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What accessible technology tools are you using? At TechSoup we take the idea of access very seriously, so much so that we won an award! The award was for our website accessibility and for our efforts to close caption our recorded webinars.
This award inspired us to organize a webinar to help our community understand assistive technology and learn how it can benefit their community. On December 10 at 11am Pacific time we will be hosting a webinar that will discuss assistive technologies specifically for libraries and other public computer centers. This webinar is free, space is limited, so register here.
We'd like to know more about you and what accessible technology you’re already using. Please introduce yourself and share this information. If you're not currently using assistive technology, yet have a specific question, please post it here as well!
Training and Outreach Manager
I see three ways to maintain Public/Shared PCs.
The first is simple and free but takes a little bit of time to set up, which is Microsoft's Steady State. Steady State locks down the PCs registry and allows administrators to choose user access. The reason I said it takes some time to set up is that I believe the best set up is to do a clean install of the OS and all applications, do all the updates then add Steady State to lock down the machine. Also in a classroom setting you can manually change Steady State to remember user profiles for a set time period as an admin.
The second would be an AD Domain server with mandatory profiles that are restricted to the max, which Steady State does this for free and with less hardware.
The third solution is ultimate for classroom settings in multiple locations. VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) which I am currently learning more on this subject, and so far I can see the great possibilities of the users having access to Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7, al from 1 PC. You can have Outlook 2003 and Outlook 2007 running at the same time or not on the same PC for training.This goes with any application installed on the server. This comes with a larger price tag but over time it'll pay for itself. Must be careful with licensing as usual.
Let's say you have a small Library or Company then you should use Steady State, but if you have multiple Library or Company locations that offer classes on those public PCs then I would go with solution 3. The reason is you can have a small server farm in 1 location providing the desktops and software to all locations. This as I said costs more to implement but over time reduces IT costs since there is only one copy of each OS or application that has to be updated/maintain in one location to have them running at several locations. You can accomplish the same in Steady State by setting up one PC for the class then copying that profile to all the other PCs in the classroom, but if you have 3 locations then you need 3 IT techs or 1 with a travel expense account. Also you can migrate to Thin Clients which have less to break or steal, but that is a whole new subject.
I currently use Steady State and will move to the virtual world as the company grows and we acquire multiple locations.
This is Jane Vincent--I'll be part of the presentation on December 10. I'm the Accessibility/Usability Manager for the Center for Accessible Technology in Berkeley; www.cforat.org. If you have any questions, please feel free to post them here or to contact me privately at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is a great topic for a webinar, I can contribute to this from two perspectives: the situation in the UK and as a relatively new AT trainer in Kenya.
In the UK any provider of public computer services comes under the Disability Discrimination Act and in theory have a legal duty to make 'reasonable adjustments' for disabled people. In practise 'reasonable adjustment' is a vague term and enforcement is lax so the only groups to take this seriously are public libraries and the education sector. Schools, colleges and universities have access to or in house Assistive Technology advice. Public libraries usually have one computer running Dolphin magnification and screen reader software which is some way behind the latest release and the library staff are not always trained to assist people in using it.
At the moment I am on a VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) placement as Assistive Technology Trainer with the Kenya Society for the Blind in Nairobi. My main role here has been developing training materials for the free and open source assistive technology software that is available.
Sources of information on AT are very fragmented but the best single source of free AT software that I have found is JISC Access Apps
(http://www.rsc-ne-scotland.ac.uk/eduapps/accessapps.php) all of which can run as portable applications that do not do not need installing on the hard drive.
As my internet connection speeds are not great from Nairobi I am not registering but will follow any discussions the webinar generates with interest.
Assistive Technology Trainer
Kenya Society for the Blind
Thanks for your posting, especially for the free software resource. I wish, though, that there was more information on system requirements for these programs; my hunch is that many will not work on some of the more recent operating systems. Are there particular programs that you've found to be most useful?
Working as I do in Kenya compatability with more recent operating systems is not a problem that I often face, the commonest combination that I see here is MS Windows XP and MS Office 2003. My experience from the UK with computers in public libraries and the education sector is that IT departments were very reluctant to upgrade to MS Vista and most did not bother. It remains to be seen how widely or rapidly Windows 7 is adopted. All of the JISC Access Apps should be OK with Windows XP, Vista may give some problems, Windows 7 I really do not know. The programs are free, so you lose nothing by trying them.
In my present role I take a close interest in screen readers and magnification software. JAWS is still the leading screen reader by a long way but is very expensive. Coming up fast from a standing start is NVDA (http://www.nvda-project.org/) which is free and open source. A new version has just been released. There is also a more basic free screen reader called Thunder (www.screenreader.net) which has limited functionality but can be easier to learn.
Of course AT covers sensory, physical and cognitive impairments not just visual problems.
Assistive Technology Trainer
Kenya Society for the Blind
Hello - can you tell me if this webinar will be recorded and streamed so that a person can access the information at a later date on their own??? -Sheryl Mase, Library of Michigan
You said: "The programs are free, so you lose nothing by trying them."
While that's usually true for small public labs, I have to respectfully disagree for larger entities. First off, I've found that the biggest key to successful implementation of assistive tech (AT) on a larger scale is keeping amicable relations with the IT team; they are often protective about what gets installed on any computer (with good reason) and may object to trial-and-error approaches. Second, there may be conflicts with security or other necessary software, the freeware may not run on thin clients, etc. And in some cases it's just more cost effective to pay for software that comes with reasonable documentation/support rather than waste a lot of time figuring out how to coax freeware into behaving. This is NOT at all to say that all freeware will cause problems, or that all commercial apps are perfect...but I will add that a lot of commercial apps do have trial versions that can be tested before committing to purchase.
BTW, another good free screen reader is System Access to Go (http://www.satogo.com/). I've had feedback from JAWS users that they like SATG because the command set is very close to that of JAWS.
Sheryl: I believe so...and by the way, did you know that TechSoup just won an award for the accessibiilty of its archives? http://blog.techsoup.org/node/1063
Sheryl- Yes, the webinar will be recorded and made able at the same link you use to register. Or if you register you'll receive an email from me afterwards with this information. A link will also be archived on the TechSoup webinar page.
At our organization we have purchased two adaptive computer labs from a company named "It's Never 2 Late". (http://www.in2l.com)
We find that the frail elderly within our program truly enjoy the technology, and we highly recommend it. Our clientele is beyond "elderly" to the point of being eligible for a nursing home, but they prefer to remain in their own homes. The typical physical condition is quite frail, and therefore adaptive equipment is absolutely necessary.
We mention the computer lab on our website, http://www.independentlivingforseniors.org
Tim ClaremontSystems AdministratorRochester, NY
We are using the Windows XP accessibility package, two physical screen magnifiers, one large key keyboard and an Optilec Spectrum magnifier for the few folks that still enjoy printed books and magazines. I'll be using the mousekeys option in a couple of minutes (thank you, thank you) and will be donating a usb numeric keypad for use with mousekeys on our circulating laptops. Here is our biggest challenge: we have a patron with limited vision and hearing, severe hand tremors and restless leg syndrome. He is, no doubt, the worst stock portfolio manager in history. I've set up an account for him on Yahoo financial to help him mismanage his stocks. I can get the screen fonts big enough for him to read but have had limited success in getting his print-outs to appear in large print (we have a 4050N HP printer). I also went over to his rental and helped him set up his laptop, add a monitor and establish him with an ISP. That works well when he's in Ironwood (summer only), but when he takes off for Myrtle Beach my telephone technical assistance is less than optimal. Any help you folks might provide me in dealing with the tremors would be appreciated. In return, I'll send you some snow; we have plenty.
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Some snow in Nairobi would be good, the 'short rains' have been poor and are just ending so it looks like more water shortages next year.
A trick that might work for printing is to copy and paste the text into a word processor, from there you can alter the font size before printing and change it to a sans serif font such as Arial. Of course this might well mess up any formatting but it could be worth a try.
Tremors can be hard to work round, one suggestion is to use the keyboard commands rather than a mouse as much as possible. The trouble most newcomers to keyboard commands have is remembering them, an alternative might be trying a tracker ball instead of a mouse, some folk find this easier.
One common strategy for people with tremors is to use a keyguard, which is a sheet of plastic with holes cut in it that fits over the keyboard and helps the user reach the intended key. Turning Point has models for several popular keyboards for around $75-$150, or can make custom keyguards (additional $40 setup charge). Their website is http://www.turningpointtechnology.com/KG/KGSearch.asp
People with tremors can also find it difficult to pull their hand off the keyboard in time to prevent unwanted key repeats. In XP, there is a Filter Keys option on the Accessibility-->Keyboard control panel that can increase the time necessary to hold down a key before it repeats, or turn off repeating altogether.
I've also had good luck using the Intellikeys keyboard that was mentioned during the webinar (http://www.infogrip.com/product_view.asp?RecordNumber=886&sbcolor=FF9966&optiontxt=Search) with people who have Parkinson's--the keys present a large target and the pressure required can be adjusted.
No snow, thanks; I'm from Chicaguh and don't miss it at all...
Yes but we cant use steady state in windows 7?
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