The Phoenix On-line Foundation Report
Vol. 1 No.1 September 1998

The Phoenix On-Line Foundation Report

Welcome to the first edition of The Phoenix On-Line Foundation Report, the official newsletter of The Phoenix On-line Foundation. We will be coming to you quarterly, with special editions as needed. We will be giving you lots of information about what is happening within the foundation, as well as providing information about adaptive technologies for people with disabilities. In addition, we will be providing tips and tricks for everyone. Hopefully you will also find something a little fun in every issue as well!


This Newsletter is concerned with the same goals as the foundation it speaks for. Our mission is essentially this: Empowering citizens with disabilities through the use of computer technology.

You will find our full mission statement on page 10 of this newsletter.

  • Our Mandate
  • Subscribe
  • Our Staff
  • Our Contributors
  • Our Web-site
  • Technology
  • The Right Stuff
  • Tips and Tricks
  • Just for Fun
  • Thanks
  • Our Mission
Subscribe! What's on your mind? Want to subscribe? Have questions, suggestions, or submissions? Want to let us know what a good job we're doing? Contact us at: To help us keep track of our mail please identify your letter by subject, using the terms: 1.Subscribe (your name), 2. Questions, 3.Comments, 4.Submissions, 5.Remove Our Staff of Volunteers: The Phoenix Foundation On-Line Report is presented to you by:
Penny Hogan: Writer & Editor
John Hogan: Sanity Keeper
Francine St. Jean: Editor & Research
Stefan Vermeulen: Research
Zaxo: Research
Danny Gentry: Research
Andrea Berry: Distribution

Our Contributors:
Penny Hogan
Anna Byrne
Joe Palladino
Kelly Pierce
Francine St. Jean
John Hogan
Thomas Westin
Andrea Berry
Karen Pulver, logo
Our Web-site Come visit us on our web-site:

At the moment, our web-site contains information about what we are doing in Microsoft Chat, as well as profiles of some of our wonderful volunteers! We are also in the process of constructing an expanded site full of information about The Phoenix On-Line Foundation and the services we provide, so if you don't find the information you need, check back, our new and improved site will be on-line soon! You will also be able to find archived copies of our newsletter on the new site, as well as links to other important sites and services.

Do you know of any non-profit web-sites that provide free information, services, or software for disabled persons? Do you know of any non-profit web-sites that provide helpful & free information, services, or software that will make the online experience easier for anyone? You can help us out by submitting any such links for use on our web-site. Submit links to:

At the moment, our web-site is not compatible with all browsers, and can only be accessed by Internet Explorer 4.0 or higher, but we are working very hard on making it all-browser compatible. For those of you who cannot access our web-site with your browser,please try again. it should be ready for you soon. Thank you for your patience in this matter. p our site

Since April 14, 1998 we have had 5,661 total hits for all pages combined. We hope and expect that this interest will continue.


Like the organization we speak for, The Phoenix On-Line Foundation Report is dedicated to bringing you information about innovative and adaptive technology for people with disabilities. We will also be furnishing you with information about technology that can make life a little easier for all of us who spend time online. Expect to find many interesting articles on computer technology in this and future editions.

Part One
By Kelly Pierce The blind and other people with disabilities can use adaptive technology to gain new skills, keep old ones, and live more independently. However, choosing the right technology is often a difficult task. This and the following installment offer strategies and tips to use when considering a technology solution.

Being informed about purchases is important. The wrong decision can mean your job or at least be costly. Funding sources want to ensure any device purchased is needed, appropriate, and will be used.

First, be actively involved in making the decision. When the end user is central to making the decisions about technology, it is more likely that it will effectively promote independence. Just think about your closets. Is there something there that you do not wear? Why aren't you wearing it? The wrong size? Not your style? Uncomfortable to wear? Ugly? Too fancy and you're a jeans-and-sweatshirt kind of person? More than likely the reason will be "its just not who I am." Consider who bought it: and if you did, consider why you did.

Like most things we use, adaptive technology must fit who we are physically, emotionally, culturally, and personally. The decision is more than just buying a product. Choosing the right adaptive technology specialist, vendor, dealer, and training are crucial for selecting the best product. Using adaptive technology requires a package of both product and service. Ultimately, the responsibility for success falls on the end user. It's better to actively participate in the process and ask lots of basic questions then try to fix a mess later.

Second, if you are considering getting some adaptive technology, seek out feedback from significant others who know you well. This can be especially true for children. Parents and others can provide the reinforcement, maintenance, training and other aspects of supporting the technology that will be used. If a child needs a computer, she needs assistance from those who are familiar with a mouse other than Mickey. If parents or others in the support network are not comfortable with the technology solution, then the blind end user is not likely to see any benefit.

This may also be true for adults, depending on the user's need for assistance. However, just because a person needed assistance in the past, does not necessarily mean that she will need it in the future. An appropriate technology solution will hopefully dramatically decrease a person's need for help or eliminate it altogether.

Third, a team approach is always best. Even when you are choosing a very simple, low-tech piece of equipment, talking it over with other users, or a person who knows you well, will offer another perspective. They may see pitfalls that weren't obvious to you.

If the technology is being purchased by DORS (state rehab), a school district, or an employer, the end user will likely go through an assessment team or accommodations committee. The user, a family member or significant other, a teacher, an immediate supervisor, a technology consultant, and rehabilitation specialists are often members of the team. You might think of other possible team members who would improve the group's problem solving skills. Another end user, computer instructor, local computer guy, or even a classmate will look at the issues differently and often have valuable insights.

Don't be afraid to be a courageous problem solver. It will make for a much more elegant solution. Remember the group is to solve a problem and decide if technology is the best approach. It's not a computer-buying club. That is why it is best to avoid a team where the end user and technology dealers are the two main parties of a team. It can become a feeding frenzy between the two. Remember the adaptive technology dealer has a mortgage to pay and groceries to buy, and you, the end user, are a means to that economic end.

Fourth, focus on function. Often blindness and disability distract people. They are unable to see any potential or ability. By focusing attention on functional skills, we move away from looking at someone in a clinical way and look more toward a functional assessment.

A good question to ask when you want to focus on function is, "What does this person want or need to do that he currently cannot do?" From there the team can begin to look for ways to alter the environment to enable the person to function more independently.

Next, strive for simplicity. The best technology solution may be a no-technology solution. However, adaptive technology users only need what will help in accomplishing the task in the simplest, most efficient way. For example, a reacher is very simple technology. It allows a person to grab an object she could not otherwise reach. It's uncomplicated, and not very costly. A good solution? Not necessarily the best. It may be a better solution to move the out-of-reach items within reach so the user doesn't need any technology at all.

Keeping solutions simple also reduces maintenance and repair costs. Simple solutions are often easier to use and, therefore, more likely to be used. Generally, they are cheaper solutions, so a funding source (whether it is the user or a third party source) is more likely to fund it.

Finally, generalize about the use of the device. Where will you use it? Could it be helpful in other settings? Are there other people at the office or in the family who could use the device? By thinking in broader terms about the device, you can get more use or increase the effectiveness of the device. Parents may wish to purchase a computer for their child so he or she can do homework. When they consider the purchase, they need to look at the computer needs of the entire family. Could an older brother use it to write reports? If it came with a modem, can Mom fax or e-mail work from home? A computer with a CD ROM drive or modem provides paperless access to a wealth of information. Generalizing about the who, when, where, why, and how aspects of the product can help the user find a product that meets more than just a single specific need. However, remember that if several family members use a device, it will limit access to third party payers.

In the next issue, I will list and discuss a series of tough and challenging questions to ask yourself and any adaptive technology specialist or dealer. Stay tuned.

(Kelly Pierce is the Disability Specialist at the Cook County State's Attorney's Office. He assists witnesses and victims who have disabilities in navigating the criminal court system. He is also the coordinator of the Computer Network's lynx squad.)

A special thanks goes to the "Computer User Network News," Digit-Eyes:
the Chicago Blind Computer User Network for letting us include this article in our Newsletter.

Tips andTricks

If you have been on the computer for any length of time, you have probably discovered that there are many ways of doing things that AREN' T listed in those handy little booklets that come with the programs. And if you are at all like me, you can never seem to find exactly what you need in the help files. That is why you should keep an eye out for the handy tips and tricks that appear in this section. In this and future editions, look to this section for some neat little tricks to make your time spent on the computer more pleasant and productive. While a lot of these tricks are geared to helping people with disabilities, I'm sure you'll find them useful no matter who you are. Have a tip send it in.

Personal Control of Visibility for Windows95/98

Select Colors, Reduce Glare, Pick Your Font and Size

By Zaxo

Mme. St. Jean mentioned to me that many of our friends object to the glaring brightness of Windows' backgrounds. This and many other colors can be changed pretty easily. This note is about how to change them.

All proper and well-behaved Windows programs get their colors and appearance from a single set of default colors, sizes and fonts. You can control the appearance of Windows programs by choosing them for yourself.

There is a dialog in Windows called "Display Properties" which is be used for this. Display Properties is reached by right-clicking an empty portion of the desktop and selecting "Properties", or else by the "Start|Settings|Control Panel|Display" sequence.

In "Display Properties", select the tab called "Appearance". You will see a preview display of a desktop, and some dialogs below that: "Scheme", "Item", and "Font".

"Scheme" allows you to select from a list of named preset color assignments like "Desert", "Windows Standard (Large)", etc. "Scheme" also allows you to name and save your own custom set of colors.

"Item" is the first one we are interested in. Its drop-down list contains the names of parts of the desktop. Select one of these and you can control all the color, size, and font options for that item. As you change anything here the effect will be seen in the preview desktop. Play around, have some fun.
If your text backgrounds are too bright, the culprit is the "Window" Item. It is usually set to a maximum bright white. You can reduce its brightness a little by picking a pale gray. The default text color is also set by this Item. If bright text on a dark background suits you better, this is where to get it.
Applications which can show several documents (like Wordpad), have an "Application Background" which appears to be behind the documents.
Many other items here can be modified to improve the legibility of the windows desktop.
When the preview desktop shows something that suits you, click the "Save as" button and type any name you like. Your creation will be saved to the registry, and you can load and use it whenever you want. If you close Windows while using your desktop scheme, it will still be active when you restart.
This is a powerful tool for you. I hope it is helpful. If there is interest, I will follow this up with a more detailed treatment.
Zaxo, 1998 Windows display changes and MSCHAT2.5
Getting navy backgrounds and pink fonts
Follow the directions above and in the appearance tab choose window,then where it says color choose your window color and your font color just below then " save as " give it a name like " navy background with fuchsia fonts "this will now be the default display. This works in MSCHAT, Word, Word pad and I C Q. All of these programs are affected by this display default. BTW don't forget to apply.
With MSChat 2.5 in text mode it can make the text bar and all text background navy blue then you can get the fuchsia fonts. You can choose whatever color you want. Make sure in chat that you select all messages when you choose the font color. Hope this helps.
Enlarge the icons, cursors and your desktop.
Joe Palladino
WARNING: Using Registry Editor incorrectly can cause serious problems that may require you to reinstall Windows 95. Microsoft cannot guarantee that problems resulting from the incorrect use of Registry Editor can be solved. Use Registry Editor at your own risk.
With that said, let me assist you. The registry key that you can use to set the screen resolution is:
In here will be Resolution. Theoretically, it can be set to anything, but it is a good idea to keep the proper aspect ratio. Normal resolutions are 640x800 and 800x600, so you could set it to 512x384, or 400x300.
Link to the Magnify for Windows95.
Joe Palladino
When you go to this page, scroll down to the bottom and click the link for "Download the Active Accessibility SDK" This will require that you register as a developer, and then you can download it. It is 3011 KB. I hope this helps.
Submitted by Thomas Westin
There is an exciting new technology available for free on the net. Actiware is providing sight-disabled persons with a free on-line speech browser called TalkingWeb. This program has many exciting features, such as:
1. Online browser with automatic updating.
2. Cross on both PC's and Mac's
3. Fast loading....only 17kb
4. Provides same user context as non sight-disabled browsers (IE, Netscape)
The new beta version has even more features, so go check it out at: (Sorry! Site no longer active 05 April 2018)
Please note that this browser is navigated with keyboard only, because it is made for people who are sight-disabled.
Accessibility Resources
This is a good web site to explore
You will find many accessibility resources on these pages.
F. St. J
Please Note: The Phoenix On-Line Foundation Report and its contributors are not responsible for any damage to software, hardware, or any data loss incurred by following any instructions, tips or ideas found in this newsletter.
Just For Fun
While most of us find technology to be a great way to make our lives easier, we also like to use it to have a little fun. That's what you will find in this section, just plain old fun stuff. Look here to find anything that's fun or funny in the online world. You'll find poems, jokes, fun links, and any other fun stuff that comes our way. *** SUPPOSE EDGAR ALLAN POE USED A COMPUTER ***
Submitted by Anna Byrne
Author Unknown
Once upon a midnight dreary, fingers cramped and Vision bleary,
System manuals piled high and wasted paper on the floor,
Longing for the warmth of bed sheets,
Still I sat there, doing spreadsheets...
Having reached the bottom line, I took a floppy from the drawer.
Typing with a steady hand, I then invoked the SAVE command
And waited for the disk to store,
Only this and nothing more.
Deep into the monitor peering, long I sat there wond'ring, fearing,
Doubting, while the disk kept churning, turning yet to churn some
"Save!" I said, "You cursed mother! Save my data from before!"
One thing did the phosphors answer, only this and nothing more,
Just, "Abort, Retry, Ignore?"
Was this some occult illusion? Some maniacal intrusion?
These were choices undesired, ones I'd never faced before.
Carefully, I weighed the choices
As the disk made monstrous noises.
The cursor flashed, insistent, waiting,
Baiting me to type some more.
Clearly I must press a key, choosing one and nothing more,
From " Abort, Retry, Ignore?"
With my fingers pale and trembling, Slowly toward the keyboard
Longing for a happy ending, hoping all would be restored,
Praying for some guarantee Timidly I pressed a key.
But on the screen there still persisted, words appearing as before.
Ghastly grim they blinked and taunted, haunted, as my patience wore,
Saying, "Abort, Retry, Ignore?"
I tried to catch the chips off-guard - I pressed again, but twice as hard.
I pleaded with the cursed machine: I begged and cried and then I
Then I tried in desperation, sev'ral random combinations,
Still there came the incantation, just as senseless as before.
Cursor blinking, mocking, winking, flashing nonsense as before.
Reading, "Abort, Retry, Ignore?"
There I sat, distraught, exhausted; by my own machine accosted
Getting up I turned away and paced across the office floor.
And then I saw a dreadful sight: a lightning bolt cut through the
A gasp of horror overtook me, shook me to my very core.
The lightning zapped my previous data, lost and gone forever more.
Not even, "Abort, Retry, Ignore?"
To this day I do not know The place to which lost data goes.
What demonic nether world is wrought where data will be stored,
Beyond the reach of mortal souls, beyond the ether, in black holes?
But sure as there's C, Pascal, Lotus, Ashton-Tate and more,
You will one day be left to wander, lost on some Plutonian shore,
Pleading, "Abort, Retry, Ignore?"

Special thanks go to Digit-Eyes: The Chicago Blind Computer User Network for letting us include this article in our Newsletter. Thanks to you all.
We would like to thank all the contributors that have helped make this Newsletter possible. Without your support this Newsletter would not have seen the light of day.
A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out - Walter Winchell Become part of our contributing team.
Do you write or have any articles, tips, poems, jokes, or URL's that you would like to submit for publication. Have you any ideas for articles that we could write? Please send them.

Depending on the amount of submissions we receive there may be a waiting period before we can publish your submissions, but if we love your stuff it will be published. We reserve the right to edit any submissions for clarity, and to reject any submissions that do not reflect the Mission and Goals of The Phoenix On-Line Foundation.
La Fondation Phoenix En-Ligne.


Phoenix Foundation