Hello fello committee members. After some consideration and a look at
your responses to the letter forwarded from Dr. Jernigan, here is the
response I will be faxing to the National Office tomorrow morning.
January 21, 1996
Dr. Keneth Jernigan
National Center for the Blind
1800 Johnson St.
Baltimore, MD 21230
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
After submitting the letter you forwarded to me to the members of the
committee on research and development, I would like to set down the
following response to the brief note from Pedro Zuritos.
I believe that it is a positive step to open dialogue with a major
electronics manufacturing company in order to alert them to the different
needs of the blind consumer. However, we must remember that some of the
products that these companies manufacture, are, by their very nature,
inaccessible to the blind. For example, while I would like to be able to
use the programming features of a video camcorder, there is no doubt in my
mind that its primary function is recording visual pictures and storing
them onto video cassette. This very purpose limits the device's
usefulness to most blind people.
I would hope that the World Blind Union would adopt the philosophy that
the blind should be able to manipulate electronic devices, or understand
what their electronic devices are doing at any given moment, but that if
the electronic device has a function which is inherently visual in nature,
that there will not be a major effort to try and translate that
functionality into an alternate form. Given the example above, I would say
that a blind operator ought to know when the camera is recording, what the
tape settings are, perhaps how much tape is left on the current reel, etc.
but that there should be no attempt to represent the camera's current field
of view to the blind user in some alternate format.
Another point that I'd like to address is the issue of which devices get
addressed first. I assume that Sony is not going to go out and try and
re-tool every prodduct that they make in order to make it accessible. this
probably isn't necessary in the first place, and certainly does not make
sense from a business point of view. Thus, with a limited number of
resources, I would like the dialogue between the blind and any large
electronics manufacturer, be it Sony or some other corporation, to consist
of what products they make that pose the greatest challenges to blind
people, and which ones would provide the most benefit to bline people if
they were redesigned. I am concerned that programmable VCR's and
television are always taken on first because they have the most "appeal" in
the press, rather than because they would provide the most benefit to the
blind if they were made accessible. In my opinion, microwave ovens and
programmable ranges would come above televisions and VCR's in my list of
products that should be made accessible. Or, what about thermostats on
home heating systems?
In conclusion I would like to reiterate that dialogue between the blind
and corporations such as Sony can be a positive step for the blind.
However, that dialogue should consist of talking about how products can be
made more accessible, either through redesign or repackaging, and which
products should be put at the top of the list. We will not earn the favor
of large corporations if we ask them to invest large sums of money
researching pipe dream ideas to make products which, by their very nature,
are inaccessible. We should not be shy about making requests which would
afford a substantial benefit to blind users, but we should recognize that
not all products can be made accessible and that those products which are
accessible and those which aren't are not always as easy to identify as one
might think. Finally, I would say that any organization of blind people
that wants to pursue talks with a large manufacturer of electronic
equipment, should be familiar with the language Jim Gashel drew up after
the meeting last year at the National Center for the Blind concerning the
accessibility of the National Information Infrastructure. I believe it
says, pretty concisely, how accessibilyty should be defind, and how the
blind should work with manufacturers to get it.
Very truly yours,
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