A Brief History of Screen Readers

by Becky Gibson: For Complete Post, Click Here…

It is hard for a sighted user to imagine navigating the web without actually seeing a page or using a mouse. Blind screen reader users have no problem navigating a web page that is coded correctly and follows basic accessibility guidelines. A screen reader is an assistive technology used by the blind, people with low vision, and people with cognitive or learning disabilities. It is software that interprets the information coded on a screen and presents it to the user in speech or Braille output.

Users commonly navigate through a page or document using keyboard commands. Common commands control navigation by character, by line, by paragraph, and by element. As the user navigates, the screen reader announces each piece of content. The user hears the info and any metadata. This includes alternative text provided for images and specialized accessibility information. There are ways to list and navigate to specific element types such as headings, links, major page sections (“landmarks”), and others. More keyboard commands provide additional features.

The First Screen Reader

IBM Researcher and Accessibility Pioneer, Jim Thatcher, created the first screen reader in 1986. The IBM Screen Reader worked with the text-based Desktop Operating System (DOS). It was initially only available within IBM. Jim and his team continued development and released IBM Screen Reader/2 to work with graphical operating systems such as Windows 95 and IBM OS/2.

Jim Thatcher was a longtime friend of Knowbility who passed away in 2019. Richard Schwerdtfeger, former Chair of the Knowbility board, told the story about working on screen reader development with Jim and others at IBM in a Keynote speech at AccessU in 2017. In recognition of Jim Thatcher’s many contributions to accessibility, his family sponsors the Jim Thatcher Prize which is awarded to a person whose work has resulted in a technical advance in the development of a tool or tools that improve technology and information access and increase participation in learning, working, or civic engagement for people with disabilities.

From the Article

Welcome to the State of Michigan Domestic Violence VoiceDV Hotline

From Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence: For Complete Post, Click Here…


1. What is VOICEDV Hotline? VoiceDV Hotline provides confidential and anonymous support for all victims/survivors of domestic violence, their support people, and those professionals who serve them in the state of Michigan 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. These services are secure and available Realtime.

2. What role does it play in meeting the needs of survivors in Michigan? VoiceDV Hotline provides live, one-on-one, crisis support services. These services are there for those who need assistance in finding both local supports and support in the moment through our trained advocates.

3. How can someone access the Hotline? Telephone Hotline: 1-866-864-2338 TTY: 1-517-898-5533 SMS: Text 1-877-861-0222 Chat: https://mcedsv.org/hotline-domestic-violence/hotline-chat-2/

4. Who can use and access these services? Services are available to anyone who contacts hotline staff through the telephone, chat, text, or TTY.

5. Who operates the Hotline? VoiceDV Hotline is staffed by trained advocates of the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence.

Free Tax Return Preparation for Qualifying Taxpayers

From IRS: For Complete Post, Click Here…

The IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs offer free basic tax return preparation to qualified individuals.

The VITA program has operated for over 50 years. VITA sites offer free tax help to people who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns, including:

  • People who generally make $58,000 or less
  • Persons with disabilities; and
  • Limited English-speaking taxpayers

In addition to VITA, the TCE program offers free tax help, particularly for those who are 60 years of age and older, specializing in questions about pensions and retirement-related issues unique to seniors.

While the IRS manages the VITA and TCE programs, the VITA/TCE sites are operated by IRS partners and staffed by volunteers who want to make a difference in their communities. The IRS-certified volunteers who provide tax counseling are often retired individuals associated with non-profit organizations that receive grants from the IRS.

VITA/TCE services are not only free, they are also a reliable and trusted source for preparing tax returns. All VITA/TCE volunteers who prepare returns must take and pass tax law training that meets or exceeds IRS standards. This training includes maintaining the privacy and confidentiality of all taxpayer information. In addition to requiring volunteers to certify their knowledge of the tax laws, the IRS requires a quality review check for every return prepared at a VITA/TCE site prior to filing. Each filing season, tens of thousands of dedicated VITA/TCE volunteers prepare millions of federal and state returns. They also assist taxpayers with the preparation of thousands of Facilitated Self-Assistance returns.

Before your visit

Before going to a VITA or TCE site, see Publication 3676-B PDF for services provided and check out What to Bring to ensure you have all the required documents and information our volunteers will need to help you.

Note: Available services can vary at each site due to the availability of volunteers certified with the tax law expertise required for your return.

Some VITA sites offer CAA service to taxpayers along with their VITA program.

Also, visit the FDIC website for information on where to find a bank that can open an account online and how to choose the right account for you.

Find a VITA or TCE Site Near You

VITA and TCE sites are generally located at community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools, shopping malls and other convenient locations across the country. To locate the nearest VITA or TCE site near you, use the VITA Locator Tool or call 800-906-9887.

Sorel Introduces Its First-Ever Adaptive Winter Boots

By Michael Franz: For Complete Post, Click Here…

SOREL has partnered with Zappos Adaptive to release easy-on versions of three of its most popular winter boots.

The SOREL Explorer Boot Dual Zip for men and Explorer II Joan Dual Zip for women feature waterproof leather outers, microfleece linings for warmth, a rubber sole, and adaptive designs to make it easier to get them on and off. Each model has zippers on both sides of the boot to provide a wider opening for your foot. There is also an enlarged loop on the heel to make pulling the boot up easier, as well as removable insoles to accommodate orthotics.

If you’re looking for an ankle-high boot, the SOREL Emelie II Chelsea Heel Zip is a waterproof leather boot with a single zipper and enlarged pull tab in the back, along with a removable insole for orthotic users.

“We’re humbled to have had the opportunity to work with SOREL on introducing their first inclusive footwear line to the market,” said Dana Zumbo, the business development manager for Zappos Adaptive. “With both brands’ passion for meeting customer needs, we seamlessly aligned throughout the process – which involved sharing feedback from Zappos Adaptive customers’ most requested features and working directly with the disability community to ensure the most universal fit and wear possible.”

The SOREL Explorer Boot Dual Zip is available in men’s sizes 7 to 15 for $139.95, and the Explorer II Joan Dual Zip is available in women’s sizes 5 to 12, also for $139.95. The SOREL Emelie II Chelsea Heel Zip is available in women’s sizes 5 to 12 for $149.95. All models are available exclusively at Zappos Adaptive. Check back soon for reviews on opens in a new windowNewMobility.com.

Big Tech Brands Make Accessibility Mainstream: Part 2

by Coles Staff: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Last year, in the first part of this two-part blog, we explored the latest accessibility features from Android, iOS and Amazon. Now, we’re opening up Windows and Microsoft Office 365 to see what they have to offer.

“Microsoft is really going above and beyond in making Windows and Office 365 more accessible,” said Brian Norton, director of assistive technology at Easterseals Crossroads. “Better yet, these accessibility features improve experiences for any user, regardless of whether they have a disability.”

Windows to an Accessible World

Windows’ latest accessibility features offer a host of helpful options for people with disabilities. For people with mobility issues, Windows 10 and 11 offer built-in support for eye tracking technology (tracking hardware sold separately). Through eye tracking-enabled cameras and an easy-to-use launch pad, this technology allows users to control anything on the screen with their eyes only. Another feature lets users control their device with just their voice — it even places proper punctuation for them!

The on-screen keyboard allows users to type with a pointing device, such as a mouse, trackball or joystick. And for those with mobility limitations, learning disabilities or cognitive impairment, the keyboard’s word completion and word prediction tools can be helpful.

New Research Hints at 4 Factors That May Increase Chances of Long Covid

By Pam Belluck: For Complete Post, Click Here…

It is one of many mysteries about long Covid: Who is more prone to developing it? Are some people more likely than others to experience physical, neurological or cognitive symptoms that can emerge, or linger for, months after their coronavirus infections have cleared?

Now, a team of researchers who followed more than 200 patients for two to three months after their Covid diagnoses report that they have identified biological factors that might help predict if a person will develop long Covid.

The study, published Tuesday by the journal Cell, found four factors that could be identified early in a person’s coronavirus infection that appeared to correlate with increased risk of having lasting symptoms weeks later.

The researchers said they had found that there was an association between these factors and long Covid (which goes by the medical name post-acute sequelae of Covid-19, or PASC) whether the initial infection was serious or mild. They said that the findings might suggest ways to prevent or treat some cases of long Covid, including the possibility of giving people antiviral medications soon after an infection has been diagnosed.

One of the four factors researchers identified is the level of coronavirus RNA in the blood early in the infection, an indicator of viral load. Another is the presence of certain autoantibodies — antibodies that mistakenly attack tissues in the body as they do in conditions like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. A third factor is the reactivation of Epstein-Barr virus, a virus that infects most people, often when they are young, and then usually becomes dormant.

The final factor is having Type 2 diabetes, although the researchers and other experts said that in studies involving larger numbers of patients, it might turn out that diabetes is only one of several medical conditions that increase the risk of long Covid.

For 1st time in Michigan history, more people died than were born in 2020

By Kristen Jordan Shamus: For Complete Post, Click Here…

For the first time in Michigan’s recorded history, deaths outpaced births in 2020 — a situation worsened by the wave of deaths from COVID-19, said Kurt Metzger, a demographer who founded Data Driven Detroit and studies Michigan population trends.

In the first year of the pandemic, 104,149 babies were born in Michigan but 117,087 people died in the state, Metzger said — a difference of 12,938. 

“Looking at those numbers, I just said, ‘Whoa! Here we are,’ ” said Metzger, who used data from the state health department to make the analysis. “It’s the first time we’ve ever seen more deaths than births, which is kind of frightening.”

Among them were 11,362 Michigan residents who died from COVID-19, according to the state health department’s 2020 mortality data, which counts only people for whom COVID-19 was listed as the underlying cause of death. 

How You Can Help Combat Hearing Loss Stigma

By Shari Eberts: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Hearing Aid Negative Stereotypes Abound

The show has been an incredible disappointment in many ways, including its portrayal of hearing aids and hearing loss. For a show that aims to celebrate the lives of people in their 50s, this was a huge misstep.

Here’s the dialogue from the first time we see hearing-aid-wearer Steve on screen:

“Steve-o, long time, no see. What’s new?”

“Hey, I got hearing aids. I’m an old-timer now.”

Later in the scene, Stanford turns to Steve and says, “Steve, would you ever just leave Miranda? Oh, boy.”

“What? What he say?” is Steve’s reply. 

And later, Miranda whispers to him during a performance, “Tell your son to stop.”


I guess it didn’t take the actor long to learn his lines.

The media buzz picked up last week, with major entertainment publications reporting that Steve’s hearing aids were inspired by the actor, David Eigenberg, who recently began using hearing aids in real life. It’s a great idea—art imitating life—but why did the writers do it in a stereotyped and negative way? By all accounts the actor is very pleased with his hearing aids. Why doesn’t Steve seem to get the same benefit?

Perhaps it has to do with the lingering stigma that still surrounds hearing loss. Stereotypes for people with hearing loss include being seen as “old” or “slow” or “rude” or “out of touch” and “not worth the time it takes to communicate with them.”

Apple launches new ‘Personal Safety User Guide’ amid AirTag concerns and more

By Chance Miller: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Apple has launched a new “Personal Safety User Guide” that aggregates details and support documents that can help users “when your personal safety is at risk.” The launch of this dedicated hub comes after Apple published an initial round of support resources a year ago, and as concerns around AirTag safety and stalking continue to mount.

Apple explains that the purpose of the new Personal Safety User Guide is to “offer strategies and solutions to help you regain control” if you’re concerned someone has unauthorized access to your device or account:

Apple makes it easy to connect with the people closest to you, while helping you stay aware of what you’re sharing and with whom. If you gave someone access to your personal information and no longer want to—or if you’re concerned someone who had access to your device or accounts made changes without your permission—this guide offer strategies and solutions to help you regain control.

The new Personal Safety hub is split into multiple different sections, ranging from ways to take action if you’re in danger to keeping your information safe with strong password and security strategies.

The “review and take action” guide is particularly important. Here are the tips and tricks detailed in this part of the User Guide: