Dolphin Newsletter - March 2006

 

Index:

  1. From Steve Palmer and Noel Duffy.
  2. Complete access for Welsh speaking VIPs.
  3. Curriculum Online approval for Dolphin.
  4. Dolphin Producer News.
  5. Events.
  6. What's happening in Development.
  7. What's happening in Sales.
  8. What's happening in Marketing?
  9. Dolphin Needs You!
  10. Staff News.

 

From Steve Palmer and Noel Duffy.

On behalf of Dolphin's staff, we would like to welcome you to this March edition of the Newsletter, we hope you are looking forward to learning more about what we are doing and find something of appeal within.

As you may know this is Dolphin's 20th Anniversary Year. Just as with any anniversary it is always a good time to reflect on all the positive things that have happened over the years and to review the ethos within the business; which we use as a launching pad for everything we do. It is quite remarkable really that over the 20 years we have been serving the community, these core values have stood us in good stead despite the ever increasing challenges we face, not just in market terms, but the way technology has evolved and we have had to adapt to help shape the future of the industry.

Independence has always been one of our key motivators. We want people who use our products to be as independent as possible so they can choose to do what they want, when they want and just as importantly where they want. The advent of more reliable mobile communications has allowed us to develop products with these specific aims in mind. Products such as the Dolphin Pen and PocketHal gives you access to information anywhere you choose, while products such as Dolphin Producer allows you the choice to access information in a form that suits you best.

Although the core values within Dolphin have changed little over the years, our philosophy has evolved. Borrowing from a word we learned on our recent trade mission to Japan, 'oyakudachi' meaning 'walking in the customer's shoes' perhaps encapsulates one of our most important beliefs. In this day and age Dolphin is pleased to be a business driven by customer needs. In our products this is being seen through the creation of stable, reliable and easy to use software tools. It is important that people are able to use their software technology easily. Rather than being immersed in unnecessarily complicated products, we believe in letting the technology do all the work for you, giving yourself the autonomy to easily reap the benefits of what technology has to offer.

Across the globe, one of the great things about Dolphin has always been the people who stand behind the name. We have one of the most dedicated, professional and friendly team of people in the industry today. It is testimony to their endeavours that we have continued to grow, develop and adapt over these past 20 years. With your assistance, we hope to continue to meet your needs and expectations for now and on, into the future.

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Complete access for Welsh speaking VIPs.

For the first time ever, blind and low vision Welsh speakers can use their computers in their first and favourite language, Welsh. Dolphin is pleased to announce the very first computer screen reader and screen magnifier developed with full support for the Welsh language.

We have worked extensively with the RNIB Cymru to produce the Welsh versions of Supernova, Hal, Lunar and LunarPlus. Now Welsh speaking computer users are able to enjoy the same levels of independence and access to all of their favourite computer programs, in their native language. Organisations also have the peace of mind that they can offer reliable and easy to use access solutions that support both the Disability Discrimination Act and the 1993 Welsh Language Act.

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Curriculum Online approval for Dolphin.

Last month Dolphin announced that EaseReader, our DAISY digital talking book software player, had been Curriculum Online approved and that UK Schools were now able to purchase EaseReader and support their print impaired students using e-Learning Credits. Dolphin is now pleased to announce that we are an approved Curriculum Online retailer. Now UK schools can purchase any Dolphin software using their e-Learning Credits, directly from Dolphin. When ordering your Dolphin software all you need do is tell us that you intend to use your e-Learning Credits for the purchase. We will do the rest.

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Dolphin Producer News.

Dolphin Producer v1.02 has now been released in English, Dutch and Swedish. Building upon the initial success of Dolphin Producer, version 1.02 now includes automatic page number mark up. Now you can create an instant Digital Talking Book from your text files, which will allow you to navigate through the book page by page or find a page anywhere in the book instantly. A seven day demonstration version will also be available.

We are currently working on French, German and Spanish releases of Dolphin Producer, which should be released early in April.

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Events.

Dolphin will be attending the forthcoming Library and Information Show at the NEC in Birmingham, which runs from April 26 - 27. The LIS is the largest UK library services and information management show, and Dolphin will be demonstrating a range of solutions to help provide access for visually impaired and print impaired library users. As well as supporting the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), Dolphin will be show casing a range of simple tools for creating archive materials in a totally accessible format.

Dolphin will be holding a Special Educational Needs exhibition in Cardiff on Tuesday, 16th May at the Thistle Cardiff Hotel, 1 Park Place, Cardiff, CF10 3UD. Admission is free and opening times are from 10am until 4pm. Also exhibiting on the day will be Optelec, ForceTen, Hagger Electronics, VisualEyes, AbilityNet, RNC, The Dyslexia Institute Wales, Enabling Computer Supplies and SEN Magazine.

Dolphin will also be attending the Sight City 2006 exhibition in Frankfurt. This is Germany's largest annual exhibition for people who are blind or visually impaired. The venue is the Sheraton Airport Frankfurt, and the show runs from May 17 - 19. If you plan to attend, please visit the Dolphin stand and see all of our latest product developments.

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What's happening in Development.

Progress continues to be made on the next release of Pocket Hal for PDAs, which is currently in beta testing and offers support for the latest Windows Mobile 5 platforms. Pocket Hal was presented at the recent CSUN Conference in California, where it was extremely well received.

The latest Version 6.53 of Supernova, Hal, Lunar and LunarPlus, is also proving popular, especially amongst our Welsh speaking users. Users can quickly and easily switch to a Welsh Control Panel, Welsh prompts and Welsh menus and then back to English should they need to.

Many more new and exciting developments particularly in the area of portable access are underway at Dolphin. Watch this space for more news.

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What's happening in Sales.

I thought you may be interested to hear about how Dolphin and Sight Savers International are working together. The following article is a slightly edited version of a case study which appeared on 'The register' website on the 29th March 2006.

Case study Lawrence Momanyji, 10 sits at the front of class with a Brailler at his desk. Lawrence is a bright boy - he came fifth out of 52 in the recent class exams. He is a pupil at Kilimani Primary School in Nairobi, Kenya, one of 32 blind and visually impaired children on the school roll.

Kilimani is, according to its headmistress Salome Kariuki, "a very big and old school - the buildings are falling apart. The parents do not have the means to repair it, and the city council has other things to spend its money on. But despite that, the performance is good".

The school has 1,200 children aged between five and 14, most of who come from very poor families - it is near one of Nairobi's biggest slums. The average class size is 50.

Kilimani's Integrated Education programme for blind and visually impaired has run since 1983 and some of its 'graduates' have completed university courses. The programme is supported by the charity Sight Savers International, a strong advocate of inclusive education. In all, 220 blind and visually impaired children are being taught in Nairobi's mainstream public schools - a specialist peripatetic teacher, Anthony Mwangani, based at Kilimani, also services so-called sub resource centres in other schools in the city.

At Kilimani, the blind and visually impaired children start off in a beginner's class, currently 19 strong. They join a mainstream class as soon as they can read Braille unaided. Typically, it takes two years to make the switch, but there is a wide range of abilities and differing ages within the beginners' class - the current intake has children aged between three and 11.

All the blind children in the mainstream classes are supplied with their own Braillers, but the problem is "they are owned by children", the school says and are often broken. Braillers are expensive too - around K Sch 40,000 (£320), as are Braille books and Braille paper. And Braille is clunky. The Braille version of the Bible occupies 49 large-format books.

The blind and visually impaired children follow the normal curriculum, but when changes are made it takes four to six months for updated Braille versions to arrive, Kenyan Union of the Blind executive officer Martin Kieti says.

This is where computers would come in useful. But it is early days yet. A year ago, the school got its first computer for the blind students - a refurbished Pentium III funded by Sight Savers and supplied by Computer Aid International, the UK-based PC recycling charity.

The children are taught in ones and twos, away from their classes. First thing on the agenda is mastering the keyboard as the children can't use the mouse. They start with Microsoft software and learn the keyboard layout and then how to format a document. This takes about a year, though the length is determined partly by the rationing of access to the computer. "We have only one computer and the children are many," says Mr Mwangani. But the school is also keen that children do not miss out on their mainstream courses.

Kilimani's lone PC has some software called JAWS - Job Access with Speech. This is a voice output facility which enables students to play back what they have written. But it is only a trial version: the computer must be rebooted after 40 minutes.

From JAWS to Dolphins

JAWS is limited because it deals with speech only, Martin Kieti says. Partially-sighted, Mr Kieti is a keen advocate of the Dolphin Project, Sight Savers' latest project for education. He carries a 256k USB flash drive in his pocket, containing all the software configuration he needs. He can put this into any PC running Windows XP or Windows 2000 and with a USB port. "If I go to a cybercafe, I can simply plug it in", he says.

On the flash drive is Supernova software supplied by Dolphin Computer Access. There are three facilities, or consoles, covering magnification, speech, voice input, and Braille. Using Supernova, the keyboard can be configured as a Brailler and a specialist printer prints out raised dots in Braille.

Sight Savers is to roll-out the Dolphin Project with 45 refurbished laptops supplied by ComputerAid and flash drives containing SuperNova to support blind students at Kenyatta University in Nairobi. At a cost of US$250 each, for the laptop and the flash drive, the prices compare very well with Braillers and Braille books. Using the PC, lecturers who are not conversant in Braille can input normal text which translates into Braille.

Mr Kieti hopes that technology will open up job prospects. Most blind undergraduates go on to become teachers, a few go into law. But job prospects are seriously limited in a country that has an effective unemployment rate of 45 per cent. However, Mr Kieti is hopeful that technology will make it easier for young blind adults to find work. The Supernova software, already configured, will remove employers' expense of having to set up dedicated workstations for visually impaired staff.

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What's happening in Marketing?

The Dolphin team has just returned from the CSUN Conference 2006, where we demonstrated our latest range of mobile solutions and next generation access software. Again, there was a significant amount of interest in the Dolphin Pen, a totally portable small USB pen drive that contains your Dolphin software, which can be used on any compatible computer. Dolphin was the first company to offer a complete range of access software on a USB pen, and now more people are experiencing this and really appreciate the levels of independence it gives them.

The next generation Pocket Hal for Windows Mobile 2005 was also show cased at CSUN and due for release in early April. With more low vision and blind computer users wanting access to small mainstream mobile computers, Pocket Hal offers a unique solution for standard PDAs, providing full screen reader access to applications whilst on the move. Truly an access solution that fits your lifestyle!

Marketing Assistant Lisa has now settled into her new role at Dolphin and is responsible for generating PR in the local, regional and national press, assisting the Marketing Manager and also compiling this newsletter on a monthly basis. Any opportunities for PR, news stories or ideas for features can be sent to Lisa by email.

The Dolphin Web Project

Currently the Marketing department is working on a total re-launch of the Dolphin web presence. Plans include many new features such as the facility to order and download software online, a text-only version of the whole website and you will even be able to view the site on your PDA.

Sarah Jones, Dolphin Website Coordinator explains; "This is a massive project and one we shall be very excited to reveal. Our main goals with the website are to improve Accessibility for all our visitors with special consideration for visually impaired readers and those who browse the internet via a mobile device such as their smart phone or PDA. We shall also re-organise the flow of information through a consistent layout and more logical navigation. Research has shown that whilst our current site contains a massive amount of information it is not always obvious where to find what you are looking for. We hope that the new plans will solve this problem and help Dolphin to become a useful resource for our dealers and customers alike."

The project is being deployed in several stages in order to make the task more manageable and it is expected that phase one will be launched in May of this year. We will keep you posted with the progress.

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Dolphin Needs You!

As part of the website project we are looking for product reviews and testimonials from existing users of each product in the Dolphin range. If you think you could write a few words about your experiences and your opinion of the Dolphin software you use then please put it in an email to: sarah.jones@dolphinuk.co.uk remembering to state which programme your review applies to. All submissions will be considered for use on the website and will automatically enter you into a free prize draw to win a copy of Dolphin Producer which lets you easily convert documents into Digital Talking Books. The winner will be drawn at random and announced in next month's newsletter.

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Staff News.

Dolphin is pleased to announce the appointment of Ron Stewart as VP of Operations. Ron will oversee US operations for Dolphin and will be based in New Jersey.

For many years Ron Stewart has been an internationally recognised expert on policy development and institutional change concerning technology, disabilities and adult education. Ron was the developer and director of Oregon State University's Technology Access Program, a program focusing on inclusive access to educational technology for adult learners with disabilities, which is now considered to be a national model. Ron will also continue his work as the Technology Advisor to AHEAD, (Association on Higher Education and Disability) and President of ATHEN (Access Technologist Higher Education Network). In this capacity Ron is leading several initiatives focused on technology and adult education.

We are also delighted to welcome Dave Williams to Dolphin, who will be joining the Technical Support department as part of the First Line Helpdesk support team on Monday 3rd April 2006. Dave is a blind computer user who has extensive experience of assistive technology, having been a beta tester and previously worked with the American Council of the Blind (ACB) on their ACB Radio project.

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