Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Why is it that Apple always seems to get to the future first?

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 both the Queen’s English plus good old American English. It has voice recognition for dialing, selecting music from your tunes list, and otherwise controlling the iPhone. It understands 21 different languages. The iphone is globally accessible.
Where is everyone else?
I don’t want to detail all the features, functions and benefits. I’m not trying to sell iPhones, though I think every blind person in the world should celebrate having the choice to own one.
I just want to point out that this is the future. An everyday, super-fun product that is accessible out of the box.
Why is Apple there first?
In my opinion Apple is here, not because they are altruistic and not because they are afraid of being sued. They are here because they understand consumers. They know people want functions and fun. People don’t really care about how something works. They just want it to work and to be easy. Accessibility is easy. It is easier than being not accessible. This is something Steve Jobs has always understood and he has created a culture at Apple that lives it.
Apple could easily have dismissed the idea that blind people would be interested in using a device with a touch-screen interface which is inherently visual. The company could have continued to develop its products without a thought for accessibility and left it to AT manufacturers to make them accessible after the fact.
Instead, Apple has given consumers, blind and sighted alike, the ability to use their devices in whatever manner they choose – voice, touch, sight. Apple has embraced the idea of universal design. Apple understands that accessibility should be about far more than developing custom solutions which pay lip service to the idea of accessibility but detract from the out-of-box experience enjoyed by everyone else. For Apple, accessibility is not about catering to a particular subsection of the market. Rather, it is about ensuring that products are usable by a diverse group of people in a diverse variety of situations.
This approach to accessibility benefits everyone. It benefits the sighted person who wants to browse his Itunes library for some great content without taking his eyes off the road. It benefits the person who has his hands too full to dial, but can still make a phone call by using his voice, regardless of which language he speaks. And it benefits the blind person who wants to enjoy all of the incredible productivity and digital lifestyle features that have made the iPhone so popular to begin with. So, while I wait to get my hands on a device which is sleek, stylish, feature-packed, relatively inexpensive, and just so happens to be fully accessible right out of the box, I will continue to ask the question: where is everyone -+else?


Anonymous said...

Mike, What you wrote is so refreshing to read compaired to the NFB article that is circulating the lists. Both your writings in my opinion offer two verry different perspectives. You are on the edge, recognizing a companys achievements and realizeing why they did it. Products that include EVERYONE is what Apple seaks. NFB however without even totally researching how the Mac works wrote an article that concludes this product is not recommended for the blind user or something silly like that I don't remember. As a Mac user I was amazed to read the part that said group navigation is not accessible to the blind. I have to wonder if there will be two classes of Blind and visually impaired people. One group forward thinking ready willing and able to enjoy the wonders that technology such as an acdcessible IPhone bring. The other strongly routed in those thrilling days of yesteryear when people had to spend and keep spending hundreds or thousands of dollars to buy adaptive tech and keep it up to date. This group will be left behind wondering why they can't afford that which they need so desperately to continue contributing to society.

marrie said...

I do agree. I have ben a computer user for about 8 years and I am not against freedom or any company like that as I use the mostly like there products, but you are right in saying apple seems to really understand accessibility. Sure the products are expencive but think about if we hadthe same amount of accessibility on a pc, I think it would run in to the 10s of thousands not the thousand or maybe a bit more it causts to buy a mac with not only accessibility but software you can use right out of the box. I am seriesly thinking of using mustly apple products in the near future and using windows for when I have to. Thanks for this wonderful write up and good luck with the IPhone.

Michael Lauf said...

I, Michael Lauf, ask why are those who I thought I respected, so negative about technology
that puts us on a level playing field with our sighted counterparts. Is it the fear
that their jobs will be eliminated when there is no longer a need for overpriced
proprietary and substandard “access” technology?” Perhaps they prefer to live in
the dark ages, and never use touch screens. Well open your eyes, pund intended, touch
screens are here and aren’t going away. Even if this device is not for you, why criticize
Apple, who is innovating and trying to improve the quality of life for blind and
other disabled individuals, while saving us 70 percent or more off the cost of
inferior products. And speaking of 70 percent, has anyone considered that maybe
at least part of the reason their is 70 percent unemployment among blind working-age
adults, is because 70 percent of people can’t afford this so-called access technology,
to learn how to use it, before they can even begin to be employable.
I have a dream, a dream that one day we can have equal access to technology without
paying one cent more, or one cent less, than everyone else!
Will the iPhone 3GS be perfect, no!
Will Apple provide upgrades, yes!
Will Software Maintenance Agreements be required, what’s that?
Will we pay more for screen access than sighted persons, hell no!
So continue to live in the dark ages if you must; i Michael Lauf, plan to live in
the present, with an eye on the future!

jeremy said...

To the last poster: why do you argue that those who have concerns about the usefulness of apple's touchscreen interface, or who would prefer to not deal with said interface "living in the dark ages because of a personal preference"? Couldn't someone be concerned about the potential ramifications of apple's move while still applauding apple, at least in the short term, for what they've done? Are people (visually impaired or otherwise) who elect not to pay the exorbitant fees involved in the functioning of a smart-phone living in the "dark ages" as well?

Alena said...

I really appreciate the post and all the comments. I am already a Mac user, and soon I might be an IPhone user. My husband sure loves his. The reason why Apple is alone at this point is because everyone else has their heads in the sand. Like Michael said, maybe they're worried they'll lose their jobs, but how about they just offer other companies like Apple the chance to work with people who know how to build accessible products? The IPhone will be the least expensive accessible cell phone on the market. I hope the blind community gets on board and shows the assistive technology world that we're not willing to spend our life savings to have devices that put us on the same level as our non-disabled peers.

Anonymous said...

I think that the new apple phone is a great step for accessibility. Does it make the N82 obsolete? No, while the new eye phone has voice over and a 3.2 megapixel camera, the N82 has a 5-megapixel camera. It also can run the KNFB mobile reader. Of course, there are thousands of aps available for the eye phone. Nokia has just started there apt store. The eye phone comes with a built in screen reader that’s true , how ever is it as good as the stand alone screen readers, or does it just give basic functionality? I don’t think that people with accessible phones are going to in mass drop the nokia phone that they have and go by an apple eye phone. For one thing, unless they have change it with an update apple eye phone cannot get files from other users. SO if I had a ring tome and I wanted to share it with an eye phone user I can’t because there blue tooth will reject the transfer. There for if you wanted any thing new you have to buy it from the apple store or not at all. Yes there is a nice 32 gig mottle coming out witch is double of the memory of the N82, but if I had to buy every thing from apple to fill it up it would cost me a small forchon to get my 32 gigs filled up. I don’t have any apple music so I would have to start from scratch. Also it would be great if either apple or some third party could develop an apt that uses some sort of OCr to mimic the functionality of the KNFB reader mobile. The N82 is also about 3 or 4 years old and when it came out it had and still does have the 5-megapixel camera. Why couldn’t apple get better hard ware for the phones instead of off the shelve older technology. It would not cost them allot of money to upgrade the camera to ether a 5-megapixel or better. They are buying or manufacturing in bulk so cost should not play a big part in parts. The N82 is older and slower and does cost more money to get every thing how ever you cant read a computer screen with the new eye phone yet.

Unknown said...

i certainly won't be dumping my n82, and i'm not sure the 82 was out for four tyears at the time of writing. i am however, going to go to a store in the near future, and see if i can see an Iphone 3g working with voiceover. i'll keep my paws crossed on this one, though sounds a good idea.

Unknown said...

i'm keeping my paws crossed about the Iphone.

Unknown said...

Hi, I wish apple would come out with a netbook. Their macbooks, well I can't afford one. Even their mac minis are a bit on the pricy side. But next month what is important for me is to use careerbuilder's resume program and pay for someone to make my resume professional. then in august I will use resume viper to distribute my resume to over 3500 to 4000 employers and recruiters. I hope that these steps will alllow me to get a job.

dward said...

Don't be fooled. I doubt Apple gets it. Anymore than when Microsoft put the magnifier in Windows and the narrator to effectively shut people up. Note that software hasn't been updated for like 10 years. Only in Windows 7 did they setup a full screen magnifier.

Don't get me wrong I saw a video of the VoiceOver and Zoom on the Iphone and it nearly made me cry. Finally putting that big screen to use for those with low-vision.

I think there is three reasons they did this. (1) Lawsuit ((I'm pretty sure the FCC requires a dot or something on mobile phones to identify the number "5")) (2) Lot's of Harping (3) It was stupid easy for them to do. I mean they just ported over the TTS from one linux os to another.

Proof of my point. Why isn't the VoiceOver or Zoom on the 3G 3.0 update. Now that would be amazing. And don't tell me its because the processor couldn't take it.
-Just a little rant Thanks

Anonymous said...

i got a iphone 3gs when it came out in the uk and i think it is great.
the thing i like about it is you don"t have to install any accessibility software on it, like with nokias .
i am blind & live in the uk , i been using a apple imac for about 3 to 4 years now and i found apple computers better then windows pc

Romack said...

I'll answer the question "where everyone else is?" It's rather simple - they're counting all the money that they have "stolen" from us blind and visually impaired users that just want the same access to a mainstream cell phone as our sighted counterparts. And, even after spending $200 on a Moto Q9h and $300 on a copy of a Windows-based cell phone screen reader, not only did I drop way more cash for an accessible mobile pohone option - it still isn't fully accessible. That's ridiculous, and the prices on these packages of software for the blind MUST come down, or people willl run them out of business because other companies are doing it for much less to free.

And, DW, the processor in previous models were not capable of handling Voiceover. In fact, if I were to run a processor-intensive app like Pandora Radio now while running Voiceover, I get TTS output that breaks up. It is still relatively functional, but show me that the processor in previous models (which was a great deal slower), would not have been able to handle Voiceover functionality alongside functionality needs to operate the phone. Just saying...


Devon Selvie said...

I myself am a visually impaired individual, and i am always looking for ways to be more independant. i am also always looking for ways to blend in with the sighted world more. I see many sighted people walk in a cell phone store and walk out with which ever phone they please. On the other hand, a visually impaired person walks in the same store and most of the time the only thing the company offers you is a cheap little phone that you can only use voice command to dail numbers. Or they may offer you a phone with expensive software that reads your business out loud so everyone can hear what you are doing. I am becoming a big fan of apple products, for they, unlike other companies that only consider the sighted world, think about everyone. FOR THOSE WHO ARE LOOKING FOR ANOTHER ALTERNATIVE, BLACKBERRY DEVICE CAN BE ACCESSIBLE FOR THOSE WITH LOW VISION. YOU CAN INCREASE THE SIZE OF THE FONT FOR TEXT MESSAGES AND ALL OF THE MENUS TO A COMFORTABLE READING FONT. THE SIZE IS ABOUT 18 OR 20. YOU CAN ALSO BOLD THE FONT. THIS IS BUILT INTO THE DEVICE. YOU DON'T HAVE TO PURCHASE ANY ADDITIONAL SOFTWARE OR PAY ANY ADDITIONAL FEES. TO ACCESS THE FONT INCREASE FOLLOW THESE STEPS: PRESS THE BLACKBERRY KEY LOCATED DIRECT TO THE LEFT OF THE TRACK BALL> GO TO OPTIONS> GO TO SCREEN/KEYBOARD> GO TO FONT SIZE AND ADJUST ACCORDINGLY. This is a feature that my wife and I use on our blackberry and we can IM and Text all day with no eye strain. just so you know my vision is 20/400 so that let's you know how large the font can be.
But on the iphone subject I myself haven't had the opportunity to explore the new iphone3gs, but i am looking forward to doing so very soon. I am curious if the phone only zooms for certain apps or does it zoom for everything such as: texting, because i am a big texter, email and anyting else you can put on it. I guess i will find out when i go to the at&t store.