Can everyone do the iPod shuffle?
Apple advertises the iPod as a product for everyone, but what if you couldn't see? How would pick the song you wanted to hear or download music in the first place? In the March issue of its online magazine AccessWorld: Technology and People with Visual Impairments, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) evaluates the iPod with some surprising findings.
Some difficulty right off the bat. The documentation and installation CD that accompanies the iPod is unusable by visually impaired user (assistive technology
such as a screen readers can access it), but basics about how to operate it can be found online at www.iPod.com.
This round wheel is the heart and soul of the iPod. As the unit's main control, it's somewhat accessible to a blind user because it's textured and has a raised select button in the middle.
The audible clicks when it is turned on and no song is playing, allows a visually impaired user to utilize various functions, but there are no other audio cues for navigation which limits its potential.
Although the iPod lets you create playlists searching for particular songs would involve trial and error. The user could potentially scroll through hundreds of songs, since there is no search function and no keyboard to use to type the name of a song into the iPod.
The small screen size and flat panel makes it unusable for a blind user, and difficult for a user with low vision.
How much battery life is left is only communicated by a small symbol on the visual display therefore making it impossible for people who are blind to access this information.
The iTunes software is only somewhat accessible. The File, Edit, View, Actions, and Help menus can be accessed from the keyboard, but there is no keyboard access to the rest of the iPod screen.
The method of creating playlists (i.e.dragging names of songs from the list in iTunes with the mouse) will be inaccessible to almost all users of screen readers, or devices used to display visual information on a computer screen in audio.
Features like clock, notes, calendar, and contacts are not accessible for people with visual impairments because there is no audio output or keypad option to direct people to these choices.
Bottom line: For a gadget all about audio output, it's almost entirely driven by visual output. The iPod is somewhat accessible to a person who is blind or has low vision, especially someone with patience. The amount of music that the iPod can hold and the fact that the music can be accessed make it worth considering for people who are visually impaired.