Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Skype! The Whole World Can Talk for Free

Skype is a program for making free calls over the internet to anyone else who also has Skype. It's free and easy to download and use, and works with most computers.

With SkypeOut, you can use Skype to call ordinary phone numbers all over the world.

SkypeIn is a real phone number your friends can call. You pick up the call in Skype.

Skype Voicemail lets you direct calls when you're busy or offline to your voicemail.

Download, register, install, plug in your headset, speakers or USB phone and start calling your friends. The calls have excellent sound quality and are highly secure with end-to-end encryption. You don't even need to configure your firewall or router or any other networking gear. It just works.

It doesn't just work with Windows. Skype is also for Mac OS X, Linux and PDAs using Pocket PC, with a native look and feel for each platform. Talking, sending instant messages or even file transfers work between different platforms like a charm.

If there weren't enough ways for you to contact your friends, they have a little thing called SkypeOut, which lets you make calls to old-fashioned phone numbers all around the world. Landlines, mobile phones... it works with almost all of them. SkypeOut is now free for users in North America and Canada. You can call any phone number in North America or Canada for free. You can also forward your Skype calls to a traditional phone or mobile number.

Since most things you want your friends to see tend to be rather large, their file transfer function works with all the file sizes your operating system can handle. For most people, that's between 2 or 4 gigabytes. And remember, it works from Windows to Mac to Linux and the other way around. No platform problems here.

When it comes to talking, instant messaging or transferring files, Skype goes to great lengths to make it secure. Skype automatically encrypts everything before sending it through the internet. Likewise, on arrival everything is decrypted on-the-spot and presented as crystal clear speech, text or a file transfer nobody can intercept.

With normal telephones you can only hear sounds from 300 Hz to 3 kHz. Not so with Skype; it's all over the spectrum, from the lowest hum to the highest screetch. In other words: 'F' and 'S' will sound like the two different letters they were meant to, and in the end you will be able to have a much more natural conversation.

That also goes for conferences. It's completely secure for you and up to four others to get together to coordinate tactics in a game, make one of those important business decisions or simply have a chat, even if you're all on different continents.

Searching for those long-lost relatives or just somebody to have a quick chat with is also part of what Skype is all about. They have a Global User Directory. It's a giant phonebook of all the people who use Skype. You can use it to search for people you'd like to talk to, people who have the same birthday or people who just happen to live in the same street as you.

When you find somebody you know or even someone you would like to know, you add them to your list of contacts. You can also write a little note to let them know who you are and why you want to add them to your list. Handy, if your separated-at-birth-twin finds you on Skype. When people are on your list, you can see if they are online, offline, busy... or perhaps out to lunch.

Did I mention that you can also send instant messages with Skype? Well, you can. That's nice for when you're talking about a website and you want to send that really long address or if you're writing a song maybe. Either way, you can send one of those little smiley faces along with your message.

The best part of all this is that it is screen reader friendly and you can start using it immediately. Chris Nestrud has written some scripts for JAWS, and there are also set files for Window Eyes.

Click this link to visit Chris Nestrud's page to download the JAWS script files:

Click this link to visit the Skype web site:

Free Audio Skype Tutorial

Click this link for an audio tutorial on using Skype: Donations are accepted.

"Speaking of Skype" Audio tutorial

Jonathan Mosen has created Speaking of Skype, a four hour audio tutorial that's got blind people talking. It unlocks the secrets of Skype for blind users in an informative and entertaining way.

With over 75 million downloads and more then 5 million users logged into the service at any one time, Skype has become an essential communications tool.

Whether you're a seasoned Skype power user seeking to get every last bit of functionality by manually editing the configuration file to make improvements you can't make through the Skype user interface, right through to those who have given up on Skype because it seemed too complicated, or you've never downloaded Skype before, Speaking of Skype ensures you'll get the most out of the software that has turned telecommunications on its head.

Topics covered include:

  • installing the latest beta JAWS scripts for Skype
  • downloading and installing Skype
  • obtaining a Skype account
  • a comprehensive explanation of Skype's many configuration options
  • manually editing Skype's configuration file to get even better performance
  • calling regular contacts with a single key press from anywhere in Windows
  • integrating Skype into your web site and email
  • audio conferencing
  • text chat
  • making regular phone calls
  • giving your PC a telephone number
  • voicemail
  • Skype Groups
  • much more!

Speaking of Skype refers specifically to Skype for Windows. It is suitable for users of all Windows screen readers, although frequent mention is made of the JAWS scripts for Skype due to their many benefits in making Skype easier to use.

You can purchase and then instantly download your copy of Speaking of Skype for only $14.95. For an additional $5, you can also subscribe to free updates to the tutorial until 30 April 2007.

With Skype rapidly evolving, this means that you'll receive audio demonstrations and tutorials on any major feature Skype adds within the next year for just $5.

For more information, please visit

Skype Prompts without A Screen Reader

Sean randall has a free Skype add-on called SKRead. It reads out various events such as call status, contact status information or skype chats, and is screen-reader-independent.

Click this link to get SKRead:

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