Blind Bargains

Gashel Responds to Blio Article, Gives Update

In counting down our top stories of 2010, we posted some admittedly strong words about Blio, the electronic book reading platform from KNFB Reading Technology. In doing this, we neglected to reach out to representatives at the company for their comments, an action which we sincerely regret. So in the interest of giving another perspective, we present some words from James Gashel,
Vice President for Business Development at KNFB Reading Technology, about the current state of Blio.
From Gashel's message to us, it would appear that considerable progress has been made on the accessibility of Blio and a public version may be coming sooner rather than later. he writes, "While I acknowledge your disappointment about not meeting expectations/hopes during
the past year, I think you will find that a dramatic difference is coming. Speaking
as objectively as I can, at least this is my experience. Moreover, my current impression
about Blio’s accessibility, soon to come in the public release, is reinforced by
reactions from other blind persons who have used our recent beta updates."

While the challenge of making Blio accessible was perhaps more time-consuming than originally anticipated, it's comforting and encouraging to hear that KNFB would rather get it right than release a version of Blio with only spotty accessibility.

Gashel explains, "Due to the current state-of-the-art of screen reader technology, we have had to invent entirely new technology in order to provide screen reader access. This is a challenge we found we would have to meet from the beginning."

We look forward to the possibility of much improvement for Blio in the coming weeks and months and will continue to update the situation as it develops.

Category: Software
Displaying 5 comments.
darknexus Wednesday, 12-Jan-2011 8:30 PM ET:

I don't get it, personally. A company like KNFB reading technology should be developing with accessibility in mind from the beginning shouldn't they, especially given they had a *working* accessible version which was demonstrated time and again only to leave us holding the short straw? I'm sorry, but I just can't take a company like this seriously anymore.

RainParade Thursday, 13-Jan-2011 09:08 AM ET:

As a Federationist I am ashamed. This old saw, that accessibility produces unforeseen challenges blah blah blah, is the same thing we constantly get from mainstream companies. It may be true, but if so (a) hold back the release or (b) pick a different freaking framework to build your product. If KNFB can lead with an inaccessible version of a new product, how can Federationists justify our demands that mainstream companies build accessibility in from the ground up? This release may have been a good business decision but I would rather be part of a Federation that puts dignity ahead of dollars. If anyone in the leadership is listening, please, don't forget our roots. A lot of us haven't and you are breaking our hearts.

jjs Thursday, 13-Jan-2011 10:17 AM ET:

A few months ago we had a discussion of whether it was really practical to require that accessibility be included in all new electronic products. As a retired software engineer, my concern at that time was that an accessibility requirement might hinder development of new products using new paradigms. This is exactly the situation Kurzweil Technologies found itself with blio. I personally found the lack of blio accessibility disappointing, but they needed to get a product out quick to counter the many other e-reading solutions out there. So let's cut them some slack for now. Remember, Amazon had to be forced to add accessibility to their Kindle; they didn't voluntarily do it.

darknexus Thursday, 13-Jan-2011 5:44 PM ET:

@jjs: The crucial difference between Amazon and KNFB is that KNFB is a company that was *founded* to produce *accessible* reading solutions. Do you see the difference? Add to that they did have an accessible version. They demonstrated it, promised it, then gave us the proverbial finger. That's why we're so upset.

MGD4Ever Tuesday, 18-Jan-2011 4:01 PM ET:

Rainparade is spot on the money here. If any company at all should make sure its products are not released until they are fully accessible, it's KNFB. No amount of spin from Gashel will convince me otherwise.

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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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