Google Toolbar Adds Accessibility

A recent posting on the Google Blog announced that Google’s toolbar for Internet Explorer added accessibility enhancements. The gist of the posting is that keyboard access to the various toolbar buttons as well as better support for Microsoft Active Accessibility has been added.


This release adds support for Windows Accessibility APIs (used by screen readers, etc.) and enables keyboard navigation and access. From inside a browser with Toolbar installed, the global shortcut Alt+G places your cursor in the Google Toolbar search box. If you’re using a screen reader, you’ll hear “Google Toolbar Search”. Pressing the Tab key brings keyboard focus to the button placed immediately after the search box, and right and left arrow keys move focus between buttons. More information on keyboard access is documented in the Toolbar Help Center.


Using the keyboard access in the toolbar is straight forward. From within Internet Explorer, press alt+g and focus is placed in a search edit box for searching Google. Press tab once and focus moves to a search button. From that point use left and right arrows to explore and access the various toolbar buttons. Enter typically activates the button with focus, while down arrow brings up options for that button. Finally the typical keyboard method for right click/context of shift+F10 or the application key on your keyboard brings up further options on many buttons. It seems like a nice job of improving keyboard access here.

Interesting Video Service

I’m not a big television watcher but on occasion do enjoy an episode or two of some of the older classics. Typically that has come in the form of a DVD from Netflix or my cable television’s on demand service.


While both of these solutions do satisfy my need to watch the occasional show they are not without problems. In the case of Netflix, there’s the obvious that you need to have requested the DVD and it has to be sent to your house and such. As much as I enjoy Netflix, this hardly fits the bill when you’d like to kick back and enjoy an episode of some previous favorite show. We do all need that immediate gratification these days after all.


Cable television’s on-demand service is intended to fill this need for immediate entertainment. Great but I’ve not yet found a cable system with an accessible on-demand menu system.


I recently signed up for a beta of a service called Hulu that’s claim to potential fame is that it wants to make video available “when, where and how you want it.” So far I’ve been pleased with the service. Sign up was straight forward and a few days after indicating my interest, I received an e-mail and in a matter of minutes was watching some old TV classics.


Site accessibility isn’t perfect. There are many instances of missing alternative text that makes browsing with a screen reader more problematic. Still one can figure out where the untagged links lead and more or less use the service. Feedback on every page also makes prompting for improvements in this area a snap.


The video player used seems to be Flash technology. Buttons are missing labels so this is a bit of a challenge if you want to pause or otherwise control the video. Trial and error does help here though. The folks over at Adobe have a great Flash accessibility site that I’ve mentioned in feedback to Hulu so hopefully they’ll respond.


A Holiday Treat From The Past

Several years ago friends of mine had the creative idea of producing an audio Christmas card for family and friends. I had the privilege of serving as audio engineer for the project, as much as a day’s recording in a home computer room turned recording studio can be called a project. I’m sharing the music from that CD with permission and hope blog readers will enjoy the talents of these folks as much as I have over the years.


The music is a collection of holiday classics and original compositions by the then Rachael Robinson. Her daughter Sarah joins as vocalist on several tracks and Harv Robinson (rest in peace) has a stirring introduction to the original composition “You Shine,” a heartfelt ballad that speaks to those people who are special in our lives.


“Vision,” has long been a favorite of mine from Rachael’s library of music. The bouncy fun tune hits home at the frustration I think anyone who is blind feels from time to time when society doesn’t seem to see us as people first and defines us strictly by our lack of sight.


In “Too Much For Thirteen” Rachael captures the fear, pride and essence of homelessness from a child’s perspective. It is one of the most moving pieces of social commentary in any form I’ve ever heard.


The power and richness of Rachael’s vocal ability can be heard in the holiday classic “What Child Is This.” To my ears, her rendition is as compelling as the versions I hear on radio during the holiday season.


A total of nine tracks were recorded for the CD. Enjoy this holiday treat.