ATU144 – sitecues from the makers of Zoomtext Win an Accessible Wheelchair

first_img—–transcript follows—–AARON LEVENTHAL: Hi, this is Aaron Leventhal, and I’m the Director of Product Management for sitecues at AI Squared, the makers of Zoom Text, and this is your Assistive Technology Update.[Music]WADE WINGLER:  Hi, this is Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana with your Assistive Technology Update, a weekly dose of information that keeps you up-to-date on the latest developments in the field of technology, designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs. Welcome to episode number 144 of Assistive Technology Update. It’s scheduled to be released on February 28 of 2014. Today I visit with Aaron Leventhal who is going to talk with us about Site Cues, a new service from Zoom text to make your website more accessible; we learn about a book review on a book called Tweeting Blind; a way that you can win a free, wheelchair accessible van; couple of things happening in New England related to us at the technology events and some information from the FCC. We hope you’ll check out our website at Give us a call on our listener line at 317-721-7124 or hit us up on Twitter @INDATAprojectAbout 80 percent of the words that we use every day our CORE words. They are part of the CORE vocabulary, and in the world of augmentative and alternative communication, CORE vocabulary and having a strong CORE is really important. On Tuesday, March 4, from 3 o’clock to 4 o’clock Eastern Time, Pat Satterfield from Tools For Life in the Center for AT Excellence, and Beth Saunders with Sautillo, are going to do a webinar about CORE vocabulary. They’re going to talk about all kinds of information about strategies that will help to teach AAC users to indicate anything, anytime anyone with CORE vocabulary. I’m going to pop a link in the show notes so you can check out this webinar coming up here in just a few days after the release of this podcast on Tuesday, March 4, 3 o’clock Eastern.I originally heard about the use of exoskeletons in the military context. These devices that somebody wears to help them walk farther, longer, faster, carry heavier things and those sorts of things. In the last few years, I’m seeing more and more exoskeletons for folks with disabilities People who have neuromuscular conditions or other disabilities that mean it either difficult or impossible to walk. However I see a headline this week that really grabs my attention. The headline from Gizmodo reads “Wheelchair User Walks Again With A 3d Printed Exoskeleton.” Amanda Boxtell is somebody who experienced a spinal cord injury and 1992, and she somebody who has been interested in exoskeleton technology and has even tried some, but this is interesting because this new one, which is called the ExoSuit, is a 3-D printed system. So they do a full 3-D body scan to get custom tailored pieces designed, and then they use 3-D printers to print them off so that they fit exactly. In the world of exoskeletons and also in wheelchair seating and mobility, fit is really important. If you have a wheelchair piece or a cushion or in this case and exoskeleton component rubbing against a bony prominence in somebody spotty, it’s going to lead to abrasions and source and all kinds of problems. The idea is that this particular exoskeleton has been 3-D printed too bad Amanda’s physical body exactly. It’s an interesting article and includes a video with some demonstrations of the thing. I’m going to encourage you to check out our show notes and learn more about this. 3-D printed exoskeleton.Do you tweet? Are you a twitter-er? Are you a king of Tweetdom?  There’s a new book by Jonathan Molson called Tweeting Blind, and he talks about how to use Twitter to its full extent. He’ll talk you through the process of how to set up an account using an iPhone, iPad or computer. He goes through all the different things that you can do with twitter, how to connect with people. It’s apparently a very lighthearted and engaging book that tells you everything that you need to know about twitter from the perspective of somebody who is blind and uses a screen reader. I read a review on this from AFB Access World Magazine, Deborah Kendrick spent some time talking in detail about the book and provide you information about where you can buy the book for $19.95, and you can get it in hard copy, braille, Daisy, e-braille, downloadable, or Daisy formats. Lots of different options there. I would encourage you to check out the link in the show notes. It will take you to Deborah’s review and then read Jonathan’s book called tweeting blind.You know, transportation is important to everybody. A lot of folks require an adapter vehicle or wheelchair van to get around. NMEDA, which is the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association, is going to be giving away wheelchair accessible vehicles. There is a way to nominate folks for the Local Heroes award on the website. You need to do to an essay in 400 words or less or record a video about a local hero of two minutes or less. They say local heroes are people who volunteer, educate, advocate, achieve, and persevere. If you know somebody who could benefit from a brand-new, adaptive wheelchair van, check out our show notes, will have a link over to the NMEDA website where you can learn more about the Local Heroes contest.Are you interested in assistive technology and do you happen to live in the New England area? There are a couple of interesting things coming out of Rhode Island in March. Doctor Therese Wilkin, who is a good friend of mine, is going to be doing a session about fabricating assistive technology. During that session, Therese will show you how to make 50 adaptations to accommodate somebody who experiences disabilities. I’m going to stick a link in the show notes so that you can find out more about this March 28th training.  The other thing coming out of New England is the Assistive Technology Conference of New England. The conference doesn’t happen until later this year, but they are looking for people who are interested in presenting on some of these topics make this a list of a dozen or so topics. A few of them are literacy, employment, environmental control, augmentative communication, AT certification and credentialing, teambuilding, technology integration, or how to sessions on various kinds of assistive technology. I’ll pop a link in the show notes to both of the sessions that if you’re in the New England area and you want to present or go to see Doctor Therese Wilkin talk about how to make assistive technology, you’ll have the opportunity to do those things. Check our show notes.I’ve got a couple of announcements here from the FCC, or the Federal Communications Commission, here in the US. One of them is about some proposed rules to provide 911 emergency call centers with more accurate information about the location of people who called 911. For example the current rules allow some outdoor location information like your GPS signal to be sent. The FCC also wants to require the sending of information about where you might be indoors like what building, what floor, what room, office, apartment those kinds of things when you’re making a 911 call. The reason this is related to disability issues is that if you’re somebody who is nonverbal or you have a disability and can’t provide that kind of information, it would help emergency workers find you a little more easily according to what the FCC is asking for. The other one is there is a request for comment on proposed rules that have to do with closed captioning and the quality of the materials that are done there. A couple of things on the FCC I’ll stick links in the show notes to so that you can find those. These are opportunities for you to chime in and have some input in terms of how these rules are created and implement it. Check our show notes.Each week, one of our partners tells us what’s happening in the ever-changing world of apps. Here’s an App Worth Mentioning.Into this week’s App Worth Mentioning segment, I’m going to do something a little bit different. Normally we talk about a particular app and go through all the details; however, I’ve kind of run across a new tool that I think would be helpful. In fact it’s not a new tool, it’s just something I’ve recently run across. It’s a list manager over at BridgingApps. So if you take your web browser and head over to, you’ll find a menu item on the very front of their website called the Insignio app tool. The Insignio app tool, first of all, is a great way to identify all kinds of cool apps by skill sets, kind of device, the independent traits, assistive traits that you’re looking for, lots of great things to find different apps. If you click on the list search tool under Insignio apps, you’re going to find a bunch of curated lists of apps. So for example if there’s one called Betsy’s fraction apps. When you go there, you’ll find all kinds of things related to fractions and the world of teaching math. There’s a game called fraction poker, there’s one called fraction basics, one called fraction math, there’s another called fraction monkey, and then Tony’s fraction pizza shop. This is a list that Betsy from BridgingApps has put together dealing with fractions.As you look down through this list, you’re going to find all kinds of cool stuff. Some are based on meetings and presentations that the folks at BridgingApps have done. There’s a group here from TCEA 14, matching apps to goals. There are some that are based on seasons. There’s some that have been related to things like communication and those kinds of skills. When you go to somebody’s house for a party and you hear some music, you want to know what’s on their playlist. Or a lot of times when you find someone who has similar skills and interest and they use computer technology, you say hey, what do you use, and you can learn from other folks playlist and other folks list of apps. This is a great way for you to be able to go to the BridgingApps website and find all these lists that are curated to have all kinds of cool apps. I’ll pop a link in the show notes over to and check out those lists of apps.Recently I’ve seen a lot of announcements on the Internet about something interesting that’s called SiteCues. At first I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to it until I found out that it was from AI Squared, the makers of Zoom Text. I have been fortunate enough to have on the Skype line here Aaron Leventhal who’s the Director of Product Management for Site Cues. Aaron, are you there?AARON LEVENTHAL:  Yeah, here I am.WADE WINGLER:  Good, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy day. I know that you’ve got a lot going on, and I appreciate you squeezing me into your schedule. Aaron, before we start talking about Site Cues, can you tell folks a little bit about yourself and your history in the industry, because I know that you’re not new to this stuff.AARON LEVENTHAL:  Sure, well first of all I want to say thank you for having me on. My history in the industry goes back to 1990 when I was a university student in Wisconsin, and I fell in love with accessibility when I saw a braille display. It’s kind of a long story, but basically I found that accessibility was just what I wanted to work on with my life, so from there I went on from Mega Dots, a braille publishing software that I worked on for about 10 years. I ended up at Netscape. Netscape kind of fell apart in that it was AOL’s baby, but they just got rid of it. All of that work that went into Netscape ended up becoming part of Firefox. The Firefox web browser I got to continue making that accessible. IBM hired me and they said, by the way not only do we want you make it accessible, but want you to also make it possible for any web application or any kind of – you have to understand back in those days, it was very difficult to make that only the browser accessible to screen readers and screen magnifiers, but basically webpages were pretty plain and static. This was before Gmail and Google maps and the explosion of AJAX. IBM said this is exploding now and the web is changing, we’re going to have to make all of it accessible and we want you to integrate a standard that we’re working on with W3C called Aria. Would like to have you help us develop the standard and get it into Firefox. We did that. We also got the other browser vendors to adopted which was – getting Microsoft Internet Explorer to adopt it was a challenge, but we were able to do it.WADE WINGLER:  Yeah, so the intersection of web content and accessibility is a place that you have kind of been living for the last 20 years, right?AARON LEVENTHAL:  That’s right. So should I go onto the next thing that happened that got me involved in this product?WADE WINGLER:  Please do.AARON LEVENTHAL:  So what happened was I was kind of doing accessibility the traditional way which is you assume that the user has assistive technology tools and you have an application or a web content that you want to make accessible. It’s kind of like two halves of the bridge coming across the river and meeting in the middle. As long as the application is everything right and you work with assistive technology vendors or support standards, and everything can work together and the user can use their application.That’s the sort of traditional view of accessibility, and David Woo is the CEO of AI Squared. He contacted me and said, hey by the way, do you realize how many people don’t use assistive technologies that would benefit from the zoom and speech? I said yeah, I know there’s some out there. He said, well we actually did some market research. We know how many of assistive technology users are used out there in the US, and we find that 95 percent of the users out there who could benefit from it don’t actually assistive technology. I kind of thought that sounds like a bunch of hooey. I don’t really believe this guy. He doesn’t come from the accessibility industry. Plus I didn’t want to believe that all of my nights staying up to two in the morning work wasted. I worked really hard to get the stuff going, and here are saying that I’m only benefiting five percent of the users. That’s not good. An important five percent But is not as many people as we would like to help. So he was able to prove it to me and get me on board, so we develop something called Site Cues which is really an answer to how we reach out to users who could benefit from things but they don’t have assistive technology.WADE WINGLER:  So I’m a little surprised by the 95 percent number, but if I think about age-related vision impairment and English as a second language, immediately I start realizing that there probably is a lot of population out there who just might not be –AARON LEVENTHAL:  It’s actually worse than 95 percent. 95 percent comes from some numbers we got from Forrester. It actually turns out there’s a 2011 study that shows that there are about 22 million people with severe visual impairments, people who have difficulty reading regular sized prints. And we know that there are about 500,000 screen reader and screen magnifiers users in the US. So compare that to 22 million, it’s actually more like 98 percent. That’s not including the 40 million English as a second language people. Some including the 10 to 15 percent of the population that have learning disabilities, most of whom are not diagnosed pick there are also a huge number of people in the US that have literacy challenges. It’s a very sad statistic, but 20 percent of the population has first or second grade reading level. So there’s some overlap between these items, but you can see that there are a huge markets for tools that will help people without them having to have installed their own product.WADE WINGLER:  So tell me a little bit about Site Cues and how it might address some of this problem.AARON LEVENTHAL:  So the design challenge here is whenever I’m designing a product, I’m thinking I have to put myself in the mind of the person who I am designing it for. I had to become that person. So why wouldn’t I be using assistive technology. It’s like you said, if you’re older that’s one of the things. Once you reach the age of 50 constant not really going to admit to yourself that you have a disability. So in order to get somebody to discover that there are tools out there, you would think that they would first need to know that they have a disability so they can find out what tools there are. Because the tools are targeted towards people, you can’t just get it at Best Buy.And then the folks find out that it’s $600, $1200 if it’s a screen reader, and then they look at how hard it is to learn, so there’s actually a lot of cost to the user, not just the actual cost itself which is pretty high for a user, but also the cost of admitting to yourself something that you don’t want to – the cost of learning, the cost of installing, all of those things add up and the person says, it’s easier for me to just leaned in a little closer. Maybe the website changes and I don’t know where things are anymore. Maybe my back and start to hurt because I’m betting over all of the time. Maybe I have to use a magnifying glass against the screen, but I’ll just do that. So that’s where we get all of these users who are kind of struggling. They’re able to get by a little bit at a time, but they’re not doing very well on the web.WADE WINGLER:  Yeah, lots of barriers.AARON LEVENTHAL:  Right. So my thought was let’s develop a product that can go on the website that’s super easy to learn. It’s free for the user and as part of the website they don’t have to download anything. There’s no picture of wheelchairs or canes. It’s not that having a disability is bad, but there is a stigma, and we have to face that, so the person can go and without feeling any different about themselves can start to explore the Site Cues tools on the website and start learning about accessibility and that it helps them.WADE WINGLER:  So when somebody visits a website and Site Cues is fair, what’s their experience like?AARON LEVENTHAL:  The thing is we realize that it’s not possible – if somebody has extreme low vision, and they probably admitted to themselves that they have a disability, and if they’re still using a computer, and they probably went and got a screen magnifier or they are not using the computer anymore because they can’t even get to the website. Or if you’re completely blind and you don’t have a screen reader, you’re not using the computer.So just to start out we decided to work with the folks who have needs up to 4X magnification, and let’s design something that when they are on the website, they can actually see it. So sometimes when you go to a website, you’ll see three A’s that grow in size, that’s a font size control, they don’t usually work very well, but what we did was we borrowed from that so that people at least know what that is and let’s make it look more interesting. Let’s also show that there’s some speech that can be used.So what we did is we have a small A, and then there’s a little slider ramp. It’s a slider that kind of grows in size as it goes to the right and then a big day, and then to the right of that there’s a speech button which looks like a face turned to the side with three waves coming out of it. We worked really hard. We simulate low vision. I go around supermarkets or whatever with misty goggles on so I can see what it’s like. We have simulation tools that blur the screen so we can make sure that even though I have good vision that we’re designing this well. We made it so that people could see it and we did some usability tests to make sure that they can see it. So basically it just has to get the user interested enough to move their mouse to it because users do tend to move their mouse where they are looking. So once the user does that, it grows in size. The two controls become much larger in a box so now you can really see it and can start playing with it.WADE WINGLER:  I’m actually on the website right now and I must over it and the things not only grows but it expands such a way that it’s very engaging and very interesting and makes me want to click on it.AARON LEVENTHAL:  That’s the idea. It’s the front door. You can’t have an ugly front store.WADE WINGLER:  So it goes to four times magnification. It has speech. What features does it include and other things that it doesn’t include that folks might be interested in?AARON LEVENTHAL:  Let me do the first question and then you’ll probably have to remind me what the second question was. Well how do we pack things down to two controls. Screen magnifies typically have a lot of buttons. As we know, the more buns there are the more thinking the person has to do before they try something. So what it is is as you move that slider up, or you can click on the A’s, but as you increase the magnification, not only does a page get bigger, but other things turn on automatically. So the mouse gets larger of course, we turn on an enhancement that puts a bright blue outline around where you are in a form. We turn on automatic panning so you move from side to side in the screen if the page goes off the side. But basically the idea is you don’t have to turn on all of these features, you just start zooming and the more you zoom, we decide as to what features you need at that level and we strengthen those features as you go.Then there’s this other thing we turn on which is that it will actually tell you move your mouse to an area of the page and press the spacebar key to read more. What that means is as you move around the page you’ll see a highlight, and that highlight not only does it help you see where the mouse is, but if you press the space bar, it blows that little area that’s highlighted up into a larger area, so it grows an extra 50 percent and makes it very easy to read because there’s a box around it and everything else is dimmed out and it just pop out at you as a user. Users in our tests really love this feature. We call it one touch read. It’s unlike any other screen reader. It makes sense on the web.There has been at least a decade of study of eye tracking and web presenters really know how to guide your eye. They have big headings, they have nice images and boxes, but it’s those paragraphs that are pesky that I can’t wait. So rather than assuming everything up so much that I have all of this panning to do, I only need to zoom up enough to see what I want to read, moved to that area, hit the space bar, read it, it the space bar again and move my mouse out and then move on to the next thing.WADE WINGLER:  When I tried it, it worked. It was very intuitive and it made a whole lot of sense right away. I would encourage folks to go to and check it out. Aaron, we’ve got about a couple of minutes left and I’ve got some things that I definitely want to get to. The first one is browser compatibility?AARON LEVENTHAL:  If it’s okay, I just have to mention the speech feature because it’s so important. The speech button, if you turn that on and you highlight an area and press space bar, though it also reads it out loud. We chose a super friendly voice and pretty cool that we were able to get speech support into software that you do and how to install.WADE WINGLER:  It works like a charm. I’m on a Mac, using Chrome, which is your most standard set up out there. So I know it works on Chrome.AARON LEVENTHAL:  So we’re supporting Internet Explorer 9 and up, we’re supporting Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. So those are the main desktop browsers. As far as touch support, basically we’re putting a lot of effort into touch support, and we want to have you basically watch this space and look what we do in 2014 four touch.WADE WINGLER:  Another question. If somebody finds this and all of a sudden they have gone from having no assistive technology to I can now use a website with speech in magnification, how do we get folks from that point to then using a more robust product if they need that?AARON LEVENTHAL: Our long-term plan on at is basically if a user is using this a lot, we think we are doing them a service. Pop-ups are kind of annoying, but were going to be looking for ways to kind of let the user know, would you like to use this on every website, or would you like to use this on your desktop. If they say yes, then we give them a chance to find out more.WADE WINGLER:  Good, and after they’ve had a positive experience, it’s great to kind of convert them at that point from the business perspective. So if I had a website and I want to include Site Cues, who do I contact, how do I reach out to you, and give me some idea of how depressing works on that.AARON LEVENTHAL:  If you have a website and are interested in putting in Site Cues, then please send an email to [email protected] and just ask and we can help evaluate your website. The cost would be based on how much traffic so obviously a small organization or school would not pay anything close to what a large, multinational bank would pay or something like that. There’s no formula that I can throw out, plus I’m kind of a tech, product design manager, I’m kind of the wrong guy to talk business. If you send an email to that, then we can help do the site evaluation, give you a demo on your site and help you look at the cost.WADE WINGLER:  Excellent. I’ll pop that email address and the show notes. I’ll also pop the website, in the show notes so that folks can get to those things easily. Aaron, I feel like we could talk all day, and I look forward to an opportunity we can connect again because I feel like there’s a lot of things we could talk about. Thank you again for being on our show today. I wish you the best with Site CuesAARON LEVENTHAL:  Thank you, I really appreciate it.WADE WINGLER:  Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update? Call our listener line at 317-721-7124. Looking for show notes from today’s show? Head on over to Shoot us a note on Twitter @INDATAProject, or check us out on Facebook. That was your assistance technology update. I’m Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana.Share this…TwitterFacebookPinterestLinkedInEmailPrint RelatedATU033: Assistive Technology Act/Rehab Services Administration (Rob Groenendaal) GW Skype, Wheelchair users who are blind or visually impaired, SoundPod, Choosing apps, Sortable, Free ADA Webinar, CSUN & ATIAJanuary 13, 2012In “Assistive Technology Update”ATU036 – Assistive Tech and Higher Education (Ron Stewart – AHEAD), Tax preparation for people with disabilities, More Students to Qualify for Disability in K12 schools, iBooks 2 and accessibility, Rock Band-like game for the blind and visually impairedFebruary 3, 2012In “Assistive Technology Update”ATU150 – Ray Grott, CSUN Recap, Cortana – Microsoft’s Answer to SIRI, Apps for the Classroom Webinar, Autism now 1 in 68, Bugs and Buttons App Bridging AppsApril 11, 2014In “Assistive Technology Update” Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadYour weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.Show Notes:Aaron Leventhal, Director of Product Management for | [email protected] for Life Webinar: Strengthening Your CORE – Tuesday March 4 @ 3:00PM EST User Walks Again With a 3D Printed Exoskeleton Review: Tweeting Blind by Jonathan Mosen – AccessWorld? – February 2014 Hero Wheelchair Van Contest Entry Form | NMEDA of Rhode Island – Assistive Technology Solutions in Minutes – Using Ordinary Items to Create Extraordinary Solutions – A Hands-On Make and Take Fabrication Workshop for Presentations | The Assistive Technology Conference of New England“FCC ACTS TO HELP EMERGENCY RESPONDERS LOCATE WIRELESS 911 CALLERS”“REPORT AND ORDER, DECLARATORY RULING, AND FURTHER NOTICE OF PROPOSED RULEMAKING” App Lists at Bridging Apps:——————————Listen 24/7 at www.AssistiveTechnologyRadio.comIf you have an AT question, leave us a voice mail at: 317-721-7124 or email [email protected] out our web site: https://www.eastersealstech.comFollow us on Twitter: @INDATAprojectLike us on Facebook: read more