Wednesday, January 08, 2014

The Year That Was In A.T. 2013 part One

Try as I might, I wish upon this star tonight, I can’t seem to get geared up for this year’s look back. Normally, whatever that is, I can rattle off stories of importance. The movers and shakers stand out and I can point to this or that and say “Yes, that is a thing and it was good or bad that it happened.”. 2013? Nope.
Part of the reason for this comes down to a few simple factors. This year, as seen by the list I finally managed to cobble together, is more about trends. No specific story did the damage or the deep impact. No, it was more like a death of a thousand cuts. This led to that, which then meant this happened and poof, the year is over.
Another factor, and one I mention on SeroTalk, is that we are moving through this strange transition phase from one type of computer access to another, or, what is called by others who aren’t just me, “the new normal”. This phrase implies that massive or dynamic changes in a traditional business or delivery model have come about, and the newly established model ends up becoming the acknowledged standard for doing said thing. This is known as the “love it or leave it” line of thinking.
Moreover, I’ve never ever liked the term “Post PC” era. Mainly because its more marketing buzz word salad than anything, however, the very idea of a Personal Computer is … well, your phone. Thereby meaning that until you have wearables with always-on “in the cloud” computing (or some other nifty Sci Fi Cyberpunk inspired tech) you still are living the PC era, just in its miniature form. Anyway, the move away from the., cough cough, traditional PC has effected many who don’t use those devices for daily or access to employment. Hold on to that last sentence, I’ll be back to that in a bit. The traditional PC, underfire from its smaller cousins, made changes in 2013 to “Keep up with the Joneses” resulting in changes with traditional A.T. that must accept this “new normal” to varying degrees.
Assistive Technology users in 2013 find themselves, depending on their comfort and skill level, either facing a squeeze play for ability to handle changes in devices/operating systems or with an embarrassment of riches with more options than they can throw an old school tape recorder at for just about any task imagined. The gambit for the spectrum of users is so wide now that at times things seem, and this is one of the reasons why I gave up just about all mailing lists, that every problem is a corner case issue… or that of someone who refuses to learn/research/read how to use their technology accordingly. The Intermediate User is slowly becoming the unicorn amongst a large field of uber novices or Google Group trolling power users. Again, mailing lists, blah.
Between the need for a rapid release schedule, the desire over at Facebook to alter what didn’t work before into something that really doesn’t work now every six weeks and the sheer fact that to test something for access means the results have the shelf life of mayonnaise sitting in the sun… all of it formed my thoughts on what I used to know versus what I have to know today. As in like this day, tomorrow you may have to go through the testing, updating or whatever process all over again. 2013 made me sit back and really say to myself that I don’t envy those working the vocational Rehab market under the shadow of so many new and unknown aspects to technology that leads to employment. The job I used to do at Texas DARS was tough enough back then. I feel for those there, and my friends in other States, who do it now. And, not surprisingly, I’m not shocked by the names and numbers of those I knew in that life who currently ponder or are taking retirement. I left the key under the mat ladies and fellas.
Consequently, the most common question I get asked offline these days at events or meetings is: “what’s the best job for me as a Screen Reader user?”. And, like my lists in prior years”, I could talk to someone and gauge what they like for a semi good answer with a few caviats. However, recently I hesitate more and more when helping someone as their question now comes with a scroll of conditions to what they feel comfortable using or what they will only use as a matter of principle or availability. But, for those who express the want for jobs within an “Apple Only” universe, while more than 95% of existing jobs still use legacy OS, I end up scratching my head as some of these concerns are valid rather than being the classic “I want, I want, I want” that I would hear from others in my field when it came to summing up the patrons they worked with from time to time. The “one size fits all” approach is gone. Fragmentation exists on all major platforms now and the days of staying on version X because of program Y are just about over thanks to, BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device. Welcome to “the new normal” I guess.
Andy over at TWIT’s “Mac Break Weekly” makes mention of this “new normal” term every so often and he’s a smart fella. Hearing it a few times stuck and I’ve adopted his take on this because, now that we have some pretty darn good access on the mainstream popular tech, what happens there happens to A.T. users. So, here is to “the new normal” and its influence on my version of the list this year.
That’s my headspace for the list that is and was 2013. As you read my list of big, and moderately sized stories, keep the above in mind ‘cause it will show up a lot as I summarize my Top 10.
Before we begin the countdown, some light reading…

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