Thursday, October 28, 2010

Revised Recommendations: Web Contact Form Design for W3C

In 2001 I recommended to the W3C Accessibility Consortium to suggest including additional fields on web contact forms to help facilitate communication with deaf/hoh consumers. This recommendation was eventually published in a book - refer to this link for more information.

Since 2001, new technologies and ways of contacting and interacting with professionals and consumers have greatly changed, thus the original form design recommendation is due for an update.

While the need to update the form has been floating in the background for sometime, I recently received an email from a Web Site Manager from a Government web site in the Washington, D.C. area asking if the recommendations are still relevant and/or should be updated - a sign that the recommendation needs to be updated.

Hence the reason for this blog entry:
I have updated the suggested web contact form design, and would like input on the new form design, which contains updated ways on one can be contacted.

The redesigned form is available for your review and comments at:

The most recent form changes are
  • Removed Pager number and pin fields as numeric based pagers are nearly extinct and not as user friendly,
  • Greater emphasis on wireless / mobile device email addresses,
  • The inclusion of Videophone numbers,
  • Fax and TTY options should remain on the form for those older, or not yet utilizing modern communication mediums such as wireless/mobile devices and VP (video phones) such as the Sorenson VP-200, Purple P3, and ZVRS Z4.

    If you have any comments, feedback and/or other suggestions, feel free to send me an email at mooredlm at

    After I receive a reasonable number of replies and comments, I will update the web form design recommendations, and re-submit to the W3C for their consideration.

    On the flip-side, if you are involved in web development, design, communications or printed media for your organization/company, take a few moments to consider bringing up similar accessibility recommendations for your contact / help desk web forms.

    I look forward to your feedback, suggestions and comments.


    - Donald
    Prosumertech Blog
  • Monday, August 2, 2010

    Is On-Line Graduate School for You?

    Is on-line graduate school for you?

    On-line grad school can be an optimal post-grad education option to consider if you are deaf or hard of hearing.

    Today with the wide-availability of high-speed Internet connections, attending classes remotely (on-line) has become a reality. There are a number of reasons why taking classes on-line may make sense. In fact, online classes provide a number of advantages for deaf/hoh students that helps to break down communication barriers, which are discussed more in detail throughout this blog entry.

    While its true that taking classes on-line removes the physical and non-verbal communications with classmates and professors; on-line classes are often viable for those who work-full time, travel frequently, and/or are in a location that makes getting to / from class difficult. Which is often the case for executives, senior level employees or out of state students.

    This blog entry draws on my current experience as an MBA student enrolled on-line with the University of Maryland University College (UMUC) []. At the present I am pursing a MBA while being employed full-time, and expect to complete the program in March 2011.

    Online Class Enrollment

    After about six months of research, deliberations and meetings with several MBA programs, I considered several programs on-line, downtown Chicago, and within the surrounding suburbs. In the end, I opted for an on-line MBA program which best suits my schedules and flexibility best.

    Just because a class is on-line, it does not mean its easier. Be prepared to spend some time on-line interacting with the instructor and classmates via email, within the on-line classroom using instant messaging, chat, discussion threads and private folders (tools may depend on the web portal offered), as well as conducting research online. You may need to work with virtual teams by using online tools. With virtual teams, you need to take into account everyones strengths, interests, background, skills, and even time-zones when working on class assignments and team projects. When not working with teams, you have individual assignments and papers to complete and submit online.
    Every online program has a different format for online assignments - review the program requirements, class interaction and teaching methods.

    On occasion, there may be times when you need to participate in audio conference: the professor or a guest speaker may give a presentation on-line. If you are deaf/hoh, you can participate by using video relay services. Read an earlier blog entry that describes how you can incorporate the use of relay and videophones to watch presentations on-line:

    At times, you may have to work with your professor/school to ensure that they are able to get transcripts for any audio / mp3 files and videos used in the course. This can be a learning experience for the professor and yourself. It is equally important to ask in advance before enrolling to find out if the school/program will assist with such requests. At times, getting transcripts of past conferences, podcasts or MP3 files was one of my pain points. Some instructors are able to respond quickly by getting the transcripts from their sources (they usually ask the course material provider or vendor). At other times, the school may have to contract out to get transcription services - this is something you should not have to pay for.

    Undergraduate Programs

    For some, enrolling online with undergrad programs may meet their needs. Yet, living on campus offers a whole different set of experiences by interacting and being around people you know every day. The decision to attend classes in person or on-line largely depends on your needs and interests.

    Juggling School Part-time and Working Full-time
    Juggling work and school can be challenging if you have family of your own and travel at times. One thing I’ve found is that it helps to do a little course work each day (often 7 days a week), and read during my train commutes. By reading during my commutes, I can conduct emails/chat, writing, and web research when I get home. Again, by doing a little work each day, it all adds up in the end without being in a rush. On a couple of occasions, I took the day off from work to focus on school work with out the distractions of the office. Also by working full-time, you can apply what you have learned to help make improvements and changes for your organization.

    Be advised that in most cases you may need to have the full MS-Office suite for your course work. If you are a student, sometimes your school is able to offer significant discounts for the required software. If not, once enrolled, you can visit, and obtain MS-Office for a good discount. It is important to check in advance for software requirements for your school/program. Having a laptop for coursework is also beneficial, which give you the ability to be mobile, go to quiet places to do your work - or even work during your commutes.

    Yes, graduate school is expensive, and can cost as much as a new BMW or more. If your employer offers tuition assistance, be sure to apply/inquire about it in advance - even if they only pay up to a certain amount.

    One possible employer rule to watch out for is that if your employer pays for the tuition, once you complete a program, you may have to wait a year before you work elsewhere, or you will have to reimburse them for the entire program. If they/you transfer within the organization, it shouldn't be a problem. Check with your organization on their tuition reimbursement rules, and the tax-ability of your tuition assistance. If no employer assistance is offered, be sure to check out financing / payment options with the institution before enrolling.

    While this topic may sound trivial, its also important to have regular access to high-speed Internet DSL / broadband services. Also be prepared to work at other locations away from home to accommodate your travel needs, class/teammate schedules (and time zones). You may want to identify in advance of alternate locations where wi-fi services are available in areas you frequent or travel to. Places such as public libraries, McDonald's, Starbucks, and Panera Bread offer free Internet access. Also be prepared write/reply to respond to timely emails on your smartphone (Blackberry, iPhone, iPad, Android, Palm etc). Be sure to keep your addresses up to date in both your laptop and smartphone address books.

    Future Career Opportunities
    Many working professionals choose to enroll into graduate school to seek career changes, get into management, learn how to harness new business ideas and technologies. It is often said that you will always be learning during your life time. Given the time and expense, enrolling into graduate school requires serious considerations and commitments.

    Tuesday, June 22, 2010

    ABC News Story about Video Phones in the Workplace

    ABC News story about the use of video phones at work, which I give a brief demo. The web link has been posted [Link].

    Tuesday, March 23, 2010

    Recommended Website: Deaf Scientist Corner

    I stumbled across this web site, “Deaf Scientist Corner”, created by the Texas Woman’s University of Denton, Texas.

    This web site profiles some past and recent famous / notable deaf scientists, which can serve as a role model for teens undecided about careers and budding deaf scientists. The site contains a summaries of famous / significant deaf in the technology and science fields: Such as some well known famous deaf scientists and inventors, such as Weitbrecht- the phone coupler - a.k.a. the TTY inventor, and Thomas Edison - the incandescent bulb (light bulb).

    Today technology has helped level the playing field for communication access within and outside of organizations and ones workplace. There are many current and future opportunities within the science and information technology fields. As some often say that future jobs have not been created yet, and are waiting to be discovered.

    For instance, 25 years ago, who envisioned that web masters, bloggers, and working with relay services and video phones would become popular career fields using every day technologies. If you have you have the desire foot to work in the information technology and/or science fields, by staying current with trends and the needs of business and consumers, you can position yourself for future jobs that will be created.

    Links and references to this web site was approved by Texas Woman's University.

    Monday, March 8, 2010

    Using VideoPhones: On-Line School Programs and Audio Conferences


    You may have read or heard success stories using videophones to connect to family, friends, co-workers and make relay calls. Did you also know videophones are also useful for participating in audio conference presentations / calls if you are enrolled in an online course/degree program?

    I'm currently enrolled as an on-line MBA student with the University of Maryland University College. This term has weekly presentations, demos and discussions with the professor and/or guest speakers. The length of the online sessions have ranged from anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours.

    How it Works
    I use my Z-340 to connect to the audio portion of on-line conference, which is hosted by the professor using a web-based conferencing software (Wimba). A laptop is used to connect to the web-based conference to view a PowerPoint presentation and/or web pages. Both a laptop and Z-340 are set beside each other at location that has a good Wi-Fi or LAN Internet connection.

    In order to be able to call into a conference session that has audio, the speaker has to enable call-ins with a phone number and pin (depends on the web-conference software capabilities and options). When you call a ZVRS (or any other vrs) interpreter, tell them you are joining a conference call, when prompted, you can either enter the conference code/pin using your Z-340 keypad, or have the interpreter enter it for you.

    Tip: Once in the call, have the interpreter and your laptop muted to prevent audio feedback. The interpreter can turn on his/her mike when you want to speak, or your microphone if you want to use voice carry over (vco) where you can speak for yourself.

    If your professor plans to use / uses a web-based on-line presentation tool, I suggest conducting a trial call-in session beforehand so you both will know how it works before the actual scheduled meeting to ensure a trouble free conference.

    At the beginning of the term, we had to consult with the software manual and vendor to figure out how to call into the conference since nearly everyone was initially relying on audio output from their computer speakers - which does not work for relay calls. After some research, it was found that Wimba’s capabilities does allow for audio call-ins with a phone number and pin - which was exactly what was needed to make this work for the weekly sessions.

    Ironically, Wimba’s (and possibly other providers) documentation still references the use of a phone relay (TTY) service - which is obvious that the documentation is outdated but still relevant. You can use your preferred method of relay service to participate in on-line class audio sessions by videophone, TTY, or Internet/chat relay. However, the use of video relay services for audio conferences is said to be more efficient and quicker than by Internet/chat text or TTY relay.

    Other Features

    Some on-line web-conferencing tools may also have a small window feature for short chats - this allows meeting participants to ask questions and be responded to (if monitored and used by meeting moderator).

    Photo: Z-340 and Mac on a call (screens simulated for confidentiality purposes), gives you the idea of participating in an on-line conference and use of a audio line.

    Lastly, you are not limited to the laptop / Z-340 / ZVRS set up. If you have a wide-screen monitor you can have both the presentation and Z-4 (or other soft video phones) side by side on the screen. You can also use other vp devices or a preferred vrs provider, you can do pretty much the same thing, using your preferred tools. You will have to experiment and find what solution works best for you.

    Donald Moore is a Freelance writer and blogger at

    He may be contacted by email at: