[Irl-dean] Blind inventor makes web accessible

Tim Culhane tim.culhane at criticalpath.net
Thu Jun 8 08:27:15 IST 2006


I'm always a bit suspicious of devices or equipment specifically designed
for people with a certain disability.

For one thing it goes against the whole concept of design for all.

Secondly, it reinforces the perception in the "abled bodied" community that
people with disabilities need special treatment.

Lastly, devices like this are normally far more expensive than the  standard
device (see for example the Milestone mp3 player which is up to 5 times more
expensive than an equivalent off the shelf mp3 player).

I can understand that blind people coming new to computers have trouble
mastering the visual concepts employed, but I don't think "inventing" a
special device for the blind will necessarily solve the problem.

One example of this is the Owasys 22C talking mobile phone.   This phone was
designed specifically for the blind ... And as a result actually has no
screen at all.

However, some of the methods  used for carrying out common functions on the
phone are non-standard when compared to main stream phones.

For example, when texting, the space character is obtained by hitting the
number 1 rather than the usual 0 on standard phones.

So, A beginner  to mobile phones is given one of these phones.

They learn the interface,  and are able to do most of the basic stuff people
can do with normal phones.

Then they decide to get a standard phone using the Talks screen reader.  

End result is that they have to completely relearn a new interface.



-----Original Message-----
From: irl-dean-admin at list.eeng.dcu.ie
[mailto:irl-dean-admin at list.eeng.dcu.ie] On Behalf Of Mark Magennis
Sent: 07 June 2006 23:05
To: irl-dean at list.eeng.dcu.ie
Subject: Re: [Irl-dean] Blind inventor makes web accessible

> I especially like his comment on how the visual model of computer/
> GUI interface design is essentially completely "wrong"
> for a blind user, as they view/interact with these interfaces more  
> as a "one-dimensional audio stream".

Only if they are using an entirely audio (mono) interface though. But  
why use only one dimension? Why shouldn't the interface exploit two  
or even three dimensions which is a model closer to the real world,  
which we all, including blind people, operate in? No blind person I  
know has too much trouble walking across a room or organising objects  
on a desk because they are having to work in two dimensions. If they  
had to line everything on their desk up in a long row it would be  
dreadfully difficult. His interface seems to make extensive use of  
navigating up and down through tree structures, but these are in  
essence two dimensional aren't they? Isn't the concept of moving up  
or down the hierarchy between parent and children nodes more or less  
at right angles to the movement between sibling nodes across a given  
level of the hierarchy?

I'm not sure about this guy's reasoning. Earlier in the article he  
says "To use a screenreader you have to understand the visual  
paradigm - what dialogue boxes are, radio buttons and all the rest".  
Dialogue boxes being a visual paradigm I can understand, since  
"checking" a box is really mimicking ticking it with a pen. But radio  
buttons? Since when are they visual? In fact, one of the problems  
with the metaphor is that real life "radio buttons" (pop out buttons  
in "one at a time only" sets) very rarely exist now, so almost nobody  
below thirty years old will have used them.

It all sounds a little half baked to me.


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