Monday, August 02, 2010

Feedback: Apple, Apple And Apples

One of the nice things about my new job is that it allows me to talk more on TRS about a wide array of subjects. Of course, knowing me the way you all do now, I have to get some older topics out of the way first. However, the cool thing is that I’ve got some dynamite comments to reflect back on this time around.

I actually do love the rant in this comment, from the last look back at 2009 post, below. john has posted in comments before, but this one is a bit more topical with a recent podcast I completed on the subject covered by john.

John J Herzog said...

Hi ranger. As always, you've written a thought provoking blog post. What caught my attention was the part about an actual monopoly as opposed to a perceived monopoly.
First, I want to acknowledge your point. Apple's voiceover is in deed the only game in town for the IPhone, IPad, and IPod. If you don't like it, you'd best be looking for a different device. However, I think there is a critical reason why most users, myself included, don't mind the VO monopoly, but do hold a grudge against other screen readers we perceive as monopolistic. . Put simply and bluntly, voiceover works, and works well. It is my experience that the competition does not. As an example, I had talks 4, and updated to talks 5 on my nokia phone. I still cannot use it with the internet, because I keep getting an error that says scrypt alert, undefined value. When doing a read all, it crashes the internet, and I must manually retype the address again to go back to the page. Sometimes talks does this, and sometimes it doesn't.
But it's not just talks, it's mobile speak as well. Neither screen reader supports nokia maps for effective GPS use. Want a compass app? Forget it. Compass pro, though highly recommended by nokia users doesn't work with either product even when phones can support the program. Want a shoutcast and internet radio playing app? Muahahahaha foolish mortal! LCG jukebox, again a major selling app on cymbian doesn't speak a single iota with mobile speak or talks. Yet, these products market to us like they have so much more functionality than the previous version because they implemented a half baked touch interface, or added more keystrokes to the internet.
Now, you could make the argument that I am being too hard on the screen reader developers. After all, they are just a few people, and it's immensely challenging to keep up with an entire platform that moves on without consulting you. I agree with this, but to me, it feels like they're not even trying. Where, on either screen reader web site, do you find a list of evolving support for third party applications? Code factory has a list, but it has long since stagnated.
Where, on either screen reader's web site, do you find tips and how tos of making difficult apps more compatible by changing settings? I don't see any.
I know this has turned into ranting, which is not the aim of the blog post. But, in my mind, this is the most obvious reason why I glare angrily at other screen reader companies, and readily accept voiceover, flaws and all. I know that mobile speak and talks have creative people behind them, but to me, the creativity just doesn't show through when compared to all the functionality of apple's device.
Is it a mistake? I don't know. But until something dramatic happens, I don't see my attitude changing any time soon.

oh John, I don’t disagree at all. I’m really worried about the lack of access in Windows Phone 7, the loss of other platforms by other players and just where does all that leave Mobile Speak and Talks anyway? Google fragmentation almost pales by the comparison. it too is a major concern for mobile phone access.

We cover a lot of those ideas, and more, in Tech Chat 66. in this podcast, I do a bit of explaining about my position on the way I feel on these matters. Give it a listen and let me know what you think.

This next comment comes from my April post on iPad first impressions.

Pete said...

I really do agree with your comments about Magnification. This is I really ran into problems. not swiping so much, as I'm used to doing that with the trackpad, but in text composition. I couldn't get the magnification set right to see both the onscreen keyboard *and* the text I was trying to type. I don't really need the keyboard magnified. It's plenty big enough for me to see. It's the *text* I couldn't see. But if this all will make me a better voiceover user, than hey I'm there! Speaking of, do you think practicing with trackpad commander on the Mac is more like VO on the ipad? or is it more just moving around the screen with the cursor, or a bit of both? One comment about where this fits in though, It really can also function as an ipod, and because of the big screen, a really good one for the low vision user. I'm also recommending this as a beginner computer with a mac paradigm for those who're really not ready to take the "big" leap.

This is where having years of Screen Magnifier use bites me where it hurts when it comes to using Voiceover and Magnification. I’m used to the way that Windows, Magic and Zoomtext approach focus navigation. In fact, panning features in Lunar have spoilled me as well. I just can’t wrap my head around the way that Apple wants me to use these things at times. And I find myself often going completly over to Voiceover fully. Mostly because of the focus issues mentioned above. It is super hard to describe, however, it something I advise Low Vision users go into an Apple store and experience for themselves. Especially if you are a high magnification level user. It can be frustrating until you round off the rough edges of iOS and OSX.

Or, I’d also suggest that readers take a look at how Voiceover handles text in Groups and DOM modes. This is way different than the way Windows Screen Magnifiers can read text. I’d even go so far as to say it is a must for those who use focus enhancements for the reading of controls, lines of text or menus. Plus, be careful what you check under Universal Access as to where the viewable area will jump to in pointer navigation. Threw myself badly in Leopard a few years ago by checking a few boxes I shouldn’t have in the choices offered. If was like eating three chilidogs and riding the Feris Wheel that turns you upside down while it takes you up and down at the same time. Thank goodeness for the “restore to defaults” option!


John J Herzog said...

Hi ranger,
I agree with your position on mobile phone accessibility. It's great apple is doing what they're doing, but someone else needs to step up to the plate. Monopoly is never a good thing, even when there's an app for everything under the sun for the IOS devices.
I do have a question about google android. It was mentioned several times in the podcast, with the hopes that google would make the entire system accessible at some point in the future. My question to this is, do we have to wait for google? From what I understand, android is open source. So, too, are the APIs that the OS uses. Am I missing something? And if not, couldn't some innovative blind programmers make a more compelling screen reader than talk back? I'm thinking of an effort similar to that of NVDA. Do you think this is possible or probable? Perhaps I am looking through rose colored glasses, but community made accessibility has worked before. Why not in this case too? We have orca for linux, the web vissum plugin for firefox, and various utilities that take the text from images in PDF and convert it to a readable form.
Your thoughts are greatly appreciated.


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