I’m Not Dead Yet (In a British Accent)

I know a few of you have asked if I had written anything on my blog in a while and I have had to say no I have not. After reading @Nacin‘s blog post yesterday about it being months, since his last post I figured I might as well work on one myself.

After checking I found the last time I blogged was on September 19, 2010, and it was about “Accessibility Camp DC – October 9, 2010”, which was a great time in case anyone wanted to know. I had wanted to write a blog post a month or so ago, but it probably would have been about Accessibility Camp DC 2011 and it would have looked like I only post when I’m pushing one of my own events, which I actually need to do more of so we get more people attending. By attending the monthly event was so people can learn from each other as well as make new friends.

For those wondering how long it’s been, since I blogged last it has been 443 days or 1 year, 2 months, and 17 days.

To give you a better idea of how long it’s been, we have had our third Accessibility Camp DC, started our third year of monthly Accessibility DC meetings, and I even started working on my web based event registration prototype “Hold An Event”.

Information about Hold An Event

Hold An Event” is going to be an accessible web based event registration application. The most important part of the application is that it will be accessible as possible when completed, since the event registration system we are currently using now is not accessible. Need to make sure this web application is usable by screen reader users, those, using voice recognition software, voice over (iPhone and iPad), and any other assistive technology.

I’m starting by building the mobile part first. I figured if you can register for an event or even create an event on your cell phone, then it should be even easier to do those tasks in a browser or on a tablet. I have spent most of the last two plus years gathering information about the different people that are likely to use the system and what types of functions they will need from the start and those that can wait until later.

More to come about “Hold An Event”, once the prototype is a bit further along, so I can get feedback on it from others.

Events Attended

During 2011 I attended the following events/conferences:

That’s enough for now.

P.S. For those that don’t know the blog post title was a play on the Monty Python skit “Not Dead Yet”.

Need Help Deciding which Web Application to Build

Now that the house issues have been mostly settled I can get started on building one of the many small web applications that I have been tossing around. Some of these ideas I have been thinking about for what seems like years and others just a few months.  I have a good 7 or 8 different web applications that I want to build and I’m looking for some help in determining which one(s) I should build first.

Reasons Why

I need to get other peoples opinions on which will be useful them and more importantly the general public and might in the long run I would be able to charge enough to cover my hosting costs with ads or annual fees. I know that probably all of these have been done many times over, but there are a few reasons why I want to build them and they are:

  • Learn PHP and MySQL
  • Use the newest accessibility implementations of WAI-ARIA and possibly HTML 5
  • Use microformats were applicable
  • Test newest features in screen readers – JAWS, NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA), etc. and web based browsers (Firefox 3.5, IE8, etc.)
  • Use Web Standards
  • Test abilities for user interface design (UI or UX)
  • Create 508 compliant and usable examples for others to learn from for accessibility presentations.

But most importantly to create web applications that I would like to use personally.

Important Part

Now comes the important part, which from the following list of web applications should I build? I added a short description of what they do along with different ways I could help pay the hosting cost. I even created one page prototypes just so you could see what types of information is stored in each one. The style (CSS) and layout (UI/UX) will be changing. I just took some old CSS and put these together.

  1. Online URL/bookmark storage which allow user to have X URLs/bookmarks stored online for free, charge per X items stored, set up annual fee, or show ads of some type. I started this one a while ago and stopped for some odd reason. I’m tired of having bookmarks on two home computers (MAC and PC), along with on work one. Yes, I have heard of delicious.com and ma.gnolia.com.
  2. Store individuals personal contact information and either have X individuals for free, charge per X customers, annual fee, or show ads of some type. Always looking for an address or phone number when at someone else’s house or office and would like to have it be web based.
  3. Online wine inventory – personal use hosted by me with ads for up to X entries or small annual fee for limited number, bigger ones for people with 1000s of bottles of wine. Yes, I know corkd.com is around. I started mine about the same time they (Dan Cederholm and Dan Benjamin) did, just did not have enough get up and go to get past midway with it. Once Cork’d came out I stopped for the most part. So this one is a good way completed using ASP and Microsoft Access, which only needs to be converted to PHP and MySQL.
  4. Online wine inventory – for wine stores to allow their customers to store their wine collection information and then place their (wine store) ads on website (charge monthly fee to store per customer or flat rate by amount of storage and bandwidth used).
  5. Mini adhoc conference information service (no prototype just yet), which would help groups like BarCamp create main information page about event and later at event add an online schedule of talks (allow addition of rooms, topics, speakers, etc.). Place AdSense and/or links of event sponsors on pages. I created similar conference room scheduling web application for old job so have the general idea for it already in my head of what it would need. Not sure if this one exists, but I assume it does somewhere and have not really looked if it does.
  6. RSS/XML Feed reader, which either would have X feeds free, charge per X feeds over free amount, annual fee, or show ads of some type. Created one to pull in a feeds and either display all records contained in RSS/XML, first X amount, or only display records that contained certain words or phrases. There are way to many of them around.
  7. Store multiple weather location information, which would allow you to save multiple zip codes or city/state/country combinations to keep track of home, vacation location, other friends, or families weather. Same idea for covering hosting costs as previous ideas.
  8. Technology Skills or Skill Swap repository, which would allow members to put in there different skills and then have the rights to search for others for help with questions or for projects.  Would have ability to make personal information private so as not to get spammed. Could charge fee for those just looking to find people for work or projects, charge for recruiting type ads, or just place AdSense on pages.


So please do me a great favor and list the top three applications in order you think I should build them so I can get an idea of what others are thinking.

Thanks, greatly in advance for your time and effort for helping me learn new things and decide which web application to build first. I will post findings in a few weeks along with the order in which I will build them in, since a few could be bundled together to make an over arching suite of applications.

“Say-Instead” Part of CSS3

Again while in Austin, Texas, I was talking with Charles L. Chen about his CLiCk Speak Firefox extension and he showed me that by using the new CSS3 property called “say-instead“, which is used to allow screen readers to pronounce words or phrases correctly. Listed below is a few examples of phrases you might use in your posts, which a screen reader would pronounce incorrectly.

The first part of the line is the way you typed it and the second is the way it should be spoken.

  • Dr. Kapp versus Dr. Cop
  • Homepage versus Home Page
  • Pope John Paul II versus Pope John Paul the Second
  • Rocky II versus Rocky 2
  • Godfather II versus The Godfather Part 2

If the say-instead property were officially part of CSS3 and available to use in browsers you would have to add to your CSS file the different classes for each set of words or sets of words you want to have said properly. A few examples of this would be as follows:

.sayinstead_drkapp { say-instead: “doctor cop”;}

.sayinstead_homepage { say-instead: “home page”;}

.sayinstead_popejp2 { say-instead: “Pope John Paul the Second”;}

.sayinstead_rocky2 { say-instead: “Rocky Two”;}

.sayinstead_godfather2 { say-instead: “The Godfather Part Two”;}


The way you need to get these to work is put a <SPAN> tag around each set of words that needs to have the “say-instead” text read out loud. Below is the example of the code:

  • Dr. Kapp versus <span class=”sayinstead_drkapp”>Dr. Kapp</span>
  • Homepage versus <span class=”sayinstead_homepage”>Homepage</span>
  • Pope John Paul II versus <span class=”sayinstead_popejp2″>Pope John Paul II</span>
  • Rocky II versus <span class=”sayinstead_rocky2″>Rocky II</span>
  • Godfather II versus <span class=”sayinstead_godfather2″>The Godfather II</span>


I’m spent a bunch of time trying to get this to work in this post and was having trouble, I think part of the problem is that I’m trying to do this inside of WordPress. I created an example on my website to use as the test example for the “say-instead” CSS3 property.

Here is the example created by Charles L. Chen on his website for the “say-instead” CSS3 property. Please give the example page a try by using a screen reader such as JAWS, Window-Eyes, or the Firefox extension Fire Vox created by Charles L. Chen. See my post for more details about Fire Vox.

I hope this information is helpful while building your websites and trying to make them as accessible as possible.

The “Fire Vox” Firefox extension is a FREE screen reader

Over a month ago I downloaded the Fire Vox Free screen reader extension for Firefox that acts like a screen reader and was created by Charles L. Chen.

I found that it was of great use and I assume it simulates most of the major functions that screen readers like JAWS or Window-Eyes can do, since I have never used either one of those.

Here is a little more information about the two screen readers I mentioned earlier and information about there cost.

  • JAWS – free trial (shuts off machine every 40 minutes) and $900 – $1100 to purchase a full version .
  • Window-Eyes – 60 day trail $39 or $900 to purchase a full version.

Fire Vox does not have all the bells and whistles that the other two have. I have not been able to find how to increase or decrease the speed of the speaking voice.

Some uses for the Fire Vox Firefox screen reader extension.

  • To see how your website will be to someone that uses a regular screen reader for someone with visual issues.
  • Now close your eyes and listen to your website to see if you can navigate and find information. You should be able to, since you created the website.

After awhile of using Fire Vox you might want to turn off the auto speaking function. All of the commands for Fire Vox on at least a PC are done with CTRL + SHIFT + some default key. To get to the list of functions you have to use CTRL +SHIFT + M to get the pop-up menu and un-click the “Speak Events” and “Echo Keys” checkboxes. This will then only allow the screen reader to be activated when you use the following key strokes CTRL +SHIFT + A or when a pop-up window occurs. This allows someone that needs these functions to still be able to get them to work.

For a full explanation please read the post on the Accessify Forum on how to turn off speaking all the time. To get Fire Vox to stop reading/speaking you can hit any key on the keyboard.

Here are some of the functions that Fire Vox does have are their default settings.

  • Auto Read – CTRL + SHIFT + A
  • Read Previous – CTRL + SHIFT + D
  • Read Next – CTRL + SHIFT + F
  • Repeat – CTRL + SHIFT + E
  • Say Selected Text – CTRL + SHIFT + O
  • Spell Out – CTRL + SHIFT + S
  • List of Headings – CTRL + SHIFT + H

There are a great bunch of Fire Vox tutorials on their website that will explain a lot more. There is no point of repeating all that information here.

Here is the links to the exercises from the Fire Vox tutorial page.

  1. Reading Text and Navigating Web Pages
  2. Getting Additional Information
  3. Working With Forms
  4. Working With Live Regions

So please download the Fire Vox free screen reader extension for Firefox and try it out. Tell me what you think.

CLiCk Speak Firefox Extension

Last year while at SXSW 2007 in Austin, Texas, I spent some time at the Knowbility trade show booth and talked with a young man by the name of Charles L. Chen about his Firefox extension CLiCk Speak. I have found this extension to be every useful to me in that it allows me to listen to what my web pages sound like to a non-sighted individual. It does not have all the features of that the major screen readers like JAWS and Window-Eyes have, but CLiCk Speak at least let’s you hear the information on your pages.

The following text is an overview of CLiCk Speak from their website.

“CLiCk, Speak is designed for sighted users who want text to speech functionality. It doesn’t identify elements or announce events – two features that are very important for visually impaired users but very annoying for sighted users. It also has a simplified, mouse driven interface that is designed to be easy for users familiar with point-and-click graphical user interfaces. Like Fire Vox, CLiCk, Speak works on Windows, Macintosh, and Linux; and Fire Vox has multilingual support, making it great for users who are trying to learn a foreign language and need to hear foreign language web sites read out to them for practice.”

CLiCK Speak buttons in order left to right are 'Speak Selection', 'Auto Speak Mode', and 'Stop Speaking'

The three main features that I have used is the one that just reads down the page from the beginning of your code, so source order does matters, after pressing the “Auto Reading Mode” button. Next it has a “Stop Speaking” button so you can stop it from reading of the page whenever you want to and just push the “Auto Reading Mode” button again to resume from where it left off. The final feature is where you highlight a section of text and click the “Speak Selection” button and  it will only read that part of the page. I could see this as being useful to read a part of the page that you have just updated and wanted to make sure it sounded good. Another advantage to the highlight and read text feature is that if you wanted to go to lets say ESPN.com or CNN.com you could have it read you the article or sport scores, while the browser window is only showing in the toolbar at the bottom of your page. That is if you have headphones on, so no one finds out. It could be used by people that have English as a second language to learn English, since it also highlights each sentence as it reads them.

Charles L. Chen and company have another Firefox extension called Fire Vox. From what I have read this one is more like a normal screen reader.

The following text is a summary from the website.

“Fire Vox is designed to accommodate different users with different needs. For visually impaired users, all Fire Vox commands are keyboard activated. In addition, the keyboard commands can be easily reconfigured in the self Fire Vox Options menu to avoid conflicts with other accessibility software products or to suit personal preferences. For sighted users who need a screen reader, such as web developers interested in testing their webpages or educators who work with visually impaired students, Fire Vox’s highlighting feature makes it easy to keep track of where it is reading from on a page. This highlighting feature is also useful for dyslexic users and partially sighted users.”

While at last weekends DC Adaptive Technology meet up I talked with Patrick Timony about another free screen reader, that is called Thunder, which is free.

I have not tried the Fire Vox Firefox extension or the Thunder screen reader yet, but I plan on trying them out in the next week or so and will report back on what I have found out.

I hope these products are helpful to you in your work and can save you money by not having to get JAWS or other expensive screen readers that cost  hundreds of dollars.