Blind Bargains

Blind Bargains Qast 87: The Year In AT 2016: Part 1

The time has come once again to look back at the stories that rose to the top of our collective consciousness for the year that was 2016. Our BBQ Regulars have voted with their opinions making up the list that Joe, Jamie Pauls and Shelly brisbin will summarize over the next two episodes. Yep, this show only contains 5 of the 10 stories on the list. And that is because some of the news sparked some interesting, deep conversations amongst the team. Braille, voice access, security concerns and more comprise just some of the topics covered in the bottom half of our countdown.

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Number 10: Bill Passes in the Senate and House Opening up Greater Access to Braille Technology

One of the stories that contributed to Shelly's "Year Of Braille" theme for 2016 for sure. And one we expect will truly impact many in 2017. Move over NLS Player, you have a new friend possibly on the way.

Number 9: Mac's with Touch Bar replacing function keys

Apple usually makes our list pretty consistently; however, it generally scores higher on our yearly tally. Of note for this year's entry, as seen by the latest Apple Rundown, the Tim Cook lead company saw a number of controversies in both mainstream and A.T. fields. The loss of the headphone jack on the iPhone 7, the issues with Braille in iOS 10 and the now infamous Touch Bar are just some of the reasons why this landed Apple in the number 9 spot.

Number 8: Amazon expands VoiceView accessibility tool for visually impaired users to the Kindle Paper white, Fire TV Stick

We started off the year with a look at Fire OS access and ended the year with everyone talking to their Echo and Alexa. It is truly a strange year in Blindness-related A.T. when people are more excited about Amazon than Apple.

Number 7: BrailleNote Touch Now Shipping at $5,495

Agent 86 Maxwell Smart, from the classic TV series "Get Smart", is famous for the trailing line: "would you believe..." So, with that in mind, "Would you believe..." a notetaker made it on to our 2016 countdown? The battle of the Android-based devices claimed many victims, sorry Braille To Go, but one of the clear winners was Humanware's newest addition to the Braille Note family of products. You can learn more about the Braille Note Touch in Jamie's review Or by going on a tour courtesy of Mystic Access.

Here's more on number 7 from Jamie:

At the beginning of 2016, who would have thought that a dedicated notetaker for the blind would make the top ten list of our year in review, and especially that it would make the number seven spot. At a time when other companies were releasing notetakers that, in many ways, resembled their counterparts over the last decade or more, Humanware, a company who actively developed the BrailleNote line of products in the early part of the 21st century, but who had been quiet for some time, broke their silence by releasing a revolutionary new member of the BrailleNote family the BrailleNote Touch. This Google-certified tablet combines the time-tested KeySoft overlay that Humanware is known for with the capabilities of a mainstream tablet.

While many applauded Humanware s efforts with regard to the BrailleNote Touch, others pointed out that the $ 5,495 price tag was not justifiable considering the cost of a mainstream Google tablet and a Bluetooth braille display. Even though the BrailleNote Touch is a version 1 product that will cause major sticker shock for some, this product definitely has the blind community and our panel talking.

Number 6: Google Home and Amazon Echo: voice assistants

2016 could be labeled the year we got over looking silly when talking to inanimate objects. First it was Siri and Cortana introducing us to speaking a few decibels louder to ask what the weather was in places far away. Now it is Amazon Echo and google Home who have enabled us to have disembodied voices answer our every crazy search term query. Chances are that you use, or know someone who does, one of these services daily. Therefore, Hey Siri/Google/Alexa/Cortana, what was the number six entry in the Blind bargains Qast 2016 list of stories?

Thanks again to Jeff Bishop, Jamie Pauls, Ricky Enger and Shelly Brisbin for helping J.J. and Joe compile our list this year. Don't forget, if you haven't read it already, you can see what stories listeners thought were the biggest in this article That contains the audio downloaded the most in 2016. Also, if you think we missed a story or an aspect of the stories above, let us know. Drop us a line or tweet us over at the Blind Bargains account. Or just leave us a note in the comments section below.

Next week we will hear which stories made it to the "Final Five".

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Joe Steinkamp is no stranger to the world of technology, having been a user of video magnification and blindness related electronic devices since 1979. Joe has worked in radio, retail management and Vocational Rehabilitation for blind and low vision individuals in Texas. He has been writing about the A.T. Industry for 15 years and podcasting about it for almost a decade.

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