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[Fwd: java empowers blind developers]

From: David Poehlman <poehlman@clark.net>
Date: Mon, 16 Aug 1999 08:49:20 -0400
Message-ID: <37B808D0.3A071412@clark.net>
To: WAI Interest Group <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: java empowers blind developers
Date: Sun, 15 Aug 1999 16:58:07 -0500
From: Kelly Pierce <kelly@RIPCO.COM>
Reply-To: Kelly Pierce <kelly@RIPCO.COM>
To: VICUG-L@MAELSTROM.STJOHNS.EDU

JAVATM TECHNOLOGY CONTINUES TO EMPOWER BLIND DEVELOPERS
JCPenney's Jay Macarty Tells All


by Aaron Cohen

Other Cobol programmers may struggle and complain about having to make
the
transition to new object-oriented and Web-based paradigms. But --
thanks
in part to Dallas-based TEK-TOOLS' Kawa -- Jay Macarty has done it
with
his eyes closed.


            Jay Macarty at his workstation at JCPenney. The
accessibility
setup includes a Braille terminal and headset.

Well, not exactly. Macarty is a sightless programmer who has been
working
in retail giant JCPenney's IT department for over 16 years. And, while
he
may not be able to see what's on his computer monitor, his eyes are
clearly open to the importance of JavaTM technology.

"When you have 25,000 users spread all across the country, a Web-based
intranet architecture becomes very appealing for rolling out your
applications," observes Macarty. "And Java is clearly a core
technology
for any intranet development effort because of its extensibility,
security, and ease-of-use."

The problem for Macarty was figuring out how he would be able to
contribute to his company's Web push. As a Cobol programmer, Macarty
worked with text-based "green screen" applications that he could work
with
relatively easily using either voice-synthesis tools or his
refreshable
Braille display. The graphical interfaces of browser-based computing,
however, present him with new challenges. "Being totally blind, my
question was 'How am I going to be able to fit into the scheme of
things?'" he relates.

The answer came in the form of server-side Java technology. "Using
Java
technology-based servlets, I can write web applications on the server
and
let the browser handle the GUI. All I have to do is write the Java
servlet
code to do the work and output the results using HTML tags," he
explains.
"That's a very workable solution for me because I can focus the
majority
of my time on developing the business logic part of the application. I
don't get bogged down trying to figure out a non-visual approach to a
visual form designer. I just let the servlet tell the client browser
what
to do and move ahead."

Macarty has also been helped by a new product called a "Tactile Image
Enhancer" from Jensen Beach, Fla.-based Enabling Technologies, which
prints out screen captures with all text and lines embossed so that
they
can be felt. "That lets me make sure that the servlet output is being
formatted as I expected," says Macarty. "That's been a tremendous
help."

According to Macarty, finding the right development environment was
also
essential to him being able to effectively build intranet applications
for
JCPenney. "I tried all the leading development tools, but -- while
they
may have been visually appealing, with a lot of drag-and-drop
capabilities
-- I wanted something more straightforward."


That something turned out to be TEK-TOOLS' Kawa. "Kawa gave me exactly
what I needed: a simple, robust development environment that let me do
all
my compiles and de-bugs from an easy-to-understand set of menus," he
beams.

Macarty says there are plenty of other reasons to stay away from more
complex Java platform development packages. "For one thing, some of
them
have so many widgets and accessories that they can really end up
taking
too long to learn -- when what you really want to do as a programmer
is
start programming," he notes. He also says that many other vendors'
solutions add proprietary extensions to Java code in order to achieve
their extra functions. "That means you're locked into their
development
environment from then on out," cautions Macarty. "But with Kawa you
start
with pure Java programming language and end up with pure Java code, so
you're keeping all your options open going forward."

Macarty has already seen several of his applications move into
production,
including a enterprise-wide e-mail directory that was migrated from
the
company's earlier mainframe-based system.


He has plenty of praise for his employer, who has met his special
needs by
supplying him with a variety of equipment, including a Braille
personal
organizer and a Xerox Reading Edge scanner that includes a
self-contained
speech card. "I can put a printed document into it, like a manual, and
it
will read it out to me," he says. "They've also been very good about
letting me get any instructional materials I can find in electronic
format, which is much more practical for me than trying to attend a
class."

Macarty also gives Sun high marks for building accessibility features
into
the Java platform, and for developing a language that doesn't depend
on a
specific tool. "With other languages, you can't use them unless you
can
use an IDE specifically created for them. But I began writing Java
code
right in Notepad when I first started," he recalls. "Because of Java
technology's openness I was able to search for tools until I found the
one
that was right for me. The combination of Java technology's openness
and
Kawa's simplicity is just perfect for someone in my position. I also
believe that the Accessibility controls built into the components of
the
Java Foundation Classes (JFC) software and the availability of the
Accessibility API make the Java platform a productive choice for blind
programmers and clients alike."


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Received on Monday, 16 August 1999 09:01:37 UTC

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