May 2014 Issue  Volume 15  Number 5

Letters to the Editor

Comments and Questions

Dear AccessWorld Editor,

As I read through the April issue, I felt a rising sense of disappointment. Not dissatisfaction with AccessWorld, which always does a splendid job, but with the stagnation of this industry on which it reports.

There was so much "pie in the sky" at the 2014 CSUN Conference that isn't even available! There were so many companies at this year's AFB Leadership Conference promising greater accessibility which has not been delivered much so far. To cite just a few examples: I've been reading about IBM's access adventures for decades, because they always speak at these conferences, but IBM has little to offer the average consumer. Google is making lots of noise, but Talkback is still tricky, Google Groups is confusing and forget Google+. Just a few years ago, Sun MicroSystems was demonstrating Linux accessibility at CSUN, and it has completely disappeared without much improvement in accessing the graphical environment under Linux, either. Though Intuit has been working on access for a couple years now, Quicken still isn't accessible. I venture far more blind consumers want access to Quicken than QuickBooks. And Comcast keeps pontificating, since 2011, at blindness conferences about their new accessible set-top box, but you can't order one yet from its customer service.

It's kind of sad really that one could pay $500 to attend a conference, another couple thousand [dollars] for the hotel stay plus meals, and all that money is spent merely to learn about devices that are still basically just research projects! Even where products being sold are showcased, most sessions about the new screen reader update or the new braille PDA are purely advertising. And since most conference attendees use their agency's funds to attend, taxpayers' dollars are being spent on little more than a pricey promotional junket. Though I do believe it is important to promote one's research, I note that much of what we hear about at CSUN never becomes a real device we blind consumers can purchase and utilize.

Apple, meanwhile, never bragged about its plans to make the iPhone accessible. It simply did it and waited for the blind community to handle its advertising for them.

I loved Deborah Kendrick's review of the Focus Blue 14, and immediately wanted one. But none of these companies have any innovative financing models to offer me. Why can't I finance my braille display like a car? I love that I can get demos of nearly any product I am curious about if I attend these conferences, but what would be truly innovative is if the product managers sat down with consumers to ask us what we want and how their products could be improved. I've never seen that kind of a session at these conferences!

Speaking of innovation, do we really need more magnifiers, OCR solutions, talking PDAS, or braille embossers? How about tackling some real and as of yet unsolved problems we visually-impaired consumers encounter! I would like an iPhone app that interfaces with the treadmill at the gym to tell me what's on its screen and lets me control the exercise bike directly using my iPhone. All the gym equipment these days can cable to the phone, but the connection isn't being used for access. I would like a web server on my thermostat and laundry equipment so I could use a simple html?based interface to configure it and program a wash cycle. I would like a bar code reader that will tell me the price while I'm shopping. How about a television that costs as much as any other TV in its class, that I can control by voice: "Tune channel 4," or "When is PBS showing Nova next?" What about an indoor navigation system that's gotten beyond the research phase? The new Bluetooth 4.0 standard with its 100-foot range could be cheaply implemented to make indoor navigation a reality, see The Stick and Find stickers at https://www.sticknfind.com/sticknfind.aspx for an inexpensive commercial product which, with slight modifications, could become access technology.

Or, take some of those ultrasonic sensors you see now in vehicles which prevent the sighted from backing up over curbs, and put them [into] inexpensive handheld devices for object detection. When this was tried years ago, the sensors were not cheap, but now they cost less than a dollar. Searching the Web you'll find universities where students have built them in to gloves, helmets, belts, shoes and glasses, but this was all research. Few commercial products resulted. Surely the miniguide doesn't need to cost as much as it does if it used modern ultrasonic sensors. Temperature sensors, Compass sensors, GPS chips, and real-time clock chips are equally cheap, so if several sensors were built in to a baseball cap, powered with a solar panel on its bill, and this wearable gadget for the blind sold for $20, thousands would be purchased on pure impulse.

I wish the access technology innovators would actually innovate and spend more resources on developing the product than going to conferences to brag about what's still in the alpha-testing stage. We don't need to waste conference resources on more electrical engineering undergrads turning out research projects that go nowhere. They might as well use a cheaper venue like Make magazine to do that! Maybe the access technology guys should start reading Make!

I would also like to see our industry create more affordable, universal items, thus selling more of them and making them indispensable. The Victor Stream was truly useful, inexpensive and when it first came out the only player that could read such a variety of formats. More access technology companies need to copy its success; not by making another Daisy player but by making something that scads of vision-impaired customers can buy now and will truly want. Anyone want to design my $20, self-powered Telemetry cap? You can have the idea for free!

Sincerely,

Deborah Armstrong

Dear AccessWorld Editor,

Thank you very much for your article, A Review of Freeware and Shareware Screen Magnification Software for Windows by Ike Presley. I found it both very interesting and informative.

I currently use the Dolphin Supernova software. It is, in my view, the top of the range. I am a volunteer at my local libraries, helping visually impaired people to use this complicated software suite.

Maybe I can suggest for most of my students a less daunting software. I am really interested in Lightning Express for its launch from website, as you rightly identified, my local Library would not allow me to download more magnifying software onto their network.

Most visually impaired people want some magnification to enable them to read, write documents and e-mails and surf the internet.

I will be downloading some of the freeware and shareware software you have listed for evaluation.

Thank you very much for your work.

Warmest Regards,

Mr. Djafer Hammouche

Winslow, England

Dear AccessWorld Editor,

Thanks to Bill Holton for the great comparison of finance apps in the April 2014 article entitled, Accessible Mobile Money Management: Evaluating Mint, Check, and MoneyWiz iOS Apps. I understand Money Wiz is coming out with an app for Windows and Mac. Do any of these other apps work with Windows or Mac?

I am in a situation where my sighted wife needs access on a laptop and I want access on my iPhone.

Keith Bundy

Response from AccessWorld author, Bill Holton

Hello Keith,

Unfortunately, neither Mint nor Check runs on Windows or the Mac. Thanks for your question.

Dear AccessWorld Editor,

Reading A Review of Freeware and Shareware Screen Magnification Software for Windows by Ike Presley, I have concerns about the Android system. As an Apple iPad mini user you haven't convinced me that Google's Android operating system meets my needs as Apple's operating system does.

I only have 2% of normal sight so I need either constant speech in the form of VoiceOver or constant magnification in the form of Zoom. The font size would need to be at least 24 point for me to be able to read it and then only for short periods.

Sincerely,

David Devoy

Dear AccessWorld Editor,

As an occasional participant on AFB Technology Talk and a regular reader of AccessWorld, I want to commend the job you and your colleagues do on keeping the public, blind or sighted, informed about new innovations to help our quality of life.

Referring to A New Music Streaming Service: iTunes Radio is Here by Janet Ingber concerning iTunes radio, I often listen to public radio stations using Windows Media and had the misfortune to somehow have my computer infected by the Scorpion virus. Like a previous article in AccessWorld, I too sing the praises of the Microsoft Disability Support Team that were able to help me remove this threat. The question now stands: do you have, or plan to have any articles that might address the issue of pop-ups including unwanted threats to one's computer?

I am willing to exercise caution in listening to any on line radio as a result of this reported experience.

Thank you,

David Russell

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