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Thread: The punctuation and typographic symbols that screen readers don't read

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Number of posts in this thread: 14 (In chronological order)

From: Paul Bohman
Date: Tue, Jan 21 2014 1:11PM
Subject: The punctuation and typographic symbols that screen readers don't read
No previous message | Next message →

Screen readers can do a lot better job at reading punctuation and
typographic symbols. I decided to document what screen readers do and don't
read. The results are not very encouraging.

Here is the blog entry:
http://www.deque.com/dont-screen-readers-read-whats-screen-part-1-punctuation-typographic-symbols

There is only a short list of punctuation marks and typographic symbols
that are read reliably across the brands of screen readers, making it
really hard for web developers to trust screen readers to convey the
intended meaning.

For example, if you write 1+1=2 (one plus one equals two), NVDA says only
"one one two" at its default verbosity setting. And if you write 1-1=0 (one
minus one equals zero), screen readers will say dash instead of zero, even
if you use the HTML entity for the minus symbol: −

And JAWS will read several characters incorrectly, saying "equals" where it
should say "less than or equal to" and "tilde" where it should say "almost
equal to" and others. These are bugs that need to be fixed.

The results are not limited to just math symbols. There are in fact very
few HTML entities and typographic symbols that all screen readers read
correctly.

More details in the blog post.

Paul Bohman, PhD
Director of Training
Deque Systems, Inc
www.deque.com
703-225-0380, ext.121

From: Lucy Greco
Date: Tue, Jan 21 2014 1:20PM
Subject: Re: The punctuation and typographic symbols that screen readers don't read
← Previous message | Next message →

Hello:
I am writing a similar post and will link to yours if you don't mind
however my post is when at brakes access should be out in a few days at
most

Lucia Greco
Web Access Analyst
IST-Campus Technology Services
University of California, Berkeley
(510) 289-6008 skype: lucia1-greco
http://webaccess.berkeley.edu

-----Original Message-----
From: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED =
[mailto: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = ] On Behalf Of Paul Bohman
Sent: Tuesday, January 21, 2014 12:11 PM
To: WebAIM Discussion List
Subject: [WebAIM] The punctuation and typographic symbols that screen
readers don't read

Screen readers can do a lot better job at reading punctuation and
typographic symbols. I decided to document what screen readers do and
don't
read. The results are not very encouraging.

Here is the blog entry:
http://www.deque.com/dont-screen-readers-read-whats-screen-part-1-punctuat
ion-typographic-symbols

There is only a short list of punctuation marks and typographic symbols
that are read reliably across the brands of screen readers, making it
really hard for web developers to trust screen readers to convey the
intended meaning.

For example, if you write 1+1=2 (one plus one equals two), NVDA says only
"one one two" at its default verbosity setting. And if you write 1-1=0
(one
minus one equals zero), screen readers will say dash instead of zero, even
if you use the HTML entity for the minus symbol: −

And JAWS will read several characters incorrectly, saying "equals" where
it
should say "less than or equal to" and "tilde" where it should say "almost
equal to" and others. These are bugs that need to be fixed.

The results are not limited to just math symbols. There are in fact very
few HTML entities and typographic symbols that all screen readers read
correctly.

More details in the blog post.

Paul Bohman, PhD
Director of Training
Deque Systems, Inc
www.deque.com
703-225-0380, ext.121

From: Paul Bohman
Date: Tue, Jan 21 2014 1:51PM
Subject: Re: The punctuation and typographic symbols that screen readers don't read
← Previous message | Next message →

>
> "screen readers will say dash instead of zero"
>

Oops. I meant to say that screen readers will say dash instead of minus.


Paul Bohman, PhD
Director of Training
Deque Systems, Inc
www.deque.com
703-225-0380, ext.121


On Tue, Jan 21, 2014 at 3:20 PM, Lucy Greco < = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = > wrote:

> Hello:
> I am writing a similar post and will link to yours if you don't mind
> however my post is when at brakes access should be out in a few days at
> most
>
> Lucia Greco
> Web Access Analyst
> IST-Campus Technology Services
> University of California, Berkeley
> (510) 289-6008 skype: lucia1-greco
> http://webaccess.berkeley.edu
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED =
> [mailto: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = ] On Behalf Of Paul Bohman
> Sent: Tuesday, January 21, 2014 12:11 PM
> To: WebAIM Discussion List
> Subject: [WebAIM] The punctuation and typographic symbols that screen
> readers don't read
>
> Screen readers can do a lot better job at reading punctuation and
> typographic symbols. I decided to document what screen readers do and
> don't
> read. The results are not very encouraging.
>
> Here is the blog entry:
> http://www.deque.com/dont-screen-readers-read-whats-screen-part-1-punctuat
> ion-typographic-symbols
>
> There is only a short list of punctuation marks and typographic symbols
> that are read reliably across the brands of screen readers, making it
> really hard for web developers to trust screen readers to convey the
> intended meaning.
>
> For example, if you write 1+1=2 (one plus one equals two), NVDA says only
> "one one two" at its default verbosity setting. And if you write 1-1=0
> (one
> minus one equals zero), screen readers will say dash instead of zero, even
> if you use the HTML entity for the minus symbol: &minus;
>
> And JAWS will read several characters incorrectly, saying "equals" where
> it
> should say "less than or equal to" and "tilde" where it should say "almost
> equal to" and others. These are bugs that need to be fixed.
>
> The results are not limited to just math symbols. There are in fact very
> few HTML entities and typographic symbols that all screen readers read
> correctly.
>
> More details in the blog post.
>
> Paul Bohman, PhD
> Director of Training
> Deque Systems, Inc
> www.deque.com
> 703-225-0380, ext.121
> > > > > > >

From: Jukka K. Korpela
Date: Tue, Jan 21 2014 2:12PM
Subject: Re: The punctuation and typographic symbols that screen readers don't read
← Previous message | Next message →

2014-01-21 22:11, Paul Bohman wrote:

> Screen readers can do a lot better job at reading punctuation and
> typographic symbols. I decided to document what screen readers do and don't
> read. The results are not very encouraging.

This is important information about a sad state of affairs. Here I would
like to draw attention to just one detail in the testing:

> For example, if you write 1+1=2 (one plus one equals two), NVDA says only
> "one one two" at its default verbosity setting.

According to mathematical tradition, as well as standards including the
ISO 80000 series, there should be spacing around most operator symbols,
for example 1 + 1 = 2. This may or may not make a difference in reading,
but I think this is what should primarily be used in tests. Of course,
it might be interesting to know about reading 1+1=2, too.

Yucca

From: Lucy Greco
Date: Tue, Jan 21 2014 2:15PM
Subject: Re: The punctuation and typographic symbols that screen readers don't read
← Previous message | Next message →

Just as an fyi they both read just the same to me smile

Lucia Greco
Web Access Analyst
IST-Campus Technology Services
University of California, Berkeley
(510) 289-6008 skype: lucia1-greco
http://webaccess.berkeley.edu

-----Original Message-----
From: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED =
[mailto: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = ] On Behalf Of Jukka K.
Korpela
Sent: Tuesday, January 21, 2014 1:13 PM
To: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED =
Subject: Re: [WebAIM] The punctuation and typographic symbols that screen
readers don't read

2014-01-21 22:11, Paul Bohman wrote:

> Screen readers can do a lot better job at reading punctuation and
> typographic symbols. I decided to document what screen readers do and
> don't read. The results are not very encouraging.

This is important information about a sad state of affairs. Here I would
like to draw attention to just one detail in the testing:

> For example, if you write 1+1=2 (one plus one equals two), NVDA says
> only "one one two" at its default verbosity setting.

According to mathematical tradition, as well as standards including the
ISO 80000 series, there should be spacing around most operator symbols,
for example 1 + 1 = 2. This may or may not make a difference in reading,
but I think this is what should primarily be used in tests. Of course, it
might be interesting to know about reading 1+1=2, too.

Yucca


messages to = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED =

From: Léonie Watson
Date: Tue, Jan 21 2014 3:00PM
Subject: Re: The punctuation and typographic symbols that screenreaders don't read
← Previous message | Next message →

Paul Bohman wrote:
"Screen readers can do a lot better job at reading punctuation and
typographic symbols. I decided to document what screen readers do and don't
read. The results are not very encouraging."

Have commented on the post, but in case it's of interest to the discussion
here...


There are definitely improvements that the TTS engines used by screen
readers could make in terms of punctuation. A couple of thoughts on the
rest...

For new screen reader users, too much punctuation can be overwhelming. It
adds to the "noise" of the page, and can actually make it harder to
understand content.

The default punctuation settings are only used when reading content in
chunks (page, paragraph, sentence etc.). If someone wants to know what
punctuation is being used, they can navigate the content by character to
find out.

In my experience, the reaction from web developers is always strongest when
there is too much punctuation being announced. It's completely unexpected
because most sighted people assume a screen reader will talk like someone
reading aloud. The inevitable result is that (with every goodintention)
developers stop using punctuation properly.

Léonie.
-----Original Message-----
From: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED =
[mailto: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = ] On Behalf Of Paul Bohman
Sent: 21 January 2014 20:11
To: WebAIM Discussion List
Subject: [WebAIM] The punctuation and typographic symbols that screen
readers don't read

Screen readers can do a lot better job at reading punctuation and
typographic symbols. I decided to document what screen readers do and don't
read. The results are not very encouraging.

Here is the blog entry:
http://www.deque.com/dont-screen-readers-read-whats-screen-part-1-punctuatio
n-typographic-symbols

There is only a short list of punctuation marks and typographic symbols that
are read reliably across the brands of screen readers, making it really hard
for web developers to trust screen readers to convey the intended meaning.

For example, if you write 1+1=2 (one plus one equals two), NVDA says only
"one one two" at its default verbosity setting. And if you write 1-1=0 (one
minus one equals zero), screen readers will say dash instead of zero, even
if you use the HTML entity for the minus symbol: &minus;

And JAWS will read several characters incorrectly, saying "equals" where it
should say "less than or equal to" and "tilde" where it should say "almost
equal to" and others. These are bugs that need to be fixed.

The results are not limited to just math symbols. There are in fact very few
HTML entities and typographic symbols that all screen readers read
correctly.

More details in the blog post.

Paul Bohman, PhD
Director of Training
Deque Systems, Inc
www.deque.com
703-225-0380, ext.121
messages to = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED =

From: Lucy Greco
Date: Tue, Jan 21 2014 4:22PM
Subject: Re: The punctuation and typographic symbols that screen readers don't read
← Previous message | Next message →

That’s an exhalent addition to this do you mind if I quote you as well
thanks Lucy

Lucia Greco
Web Access Analyst
IST-Campus Technology Services
University of California, Berkeley
(510) 289-6008 skype: lucia1-greco
http://webaccess.berkeley.edu Http://accessaces.com
Follow me on twitter @accessaces


-----Original Message-----
From: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED =
[mailto: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = ] On Behalf Of Léonie Watson
Sent: Tuesday, January 21, 2014 2:01 PM
To: 'WebAIM Discussion List'
Subject: Re: [WebAIM] The punctuation and typographic symbols that screen
readers don't read

Paul Bohman wrote:
"Screen readers can do a lot better job at reading punctuation and
typographic symbols. I decided to document what screen readers do and
don't read. The results are not very encouraging."

Have commented on the post, but in case it's of interest to the discussion
here...


There are definitely improvements that the TTS engines used by screen
readers could make in terms of punctuation. A couple of thoughts on the
rest...

For new screen reader users, too much punctuation can be overwhelming. It
adds to the "noise" of the page, and can actually make it harder to
understand content.

The default punctuation settings are only used when reading content in
chunks (page, paragraph, sentence etc.). If someone wants to know what
punctuation is being used, they can navigate the content by character to
find out.

In my experience, the reaction from web developers is always strongest
when there is too much punctuation being announced. It's completely
unexpected because most sighted people assume a screen reader will talk
like someone reading aloud. The inevitable result is that (with every
goodintention) developers stop using punctuation properly.

Léonie.
-----Original Message-----
From: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED =
[mailto: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = ] On Behalf Of Paul Bohman
Sent: 21 January 2014 20:11
To: WebAIM Discussion List
Subject: [WebAIM] The punctuation and typographic symbols that screen
readers don't read

Screen readers can do a lot better job at reading punctuation and
typographic symbols. I decided to document what screen readers do and
don't read. The results are not very encouraging.

Here is the blog entry:
http://www.deque.com/dont-screen-readers-read-whats-screen-part-1-punctuat
io
n-typographic-symbols

There is only a short list of punctuation marks and typographic symbols
that are read reliably across the brands of screen readers, making it
really hard for web developers to trust screen readers to convey the
intended meaning.

For example, if you write 1+1=2 (one plus one equals two), NVDA says only
"one one two" at its default verbosity setting. And if you write 1-1=0
(one minus one equals zero), screen readers will say dash instead of zero,
even if you use the HTML entity for the minus symbol: &minus;

And JAWS will read several characters incorrectly, saying "equals" where
it should say "less than or equal to" and "tilde" where it should say
"almost equal to" and others. These are bugs that need to be fixed.

The results are not limited to just math symbols. There are in fact very
few HTML entities and typographic symbols that all screen readers read
correctly.

More details in the blog post.

Paul Bohman, PhD
Director of Training
Deque Systems, Inc
www.deque.com
703-225-0380, ext.121
messages to = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED =


messages to = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED =

From: Paul Bohman
Date: Tue, Jan 21 2014 7:51PM
Subject: Re: The punctuation and typographic symbols that screen readers don't read
← Previous message | Next message →

Leonie, I agree that new users of screen readers and developers can feel
overwhelmed by too much punctuation. And I don't want to take away
individual preferences for verbosity with punctuation. The important thing
for me, though, is for web developers and content writers to be able to
communicate to listeners. Oftentimes punctuation and typographic symbols
are crucial. Without them, meaning is lost. Usually the content writers
don't know that the meaning is lost. They assume that everything is fine
because they put it in text format, but unfortunately everything is not
fine. Chances are that at least one major brand of screen reader will not
read it correctly.


Paul Bohman, PhD
Director of Training
Deque Systems, Inc
www.deque.com
703-225-0380, ext.121

From: Léonie Watson
Date: Wed, Jan 22 2014 3:39AM
Subject: Re: The punctuation and typographic symbols that screen readers don't read
← Previous message | Next message →

Paul Bohman wrote:

“Leonie, I agree that new users of screen readers and developers can feel overwhelmed by too much punctuation. And I don't want to take away individual preferences for verbosity with punctuation. The important thing for me, though, is for web developers and content writers to be able to communicate to listeners. Oftentimes punctuation and typographic symbols are crucial. Without them, meaning is lost. Usually the content writers don't know that the meaning is lost. They assume that everything is fine because they put it in text format, but unfortunately everything is not fine. Chances are that at least one major brand of screen reader will not read it correctly.”



I think there are two aspects to the discussion:



1. Improvements to TTS handling of punctuation.

2. Default screen reader punctuation settings.



There is definitely room for improvement with regard to the first. It doesn’t happen too much on a daily basis, but when reading certain complex documents it’s surprising how much the meaning can be altered by an unrecognised punctuation mark.



The second point is a lot more subjective. It’s one of those areas that would be good to do some user research around, to discover more about how users handle punctuation within their chosen screen reader(s).





Either way, it’s good to be having the discussion.



Léonie.



From: Paul Bohman [mailto: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = ]
Sent: 22 January 2014 02:52
To: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = ; WebAIM Discussion List
Subject: Re: [WebAIM] The punctuation and typographic symbols that screen readers don't read



Leonie, I agree that new users of screen readers and developers can feel overwhelmed by too much punctuation. And I don't want to take away individual preferences for verbosity with punctuation. The important thing for me, though, is for web developers and content writers to be able to communicate to listeners. Oftentimes punctuation and typographic symbols are crucial. Without them, meaning is lost. Usually the content writers don't know that the meaning is lost. They assume that everything is fine because they put it in text format, but unfortunately everything is not fine. Chances are that at least one major brand of screen reader will not read it correctly.





Paul Bohman, PhD
Director of Training
Deque Systems, Inc
www.deque.com
703-225-0380, ext.121

From: Léonie Watson
Date: Wed, Jan 22 2014 3:47AM
Subject: Re: The punctuation and typographic symbols that screen readers don't read
← Previous message | Next message →

Lucy Greco wrote:
"That’s an exhalent addition to this do you mind if I quote you as well
thanks Lucy"

Not at all. The discussion on the post page also highlights some interesting
points.

Léonie.

-----Original Message-----
From: Lucy Greco [mailto: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = ]
Sent: 21 January 2014 23:22
To: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = ; WebAIM Discussion List
Subject: RE: [WebAIM] The punctuation and typographic symbols that screen
readers don't read

That’s an exhalent addition to this do you mind if I quote you as well
thanks Lucy

Lucia Greco
Web Access Analyst
IST-Campus Technology Services
University of California, Berkeley
(510) 289-6008 skype: lucia1-greco
http://webaccess.berkeley.edu Http://accessaces.com Follow me on twitter
@accessaces


-----Original Message-----
From: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED =
[mailto: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = ] On Behalf Of Léonie Watson
Sent: Tuesday, January 21, 2014 2:01 PM
To: 'WebAIM Discussion List'
Subject: Re: [WebAIM] The punctuation and typographic symbols that screen
readers don't read

Paul Bohman wrote:
"Screen readers can do a lot better job at reading punctuation and
typographic symbols. I decided to document what screen readers do and don't
read. The results are not very encouraging."

Have commented on the post, but in case it's of interest to the discussion
here...


There are definitely improvements that the TTS engines used by screen
readers could make in terms of punctuation. A couple of thoughts on the
rest...

For new screen reader users, too much punctuation can be overwhelming. It
adds to the "noise" of the page, and can actually make it harder to
understand content.

The default punctuation settings are only used when reading content in
chunks (page, paragraph, sentence etc.). If someone wants to know what
punctuation is being used, they can navigate the content by character to
find out.

In my experience, the reaction from web developers is always strongest when
there is too much punctuation being announced. It's completely unexpected
because most sighted people assume a screen reader will talk like someone
reading aloud. The inevitable result is that (with every
goodintention) developers stop using punctuation properly.

Léonie.
-----Original Message-----
From: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED =
[mailto: = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = ] On Behalf Of Paul Bohman
Sent: 21 January 2014 20:11
To: WebAIM Discussion List
Subject: [WebAIM] The punctuation and typographic symbols that screen
readers don't read

Screen readers can do a lot better job at reading punctuation and
typographic symbols. I decided to document what screen readers do and don't
read. The results are not very encouraging.

Here is the blog entry:
http://www.deque.com/dont-screen-readers-read-whats-screen-part-1-punctuat
io
n-typographic-symbols

There is only a short list of punctuation marks and typographic symbols that
are read reliably across the brands of screen readers, making it really hard
for web developers to trust screen readers to convey the intended meaning.

For example, if you write 1+1=2 (one plus one equals two), NVDA says only
"one one two" at its default verbosity setting. And if you write 1-1=0 (one
minus one equals zero), screen readers will say dash instead of zero, even
if you use the HTML entity for the minus symbol: &minus;

And JAWS will read several characters incorrectly, saying "equals" where it
should say "less than or equal to" and "tilde" where it should say "almost
equal to" and others. These are bugs that need to be fixed.

The results are not limited to just math symbols. There are in fact very few
HTML entities and typographic symbols that all screen readers read
correctly.

More details in the blog post.

Paul Bohman, PhD
Director of Training
Deque Systems, Inc
www.deque.com
703-225-0380, ext.121
messages to = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED =


messages to = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED =

From: Jukka K. Korpela
Date: Wed, Jan 22 2014 2:01PM
Subject: Re: The punctuation and typographic symbols that screen readers don't read
← Previous message | Next message →

2014-01-22 0:00, Léonie Watson wrote:

> For new screen reader users, too much punctuation can be overwhelming. It
> adds to the "noise" of the page, and can actually make it harder to
> understand content.

Undoubtedly. But it is important to distinguish between different kinds
of characters. The blog entry title refers to punctuation and
typographic symbols, but it actually mostly deals with other symbols.

Characters like period, comma, semicolon, and quotation marks are
punctuation symbols in a normal symbol. We do not spell them out when
reading text, but they may affect reading, as pauses, emphasis, or
changes in tone. In some special reading modes, their names might be
used, but for normal text, that would be unnatural.

Characters like the dagger, the double prime, and the per mille sign
belong to the General Punctuation block in Unicode, but they aren't
really punctuation. They are special symbols, which are normally spelled
out in a context-dependent and language-dependent manner, for example
"died", "inches", or "per mille". It is very difficult to implement them
properly in speech synthesis, but the reasonable fallback behavior is
usually to pronounce the Unicode name of the character. It is surely
better to read them that way than just ignore them.

This point is even stronger for characters that are not even formally
punctuation but e.g. mathematical symbols, like the minus sign.

So I think a prime requirement would be that screen readers should speak
out the names of characters that they do not otherwise handle.

Yucca

From: Olaf Drümmer
Date: Wed, Jan 22 2014 2:22PM
Subject: Re: The punctuation and typographic symbols that screen readers don't read
← Previous message | Next message →

Hi Jukka,

Am 22 Jan 2014 um 22:01 schrieb "Jukka K. Korpela" < = EMAIL ADDRESS REMOVED = >:

> So I think a prime requirement would be that screen readers should speak
> out the names of characters that they do not otherwise handle.

I very much like the way you put this!!!!

So in essence a screen reader (or rather: any assistive technology using text to speech) does have to do "something" with "everything". That could mean:
- for sequences of characters, speak them out as words (Example: hello world)
- for sequences of characters that are all uppercase, speak them out character by character (example: HTML)
- common punctuation: insert a pause, change the pitch of the voice, etc. (implementation details at the discretion of the tool); (example: "Hungry?" where towards the end of the word hungry the pitch of the voice is slightly higher, and a pause is inserted after the word)
- anything not covered in some other fashion: for every character, speak the Unicode name (preferably in the language used for the surrounding content), possibly together with some indication that the Unicode names of characters are spoken (example: the right arrow symbol "→" as "{beep} right arrow {pause}", or instead of the beep a different pitch of the voice, or whatever.

Olaf

From: Paul Bohman
Date: Wed, Jan 22 2014 2:53PM
Subject: Re: The punctuation and typographic symbols that screen readers don't read
← Previous message | Next message →

>
> The blog entry title refers to punctuation and typographic symbols, but it
> actually mostly deals with other symbols.


True enough. I tried to come up with a title that was descriptive enough
without being too long. Perhaps I failed at both! Yes, many of the
characters that I tested are symbols and not punctuation per se.

the reasonable fallback behavior is
> usually to pronounce the Unicode name of the character. It is surely
> better to read them that way than just ignore them.


Exactly. It appears that screen readers have decided to ignore nearly every
non-alphanumeric character or symbol, when in fact I think they should do
the complete opposite. Give the name of the character, precisely because it
is a special character that someone put there on purpose to mean something.

Paul Bohman, PhD
Director of Training
Deque Systems, Inc
www.deque.com
703-225-0380, ext.121

From: Paul Bohman
Date: Wed, Jan 22 2014 5:53PM
Subject: Re: The punctuation and typographic symbols that screen readers don't read
← Previous message | No next message

I want to express a public thank you to James Teh -- one of the principal
developers for NVDA -- who responded almost immediately to my blog post
(see
http://www.deque.com/dont-screen-readers-read-whats-screen-part-1-punctuation-typographic-symbols#comments)
and was receptive to what I had to say, while also expressing some words of
caution that there are some technical hurdles as well as limitations in
what he thinks should be the default verbosity level. I filed a couple of
feature requests in the NVDA system as well.

Just the fact that he was so responsive is very encouraging. Thank you!

Paul Bohman, PhD
Director of Training
Deque Systems, Inc
www.deque.com
703-225-0380, ext.121