Chris Hofstader (q.v.) – a former functionary at Freedom Scientific, makers of the much-unloved Jaws screen reader – has always presented himself on his blog as a principled defender of accessibility for blind people. As such, he would have no ethical choice but to lambaste Apple for selling iPods that blind people can’t use.

The iPod and Apple’s Barriers to Accessibility

[W]hy does Apple remain so completely bigoted against us blinks? […] Why… can’t an iPod talk? Because Apple doesn’t want it to. Why doesn’t Apple want the iPod to talk? Ask Steve.

Is it technically feasible for an iPod to talk? [… iPods all] had more than enough compute power and storage (with zillions of bytes left over) to run a speech synthesizer. Having walked through the iPod interface with a sighted guide, I can also state quite clearly that offering the interface as a self-voicing application would not challenge the talented Apple engineers to[o] much. […]

Effectively, the iPod has no accessibility features because Apple thinks of accessibility well after anything else they design into their products. Speech in an iPod would have been relatively cheap and easy[,] but Apple thinks of “cool” first and nerdy ideas like universal design just isn’t cool. […]

Why… do we insist on giving Apple a free advertisement for a product that might as well have a sign saying, “No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish” hanging on it as far as we blinks are concerned[?]

More About Apple and Me

Needless to say, there is little love lost between old-time Apple people and me. So, when I got into the AT biz and Steve made his proclamation that “speech technology is superfluous to our mission,” I already had a distaste for them[,] and their poor to nonexistent accessibility didn’t do much to help change my mind about the company. […] Why do I hold Apple to a higher standard than other companies who make portable media players?

Indeed, why does he?

It is surely axiomatic that this avowed defender of Windows adaptive technology (“with an excellent collection of AT products in all categories, Windows had a substantial lead… I’ll stick with Jaws on Windows”) would never play favourites or deride Apple merely because it fails to be Microsoft. Obviously his sense of fair play is impeccable, and Hofstader would decry any inaccessibility that arises due to incompetence or ignorance no matter whose products are involved.

In that case, when can we expect a full historical excoriation of Microsoft for releasing an iPod competitor, the Zune, that is no more accessible to blind people than iPods are? Microsoft had five years to get this right; in fact, Microsoft had about half a year from Hofstader’s original posts to bolt on some accessibility as an afterthought. Why didn’t it happen, and why isn’t Hofstader, cane and/or guide dog in hand, leading the charge at (the) Gates?

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2007.01.02 17:24. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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