Dolphin Newsletter - January 2005
- Happy New Year!
- New Maps released.
- BETT exhibition.
- 6th Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) Conference.
- Dolphin in the Sunday Times.
- QuickBooks made accessible.
- Staff News.
Firstly, we wish all our users a very Happy New Year! 2004 was a very positive year for Dolphin in terms of both technical and product development success. We have also made considerable investment in screen reading and magnification technology both for current products and for new platforms. The new Version 6 product suite continues to be very well received by our customers, with many of the new features being introduced as a direct result of customer feedback.
The Dolphin Group has also been busy working in other areas. The Audio Publishing team are close to releasing version 2.01 of EaseReader, the DAISY software player, and version 2.01 of EasePublisher, Dolphin's DAISY publishing tool. Both EaseReader and EasePublisher were recently shortlisted for a BETT Award 2005, and both recently featured in an extensive Sunday Times article (published 16th January 2005).
The latest set of new and updated maps for version 5.21, 5.30 and version 6.01, 6.02 and 6.03 software are now available via the Internet Updater. They can also be obtained from the Dolphin website.
BETT, the UK's Educational Technology Show took place earlier this month in London. The Dolphin team were in attendance as usual, showing the latest access software developments as well as their revolutionary audio publishing solutions.
As always, it was very well attended by education professionals from the UK and overseas, with visitors from as far away as Sweden and New Zealand. EasePublisher and EaseReader, Dolphin's audio publishing solutions were well received in particular by teachers working with dyslexic students as well as those with a visual impairment.
The next major international show that Dolphin will exhibit at the ATIA Conference in Orlando, Florida, which runs from 19th - 22nd January. If anyone is planning to visit the conference please come along and see us at booth number 1020.
Dolphin Computer Access was featured in the Sunday Times on the 16th January 2005. Dolphin was profiled as a case study before a panel of business experts within the Business section of the press. Noel Duffy and Steve Palmer, the Managing Director and Chief Executive, were asked to present some of the key challenges facing Dolphin, to the panel of experts, who then made recommendations.
Recently Dolphin launched a range of digital talking book software, EaseReader and EasePublisher, which have been a big hit within the visual impairment market. Recent trials of the digital talking book software proved that it was also extremely beneficial for people with print impairments and learning difficulties (the conclusions of which were recently published in The Times Education Supplement). Print impairment represents a significant problem around the world, affecting upwards of 10percent of the population and causes particular difficulties in education. The full benefits of digital talking books are realised because they allow the user to hear the spoken book at the same time as the individual text is highlighted, giving instant recognition to the words and sounds. They also allow for images to be inserted within the text, providing a truly multi-sensory learning experience.
Steve Palmer, Dolphin CEO comments, "Everyone at Dolphin was extremely pleased that the Sunday Times wanted to feature our company within the business sections, we were also very anxious to get the opinions of the panel of external experts."
So what did the experts say?
Dolphin should target the Education markets with these innovative solutions. "Education IT is a huge market and there is a real opportunity for Dolphin to establish itself both as a mainstream and specialist supplier of educational resources," Dave Watson, Chief Executive, Business Link.
"Dolphin should make the most of its links with educationists, publishers, journalists, students and other key individuals. It should lend them the software, use them as focus groups and get them to talk about the company's products", Colin arrington, Director-General, Institute of Public Relations.
Supernova user Pam Retzloff learnt to use QuickBooks (a popular software package from Intuit, Inc.) when the program was still accessible to screen readers. Like so many commercial programs, however, upgrades to make QuickBooks "easier" for sighted people eventually rendered it inaccessible to those who are blind.
Tabbing across the many fields for filling in the quantity, description, or price of an item she sells in her assistive technology business, she would only hear "edit area, edit area, edit area," from her screen reader. Or, she would hear numbers on an invoice, but was unable to confirm whether she was reviewing the number in the column for quantity or subtotal or tax or something else.
QuickBooks is a powerful accounting package for small businesses, and is one of the most widely used around the world. Unfortunately, none of the access products on the market today support it, rendering it almost useless for any blind and visually impaired persons who wish to use it. That was the case until now however, when once again, Dolphin with its next generation approach to screen reader design has released a map file for QuickBooks applications. Utilizing the advanced mapping techniques available in Hal and Supernova, Dolphin has been able to provide new levels of access to QuickBooks programs. Field labels and contents within QuickBooks are now announced, as well as many other screen components.
Dolphin were able to achieve this without having to modify the QuickBooks program and without having to approach QuickBooks in order for them to make any changes. The inherent flexibility of Supernova and Hal, due to their unique mapping features, meant that Dolphin's technical support staff was able to do it quickly and easily.
Many customers have approached Dolphin in the past, asking if there was anything that could be done to enable QuickBooks to be accessible for people who are blind or visually impaired, including Pam Retzloff. Pam works for Blinksoft, a Washington state assistive technology dealer, and runs her own business using QuickBooks. Recent releases of QuickBooks have become so inaccessible that Pam has had to rely upon her memory of how dialog boxes were laid out, in order to continue using the software.
Recognising the need to offer accessibility to our customers as well as other potential users, Dolphin's technical support team rose to the challenge. What did they do?
QuickBooks contained a number of challenging problems:
Firstly, most of QuickBooks dialog boxes are in fact document windows, so Dolphin had to train them all as "embedded objects" in order to get the screen reader's object labeling to work. Secondly, we had to turn off the announcement of "incidental text" within these document window dialog boxes. This was because some of the controls were created dynamically by QuickBooks when you tabbed to them and then disappeared again when you have tabbed away. Therefore, turning off incidental text stopped spurious text being read out as you tabbed from control to control. Dolphin also had to alter the object labelling rules.
Many of QuickBooks custom controls also had to be trained, and finally, Dolphin had to train a couple of QuickBooks custom highlight bars, in order that Supernova and Hal would follow the focus.
This latest Dolphin map file for QuickBooks should work out of the box with all of the default templates distributed with QuickBooks 2004. In addition, it should work with all other versions of QuickBooks (back to QuickBooks 97).
Once again Dolphin has been able to demonstrate how flexible and adaptable their software is with other proprietary programs. Through the use of straightforward mapping techniques Dolphin continues to offer unprecedented levels of accessibility to all our users.
We're delighted to welcome back Hazel Shaw. Hazel, who is the Sales Office supervisor has been on maternity leave since January last year.