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The Group That Makes Tech Work For the Disabled 44

Posted by Soulskill
from the adapted-for-use dept.
jfruh writes "When the iPhone was first released in 2007, the blind community assessed it and determined it was essentially useless for them. Today it's the number one phone used by blind people, largely because of the efforts of the National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM). NCAM is part of WGBH, Boston's public television station, which broadcast the first captioned TV show in 1972. Since then NCAM has been a lifeline that makes sure that people with disabilities aren't left out of the technological revolution."
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The Group That Makes Tech Work For the Disabled

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  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday October 19, 2012 @04:03PM (#41709349)

    Every device whose primary interface is graphical will be "essentially useless" to a blind person. Fucking duh! It's not just the iPhone, it's every touchscreen device made. The story of accessibility tech for people in IT is simple: Separate the interface from the control logic.

    No, really, that's it. That's all you really have to do to make accessibility possible. You gotta keep 'em separated. Do that, and as long as your documentation isn't horrible, it won't be hard for someone to come in and develop an interface for the disabled. HTML separates content from formatting -- good idea. But then corporations came along and screwed that all to hell, with javascript, proprietary plugins, etc., and now large sections of the web are uninhabitable by people with disabilities because they didn't follow Rule #1: Keep them separate.

    As far as making a touch interface useful to the blind... hepatic feedback and auditory tones to indicate where there hands are or what function is being called before committing the action. -_- But if you don't get it right in version 1, don't feel bad -- the government has screwed up far worse than you ever will. Despite color blindness affecting 5% or more of the population, our traffic signals are still red/yellow/green... whereas other countries have realized that red/yellow/blue works just as well and color-blind people aren't having to guess what color the lights are. Positioning isn't always reliable, and people get distracted -- multiple cues are better.

    So in summary, separate layout from content, and don't be like the government. :)

    • by operagost (62405)
      Positioning of traffic lights is nearly 100% reliable in the USA. Seriously, there is ONE traffic light in the USA that doesn't either have the red to the left or at the top, and it's because the Irish in Syracuse 90 years ago were belligerent morons. What do you think makes more sense: confusing the hell out of 95% of drivers by suddenly presenting them with a BLUE light, or making the color blind Irish drivers of Tipperary Hill happy? Actually, they won't be happy because you took away the one color
    • by 0racle (667029)

      whereas other countries have realized that red/yellow/blue works just as well and color-blind people aren't having to guess what color the lights are

      What other countries use blue instead of green?

    • by LostOne (51301) on Friday October 19, 2012 @04:46PM (#41709753) Homepage

      Just pointing out that green is not the problem for me (red/green colour blind) because the green traffic lights have a markedly different lightness. Green traffic lights look white to me and red ones don't. Rather, I can't tell the red and amber lights apart because the lightness of red and amber is too close. But don't let that confuse you too much. You have noticed that the lights are always in the same order, right? Guess why.

      • You have noticed that the lights are always in the same order, right? Guess why.

        I take it you've never driven in Boston...

        • by LostOne (51301)

          Can't say I've had the distinction of driving in Boston. But I have driven in various areas in over 20 US states and 10 Canadian provinces and territories. The traffic lights are "red yellow green" (left to right) or "red yellow green" top to bottom. For other configurations (turn arrows and such), there are nearly universally consistent variations.

          Of course, what's really fun is trying to figure out the lights at 6+ way intersections.

    • by oodaloop (1229816)

      You gotta keep 'em separated.

      Heeey, heeey, come out and play!

    • The stop lights around here have an extra flashing white light that exists on red but not on green. It's stupidly bright. I wonder if it's because of the photo enforcement? Makes the non-color-blind pay more attention, too.
    • by aristotle-dude (626586) on Friday October 19, 2012 @05:17PM (#41710051)

      Every device whose primary interface is graphical will be "essentially useless" to a blind person. Fucking duh! It's not just the iPhone, it's every touchscreen device made.

      You are right, the iPhone and other devices are completely useless [apple.com] to a blind [nfb.org] person.

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      Despite color blindness affecting 5% or more of the population, our traffic signals are still red/yellow/green... whereas other countries have realized that red/yellow/blue works just as well and color-blind people aren't having to guess what color the lights are.

      Please elaborate on what these other countries are. You lose points for saying Japan since the traffic light they call "blue" is actually the same hue as the American green and the name is a legacy language thing.

      Normally when people use examples of "other countries" it's to explain how arsebackwards Americans are in their strange little ways, but so far I have travelled all over the world and have never seen a blue traffic light. Actually a google images search won't show me a single example of a red-yello

      • by Llynix (586718)

        Actually a google images search won't show me a single example of a red-yellow-blue traffic light either.

        Obligatory XKCD? [xkcd.com]

      • Actually a google images search won't show me a single example of a red-yellow-blue traffic light either.

        Funny, I just typed "japanese traffic lights" into GIS. The very first image showed a red-yellow-blue. You should have your eyes examined.

        • by thegarbz (1787294)

          So did I. Got about 20 where the Green light was lit nice and green. The only one I saw which was blue had the lights off.

          How about you do a google search for "Japanese blue traffic light" and look at all the posts and articles that come up explaining why they are called blue but in fact look green. Then maybe have your head examined.

    • Every device whose primary interface is graphical will be "essentially useless" to a blind person.

      That is not at all the case with the iPhone. Even with the first version, Voiceover has worked quite well to let a totally blind user control the device. Apple has a lot of VERY easy ways to embed even a few more hints as to what is going on with a screen for a blind or otherwise disabled user.

      I'm sure NCAM deserves some credit too but Apple deserves a lot of kudos for the effort they went into making the iPh

      • No. Apple deserves no credit.

        NCAM was solely responsible for preemptively suing Apple before any public mention of the iPhone, making sure that Apple had full, complete support for blind people built into the OS.

        Apple got the judge to make the entire case secret, to protect Apple's reputation as a non-evil corporate entity.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 19, 2012 @04:08PM (#41709403)

    Some two or three years ago I was using an XMPP/Jabber client for Android and helping with various small issues now and then, most of all translation.

    One day there was a new bug report in the issue tracker, good explanation of the problem (text flow was not easily readable by screen reader), log files, and even a patch (quite some verbose Java code) to fix this while at the same time not really affecting the user interface.

    Oh, did I forgot to mention that he was totally blind and using a screen reader on his Android to be able to also chat with other persons on XMPP/Jabber?
    I was so amazed by the motivation, energy and overall quality of work from this determined person.

    This may be a personal experience and can't be generalized - but still. Keep up the good work and remember to write your layout (may it be websites or whatever you put out there for a larger audience) in a way that the actual content can be easily separated from the presentation.

  • by sureshot007 (1406703) on Friday October 19, 2012 @04:14PM (#41709451)
    So, if a blind person can tell the difference between an iPhone and a Galaxy S3, doesn't that automatically negate any infringement claims?
  • Back in 2008 I worked part-time at the Apple Store (between full-time gigs), where I met an elderly guy who had recently bought an iPhone, despite having profoundly diminished eyesight (some kind of macular degeneration, I think). He carried a handheld device which magnified and boosted the contrast of anything held under it into black/white, which allowed him to use the device. He came in a couple times for help with it while I was on duty, not so much for "accommodation" needs, but just because he had q

  • added a screen reading and accessibility options when I updated to Jelly Bean (Android 4.1). It provides haptic and voice feedback on everything on the screen. I think it would be useful for blind people.
  • Great post. I'm still waiting for Apple to standardize switch access in iOS for those of us who can't use our hands. Sure, I still have my computer and the adaptive hardware that makes it completely accessible to me. But it would be nice if I could read a book or start a movie on my iPad without asking for help.

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