I noticed today that my iPhone was getting a bit crowded and unorganized. I had added some applications to handle Twitter and Skype. The applications ended up on page two of the display. The iPhone is such an amazing device! I have the ability to check my Email, read a book, listen to music, read my calendar, talk on the phone, manage my contacts, talk to people via Twitter or Instant Message, time things with a stop watch, figure out what direction I am walking with a compass. And that’s just to name a few!
I was thinking about how far we have come with accessibility in the blind community. I remember in 1978 working with a computer terminal that consisted of a modification to the tactual display of the OPTACON for presenting the characters that appeared on the screen. One would scroll across the line by using a spinning wheel called a digital shaft encoder. At the time we built this terminal it seemed like it was absolutely revolutionary!
Fast forward to 2009. In March of this year, I was talking to some folks about the amazing things that are happening with smart phones and touch screens. I remember thinking at the time that it seemed that touch screens were totally out of reach for those of us who are blind. If you are not blind, imagine picking up a device with a touch screen but this time shut your eyes so you can’t see any of the information on the screen. Feel the device carefully with your hands. Touch screen is rather formless. There is typically a flat area with a very smooth surface. How is it that this flat surface can be so full of information? It is like a secret is inside waiting to be let out for those who know how to find the information.
Of course there are millions of touch screens with information and millions of people use them every day. Since the end of May, I have been using this very type of device because of an awesome development which enables a blind person to control the touch screen and receive the information that is displayed on it.
Apple Computer has created a revolutionary solution for accessibility for Blind people by making the iPhone accessible and totally usable. In the very short period since the new iPhone 3GS has been released, I along – with many other blind people – have gone from not being able to use the iPhone at all to accessing so many facilities via the iPhone and fiddling around with moving applications around on the iPhone pages so that they are more organized. There is nothing that is impossible for us; any obstacle can be solved.
What obstacles in your life do you wish could be solve?