Karen and I took a short trip this morning down to the National Federation of the Blind of Arizona’s state convention. The hotel where it is being held is only a couple of miles from our house! We took a look at several exhibits and visited with a few people we know in the Federation. There may also be a new opportunity to promote accessibility coming from this visit. I think the short visit was worthwhile, and we will be returning this evening for a couple of hours to do some more socializing.
One of the neat opportunities we enjoyed was a live, hands on demonstration of the Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind (K-NFB) Reader. Though the device is, indeed, very portable, we were both disappointed at the lack of tactile controls on the PDA. All the keys on the front panel are close together and there is precious little tactile differentiation between four of the most important controls. Despite the use of mainstream technologies in both the camera and PDA components, we would expect the people integrating them to ensure the greatest possible usability of the final product. Our concerns are that people with nerve damage and those who are novice technology users may have significant difficulty locating and pressing the keys on the front of the PDA. The representative suggested the user might add these tactile features, but I feel this is an unreasonable burden posed by an assistive technology product of this nature. As always, your thoughts are appreciated.
There are many other disappointing things to note about the KNFB Reader. The issue that one must recharge multiple components, the fact that connecting/disconnecting the various pieces is not easy for non technical users and the incredible patience it takes to aim the unit effectively are all points that tend to fall through the sales pitch.
If you price out the various components and then compare the overall price to what they are asking for the unit you will see that there is a very large gap between the two sums. A $900 price drop helped but the device is still very expensive for off the shelf devices with modified Kurzweil software.
The device’s idea is sound, however, when the technology in mobile phones has matured the next generation of the KNFB Reader will be outstanding. For now PDA/Camera combos are too cumbersome for novice users.
My KnFB Reader indicates it has serial number 100, and I was the first person in line to purchase it at the 2006 convention. There have been several software upgrades since I purchased it, and it works better each time I upgrade. NFB should be praised for introducing such an innovative product. The expense is already coming down.
Power to the Peeps!
I’ve had one since it came out. I’ve knicknamed it the KNFB Crasher. I was able to fix the crashing part with rubber bands and duct tape. Yes, this is true. The connection between the camera and the PDA was loose so I put a rubber band around the unit and held it in place with duct tape. It functions better now. But for the price I think it should have come with the duct tape.