Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Blogging with Blogger and JAWS Screen Reader

Blogger is the blog creation software supplied by Google. You can access it at blogger.com though you'll notice that the domain name for your blog will be blogspot.com. Unlike WordPress.com (see my article, Accessibility Issues With WordPress.com, JAWS 11 & Internet Explorer 8), Blogger's web site is accessible to JAWS though its editor toolbar is not; some hotkeys are provided but they don't cover all of the functions.

Navigating Blogger Pages With JAWS

Using Blogger involves interacting with forms so you need to become proficient at knowing which cursor is active. Recall that the Virtual PC Cursor is usually on when the web page first displays; it allows you to tab between links and use the Navigation Quick keys. The other cursor that you'll typically use is the PC Cursor; it lets you tab between form controls and interact with them such as typing text into an edit box. Sometimes when you navigate to a form control, JAWS will automatically switch to forms mode whereby the PC Cursor is active. If not, enter forms mode manually by pressing the Enter key; you'll hear a sound when forms mode turns on and off. You may need to exit forms mode (and thus switch from the PC Cursor to the Virtual PC Cursor) to access static text or links on the page; do this by pressing Escape or NumPad Plus.
Navigation Quick keys are a letter that you press on the keyboard that moves you to the next element of that type on the page. So when I tell you to move to a Heading, press H; move to an Edit box, press E; move to a Button, press B; move to an image (or Graphic), press G.
Another navigation strategy is to display a list of page elements of a particular type. You can press any navigation quick key with the Insert and Control keys to display a list of that element. So to display a list of Graphics/images, press Insert Control G; for Buttons, press Insert Control B; for Edit boxes, press Insert Control E. The following elements are so frequently used that they have specific function key assignments:
  • display Links List: Insert F7
  • display Headings List: Insert F6
  • display Form Fields List: Insert F5
  • display Frames List: Insert F9

Creating Your Blog

The process for creating your blog requires fewer steps if you already have a Google account. If you do not, you'll be prompted to create one before creating your blog.
No Google Account
On the blogger.com home page, activate the "Create A Blog" link. Page 1 of 3 appears; it's entitled "Create Your Google Account". Go to the first edit box on the form, Email account (its label in the Forms List will be the text beneath, "(must already exist)." Type in an existing email address. Tab to the Retype email address field and retype it. Tab to the Enter a password edit box; type a password that is at least 8 characters long. Tab to the Retype password field and do so. Tab to the Display name edit box and type the name that will be used to sign your blog posts. Then tab to the Email notifications checkbox. Tab to the Birthday edit box (format is MM/DD/YYYY). Then tab to the Word Verification section.
Word Verification / Audio CAPTCHA
When you create a Google account or a blog, you will need to complete the Word Verification section. This requires you to complete a CAPTCHA i.e. enter the characters you see in a distorted image. There is an audio CAPTCHA that you can choose to do instead. Go to the Word Verification edit box and ensure that you are in forms mode. Then tab a graphic link labelled either "account/accessibility" or "Listen and type the numbers you hear." Press Enter and wait a few moments for the audio to play. The digits will be repeated twice. Once you've memorized them, return to the Word Verification edit box and type them in.
Tab to the Acceptance of Terms checkbox and press Spacebar to select. Tab to the Continue button/link and press Enter. You'll now be on your Blogger Dashboard page. Activate the "Create Your Blog Now" link; this will take you to the "Name your blog" page. Follow the instructions below for completing the Name Your Blog and Choose Template steps.
Google Account (but need to create your blog: sign up, name it, choose a template)
If you do have a Google account, go to the blogger.com home page, find the Username edit box, type in your Google username (your email address), then tab to the Password edit box, type it in, tab to Sign In and press Enter.
The "Sign Up for Blogger" page displays with a form that contains your email address and your name as read-only fields. Following that is an edit box for your Display name (the name used to sign your blog posts); go there and type it in. Then tab to the Email notifications checkbox. Tab to the Acceptance of terms checkbox and press Spacebar to select. Tab to the Continue link and press Enter. You'll now be on your Blogger Dashboard page. Activate the "Create Your Blog Now" link; this will take you to the "Name your blog" page.
Name Your Blog
The focus will be in the Blog title edit box so type the name you want at the top of your blog. Then tab to the Blog address (URL) edit box. Type something like your username (the only special character allowed is the hyphen); "blogspot.com" will be appended to the end so the web address will be <username>.blogspot.com. There is a link below this edit box called Check Availability that you can use; after activating it, the results will appear below the link so use the down arrow to read them. If you are signing up with an existing Google account, go to the Word Verification section and follow the instructions above for completing the audio CAPTCHA. Finally go to the Continue button/link and press Enter; this will take you to the "Choose a starter template" page.
Choose Template
This page consists of several images showing the appearance and layout of a variety of templates. You need to select one of these and then activate the Continue link; after this a page entitled "Your blog has been created!" appears. From here you can activate the Start blogging link to go to the New Post page in the Posting section; see below. To navigate the template graphics, start at the top by pressing H to go to the page heading, "Choose a starter template." Then press G to move to the next graphic. The first template graphic is selected by default; to choose another one, press Enter on it.

Signing In (after creating your blog)

On the blogger.com home page, go to the Username edit box, type in your Google username, then tab to the Password edit box, type it in and tab to Sign In. Press Enter to display your Dashboard page.

Dashboard

This page gives you access to the five main areas of the site: Settings, Edit Posts/New Post, Design, Monetize and View/Edit Profile. These are all links so use your Links List to access them. You can return to the Dashboard page by locating its link on any of the other pages.

Settings

Once you are logged in, activate the Settings link from any page. You'll be on the Basic settings page. Other types of settings (which you can get to via their link) are: Publishing, Formatting, Comments, Archiving, Site Feed, Email & Mobile, OpenID and Permissions. Each setting consists of a label on the left, a form control on the right and an optional description below the form control. The Form Fields list contains the following about each form control: label, control type, value. At the bottom of each settings page is a Save Settings button that you must activate before leaving the page to save any changes you make. To read the description that may appear below a form control, use the Form Fields list to move to the control. You'll likely be in forms mode; press Num Pad Plus to return to the virtual PC cursor, then press down arrow until you hear the description.

Design

Once you are logged in, activate the Design link from any page. By default you'll be on the Page Elements page where you can add, arrange and edit the page elements that comprise your blog; their layout is displayed via rectangles appearing in rows and columns. There are 3 important links in the upper right: Preview, Clear Edits, Save.
Page elements that already have a content type assigned to them (e.g. Navbar, Header, Blog Posts, Followers, Blog Archive, About Me, Attribution) contain an Edit link while others contain an Add a Gadget link. In the Links List, you'll be unable to determine which Edit link belongs to which page element and where the Add a Gadget link is located on that page. So your best bet is to go to the top of the "editorframe" frame (press M) and press the down arrow key; the Edit link will follow the name of the page element. Activating both types of links causes a new window to open. Edit windows contain Save, Cancel and sometimes Remove buttons. Page elements can be rearranged by clicking and dragging so use the JAWS cursor (NumPad Minus to switch to JAWS cursor, arrow keys to locate page element, Insert NumPad Slash to lock left mouse button, arrow keys to move element, Insert NumPad Slash to unlock left mouse button and thus drop element into new position) or get a sighted user to help you with that.

Posting

The Posting section of your site contains four pages: New Post, Edit Posts, Edit Pages, Comment Moderation. The Dashboard's New Post button and the Posting link you'll find on other pages take you to the New Post page. The Dashboard also contains an Edit Posts link.
Form controls on a posting page consist of: text fields (Title, Labels), text area (your post; the name is Unlabeled1), links to change the editor type (Compose, Edit HTML), buttons (Publish Post, Save Now or Save as Draft). There is a Preview link (opens a new window). There is also a link called Post Options which causes 4 groups of radio buttons to display (Reader comments, Post date and time, Edit HTML Line Breaks, Compose Settings).
The visual editor (Compose) contains a tool bar above the post text area. Unfortunately this tool bar is not accessible with JAWS, even when navigating it with the JAWS cursor (most buttons are reported as "blank"). Hot keys exist for some of the functions and are listed on the Blogger Help page, Can I use keyboard shortcuts while posting?. With Internet Explorer 8, I was unable to get the following to work or they had other side-effects: Blockquote, Link, Preview, Publish Post. Also, I discovered that you can use Control + U to underline.
So unfortunately, using more than just basic formatting is going to require putting the editor into "Edit HTML" mode.

Edit Posts

The Edit Posts page lists your posts in rows. You can select one of the following links to filter which posts are displayed: All, Drafts, Scheduled, Imported, Published. By default, all posts are listed.
It's a bit challenging to locate your post for editing. The title of each post is preceded by an Edit link. Preceding that is a Checkbox. So one navigation strategy is to use X to move to the next checkbox and down arrow until you hear the post title, then Shift Tab to activate its Edit link. Or, tab to the Delete link to delete your post.
The checkboxes enable you to select multiple posts upon which to perform the following actions: Publish Selected, Delete Selected. These buttons appear below the list of all of your posts.

View Blog

Your Dashboard page contains a View Blog link. Once you are finished reading it, return to the Dashboard using Alt+Left arrow to go back a page. Your blog contains several headings that will ease navigation with the H navigation quick key or the Headings List (Insert F6). Your blog title is a level 1 heading, the date you published the post is a level 2 heading and each posting title is at level 3. Comments appear below the Comments level 4 heading. Following that section is the "Post a comment" level 4 heading; this section contains a text area, "Select a profile" list box, Post Comment button and Preview button.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Should I Upgrade to Dragon NaturallySpeaking Version 11?

A DNS user recently asked me whether he should upgrade to Dragon NaturallySpeaking Version 11 and if so, which version. The latter question is easiest to answer so I'll tackle that first. If you have the Preferred edition, the equivalent for version 11 is called Premium. The Professional edition is much more expensive and mainly targeted at corporate users. The cheapest edition, Home (formerly called Standard), doesn't allow you to transcribe from a digital voice recorder (among other things). For more information, review the feature matrix and product edition comparison.
Note that in order to qualify for the upgrade (versus full) version, you need to be running DNS 9 or 10. Also, you need to purchase the equivalent edition e.g. Premium 11 if you have Preferred 10.
Now let's return to the question of whether you should upgrade in the first place. In his NY Times article, David Pogue says, "It’s probably not worth the $100 to upgrade to Dragon 11 if you already have 10 (and maybe even 9)." Based upon what I've read, I like where Nuance is going with DNS and I'm looking forward to using version 11 someday. As for releases of most mature software products, there are many minor improvements that really aren't worth upgrading for, especially if you are on a budget! However, there are several major improvements -- though depending on how you use the product, they also may not warrant an upgrade. In the table below, I've listed what I think the 7 major improvements are, along with the circumstances under which you'll likely benefit from them.
Major ImprovementYou will benefit from improvement if...
Improved and more responsive recognition accuracy (Note: the recognition accuracy is said to be 15% higher than DNS 10 but that version already claimed to have up to 99% accuracy)
  • You are a heavy DNS user e.g. several hours per day, several days per week
  • You have an atypical voice
Easier to control Windows applications: more commands, better implementation of some existing commandsYou use DNS to interact with Windows applications instead of using the mouse and/or keyboard
Automatically detects audio quality issues ("because a significant percentage of misrecognitions can be caused by simple audio quality issues such as incorrect microphone connection or placement, background noise, and Bluetooth microphone out of range or low on battery")
  • You use DNS in different locations
  • You use a battery-powered headset
  • You use different headsets
  • You change your computer's audio settings frequently
Sidebar (replaces Sample Commands window): displays context-sensitive commands and tips
  • You use DNS to control applications which requires learning a lot more commands
  • You aren't inclined to run the Tutorial, read the User Guide, read and complete the End-User Workbook exercises or use the Help system
Configures itself based upon your computer's hardware
  • You want to run DNS on your NetBook (which is lower-powered) realizing that recognition will be slower, you'll be using a smaller vocabulary and Natural Language commands will be turned off
  • You want to take advantage of your advanced hardware e.g. multiple processors
Compatible with Office 2010 and OpenOffice WriterYou use these applications
Detects corrections of misrecognitions when the revisions are typedYou don't use the dictate method to correct misrecognitions i.e. say "Select <misrecognized word>", "Correct That" to display the  Corrections dialog box

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Transferring a Dragon NaturallySpeaking User Profile Between Computers

Note: This article applies to version 10.1 of Dragon NaturallySpeaking.
The overall process for transferring your user profile between computers involves exporting the user profile from computer A and importing it into computer B. The process for doing this is described in the online documentation (DragonBar Help menu -> Help Topics menu item). Below are the steps with some added commentary.

To Export A User (Computer A)

  1. On the NaturallySpeaking menu of the DragonBar, click Manage Users.
  2. In the Manage Users dialog box, select your user and click Advanced button, then click Export.
  3. Use the Browse For Folder dialog box to select a location for the exported user files (e.g. a flash drive) and click OK.
  4. When the export operation completes (it may take several minutes), close the Manage Users dialog box.

To Import A User (Computer B)

  1. Start NaturallySpeaking. When the Open User dialog box displays, click Cancel button (you do not need to have a user open to perform the import).
  2. On the NaturallySpeaking menu of the DragonBar, click Manage Users.
  3. On the Manage Users dialog box, click Advanced button (you do not need to have a particular user selected), then Import.
  4. Use the Browse For Folder dialog box to locate the user files you want to import (you need to select a folder; the export process creates a folder whose name matches the user profile you exported, so look for that on your flash drive) and click OK.
  5. If the user profile already exists, you'll be asked if you want to overwrite it or import it with an alternate name. If you choose the latter option, you'll be able to modify the user profile name in that dialog box.
  6. When the import operation completes, close the Manage Users dialog box.
  7. To open the user, on the NaturallySpeaking menu of the DragonBar, click Open User.
  8. You'll be prompted to run the Audio Setup Wizard so have your microphone plugged in. This only takes a minute or so. After this you'll be able to dictate.

DNS Versions

When I first tested this process, I exported from and imported into the same DNS version (10.1). After all, the idea is that you are transferring your user profile between multiple computers upon which you have DNS installed (see my article on Installing Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10.1 on Multiple Computers). If for some reason the version of DNS on both computers are not the same, I hypothesize that you won't be able to import your user profile into an earlier version of DNS but you will be able to import it into a later version. This is based upon a DNS Knowledgebase article that says, "While the user profiles can be used without issue on a higher product version, they are not backward compatible." To test this, I imported my 10.1 user profile onto a computer that's running the original version of my software, 10. While the import was successful, when I tried to open a user, I received the following error message: "Com returned an unexpected error code: Details are E-FAIL."

User Profile With Multiple Dictation Sources

If your user profile has multiple dictation sources assigned to it, all of them will be exported and imported.

Achieving Similar Recognition Accuracy Across Multiple Computers When Using A Second Computer Infrequently

If you use another computer (call it computer B) infrequently and want to achieve the same recognition accuracy as you have on your primary computer (call it computer A) after you've just imported your user profile, you will come closest if you use the same microphone in both places.
Recall that DNS adapts to both your voice (acoustic model) and your  vocabulary (language model). Also, recall that a user profile can have multiple dictation sources assigned to it (e.g. standard wired  microphone plugged into sound card, USB microphone, Bluetooth, digital  voice recorder); this is desirable because then they all share the same language model (vocabulary). Finally, recall that while your  acoustic model depends on the microphone that you use, other factors also contribute to it such as the type of sound card (if you aren't using a USB adapter), how noisy the computer is, background noise level and type.
What this means is that the acoustic model is not going to be a perfect match when you transfer your user profile to another computer. But the more variables you eliminate (e.g. mic, sound card), the more similar the acoustic models will be.
If for some reason you cannot use the same mic on both computers, you might want to add mic B as a new dictation source to computer A. You'd still use mic A with computer A but the advantage of this is that you wouldn't have to go through the extra step of adding mic B as a dictation source after the import on computer B; this process takes approximately 10 minutes because you have to run the Audio Quality Wizard (volume check, quality check), Training Wizard (short training takes 5 minutes) and User File Adaptation and Save (about 2 minutes). When you export a user profile, all dictation sources come along with it. So if you already have the mic B source created, you just have to run the Audio Quality Wizard (about 2 minutes) before you start dictating.
A disadvantage of using mic B only with computer B is that mic A is the one you're constantly using so DNS is improving its acoustic model but these adaptations aren't taking place for mic B. I'm not sure how much of an issue this might be for your particular circumstances. When using mic B, you still have access to your latest-and-greatest language model which includes custom vocabulary that you've added as well as statistics such as word frequency and proximity to other words.
So I recommend that you run an experiment to gather some empirical data as follows:
  1. Find text that is representative of the type of dictation you will be doing on computer B; save it in electronic form in Microsoft Word as original-text.doc
  2. On computer A
    • add a dictation source to your user profile using mic B
    • save your user files
    • export your user profile
    • dictate for several pages (2-5) into Microsoft Word using both micA and micB; save these to two different files (computerA-micA.doc, computerA-micB.doc)
  3. On Computer B:
    • import your user profile
    • use both micA and micB to dictate the same text; save these to two more files (computerB-micA.doc, computerB-micB.doc)
  4. Compare the results with Microsoft Word's Compare feature i.e. analyze the differences.
    • assess recognition accuracy for your main user profile (primary computer)
      • compare original-text.doc with computerA-micA.doc
    • assess similarity of recognition accuracy for your preferred secondary-computer setup
      • compare computerA-micA.doc with computerB-micB.doc
This will give you a rough idea of how accurately DNS recognized your dictation when you performed it on your primary computer.  The second comparison will show you the differences in your dictation when using the 2 different computers with the two headsets. If the differences are minor, you can feel confident that using a different microphone with computer B won't have much of an impact on recognition accuracy.
If the differences are major, compare the dictation when you used mic A i.e. computerA-micA.doc with computerB-micA.doc. If these differences are also major, then some aspect of computer B or the environment it's in are impacting the acoustic model.

Installing Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10.1 on Multiple Computers

Note: This research was performed when Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10.1 was the latest version.

Installation

You are permitted to install Dragon NaturallySpeaking (DNS) on multiple computers under certain conditions.
This is what the January 2010 newsletter says:
  • "Q: Can I install Dragon on more than one computer or do I need to buy another license?
  • A: YES! Dragon is licensed per user, not per computer. So if you have more than one PC or laptop, you can install Dragon on multiple computers (up to five machines total) for regular usage. Your customized user profile can be stored on one machine or transferred from machine to machine so that you can maintain a consistent dictation experience across machines. A separate license is only required when additional speakers use the software."
This is what the DNS User Guide (page 6) says: "Multiple users on one computer Dragon is licensed on a "per individual" basis. You are permitted to install the software on more than one computer (such as on a desktop and a laptop computer, or on a work and a home computer), but you cannot use the software concurrently on more than one computer. You are permitted to create multiple voice profiles, so long as each voice profile is for you. If someone else wants to create a voice profile, that person must purchase a separate Dragon license. Volume license agreements are available."
I was unable to find anything about installing DNS on more than one computer in the End User License Agreement (EULA); it only talks about creating multiple User Profiles. Note that the only time you have access to the EULA is during the installation process (I confirmed this with Nuance Customer Service).

Product Deactivation

Prior to reading the January 2010 newsletter, I thought that a DNS installation was restricted to one computer. This is because when researching the ability to reinstall DNS on a new or upgraded computer, I discovered that it is important to deactivate DNS by uninstalling it from the old computer when connected to the Internet, prior to installing it on the new/upgraded one. The product activation FAQ says: "Will the product ever need to be deactivated? Yes. If you want to move your license onto another computer, or are planning to upgrade any hardware or the operating system (since activation may see this as a new computer), you should deactivate your software. For the product to be correctly deactivated your computer must be connected to the internet during the uninstall process in order to free up an activation so it can be reused when you reinstall the software with the new hardware."
Note that deactivation is important to do even if you make a change to the computer hardware. A web page that explains how product activation works says: "The software creates a a unique "machine fingerprint" based upon your system hardware and operating system. The unique machine fingerprint and serial number combination are passed over the internet to the Nuance activation server, either through automatic or manual activation.The activation server tracks the number of fingerprints per serial number. If the number of fingerprints for each serial number has not been exceeded, the server sends back an activation code to unlock the software. Each product's End User License Agreement indicates the number of systems or users that can legally use the software. If a computer's hardware or operating systems are changed, a new machine fingerprint may be created, one more activation will be consumed and the remaining number of activations will decrease. Uninstalling the software from your system will notify the activation server and will remove the corresponding fingerprint and serial number combination from the server, freeing up an activation and increasing the remaining number of activations."
So, to summarize, for DNS, Nuance will permit you to activate it on up to 5 computers but if you are upgrading your existing computer or wanting to install DNS on a new one, ensure that you follow the deactivation process to decrement the activations count.

Synchronizing User Profiles

When using DNS on multiple computers keep in mind that you'll have to go to extra work to synchronize the user profiles. According to a DNS document, "Each user has a unique profile which is created and updated by Dragon. This profile contains things such as the user’s macros and customized vocabulary as well as learned information about the way the person speaks (says certain words, vocal accent, the acoustics of the recording devices they use, etc.)." From a vocabulary point-of-view, this may not be important to you e.g. if you have a home versus work computer and what you dictate is vastly different on each. You'll also have to decide whether the acoustic training is important to share e.g. do you perform a lot of corrections because DNS misrecognizes what you say?
There are 3 methods for synchronizing user profiles:
  1. Periodically export the User profile from the original computer, then import it to the recipient computer. This is done through the Manage Users dialog box—available through the NaturallySpeaking menu or by saying manage users.
  2. Change the location of the user files to a network directory or portable storage device, such as a flash drive. You can then carry the storage device to a different computer running DNS and start the program with that user. This is done through the Manage Users dialog box—click Browse and then use the Browse For Folder dialog box to locate where you want Dragon to save the user files.
  3. If you have the Professional, Legal or Medical version, you can use the Roaming User feature which "allows users to dictate with Dragon NaturallySpeaking from different network locations using a variety of computing devices without having to create and train individual user files at each location." You would use this feature if you're part of a large organization where the network administrator can configure Dragon to allow your profile to reside on the network. The major advantage is that you wouldn't need to store your profile on a flash drive. And if you, for example, take your laptop home from the office and use DNS while not connected to the office network, when you reconnect your laptop to the network back at the office, DNS will reconcile the changes you made to your local profile with the network profile.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Accessibility Issues With WordPress.com, JAWS 11 & Internet Explorer 8

I'm using an older version of WordPress (2.9.2) provided by my web hosting company. But I decided to try the version available at WordPress.com; I'm unsure whether it it based upon the latest version available at WordPress.org (3.0.1).
My clients that use JAWS typically use Internet Explorer because it has tended to work better with JAWS (though Mozilla Firefox has come a long way). So I've been trying to use JAWS 11 with IE 8 to post blog entries on my WordPress.com account.
The major difficulty I'm having is that JAWS doesn't think the site is composed of web pages. This severely limits how JAWS can interact with the site. JAWS contains lots of keystrokes to make web page navigation simpler. Navigation quick keys are a letter that move from element to element e.g. H for Heading, E for Edit box, B for Button. Lists of form elements in a dialog box exist for links, headings, all form controls, specific form controls. None of these navigation techniques work for me because JAWS doesn't think it's on a web page. I get a "This feature is only available from within a virtual document such as a page on the Internet" message when attempting any of these commands.
To interact with forms, JAWS does require forms mode to be active. This often happens automatically with the latest version of JAWS though sometimes (and for older versions) pressing Enter when on the form control is required. Once JAWS is in forms mode, tabbing moves the PC cursor between tab-able elements such as form controls or links. The behaviour that I'm experiencing on my WordPress.com blog is similar to having the PC cursor enabled i.e. I can only tab between these tab-able elements. This means that I'm unable to read static text. Tabbing is also a very inefficient method for navigating a web page especially when it contains a lot of form elements and links.
There are many ways to exit forms mode e.g. pressing the ESC key, NUM PAD Plus, refreshing the page (see Using Forms with JAWS and MAGic). But none of these work.
I have had better luck when using Mozilla Firefox 3.6.8. I do use both browsers but my visually impaired clients tend to use Internet Explorer. It's much more challenging for the typical JAWS user to learn a new software application as compared to the typical sighted person. WordPress.com needs to be accessible with this widely used screen reader and web browser. Most discussion surrounding WordPress accessibility has been for screen reader users as consumers of blogs; we also need to support them as creators of content.

WordPress 2.9.2 Editor Options: A Description For JAWS Screen Reader Users

In a previous post I mentioned that WordPress enables the TinyMCE Visual editor by default for writing blog posts. I was curious about the functionality of the editor and what the non-visual version involved. Below are my findings and recommendations for use with JAWS and Internet Explorer.
(Note: I am using the version of WordPress that is provided by my web hosting company, which is 2.9.2; it contains version 2.0.9 of the TinyMCE editor. The latest version of WordPress downloadable from WordPress.org is 3.0.1. I'm not sure if this is the version available on WordPress.com but I know that this site is using version 3.27.7 of TinyMCE there. Be aware that there are several differences between these two versions of the WordPress site admin interface and the TinyMCE editor. To complicate matters further, both software packages are customizable so the interface can vary among installations. Read more on my blog post entitled, Accessibility Issues With WordPress.com, JAWS 11 & Internet Explorer 8.)

Visual Mode Versus Code Mode

You can choose to write your blog postings in one of two modes. If you know how to write HTML markup, choose Code mode whereby you are directly editing your content intermixed with its HTML tags. This will give you the greatest flexibility because some HTML elements aren't available in Visual mode e.g. tables, headings. Also, having access to those tags will give you a better idea of how the page will appear given that the markup is correct.
If you do not know HTML markup, stay with the default Visual mode; it provides a WYSIWYG or What You See Is What You Get view of your content e.g. text formatted as bold looks bold. As a visually impaired user that's not too helpful. But the tool bar in Visual mode is easier to use as it works more like a regular word processor whereby you select text or position the cursor and then select the formatting option. Code mode also contains a tool bar but it outputs the start or end HTML tag instead.

Disabling The Visual Editor

To disable the visual editor for all of your posts, login to your account, select the Users link and then select the Your Profile link to land on the Your Profile and Personal Options form. There is a checkbox here labelled, Use the visual editor when writing; unselect it via pressing the Spacebar. Then Tab to the Update Profile button and press Spacebar to save the changes.
If you only want to use Code mode occasionally, then leave the Visual editor enabled as it allows you to switch between Visual and Code mode via buttons that appear above the tool bar.

Entering Post Text Area

I have discovered two reliable methods of accessing the text area into which you write your blog posting. You can select it from the Forms Field List (Insert+F5); it will be labelled Post Preview >> blank_page if your blog posting is unpublished or Post View >> blank_page if it is. Or you can use the access key, Alt+Z.

Visual Editor Tool Bar

Immediately above the text area is a tool bar containing common HTML tags such as Bold, Italic, Strikethrough, Unordered list, etc. To explore and activate them via the keyboard, use the Alt+Q access key to jump to the start (left-hand side) of the tool bar and then tab through the buttons; the first button on the tool bar is Bold and the last button is Help. You'll hear the name of each plus its hot key e.g. Unordered list (Alt+L). Press the Spacebar to activate the button. Once you learn the hot key, use it while you are in the text area.
Be sure to position the cursor or select the text in preparation for applying the format option.
You may not receive any feedback from JAWS that the formatting option has been applied but you may be able to discern this in others ways e.g. use Insert+F to hear the font characteristics, navigate through the content to hear the list number for an ordered list or Preview/View the content after saving it and use the relevant navigation quick key, if applicable.

Visual Editor Element Path

When in Visual mode, you'll find the element path below the text area. This is the hierarchy of HTML tags that apply to the content the cursor is positioned on. Each tag is a link which if you activate selects the content that applies to that tag (e.g. the paragraph the cursor is in if the path contains a paragraph tag) and puts the keyboard focus back there.

Saving And Publishing

Positioned below the text area are the following buttons: Save and Continue Editing, Save, Publish (if this post is still a draft).

Exiting Post Text Area

Press Tab. If you are in Visual mode, keyboard focus moves to a hidden link of unknown relevance and then the element path area. After this the Tab key unfortunately skips over the Save/Publish buttons and moves into the frame containing form elements for uploading a file. So use the Form Fields List to access these buttons. Remember that you'll need to press Spacebar to activate the button.

Previewing / Viewing Your Post

If your post is in draft mode (i.e. you have not published it yet), there will be a Preview link on the form; if it has been published, the link will be called View. Clicking either of these links will open a new window and display the content as it will appear within your blog. You'll probably want to maximize the window with Alt+Spacebar, X.

Bypassing The TinyMCE Editor

You can also compose your blog posting in a word processor such as Microsoft Word and then copy it into the post text area. However, be aware that Word and WordPress aren't very compatible. When you do the copy and paste, all sorts of formatting markup will be inserted. You won't notice it in Visual mode but it may cause formatting problems for your blog and may compromise its accessibility.
If you just want the content from a Word document, paste it into Notepad first; this causes all formatting to be discarded. Of course it means that you need to use the WordPress editor to format your post because even if you copy in an ordered list, it won't contain the list and item tags to identify it as such and thus won't be navigable using the JAWS navigation quick keys. Your paragraph breaks will disappear as well.
Another option is to use an offline blog editor. I don't have any experience with these, but About.com has an article on the top 5.
Finally, version 3.2.7 of the TinyMCE editor contains a Paste from Word tool bar button on the extended toolbar (activated via the Show/Hide Kitchen Sink button). This produces very clean HTML. I haven't figured out how to access the Paste from Word button with JAWS yet but I noticed that just pasting the content from Word directly into the Visual editor generated the same nice clean HTML.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Using JAWS Screen Reader To Write A WordPress 2.9.2 Post

I am testing creating a WordPress blog post using the JAWS screen reader. (Note: I am using the version of WordPress that is provided by my web hosting company, which is 2.9.2. The latest version of WordPress downloadable from WordPress.org is 3.0.1. If this is the version being used by WordPress.com, be aware that there are several differences between these two versions within both the site admin pages and the blog editor interface.)
My first challenge was to login to my account which was easy enough with the Login link that appears on my blog's home page; I used the Links List (Insert+F7) to locate the link. This displayed the Login page and put the keyboard focus into the Username edit box with forms mode on. So I typed my username and tabbed to the Password edit box. After entering the password, I tabbed to the Login button.
On my account page, I used the Links List to locate the link called Write. I am now on the Write Post page which also contains a link to any posts that are in draft mode; they appear above the Title edit box; I find the easiest way to go to a draft is to use the Links List, given that I can recall the name of it.
I added a new category when I wrote this post. I used the Edit Box List (Insert+Ctrl+E) to locate the Category edit box; unfortunately its name is not descriptive (Unlabeled1). I typed the category name and then tabbed to the Add button. The category list appears below these 2 form controls so I tabbed there and used spacebar to check the new category and uncheck the Uncategorized category which I didn't want to use anymore.
By default, the TinyMCE rich HTML editor was enabled for my blog. It was a bit tricky to find the textarea into which to type my post. I used the Form Field List (Insert+F5) to locate the likely looking item (Post Preview >> blank_page for an unpublished posting; Post View >> blank page when editing it after publishing). Via navigating around the editor, I found a hidden link that precedes the toolbar buttons explaining the following access keys: Alt+Q jumps to the toolbar buttons, Alt+Z jumps to the editor/textarea and Alt+X jumps to the element path below the editor (this lists the hierarchy of HTML tags that apply to the cursor's current location e.g. ol >> li for a level one item in an ordered list). Alt+Z works beautifully for getting me into the right place so I can start writing.
I find selecting the Save and Continue Editing button from the Forms Field List the easiest method; be sure to press Spacebar to activate the button after selecting it from the list dialog box.
Also, note that you need to use Tab (once or twice) to exit from the post textarea before you can perform another action e.g. display the Forms Field List dialog.
I added a test category which I decided to delete. This was straightforward when using the Categories page. I used the Links List to locate it. On this page, existing categories are listed in a table. The column headings are read by JAWS when you use the JAWS Table reading commands to navigate the table. I found the category I wanted to delete via using the second column (Name) to navigate to its row using Ctrl+Alt+Down Arrow. Then I used Ctrl+Alt+Right Arrow to move to the seventh column (Action) which contains the Delete link. I pressed Enter on the link and the category was deleted.
You will probably want to Preview your post before you Publish it. I used the Links List to locate the Preview link. It opens a new window which I maximized with Alt+Spacebar, X.
I am not going to use any of the other features at this time such as inserting an image, link, list, file or applying any text formatting. So I need to activate the Publish button to complete my post. An easy way to find this button is to use the Buttons List dialog box (Insert+Ctrl+B). This action also has the Alt+P access key assigned to it.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Recommended Digital Voice Recorders for Dragon NaturallySpeaking Transcription

In December 2009 I researched digital voice recorders (DVRs) that would work well for transcribing voice notes taken by students using the Sylencer handheld microphone and Dragon NaturallySpeaking (DNS) version 10.1. This research was performed for a study I am conducting for the University of Calgary Disability Resource Centre. The students that we are evaluating these technologies for may have physical or learning impairments. DNS cannot be used in the classroom with a conventional microphone because the user's speech is audible and thus disruptive, and the background noise interferes with DNS's recognition accuracy. We hypothesize that the Sylencer will mitigate these two factors.
Voice notes can be made directly onto a laptop that is running DNS or recorded onto a DVR to be transcribed after the fact. The following voice recorders are recommended for transcription and ease of use. All three models have been tested and perform well.
FeatureSony ICD-SX68/SX700Olympus DS-30/40/50Philips Digital Voice Tracer LFH 660/662
Transcription accuracyHigh (5+ out of 6) according to nuance.comshould be as high as SonyVery high (6+ out of 6) according to nuance.com
File format compatible with DNS?SX68 records in proprietary format (MSV); need Sony Digital Video Editor software to convert to e.g. WAV. SX700 also records in either WAV (5/6 accuracy) or MP3 (4/6 accuracy) in which case you can just browse to file in DNS.Yes. Recording in WMA so just browse to file in DNS.660 records in MP3 so just browse to file in DNS. 662 also records in WAV.
ButtonsSmallAFB says “buttons are easily discernible by touch and are logically arranged”. Olympus review says “new layout that spaces the control buttons on the face in such a way that they are easy to use, whereas the 300 series were a little close together and you had to be very careful you knew what you were pressing”.Larger than Sony and most appear on front (versus side)
Display Size/FormatVery small, landscapeLarger, portraitLarger, portrait
Feature setJust right for dictation, lecture recordingFeatures beyond our needs e.g. auto podcast transfer, Audible e-book supportSeems right for dictation, lecture recording
Add to or split a recordingYes – can add to end of previous recording or overwrite part of it; can divide a recording into 2 during recording or playback. Included Digital Voice Editor software can divide a recording into 2 or combine up to 5 recordings into one.No. Must purchase the upgraded version of the DSS Player software (it’s called DSS Player Plus, and costs $10 US) to join (unlimited number of files) or split (one file into two) files.Can split a file into 2 during playback. Only the LFH 860/870/880 models enable you to make additions to a recording and overlap parts of a recording.
Accessibility featuresNoVoice Guide, Beep ControlNo
CapacitySX68: 512 MB. SX700: 1 GB.256/512/1000 MB depending on model660: 1 GB. 662: 2 GB.
Recording time @ highest qualitySX68: 13.5 hr. SX700: WAV 1.5 hr., MP3 11.5 hr., STHQ 17.5 hr. 17.5 hr (for 1GB DS-50)660: 17.5 hr. 662: WAV 6.4 hr., MP3 23 hr.
Power source2 NH-AAA batteries, recharged via USB connection to PCIncludes 2 AAA alkaline batteries; can also use AAA NI-MH batteries, recharged by external charger. So must replace batteries when low.660: Includes 2 AAA / LR03 Alkaline batteries; can presumably also use AAA NI-MH batteries, recharged by external charger (so must replace batteries when low). 662: includes 2 rechargeable Philips batteries LFH91542, recharged via USB connection to PC.
PriceSX68 is discontinued. SX700 is $200 US on amazon.com$279.50 US on amazon.com660 is discontinued. 662 is $149.99 US at shop.nuance.com

Manuals

Sony ICD-SX700 Operating Instructions
Olympus DS-50 Online Instructions
Philips LFH0662 User Manual

Reviews

Recorder ratings for DNS on Nuance.com
Top 7 Digital Voice Recorder Transcribers
  • 1. Sony ICD-SX700D
  • 5. Olympus DS-40
  • 6. Sony ICD-SX68DR9
A Mountain of a Machine: A Review of the Olympus DS-40 Digital Voice Recorder
Amazon.com Olympus DS-40 Digital Voice Recorder Reviews
ConsumerSearch.com Digital Voice Recorder Reviews

Editing Olympus DS-30/40/50 Digital Voice Recordings

A visually impaired client who owns an Olympus DS-40 digital voice recorder (DVR) wants to be able to edit an existing recording directly on the DVR.  Many DVRs allow you to add to the end of a recording or overwrite from a particular point in the recording.  This Olympus model does not -- each time you stop recording you have no option but to create a new file. However, if you upgrade your DSS Player software to the Plus version, you will have the ability to split and join files. The join feature will allow you to create a single file from multiple. The split feature could be used to remove a section of a recording that you don't want (by splitting the file into two).
Another option is to use audio editing software such as Audacity to edit your files but there are several reasons why upgrading to the Plus version of DSS Player might be better. First, it is relatively inexpensive ($10 US). Second, you won't have to learn a new application (though there are instructions for using Audacity with JAWS). Third, Audacity doesn't accept the WMA file format used by the Olympus (unless you download and install the FFmpeg library) so you have an additional step in using another program to perform that conversion.
So I recommended that my client continue to use her Olympus recorder (because at the time it was the only model with the voice output feature), upgrade to the Plus version of DSS Player and learn how to use the join and split features in that software. See pages 130-133 of the Olympus DS-30/40/50 Instruction Manual for details on how to join and split files.