Seattle’s Beep Baseball Team on TV

 

The Seattle Sluggers, a beep baseball team, started playing last year. One of the local TV stations just ran a story on the team. I thought the reporter did a good job at explaining the sport and not making people who are blind sound either helpless or like super freaks, the two ends of the spectrum that can often happen with this kind of story. I am part of the team and find it a nice change from the world of computer accessibility.

 

The story is at http://www.king5.com/on-tv/evening-magazine/A-Ball-And-A-Bat-And-A-Blindfold-Equals-A-Challenging-Dare-Dever-261174181.html. The direct link to the video is http://www.king5.com/video?id=261174181&sec=583387&ref=rcvidmod. You can learn more about the sport of beep baseball on the National Beep Baseball Association’s home page.

Random Audio to Enjoy

A bit of hard drive cleaning had me sifting through some of the random audio I’ve captured over the years. So if the internet allows one to cater to self-indulgent delights of sharing information others may or may not find interesting, here are just a few sounds from the past few years. Use the links at the end of each description to play the audio.

 

Cape Foulweather on the Oregon Coast

 

The Oregon coast is one of my favorite places. The power and majesty of the Pacific merge with forests that smell so fresh at numerous hiking destinations. It is always a treat to be standing on the edge of land with the waves crashing below you. I find that sound experience just breathtaking and Cape Foulweather is one of the best for this.

 

Cape Foulweather

 

Baseball Foul Ball

 

Last year I treated a brother and myself to some tickets right behind home plate at a Seattle Mariners game. We were three rows off the field and pretty much directly behind home plate. What a lucky catch on my part to be recording a bit of game audio when a player fouled one off the screen which was probably no more than 10 feet in front of us. I love the reaction from fans around us too.

 

Baseball Foul Ball

 

Natural Bridge Caverns

 

The Natural Bridge Caverns in Texas make for an interesting shorter walk through some underground caverns. The rooms are quite large and you hear water dripping and running throughout much of the walk.

 

Natural Bridge Caverns

 

Crows Gone Wild

 

One afternoon some crows just went absolutely wild in the backyard. It was like something out of a horror movie. They kept on like what you hear in the audio here for about 30 minutes.

 

Crows Gone Wild

 

Eight Job Openings on Microsoft CSS Accessibility Team

The Customer Services and Support (CSS) team I work for at Microsoft is growing with several exciting opportunities now available. The team has eight new positions available across the three areas where the team has a charter and focus. This includes three spaces: Disability & Accessibility, Online Safety, and Privacy.  The team is focused on driving innovation that will enable all customers with Microsoft services and devices. The Disability Answer Desk is one such innovation, providing a rich support experience for all our customers.  It came from small beginnings with a pilot 18 months ago, and is now handling over 1000 issues a month.  It’s been received well (check out this from the AFB), and we’re excited to look at how we can expand and drive to reach more customers globally.  Subject Matter expertise in Disability and Accessibility is a huge asset to roles in this team: the more we can understand our customers, the more empathy we have to designing the right experience!  The team is also hiring an Accessibility expert to help manage broad spanning programs across a division of 50K folks.”

 

If you are interested in any of the roles, please follow the directions on the external link and feel free to share this information to any individuals or locations that may be interested.

 
 

JobID

Role and Team

External Link

868927

Disability Answer Desk.  Senior Supportability Manager

http://bit.ly/1mHKYJM

870387

  

Disability Answer Desk.  Support Escalation Engineer

http://bit.ly/1mHNNdA

  

870386

  

Disability Answer Desk.  Business Program Manager (Readiness)

http://bit.ly/1mHO8gD

  

870384

  

Disability Answer Desk.  Senior Technical Advisor

http://bit.ly/1mHPbgo

  

870160

SMSG Accessibility.  Director Business Programs

http://bit.ly/1mHNujc

  

869056

  

Service Delivery Manager (works across Accessibility, Online Safety and Privacy)

http://bit.ly/1mHMYBL

  

870385

  

Privacy.  Senior Technical Advisor

http://bit.ly/1mHOsfi

868929

Privacy.  Senior Supportability Manager

http://bit.ly/1mHLRBU

  

 
 

The NFL Needs to Learn From the MLB When It Comes to Accessibility

I’ve written a time or two about the accessibility challenges with MLB and that league’s internet offerings. To the credit of the various advocates who have worked with MLB to improve things, MLB has resolved the vast majority of issues around the accessibility of what they offer on the web and in various apps. In many ways MLB could be a model of how to handle accessibility for live sports and screen readers.

 

Unfortunately like much of accessibility, it seems we have to go over the same ground time and time again. This time it is with the NFL and many of their offerings. As just one example, the NFL now has an iOS app that could serve as a model of what developers can do wrong for app accessibility. Nameless controls, poor support for VoiceOver and more. Even the NLF’s main mobile app page is a dizzying array of accessibility challenges. Thus far emails and phone calls to various contacts I can locate for the NFL have gone unanswered. It is really unfortunate that it takes this much effort to make progress but I guess it is time to crank things up a bit and try to get some attention from the NFL around accessibility.

Sad State of Technology Press and Accessibility

Any study of the journalism business will show that even today by and large the media does not understand disability or accessibility. Typically we get stories on one of the two ends of the spectrum of possibilities. Either stories talk about everything being horrific or they tout things that are basics that people with disabilities accomplish as being something magically fantastic. And that’s assuming you get coverage at all.

 

The lack of coverage is I suppose a bit frustrating to me on a personal level at various times. Last year I found it interesting to see how the work Apple did around accessibility in their Maps app getting absolutely no coverage in the mainstream tech press. And now the same tech press is trumpeting improved versions of several Yahoo mobile apps as a sign of rebirth at the company with no reference to the reversal in accessibility for many of these same apps. As an example, the updated fantasy football app has become all but unusable on the iOS platform with Apple’s VoiceOver screen reader.

 

I hold no illusions here. I know how the news business works and recognize that accessibility isn’t something viewed as important enough to cover, let alone understand, by most of the press. It is though I suppose a bitter pill to swallow at times to recognize where one does and does not stand within the mainstream universe.

Amazon Corrects Accessibility Regressions in Amazon Fresh App

Recently I wrote about an update to the Amazon Fresh app that was supposed to make the app more accessible but actually did the reverse. A little more than a week ago, Amazon released a second update that had the actual accessibility fixes I suspect were supposed to be present with the first update. The app now works better than ever with VoiceOver. Amazon Fresh currently only delivers groceries in the Seattle area but if you are in the delivery area, the service is worth a try.

 

The improvements involved giving correct names to multiple controls in the app. It makes shopping significantly faster.

Amazon Fresh iOS Update Has Accessibility Issues

Amazon Fresh offers grocery delivery in the Seattle area. One of the methods you can use to place orders is with an iOS app. The app was updated today listing accessibility improvements as one of the items addressed in the update.

Something must have gone wrong because the app actually introduces some critical accessibility problems that make it tough to use the app at all. Most notably, in an area where you shop by isle names, the isle names went from perfectly readable with VoiceOver to generic names of “isle title”.

Similarly, when you pick an isle, all the products listed now get the name of “item title, item price”. Ironically the price per ounce and such actually reads correctly as a number.

I have reported these issues to Amazon. If I hear back I’ll update things on the blog.

Take Note How You Purchase MLB Gameday Audio

With baseball’s opening day just a couple days away, a friendly note for anyone who might not have purchased a Gameday Audio subscription yet. MLB is advertising this year that if you subscribe to Gameday audio on a device such as an iPhone, one subscription will work on the device as well as the MLB.com web site.

While this is true, the reverse is not. That is, if you subscribe to the web site version of Gameday audio, that account will not work to listen to audio on a device such as an iPhone. If you go the iPhone purchase route, use app settings to add your subscription to the MLB.com web site and avoid paying for two subscriptions.

Mixing Sound From Multiple Computers on the Cheap

At both home and work I use several computers and have grown tired of the clutter from multiple sets of speakers filling my desk. Still, there are times when I want to hear the audio from more than one computer at a time, so don’t want to use the typical switchbox connections for switching computer audio along with keyboards and monitors.

 

After exploring various options, the solution that has worked well for me is The Belkin Rockstar. It is nothing fancy and primarily intended to plug multiple headphones into a single audio device. But audio being what it is, it is just as easy to use the unit to connect multiple audio sources to a single set of speakers. At just under $12 from Amazon, along with some audio cables from Deep Surplus, the entire solution cost me less than $20.

 

This is definitely a low-tech solution. Anyone who works with audio will recognize one of the limitations of this solution is that the more devices you connect to a simple device like the Rockstar, the lower the volume of all the devices ends up being. Audio quality does not degrade though with this setup beyond the volume level. For me the system has been working well for several months and works well even when multiple computers are producing speech at the same time.

 

You can connect a total of five sound sources to the Rockstar and one set of speakers. The device comes with one audio cable ending in a standard male 3.5mm (1/8″) jack hard wired into it. When used for the default purpose of connecting multiple headphones, this is the cable you would connect to the audio source you want to share. When using the Rockstar, as I am to connect multiple sound sources, whatever audio source you connect to this hard wired cable has the loudest audio in the resulting configuration. There are five 3.5mm female ports on the device. Use four for additional audio sources and one to connect speakers or headphones—whatever you want to use to listen to your computer audio.

Uber iOS update Makes Service Worth Considering When Using VoiceOver

Uber bills itself as “everyone’s private driver”. I’m sure the marketing folks behind the service can give a full description about what’s supposed to be great about the service. To me, I think of it as a service trying to merge technology with taxis and improve on the situation.

The basic premise behind Uber is that you use your smart phone or a web site to request a driver and get notifications about how far away the driver is, ratings from other users about the driver, automatic credit card billing for the ride and such. As someone who has a need to take a cab from time to time, I was intrigued when I first read about the service and that it was available in the Seattle area. This was met with disappointment when I first tried the Uber app because it failed miserably with VoiceOver.

To Uber’s credit they recently updated the app to improve the VoiceOver experience and I can say that the app now works quite well with VoiceOver.

I’ve had the opportunity to try Uber for rides a few times recently and can say that if the service is available in your city it is worth exploring.

To be clear, Uber is more expensive than a traditional taxi. Rates differ in each city but as an example in King county Washington, where Seattle is located, taxi rates are as far as I know today $2.50 to get in a cab and $2.70 per mile. For comparison, Uber charges $7 to get a car, $3.75 per mile with a $12 minimum charge.

Although my sample size is small, I will say that the Uber estimates about driver arrival times so far have been accurate to within a minute on every ride I’ve scheduled. In the more than 12 years I’ve taken traditional cabs in Seattle, estimates about arrival time, let alone actually getting a cab in the areas where I travel, has always been at best an adventure. I know my last experience involved more than a 60 minute wait and at least three calls to the cab company.

For me Uber won’t replace all my traditional taxi use. As I mentioned, the price is clearly higher. Yes you can make the argument that you get what you pay for but I won’t necessarily always need the level of service Uber offers. Still I’ll give the company credit for addressing the VoiceOver and am fortunate to be in a position to support the accessibility efforts with my business from time to time.

I mention Uber to blog readers who may need another transit option to explore. If Uber is in your city, it is worth exploring.