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Stevie Wonder Says Touch-Screen Gadgets Exclude the Blind

Last week at CES, advocates for the blind -- music icon Stevie Wonder among them -- discussed the future of blind-accessible electronics, according to a Reuters report.

While Wonder cited an iPod and BlackBerry as gadgets he regularly uses and enjoys, he still finds plenty of room for improvement in regards to gadgets' becoming more accessible to blind consumers. "If you can take those few steps further, you can give us the excitement, the pleasure and the freedom of being a part of it," he explained.

But, with the current prevalence of touch screens in cutting-edge gadgets, those steps could prove to be difficult ones.

"Can I ski 60 miles an hour downhill? Yes. Use a flat panel microwave? No," laughed Mike May, President of Sendero Group. Blind himself, May's company offers accessible GPS units with specially-designed audio features.

Because many touch-screen gadgets, like the iPhone, have no tactile quality to their controls, the new wave of gadgets cannot be used, or at least easily used, by blind consumers. At present, audio 'reading' software for smart phones is available, but the programs are expensive, limited in compatibility and -- to many blind users -- not sufficiently helpful.

Anne Taylor, the director of access technologies at the National Federation for the Blind, has suggested that designers incorporate tactile response, distinct function-assigned sounds and a start-over button in their models.

Ever ahead of the curve, Google's developers are already working to make touch-screen phones more accessible to the blind.

Intriguingly, and on another front, developers at National Public Radio have announced designs for an innovative software that could connect a digital radio to a device that generates Braille text, allowing blind users to literally read the radio.

We can only hope that, as technology marches on for most people, it will march on for all people. [From: Reuters]

Tags: accessibility, blind, celebrity, ces-2009-top, expire-images2010-1-9, music, stevie wonder, StevieWonder, top