happened. The first lady is still yelling that I better get in the car if I know what’s good for me. The woman that picks me up yells something at the lady, I get in the back seat of the car and we leave. I had just hopped into the back seat of the second ladies car and she asked how far away I lived and I told her just around the corner about a block away.

We ended up taking the long way to my house to make sure the first woman did not follow her and I. I had her drop me of at the front of my house in case the first lady was driving around looking for me. I asked the second woman her name and I believe she told me Kristan or Christina. I’m not sure which since I was all wound up at this point. I asked her if she lived in the neighborhood, so I might be able to do something for her. She said she lived in Arlington and just goes home that way. I thanked her and went into the house. Thanks again for the ride home, who ever you were.

After relaxing some and writing out a bill that had to be mailed I went to the post office. After mailing the bill at the post office I went to Best Buy to look for a keyboard and flat screen monitor for my laptop. My laptop key board is giving me problems. Mostly the space-bar and the right shift key. I looked around and when I went to leave and cross the street to get to my car, another woman was on her cell phone as she stopped at the stop sign in front of the crosswalk. She started to pull in front of me and then realized she was supposed to let me go.

I have been in that same crosswalk in front of the 7 – 11 before and people just drive right through. The first time was when there was a cop in his car sitting in the parking lot close to the street and he pulled out after and went after the person. Another time a girl was on her cell phone talking to someone and looking over at the passenger in her car doing like 40 mph in a 25. I just missed getting again that time. I even stopped in the road and waved my hands and she still did not notice me. For those of you that know me you know I’m not a small guy and hard to miss seeing in the middle of the road.

So please pay attention when you are in the crosswalk since cars and their drives don’t really need to stop for you if they are not paying attention or are distracted on their cell phones.