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

March 13, 2018

Listen: Apple Brings Everyone Can Code To Some Kids In Austin

I had the pleasure of watching as 17 kids who attend Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired learn a bit about Swift Playgrounds, the environment Apple created to teach people how to code in the Swift language. Even better, I made a radio story about it for Texas Standard. I’m really proud of it.

I’m less proud that I forgot I had a blog, so I didn’t get around to telling you about all this until now. Apropos of that, I’m planning to restart my “all the podcasts” RSS feed, should you want to hear me behind the mic without a script in many forms and on many shows – whether I blog about them or not. I just need to find all the 2017 and 2018 appearances and line them up in a nice, neat column

December 11, 2016

I Did Not Buy a MacBook Pro

Filed under: New Media and Tech,Random Personal Nonsense — Tags: , , , — Shelly Brisbin @ 11:27 PM

Update: Now with a dramatic reading, as heard on NosillaCast #606, at about the 30 minute mark. Thanks to Allison for the opportunity to relive high school poetry interp competition. 

Lots and lots of people have asked if I bought a new MacBook Pro; the one with the dongles and the touch bar. And then, I couldn’t sleep. So I wrote a poem.

I Did Not Buy a MacBook Pro

When I’m on a podcast show,
To talk the tech with friends I know,
I cannot share their Apple glow,
I did not buy a MacBook Pro.

At coffee shops I seem low rent,
At least my money’s not all spent,
I can afford a latte though,
I did not buy a MacBook Pro.

No touch bar tops my keyboard tray,
Below the Space my wrists must stay,
Escape is pretty easy, though,
I did not buy a MacBook Pro.

Adapters, dongles, I know not,
Just Ethernet and SD slot,
Old USB is not so slow,
I did not buy a MacBook Pro.

It makes me seem a low-tech lass,
And not so upper-middle-class,
To type on something three years old,
I did not buy a MacBook Pro.

But my curiosity does grow,
So I’ll brave the Texas ice and snow,
And to the Apple Store I’ll go,
To gaze upon the MacBook Pro.

December 7, 2016

Roku Audio Guide Demo Cast

Roku added a spoken interface to its video streaming devices. This is good news for blind and print-disabled folks who like the idea of an inexpensive, easy-to-use, full-featured streamer. In this audio demo, I roll through the Audio Guide interface, and show you where it shines, and where it fails. If you have feedback or questions after listening, please hit me up on Twitter at @shelly.

Direct Download Link

October 25, 2016

iOS Access for All Update Released

Filed under: Access and Disability,Announcements,General Store,New Media and Tech — Shelly Brisbin @ 1:18 PM

I’m thrilled to announce that the new edition of my book, iOS Access for All, is ready and waiting for you right here. There you’ll find buy links, the table of contents, and many more words you can read. Get the ePub for $20.

I’m really proud of this one, and there’s a bit more new material this time than last. That’s partly due to Apple’s interface changes, and partly because I added depth to several topics. In addition to a complete update for iOS 10, you’ll find 80 pages of completely new material. I’m scheduling some dates with a few podcasters, so watch your feeds, as well as this blog for the plugs.

Learn all there is to know at the Web site, or just buy it right here.

Buy the ePub edition

Buy from the iBooks Store
buy from Apple's iBooks Store

June 1, 2016

Dropped Names Bonk Diversity on its Head

Filed under: New Media and Tech,Podcasting — Shelly Brisbin @ 9:00 AM

I listened to a well-known Apple-focused podcast the other day. The show is prat of a tech podcast network, and also part of a somewhat larger circle of people who, broadly speaking, cover the Apple beat. From this episode, I learned that the hosts love their iPads, their iOS apps, and their kind sponsors. I learned that they, like this week’s guest, have many friends who say things about Apple on their own tech podcasts. Actually, I knew that already, but the name dropping this week was especially heavy. The hosts’ mentions of their friends did not include a journalistic-style ID, just a first and last name for each colleague. In these familiar confines, no explanation seems necessary.

I can put myself in the minds of these hosts: they probably listen to the shows produced by their friends. They likely share a Slack channel. And drawing their combined Twitter feeds on a social graph would certainly produce a tight, overlapping set of circles. I have been that person, interacting with a smallish group of people who make and consume the same content, attend the same conferences, and venerate the same tech products, right down to the apps and phone cases they use. But when I listen in, I’m an outsider. I consume a few tech podcasts; shows that meet my interest in efficient delivery of information without a lot of chatter. I do not engage fully in the interlocking clusters of shows and networks that have developed around the Apple beat. Sure, my engagement is limited by my desire to listen to other kinds of shows, but I have always found fanboy insularity and group think to be a problem in Apple land. And podcasting has made it worse, with practitioners assuming that everyone listens to the same shows, and knows the same people. Uniformity of perspective, in-jokes, and a tendency toward referencing and respecting the same thought leaders make it difficult, and even a waste of time to listen to more than a few of these connected shows.

A few networks and thought leader types have made noises about diversity. It’s a thing now, right?  Occasional adjustments to guest lists sometimes result in a slight opening of the tent to new voices. But so long as referencing one’s friends is endemic, and, more problematically, producers assume the audience has the same friends, real diversity doesn’t stand a chance in tech podcasting, or anywhere in media.

March 10, 2016

Best Android Apps for People with Low Vision

Filed under: Announcements,New Media and Tech — Shelly Brisbin @ 1:04 PM

People think I’m an Apple-only geek. I have done little to dispel this notion, by my book and podcast work. But yay, verily, I offer proof that I can cross the platform when need arises. Here’s my AccessWorld roundup of some nifty Android apps that folks with low vision should find useful.

January 13, 2016

Is Apple TV Truly Accessible to Blind and Visually Impaired Viewers?

Filed under: Announcements,New Media and Tech — Tags: , , , , , — Shelly Brisbin @ 11:41 AM

I tackled the question of Apple TV accessibility for AccessWorld, the monthly magazine of the American Federation for the Blind.

October 14, 2015

Hey, I’m Writing for AccessWorld

Filed under: Access and Disability,Announcements,New Media and Tech — Tags: , , , — Shelly Brisbin @ 6:58 AM

I’m very excited to let you know that I’ve signed on as a contributor to the American Foundation for the Blind’s highly-regarded technology magazine, AccessWorld. My beats include tech products for low-vision users, and mobile stuff for both Android and iOS. My first piece is a review of the Revolution 22’, a hybrid consisting of a video magnifier and an Android tablet. It’s so much fun to be doing product reviews again!

August 30, 2015

Back in the Saddle: Check Out My New Podcast

Lately, I’ve been rediscovering my love of podcasting. For those of you who don’t know, and that includes a surprising number of friends and colleagues, I produced my first podcast in 2004, and continued to make shows on the regular for the better part of the next nine years. I have guested on many podcasts, and was active in the first wave podcasting community; the enthusiasts and semi-pros who congregated at the first few New Media Expo events. Oh yeah. And I ran Blogger & Podcaster Magazine, which sadly folded after a year-and-a-half run. 

It’s weird to feel I need to summarize my podcasting resume, but I do feel that need. The real point is that after putting podcasting on the back burner as I hustled up writing work, and taught myself how to publish a book, I’m feeling drawn back into making audio. 

My new show, now at episode #2, is called The Parallel: a tech podcast with accessibility sprinkles. As a consumer and a participant in both the mainstream tech journalism world, and the accessible tech community, I’m never entirely at home with the ways the two interact. My show brings these communities together for a conversation about tech that is informed by accessibility, but not dominated by it. Check out episode #1 for a slightly more detailed explanation.

Give it a listen, and if there’s anyone you think I should invite on, get in touch. The host plus two guests from different perspectives format could lend itself to some interesting conversations.

July 29, 2015

The Face We Show the World

Filed under: Access and Disability,New Media and Tech — Tags: , , — Shelly Brisbin @ 7:26 AM

This morning, I retweeted a USA Today column by James Alan Fox, a legally blind professor. Because low-vision! Mainstream media outlet! Yay!

He writes about the experience of using airports as a visually impaired person. As I read, I ticked off each point he made, recognizing them as my own travel frustrations. I felt much more connected to this guy’s experience than I do to the usual gripes about flight delays and TSA policies. The article is mildly funny, so that didn’t hurt. I especially liked the bit about not trusting a bored teenaged kid to interpret a fast food menu to your specifications. Been there. And not just in the airport.

On reflection, I wonder whether the appearance of this point of view in the mainstream press, especially in the form of a commentary, is a good thing after all. Sure, we want people to understand how life works when you’re visually impaired, making your way in a world that imposes barriers to getting your sh*t done. But will such complaints lead to better travel experiences? And do they leave the impression that low-vision folks can’t travel effectively?

I have often said that an airport can be an easier environment for a low-vision traveler than a city street. Most people in the airport flow in a particular direction, completing steps in the same order, and following signs with arrows to numbered gates. We’re all on foot, and on unfamiliar ground, so the playing field is a bit closer to level. In the city, traffic patterns differ by road, intersection and neighborhood, and no two people aim for the same ultimate destination. Signage is random, and so are passersby one might ask for help. In recent years, smartphone apps have significantly improved the airport experience, if only in terms of providing up-to-date gate information, and providing a way to conduct transactions in an environment (the phone screen) that is accessible and tailored to your specific needs. 

So is Professor Fox’s column useful? Most USA Today readers don’t design airports or those infuriating airline kiosks. And if our goal is to maintain independent travel experiences (rather than being held hostage to the whims of uninformed employees or fellow travelers trying to “help”) aren’t our efforts better spent lobbying airlines and educating architects about what does work for low-vision travelers? 

I recently participated in a travel-related study; giving feedback about a system designed to facilitate independent travel within an airport. It wasn’t as emotionally satisfying to provide technical feedback as it was to cosign an article that mirrors my own travel gripes, but it’s a practical way to be a part of the change I want.

It’s an unspoken truism among people with disabilities that raising the consciousness of the non-disabled world can have unintended consequences. Cluing the mainstream in about “what it’s like for us” elicits sympathy, diminishing our stature as competent adults., and making it tougher to achieve the accommodations that facilitate independence. 

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