Guest Post by Lightgetsin: The one where I shout about able-bodied technology privilege for a while

Guest post bylightgetsin, originally posted April 29, 2010.

I love it when well-meaning able-bodied people try to pimp their technology at me because hey, they just got this new gadget, and it’s accessible, isn’t that cool? I should get one!

No. No it is not, and no I will not, and I am getting progressively less and less polite about this. Like the random dude this morning who was all, “my GPS talks, you should get one!”

Okay. For the record. Your GPS may “talk,” but it is not accessible. Maybe it will vocalize directions, but what good does that do me? How am I supposed to use the touch screen controls, all the menus with no speech, the setup process, the default reliance on graphical maps? I mean, seriously, in what universe where you think about this for more than five seconds is that accessible?

As a matter of fact, I do have a GPS. It is not the cute little “it’s only $250” model this guy shoved at me this morning. Mine cost seventeen hundred dollars, runs on a proprietary software platform, is three times the size, and currently has wildly outdated maps.

“It talks” =/= accessible.

Also, telling me after I point out that a website is really inaccessible that “it has hotkeys, you know,” is not helpful. Hotkeys, on the extremely rare occasion they actually work (they are usually duplicative and suppressed by all my intricate native Windows and screenreader keyboard commands), also =/= accessibility. I can maybe hit a link, but how am I supposed to, I don’t know, read the website text? Awkward.

Also, the next person to tell me to get a Kindle . . . really shouldn’t. The Kindle occasionally reads a book out loud, though of course not as many now that Amazon has thrown its users under the buss in the face of an illusory and baseless copyright complaint. I’ve helped out with the Reading Rights Coalition, so I could go on about this at great length. But the Kindle itself is not accessible, and Amazon has no plans to make the relatively minor adjustments to make it baseline usable.

I have a handheld reading device. Hint: it cost more than a Kindle.

Accessibility comes at a financial premium as much as five or six times the going market rate for any given device, and usually runs years behind the curve. I’m going to need to use a Blackberry next year – an access solution for Blackberry just came out a few months ago (costing several hundred dollars over top of the normal Blackberry purchase price, of course), and by all accounts it is a largely nonfunctional piece of crap.

Apple might be pursuing out-of-the-box accessibility with no consumer premium, but pretty much no one else is. And OSX still isn’t a viable choice for me as Voiceover doesn’t do a half dozen things I need it to. So no, random gadget probably isn’t accessible, and frankly I’d rather not hear about it and have to explain again why not and just how much more money I will be paying for something that does less.

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