" ITREALMS: Steve Wonder calls for accessible technology


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Monday, February 02, 2009

Steve Wonder calls for accessible technology

•For the blind

Soul music legend, Stevie Wonder has called on technology companies to make their gadgets more accessible to blind people.

The star, who became blind as a premature baby, says he uses every piece of technology he can in order to help him in everyday life, including a Blackberry and a talking iPod, reports Charles Okoh with agency input.

Some new devices such as touch screens pose a particular challenge to blind people as they do not offer the tactile feel of devices with buttons.

The star said it was only fair and right in those circumstances that manufacturers make it possible for adaptors to be purchased. In the case of a touch screen phone - that could be a tactile unit to sit on top of it.

“Being more accessible is always a plus and I think really, for various companies that are working with this technology and making it exciting and accessible for people who can see, it would take very little to make it accessible to everyone,” he said.

Urging technology manufacturers to come the aid of people like him.

“So, I encourage all the manufacturers to do that,” he said, stressing “when you can ... make it accessible and make it possible, you should just include that in the overall picture, you have a growing number of people, aging people that will need things to be more accessible as well as the hundreds of thousands of blind people in the world, so just let’s keep it real,” he said.

Wonder said access to technology was far better than 20 years ago.

“I think just as having access to information, being able to read books, electronic brail, and digital information that are accessible has made things far easier for a blind person.

He recalled the early days of the Kurzweil reading machine which at the time was the size of two large suitcases. Now such devices are no bigger than a camera.

Wonder said that despite some amazing stories of technological advances enabling people to recover their sight, he did not believe they would benefit him - although he had seen a doctor who had carried out some testing.

He believed he lost his sight as premature baby when he had insufficient oxygen in an incubator.

Despite this, in more than 40 years as a singer-songwriter, he has racked up over 30 Top Ten hits, 22 solo Grammy Awards, nine US number ones, a lifetime achievement award, and sold 100 million albums.

His call is being supported by the National Federation of the Blind in the United States, which said that a little more thought during the design process could make a huge difference for anyone with a disability.

For instance, most microwave ovens have flat control panels, but replacing them with slightly raised buttons would enable a blind person to navigate their way around because there are points of reference.

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