Blind Bargains

Blind Bargains Qast 204: The Year In A.T. 2019

The long road trip with no bathroom breaks that was 2019 has reached its destination in the form of our annual wrap up show. This year s panel included J.J., Joe, Shelly Brisbin, Scott Davert and Rookie of the Year Lisa Salinger. Read on, and tune into the podcast, to discover what trends and stories the group found to have the biggest impact on the year. Also, if you want a good laugh, see how right or wrong we were with our 2018 predictions

Conventions At A Glance

The entire panel attended at least one of the major Blindness and Low Vision A.T. events in 2019. You can hear what we thought were the big stories at CSUN And the Summer Conventions To gauge if those introduced products had an impact on our discussions for this episode. But we ll let you in on a little secret. What you, the readers and listeners of this site, peruse from our coverage often determines who we interview the following year. Therefore, behold the top 5 downloads of our various coverage in order of their event calendar appearances in our podcast feed.

ATIA 2019
1 #ATIA19 Audio: Command Multiple Devices With The HIMS QBraille XL
2 #ATIA19 Audio: Humanware s New Braille Note Touch Plus Is One Tough Cookie
3 #ATIA19 Audio: Aces Are Hight For The Acesight And Zoomax
4 #ATIA19 Audio: IRIE-AT Is Totally Your Braille Buddy When It Comes To Phones And Video Magnifiers?
5 #ATIA19 Audio: Point Your Finger At The Books You Want To Read With BraiBook

CSUN 2019
1 #CSUNATC19 Sponsored Audio: APH Is Bringing The Community Together To Impact The World At Large
2 #CSUNATC19 Audio: LS&S Would Like To Report A U.F.O. Sighting Over Anaheim
3 #CSUNATC19 Audio: A Deeper Dive Into The Process Of Updates And NV Access
4 #CSUNATC19 Audio: Feel Books And More With Feelif
5 #CSUNATC19 Audio: Row, Row, Row your Code Jumper

Summer Conventions 2019
1 #NFB19 Audio: Humanware Flips The Card To Reveal Updates For Keysoft And Victor Reader Trek
2 #Sponsored Blind Bargains Convention Coverage: AIRA with Big Deals, Big Presence at #NFB19 and #ACB19
3 #Sponsored Convention Audio: APH Creates A Fun Pathway To STEM With Code Jumper
4 #NFB19 Audio: Seeing The World Wirelessly With OrCam
5 #ACB19 Audio: There Is Always Something New Over At Guidelights And Gadgets

Our listeners landed on a story that we didn't cover during our look back at the past 365 days. With new products, and a new direction, APH had an abundance of announcements and our audience noticed. We additionally saw some new names make the list as well as a real interest in what Humanware brought to the Exhibit Hall tables.

Off The Shelf Growing Pains

A lot of the conversation that powered this discussion came from stories featured in our Mainstream Mayhem article. Of course, iOS 13 dominated the talk and Joe said with all sincerity that he admired Shelly for her work on iOS Access For All and the plight that comes along with so many updates to this year's version of the operating system. J.J. and Scott felt like Apple has too many operating systems these days to support and they should look to our friends at Apple Vis for a better understanding of what is and isn't working along all the various product lines. Even new features like Dark Mode are breaking on a system level when Smart Invert is active. And Scott noted that issues with Bluetooth audio, Switch Control and wireless Braille Displays made him glad he kept a device back on iOS 12 for employment access concerns.

But Apple Park wasn't the only company with some setbacks in 2019. Joe and J.J. steered the group into the aspects of what disappointed them about Google this year. J.J. felt like Talkback regressed, Scott noted that if BrailleBack support was better he would have considered a serious switch to the Android platform and Joe talked about how Google's culture war seemed to be an underlying theme of the lack of focus for the company. Joe also stressed that the way Google releases features into the wild had him spending more time troubleshooting his Google services than enjoying them. Perhaps the easiest way to summarize the year in Google was how many in the tech press declared the Pixel 3a as their choice for Android phone of the year after the release of the 4 series of phones.

Audio Description On The Rise

On a much more positive note, as emphasized by our AD news article, 2019 was the year where we became Audio Described Couch Potato aficionados. A lot of titles that took flight in pop culture this year happened to have AD tracks. However, as Shelly stated, Amazon Prime Video has been steadily adding support for older titles that you might not have realized needed description. Lisa also said that it's surprising when a new movie or show isn't described these days. And she urged that we need to support these legal ways of obtaining the content we want in order to foster more content in the future or support Blind/Low Vision creators and actors with their projects.

Here's an email from BBQ Crew Member Jamie Pauls that places the substantial jump for AD in context.

Hello, all. JJ and I were talking last evening about adding the huge influx of audio-described content in 2019 to our end-of-year show. With JJ's blessing, I reached out to the AD project for some stats comparing the end of last year to now. They actually gave me some stats comparing the first of this year until now which is probably close enough. I am sharing the information with everyone. Copied tweets follow:

1/1/19 SUMMARY: 2418 unique described videos and TV Series. 985 videos were duplicated in more than one service.
Titles From: 41 Current Movies; 1029 DVDs; 926 iTunes; 811 Netflix; 440 Prime-Video; and 197 TV Series, broken down as follows:
30 ABC, 13 CBS, 25 FOX, 20 NBC, 23 DISCOVERY, 10 HGTV, 25 HISTORY, 18 TBS, 11 TNT, 22 USA.

12/16/19 SUMMARY: 3534 unique described videos and TV Series. 1719 videos were duplicated in more than one service.
31 Current Movies; 1194 DVDs; 12 Apple TV+; 291 Disney+; 65 Hulu; 1178 iTunes; 1080 Netflix; 1508 Prime-Video; 5 Other;
228 TV Series: 35 ABC, 16 CBS, 2 CW, 24 FOX, 21 NBC, 25 DISCOVERY, 18 HGTV, 34 HISTORY, 18 TBS, 13 TNT, 22 USA.

When Cameras Took More Than Pictures

2012 saw the splashy debut of Google Glass at Google i/o. So, it seems fitting that the Explorer Edition finds itself entering the Graveyard in 2020 just as others begin to really lean into smart glasses technology. AIRA and Be My Eyes both gained more partnerships and expansions into the services they provide. Seeing AI and Envision AI were joined by the addition of VoiceDream Scanner in the field of On Device OCR apps. We summarize many of these stories in our Visual Assistance article in the news section of the site. And Lisa gives us an idea of how helpful many of these tools were to her when adjusting to life in a new apartment. Scott lays out the pros and cons of using many of these tools as a Deaf Blind person. J.J. notes, as you can read below, that there are some things you must consider if you rely on these methods of viewing the world through a camera lens.

Keeping Private Things Private

As cool as many of these new ways to access the environment are, they do have some serious aspects to consider while using them. Lisa describes a situation she came across in a public area in her apartment building and Shelly talked about data storage and where it resides if a company is sold or acquired. J.J. illuminated upon some misgivings that could come about with public transportation adopting more open policies towards the Visual Interpreter services as seen in Boston and New York. And Joe mentioned about how some visual concepts are becoming more apparent to the community as they encounter these access options in more settings.

Here are links to some of the specific items discussed during this portion of the show.

Dark Patterns in Accessibility Tech
The next Big Tech battleground is your ears
Hey Alexa: How can we escape surveillance capitalism?
An Update About Face Recognition on Facebook
Stalker 'found Japanese singer through reflection in her eyes

Oh, What A Tangled Web We Surf

Our conversation about hacking our disabilities came about from each panel member noting a barrier to web access they met recently. Relying on one Screen Reader and one web browser seems like an illusion of the information superhighway s glory days as a combination of tools may work better for shopping, banking or even searching the web. Plus, don't even get us started on various mobile browsers on iOS or Android. J.J. noted that the latest Web Aim survey seemed to reflect the changing trends in web access and how players like NVDA are changing with the times. Lisa and Scott compare Windows Narrator to a gawky teenager growing into their own and that's a good thing for the built in technology moving forward. Joe thought it was interesting that JAWS was rapidly gaining more support for Google Chrome and G Suite products to stay relevant in the Enterprise sector. Additionally, Shelly and Scott mused how some have made the switch from mac back to Windows as a result to the modifications made to the Mac OS through the annual upgrade cycles.

Pizza and music played a huge role in web access this year. Lawsuit Reminds Us How Shitty the Web Is for Users With Visual Impairment
Browser vendors win war with W3C over HTML and DOM standards
The internet's accessibility reckoning
Mozilla to release a new Firefox version every four weeks starting next year
Here are the results of the latest Web Aim Survey
The US Supreme Court Domino s Pizza delivery case rejection, dished out
Accessibility, the future, and why Domino s matters
What Domino s Pizza got wrong about internet accessibility
Add Vimeo to the Growing List of Large Websites Taking Accessibility Seriously

Miscellaneous Musings

Just as some may not be aware of some of the technical aspects of using a camera for access, others are becoming more familiar with other disabilities outside of Blindness that come with aging. Lisa and Scott engage in a lively conversation about the cost of Hearing Aids and how many of their companion apps are not Screen Reader friendly. Joe expanded upon that and offered that this lack of access also falls onto apps that control the Smart Home and various appliances that tout their connectivity. Lisa found that there is a need for individual research for major purchases in that arena, over buying whatever everyone else in the community is snagging up. Tailoring your expectations, as well as concentrating on your specific needs for access, can possibly bring about a better solution than "following the herd". Joe added that apps are constantly being updated and that could break or fix access from month to month. Relying on reviews may not be the best course of action either because appliance makers are manufacturing products in smaller runs in order to offer new features at a faster rate. J.J. said that the push for outreach is still needed to bring about awareness and change with products that add Voice Assistant and app related features. And the group all noted how more televisions are coming with Speech on board, how the Instant Pot made their apps more Screen Reader friendly after Community advocacy and we do have more powerful technology on hand for navigating the gaps in access than we did in 2018.

Shelly and Joe touch upon the rise in off-the-shelf tablets being used as the display on many portable Video Magnifiers. Shelly followed that up with how some in the press enforce the narrative on how well the big mainstream companies are doing with their access solutions and what impressions that can send to those who are unfamiliar with other Assistive Technology. Joe noted that some in the Community also misconstrued these messages to a point where they shun traditional technology that was designed by A.T. makers. He specifically noted discussions he heard at various events for the desire to not use something like AIRA's Horizon in favor of a possible future set of Apple created smart glasses.

Finally, and ending on a high note, Lisa and Scott celebrate the fact that more people had the opportunity to compare the Braille me to the Orbit Reader in the battle of the low cost Braille Displays. Additionally, now that phones cost more and iOS is constantly influx, the traditional note taker may still have a place in being a more stable option for some tasks.

Sound Off

We asked trepidaciously on Twitter for ideas about what the big stories were and Jim Denham sent along his feelings in the below email.

Hey guys:
Just wanted to chime in with what I believe is the biggest news story
of 2019. That would be, the Amazon Echo Show identifying products.
This is a big deal b/c its not using the bar code, it is just
identifying the product by visual appearance. Amazon is obviously
using individuals who are blind or visually impaired to help develop
this feature, with the long term goal to provide people the ability to
reorder products just by holding them up to the Show. In this case,
all involved win, as it is a great and really useful feature for
individuals with an Echo Show. I also believe this is just the
starting point. As machine learning continues to develop at a mind
blowing pace, this will certainly grow much bigger in 2020 and beyond.
Thanks for all the great audio and podcasts in 2019, you guys do an
awesome job and your work is truly appreciated.

Last Word

2019 saw the BBQ Crew cross the 200th episode mark and place our 750th audio program into our vast archives. We have been thrilled, honored and humbled to bring you our brand of news and entertainment on a weeklyish basis for 5 years. This would not be at all possible if it weren t for our guests, interview subjects, sponsors, and most of all you, the listeners. We are not sure just what 2020 holds in store for us all in A.T. news. However, we look forward to bringing it all to you in the upcoming year!

Thanks for listening!

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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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