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#CSUNATC19: The 10 Year Challenge For Product Diversity In A.T.

This article is something I ve spoken about with J.J. a few times before we boarded our respective jets westward for the yearly pilgrimage to CSUN. But it wasn't until the beginning of this year, when that 10 Year Challenge thing blew up on social media, did I feel I had a good framing reference for this story.

Audio Described Avengers Assemble! Catch Up On Your Marvel Cinematic Universe Movies Before Avengers: End Game

A monumental moment of pop culture will arrive in theaters on April 26th. 11 years in the making, and spanning more than 20 movies, Marvel will cross a milestone as it wraps up the 4th phase in their lucrative cinematic universe. And the best part is that almost all of it is audio described. We say almost because 2008 s The Incredible Hulk does not offer an audio description track at the time of this writing. However, the rest of the comic tales are described, and we have your guide to catch up on all of them in their official Marvel chronological timeline.

The Apple Rundown: The Excess To The Max Edition

It has been almost two weeks since the BBQ Crew sat down to discuss the big reveals from Apple's September hardware event
And in that short amount of time we ve been given a bunch of updates to Macs, iPhones, Apple TVs, watches and that speaker that needs a coaster under it, so it doesn t harm your wooden table. Then for good measure, not the iOS 12 feature I promise, Apple let loose a duo of .1 updates for tvOS
And Watch OS

A Hero's Call Version 1.3 released

The latest update to the PC audio RPG, now six months on since its initial release
, rolled out to players with fixes for a few quests and a new enemy to encounter. Below are the release notes from Out Of Sight Games' Joseph Bein.

Writing, Editing, and Reading: Do It All With Voice Dream Writer for iOS

Welcome back to the next installment of writing with iOS. Joining the articles on Mindnode, Story Planner, and Scrivener, today we'll be looking at voice dream writer for iOS.

Review: Your Writer's toolbox - Scrivener for iOS

You've planned your story, you know who all the characters are, what they're going to do, and how that works out for them. Or maybe you've never been down for all this pre-planning stuff, and just want to get right to the business of actually writing your story. Either way, it's time to explore the best accessible apps for writing, beginning with Scrivener for iOS.

Digging Up The Dirt On News We May Have Missed

It is no secret that the BBQ Crew has been a bit scattered since the holidays. Some news has fallen behind the sofa, or been swept under a few floor rugs, so this large pile is our way of acknowledging some stories that have occurred while we've been occupied elsewhere.

Big shout out to Dean at Top Tech Tidbits and Access World for keeping the news torches burning. They are great resources for a little light reading when we aren't actively posting.

Review: A Tale Of Two iPhone Chargers

Apple has been slowly adding popular features found on Android phones for a few years now. yet the two biggest items on the Apple wish list would probably have to be that of wireless and rapid charging. With the release of the iPhone 8, 8+ and the X, apple fans finally saw their wishes become reality. Do these new power options really help you get through a day's worth of use more easily? The short answer is yes . Read on to learn more about my first month of using the official Apple USB C rapid charger and the Belkin Boost Up wireless pad.

It's Now Possible To Go A Thousand Miles With A Braille Display

Many VoiceOver and other audio game players on iOS have most likely heard of and have played the Blindfold series of games from Kid Friendly Software While these games have been accessible for speech users, they have not been useable by those who want or need to be able to play them with a braille display. Late last year, I posted a blog on AppleVis calling attention to this fact and pointing out that submited feedback prior to that point had not been taken into account. A discussion ensued, and in early January, I was happy to post that full braille display support was available with Blindfold Wildcard. This card game is very similar to the traditional Uno card game.

Last week, Kid Friendly Software released full braille display support for another game, Blindfold Travel Cards, a version of the popular game better known as One Thousand Miles. As someone who used to be able to play audio games, who later had that ability taken away due to a series of major hearing losses, it is great to now be able to play these games. It is my hope that Kid Friendly Software will continue to work to offer braille support on many of their titles which are text based.

Games For Everybody creates accessible Let's Play's for the visually impaired community

Matt Sharp, a long time gamer and Youtube personality, runs a channel called Games for Everybody/audio described gaming, wherein he plays numerous mainstream games from various genres. While this is nothing new on YouTube, Matt's channel offers a unique twist. While playing, he describes the games for a visually impaired audience as he plays, reading the text of games aloud and describing the physical environment of the game.

Plan stories with ease with Story Planner for writers on iOS

In my last writing article, I introduced MindNode, an accessible mind mapping app for iOS. Mind maps are a very flexible tool, allowing a lot of creative freedom in designing and organizing your outline or plans. Today's app, story planner for iOS by SCVisuais, continues the theme of planning, but offers a great deal more structure and prompting for writers who like their layout.

Bigger Than A Bread Box, Louder Than A Boombox, The Google Home Max Is The Smart Speaker For Your Bookshelf

Over the years I've joked with J.J. about him owning Google's first attempt at a music device with his Google i/o schwag bag Nexus Q collector's item. The unit was round like a Google Home Mini,dedicated to streaming playback and a mixture of touch controls that can be assisted by a smartphone for added functionality. Yes, the Nexus Q could be seen as the distant relative that doesn't get invited to family gatherings anymore during the holidays in Mountain View. Google's third entry in the Home series of smart speakers is positioned more as a Sonos killer than an Amazon rival.

iOS Review: MindNode 5, AN Accessible Mind Mapping Tool for Writers

This is the first in what I hope will be a series of articles exploring various iOS writing apps. I hope to cover planning apps, writing apps, generic iOS apps, and explore ways these tools can best be used in concert with one another. Today we will be looking at MindNode 5, an accessible app for creating mind maps.

Cash In with $1 Off Uber, $10 for Signing Up, Other Online Deals with the Free Ibotta App

If you are a frequent Uber user or enjoy getting money back for shopping, the Ibotta app may be worth a look, and now you can get a $10 bonus for trying it out.

Guest Blog: Apple Design for Most of Us

The following is a guest opinion post from Alex Hall. We thank him for sending in the below article.

Earlier this week, I saw a
from Joe regarding Apple, usability, iPhone X, etc. Rather than engage over Twitter, I thought I'd write an article in response. Twitter may have recently doubled its character limit, but it is still quite a limited forum for long-form thoughts and discussions.

First, here is the text of both tweets. I've put it into a single paragraph for convenience.

I’m tired of Apple, and their loyalist brethren, telling me I’m a Luddite for not excepting change. Touch Bar, headphone jack home button. And all the changes have been added to pad apples production cost. Not because the change is benefiting the user.

The gist of Joe's opinion seems to be that Apple is making devices less usable, introducing features that aren't necessary and that serve mostly to make money. Remove the headphone jack, and suddenly, those AirPods are way more appealing. Furthermore, Apple doesn't make devices as usable as they used to (the MacBook Pro's Touch Bar and the missing home button on iPhone X being two prime examples).

My basic point boils down to this. The way I see things, Apple isn't interested in making devices that are the best to use for every single customer. Rather, they make devices that are best to use for the majority, then they try to make that design accessible to the rest. A prime example is the iPhone. Physical buttons are objectively easier to use by visually impaired people than flat, featureless touch surfaces, as evidenced by every blind person who has cursed their iPhone while trying to use an automated menu while on a call. But Apple didn't include a physical keypad around which was worked a touch screen because that wasn't the vision they had for the majority of their users. Instead, they added VoiceOver, to make the touch screen as accessible as possible to those who would be less able to use an iPhone. Other accessibility efforts have emerged since, from VoiceOver improvements to low vision and touch accommodations and beyond. However, Apple didn't set out to make a phone that was optimized for the deaf, or blind, or paralyzed, they made the phone they thought the world wanted, then made that design as accessible as they could.

The Touch Bar is a more recent example, and as a user of a MacBook equipped with such a bar, I can speak from personal experience. For blind users, the bar is a poor replacement for physical keys in many situations. It has some advantages, such as sliders for fine-grained control, or offering buttons at one's fingertips instead of the user having to remember keystrokes. But there are plenty of times I miss physical keys, and that's just in macOS; running Windows on this computer is even more of a challenge. Yet, for sighted users, the concept makes a lot of sense. A strip of seldom-used keys is replaced by a touch screen, letting developers put whatever they want on there. Sliders, emoji, typing suggestions, oft-used commands, macros, the list goes on. Is it the best for blind users? No. Is it the best for a certain kind of power user? No. For touch typists who rarely even look down at their hands? No. But for the majority of users, the idea makes sense. Apple then added great VoiceOver support to the Touch Bar, made the function key with numbers emulate f-keys, and took other steps to help blind users get the most from the bar. Those efforts, combined with key remapping in VMWare (which I use to run Windows) mean that my Touch Bar is fully accessible. To Joe's point, no, it's not as efficient or usable, and I'll be the first to admit that. I think about him saying that every time I have to tap the escape key, then double tap it to activate it. What I'm getting at is that Apple never intended this MacBook to be made for my specific needs or what I would find to be most usable. They made it for the masses, then made it so I could use it if I chose to.

There's also Apple's vision to consider. I'm not saying this vision is right, or even preferable, but the fact is, it's there. Apple has the vision, and they have the talent and the hardware and the developers and the money. Apple will follow their vision, and if the market hates it enough to not buy it, they'll adjust. But much of the time, the market is on board once they get ahold of the new device/design. I'm thinking of the iPhone here. The chief designer of the iPhone line has
said that the ultimate goal for iPhone is a single slab of glass.
No holes, no buttons, no nothing, just a glass-encased device driven entirely by voice, touch, and wireless. That vision is the goal, and iPhone X is the first step toward it. Is having no home button better or worse than having one? Depends, but the sighted reviewers I've read seem to not care about its removal at all. Will blind users? Yes, of course, but I've not heard much negativity toward the idea even from that group. Admittedly, though, the intersection of blind people I know/read, and the population that has the new iPhone, is very small, so time will tell on that point. Still, Apple did its best to make the new design accessible, with tactile feedback as the user's finger moves indicating where to start, and when to stop, moving. Is the new model the best for every user? No, but that's never been Apple's way. They do what they think is best, and then make it as usable as is practical.

This may also involve a shift in usage patterns. I've had my own iPad now for only a day or so, but I find myself rarely pressing the home button. Instead, I bring up the dock, and find the app I want there. Between apps I've placed there, and suggested apps, I almost never have to go to the home screen. A two-finger swipe from the bottom edge feels completely natural to me, after very little use; I don't doubt that many iPhone X users will experience something similar. They may not miss the home button because the way they interact with the device has changed. Even if they use the home command a lot, it could be a quick adaptation that seems quite normal after relatively little adjustment.

Joe's other point was that much of the design changes are to make money. First off, I agree. Since Apple is still a publicly traded company, it has to make money. The job of any CEO is, ultimately, to turn a profit with his or her business. Apple has always been expensive, and iPhone X is no different. But it's also no different from other Apple firsts. The company seems to do this quite often: make a new product category, or a radical redesign of an existing one, and charge more than expected. Then, as that new thing evolves and matures, the price will stabilize. MacBooks weren't always $999, and Minis weren't always $499. When prices do remain the same, the specs generally get better. See iOS device storage changes, or the bump in MacBook base model storage, or the increasing power of Apple Watch, for more instances of better value for the same cost.

Yes, iPhone X is super expensive. But that's normal for a new product like this. Apple has never gone bezel-less, never used Face ID sensors, never not had a home button, and never, to my knowledge, used a new alloy of stainless steel in any iPhone. Besides, they didn't drop all other options; they still offer the SE, 6s, 7, and the all-new 8, which was unveiled right next to the X. Eventually, I don't doubt the X form factor will be the only one around, but that's very likely years away. For now, everyone has options, and with the 8, users aren't even giving up performance or storage if they want the classic iPhone style.

As someone who does occasional device training, I know exactly where Joe is coming from when he talks about the difficulty of training someone on a gesture-centric device like iPhone X. Believe me, I had to suffer through the iOS 11 mail rotor bugs with someone who'd only just started to grasp using mail, and I've had to talk people through enough broken websites or random screen reader failures to know that pain all too well. If someone won't do well with no "get me outta here" button, though, they can pick up an older iPhone, or an 8. There are still options, and those who don't want to pay the early adopter/beta tester tax don't have to.

To sum up, I think Joe's points are that Apple is making changes just to make them, and that making new interfaces usable doesn't mean they're efficient to use. I'd say that they have to keep changing things, or they don't make as much money, and making money is why any for-profit exists. Besides, remember all the people saying how boring the old phone design was, when it didn't change in three years? As to usability, being a Touch Bar user, I absolutely agree. But what I've come to think is that Apple makes products for the majority, and in line with what they see as the future. Then, they make those as usable as they can. Sometimes, that's an ultra-efficient experience, like the actions rotor or braille screen input. Sometimes, it's less than great, like the Touch Bar. But just as visually impaired people don't always get the best experience, neither do sighted people. Is everyone happy with the notch in iPhone X, or the fact that MacBook Airs still lack retina displays? Not at all. Taking the good with the bad is part of owning any product, though, whether one is sighted or blind.

I'm not trying to change anyone's mind or start an argument. I just wanted to offer my own thoughts on this, providing some possible rationality for what I took to be somewhat undeserved criticism of Apple. I'm not saying, and will never say, that Apple is perfect or that everyone should use their products. I've tried to talk people into going with Apple, but just as often, I've told them Windows, or Android, or Roku would be their best choice. I've never suggested someone buy an Airport router, and I don't go out and buy the latest shinies just because they exist. I want to sometimes, but I don't. I'm also happy to criticize Apple when they deserve it, such as their not including USB-C adapters with the 2016 or 2017 MacBook Pro, or the release of past iOS versions with important accessibility bugs not yet fixed. I'm not a fanboy (at least I hope I'm not) despite how my Twitter feed may slant. But I wanted to respond to these tweets, so there we go. I know plenty of people will probably disagree, and that's great. These are important discussions to have, especially as we're in the early days of what is likely to be a new iPhone paradigm. Just remember that Apple is a business, and not one whose aim is to produce accessibility-specific technology.

Opinion: Shady Code Alert: Amazon iPhone App Detects Voiceover and Quietly Disables Alexa

Earlier this week, I presented a brand new workshop on conversational assistants at the library where I work. Our discussion-based tech events are a chance for blind New Yorkers to explore what's new in accessible technology, And I was pretty excited to share how Google, Apple and Amazon have designed simple, conversational interfaces that work well for blind and sighted people alike.

Getting Creative With Braille On Windows: a Look At Beta Braille Support With the Windows 10 Update

When Microsoft announced its plans for 2017, one of those plans was to implement support for braille displays through Narrator. With the release of the Creator's update, Microsoft has begun delivering on this promise. According to the December 2016 blog entry, "The (Windows Creators update) beta will support braille displays from more than 35 manufacturers, using more than 40 languages and multiple braille variants, including grade 2 contracted braille."." How well has that come to pass with the public release? Read on to find out my experiences from installing and running various devices on the new Windows 10 update.

Preorder Vaux, The Speaker That Turns Your Echo Dot in to a Portable Battery Powered Device

VAUX is the first battery-powered speaker designed specifically to house the Amazon Echo Dot. Its cordless portability, enhanced audio quality and beautiful modern aesthetic lets you enjoy VAUX anywhere in your home environment. Plug, Play. Enjoy.

Live on the Edge, or have an Ultra Lifestyle? An In-depth review of HIMS and Baum Braille Displays

Some of today's braille displays do a lot more than just display braille, but which one is right for your needs? In this in-depth article, I compare the VarioUltra (VU) from Baum and the Braille Edge from HIMS. I chose These 2 units because they both have 40 cells of braille and are what the market seems to now call "smart displays", a term given to devices which do not perform all of the functions of a traditional notetaker such as playing music, GPS navigation, downloading email directly to the device, or browsing the internet. At the same time, these devices are able to accomplish more than just connecting to an external gadget such as a computer, tablet, or smart phone. While these braille devices are in the middle in terms of functionality, they're also in the middle in terms of their price point when compared with other categories of braille devices. This article will examine both the Braille Edge and VarioUltra for their connectivity, support while connecting with some external devices, their internal applications, and physical appearance.

Apple Rundown: The “Don’t Throw Away The Gift Receipt” Edition

The holidays are usually a fun and happy time. You sing carols around the Festivus pole or holiday tree. You countdown the hours until midnight during New year's Eve with that shiny new Apple Watch. And you reflect back on the year that was with a sense of reverence. Um, yeah, that is how it is meant to be unless you factor in the party pooper of all years 2016. Not even the company Steve Jobs built was immune to the harshest of years as you will see in the stories below. Moreover, and I cannot underscore this enough, I had to quit capturing links for this edition because it was frankly making me depressed. Dogpiling, kicking you when you are down or even opportunistic doesn t begin to summarize the wide array of sadness that comes from Apple watching these days. Here s hoping that 2017 brings us an Amazon Echo competitor, foldable iPhones plus self driving iCars!

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