Thursday, October 11, 2012

2012 Holiday AT Buying Guide Webinar

Register now and join us for a free webinar on Nov. 15th to learn about adaptive gizmos, gadgets and practical ideas that make great gifts for people of all ages this holiday season. We will be going over both low-tech, cost effective devices to more high-tech and expensive gadgets. The webinar will include a range of mainstream devices (items that may not be specifically designed as AT) and others will be actual AT products. WATAP's AT Specialists will explore devices for people with a range of functional needs and abilities that will make great small gift ideas to fabulously wrapped presents with a bow. Please join WATAP and the Washington Access Fund on November 15th, from 10:30am-noon for a gift guide webinar on assistive technology.
Do you have suggestions for AT gifts this holiday season? Visit our Facebook page ( to post suggestions you’d like to see shared in the webinar. Or, submit your suggestions while registering for the webinar by emailing Leann at:, or by phone at (206) 328-5116 or TTY (888) 494-4775.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Image Capture and OCR Apps for the iPhone

This is part of a series of blogs our Director, Alan Knue, has composed to help people increase their reading and writing efficiency

In this day and age when many current journals, magazines, newspapers, and books are available in electronic formats, the need for scanning and applying optical character recognition (OCR) to print material is becoming less and less. However, many older texts and references in libraries are still only available in printed form. Scanning pages from bound books is always problematic. It is difficult to get pages completely flat and when scanned and the text nearest to the binding is usually distorted. 
I hate having to bring my laptop and scanner with me to the library to scan pages from books, so I decided to test three popular and highly recommended image capture and/or OCR apps for the iPhone. These apps are generally designed to get a quick electronic version of printed materials, including hand written notes, but I thought they might be useful for scanning pages from books. The programs varied in intuitive design but all were generally easy to use after a short time.

General Observations

Flat pages worked well using all of the apps, but since I was interested in how these programs handled bound pages, I chose a page from a thick bound book printed in a serif font (similar to Times) and containing a variety of text styles including italicized text. As a comparison, I also scanned the same page using a flatbed scanner and used ClaroRead for its OCR capabilities to convert the page to an electronic document. The document produced using this method had nearly 99% accuracy. All of these apps were affected by lighting and caused some gradation of shadow across a page due to the lay of the open book. Sometimes the flash on the iPhone 4 helped and other times it created a tunnel effect with the text in the center being quite bright and crisp and the surrounding text gradually less distinct. The best results were accomplished when I could get a light in front of me to shine right on the page. But even in the best case scenario, the resulting jpg images, PDFs, and OCR-captured documents generated by these apps varied greatly.

App Review

Genius Scan (available in a free version and a $2.99 ad-free version with the option to upload files to Dropbox, EverNote, and GoogleDocs.). This app is only for scanning documents (no OCR) and was easy to use. Since it does not have an OCR, you need to have one available should you want to convert the image to electronic text. I used the program to scan a page from a book and email myself a jpeg and PDF version of the page. I then used ClaroRead on the 2 files to see how well it could recognize the text. I was never able to get a good enough image scan of a bound page for accurate OCR using this app and text recognition was always quite poor (at times nearly 0%).
Perfect OCR ($3.99). The app is easy and intuitive and there is good functionality for eliminating uneven lighting and shadows, improving the contrast, and reducing the effect of movement or jitter while using the camera. This app on its own produced electronic documents that were about 80% accurate in text recognition.
SayText (Free) actually got the best results of all at 90%+ accuracy. SayText utilizes the iPhone’s built in VoiceOver, so you can instantly have the OCR captured document read out loud. But SayText has no option for saving the documents on your iPhone which is a bit annoying but you can email the OCR captured text document to yourself. All of the other apps, have some document management for storing documents for access at a later date.
Of course, these 3 apps aren’t the only scanning apps one can find. There are several other options with similar functionality and more are added to the app library all the time. Most just take a picture of the document and convert it to a jpeg or PDF (like Genius Scan) whereas a few others include OCR for converting the picture of the document to electronic text (like Perfect OCR or SayText). All tested to date have produced similar results to the 3 described in this post. If you discover or know of a scanning app that you find does the trick, let me know!
Until that perfect scanning app comes along, I would use the free SayText to grab text and have it read out loud or to email it to myself for reference later. But for efficiency and accuracy, I won’t be abandoning my trusty scanner and ClaroRead anytime soon.
To try on these apps and others on an iPod or iPhone contact our AT Specialists for a demonstration of the available options.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Scanning Software, Text-to-Speech, and Text-to-Audio File

This is part of a series of blogs our Director, Alan Knue, has composed to help people increase their reading and writing efficiency

It is Monday, and your English teacher just gave you a short story to read out of a book. Your biology teacher just uploaded a 10 page electronic PDF for you to read. You are expected to read both assignments by the end of the week for discussion in class. Reading isn’t easy for you and if only these documents were provided in an accessible text format, then you could use your handy AT software with text-to-speech to help you work your way through these documents.
I didn’t have any AT options in school, so I was rarely able to read fast enough to complete a reading assignment on time and failed many tests because I couldn’t keep up. I had to rely on peer discussion groups and teacher lectures to cover the reading material to actually learn what was in those various texts. By college I had become a human tape recorder, memorizing practically everything said in conversations, in lectures, and in study groups.
Today, what AT do I use? If I need to read printed material, I can set up my flatbed scanner and use a feature in ClaroRead called "Scan from Paper." By taking what is essentially a photograph of a page it applies a slick piece of software known as optical character recognition or OCR to the page. Of course the better the printed copy, the better the program will be able to recognize text on the page. Students and their support team using any program with a built in OCR, like ClaroRead, will need to be able to find places where the OCR didn’t do such a good job and correct the mistakes before having a “clean” copy. TTS can certainly help with the clean-up of a scanned document by aiding students in finding incorrect words.
What about the electronic PDF reading assignment? ClaroRead has a nifty “Scan from PDF/File” feature which applies OCR to the electronic PDF rather than first having to scan a printed copy. Of course, it would make a student’s life far easier if these documents were already in a good electronic format, but that is a whole other discussion.
ClaroRead takes this all one step further. You can also convert electronic text to an audio file (mp3) that you could then listen to on an iPod, Zune, or any other mp3 player. The “Save as Audio” feature is handy for short documents, but anything too long, and then it becomes difficult to find where you left off in your listening. Books and magazines are often available in other electronic formats, such as the Daisy format, and these will be discussed on our blog in later posts.
ClaroRead is not the only AT software available with strong scanning and OCR, and text-to-speech or audio file capabilities. Contact our AT Specialists for a demonstration of the available options.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Speech Feedback and Word Prediction featuring WordQ

This is part of a series of blogs our Director, Alan Knue, has composed to help people increase their reading and writing efficiency
I have great difficulty reading and recognizing words and I only see them as little pictures. I can recognize words in context, but often out of context I may not always know which word I’m seeing since many words look nearly identical to me and I don't recognize the individual letters. And please don’t ask me to spell a word; I may know how to spell it from memory, but I couldn’t tell you just by looking at it. I might be able to decipher the first letter and maybe the last letter, but everything in between is often just a mash of curved and straight lines. People often ask me which letters look the same to me and I reply- “all of them.”
WordQ has been my favorite reading and writing support program for many years. Simplicity is the key to WordQ. The interface features a floating toolbar with just 4 buttons: Options, Words, Speech, and Read. Users can access any of last 3 functions either by direct selection or by hotkeys; the latter make it easy to turn features on and off, allowing one to minimize the program menu bar while working.
As I discussed in the previous blogs, speech feedback, commonly called text-to-speech or TTS, and word prediction are important tools for aiding students in reading and writing and these are the cornerstone features of WordQ.
WordQ comes with several high quality and natural sounding voices in 4 languages: English, Spanish, French and German. It works seamlessly with many office suites, including Microsoft Office, and most internet browsers and mail handling programs. I can easily highlight a block of text and press the F11 key (Read) and provided Speech is turned on (easily done with the F10 key), I will hear the text spoken out loud in the voice and speed I have selected in the speech feedback options. Using the Read feature for proofreading is very important for catching missing or incorrect words and to detect run on sentences.
The longer you use WordQ’s word prediction, the more useful the suggested words become and those you use frequently, including word combinations, turn up higher in your prediction list. It will suggest synonyms as you type, helping you think outside of your usual vocabulary. WordQ will even suggest words taking into consideration possible spelling and typing mistakes, including words spelled incorrectly but phonetically (WordQ calls this “creative spelling”). Homophone support is robust- the word prediction box displays usage examples which when combined with speech feedback can help students distinguish between commonly confused words, such as "there,” "their," and “they’re.” And the latest WordQ version makes abbreviation/ expansion easy to setup and your abbreviations can be added to your user dictionary so they will appear in the prediction box. And like the Speech and Read features, if you don’t need word prediction all the time, you can turn it on and off easily using the F9 key.
WordQ is not the only AT software available with strong word prediction and TTS capabilities and options.  Contact our AT Specialists for a demonstration of the available options.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Speech Recognition: The Writing Magic Bullet?

This is part of a series of blogs our Director, Alan Knue, has composed to help people increase their reading and writing efficiency

Wanting to try speech recognition software is a popular request from students at our AT Demonstration and Lending Library. These software programs have come a long way from when they were first introduced in the 1980s. The recognition accuracy has significantly increased and at the same time, the amount of time and effort to train a speech recognition program for a specific user has decreased. But there are considerations to be made if you believe speech recognition is for you.
Once a voice file has been created- the student needs a good quality microphone and your computer needs to be sufficiently powerful to run both the speech recognition program and word processor simultaneously. But a student should be aware that every word that is recognized is correctly spelled. However, a correctly spelled word does not mean the correct word choice. The student needs to be able to detect and make corrections. This is where reading with text-to-speech (TTS) comes in. A student can listen for the words and make the correction by voice in some programs (preferred since this improves recognition over time) or by using the mouse and keyboard. Additionally, some programs can play back a recording of your dictation so the student can actually hear what they said.
If hands free computer control and navigation is your goal, some dictation programs can make this a reality but with a lot of training and technical assistance from qualified professionals. The cognitive load is very high since making corrections would involve learning and remembering a large number of verbal commands. However, using a speech recognition program to be totally hands free isn’t always important or necessary for everyone. 
Besides the popular, reliable, and powerful DragonNaturallySpeaking and the new Dragon Dictate for Mac, all Microsoft Windows operating systems since Vista have very good speech recognition built into the Ease of Access. This built-in option has less navigation controls and a smaller vocabulary than a stand alone program. However, is a good option for many users and has the benefit of being free. 
Finally, SpeakQ is a speech recognition add-on to WordQ that is specifically targeted at students who have difficulty with writing. It is especially useful for students who cannot fluently dictate at a natural speaking rate, remember verbal commands, and/or get through the initial training. It is not meant to be a full feature speech recognition tool as it lacks navigation and editing commands. However, it works seamlessly with WordQ’s word prediction, combining the benefits of both of these features, and is especially useful in picking the correct homophone.
If you are interested in speech recognition, contact our ATSpecialist for a demonstration of the available options.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Writing and Spelling TTS, Word Prediction, Spellcheck, Supports

This is part of a series of blogs our Director, Alan Knue, has composed to help people increase their reading and writing efficiency

As stated in Reading with Text-to-Speech, the text-to-speech feature (TTS) can be very useful for students who have difficulty reading.Text-to-speech (TTS) can be very useful for students who have difficulty reading. TTS is also very important as a writing support. Students can hear the letters, words, and sentences as they are typed, making it easier to detect when the words are types incorrectly. In conjunction with spell check in word processors, a student can see misspelled words easier and then have each letter in the word read out loud, aiding the student in learning the actual spelling of a word. If a student has difficulty knowing which word is correct in a spellcheck list, TTS can also be used to read the spell check list out loud.
Word processors, such as Microsoft Word, have additional features that help students in increasing writing and spelling speed and accuracy. Abbreviation/expansion and auto-correction help increase typing speed. Many programs also provide a built in Dictionary and Thesaurus, which can allow a student to look up definitions for unfamiliar words or find synonyms. 
What about students who have difficulty coming up with or correctly spelling words? Word prediction can help a student select the correct word as they type by “predicting” which words the user is trying to type and listing them to be selected. Word prediction learns with the student and aids in finding the correct spelling of a word. Coupled with TTS for reading, word prediction can be a powerful tool in assisting spelling and writing. Assistance with making a distinction between homophones, words that sound the same but are spelled differently (i.e., see and sea) by providing a definition or by giving an example in context can be used in conjunction with word prediction to aid in choosing the right word. Many of the software programs listed in Reading with Text-to-Speech include word prediction and homophone support.
Word prediction will not increase writing speed, as it is meant as an aid in selecting the correct word in terms of sentence placement and spelling and this is often a relatively slow process. It has been demonstrated that students who learn to keyboard have greater success in writing. Simple aids, such as keyboard covers and typing programs can be employed to help students learn to keyboard effectively. Becoming even an average keyboardist will improve writing speed.
Speech recognition programs are also popular writing aids, but are they for you? Find out in the next blog post.

As always our AT Specialists are available to work with and explore the specific needs of students and their support team when determining what options might work best. These products and many others are available for short term loan through WATAP's Device Lending Library to help individuals make an informed decision about what products will work best for them.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Writing and Reading Support Built-in to Common Word Processing Programs

This is part of a series of blogs our Director, Alan Knue, has composed to help people increase their reading and writing efficiency

Chances are, if you’ve ever used a computer you have used a word processing program. Composing an email, editing a document, formatting a newsletter, and posting a blog are all examples of word processing. Word processing offers users the ability to create documents, change the typeface, increase or decrease the font size, and otherwise manipulate, save, and print text.
Some word processing programs are more feature rich than others. While WordPad and Notepad do the job just fine, they offer little literacy support in the way of correctional cues, prediction, or feedback. Common writing support tools include Spellchecker and AutoCorrect. Spellchecker flags words in a document that are not spelled correctly by placing a red squiggly or dotted line under the misspelled word. Users can access the electronic dictionary and select the corrected word. For students who have difficulty writing, Spellchecker will easily distinguish misspelled words and offer corrections which could aid the student with their writing confidence. This feature has become ubiquitous not only in commercially available word processing programs such as Microsoft Word and Pages, but also in free word processing tools such as OpenOffice Writer and online processors like Adobe Buzzword. Firefox, Chrome, and Safari web browsers also include Spellchecker in fields where you can enter text. There is a free Spellchecker plug-in available for Internet Explorer as well.
AutoCorrect, also known as flexible or phonetic spelling, automatically corrects common spelling errors and improper capitalization, as well as, inserts common symbols or special characters thus by saving time for the writer. This function has become quite common among smart phone users composing SMS messages. There can be a disadvantage though, as some auto corrections result in completely incorrect text replacement. In fact, there are websites devoted to what has become known as “AutoCorrect fail.” For students who need writing support, AutoCorrect in conjunction with word processing programs should be used judiciously and with supervision as the corrections are undetectable visually and happen “in line” meaning once the user has pressed the space bar or enter key, the correction has already taken place without notification. As discussed in Reading with Text-To-Speech, TTS offers students audio feedback for their composed or received documents. The most current version of Microsoft Office 2010 offers a Text-To-Speech feature called “Speak.” To enable Speak, you will need to add it to the Quick Access Toolbar.
Contact our AT Specialists for more information about built in accessibility of Microsoft products. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The 20th Annual Governor's Employer Awards Program

The Governors Committee on Disability Issues and Employment is honoring businesses and agencies that demonstrate exemplary hiring practices for people with disabilities through its Employer Awards Program. The Awards program recognizes employers for their proactive and positive practices bringing more visibility to the value of hiring people with disabilities. Our goal is to spotlight the great work being done across the state to raise awareness on the increasing number of persons with disability who have been successful in seeking and maintaining employment.
In addition, the GCDE is also recognizing an individual with a disability who has exhibited outstanding leadership. The Governors Trophy in Memory of Carolyn Blair Brown will be presented to an individual with a disability who has significantly enhanced the empowerment of people withdisabilities. This year, 2012, will be the 20th Governors Employer Awards Program. Winning nominees will be honored in a celebration in Olympia in fall 2012. With the attached materials, we ask you to join us in recognizing leaders in thedisability community and employers by nominating private, nonprofit, and government entities that show, by example, the use of best practices in recruiting, hiring, retaining and promoting individuals with disabilities. The nomination deadline is August 30, 2012. Electronic applications should be submitted to:
People with disabilities are a tremendous resource and we are proud torecognize their many contributions. Thank you for all that you do supportworkers with disabilities and for your participation in the nomination process.

Reading with Text-to-Speech

Image of word highlighting feature for text-to-speech
For students with reading disabilities, completing reading assignments for class can be time consuming and frustrating. There is software that can help students not only keep up on reading assignments but also have a better idea what they have read. One of the most helpful features offered by many of these software programs is called text-to-speech (TTS). The ability to hear text read out loud is the important component in TTS that aids a student in reading speed and comprehension. Most software products that offer TTS also provide a feature that highlights the word being read out loud so that students can follow along and will associate the word on the computer screen with what they hear. This gives students a better understanding of what the word is and how that word should sound when they read it without the assistance of the software. Reading webpages and electronic documents is easily accomplished using TTS but many reading assignments come from books or printed handouts. Some software programs include the option to scan and convert hardcopy pages into a variety of electronic text formats including word documents, and then using TTS, these pages can be read out loud. Several software programs also have the ability to convert any electronic text to an audio file that could then be listened to on a digital music or mp3 player, which is a useful aid for keeping up with many reading assignments. When looking at the various products available with TTS and other reading, writing, and spelling aids, it is important to think about what features and supports the student needs. The software interface can range from simple, fewer-featured toolbars, such as WordQ, TextHelp Read & Write, or ClaroRead, that work with existing software such as Microsoft Office and internet browsers. More inclusive programs, such as WYNN or Kurzweil 3000, have their own word processors, study aids, and web browsers built into the user interface. If a student doesn’t need a fully featured all-in-one program, you can save time and money by investing in a simpler program with just those features that meet the specific needs of your student. But for students who would benefit from study aids and many of the other features discussed above it is often easier to go with a full featured program instead of trying to use multiple simpler programs in conjunction with one another. As always our AT Specialists are available to work with and explore the specific needs of students and their support team when determining what options might work best. These products and many others are available for short term loan through WATAP's Device Lending Library to help individuals make an informed decision about what products will work best for them.  

This is the first in a series of blogs our Director has composed to help people increase their reading and writing efficiency. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Washington SILC Membership Recruitment

The Washington State Independent Living Council (WA SILC) is seeking applicants to fill 5 vacancies beginning October 1, 2012.
The Washington State Independent Living Council (WA SILC) is an 11 member council appointed by the Governor. Terms are up to 3 years with a maximum of 2 terms.
The primary purpose of WA SILC, together with the Washington Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) and the Washington Department of Services for the Blind (DSB), is to jointly develop and sign the State's Plan for Independent Living (SPIL). Additionally, we monitor, review, and evaluate the implementation of the SPIL.
The WA SILC works with our Centers for Independent Living (CIL's) concerning different issues that affect citizens of Washington with significant disabilities. We also coordinate activities with other state councils and share information about issues that affect Washingtonians with disabilities.
The WA SILC meets four times a year and also conducts public forums at various locations throughout the state. All meetings and forums are open to the public.
Finally, we provide periodic reports to the public and Federal government that describe the activities of the WA SILC.
We believe and support the independent living philosophy of consumer control, peer support, self-help, self-determination, equal access, and individual and system advocacy in order to maximize the leadership, empowerment, independence, and productivity of individuals with disabilities and the integration and full inclusion of people with disabilities in the mainstream of American society.
The WA SILC tries to ensure statewide representation of members who represent a broad range of individuals with disabilities from diverse backgrounds. 51% of our membership must be people with disabilities. Our membership consists of representatives from the State Independent Living Centers, people living with disabilities, advocates, parents of children with disabilities, community service providers, and the state and tribal Vocational Rehabilitation programs.
We hope you will consider applying for membership on the WA SILC if you have the demonstrated ability and experience to work on the WA SILC responsibilities described above, are committed to the values and mission of Independent Living, and are knowledgeable and experienced regarding legislative and policy processes.
To apply, you must submit an online application to the Governor’s office at:
If you need assistance or have questions, please email Debbie Cook:  You may also call 800-624-4105 (voice) or 1-866-866-0162 (TTY).
The WA SILC was established under the authority of Title VII Section 705 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended, (P.L. 102-569), and WA State Executive Order 93-04 as superseded by Executive Order 04-05.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Meet, Greet, and Eat Chocolate in Eastern Washington

On Thursday, July 26th from 3-7pm, join our partners at the Washington Access Fund in Spokane for a festive open house reception at Chocolate Myracles. This decadent chocolate shop is owned and operated by a talented Access Fund client, Julia Balassa-Myracle. She will open her shop to us for complementary local wines, hearty appetizers and (of course!) scrumptious chocolates. Meet Access Fund staff and volunteers and enjoy the company of other friends, business leaders and agency representatives from the greater Spokane community. To RSVP, please contact Amy at

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

How to Order Walmart Talking Prescription Containers

On June 8 Walmart announced that it is now providing ScripTalk Talking Prescription Containers free of charge to persons with visual impairments as part of a pilot program. The ScripTalk Talking Prescription program is being offered to customers across the country through Walmart mail order, and also at three Walmart stores. Read the Walmart press release.

Information you need to order Talking Prescription Containers from Walmart 

To listen to the talking label provided by Walmart, you will need to first get a reading device from Envision America, the company that makes ScripTalk. The device is called the ScripTalk reader (or the ScripTalk machine) and is available free of charge to Walmart customers who are blind. You only need to order the device once: it will work with the Talking Prescription labels you receive repeatedly from Walmart. Contact En-Vision America at 800-890-1180 to order your free ScripTalk talking prescription reader. Envision America will also be able to answer many questions regarding insurance coverage and costs and discounts for Walmart prescriptions. After you talk to Envision America, you will need to call Walmart to order your prescription medication. The phone number for the Walmart Mail Order pharmacy is 1-800-273-3455 (1-800-2-REFILL). When you order your prescription tell them you want the Talking Prescription label (also known as the ScripTalk label). There is no extra charge for the label. Walmart is currently also offering the Talking Prescription labels in the following three stores. As with mail order, you will need to contact both the Walmart store (for the prescription medication) and Envision America (for the ScripTalk reader (also called the ScripTalk machine)).

  • 214 Haynes St., Talladega, AL 35160 (256) 761-1681
  • 2270 W. Main St., Tupelo, MS 38801 (662) 844-4011
  • 601 Englewood Pkwy., Englewood, CO 80110 (303) 789-7209 
We welcome feedback about the Walmart Talking Prescription Container pilot. Contact us at or call 1-800-822-5000, the toll free number Linda's office.

Thank you to our wonderful Advisory Council members for bringing us this information!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Web Accessibility Tip: Consistent Navigation and Identification

Consistency is important for web site accessibility and usability. WCAG 2.0 Success Criterion 3.2.3 (Level AA) requires that navigation elements that are repeated on web pages do not change order across pages. Success Criterion 3.2.4 (Level AA) requires that elements that have the same functionality across multiple web pages be consistently identified. For example, a search box at the top of the site should always appear in the same place and be labeled the same way.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Web Accessibility Tip: Large Clickable Targets

Some mouse users have may have difficulty with fine motor control, so it is important that clickable targets be sufficiently large. Radio buttons and checkboxes should include properly-associated labels (using the element). Small icons or text, such as previous/next arrows or superscript links for footnotes, should be sufficiently large or combined with adjacent text into a single link.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Webinar: AT for Gardening & Outdoor Entertaining

Spring has sprung, and even though the weather may not seem cooperative, it's time to start thinking about planning your vegetable garden and dusting off the lawn chairs for those summer barbecues. The webinar will show you high tech gadgets and low tech tools to make planting, pruning, potting, and grilling a breeze for folks with a range of functional needs and abilities.

Register now and join WATAP and the Washington Access Fund for what will promise to be an informative, educational, and fun webinar for all. To register for this free webinar, please send an email to Leann at:, or by phone at (206) 328-5116 or TTY (888) 494-4775.
AT for Gardening and Outdoor Entertaining on Thursday, May 3rd from 10:30 - 11:45am.  

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Web Accessibility Tip: Do Not Require Unnecessary Form Data

One of the keys to creating highly accessible forms is to avoid as many errors as possible before the form is submitted. Ensure that forms are as simple and intuitive as possible, and don't require that a field be filled out if the content is not necessary (e.g., a telephone number to subscribe to an email discussion list). Errors can also be prevented by allowing informatoin to be entered in a number of logical formats. For example, allow a telephone number to be formatted: (123)456-7890, 123-456-7890, 123.456.7890, or 1234567890, as long as ten numerals are present. This data can easily be reformatted using scripting or database languages for further usage.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Web Accessibility Tip: Accessibility User Testing

Instead of conducting accessibility testing with users with disabilities (asking users to identify accessibility issues), it is almost always more effective to do usability testing (asking users to evaluate overall usability) with users with disabilities. While accessibility testing can be used to identify instances of accessibility – poor alt text here and a missing label there, fixing all significant instances of inaccessibility and non-compliance still might result in a poor experience for users with disabilities. Basic user testing that includes users with disabilities has a focus on the broader user experience with a site, yet still can identify specific accessibility issues. User testing with individuals with disabilities should be part of a broader testing plan that involves compliance checklists, automated tests, manual testing, and assistive technology testing.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Web Accessibility Tip: WCAG 2.0 and Reading Level

It is always a good idea to make content as readable and understandable as is suitable for the audience. For complex content (defined as that which requires a reading ability more advanced than the lower secondary education level), WCAG 2.0 Success Criterion 3.1.5 (Level AAA) requires that a more simplified and readable version of the content be provided. Much content cannot be made perfectly understandable at these levels (consider a college-level chemistry class, for example), thus it's a Level AAA success criterion. Regardless of the limitations for some content, for a page to be optimally accessible, it should be written so as to be easily readable and understandable to the target audience.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Web Accessibly Tip: Link Type Indicators

It is a good idea to inform users when a link goes to non-HTML content (such as a PDF file or Word document). It can be frustrating to activate a link and then realize that the link requires an external program or viewer. An icon (with appropriate alternative text) or text, such as "(PDF)", is sufficient. Because screen reader users commonly navigate by links, it is vital that the link type indicator icon or text be placed within the link, otherwise this information is readily available to sighted users, but not presented in the context of the link for screen reader users.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Web Accessibility Tip: Text Readability

Keep the following guidelines in mind for displaying text:
  • Avoid very small text. This not only impacts some users with low vision, but many users with cognitive disabilities as well.
  • While serif fonts (e.g., Times) are more readable when printed, both serif and sans-serif fonts are appropriate when displaying body text onscreen, as long as the font is clean and readable.
  • Underlined text should be avoided, except to designate links.
  • Minimize the number of different fonts used on a page. Two to three fonts is optimal.
  • ALL CAPS should be used minimally. It is more difficult to read and is often interpreted as "shouting". Additionally, screen readers may read all-caps text letter by letter (like an acronym) rather than as full words.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Financial Fitness Day

Financial Fitness Day is sponsored by the Seattle King County Asset Building Collaborative. Our partners at the Washington Access Fund is a member of the collaborative and a partner in this exciting event! So come join them on March 31st from 10:00am to 2:00pm at Rainier Community Center in Seattle 
Whether you want to open a personal account with a bank or credit union, talk to a financial planner about preparing for retirement, discover how to save more money and create a budget, talk to a credit counselor about your credit report, learn how to start your own business, get help with your tax preparation or student aid application, or talk to a housing counselor about your mortgage or buying a home— you will find the help you need today.
The Collaborative will have three ASL (and tactile) interpreters but if someone needs an interpreter,  it would be helpful if they registered at:​​​​​​​fitness_​​fair/registration.​​​​​​​php.

Web Accessibility Tip: Use True Text

True text has several advantages over graphical text and should be used whenever possible. True text is easier to read, especially if it is enlarged. The user can more easily customize the appearance of the text to make it more readable (changing color, size, font, etc.). File size is typically smaller for true text and it can be translated into other languages.

WCAG 2.0 Level AA requires that if the same presentation can be accomplished using true text, then you must use true text rather than an image of text. Level AAA requires that text cannot generally be used within images at all.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Web Accessibility Tip: Voice Control Software and Image Alternative Text

To activate links on a page, users of voice control software, such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking, speak the visible link text. When an image is linked, the alternative text of that image can be spoken to activate that link. When an image presents graphical text, the alternative text of the image should match the visible text to ensure voice control software users can easily activate that link.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Evaluating Alternative Text

When evaluating the alternative text of images, remember that the alternative text (whether in the image's alt attribute or in adjacent text) should convey the content and function of an image. Asking the question, "If the image could not be used, what text would replace the image?" is often a good way to determine appropriate alternative text. First, view the alternative text along with the image. Is the alternative text equivalent to the content of the image? Second, disable images and view the alternative text in place of the image and consider if the alternative text makes sense in its context and reading position within the page.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Smoke Alarms for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Seattle Residents

Free strobe smoke alarm
The Seattle Fire Department is providing and installing Gentex strobe smoke alarms that plug into an outlet. There is no cost for the smoke alarm or installation. A working smoke alarm is known to reduce the risk of dying in a home fire by 50%. The Seattle Fire Department is requesting your assistance in getting the word out to help make Seattle residents who are deaf or hard of hearing safer, should they experience a fire at home. 

To qualify, a person must be Deaf or Hard of Hearing and live in Seattle. Renters need permission from landlords before they can be installed.

Any Seattle resident who might be interested in a free Deaf/HOH smoke alarm, should contact Seattle Fire Department, Fire Prevention Division

Monday, February 27, 2012

Evaluating Web Accessibility with WAVE

WAVE is a free web accessibility evaluation tool found at Rather than providing a complex technical report, WAVE shows the original web page with embedded icons and indicators that reveal the accessibility of that page. This presentation facilitates manual evaluation of web accessibility. A Firefoxtoolbar version of WAVE allows evaluation of webcontent directly within the browser - thus allowing sensitive, password protected, dynamic, or intranet pages to be easily evaluated. Because WAVE performs evaluation after page styles (CSS) has been applied and (in the toolbar) after scripting has been processed, WAVE provides a very accurate representation of true end user accessibility.

Important information for Washington State Voters with Disabilities

With the 2012 elections ramping up and voting season around the corner, it is important that every citizen have the chance to be heard and their votes to count. The Washington Secretary of State Elections Division has postedinformation on their website concerning accessible voting including links ranging from how to request an accommodation or assistance for individuals, an ADA checklist for voting centers, Frequently Asked Questions regarding accessible voting, and resources for voters with disabilities. This November, all registered voters will have the opportunity to vote independently and privately for President, Governor, State Senator, ballot measures, initiatives, and candidates running for other national and local positions.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Web Accessibility Tip: Low Vision Custom Color Settings

Some users with low vision can see content more easily if the default colors are inverted (white text on a black background), customized user styles are applied (blue text on a yellow background, for example), or a custom color scheme is used. This can be done using the operating system, with screen magnification software, or with user style sheets in a web browser. To ensure web accessibility for these users, make sure your page colors have sufficient contrast, that color is not used as the only means of conveying information or meaning, and that colors are specified for page elements (typically using CSS to at least define the page foreground and background colors).

Monday, February 20, 2012

Tour Day at DSB


We are opening the doors to our Low Vision and Assistive Technology labs for hands on experience with our equipment. Please come and visit us!

Wednesday, March 28th, 2010
From 8:00 AM TO 5:00 PM (last tour at 4 PM)

Department of Service for the Blind, Seattle Office
3411 South Alaska Street, Seattle 98118

Anyone with an interest in Low Vision equipment and Assistive Technology devices for blind and low vision users. This includes schools, non-profit organziations, families, etc. Please feel free to forward this to anyone you know who may be interested in participating.

Please contact Elisa O’Neal at
206-906-5500 or
by March 22nd to schedule a tour.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Don’t Know What to Wear Today? There’s an App for That

iDress for Weather Screenshot

Knowing what to wear can be difficult in the hourly changing climate of the Pacific Northwest and as someone without a television or the inclination to listen to the radio in the morning I’m often caught out in the rain, or more accurately the drizzle, without a raincoat. iDress for Weather is an app for iOS (that’s Apple’s operating system for those of us who aren’t overly techy) which can help people determine what attire is weather appropriate by tapping into the local weather reports. You can either take pictures of your own wardrobe or use the cartoon style clip art closet of clothing. For people who benefit from prompting about appropriate clothing but may not have supports to provide that prompting in the morning, or just aren’t morning people who  want to be told what is appropriate to wear, this app has the potential to increase a person’s independence, giving  them the opportunity to make informed and independent choices about their wardrobe. For two dollars this apps can give you peace of mind that you are dressed appropriately for the day, that is, if you trust weathermen. To borrow iDress for Weather, or other prompting apps, on an iPod or iPad visit the WATAP Lending Library.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Personal Preparedness for AT Users

There is a lot to say about personal preparedness in emergencies but the messages all boil down to the same theme: plan ahead. In our recent webinar, Personal Preparedness for AT Users, we shared tips and resources from different organizations on general preparedness as well as tips for people with various AT needs. We would like to share some additional information resources that wasn't covered in the webinar. The following two links to are resources for Personal Communication Technology for Emergencies as well as Assistive Technology for Emergencies which include FCC fact sheets on communication during emergencies.
A participant of the webinar was kind enough to email us some additional resources from here in Washington State to national resources. Sight Connection has a Public Information Series including a fact sheet on Preparedness for People with Vision Impairment. Resources for seniors and people with disabilities can be found on the Red Cross website and FEMA has fact sheets to assist with preparing for disasters for people with disabilities and other special needs.
These sites can help with anything from general awareness and education about preparing for disasters to specific topics by functional need. Regardless of functional need, with education and preparation we can help energize each other and our communities to be prepared and safe in any emergency. If you have additional resources to share please post them in the comments. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Accessibility, Compliance, and Discrimination

Accessibility is about the user experience. Because a web site can always be more accessible, accessibility is best viewed as being a continuum. Web accessibility guidelines and standards (such as Section 508 and WCAG) provide useful measures along that continuum. Discrimination laws (such as the Americans with Disabilities Act or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act), however, generally do not define web accessibility, but instead clarify that web sites should not discriminate based on disability. Because standards and guidelines do not address all aspects of web accessibility, it is possible for a site to comply with a set of guidelines, yet remain very inaccessible to some users and potentially discriminatory. This is particularly true with very minimal standards such as Section 508. For these reasons, it is best to get a true understanding of accessibility and how end users access and use the web. Standards and guidelines should be used as tools and measures of accessibility, but the ultimate goal should not merely be compliance, but to provide an efficient, friendly, and accessible user experience regardless of disability.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Preparing Yourself and Your AT in an Emergency:

Join us and the Washington Access Fund on Thursday, February 9th at 10:00am for a free webinar on emergency preparedness. If a disaster struck, either large or small, how prepared would you feel? What would you do with your assistive technology and how would you replace it if it were lost? Learn simple steps you can take to prepare yourself and your assistive technology in case of an emergency. Find out about resources available, ways people can receive communication before and during an emergency and the importance of thinking ahead. There’s no time like now to be prepared for the unexpected.

For more information and to register, send an email to Leann at or give us a call at (206) 328-5116. We're looking forward to having you join the discussion!