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Making Mudcat Accessible

04 Apr 00 - 03:31 AM (#206396)
Subject: Making Mudcat Accessible
From: Joe Offer

NOTE: I'm commandeering this thread as an adjunct to the Mudcat FAQ. I reserve the right to edit this thread to make it a guide to making Mudcat accessible to handicapped people.
-Joe Offer-

Somebody asked me how to make Mudcat (and the Web in general) more accessible to the blind. It's a question I've wondered about for quite some time, since I have muscle and nerve problems that sometimes make it difficult for me to use a mouse. Let's work on it and see what we can come up with.

First of all, let's see what we can do with links. The person who contacted me wanted to help a friend access Mudcat Radio, and they wanted to get there by typing an URL (Web address) into RealPlayer, I think it would be better to make a folder of shortcuts.

  • Right-click on an open space on your desktop and a menu will pop up - select "new" and choose to create a new folder. A folder icon will appear on your desktop.

  • Now, right-click on that icon and choose "rename," and rename it to anything you'd like. HOWEVER, I would prefer if you could check the items that come up when you hit the "start" button - rename that new folder to something that starts with a letter that's different from the first letter of all the items that come up with the "start" button (I called mine "quisling").

  • OK, now, here's the trick: drag that new folder onto the "start" icon on the bottom-left corner of your screen. A shortcut for that folder will appear when you push the "start" button (I'm hoping you have a Windows 95 keyboard that has "start" keys on the bottom row of keys, on the outside of the "alt" keys.

  • All right, now after all that, you can see the results of your labor.
    • If you hit the "start" button, the "start" menu will open.
    • Now hit the first letter of your folder ("Q" for me), and the folder will open. Trouble is, the folder is empty. Not for long, though.

  • NOW, go to a link (blue clicky thing) that you want to access, and click on that link with your right mouse button. From the menu that pops up, select "Copy Shortcut." Then, go back to your "Quisling" folder and right-click on a blank space in the folder. Select "paste," and a shortcut to that link should appear in your folder. You can right-click on that shortcut icon and rename it to anything you like.

  • OK, so now you have your shortcut folder on your Start button, and you have one or more shortcuts in the folder. You can do the same for the shortcuts to Mudcat Radio. To access those shortcuts, hit the "start" button, then the shortcut folder's first letter ["Q" for me], then the first letter of your shortcut, and then to open whatever that shortcut links to. Be sure to check the names of the shortcuts in that folder. To make it simple, be sure to name the shortcuts with distinctive letters - so you have 26 letters and 10 numbers to choose from. If you have two shortcuts beginning with the letter "A" the first is highlighted if you hit the "a" key once, and the second if you hit twice - but that can get confusing.

That's a start. What else can we do to help people access Mudcat?

-Joe Offer, Sacramento, California-

04 Apr 00 - 05:35 AM (#206411)
Subject: RE: Making Mudcat Accessible
From: Lady McMoo

Excellent initiative Joe. I have several blind musician friends who I am sure would benefit from ideas in this thread. Keep up the good work...I'll post if I can think of any potentially useful ideas.

All the best


04 Apr 00 - 09:24 PM (#206778)
Subject: RE: Making Mudcat Accessible
From: GUEST, The Thread Watcher

Nice one Joe

04 Apr 00 - 09:52 PM (#206793)
Subject: RE: Making Mudcat Accessible
From: catspaw49

Geeziz Joe....that's excellent work!!!


04 Apr 00 - 11:48 PM (#206857)
Subject: RE: Making Mudcat Accessible
From: Jon Freeman

I like the idea although I would think accessing the achived Mudcat radio would still be difficult as the links would need updating each week.

I have had a quick search through the web and found this site which might be worth looking at as it provides links to special browsers, etc.


05 Apr 00 - 09:21 AM (#206959)
Subject: RE: Making Mudcat Accessible
From: Peter T.

Thanks for doing this, Joe. I have no great thoughts, but thanks. yours, Peter T.

05 Apr 00 - 10:16 AM (#206988)
Subject: RE: Making Mudcat Accessible
From: Amos

These features are also built into Macs, right out of the box, and similar aids can be set up for those who know the keyboard well, as most blind computer users do. Macs will also read their displays to you depending on user settings, and can be programmed to accept voice commands with very little work. Especially if someone knows a little scripting, the computer could be set up without much trouble to accept a verbal command to "Open Mudcat", and would go to the site. Other verbal commands such as "Read ten threads" "Open thread 3" and "Read contents" could be made to work as well. It would take some familiarity with Applescript.

Finally, IBM provides a voice interface which works on both Windows and late-model (G3 or above) Macs called ViaVoice which comes with a headset and microphone enabling the user to dictate text and commands in various programs. I am not sure what would be required to adapt it to a specialized use such as this but it could be done.

05 Apr 00 - 01:18 PM (#207107)
Subject: RE: Making Mudcat Accessible
From: DonMeixner


There are several screen readers available on the market today. Arkenstone WYNN is a screen reader that is available from Voila Technology,Inc. 54 Castle Road, Rochester, NY 14623 , 1-716- 321- 1451 or Directly from Arkenstone, NASA Ames Complex, Bldg. 23 PO Box 215 Moffet field, CA 94035-0215. 1-800-444-4443 this is pricey at $995.00.

A scanner with a document feeder would be a help as well. Some one could edit the threads and print any titles that a person with disabilities my want and then the client could self load the docs and the scanner can send them to the reader.

How this hooks up to an E-Mail source I can't tell you but the tech support people at Arkenstone can surely explain it.

The Commision for The Blind and Visually Impaired in any state should have other readily available info on these devices.

I will keep this thread under constant monitoring because disability access is my primary employment. I may already have many pieces of equipment that you will find intersting.


05 Apr 00 - 01:40 PM (#207122)
Subject: RE: Making Mudcat Accessible
From: Jon Freeman

I downloaded 2 of the free voice browser/ readers mentioned in the website I mentioned in my last post.

SimplyWeb98 failed on installation (it spotted that I had a newer version of a file on my system, gave me the option of skipping the file which I did but it failed to register the file that it hadn't replaced). Having worked round this problem and got it to run, it kept crashing and when I gave up with it and decided to uninstall it, that failed too so I had to do the job manually. Perhaps I was unlucky but I would say avoid this one.

AccessibleWebBrowser works but the browser is primative, the program is akwerd to use as you have to select the text that you want to read. I tried reading the main forum page using it and the results were quite amusing. I can see no way that anybody could use this program to navigate through Mudcat.

I had intended downloading the demo version of IBM's offering but I didn't have enough free internet time to download a 10+Mb file.

I will report back if I do find something that I think might be suitable or come up with any other ideas.


05 Apr 00 - 06:20 PM (#207322)
Subject: RE: Making Mudcat Accessible
From: Jeri

When Mudcat Radio is live, you can get it by clicking this link:

05 Apr 00 - 06:33 PM (#207333)
Subject: RE: Making Mudcat Accessible
From: Joe Offer

Thanks, Jeri.
Another think I'm wondering about is the drop-down menus. Do they pose a problem for blind Mudcatters? Would it be helpful to have an "Accessible Links" page with the links from the drop-down menus and other stuff?
-Joe Offer-

05 Apr 00 - 11:25 PM (#207513)
Subject: RE: Making Mudcat Accessible
From: JenEllen

Thanks Joe;
Knew I went to the right folks on this one. I'm having a go at the shortcut folder and it seems to be working. And Jon's website as well. Thanks for all the information, and I'll keep you up about how it goes. Elle

05 Apr 00 - 11:32 PM (#207517)
Subject: RE: Making Mudcat Accessible
From: Jon Freeman

I havem't had much time to play with it but the IBM reader seems intelegent enough to state that you have a drop down menu and just read the selected option unless you choose to scroll through the list.

It appears to me that the biggest problem with the current page is that there are so many links and options and other information on one page. Let's say for example that you wanted to read the list of threads, you have to go through the links on the banner, digitrad search, digitrad options, links to every letter of the alphabet, quick links, a couple of other help options, Max's messasge... before you get to the first thread title.

I think any smaller pages just giving "Accessible Links" would be of great value.


05 Apr 00 - 11:54 PM (#207523)
Subject: RE: Making Mudcat Accessible
From: Susan A-R

Thank you Joe. This friend of ours has been doing some work on the subject

Dennis Bathory-Kitsz <> and is pretty knowledgeable (ie. once he gets talking technically, I haven't a clue) He has done some work with my husband who is finding a mouse increasingly hard to use, and may have some new, wild ideas on the subject.

Sorry I didn't catch up with you while out west. I highly recommend those Swan household music parties.

Susan A-R

06 Apr 00 - 10:03 AM (#207647)
Subject: RE: Making Mudcat Accessible
From: Amos


There are several technical solutions for those who cannothandle a mouse. Voice control is one. There are also special interface software packages which let the user run things with just one giant button (for those with range of motion difficulties), or a single switch that they activate by puffing on a tube or nodding their head.

I have also seen a pointing device that consists of a simple reflecting disk that is stuck to the forehead, which reflects a laser beam (very low power) back at the screen so that simple head movements control where the beam lands, combined with a switch of whichever design is workable for the individual. All of these and other devices designed to provide computer capabilities for people with various physical constraints have been around for years and are known to special ed people -- they have a whole industry. But they don't get sold through mainstream computer outlets, needless to say.

Here are some starting points for researching what is out there and where:

  • SERI Special Needs and Technology Resources
    ...SERI Special Needs and Technology Resources Closing The Gap - is ...of microcomputer technology in special education and rehabilitation....
  • DREAMMS ... Links to Special Needs Web Locations
    ... Special Needs Web Destinations Topic Searches Educational ...Publishing Henter-Joyce IBM Special Needs Information Children's...
  • Special Needs Computing
    ... Special Needs Computing Articles How Apple II Computers...
  • NISS - Special Needs/ Disabilities
    ...aspects of computing for people with special needs ... Special Needs/ Disabilities Sites specifically for those with, or...

  • 06 Apr 00 - 01:06 PM (#207755)
    Subject: RE: Making Mudcat Accessible
    From: Sailor Dan

    I have been sitting here at work kind of checking out the site. Just have to admit that you mudcatters are really something special. I wish I had the knowledge to help in your projects, but it is far greater then what I know. All I want to say is you people are special and you should all stand up and take a bow. I know you won't, but recognition will come from whomever you do help and let me add my thanks.

    07 Apr 00 - 12:58 AM (#208159)
    Subject: RE: Making Mudcat Accessible
    From: JenEllen

    Hey all;
    Did a bit more searching and found an interesting site. It is a bit dense, lots to wade through, but VERY informative. Once again, thanks to everyone for the help.
    Elle Click here for WE MEDIA

    27 May 00 - 02:39 PM (#234831)
    Subject: RE: Making Mudcat Accessible
    From: GUEST,Andrew Lankford

    You could start by making it accessible to people who can see. I'm using Netscape 4.77, which is pretty up to date, but I notice that when I click on any selection from an alphabetical listing of songs, I'm always taken to a page explaining that it can't find the song in the database. Keyword searches don't work either. My guess is that at least part of your website is broken. Fix it.

    27 May 00 - 02:49 PM (#234835)
    Subject: RE: Making Mudcat Accessible
    From: katlaughing

    The website works fine for me and has for a long time and my eyesight is fine.

    27 May 00 - 04:40 PM (#234853)
    Subject: RE: Making Mudcat Accessible
    From: Bill D

    "...when I click on any selection from an alphabetical listing of songs, I'm always taken..." many times have you done this? I just did it 3 times in a row with perfect success. That is not something Max would let go if anyone had mentioned it, Seems YOU, Andrew, are about the only one with a problem...perhaps something else is wrong...besides your somewhat testy attitude, I mean...

    27 May 00 - 06:40 PM (#234879)
    Subject: RE: Making Mudcat Accessible
    From: George Seto -

    Andrew, could you give some more details about where you had this problem?

    I've had no problems. What alphabetic list of songs are you referring to? We can help if you give us some more details.

    Mudcat usually works well, have you tried it again? IT might have been a temporary problem with how your ISP tried to reach Mudcat.

    27 May 00 - 07:50 PM (#234901)
    Subject: RE: Making Mudcat Accessible
    From: Jeri

    I've had the same thing happen more than once - click on a song and be told it's not there. When I did a search for the song (typed a part of the song or title into the search box) as opposed to using the alphabetical (go to the search box and click on a letter) listing, I had no problems. Wish I'd paid attention to what the songs were, but I was short on time. Will do next time I find one that "isn't there."

    This doesn't happen very often. Of course, if it happens for every song you click on, and other Netscape 4.77 users have no problem, it's not the website that's broken.

    27 May 00 - 09:03 PM (#234915)
    Subject: RE: Making Mudcat Accessible
    From: katlaughing

    Dick Greenhaus or Susan of the DT are always very appreciative when people let them know what specific songs that might happen with, so they know what to fix.

    27 May 00 - 09:25 PM (#234922)
    Subject: RE: Making Mudcat Accessible
    From: alison


    The best thing you can do is copy the error message, or whatever you get.... and take it into the help forum (click on "help" at the top of the page).... hopefully someone there can help you.....



    27 May 00 - 10:05 PM (#234940)
    Subject: TITLES function in the Digital Tradition
    From: Joe Offer

    Well, I think Andrew's right, but if there's a need for further discussion, I think we should start a new topic and keep this thread on the topic of accessibility to the handicapped.

    But to answer Andrew's question, let me say that he's absolutely right. The "titles" function of the online version of the database stinks - and the Windows AskSam software we use doesn't accommodate what we need, so we can't get it fixed. The titles list doesn't link you to the titles of the songs at all - it searches the entire text of our 8,500 songs and pulls up all the songs that have the words of the title in them. If you go to R and then click on River to get the Bills Staines song with that name, you will pull up every dang song we have that has the word "river" in it.
    Max Spiegel, who hosts the Mudcat Cafe, has done a lot of work to try to solve the problem, but he probably won't be able to fix it unless we buy a new database software package and invest a huge amount of time and money to resolve the problem. Nobody gets paid for the work they do on Mudcat, and the whole thing operates on a shoestring budget.

    In the meantime, try searching for a distinctive phrase from the song you're seeking. If you put a phrase [in square brackets] in the blue search box, the database will bring up only those songs that have that particular phrase. If you leave out the brackets, it will bring up all songs that have ALL the words in ANY order.
    Another solution is to download the entire database in DOS or early Mac versions, and run it that way. Works like a charm.

    But yeah, the "Titles" list stinks and should be fixed, but we haven't been able to do it. A very generous donation might make it possible for us to fix it, but we just don't have the resources right now.

    -Joe Offer-

    06 Jun 02 - 11:08 AM (#724338)
    Subject: RE: Making Mudcat Accessible
    From: An Pluiméir Ceolmhar

    You're the sort of guy that will probably edit this message out, Joe, but I just want to let you know how much I've come to appreciate your input to Mudcat over the few months I've been here - if ever someone had reason to use his real, "telling" name instead of a nom de plume, it's surely you.

    The fact that you run this particular thread says it all, I suspect that even if you hadn't a personal interest, you'd be doing it anyway.

    Don't know if I'll ever make it to Sacramento, but if I ever do I'll certainly look you up. It's been a pleasure to meet you, even if only in typescript.


    06 Jun 02 - 11:20 AM (#724349)
    Subject: RE: Making Mudcat Accessible
    From: GUEST

    No doubt this will be ignored as its come from a "bastard guest"

    I do however find it strange that Joe's initial message on 'accesability' had long paragraphs without any breaks (spaces)

    If there was anything that made text easier to read...

    You're partially right - Guests who refuse to establish an identity on Mudcat do tend to weaken their own credibility. You don't have to register, but it does help to use a name consistently when you post messages. Otherwise, you identify yourself with the "trolls" who post most of our nasty messages.
    I'll think about your suggestion. On my monitor, the longest paragraph has seven lines and six sentences. I don't think any of that is inordinately long, but I broke it into a bulleted list today - is that better?
    -Joe Offer-

    06 Jun 02 - 03:35 PM (#724596)
    Subject: RE: Making Mudcat Accessible
    From: Paul from Hull

    No, Guest, it was a good point....

    Here's hoping you made it to be helpful, & not as an excuse for being 'critical'...

    06 Jun 02 - 04:18 PM (#724651)
    Subject: RE: Making Mudcat Accessible
    From: JohnInKansas

    Windows has a feature called "MouseKeys" that lets you use the keyboard in place of the mouse for nearly all functions. This might be of help to those who have difficulty using the mouse, or for those who just want to switch off and relax the clicky finger occasionally.

    The setup is in Control Panel under "Accessibility."

    Microsoft Knowledge Base article Q139571, MouseKeys gives a description, for Win95, 98, and ME. I've checked, and the feature is present in Win2000, with the same setup and use.

    (There is sometimes a problem with clicking in to a specific article from "outside," the KB. If the clicky above doesn't work, go to Microsoft Knowledge Base, click "Specific Article ID Number" in item 2, and enter "Q139571" in the "My Question Is" box.)

    A number of other "Accessibility" features can be found by entering "Accessibility" in the Help file found at Start.


    duplicate post deleted by mudelf ;-)

    11 Aug 03 - 08:18 AM (#1000168)
    Subject: RE: Making Mudcat Accessible
    From: Freso

    As it seems like this link has not yet been posted to this thread, I will do it. It's the W3C recommendation for website accesibility:
    W3C: Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)

    25 Jun 04 - 03:09 AM (#1213971)
    Subject: RE: Making Mudcat Accessible
    From: Richard Bridge

    I could not find this permathread off the FAQ. If I can't, the visually impaired may find it harder still. Thoughts?

      Hi, Richard - I guess I don't understand you. If you do a word search [CTRL-F] in the FAQ for "accessible," it goes right to the link that leads to this thread. If you put "accessible" in the Filter, it'll take you here, too. "Accessible" seems to be the appropriate keyword to use for this type of information.
      You'll note that I deleted a few off-the-subject comments from various posts, since this is an edited thread meant to serve as an accessibility guide. It's not maintained on a regular basis - just when questions come up.
      -Joe Offer-

    25 Jun 04 - 03:37 AM (#1213982)
    Subject: RE: Making Mudcat Accessible
    From: GUEST,.gargoyle

    As long as your are viewing Mr. Bridge's advice

    My friends who are visually impaired have established their web-interface with extra large letters and contrasting colors such as light-green on a black background. This is THEIR selection. One totaly blind (retired university professor) uses voice reading programs for the text. One of his several friends/assistants usually pre-loads the pages (news groups) regarding organs and classical postings .... he is able to write and post his own replies to discussions.

    These are people of ABILITY not dis-ability.



    25 Jun 04 - 10:27 AM (#1214187)
    Subject: RE: Making Mudcat Accessible
    From: CarolC

    I guess I fall into the category of visually impaired these days (even with my glasses on), and I find the bulleted list in the opening post very difficult to read. I would suggest a blank line in between each bulleted item.
      Instructions are never easy to read, but is it better now, Carol?
      -Joe Offer