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Geek to the beat

Last week
released a beta version of it's music download service. This was a surprise to me, in more ways than one.

It surprised me because I don't really believe every rumor on every blog I read, so I wasn't expecting it. Even when I do think something is coming, I don't know if it will end up applying to me.

But the biggest reason I was surprised was that, shock of shocks, it was accessible! I'm not talking "slap on a screen reader users click here" link and say "if you use your screen reader like a pro you should be able to access our service" accessible. Rather, I'm talking truly accessible in the sense that if you know how to use your screen reader on Amazon, you can download music. I won't go into how to do this here, but rather, I'll discuss why this is so exciting to me.

For years, I've been envious of sighted iPod and iTunes users. Neither product is accessible enough that I want to support Apple with my financial resources, because mostly, you have to retro-fit solutions onto both products, and it's not an easy process. So I have not been able to legally download music and play it on a player which is optimized for music.

True, I did have a Book Port, which served me well. But it's designed for books, and, in my opinion, isn't optimized for music playing. So, those files that I did have, ripped from CDS or by some other means, were pretty much tied to my laptop, BrailleNote, cell phone or a small Creative MuVo or Zen Stone. None of these really did what I wanted. A cell phone plays music, but audio on a cell phone isn't optimal for music listening. The Creative players worked, but didn't give me any audio feedback other than the music. In other words, I couldn't easily skip to the country folder after doing relaxation exercises. The BrailleNote is excellent, but larger than I always want to carry around. There are very specific tasks I do with my BrailleNote, and in making choices of folder structures, I'd planned more for school.

In short, I wanted a cute player which did music well, and which gave me information. That came in the form of my Stream, which I primarily use for books, but which I can also, quite easily, use for music. It's optimized for both.

So, with the creation of an accessible, affordible downloadable music service, and my Stream, I'm now set. I can listen to music, and do it with the same ease, cuteness, and enjoyability of an iPod. It just so happens that I do it differently. I know we've arrived in one area, when sighted friends and colleagues say "I wantt one of those."

When I hear comments like that, I want to dance. It means we're at a point where we as people with disabilities have something others want, not because it's "inspirational" or "different" but because it does what we all need (read and listen to music), bbut also has a "coolness" factor too.


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Oct. 3rd, 2007 04:29 am (UTC)
A couple of things. First, that is awesome and I bestow a celebratory hug upon you. Second, does your email work yet? I sent you a message a little while ago about possibly writing a piece for the magazine I'm interning for and I remember you said something about your inbox being crazy, so I was just wondering...
Oct. 3rd, 2007 09:51 pm (UTC)
ah, another music download service...IMO the more of those we get, the better. Are the songs just WMA files?
Right now I use iTunes and I have a 30 gig iPod and love them. It kinda bugs me that people rip iTunes and the iPod without even trying it. The reason I hesitate to tell other people to use it though, is because the JAWS scripts are waaaaay too expensive for a program that is free. I kind of agree about the iPod itself though...I had rockbox on mine for awhile but I got rid of it because I felt it was too limitting...I wanted to be able to listen to my purchased content (which I have alot of) mixed in with my music ripped from CD's.
I'm trying to figure out what I want to do once my iPod dies though. I love the way it allows you to browse your music by different criteria and not just by a file and ffolder structure. Yeah I know, I'm weird. The new PAC Mate, which I'm going to get anyway, does allow you to do that. I was kind of planning on just using that since FS is marketting it as a swiss army knife, saying how you can do all these things with it, meaning you don't have to cary alot of other things with you. Do you find it better to cary multiple devices with you, like the BN for school stuff, and the Stream for music and books, even though supposedly the BN can do both?
Oct. 3rd, 2007 10:08 pm (UTC)
Sorry, I forgot to mention in the post that they're mp3 files, which I think is neat. No DRM, no nothing.

I think my frustration with iTunes isn't so much that it can't be used, but I feel like any company should make their product accessible as much as possible. I shouldn't need to be an amazing screen reader user, or buy expensive scripts just because they didn't bother to make the product usable. It's more a philosophical thing, I guess. I'm glad that's working for you, though.

I do find having various devices helpful. For the way I think, I like that I use the BrailleNote for Braille stuff (school, books I want to read in Braille, email, writing, internet etc). The stream holds both leisure and school stuff, though. It does the audio stuff very, very well.

I haven't read up on the new PM, mainly because it isn't something I need and I just haven't had time. So it depends on how big it is.

Generally, I like a few smaller things (cell phone, Stream, smaller laptop and BN), because they each do their job. I tend to not believe that one device does it all, in the ways I need. That's preference, though, so I'm completely aware it's not how everyone feels.

Thanks for commenting, you brought up interesting points!
Oct. 4th, 2007 03:53 am (UTC)
I am also always looking for new, more efficient, more capable ways of information management as well as music and book enjoyment. I am quite excited about the stream and plan to get one in the near future. Everything I have heard sounds like it is an outstanding product for the price, particularly when you consider what it is right out od the gate and the potential for building on a good thing. Anyway, I find it interesting that you mention using an Ipod which you no longer run rockbox on. Is it that you have enough vision to work with its interface that way if you want to or have you found another way of making it accessible? Maybe it is just that you live with its limited accessibility? I'm really just curious.
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