I’ll start this post out with a confession: I’m an Apple addict. I love that company and the products they churn out. That being said, I’m also a technology junkie. I love to play with new gadgets and gizmos (regardless of who makes them) and see how they work and what they can do. I started my computer experience on a Windows based machine and had all the fancy assistive software to make it usable (and nearly died when I saw how much it would have cost had I had to pay for it). Then I got an iPod, which led to getting an iBook (the Apple laptop of that time) and it was all downhill from there.
On Saturday I made a trip to Perimeter mall to get some hands on experience with a product I was thinking of buying and saw there was as Microsoft Surface demo station near the food court. I have read about their response to the iPad (which I love) and decided to give it a test drive. Since I work for disABILITY LINK and have a disability myself I chose to approach the device from an assistive technology angle. I go up, pick up one of the devices and can’t really read it, so I start poking around to see if I can find the accessibility options. I couldn’t. A salesman comes up and asks if he can help me so I simply say: “can you tell me about the accessibility features on the Surface?” he looks at me for a second and then replies with: “well, you have to be specific because accessibility is different for everyone.”
I didn’t know whether to be impressed or annoyed with his response. It’s true, it can be different for everyone, but clearly I’m looking for some kind of visual alternative/assistance. So I ask for contrast settings, magnification and screen reader access. Instead of addressing the items that I asked about he goes into a sales pitch where he drops buzz phrases like “full Windows experience” and “full Microsoft Office Suite.” I had to stop him mid spiel and inform him that these features are great, but only if I can see them. When I asked again about making things bigger his solution was to attach it to an external monitor (because that’s what people want to do with a tablet device, right? Attach it to an external monitor?). At this point he saw my exasperation and called for the second man working the station. The second man said (and these were his words): “oh, I don’t think it does that,” when asked about magnification.
At that point I thanked them for their time (even though it was a waste of mine) and walked away, frustrated and annoyed. I wasn’t looking to buy a Surface, but after that experience I really don’t want one. I’m sure that there are accessibility features tucked away somewhere in that device, but they really need to train the demo “specialists” about all the features of the device they’re supposed to be selling or at least getting people interested in.