Introduction: Is It Productive to Review Productivity Apps?

Dear Reader,

The following is a description of myself as I relate to the tech and accessibility worlds. Next I will talk about the purpose of this blog.
My name is Dave Bahr and I am totally blind from birth. I have used screen readers (software that speaks out loud what is written on the screen in webpages and on social media) since about the age of four. I have seen the now defunct WindowEyes grow from version 2.0 until its demise last year. That was my primary screen reader and I was certified to teach it at the 96th percentile. I have since switched to NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA).  It is free and open source and is actively maintained by a very passionate group of users who know a lot more code than I do.

This blog and my consulting services around it relate to something that I did not discover I had a passion for until about 2013. I was reading the book Getting Things Done by David Allen because I had heard about the system of lists and ways to keep yourself organized. I then began to do what most people do when they discover Getting Things Done (GTD for short): investigating every possible app and program that might just make my life easier. There is no one system for GTD nor is there any program or app that will solve everything for everyone. David Allen himself admitted that the system was made to be flexible and malleable and that the book was for guidelines and “best practices.”

I was hooked. Not necessarily on the system itself; my ability to maintain and update lists is far from exceptional. I was hooked on the idea that one could organize ones life in so many ways. you could do a mindmap, a flowchart, a Kanban board, sticky notes, notebooks, and so on and so forth. Wow! How could I organize my life so that it might finally make sense?

If any of y’all have an answer to that question, let me know in the comments.

Where was I. Oh, right, so I started downloading and subscribing to free trials of a ton of productivity software. Things like Remember the Milk, Todoist, Wunderlist, Nozbe, NirvanaHQ, IQTell, and Google Tasks. They all seemed potentially useful in some way or another with using the GTD system (or the best I could make of it given my ADD and busy life at the time). Then I realized where I have a niche. Everyone reviews these types of apps from a visual standpoint, but not a lot of people that I know of review them from an accessibility perspective. So, that is the goal of this blog. To take a lot of apps that people love and put them through tests of accessibility to see how they stand when you are under a blindfold, so to speak.

I have a PC and an iPhone 7. I tend to use my phone more than the PC for productivity work, but I do like it when an app has a web version or a Windows equivalent that I can mess around with. I am going to start off by reviewing an app that is extremely accessible on the iPhone and then move to one that is extremely inaccessible on the iPhone so you get a contrast. Then things will probably just be put up on a weekly basis as I see new apps or old ones that I think should be reviewed.

A quick note on terms. There is a big debate about accessibility vs. usability. You could make something that follows all the accessibility guidelines in the world and it still might not be usable to a screen reader user. You could ignore all the accessibility guidelines in the world and build the app of your dreams and, by coincidence, however you built it could be accessible to the blind screen reader user. So, I would say, for my purposes, that I am more on the usability side of things because my knowledge of the WCAG guidelines and 508 compliance is not the greatest (and I’ll be the first to admit it). But the two words accessibility and usability tend to be thrown around, and some people have very rigid definitions of them. I am not one of those people.

So, I hope you like the idea of this blog. We will see where things go with it. On to the reviews.