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Sunday, February 8

Need an accessibility advocate?

I can't think of a better accessibility champion, exponent, evangelist and spokesperson than Stevie Wonder.

From an interview with Popular Science:

Though blind, Wonder has mastered the visually-oriented personal computer—both PCs and Macs. He edits all his music using sophisticated programs such as Steinberg Cubase and Apple Logic Pro. When a program presents a roadblock (for example, not providing audio feedback to direct him), he uses third-party accessibility software or asks [Lamar Mitchell, one of his technology assistants] to write macros that automate complex tasks.

At this year's Consumer Electronics Show, Wonder presented his Vision Free awards to 19 companies and organizations for making products that the blind can use. Some were deliberate efforts, such as a news reading service for the blind created by National Public Radio, iBiquity Digital and radio manufacturer DICE Electronics. Others made accessible products "without even realizing that they were doing it," said Wonder. BlueAnt's V1 Voice Control Headset was designed because even sighted people can't see the buttons or LCD of a device on the side of their heads. But those features also make the Bluetooth headset useable for blind people.

POPSCI: Do you think the blind and visually impaired, and perhaps also deaf and hearing impaired, are more tech savvy because technology helps them in some ways?

WONDER: Well I think obviously it is important for them to gravitate to what can possibly give them some ways into the things that they have to do…For a blind person, if you hear about a thing like a camera that can take a picture of a page and speak it out to you, of course you want to use that.

So the key is for the government to subsidize such things so they are, cost-wise, what a normal person can afford.

POPSCI: Do you think the huge advances in technology in the past ten, twenty years have made life easier or harder for people who have any impairment? Or has it been a mixed bag?

WONDER: I think it's definitely made life easier. But if you're going to make products easier for a person who can see, to have this more convenient, then make it accessible for the person who is blind or deaf. I hear manufacturers say, "Oh, we forgot about that," or "Oh, that's interesting." Well, think! Make your products a convenience for everyone. Be an all-inclusive company.

[Pet peeves?] A lot of the things with a touch screen. It's impossible to use. So if you're going to do that, then maybe provide some kind of overlay that will allow accessibility to the product for users who are blind…

I think the more that people understand and are able to have information, then the more possibility that someone will find a key to peace.

I have this song that I wrote which is called All About the Love Again… And it says:

What if someone made a soda that caused everyone to love each other.

Ummm, oh yeah, sounds good, so good to me

And if just a tiny pill would make us see that we're all truly sisters and brothers

Ummm, oh yeah that sounds so nice to me


You know, GPS is an incredible thing…When I have it on and I'm riding around, I notice the different signs. And I see that the spelling of what they are saying for those names isn't anything like how I thought they would be spelled.

And what I've learned is that because sighted people are able to read all the time and see things, it becomes like second nature…So I understand now why a person who's sighted can really read more fluently—because they are always seeing these letters, seeing these words in some form or another.

And then it allows you to understand the ways and the habits of a sighted world.

HT: Chris


MJ Ray has emailed me to point to an interview on BBC News 24's Click with Stevie.


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