Apple Keeps Us Moving Forward

It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to. You would cry, too.

After spending a year plus editing Larry Lewis’s book iOS Success: Making the iPad Accessible,multi color apple store it had a pregnant shelf life of exactly nine months. That’s because Apple pushed out a new baby shortly thereafter. And did I mention NBP edited, transcribed, proofed, pressed, and designed Larry’s book in seven different formats?

And now it’s happening again. After spending ten months with the remarkable Janet Ingber on her new book, Learn to Use the Mac with VoiceOver: A Step-by-Step Guide for Blind Users, an email arrived in my inbox: Will Janet be updating her Mac book this fall when Yosemite is released?

I didn’t reply. Instead, I went out and bought myself an oversized, anti-viral, ultra soft, aloe-soaked box of Kleenex and had myself a cry party. And then… sniff…

I got a tweet from that rascal Jonathan Mosen that he was already working on version 8 of his book, iOS 7 Without the Eye, which we transcribed last year. I stopped mid-sniffle and dashed off an email: Johnny, same deal as last time? You bet, came the reply. And then the incomparable Anna Dresner phoned: Will we want her to update Getting Started with the iPhone? Yes, please.

Not a word of complaint from Larry or Janet or Jonathan or Anna.apple new products Our indomitable authors (and consumers) are already moving on. It’s the way things are. Our authors, who are also consumers, have been “in the game” since 1984, when NBP published “A Beginner’s Guide to Personal Computers for the Blind and Visually Impaired.” I haven’t calculated how many technology books have shipped out since then, but I do know we’ve sold 11,844 iOS books alone.

James Baldwin said, “People can cry much easier than they can change.” It appears some do; others move on.

Blind iPhone Empowerment

I bought my first iPhone 4S only after downloading the first of NBP’s great books on the subject in 2011. Just three weeks ago, I was visiting my youngest son, Getting Started with the iPhone and iOS for Blind Users book coverDavid, in New York City and we decided to trek to the big Apple store in Grand Central Station so I could finally consider an upgrade to the iPhone 5S. I really wasn’t sure I wanted to upgrade just yet, but having a really experienced user with me to perhaps interpret anything that the salesperson was doing would be a help.

Upon entering the store, David says “There’s a blind guy with a guide dog working the sales counter.” NYC Apple storeSo naturally, we walked up to him and I began talking to him about the pros and cons of upgrading my phone. After a minute, he stops me and asks “What’s your first name?” When I tell him, he grabs my hand, “It’s Kyle Street from last summer’s ACB convention.”

My partner Kae and I had gone out with them for a great dinner last summer in Columbus; I had never met Kyle or his wife Chevonne before. He had been working at the Apple store in Raleigh – Durham at the time and transferred up to the New York City store the first of the year.

Finding Kyle at work ready to knowledgeably upgrade my phone made the decision really easy. For the next 45 minutes, we talked about the most useful blind friendly apps, what we liked and didn’t, and he gave me some pointers on using the 5S from our shared unique perspective. Kyle’s boss came over to listen and watch and get educated. Apparently, she had never seen him interact with a blind customer. We talked about NBP’s books and the braille screen protector guide on my phone, resources with which she was not familiar.

Nothing really unusual, right? Just a customer and a knowledgeable salesperson engaging in a transaction. Or, a great example of blind empowerment.

Best-sellers from the 2013 Conventions

We’re just back from the 2013 conventions in Orlando and Columbus – the National Federation of the Blind, and the American Council of the Blind, respectively. Because these two conventions usually bump up against each other (they even overlap from time to time!), our Publications team splits up and sends two people to each convention.

Photo of Tim Turnbull chattin with a customer at the ACB Convention in Columbus.

Tim Turnbull chats with a customer at the ACB Convention in Columbus.

We spend most of our time at the conventions in the exhibit hall, showing and selling our books and other tactile products. We love getting to meet our customers and supporters face to face; our customers, in turn, appreciate the rare opportunity to browse a table full of braille books.

Now, we’re back in the office. We’ve entered the orders and tallied the sales – and here are the top-selling books and braille items from the 2013 conventions!

  1. iPhone iOS6 Updates, (all formats combined)
  2. Magnet: “Be the Person Your Dog Thinks You Are,” print/braille magnet
  3. Magnet: “Good friends are like stars. You don’t always see them, but you know they’re always there!” print/braille magnet
  4. Magnet: “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.” – Helen Keller, print/braille magnet
  5. iOS Success: Making the iPad Accessible, (all formats combined)
  6. Getting started with iPhone and iOS5 for Blind Users, (all formats combined)
  7. Wednesday Morning Quotations, braille spiral-bound booklet
  8. Magnet: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain…” – Vivian Greene, print/braille magnet
  9. Magnet: “Keep Calm and Carry On,” print/braille magnet
  10. Twenty-Two Useful Apps for Blind iPhone Users (2nd Edition), (all formats combined)
  11. Magnet: “”Anyone can be cool, but awesome takes practice,” print/braille magnet
  12. Twenty-One Apps We Can’t Live Without, (all formats combined)
  13. Magnet: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.” – Emerson, print/braille magnet
  14. iPhone Tactile Screenshot Quick References iOS6, large print/braille & tactiles
  15. 100 Hungry Ants (with blocks), print/braille picture book with 100 blocks
  16. Froggy Learns to Swim, print/braille picture book
  17. (tie) Hop on Pop, print/braille board book
  18. (tie) That’s Not My Monkey!, print/braille board book
  19. (tie) Magnet: “To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world,” print/braille magnet
  20. (tie) Magnet: “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly,” print/braille magnet
  21. Braille-marked Measuring Cups and Spoons
  22. Make Way for Ducklings, print/braille picture book

Read more about specific books and products.

An iPad Book Giveaway: Because We Can All Use the Help!

iOS Success by Larry L. Lewis, Jr.

iOS Success by Larry L. Lewis, Jr.

A question I hear a lot is: “I finally bought an iPad for my visually impaired daughter! Now what?”

Parents of children who are visually impaired know that iPads are being used in schools or by their kids’ TVIs. But that doesn’t mean they know what to do with an iPad after it comes out of the box!

I was in this position, too. I am “Mom” to the sweetest and cutest little boy, Ivan. Ivan is eight years old and was born blind and multiply disabled. I had an iPad, and I knew it was supposed to be “good” for my son. Now what? I didn’t even know where to start!

That’s when I wished for a guide like iOS Success: Making the iPad Accessible. Larry Lewis’s new book is designed specifically for parents and teachers and takes you step-by-step through iPad basics. He shows you how to set up your iPad and get the most out of the accessibility features. As a blind iPad user himself, he absolutely knows what he’s talking about and (best of all) he writes in a clear and tech-free language that is easy to follow!

Ivan and mom playing with their iPad.

Ivan and mom playing with their iPad.

Larry’s book starts at the beginning (he actually writes about taking the iPad out of the box and what you can expect to find in the box) and works up to much more complicated features (like connecting the iPad to a refreshable braille device or using the iPad as a word processor). And because the book is so easy to follow, it’s pretty simple to skip ahead or jump back based on your own comfort with the iPad and what you need to know.

I would say this book is a must-read for any teacher or parent planning to work on an iPad with a child who is blind. To enter to win a free print copy of the book, visit the iOS Success Giveaway Page and enter your name in the drawing. The contest will run until July 20th at midnight.

Amber Bobnar runs the WonderBaby.org website, a support and information site for parents of children who are visually impaired.

Five Things I Didn’t Know About Writing a Book

When an editor at NBP approached me last year to write a book about iPad accessibility for parents and teachers, I jumped at the chance. After all, I have been doing iPad training for years. How hard would it be to put it into words? Little did I know how wrong my initial assessment would be, and what an incredible learning experience it would become, both professionally and for me personally.

1.   Stick to a Schedule

I run a small business where I basically operate under the principle of “The one who yells the loudest” gets my attention. It took my ordinarily mild-mannered editor at NBP to literally threaten me with David Ortiz’s bat to get me to stick to a publishing schedule. And I quote: If Chapter 1 is not submitted by noon on Friday, the ball game is over. The same went for the rest of the chapters. Once I got into the swing of things, I was able to build up the momentum it took to actually write a book.

 2.   Editing Hurts

My wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing editor made me commit, in writing, to “work with her through any number of edits until the book was right.” By doing so, I set in motion one of the most painful four months of my life. I had no clue that an author had to be involved in clarifying, restating, and regurgitating every section of the book over and over and over. All kidding aside, though, I see now that the final edited version is far superior to the “completed manuscript” I originally submitted—what I now refer to, affectionately, as my “very rough draft.”

3.   The Author Doesn’t Know Everything

This was yet another truth that was nearly impossible for me to grasp! During the editing process, my lion-tamer editor got the idea that she could ask other professionals for their opinions—I mean, she actually dared to question the author! But then a funny thing happened: I was tamed. I learned that by involving others and considering their opinions, I could take a more objective panoramic view of what we were trying to accomplish.

4.   Book Reviewers Have Opinions, Too

By the time the final copy went out to a team of reviewers, I thought the worst was over. Early reviews were very positive; I felt vindicated. But then minor suggestions cropped up, followed by major adjustments, including a series of “YIKES!,” with yet further revisions. It felt like a “shark feeding.” Gradually, though, I began to see that the reviewers re-shaped this book into something far more inclusive than I could have done alone.

5.   No Pain, No GainLarry Lewis, author of iOS Success, sitting at his desk with a copy of the book and an iPad

I can’t really describe the overwhelming sense of pride and completeness that came over me when I was informed the book was truly finished and off to the printer. Perhaps these feelings were accentuated by the realities of so many months of really hard work to get this book “right.” And one more thing I’m absolutely certain of: By the time you read this copy, it will no longer be a rough draft.