Hi Gus, First off thanks for being available to answer questions.
I am working on a mobile app for VIPs or Visually impaired people - which can be added as a mobile keyboard. Till now, I have tested the keyboard and I can type with my eyes closed. The typing experience feels better and seamless than using the existing QWERTY keyboard. There is still quite a bit of work that needs to be done so
I have two questions:
1. What do you currently use to type on mobile devices ?
2. Do you need a new keyboard for your mobile phone ?
I currently use the keyboards that came with my iOS and Android devices. With VoiceOver and talkback enabled, I do not have any difficulty using the keyboard. I would be very interested to see how you might improve the user experience with a new keyboard interface. I wonder how you might improve on what is already available.
I am an Orientation and Mobility Specialist. My entry is a 3D database of free accessibility signage. For our demonstration project we are imbedding bluetooth beacons into the signs and programming them with additional room and orientation information. We are advocating for the United States access board to include beacons in their architectural guidelines.
I was wondering, what has your experience been with orientation and mobility? I just finished school, and looking to start on a degree in vision rehabilitation therapy because I am an artist and I love making stuff.
I have been a white cane user for nearly sixteen years now. I use it and have used some of the electronic GPS products that have become available to the blind and visually impaired community. While I definitely think the accuracy of these programs could stand for some improvement, one of the other issues I have dealt with is getting the information on my device conveyed to me in a safe manner, one that would not distract me from using my cane the way it was meant to be used to avoid obstacles and the like. Beacon technology sounds amazing and I can’t wait to see how these solutions might play out, but I do urge you to consider how that information would be delivered to the end user.
I'd like to know your thoughts on wearables. In the technical brief you highlight the difficulty faced when finding buttons in an elevator, this is something I've heard other vision impaired people say and I've often wondered if a wearable bracelet that vibrated when it came close to an elevator control pad would help?
Do you think vibrating wearables help people with disabilities or cause more confusion?
Thanks for your note. I have tested and used some wearables that use proximity sensors and vibrational patterns to offer information and have found them to be useful in some situations but not in all. They can be quite confusing, and when I am walking in a loud, overstimulating area, they can either be too distracting or provide little meaningful information. In terms of elevator useage, my biggest hurtle is in trying to decipher the buttons within the elevator rather than the call buttons on the outside of them. Call buttons are pretty universal, though placement is sometimes a huge mystery to me. Inside buttons for elevators can be stressful and anxiety inducing for me, especially when the elevator starts moving before I’ve even found the button I am looking for. The other thing to consider with wearables is that during winter months they would need to be worn outside of heavier coats to work but then the vibrations would probably not be felt as strongly.
- In terms of how you use the elevator how do you envision this problem to be solved?
- On you exemplar page (http://connectability.challengepost.com/details/exemplars) there is a quote: "He has countless ideas for new technologies that would be universally useful, and for ways to make existing technologies more accessible." Could you elaborate on what ideas you have?"
- I'm looking to survey other people with disabilities to gain more information on how new technology could help. Do you have the names of any organisations or groups I can contact where I would be able to survey their members?
I wanted to post the section of the ADAAG (Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines) regarding elevators for you edification and enjoyment. :-/ The following are federal guidelines, but all states also have standards of their own. I was interested to note that these guidelines delineate a specific size for buttons, and height for mounting the control panel. In practice, there is a wildly inconsistent application of these guidelines, the prime example being the touchscreen elevator panels, which have not yet been made accessible to people with visual impairments. I would encourage everyone to think of themselves as advocates, in addition to their identities as designers and innovators. How can we push these guidelines forward? How do we make them generative of a more inclusive and accessible society? Changing regs like these is like shifting the pebble headways to change the course of the river.
Tech continues to amaze, but as I was taught, the best mobility tools for a person with a visual impairment are their brains and the long cane. The long cane is a simple and beautiful adaptive tool that is incredible enabling. Having learned to travel without sight using the long cane, I can attest to this fact based on my personal experience. Let us make tools and technologies that are as simple and beautiful to use a the long cane. Tools to work with the long cane, not replace it. Just as the long cane requires extensive training, the work of Orientations and Mobilities specialist such as myself, so will future tech solutions. Please think about how your solution can fit in to the larger network. Please look at the guidelines, and innovate them!
4.10.1 General. Accessible elevators shall be on an accessible route and shall comply with 4.10 and with the ASME A17.1-1990, Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators. Freight elevators shall not be considered as meeting the requirements of this section unless the only elevators provided are used as combination passenger and freight elevators for the public and employees.
4.10.2 Automatic Operation. Elevator operation shall be automatic. Each car shall be equipped with a self-leveling feature that will automatically bring the car to floor landings within a tolerance of 1/2 in (13 mm) under rated loading to zero loading conditions. This self-leveling feature shall be automatic and independent of the operating device and shall correct the overtravel or undertravel.
4.10.3 Hall Call Buttons. Call buttons in elevator lobbies and halls shall be centered at 42 in (1065 mm) above the floor. Such call buttons shall have visual signals to indicate when each call is registered and when each call is answered. Call buttons shall be a minimum of 3/4 in (19 mm) in the smallest dimension. The button designating the up direction shall be on top. (See Fig. 20.) Buttons shall be raised or flush. Objects mounted beneath hall call buttons shall not project into the elevator lobby more than 4 in (100 mm).
I wanted to respond to you regarding my first post. I completely agree with you that additional information from devices must be delivered in such a way as to not to be dangerously distracting. I know from my experience in school how important audition is for mobility. Orientation and Mobility training for a person with hearing impairment as a well a visual impairment is quite different.
I am imagining a network of beacon that could communicate vibrotactile signals and/or notification sounds to any device. There wold be a learning curve involve in learning the significance of different signals, I think this strategy could be safer.
I also wan the beacon/sign to include additional information about the rooms they designate, but the sounds are the first layer of the environment. If you choose, you can stop and access additional information through your device.
In all honesty, I am not sure how the whole elevator issue would be solved as each elevator seems to have its own design, and most of these designs are not really accessible. Short of some kind of push to create some kind of universal design principles for public areas, I am afraid that there may be very little that can be done to improve matters.
In terms of ideas, my ideas are more from the user-side of things, and one of my main issues is in travelling through new environments safely and efficiently. I often have to give myself more than half an hour to make an appointment in a new place. This half hour is on top of the typical extra time I give myself just for travel related delays.
There are many list-serves related to blindness and disability on the web, so a Google search may be the best way for you to see what’s out there and what groups you might be interested in reaching out to.
I agree. The cane has opened up the whole world to me. What I seek is additional information to complement the information I already get from the cane. Your system of beacons sounds really cool, but again how would these signals be delivered to the end user? Tactile and vibrational signals would probably still require some physical manipulation of the smartphone or portable device, which may be distracting. What other ways do you think this information could be conveyed?
I would like to see a product the does not require a smart phone or portable device to be manipulated. I would always prefer to have the long cane in one hand, while my other hand is available to trail, for self-protective techniques, or to read braille signage.
I tested out using google glass to deliver information from the maps program to a traveler hands free. The bone conduction head set was useful because there was a different quality to the sound. It was less distracting, and one could still pay attention to environmental noise. Ultimately, this was not that helpful because the program did not provide turn by turn directions for walking routes.
As I am not a software designer, I cannot speak to the hows of what I want. I do know what I would like to see. If a phone is clipped on to the users belt, I think they would be able to feel the phones vibration, and hear notification sounds. If there were a network of beacons, a tall order, I would have them create a extra layer to the environment, and informational auditory layer. If the user received a notification sound, and was interested in stopping to find out more, they could use a speech command to their phone to request more information. Imagine the little ping an elevator makes as it passes each floor, its a little signal that's pretty unobtrusive. Ideally this network of beacons would be created by a revision to the aforementioned section of the ADAAG. I would love to be able to create this myself, but I am more suited to the advocacy side at this time. I think Jeremy has more experience when it comes to the tech side of things.
I think it would take a while to hone the interaction between devices and beacons, so that information is conveyed efficiently. Beacons can be reprogrammed and revised without having to replace the whole darn thing. Its a long term project.
You mention that one of your main issues is traveling through new environments safely and efficiently. We are building a solution that will hopefully help you navigate unfamiliar indoor spaces better, and would love to know how you currently do so.
For example, what are your first steps when you enter a new place? Who/what are your primary resources to understand the environment?
More often than not, the resources I use are the people I encounter right outside or right inside the new environment. The people at information and security desks are often the most helpful, but getting to them is not always so cut and dry. When possible, I ask someone to accompany me to a new place for a “run through” so I can become somewhat familiar with the place. I have also engaged the services of orientation and mobility instructors, especially when I expect that I will be visiting a location on a frequent basis. Lastly, and probably most frequently, I ask the people with whom I am meeting to come and “collect” me from the main entrance and then we move on to our final destination. All in all, there is a sense of loss of independence and the whole exercise can be quite frustrating and anxiety inducing.
We're patent pending on a tactile smartphone keyboard that's fast, with larger keys, and 90% cheaper than peripherals on the market today. Our product would be perfect for the Challenge. Even though our patent should be granted, we can't guarantee that no other patents could block our product. That's a requirement for the Challenge.
Do you have any suggestions, either regarding this program or other avenues?
Your device sounds really cool. There are many people (both blind and sighted) who are probably looking for a quicker typing solution for their touch screen devices, so I hope to see your entry during judging of this challenge.
Not really sure what you mean by all the patent stuff but hope you will still consider entering your product for consideration.