I received an e-mail recently that got me thinking. The writer suggested that I change the colors used in the online (or blog) version of this newsletter. His comment was that the present colors were difficult for some people to read.
I am sure he must be right that it is difficult for some people to read in certain colors although I know that it also depends upon the nature of the vision impairment. When the newsletter first converted to the present format last June, a number of people helped me select the colors in an open discussion. Several of those who participated in the conversation have or previously had glaucoma. They helped select what they felt to be the most readable colors, but it appears that their preference may not work so well for someone with a different vision problem.
I got to thinking about this for a bit and then realized that there is a simple solution: you can customize the display to whatever you want if you read this newsletter in an RSS news reader (sometimes called blog readers). Almost all RSS newsreaders install as programs in your Windows or Macintosh systems and then format the data from this newsletter and other, similar sites into whatever format you specify.
With many RSS newsreaders, you can change the colors to whatever you wish, and you can make the font size bigger or smaller. For those with severe vision problems, you could display the information in a 24-point or even a 36-point font. Many newsreaders allow the user to configure all sorts of display criteria, including colors, column widths, and display fonts.
An RSS news feed supplies only the raw data, not the formatting information. To see an example of this, look at the raw RSS news feed http://eogn.typepad.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/index.rdf with a standard web browser. You can see the text there, along with a few control characters. That feed is difficult to read with the human eye, but an RSS newsreader takes that same text and converts it into any format combination that the creator of the newsreader and the end user have specified. If you look at the same URL of http://eogn.typepad.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/index.rdf with an RSS newsreader, it will appear easily readable.
For an example of this, look at an online RSS newsreader at http://www.bloglines.com/blog/eogn?subid=2303862. This URL points to BlogLines. It is looking at the same information but displaying it in a different manner. Most of the Windows and Macintosh newsreaders offer even more color and font options than does BlogLines. I am simply using BlogLines at http://www.bloglines.com/blog/eogn?subid=2303862 as one illustration of how the same data can be formatted in different ways.
While I am suggesting an RSS newsreader as a solution for reading this newsletter, keep in mind that thousands of web sites are also available as RSS news feeds. One of the "big city" newspapers near me makes all its major news stories available as an RSS news feed. The list of other available news feeds includes CNN, the New York Times, stock market reports, local weather reports, and thousands of others. Many hobby and personal information web sites are available via RSS feeds, including several genealogy sites.
The best news of all is that the majority of RSS newsreaders are free of charge. However, a few of the more full-featured programs ones may cost up to $30.
You can find many online lists of available RSS newsreaders. One that I like and have used often is available at http://blogspace.com/rss/readers
By the way, my favorite Windows RSS newsreader is SharpReader. It does not allow the user to change colors; everything is shown as black letters on a white background. However, it does allow the user to change fonts. That is a big help for many vision impaired computer users: they can switch to a much larger font than usual to improve readability.
The bottom line is this: if someone you know has a vision impairment, use of an RSS newsreader can greatly expand the amount of information available to him or her.