Blind Bargains

Blind Bargains Top 10 Stories of 2010 1. A Slap in the Face from Microsoft

This is it, the culmination of our annual look at the most influential, 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. Next, it'll be your turn. The Blind Bargains Access Awards will let you sound off and vote for your favorites. Number 1 involves a very unfavorable phone launch.

First, let's preface our discussion of our top story by pointing out that there was no clear winner this year. While Apple was number one on most of the lists from our panel in 2009, there was little agreement this year. But a recent phone launch from Microsoft received the most votes to make it number one on our top stories of 2010.

Windows Phone 7 has certainly not been the overwhelming success story that Microsoft had hoped, a statement true for both the mainstream and accessibility communities. But Microsoft's openness about their lack of priority for accessibility features in Windows 7's early days rang through loud and clear amongst the blindness community. For all of the advancements made in 2010 by mainstream companies from Apple and Amazon to Google and Olympus including, or at least acknowledging the immediate need to include off-the-shelf access to their products, Microsoft's roadmap serves as an in-your-face reminder of how far we still have to come. Windows Phone 7 accessibility is merely an afterthought at best at this point, with not even a rough estimate of when it will be included. Some will say that this doesn't matter, since Windows Phone 7 itself may be a dead operating system within a year or two. But this stance represents how far mainstream companies still need to travel to make accessibility a true priority. It's quite a possibility that Windows Phone 7 will include accessibility features in a year or so. But will most of the apps work out of the box? This seems unlikely, since developers will already have created interfaces that work with the current infrastructure before access was even included.

To offer another viewpoint, Ranger shares a perspective shared by many: "I’m saddened that access was not a part of the development cycle; however, I’m not sure if it matters until this platform starts on the path to critical mass. It took iOS 2 years to talk and it took Google half that time. Let’s see if Microsoft can do better in 2011."

Microsoft's lack of access to Windows Phone 7 is our choice for the top story of 2010, not entirely because of the story itself, rather for how this story represents the current state of accessibility as a whole. It serves as a catalyst for an open discussion of the current state of accessibility and the work that still needs to be accomplished. For all of the steps forward taken in 2010, there's still a long way to go.

Thanks to our panel members who helped us compile this list. We'll do it again at the end of 2011. Next, it'll be your turn, as we open up the nomination round for the Blind Bargains Access Awards.

Category: Articles
Displaying 3 comments.
darknexus Tuesday, 11-Jan-2011 01:08 AM ET:

Quite honestly, could we have expected anything less from Microsoft? These are the people who caved to pressure from both the NFB and various AT companies *not* to make Narrator fully functional. Given that, and the fact that they've been pressured in the exact opposite direction (from the blind community, no less) why would we expect them to care now? We're reaping the rewards we deserve from years ago.

Kelly Tuesday, 11-Jan-2011 10:50 AM ET:

What has the Federal Communications Commission done during this entire windows Phone 7 accessibility fiasco? From all appearances, absolutely nothing. In January 2010, we learned in a blog post from the CEO of code Factory that they were getting no cooperation from Microsoft and it was likely that Mobile Speak would not work at the launch of Windows Phone 7. Given this early warning, it isn’t as if the issue is new or there was no public notice of the problem. It seems we either have toothless access laws on the books or the FCC would rather not rock the boat with the technology industry. The more than 40 billion dollars Microsoft currently has in cash in the bank can buy a lot of democratic friends or possibly fund their enemies if Microsoft is angered or feels it is being treated unfairly.

darknexus Tuesday, 11-Jan-2011 11:03 AM ET:

@Kelly: Exactly what has the FCC done for *any* accessibility improvements? I can't think of anything they've done within the past ten years on this.

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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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