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AFB  ®
Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
From the American Foundation for the Blind
 January 2011 Issue  Volume 12  Number 1

Editor's Page

AccessWorld Lends a Hand with New Year's Resolutions and Provides Rationale for Evaluating High-Priced Technology

Lee Huffman

Dear AccessWorld readers,

The holidays are behind us now, and it is time to start looking forward to a new year. For many, that means New Year's resolutions and commitments to exercising, losing weight, eating healthier foods, and taking better care of ourselves. To help get you on the right track, AFB's Information and Referral Specialist, Tara Annis, and I are providing you with answers to her most frequently asked questions about getting and staying fit. Statistically, people with vision loss tend to be among the most sedentary and unhealthy among all age groups, but it does not have to be that way. You may be surprised how technology can help you to become healthier in the new year.

This month, I am also sharing the editor's page with AccessWorld author Bradley Hodges to answer a question we get quite often.

From time to time, AccessWorld receives feedback from readers taking us to task for reviewing and describing very costly technology and kitchen and laundry appliances. We are asked, "With the majority of people with vision loss unemployed, how could you consider evaluating a $3,000 oven?" Fortunately, these messages are thoughtful and convey the concern many of us share as we think about the economic picture of our community. It is only fitting that as authors of these articles, we share with you the collective thinking of the AccessWorld team. These observations are brought to you in the spirit of outlining our analysis and as the result of many years of experience. They are intended to continue the dialog between readers and AccessWorld staff, not as a kind of defense strategy. Bradley Hodges reports:

There are two important reasons why including some very expensive products in our reviews is imperative. The first of the reasons is that the technology that is introduced on a $2,000 washing machine, as with the newest Whirlpool top-loading models, will appear on the $1,000 washer in 18 months and the $650 washer in two years. Consider the curse of the kitchen: the flat touch-panel oven control. These controls were very rare in kitchen appliances in 2003. At that time, touch-screen technology was available on only a select few ranges and wall ovens priced in excess of $3,500. By contrast, entry-level ranges from Frigidaire and other manufacturers using this type of control are now priced at less than $350.

Similarly, the laundry room of only a few years ago is scarcely recognizable with the advent of front-loading appliances, which are available for $900 for both the washing machine and matching dryer. Only two years ago, that same control technology would have cost more than $2,500 for an equivalent set.

Glass cook tops with touch controls are the embodiment of inaccessibility. Availing yourself of this kind of appliance required approaching a stratospheric price point in 2007. Today, equivalent ranges from LG and other manufacturers are ready to be placed in new construction or a rental unit for only $495.

Thus, the path from the outer limits where only a few could afford them to the new home or rental housing unit where you very likely will encounter them, turns yesterday's $3,000 oven into today's accessibility issue. If the past is prologue--and years of experience in the accessibility field shows us it is--then the touch screen of Whirlpool's top-of-the-line washer is headed to a laundry room very near you. At AccessWorld, we consider it our responsibility to give you as much warning as we can.

A second reason for including reviews of technology and home appliances that may seem inappropriate to some by virtue of their high price is that not everyone in our community is limited by the harsh financial reality that so many share. Happily, our community includes professionals, doctors, lawyers, business people, and others who may consider purchasing moderately or even extravagantly priced technology, including book readers, digital audio players, smartphones, and high-end home appliances.

Our first responsibility is to illuminate the accessibility of products by viewing the entire range of models offered. Then, we aim to report in objective terms about the features and characteristics that we believe are pertinent. Lastly, we consider the effect of price and availability as viewed through the lens of the particular economic challenges and achievements of blind and visually impaired Americans.

We hope this provides some perspective for you, our readers, as to the practical reasoning for evaluating costly technology.

The AccessWorld team wishes you the best of health and happiness and an even more accessible world in the coming year!

Sincerely,

Lee Huffman
AccessWorld Editor-in-Chief

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Copyright © 2011 American Foundation for the Blind. All rights reserved AccessWorld is a trademark of the American Foundation for the Blind.

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