Blind Bargains

Blind Bargains Top 10 Stories of 2010 7. The Ups and Downs of Android Accessibility

We're continuing our annual look at the most influencial, ground-breaking, or otherwise important stories of 2010. In addition to our own staff, we consulted with some industry experts including ACB Radio Main Menu's Jamie Pauls, the Blind Geek Zone's Rick Harmon and Ranger from the Ranger Station Blog to help create our list. We'll present one item every day until we reach number 1. Today, the ups and downs of Android accessibility.

Oh what a year it's been for Google's Android operating system. Android appeared on dozens of new devices and gained considerable market share in the mainstream. The same could not be said for the blind community, however. Still, blind users who like QWERTY keyboards and open platforms or hate AT&T have been drawn to the emerging platform. The Eyes-free project has offered some innovative applications, such as Intersection Explorer for GPS navigation. But in the same breath, those wondering when touch-screen accessibility will be fully realized have been met with a deaf ear. On the assistive technology front, both Code Factory and Dean Blazie and company have been dabbling in the development waters, but it still remains to be seen if much will come from either of these ventures.

Ranger adds:”Sigh. I paid my money for the Google E Ticket. I waited in line for my turn on the Access Train. And now that I’m riding the Android Rollercoaster? I’m not sure if I want to get off the ride or not. The platform is useable in many respects. The future, sadly, doesn’t inspire confidence in me for the platform though. As it gains in popularity, so does the platform accelerate in its ability to fragment the market between the “I have version x” and “Oh yeah? I have version Y”. Android’s openness, the Phone Carrier’s desires to enforce their established business models and the needs of Handset makers to constantly sell you the next best thing makes this platform an accessibility nightmare for 2011. Maturity will have to come to what will be a marketplace that will surpass the iTunes juggernaut very soon. And Developer pressure for easy porting from Android to iOS will continue to mount as well. There will be a tipping point for Apps and I worry that access may become a casualty of the Smartphone Cold War going forward.

Despite all of the subplots, twists, and turns in the Android story, it remains one of the most talked about operating systems available, and offers a faint glimmor of hope for future accessibility. The ups and downs of Android lands at number 7 on this year's list.

Category: Articles
Displaying 1 comment.
HPFANFICTION Tuesday, 04-Jan-2011 12:32 PM ET:

I don't know much about it, but a friend of mine is on the beta list to test the rewrite of Google's Android OS. If I remember correctly, this will be a complete overhaul of the OS, rewritten from the ground up to natively support accessibility. Beyond that, I have no further useful information, such as what phones this version of the OS will run on. I do, however, know that my friend will not stand for anything less than a completely usable OS. He has recently gone blind, and has perchased an iPhone, it being the best solution for him as of right now, with it being the only mobile platform with accessibility features already built in. Apple has set the bar quite high in terms of out-of-the-box accessibility, and in order for him to consider using Android as his main mobile solution, he would need to see Google not only fully stand behind and support this new OS, but also come very close to or surpass the accessibility threshhold set by Apple's VoiceOver.

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J.J. Meddaugh is an experienced technology writer and computer enthusiast. He is a graduate of Western Michigan University with a major in telecommunications management and a minor in business. When not writing for Blind Bargains, he enjoys travel, playing the keyboard, and meeting new people.

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