Blind Bargains

Blind Bargains Qast 131: The Year In A.T. 2017


Here we go, another year, another top 10 list. Join J.J., Joe, Shelly and Chancey as they roll through some of the bigger news that shook the Low Vision and Blindness technology field in the year that was 2017.

10. The "Year In Braille" takes many forms

We do not have many of the, now infamous, "combined entries this year. Yet how could we not lump so many good stories into one pile about Braille?
Braille support comes to Amazon VoiceView, improved Braille support in NVDA, Windows includes Braille support for Narrator, NVDA and contracted braille input. So many good things. But read on, we noted that the year also had a few missteps.

9. HIMS, the release of the Polaris

The counterpunch to the Humanware Braille Note Touch came along in a sleek device that also gives a nod back to the owners of HIMS in the name, and use, of the Polaris software.

8. Baum VarioUltra Shipping Issues and bankruptcy protection

This story may get more interesting in 2018, but the warning bells sounded last fall.

7. VFO Acquires Paciello Group

Brand recognition within the web access community, a pool of talented people and a respected player in the W3c and WCAG communities. What's not to like? Well, for VFO this particular acquisition meant that it was beginning to solidify bigger Enterprise plans beyond that of being a hardware and software maker.

6. Firefox, Version 57

A possible big change for the way web browsers work, though 58 is mitigating much of this for NVDA at least, some in our echo chamber shouted: "fire!" when the room began to fill with smoke. Also Jamie Teh joining Mozilla was kind of a big deal for them and NVDA as well.

5. Apple, iPhone X, iOS11 issues

Another year of Apple speculation saw the company continuing to release new products, and hit new all-time high revenue targets, despite a bit of tarnish forming on that Rose Gold finish.

4. Window-Eyes is No More, How We Got to This Point and What's Next

The group notes that this was not a matter of there being a lot of users, but because Window-Eyes was a poster child for consolidation.

3. Orbit Reader

An entry that hits the list two years in a row. They shipped a few of these things apparently, but where is it now? Chancey calls it "story zero" due to the lack of availability.

2. AIRA explodes on the scene

Never underestimate the power of good marketing. With a drive to have famous names on the board of Explorers, the beginnings of a network of places to use the service and a major splash at the summer conventions, AIRA sparked a ton of interest amongst our community. And a whole lot of controversy too. "Mobility gamechanger", "Blindness "Privilege" and "transformative Service" are just some of the ideas bandied about in our number two story.

1. SeeingAI

A unanimous number 1 for the first time ever in the many years we've been doing this countdown. Not a surprise really as this free app does so much for so many. Congratulations Microsoft!

We had our say. It is now time for you to have yours. Please send along your thoughts about 2017 to feedback@blindbargains.com or leave a musing in the Comment Section below.

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Displaying 1 comment.
Orko Saturday, 03-Feb-2018 7:43 PM ET:

I was just recently turned on to Aira and in the short while that I've had the service it has made a noticeable and positive difference in my day to day life. No more waiting for sighted help to get some things done, what a difference! And then here comes episode 131 and your year in review and how negative you and your guests were towards the Aira service. Since then I have found myself wondering if I wanted to continue subscribing to your podcasts. Sure there are services like Be My Eyes and Be Specular, but while I applaud the work of the volunteers that make those services work, at the end of the day they are untrained volunteers, and there are situations where using an untrained volunteer makes me nervous. Aira assistants, on the other hand, are trained professionals who are under a non disclosure agreement to protect your personal information. I agree that there are some legitimate privacy concerns, but I also believe that it's up to the user, not the service, to use appropriate caution when working with such services when it comes to what you reveal to them. I'd have given episode 131 a thumbs up, but after hearing what you had to say about Aira, it gets a very definite thumbs down.


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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 for10 years and podcasting about it for nearly 5 years.


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