Letter to the Editor

The contents of this column reflect the letters we had received by the time we went to press, March 4, 2011. Letters are limited to 300 words or fewer. All submissions must include the author's name and location. Opinions expressed are those of the authors.

The Effects of the Digital Age Push People's Buttons

Many blind people have spent decades fighting for equal employment opportunities, equal treatment on the airlines, and the ability to maintain first-class status in all other walks of life. Although there are many adaptive products on the market to help a blind person become independent, I'm afraid that the digital age is having a direct effect on how accessible these products are going to be. Many push-button products are suddenly made with flat screens, and some manufacturers include a menu-driven feature. Such products include radios, dishwashers, remote controls, clocks, and police scanners. Are consumer groups trying to convince manufacturers that they can't go along with this sophisticated trend? I own several products that I had to ask a sighted person to set up. I remember setting up these same products by myself when I had their original versions years ago. I feel that the problem should be addressed somehow with manufacturers.

Another example of an adaptive product not being adaptive for the people it was meant for was a talking information center radio. Here in Massachusetts, the radio reading service was giving out radios with features for sighted users. Why would a blind person want to adjust a clock on a visual screen?

I would like to hear your suggestions as to how the blind can send a clear message to manufacturers about considering our needs a little better, because it's obvious that they're not. If enough of us get in touch with our Congressmen, we might be able to send a clearer message to these companies to revise their thinking when manufacturing products. We do not wish to be caught up in a revolution that is steamrolling over commerce.

I welcome your constructive comments. My e-mail address is branco182@verizon.net.

- Bob Branco, New Bedford, Mass.