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This is one of the most moving talks I’ve ever seen at a technology conference. Robin talks about the history of assistive technology for the blind during his lifetime, and the dramatic change that the iPhone wrought. The blind have an old joke that asks “How many blind people does it take to cross the street?”, and the answer was “Two: one to push the shopping cart full of devices for car-watching, curb-finding, direction-mapping, etc. And another to ask a sighted person for help.” An affordable pocket computer with motion sensors, an accelerometer, a camera, and a thriving app ecosystem has changed all that. Robin went on to detail what specialty apps he uses, which mainstream apps are (and aren’t) optimized for accessibility, and showed us the nitty-gritty of how technology changes his life and empowers him every day.
An iPhone changed the game: inclusion, power, and price. Now this power is in peoples’ pockets.
[* Robin plugs audio-out into computer*]
NB: One nice thing about being blind is that if you ask for assistance at the train, they always let you sit in 1st class.
Apps vary wildly in their accessibility.
Skype: Robin can access the dialpad, contacts, calling. All of the actions speak and can be navigated by touch (without sight).
Adobe Connect (Skype competitor): none of the objects are exposed to accessibility. He has no idea what’s going on.
Pages: a working word processor, fully accessibility-enabled. It reads text, tells him what’s selected, meta information, screen content. Voice will let him navigate, read content. New iPad will allow dictation. He’ll use a bluetooth keyboard; various multi-touch gestures are available via keyboard shortcut. It’ll read his deletions and meta information around what he types. Very accessible. iPads are the tools of choice for schools in the US.
Facebook: lots of accessibility shortcomings. There’re other apps that do similar things to FB, but some apps capture the audience; he can’t find his FB friends anywhere other than FB.
Lanyrd (app for conference planning): totally non-accessible. Can’t even sign in.
iBooks: Everything is exposed and accessible.
This is available in the accessibility settings on iOS. Triple-click the home button to turn on the voice.
iOS Developer Library has an Accessibility Inspector which can help you make your apps accessible.
Carsonified is doing great work at Treehouse with accessibility tutorials.
Mobile accessibility in mobility: using a robotic exo-skeleton to walk:
Claire Lonas walked the london Marathon in 16 days with a bionic suit after being paralyzed from the waist down.
Las Vegas is the first place that Google’s Driverless cars are legal. Steve Mahan, a blind user, gains independence. Here’s a video of Steve driving to get a taco, picking up his dry cleaning.
AbilityNet: consultancy, training, accessibility audits, disabled user testing, workplace assessments. email@example.com
“Thanks to these tools I was able to move to where I live, meet my wife, have my two beautiful children. I owe everything to the technology.”