Friday, November 21, 2008

disability access to laptops is also a hardware design issue

Janet told me that David Wallace wanted to check out something on the XO. "Who is David Wallace?". I was informed he was a quadriplegic and blogger. Here is David's About Me.

Before the visit I read an earlier blog David had written about how his hopes for disability access to laptops had been raised on using an early model of the XO: Lifekludger with the OLPC

But I didn't really begin to understand the issues David was raising until I visited him at his home and he explained it to me

The main issue is touch, more specifically touch with skin, that nearly all laptops / mobile devices are not catering for people who can't touch a touch pad or a screen with their finger

I had no idea. That is, no idea of the requirement of skin to make a touchpad respond. With a finger the pointer moves easily. But when I scrapped with the back of a pen over the touch pad and stylus area nothing at all happened. The things we don't notice.

David wanted to check out the stylus function but unfortunately stylus development seems to have been discontinued. A phone call to Joel confirmed that. The picture below shows what was intended initially but as I say the stylus development has been discontinued.

Once again I had no idea about the importance of the design of hardware, not just software, for people without the ability to touch with the skin. I've since read a few of David's blogs and will try to summarise some of the key points below:
  • need for an input pad that doesn't require using a finger, a dual touch pad that responds to both finger and stylus
  • need for a track-point pointing device on the XO
  • need for a key-modifier program to hold the shift, alt, fn keys while hitting another key (’sticky-key’ software that emulates two or more finger presses on a keyboard)
  • need for a push for accessibility guidelines or standards in hardware design
  • Voice recognition software thats good for dictation may not be great for software control, and vice versa
  • plugging in a trackball to a laptop defeats the purpose of the compact, portable nature of a laptop
  • attempts have been made to develop "touch pencils" but they have not been successful
Read these blogs by David Wallace for more detail:
Lifekludger with the OLPC
The Touch Barrier
Revisiting touch on the OLPC XO laptop and hardware access design

1 comment:

dnw said...

Hey Bill. Thanks so much for the post about the things we spoke about.

I love the way you so clearly and correctly identified the issues and lay them out simply. Often I'm not great and expressing these things in that manner and so I appreciate the way others can focus attention from my rambling.

That's what's great about the blogosphere and openness! We all get to take part with each other.


Dave - Iifekludger

PS: Take a look at this for a device with touch that responds to stylus and skin-