ShellyBlog Shelly Brisbin's life consists of several long tails. She writes about them here.

May 18, 2013

Social Links and Crowd-Sourcing in iOS Access for All

Filed under: Access and Disability,Announcements — Tags: , , , — Shelly Brisbin @ 2:11 PM

I continue to work feverishly on my book, iOS Access for All. The writing is going well, but there is always more to say than I had thought. All of my initial page counts were low. As I work toward finishing the VoiceOver chapter, I’m looking ahead to the chapters about iOS apps. One will feature all of the Apple-supplied apps, and address their accessibility features and limitations. The second app chapter covers the best tools in all major categories, with an eye on accessibility. So, I will be writing about both the best reading app that happens to have great accessibility, and the best scanner app that can identify the currency in your wallet.

From the beginning, I’ve told people that this book would be interactive. I can review apps all day long, but what I write won’t serve everyone as well as a chapter that comes about with the input of folks in the accessibility community. I’m opening up several social media channels for the book. I will be starting discussions about the apps people like, and why, along with those apps folks think should be avoided. Of course, these social media channels will be promotional tools for the book, too. If you sign up to follow and participate, you will know before anyone when I’ve pressed that Upload button, and when those online stores send the “Approved” email, letting me know the book is available for sale. But honestly, the discussion will be the most fun, and the most useful both to me, and potential readers.

Join the iOS Access for All community:

Of course, I will continue to post about the book on my own pages and feeds, but probably not in as much detail. You’re welcome!

Have I mentioned how excited I am to be working on this project?

May 2, 2013

Kindle Accessibility: So What?

Filed under: Access and Disability,General Store,New Media and Tech — Tags: , , , — Shelly Brisbin @ 7:31 AM

Amazon announced yesterday that its Kindle app for iOS had been updated to provide “more accessibility.” In fact, the update (with the inauspicious version number, 3.7) turns a largely inaccessible app into one that VoiceOver screen reader users can rely upon to read, navigate, and manage the contents of a Kindle library. And they did a great job, not merely making the app usable, but opening all Kindle iOS features up to VO.

The fact that blind people have Kindle libraries, given the limited native accessibility of Amazon’s hardware and mobile apps, is testament to the company’s dominant place in book-selling. So, too, are the aggressive efforts made by advocacy organizations for blind users, who have been lobbying Amazon to make this happen for some time. Sure, iOS users have been able to access iBooks since its inception, and Barnes & Noble’s Nook app was born speaking VoiceOver. But Amazon and Kindle retain big dog status, and those of us who have been nursing mistrust of the company must now work out for ourselves whether the proper reaction is joy and gratitude, or a harumphy “it’s about time.”

And despite the world-weary cynicism you might take from the previous paragraph, you should know that the accessible Kindle app is truly a thrilling thing. I have Kindle on my iOS devices, and quickly downloaded the update. When I opened the app with VoiceOver on, I anticipated something great. When I ran my finger across the screen and heard the iPad read book titles and the Kindle menu options (without the “btw” suffix that often indicates marginal accessibility), I was excited. And when I double-tapped to open a book, then did a two-finger swipe to tell VoiceOver to read a page, I became positively giddy.

Accessibility can be like that. You feel as if you have been given the keys to the locked room you’ve always wondered about. To use a closer metaphor, it’s like putting on your first pair of glasses, and suddenly being able to see the blackboard in school. Though I can and have read Kindle books with my eyes, and can and have used VoiceOver to read iBooks and Nook books, I have a strong urge to find a cozy corner, do a two-finger swipe, and luxuriate in the spoken/written word, brought to me by the accessible Kindle app, which gives me access to a library far larger than the one Apple offers.

Putting my news analyst hat back on for a moment, it’s worth reminding those of you who don’t follow this stuff that Amazon’s own hardware is not yet fully accessible, nor is the Kindle Android app. I take this as evidence of the power of those who fought for Kindle accessibility. You see, the people who use screen readers have invested their mobile device dollars in iOS, not Kindles, and not Android phones. Amazon got its priorities right, even if it took them far longer to make this move than many of us would have liked.

May 1, 2013

Accessible Kindling

Filed under: Access and Disability,General Store,New Media and Tech — Tags: , , , , — Shelly Brisbin @ 10:10 AM

It’s an exciting day in accessible publishing. Amazon has finally released an accessible version of its Kindle app for iOS. Frankly, Kindle’s inaccessibility has made that platform easy to ignore, in the community of VoiceOver users. iBooks, Nook, and plenty of other ebook readers offer access via text-to-speech, but neither the Kindle devices, nor Amazon’s apps have done so. Where to buy books then? Anywhere but Amazon. And where to publish books about accessibility? Anywhere but Amazon. Now, though, the playing field is different.

I continue to work on my book about accessibility in Apple’s mobile devices; iOS Access for All. I’ve been asked many times which publishing formats I intended to use, and I’ve always said that Kindle was a low- or no-priority, mostly because the platform hasn’t been accessible. That is both a practical and a political decision on my part. Besides–and nothing Amazon has done today changes this–the Kindle Store imposes high costs on independent publishers. I will be running numbers and continuing to ask potential readers their opinions and platform preferences.

My next post takes a look at how Kindle accessibility feels from a reader’s perspective.

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