Tuesday, 30 January 2007

TrainTaxi Ltd – A Great Way to Travel

I, over the years, have travelled lots on trains. When you get to your destination, there is nothing more frustrating than having to wait ages for a taxi or maybe there isn’t even a taxi rank outside the station.

TrainTaxi comes to your rescue and its great. When planning your journey beforehand, go online to TrainTaxi Ltd, choose your destination station, make a note of the phone number and book your “chauffeur” to meet you on time, and let the others queue and wait. So this is how you do it;

Bring up WebbIE, press Shift + Control + W and type in TrainTaxi UK en Enter. Cursor down and Enter on the first item. The website is actually www.traintaxi.co.uk.
Cursor Down to hear “Please Enter the name of your Station” and Cursor Down again to hear “Text Input 1”. Press Enter and type in, say Luton. Press Enter and Cursor Down once more to hear “Submit”. Press Enter and Cursor down to hear the page about Luton. You will, of course, find that there are three stations in Luton.

Suppose you want Alma Street, Cursor Down to hear “Link 4: Luton Alma Street (bus) and press Enter. You are almost there. Cursor Down to hear the first choice Spearhead 01582 505050 and make a note of the number or ring them on the spot to sort out your journey details.

Sounds complicated, well these things do take a little time to get used to but its really quick when you get the hang of it and it avoids that wait in the rain at the back of a long queue.

Thursday, 25 January 2007

Unwelcome Music on Websites

I spend a lot of time with audio stuff on my computer and am always wanting to control various audio levels, including switching off unwelcome continuous music when I want to listen to a website. So this is what I do:

I have put a shortcut to the Volume Control, which is under Accessories and Entertainment, on my Desktop, quick and handy. Once in the Volume Control, I can Tab across to the particular source I want to adjust or mute and then Alt Tab back to my website in peace. If that sounds a bit too tetchy, then here are the keystrokes:

Windows Key to Start Menu, P to All Programs and A to Accessories. Then Right Cursor and Down Cursor to Volume Control. Right Click screenreader Key and Cursor Down to Send. Then Cursor Down to Shortcut to Desktop and Enter. Still with me, well you only need to do that once.

If you need to on an older system, you can rename your Volume Shortcut on the Desktop to Volume by pressing the Right Click Screenreader Key, Cursor and cursoring up to Rename. Press Enter, type in "Volume" and Enter but make sure you are focused on it, hearing it, first.

When the Volume screen is in focus, you have the opportunity to control the level of all audio, your CD player, the microphone and any Midi or Midi keyboard you are using as well. Use the Tab key to move amongst the choices, the Cursor Keys to control levels and the Spacebar to select Mute or Not Mute.

Oh, if only I could see to click and point!!! My head is full of silly keystroke sequences; But its a great challenge our blind way and audio is such fun for us on the computer.

Roger Wilson-Hindsask@screenreader.netwww.screenreader.net

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

I Missed The Archers

Sorry but this is UK Soap radio stuff but, even so, there is lots to learn.

Margaret and I are Archers fans and its our time to sit, do nothing and relax every day for 15 minutes at seven in the evening. So when we miss the Archers, its serious. This is how we catch up on what we have missed.

You need to go to www.webbie.org.uk and download the full WebbIE version or have a buddy put it on your PC for you. Thunder comes with WebbIE but not with some useful extras.

At any time, we sit at the PC, very sad of course, and open the Start Menu by pressing the Windows Key. Press A until you hear Accessible and press right Cursor. Cursor down to hear Listen Again and press Enter.

You are taken to the wonderful world of BBC Listen Again. Lots of radio programs to enjoy whether you have missed them or not. I like the Radio 4 stuff so keep pressing the letter A until you hear The Archers. It’s a long way down currently after all the Afternoon Plays and Afternoon Readings and much more. When you get to The Archers, you can choose which day of the week you want to hear and press Enter.

Press the Tab and you can choose between Pause, Stop, Rewind and Forward Play by pressing Enter. Its great. When you have really finished enjoying this wonderful audio treasure trove, press Alt F4 and go and put the kettle on.

You do need broadband for the best results. Remember its all free, apart from the broadband and the computer, that is. No special over-charging on the disability access stuff.

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

Flying Out to Austria

In March I have to spend a few days in Austria because we have been given some European Community money to develop our free software in several east-European languages. So I thought it would be great to make the flight bookings online as a blind person using our WebbIE browser software with our free Thunder talking software. Two hours later and having learned a lot…well this is what you do. But in the future, it will only take about 15 minutes and, hopefully, you too will be able to do the same or similar bookings.

From the Start Menu, go to All Programs and Cursor down to WebbIE and Enter.

Shift Control W, to search the web, and type in “book ryanair”. Not the quotes, of course.

Enter on the first choice and cursor down to hear the following:

Webpage: Ryanair.com - The Low Fares Airline
Link 1: www.ryanair.com
Radio button 1: [Selected] Round Trip
Radio button 2: [Not selected] One Way
Where are you flying from?
Select Item 1: (Origin)
Select Item 2: (Destination)
Date to fly out?
Select Item 3: (24)
Select Item 4: (January 2007)
Link 2: javascript:open_calendar(1)
Date to come back?
Select Item 5: (24)
Select Item 6: (January 2007)
Link 3: javascript:open_calendar(2)
Number of passengers?
Select Item 7: (0)
Select Item 8: (0)
Children (under 16 years)*
Select Item 9: (0)
Infants (under 2 years)*
Input button 1: (SEARCH FOR FLIGHTS)

You need to go through the earlier items one by one by cursoring down and selecting, by pressing Enter , on what you want. In my case, I wanted a Return Trip which was already selected so I did not have to change that selection.

Pressing Enter on “Where are you flying from” allowed me to Cursor Down until I found London Standstead” so I pressed Enter on that choice.

Cursor Down some more and Enter on “Dates to fly out” and “Dates to Come back”. In each instance, press Enter and cursor down to the appropriate date and again press Enter.

Unless you have a bit of useful vision, just ignore the links such as link 3 that refer to Java Script and Calendar because it just doesn’t happen with speech.

I was not concerned with the children details and just opted for 1 passenger.

Press Enter when you reach “Input Button 1” and you will be able to use the Cursor Keys to listen to the page which gives you masses of information on flight options, prices, insurance and baggage etc. Its all very accessible. Good old Ryanair and I got the whole journey with insurance etc for £70 on the very days I wanted it, Stanstead to Gratz Return.

But there is a bit more to learn later in the website to do with payment and filling out your credit card details. All this is now pretty standard so I will do a separate Blog on card payments on the internet which applies here and to many other websites.
Health Matters

Our software is used at RNIB New College, Worcester and a staff member wrote to me asking about a website with a Body Mass Calculator so that the pupils could work out if their weight was appropriate.

I found a website with a very easy and accessible such calculator:


The WebbIE software makes things easy. Cursor down to Textbox 1, Enter and type in your weight. Cursor down to Textbox 2 and Enter then type in your height. I am Imperial but you could choose Metric. Cursor down to Input Button 1 and press Enter. Finally Cursor down to the line below result and the Textbox will give you your Index which is hopefully between 18 and 25.

The actual website I was asked to try to make sense of was:


It’s a fabulous Government health site stuffed with information and good advice but the crucial button to activate the calculator did not show up in WebbIE because…Well seeing web designers don’t always understand what needs to be done.

I hope the Worcester College staff will contact the website and have it put right.

I went to that school for blind children when I was a lad and it’s the best. Not every blind child can cope in local school: I couldn’t.

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

OK, so here we go with my first blog..

Margaret and I are blind people and we run a company which delivers free software so that other blind people can use a computer and read and write again. The software makes the computer talk. It's great and free.

This morning I made an application for a passport so I can go to Austria in March to start work on a European project which will make our free software available in the new East-European member countries.

We have a special text browser called WebbIE so we can make sense of the internet. So I went into WebbIE, searched for "passport disabled UK" and it took me straight to details of how I get help over the phone and, within half an hour, without leaving home, my passport form was filled in and the kettle was on. Within two weeks, the form will be sent to me for signing and I enclose my out of date passport and £66 in the envelope provided.

Its great having a disability. No queuing, no hassle and the chap at the Passport Office was patient and laughing. But without the computer and the talking software, well I would need help from a seeing friend all the way, not to mention the trip into town and the queue, probably 4 hours and lots of frustration.