Road to CSUN Day 2

Day two on the Road to CSUN found us experiencing assistive technology in the great state of Oregon. Our first stop took us to Lake Oswego, which is southeast of Portland, and Boundless AT. Their headquarters are in a storefront, and my first impression was of a place that is buzzing with activity. It was not mindless chaos, but real purpose and passion for both the customers they serve, and the products and support they provide. I had the chance to talk with Gabe Trif, one of the company’s founders, about his passion for assistive technology. He is a sighted person, and has no family members with disabilities. Gabe sees a market, and wants to empower people by providing the necessary technology. He is seeing more of a trend toward individuals, rather than government agencies, purchasing technologies that will best meet their individual needs. Microsoft has been producing some superb interviews, and I encourage you to watch the videos in order to catch the enthusiasm of some remarkable people.

I do not say the following to leave anyone out, but I predict that if anyone is ready to meet the assistive technology needs of the 21st century, it is companies like Boundless AT and Handy Tech, who offer end-to-end solutions without breaking the bank or robbing the taxpayers. Both are Serotek resellers, and we’re honored to work with them.

From Lake Oswego, we traveled to Corvalis, OR, and the home of Viewplus Technologies. This company also had a wonderfully enthusiastic and dedicated staff. They are passionate about Braille literacy, and it shows in their innovative products. They are responsible for some of the high-quality software and embossers available in today’s market. I saw the Emprint SpotDot Color Ink & Braille Printer, and am very excited about this technology. This is something that could be made available in a local office supply store or business center. Documents can, with very little formatting, and the press of a few buttons, be produced with print and Braille on the same page. Imagine how many more people might make their documents available in braille if it was as easy to do as going to the local Kinko or Office Max!

Remember that Serotek does not sell these products. I share them with you because I think they are exciting, and I believe they can revolutionize and revive the use of Braille. The high cost of Braille displays and embossers will not come down until someone makes a concerted effort to make this happen. The best way to encourage companies to see that taking such steps is worthwhile is to advocate for Braille. The more people who use it, and who encourage businesses and agencies to make their materials available in Braille, the more companies will see it as a viable medium, and will seek lower cost ways to produce and display it.

So far, the thing I have enjoyed most on this trip is meeting others who are passionate about accessibility. People are sometimes under the mistaken impression that working with technology is always fun. However, because we want to give people the kind of user experience they need and want, the focus is often on what is wrong and how it can be fixed. I’m meeting people who are passionate about independence and accessibility. It’s as if there is one big accessible chorus, and they are singing and asking when am I, when are you, going to join our voices with theirs.

I have heard often from people who feel it is not right that one blind person is seen as representing everyone. The fact is that for many people, you may be the only blind person they ever meet. Because their impressions will be based on each one of us, it’s time to forget our hang-ups and reservations, and jump into the accessibility pool with both feet. A great way to do this is through social networking. Companies are reading what consumers write, so your voice and mine, together and separately, can most definitely make a difference. Whether you contribute quite a lot or very little, what you say has power, and what you do has power. Whether you write a blog, post to Twitter, write a letter, or talk with your friends face to face, what you say can and does make a difference. It doesn’t matter whether you’re Chief Cook and Bottle Washer, or Chief Executive Officer. What matters is that you let your voice be heard.

Daniel Hubbell has really been the Accessibility Evangelist for Microsoft. The Bible has the following to say about God’s Word: “It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire.” Dan has put out the word for accessibility, and is busy advocating for what the community needs. I think it is amazing that Microsoft is seeking information for us, by us, and with us. I do not doubt for a moment that this is indeed a history-making road we are traveling.

Our next stop is Eureka, in the great state of California. My main regret upon leaving Oregon is that while in her town, I was not able to stop and visit with Alena Roberts and her husband. Alena is one of the cohosts of the Triple Click Home podcast, and I encourage you to give it a listen.

Before I close, I would be remiss if I did not mention an additional gadget I have encountered at the Holiday Inns where we have been staying. They have the Popcake Maker, which we have all been enjoying very much. If you like, you can watch an interview on YouTube which describes Popcakes in more detail.

I should have internet connectivity today, and look forward to chatting with you. Feel free to listen or participate. You can listen via iBlink Radio, the Tech Chat Room on SAMNet, or via our Accessible Event at the Road to CSUN page. If you have the iBlink app, please feel free to leave us your comments there. On Twitter, you can follow me, as well as the Microsoft Accessibility Team. Also, don’t forget to search for the #Road2CSUN hashtag to keep up with all the exciting things that are happening on the Road to CSUN!

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