by Melanie Brunson

Since my last article appeared in "The Braille Forum," I have received numerous e-mail and telephone messages containing everything from stories about the failings of consumer products to suggestions for how to make those products more accessible to offers to participate in focus groups this summer. I have enjoyed the interchange with many of you and as I thought about what to say this month, it occurred to me that, since there was apparently a lot of interest in the subject of access to home appliances and consumer products, a bit more discussion might be warranted.

Let me begin with a few developments that have occurred since our last discussion. By the time you read this article, the Cellular Telephone Industry Association will have had its annual convention. This convention will feature a workshop on access issues for people with disabilities. One of the speakers at that workshop will be ACB's executive director. The personal stories and comments I have received from many of you will serve to enhance both my formal remarks to the conference and the informal networking with industry representatives that I hope to have the opportunity to do while at their convention. This is only one of the venues where we will be discussing cell phone access issues during the next few months. Our intent is to use every opportunity that comes our way to spread the word that we need to keep the momentum toward greater accessibility going. Fortunately, people throughout the industry are listening, and that's great. Now our task is to urge more of them to act on what they are hearing.

There are also many more industry groups who still need to hear from us: web site designers, software developers, radio and TV manufacturers, a variety of companies from which we purchase insurance and other services that require the purchaser to review large amounts of printed information, and manufacturers of cars that are so quiet that they interfere with the ability of a blind pedestrian to practice good, safe mobility skills. Getting our priorities and approaches to all of these issues organized is a challenge for ACB, but it is definitely one we can handle. I know that because of the level of interest and the caliber of the comments I have seen among our members since I raised some of these issues last month. Getting you involved, so that we can all work together, will enable us to pool our resources, identify solutions and make significant progress toward greater accessibility to all aspects of our marketplace and society.

As I said last month, we are hoping to do some very practical work on these issues during ACB's convention in Jacksonville, Fla. Some of you have already contacted me to indicate that you would be interested in participating in focus groups. We have not yet worked out the details for these groups, but we are beginning to gather lists of potential participants. If you'd like to be added to that list, please contact me either by phone at the office, or by e-mail at [email protected] Additional information will be forthcoming as we get closer to convention time. We will also keep you apprised of developments on the accessibility front as they occur, and, from time to time, other things you can do to help make those advances a reality.

In the meantime, don't forget to support those who have gotten the message and tried to do the right thing. When Wal-Mart puts accessible point-of-sale machines in their stores, let's shop there and ask to use one. If store personnel don't know about it, let us know so that we can help Wal- Mart identify where they need to focus their training efforts. Let's make use of the talking ATM at the bank and request those statements in alternate formats. By doing so, we not only increase our own independence, but we encourage business people to tell others why it is worth their while to invest in accessibility. It helps to make the case that investment in accessibility is a "win-win" proposition.

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