ATU307 – SAS Graphics Accelerator with Ed Summers

first_imgWADE WINGLER:  Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update? Call our listener line at 317-721-7124, shoot us a note on Twitter @INDATAProject, or check us out on Facebook. Looking for a transcript or show notes from today’s show? Head on over to Assistive Technology Update is a proud member of the Accessibility Channel. Find more shows like this plus much more over at That was your Assistance Technology Update. I’m Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana.***Transcript provided by TJ Cortopassi.  For transcription requests and inquiries, contact***Share this…TwitterFacebookPinterestLinkedInEmailPrint RelatedATU056 – Parks and Recreation Accessibility (Ray Bloomer, National Center on Accessibility)June 22, 2012In “Assistive Technology Update”ATU010: GW Micro (Jeremy Curry) + Baby robots for the elderly, Xbox 360, Closed captioning and more!August 5, 2011In “Assistive Technology Update”ATU043: – Adaptive Driving for People with Disabilities (Suzanne Pritchard), New Ablenet Products, The New iPad and Accessibility, Divided Opinions on Braille, Vibrating Tattoos, Blind Bargains AppMarch 23, 2012In “Assistive Technology Update” ED SUMMERS:  Hi, my name is Ed Summers. I’m Senior Manager of Accessibility at SAS, and this is your Assistance Technology UpdateWADE WINGLER:  Hi, this is Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals crossroads in Indiana with your Assistive Technology Update, a weekly dose of information that keeps you up-to-date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.Welcome to episode number 307 of assistive technology update. It’s scheduled to be released on April 14, 2017.Today my guest is Ed Summers who is a senior manager of accessibility at SAS and he is going to talk about his graphics accelerator which does some pretty cool stuff with a screen reader and some graphically oriented information on your computer system.We have an app from BridgingApps about historical markers, and also some feedback about our interview with Eric Damery of VFO from a few weeks ago.We hope you’ll check out our website at, sent us a note on Twitter at INDATA Project, or call our listener line. The number is 317-721-7124.Like this show?  You’ll probably like our question and answer show, ATFAQ. Check it out wherever you find your podcast or***In episode 304 and 305, we interviewed Eric Damery of VFO talking mostly about ZoomText 11 and what’s happening with VFO and Fusion and all that kind of stuff. We got a lot of feedback from the episode. A lot of folks enjoyed the interview and thought it was great to learn about what’s happening with VFO. However, we got a piece of feedback from one listener who said, “Wade, I really enjoyed listening to your two-part interview with VFO’s Eric Damery” and then he provided some good information. He goes on to say, “However, I was a little disappointed that you didn’t ask him what may be hard questions concerning the future of magic and window eyes. It seems Window Eyes has been languishing compared to the amount of new features and bug fixes which JAWS receives on almost a monthly basis.”I had not addressed those questions in the interview, but I did reach out to Eric who promptly responded and said, “Thanks for the question. Unfortunately I can’t give you a complete answer at this time other than to say the following:  customers who are invested in JAWS, ZoomText, Window Eyes, and Magic are all VFO customers, and we intend to keep them whole. While we can’t promise all products will have to do development, I’m very confident that we will be extending opportunities for all our customers to benefit from the accelerated development work that will occur now that we have joined our teams.” He goes on further to say, “Please stay tuned. 2017 will continue to bring lots of news to our loyal customers.”To our listener who reached out with the question, thank you, and thanks for calling me out for not asking the question that I failed to do. Kudos to Eric for responding so quickly to let us know that they don’t plan to leave customers out in the cold when it comes to product development and that they are going to have the information coming soon. If you didn’t check those interviews or didn’t have a chance to listen to them, they were episodes number 304 and 305 that aired on March 24 and March 31 of 2017.***Each week, one of our partners tells us what’s happening in the ever-changing world of apps, so here’s an app worth mentioning.AMY BARRY:  This is Amy Barry with BridgingApps, and this is an app worth mentioning. This week’s app is called historical markers. Great for users of all abilities, historical markers is a fun, interactive app for children, teens, and adults that allows users to see historical markers and destinations depending on their physical location. Users are also able to search for markers by entering a destination.This is a super fun and educational app to use if you are vacationing this summer. It’s also great if you just plan on staying close to home and want to explore the history in your area. When the app is first opened, the user is prompted to take a tutorial. They can also choose to skip this. The tutorial walks the user through the icons and features of the app, including what the different colored pins mean. The red pins are historical markers with photos included. The green pins show locations listed in the US national registry of historical places. The tutorial can be accessed at any time through the app settings.The app tracks the user’s physical location, and they are able to view the red and green pins within a 10 mile radius. The distance can be adjusted in the app settings. Users can also search for location by address. These can be bookmarked within the app. A really nice feature is the ability to switch between the standard and satellite map types. When a user clicks on a red or green pin on the map, they are shown information about the historical marker. This includes a title, description, photo if available, coordinates, and a link to the website associated with the marker. Users can also turn off a pin color they don’t wish to see as well as mark their favorite pins.This is an excellent app for anyone who is interested in history. We feel that this would be especially beneficial for anyone who travels and would like to visit historical sites along the way. The app is easy to use and we were really interested to see the location of the pop up near us. This would also make a fun addition to a middle or high school history or geography class.Historical markers is available for $1.99 at the iTunes Store and is compatible with iOS devices. For more information on this app and others like it, visit***WADE WINGLER:  I’m always combing the Internet looking for information where the intersection of disability and technology catches my eye. Recently I saw a story on light about a thing called the SAS graphics accelerator, and I have to say it was screen reader related, a little bit techie, and got my nerd going on. I had to reach out to these folks and learn more about what’s going on. I was super excited when Ed Summers who is the senior manager of accessibility at SAS got back to me is that he would love to talk about the graphics accelerator. As you might guess, we have him on the line today. Ed, how are you today?ED SUMMERS:  Doing great. Thanks for having us.WADE WINGLER:  Thanks for joining us in taking time out of your day. I’m super excited to talk about this because I think it gets into some of the technical details of the assistive technology that not everybody talks about all the time. I love it when we can do something special like this.Before we talk about graphics accelerator specifically, I think it might be helpful if you would tell your audience a little bit about SAS over all, what the company does, some of the products you do, and a little bit of your career with SAS because I understand you’ve been there for a while.ED SUMMERS:  SAS is the market leader and business analytics software. What that really means is if organizations out there have data that they need to analyze and gain insights from data, and many of them use SAS to do that. That includes 83,000 customer sites around the world as well as more than 3000 institutions of education. It’s heavily used in education, research, finance, marketing, anybody that has data that needs to analyze the data.My role is I lead our accessibility program. What we are doing is we are working to make sure that users of all abilities have the ability to access analytics, analyze data, gain the insights. That’s not an end in itself. The real end of doing that and having those skills is to be able to learn in the classroom and make a contribution to the employment sphere, to make a contribution to an organization and be able to do one, have the skills, and two, access the tools to do it.WADE WINGLER:  Excellent. You are not new to SAS. You’ve been there for a number of years, right?ED SUMMERS:  That’s right. I started when I was 17 years old, and I literally started in the mail room as an intern here at SAS when I was a senior in high school. I went to college and came back and I’ve had just a wonderful time for many decades. It’s a privately held company. It’s a really tight group we have here, and we have barely any turnover so many of us have been working together for a long time, particularly in R&D. It’s really cutting edge work and is a whole lot of fun.WADE WINGLER:  I think on a personal note, that puts you and I into a more unusual category today as people who work with decades for a particular employer. That’s not the norm these days.ED SUMMERS:  That’s right. I should also mention — this may not be clear – I’m blind. I have retinitis pigmentosa. I’ve lost almost all my vision. I was diagnosed just a few years before I started here as a teenager. At this point — it degenerates over time. The technology we are developing for people with disabilities to be able to access data and analytics, several of us on the accessibility team have disabilities so we have intimate knowledge of the problems we’re facing.WADE WINGLER:  Thanks for pointing that out. To be clear, you are primarily a screen reader user?ED SUMMERS:  Yes, I am, all day, every day.WADE WINGLER:  Tell me just a little bit – and I think we can guess some of these things. Set us straight. Why is a bit like a graphics accelerator important?  Who needs this?  Both in terms of the kind of disability or assistive technology need, but also the job type or the kind of data that a person might need to be analyzing. Why is something like graphics accelerator important?ED SUMMERS:  There are two scenarios that we are trying to solve right now at this moment with this particular product. One of them is what I call accessible data sites. That is, an individual with a disability, for example a visual impairment or mobility impairments, they need to be able to ascertain these very valuable skills of data science. Even though they may not go off to work with statistics every day or to be a data scientist, but if they are in school, it’s incredibly important to have those quantitative skills in this 21st-century knowledge economy. That’s the first goal, accessible data sites.The second goal is just to be an informed citizen. Even though you may not be analyzing your own data, when you go to make a decision about buying a house, researching what school you’re going to choose to send your children to. Just think about all the times in modern life when we encounter a chart or graph. We also want to solve that problem to enable anyone to perceive and understand charts and graphs and quantitative information.WADE WINGLER:  That makes sense more and more both in terms of time period and just as we evolve as adults. We need more access to that kind of stuff. Conceptually, I get it. But tell me exactly what is graphics accelerator give me some ideas about how it works.ED SUMMERS:  The way analytics software packages typically work is data visualization is one of the ways we understand and explore the data. If you’re using SAS, you may load up a data set and start doing things like trying to understand the categorical variables by creating bar charts or create a scatter plot to understand the relationship between two continuous variables. Those graphs are typically generated dynamically. Obviously they are a visual. What the graphics accelerator does is when you create graphs using the latest version of SAS, you can enable this mode that enables the graph to be compatible with the graphics accelerator.The graphics accelerator presents the graphs in alternative formats. One of them is what we call the text description of you. That gives you all the context that you need to understand the graph. For example, what variables are represented on the X and Y access, the title of the graph, what type of graph it is because if you can’t see it, you don’t know if it is a bar chart or line chart or scatterplot. It also gives you the ability to access the data from the graph from tabular format or low that data as a CSV and analyze it in some other program.The other mode that’s interesting and innovative that I’m having a lot of fun with personally is this concept of representing a data visualization using sound. There is an art/science emerging technology that we use called sonification. That’s basically using sound to represent data. I can play an example here if you like.WADE WINGLER:  We’d love to hear it.ED SUMMERS:  What I have here is a bar chart that has about 38 bars and there is a data set here that comprises about 470 automobiles that are represented as data sets. What I’ve done is create a bar chart that tells me how many different types of cars are represented, for example how many Toyotas are represented, how many Chevrolets, and that kind of thing. I can play this graph from left to right so we can hear what the bar sound like. When you hear this, if you are listening in stereo to the recording, you will be able to hear data in the left and right speakers, and that’s mapped to the X axis. You will also hear that the sound have pitch. The pitch represents the Y axis. The data points that are low on the Y axis have a low pitch, and the data points that are high on the Y axis have a high pitch. Let’s play this graph.[Descending piano tones]ED SUMMERS:  There are your 38 bars. We can tell that it starts high and goes low. We can jump back and explore each individual data point if you want to walk through the data. I can also turn on speech but I have to slow down my screen reader. I’m one of those speed demons. I listen pretty fast. Let’s go back to the far left.>> Toyota, frequency equals 28.ED SUMMERS:  That’s Toyota and there are 28 of them.>> Chevrolet, frequency equals 27.>> Mercedes-Benz, frequency equals 26.ED SUMMERS:  We can also go back to a terse mode if we want to hear that verbose expansion of the data values since you already got that and we can keep going.>> Ford, 23; BMW, 20; Audi, 19.ED SUMMERS:  That allows us to map the pitch of each one of those data points to the actual values underneath.WADE WINGLER:  I’m going to interrupt here because it’s probably worth an editorial note that we produce our show in mono, so the default listening mode of this episode will be Mono. We will work to create a stereo version that will be available with a link in our show notes and will also try to pop some links over to some SAS content that would be in stereo as well. If our listeners are saying he didn’t move from right to left or left to right, that’s because we are a mono show. It helps with our bandwidth and makes our show easier on the data plans. We will make stereo versions of this available so that you can get the full effect.ED SUMMERS:  I want to point out that this is happening in a browser. I’m running Google Chrome. I’ve installed the SAS graphics accelerator from the chrome web store. It’s free. Anyone can search the web for SAS graphics accelerator. Go to the chrome web store, and there is a button on that page once you find it that says “Install in Chrome.” If you activate that button, it will install the SAS graphics accelerator as an exception in your browser.The way it works, just to step back one level from this, is that the SAS graphics accelerator monitors all of your page load and page updates, so if you encounter or generate content that includes a graph that was created by SAS, you would be alerted to the fact and can go off and explore the graph in the way I just demonstrated.WADE WINGLER:  That brings about a number of questions but I will repeat, it works on Chrome. Is that the only browser right now?ED SUMMERS:  At this moment, Chrome, and we are waiting for approval from the submission to Firefox.WADE WINGLER:  And you said that there is no cost?ED SUMMERS:  That’s correct.WADE WINGLER:  That’s great. What about support?  If someone has trouble, does SAS provide support on the plug-in and the graphics accelerator?ED SUMMERS:  Absolutely. If you encounter a problem, we absolutely want to hear about it. You can email us at I’ve monitor that email coming into that email address as well as a few others. We can give you some pointers and/or file a defect report so we can fix the problem.WADE WINGLER:  Excellent. I’m not a SAS user myself so maybe this is an ignorant question from that perspective. What exactly needs to be done to the graphic data and the underlying stuff to make it work with a graphics accelerator?  What does that preparation process look like?ED SUMMERS:  There are more than 82,000 customer sites around the world that you SAS, so it has a pretty big footprint out there. Many of the graphs you might encounter on the web having created by SAS. Some of those sites had more than 2000 SAS programmers, users, data scientist that are publishing information. With the latest version of SAS which is called 94n4, all they have to do is turn on a new option that makes their graph output compatible with the SAS graphics accelerator. That’s pretty exciting because I personally feel that if every data scientist, every statistician out there that’s creating charts and graphs and publishing them, if they have to become an accessibility expert, then the people that need access to data visualization will never get it because that’s just not going to scale. We’ve worked really hard to make it really easy for the people that are creating content to do that and have a little bit of knowledge required to do it.This is also a good time to mention that if you do need to analyze your own data and create charts and graphs, there is a really great, easy way to do that using a free product from SAS that’s called SAS University edition. What that is is we’ve taken that enterprise class software that’s used in those customer sites, and we’ve packaged it up and made it available for people who want to learn data science. You could be doing that in a formal education program such as a statistics course at a college, or he could do it on your own. Let’s say at the work you want to brush up your skills and learn some new skills in order to get a new job or change jobs. You can do that by going to www.SAS/com/universityedition. That’s a free download and free training. We’ve worked really hard to make it accessible for people with disabilities.WADE WINGLER:  that’s excellent. That’s a great resource. One of the reasons I wanted to talk with you about graphics accelerator is, to me, it seems new and novel. Is this replacing some existing accessible technology to give folks access to this kind of data and information, or is this sort of a brand-new class of software?ED SUMMERS:  I think it might be both but it’s filling a huge void right now. Me, as a blind person, when I access content in any form, on the web, anything digital, and e-book, a news site, an academic journal article, if there is graphical information in the content, then for the most part it’s completely inaccessible to me as a blind person unless I’m willing to have some assistance and extend quite a bit of time and energy to turn the information into a tactile graphic. Tactile graphics are basically pieces of paper that have braille on them and basically represent pictures in a tactile format. That’s a wonderful technology but it has its expense. It’s hard for somebody who is visually impaired to be able to create that kind of content on their own, completely independently.If you think about that being a very expensive approach to accessing graphics for people with visual impairments, this SAS graphics accelerator is very expensive. It’s completely digital. All you need is a browser and a SAS graphics accelerator. Now you can access as many graphs as you want without assistance. You can do this completely independently. By the way, the graphs are accessing their mainstream content. It’s the same content you would see with your eyes, I can access it with my ears or using low vision features of the graphics accelerator as well if you have low vision. It’s universal access as opposed to expensive, off to the side access.WADE WINGLER:  I notice you are running a screen reader while you are using this. Is it compatible with most screen readers?  Is the audio coming from graphics accelerator independent from the screen reader?  I just want to make sure I understand that.ED SUMMERS:  There are two kinds of output. There is text output, and that is read by the screen reader. But the sound, the musical notes that you hear, they are generated directly from the SAS graphics accelerator. We tested it with JAWS, NVDA, and Voiceover on Mac. We are very happy with the way those performed and expect compatibility with other screen readers, but thus far we tested with those three.WADE WINGLER:  Those are the big ones. What stage of development is graphics accelerator in, and what’s in your crystal ball for it?  What kinds of things would you like to see in the future for this product?ED SUMMERS:  I would say right now we have reached minimum viable product. We just announced this product to the public back in late February. It’s five or six weeks old now. What we are now looking for is for people to try it and give us some feedback. From that point, using that feedback, that will help us figure out how to proceed forward, what’s most important. As we look to the future, we obviously have a big wish list that we’ve created with the help of our beta testers and some of the early adopters that I’ve already started using the product. I think definitely more graph types are in the future. Right now we support what we felt were the most important, frequently used graph types. Some of the more complex graph types, like a scatterplot with a regression line on top of it, that’s not supported. The kinds of things used in advanced analytics, and we can certainly tackle those.The other thing I’m eager to do is take advantage of some of the more novel or emerging technologies that are available out there, 3-D gaming. There are some of 3-D gaming technology that might be interested to explore. Right now the kinds of technology we are using is really basic. If you have a browser and accelerator and access to the Internet and a pair of earbuds or cheap pair of speakers, you’ve got access. But there might be a working scientist with a visual impairment that has access to perhaps more expensive, more complicated equipment or is willing to make that purchase. I want to be able to scale up to take advantage of that kind of investment and provide them with additional access to very specific types of data.WADE WINGLER:  That makes sense. That’s exciting stuff. We have about a minute left in the interview. If people wanted to learn more, if they wanted to reach out to you, can you repeat some of the website addresses and give us your best advice on how they might connect with you?ED SUMMERS:  A direct connection would always be our email address, which is If you want to find more information about SAS accessibility in general, as well as a direct link to the SAS graphics accelerator support page, go to That will take you to our accessibility homepage. I blog as to some of my other colleagues. I blog occasionally and I do that at That’s a great place to find tutorials that we are starting to get out and post. For example, I just recently posted a blog with a getting started tutorial video for the SAS graphics accelerator which will give you more in depth material and show you how to start from ground zero to get running with your first graph.WADE WINGLER:  At a Summers is a senior manager of accessibility and applied assistance technology at SAS, has been our guest today. Thank you so much for sharing this exciting stuff.ED SUMMERS:  It’s been a pleasure. Thank you Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadEd Summers – Senior Manager of Accessibility and Applied Assistive Technology at SAS | | | Historical Markers | www.BridgingApps.orgUnedited Interview with Stereo Tracks representing graphs: Example 1: Example 2: Example 3: page for the SAS Graphics Accelerator: page for accessibility at——-transcript follows ——last_img

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