Friday, April 30, 2010

What's Up With Visual ID?

Have you ever forgotten your password and been sent to the “Visual ID?”

Last week, for some reason, I was locked out of my Google Accounts. After a number of attempts and under pressure, I decided to go for the password reset.
Not the immediate solution I was hoping for, the reset sent me to the dreaded VID, a screening tool designed to tell a human from a machine to prevent malicious spamming.

I have trouble identifying the color of a car, and certainly could not accurately pick the perpetrator out in a lineup, so you can imagine the degree of difficulty encountered when asked to decipher letters and numbers twisted and curly-cued around each other.

Having experienced this exercise in futility before, I clicked on the “wheelchair” button. The wheelchair symbol is supposed to allow you to hear the ID audibly, if you cannot see it --- that makes perfectly good sense, right?

The audible ID was as incoherent as the VID. It sounded like an alien transmission from another frequency and I could not make this out any better than the visual.

Luckily, at the moment of near abandonment, a colleague with a good set of eyes arrived at my office door. I pulled him into this unfortunate mess of unintelligible sights and sounds. He said he had no idea what the audio was saying, and reluctantly took a shot at the letters, announcing in advance that he never gets these things right.

But, he got it right, and bingo, I was back in business.

I just want to know one thing…should it be this hard to prove that we are human?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Join the Conversation

Laurie Silbersweig is a wonderfully talented writer, a cherished colleague, and our meticulous Editorial Director at the Lighthouse. She supports and encourages me as I march, usually, against the parade. Through Laurie I have learned that a good editor is like a fashion stylist – always able to make you the best you can be.

In an article titled, “Join the Conversation on Dorrie’s Sight” (published in Shared Vision and posted on Laurie again pulls together her great gifts for writing, editing, and styling, to make me look good.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The iPad Speaks for Itself

“A magical and revolutionary product at an unbelievable price.” That is how Apple describes its latest must have, the iPad. There is a lot more to this statement than meets the eye.

Apple’s magical revolution delivers, yet again, on Universal Access, and it just keeps getting better and better. Not only does the iPad make reading easy for people with seriously impaired vision, or no vision at all --- it makes reading easier for everyone!

You can make it your own with Zoom magnifying font to 40 pt., then turn the 10 inch screen to landscape and it gets even bigger. You can reverse the screen contrast to white-on-black, making it easy on the eyes. Or, just relax and listen with Voice Over.

If you do not see well, the iPad is equipped with all the features you want in an eBook reader. We need wait no longer for Amazon to deal with the shortcomings of its Kindle, although I’m sure they are scurrying to get it done now. That’s okay, that’s actually also good for everyone.

The fact that it looks like a big iPhone is a plus because I already know how to use it. On the bigger screen I can view (close up) many things I cannot see at all on my iPhone; photographs, movies, and TV. Email looks quite easy too, the key pad is jumbo.

And yes, the price is unbelievable, because it’s the same price for everyone. This is as it should be. Perhaps the days of obscenely priced, mediocre products in the assistive tech industry are coming to an end as well. Let the scurrying begin!

Add iPad to iPod, iPhone, Mac, and we are looking at a paradigm shift. Apple has reset the bar on accessibility and they are way ahead of the curve, addressing the needs of a huge demographic – the aging population.

Go to the nearest Apple store and see for yourself. I bet it makes you giddy!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Speed of Sigth

The Speed of Sight

Recently I received an email with questions pertaining to the “speed of sight”. There was a time, I believed, as many do, that just making print big enough for me to see would allow me to read much in the same manner I read small print. It doesn’t really work that way.

The Question:
Dorrie, as I understand it, you can see gigantic letters on screen and you use a speaking screen reader. What is the time difference for doing the same task? And, how much longer than for a sighted person? The same questions for Braille? I have never seen this discussed, but it must be significant.

My Answer:
I do magnify print to about 10X and I like a lot of speech with my giant words. At work, on a PC, I use assistive software called ZoomText. It is technically not a screen reader, but a text-to-speech engine. At home, I am now on the iMac, which does have a “screen reader” that I mix with big, big print.

It does take me longer to complete tasks that require reading, simply because, it’s complicated. The way I “see” is not fast or easy. My experience tells me that most reading-related activity takes me two or three times longer than it did pre-retinal degeneration, and reading a page in Newsweek, without a computer, could take me as long as 30 minutes.

I was never a speed-reader to begin with, so it would be unfair for me to completely blame bad eyes. It is certainly a major factor, and another major factor is how well I use the technology.

Reading giant words, without the speech option, would slow me down even more, tire me faster, and make comprehension very difficult.

I cannot speak to the experience of a person who is blind and uses a computer with screen reader and no visual access, or to that of a Braille reader.

Like most things, the speed of sight is very much dependent on the individual.