“If you live every day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right” Steve Jobs quoted an anonymous source in his speech to the Stanford graduating class in 2005. Yesterday was the day Steve was right and the world lost one of its true creative geniuses – a man who has changed each and every one of our lives in important and lasting ways. And not just with his disruptive products like the Mac and the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Those are some of his innovative tools but the real innovation was in how we relate to one another.I imagine everyone recognizes that the way we interact has changed with iPhone and iPad. Steve gave us the gift of a great communication experience. For blind people, like myself, it is more than that. Steve Jobs opened that modern world fully to me and people like me by making the full experience of his products accessible, out of the box. He had the vision to see me as a customer who wanted to be treated like any other customer and gave me the privilege of walking in a store and paying retail for a product off the shelf that immediately gave me the same access and experience as any person with sight.If the marketplace were a religion, as I guess … [Read more...] about Thank You Steve!
Accessible Digital Lifestyle
With the recent release of DocuScan Plus, the product development team would like to share with the community what we believe to be a new and exciting method of developing assistive technology. We feel that this tool is especially useful when developing assistive technology because of the unique challenges involved with creating this type of software. Assistive technology, unlike some other types of software, must be simultaneously easy enough for brand new computer user's to use, yet powerful enough to satisfy the needs of those with long term experience as well. In addition, developing a product that is so essential to so many people means that great care must be taken in every step of the design process.How software is traditionally developedThe traditional method of software development is for a design team to generate specifications for a software product. After mapping as much of the product out as possible, including features, UI (which stands for user interface and defines how a user interacts with the software,) the overall capabilities of the software, pipe dreams, Et cetera, the design team hands these requirements off to the programmers. From this point forward, the … [Read more...] about Crowdsourcing as a software development tool
A week or so ago, the American Council of the Blind held a Future of Screen Readers panel as part of the Information Access Committee seminar at the ACB annual convention. Serotek was one of the companies invited to attend remotely via Skype. Other remote participants were GW Micro and NVDA. Unfortunately technology failed (through no fault of Skype) and we remote participants did not get to contribute. But I thought the panel questions were extremely pertinent to all blind people and that it was important we add our voice to the conversation. So this blog post is Serotek’s way of making sure our voice, and the voice of many who share our view, is also heard. I’d like to begin with Question 6, because it separates us from most panel participants. I’ll come back and address each of the ten questions – which are included in their entirety at the end of this post. Question 6 said: “Imagine that you are participating on a panel five years from now. What do you hope you can tell us about the screen reader space and the role of your screen reader in it?” Serotek hopes wholeheartedly that in 2015 we can say the screen reader space has vanished. This change will be brought about through … [Read more...] about What is the Future of Screen Readers anyway?
This week, Serotek’s iBlink Radio app for the iPhone and iPod Touch is in the “Featured apps” section of the iTunes Store. On the surface, this may appear to be a nice feather in Serotek’s cap, but the implications go far beyond company recognition. This listing recognizes the blind community as a worthy market as well as putting Serotek on display as a contributor of high quality software and content. This is a first. The first time ever an application for blind people has been offered to the world at large, by a major marketing organization, without qualification or apology. It’s just there as part of the best of the best applications Apple has highlighted for its iPhone and iPod users.We created this application and placed it on the iTunes store, free of charge, for a number of reasons. First and foremost it is great content – a complete array of entertainment and information, all created by and for the blind and low vision community. This is everything a blind person needs to know in one place, quick and easy, accessible anywhere. This is my personal app of choice.Second, this is a valuable resource for sighted people if they or someone in their family is losing their … [Read more...] about A History Making Day For The Blind
This past Wednesday, Apple held a media event to showcase new products. With a musical theme, Apple announced many exciting developments, particularly of interest to people who are blind. With the introduction of the Voiceover screen reader for the iPod Touch and an updated Voiceover interface for the iPod Nano, as well as accessibility updates to the iPhone OS utilized on both the iPhone and iPod Touch, Apple clearly demonstrated its commitment to universal access across its product line. In an ironic twist, in fact, the blind community got much of what we have been asking for in terms of access to these devices, while the larger sighted world did not get what they most expected--a camera for the iPod Touch. To my knowledge, this has never happened before.It isn't all roses and candy, though. Apple also released iTunes version 9.0, which, while introducing many desirable features, such as the ability to share tracks from several computers in the same household and an expansion of the genius playlist options, also broke accessibility to the iTunes store. Access to the iTunes store has become more difficult and cumbersome on the Mac platform, and it has become all but unusable under … [Read more...] about Access to iTunes 9.0 is here!
I just purchased an iPhone. I paid the same price as any other person -- $299 for the 32 gigabyte version plus tax. Like anyone else I had to subscribe to AT&T’s network – at least for a couple of months. We can see about changing phone networks later.VoiceOver, the screen reader which has shipped free in every Apple computer since 2005, is built right into the iPhone 3G S. There’s nothing extra to purchase or install.All I need is the iPhone 3G S, iTunes 8.2 or later, and a Mac or PC. I can activate my iPhone and enable VoiceOver without sighted assistance using iTunes with a compatible screen reader like System Access to Go free on a PC or VoiceOver included on the Mac. When I activate iPhone using iTunes, I can enable VoiceOver on the iPhone to start using it right away.In other words, this is a high-demand consumer product developed by a mainstream company that is accessible out of the box.Where is everyone else?This phone not only speaks; it speaks 21 different languages including three dialects of Chinese, two flavors of Portuguese, two flavors of Spanish, Russian, Norwegian, Japanese, Korean, German, Dutch, Italian, Polish, Swedish, two flavors of French, Finish and … [Read more...] about Why is it that Apple always seems to get to the future first?
This was an important week for blind people. Apple, a company that has long ignored the need for accessibility in it’s consumer devices brought out a new 4th generation version of the Ipod Nano that, when combined with Itunes version 8,is accessible. GW Micro took Apple where no other AT company has been able to lead them. It is a wonderful success and a gift to blind people everywhere.Us blind folks are tough critics and the ink will be hardly dry on the announcement before people will be griping that the new Ipod doesn’t do one thing or another. Hush. Something more important than features happened here. Thanks to GW Micro, Apple made the digital lifestyle accessible. In doing so, Apple recognized that accessibility is not about compliance. It’s not about some minimal legal requirement to grudgingly make it possible for a blind person to have some small taste of what’s available to the general public. It’s about making fun accessible. It’s about eliminating barriers and making fun an eyes-free experience.Think about it.Ipod is the ubiquitous companion of the young and the young at heart. It is everywhere. In just a few short years this device has completely disrupted … [Read more...] about Ipod and Itunes are now accessible to the blind!
Accessible Digital Lifestyle Fixed a problem which prevented the SA Mobile Network browser from starting the Amazon MP3 Downloader.Eliminated an error message which was appearing when logging into Napster from the SA Mobile Network browser. Note that other error messages still appear when using Napster with the current beta of Internet Explorer 8; this isn't a problem with System Access or the SA Mobile Network browser, but we're still working with Microsoft to remedy it.Fixed problems with the log-in form on Pandora.com. Internet Explorer and SA Mobile Network Browser Improved access to pages such as the Comcast.net home page that have areas which frequently update themselves.Improved access to Google applications, especially Gmail and Google Docs.Fixed a bug in the new SA Mobile Network browser which prevented the browser from coming to the foreground on startup. Windows Live Mail This update introduces support for Windows Live Mail, Microsoft's latest desktop email software for home users and the successor to Outlook Express and Windows Mail. As well as providing access to Windows Live Mail itself, System Access now provides fully automatic speech output in Windows Live … [Read more...] about Changes in System Access 2.5.0
Independent Living Adult Blind (ILAB) service organizations face a unique challenge as baby boomers become seniors and many experience vision loss. The impact of a rapid loss of vision can be devastating. In very short order, a person loses every point of reference. They feel cut off, isolated, disoriented, and afraid. A once-friendly world is suddenly an alien place with everything that was once familiar, now strange and threatening. We who are blind know that with time, a person can find a new equilibrium – well-oriented and secure. Millions of blind people live independently and there is no inherent reason why a newly blind senior can’t recapture an independent lifestyle. But it requires the help of caring and skilled organizations and individuals to make that transition. ILAB’s job is to be a lifeline, offering support in re-achieving independence and helping newly blind seniors find a path to: OrientationMobilitySafetyHome and personal management skills such as identifying money, cooking, cleaning, and labeling foods and medicationsEmployment skills such as typing and computer useQuality of life skills including talking books, Braille, writing guidesSelf-actuating skills such … [Read more...] about An Open Letter To Independent Living Adult Blind Professionals
People are asking that question since Serotek elected to make its AFB Access Award winning product, SAToGo, available to all, in conjunction with The AIR Foundation, for no charge.For the record, the answer is “No. We are not crazy. This makes good sense both from a humanitarian perspective and from a business perspective.”Stop and think a minute. Does Google charge for using its search engine or for looking up a location on Google Maps? Does Microsoft charge for Internet Explorer? How about Firefox? And wasn’t it Netscape that broke open the Internet with a free browser?In the long run Netscape lost the battle of the browsers but they completely changed the marketplace.I think everyone out there understands the humanitarian reasons for making SAToGo available at no charge, but let me talk about the business reasons.Before we made the free accessibility announcement the entire market for accessibility tools was a few hundred thousand people, worldwide. But there are more than 350 million blind people and a couple hundred million low vision people who would benefit from these tools. So in a very real sense the structure of the adaptive technology marketplace was such that it could … [Read more...] about Are we nuts?