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The Group That Makes Tech Work For the Disabled

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the adapted-for-use dept.

Cellphones 44

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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Blind?! (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41709285)

Please, the term is "vision-impaired". I can't believe Slashdot can be so insensitive.

Re:Blind?! (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about 2 years ago | (#41710035)

Please, the term is "vision-impaired". I can't believe Slashdot can be so insensitive.

I am vision-impaired. Most people in my line of work are. I make Mr. Magoo look like 20/20. You do not want me on the highway without corrective lenses.

I am "legally" blind in both eyes, but I can still see well enough to operate a cellphone. But I am not "blind" in the white-cane and guide dog sense, which is what people commonly think of as blind. It's a whole different can of worms when even with the best aid available all you can see is a smeary blur or nothing at all.

Retarded slashdot logos? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41709307)

Since there's (of course) no real place to ask, what is with these senseless animated gifs replacing the Slashdot logo? Surely it doesn't have anything to do with the 15 year "anniversary"? Taco didn't make any fuss when Slashdot turned 10.

Wow!!! captcha: retard

Re:Retarded slashdot logos? (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 2 years ago | (#41709419)

Since there's (of course) no real place to ask, what is with these senseless animated gifs replacing the Slashdot logo? Surely it doesn't have anything to do with the 15 year "anniversary"? Taco didn't make any fuss when Slashdot turned 10.

Wow!!! captcha: retard

there was a contest for them, due to the 15 years thing.
of course it's a ploy to get everyone to check the site daily.

btw LOGO sucks.

LIKC MAH BALLS MODERATORS!!!!!!!!l!!!!!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41709697)

You modded the parent down? Waste another modpoint on me. Maybe somebody insightful won't be modded troll if I make this post. Suck me hard, and suck me long.

captcha: vitally

Re:LIKC MAH BALLS MODERATORS!!!!!!!!l!!!!!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41710137)

To the parent poster: thanks for making Slashdot what it is! =)

Uhm... (1)

Pseudonym (62607) | about 2 years ago | (#41711913)

That's "mentally challenged slashdot logos", you insensitive clod.

"essentially useless" (4, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 2 years ago | (#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. :)

Re:"essentially useless" (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41709493)

The story of accessibility tech for people in IT is simple: Separate the interface from the control logic.

Model-View-Controller design is a relic of the 1990s. Software design has come a long way since then. It sucks for the disabled, but we can't stick with a long outdated design just because of 1% of the population.

Re:"essentially useless" (2)

HaZardman27 (1521119) | about 2 years ago | (#41709607)

How can separating interface from logic be bad? Not doing so is just a great way to make your code inflexible. If you ever decide to turn something into a service, create a new GUI, add a CLI, etc., by following your way of engineering you'd have to rewrite the whole damned thing.

Re:"essentially useless" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41710415)

Ignore him, he's a troll or an idiot. MVC isn't the only software design pattern that separates the interface from the control logic and MVC isn't dead or useless just because some trend-dependent sheep says so.

Re:"essentially useless" (1)

operagost (62405) | about 2 years ago | (#41709619)

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 their liked. Bollocks.

Re:"essentially useless" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41709751)

for sideways lights, it can be VERY hard to see which end is lit up if you are approaching it at night.

Re:"essentially useless" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41709841)

Obligatory... [xkcd.com]

But seriously, the three-light configuration works great with either color or position, but they've started adding arrows that require drivers to discriminate solely based on color. There are definitely improvements that can be made to the system.

Re:"essentially useless" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41709633)

Have you seen a blind person use an iPhone? Check it out, it's really cool.

Re:"essentially useless" (1)

0racle (667029) | about 2 years ago | (#41709683)

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?

Re:"essentially useless" (4, Informative)

LostOne (51301) | about 2 years ago | (#41709753)

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.

Re:"essentially useless" (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 2 years ago | (#41712293)

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

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

Re:"essentially useless" (1)

LostOne (51301) | about 2 years ago | (#41712885)

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.

Re:"essentially useless" (2)

oodaloop (1229816) | about 2 years ago | (#41709871)

You gotta keep 'em separated.

Heeey, heeey, come out and play!

Re:"essentially useless" (1)

sandytaru (1158959) | about 2 years ago | (#41710033)

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.

Re:"essentially useless" (3, Insightful)

aristotle-dude (626586) | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:"essentially useless" (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 2 years ago | (#41710621)

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-yellow-blue traffic light either.

Re:"essentially useless" (1)

Llynix (586718) | about 2 years ago | (#41712103)

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

Obligatory XKCD? [xkcd.com]

Re:"essentially useless" (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 2 years ago | (#41712323)

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.

Re:"essentially useless" (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 2 years ago | (#41712585)

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.

Even the first iPhone was useful to the blind (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 2 years ago | (#41710695)

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 iPhone accessible to the disabled from the start.

Re:Even the first iPhone was useful to the blind (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 2 years ago | (#41717485)

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.

Re:"essentially useless" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41711281)

Red is on the top or left. Yellow is in the middle. Green is on the bottom/right.

They could all be the same color and it would make no difference, you can still determine what they mean. Perhaps before you rant about shit you have no clue about you should educate yourself on it.

--BitZtream

Way to go NCAM! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41709369)

Good job helping poor, struggling Apple make their incredibly affordable smart phone more friendly to the blind. You've certainly helped reach and service the greatest number of blind smart phone users... in... as my daughter would say... bizarro world!!!

Re:Way to go NCAM! (1)

Golddess (1361003) | about 2 years ago | (#41709449)

You've certainly helped reach and service the greatest number of blind smart phone users... in... as my daughter would say... bizarro world!!!

TFA says that the iPhone is the number 1 phone used by blind people. It wouldn't be the first time, but are you saying that TFA is lying? Or that, when NCAM first began to work on accessibility for the iPhone, that there was another phone that they should have instead been working on?

Re:Way to go NCAM! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41710067)

I'm saying that if you want to see fewer people walking you talk to Schwinn or Nissan long before Denali or BMW.

Re:Way to go NCAM! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41710687)

Good job helping poor, struggling Apple make their incredibly affordable smart phone more friendly to the blind. You've certainly helped reach and service the greatest number of blind smart phone users... in... as my daughter would say... bizarro world!!!

Wake up, it's 2012. You can get an iPhone free with contract. Go think up a new troll.

A little anecdote from some times ago (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:A little anecdote from some times ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41711303)

Its sad that we can't get good bug reports out of perfectly ... un-disalbled(?) people, but a blind man gives the most useful kind for a freaking touch screen device that by all rights no one outside the disabled community would even expect him to be able to use.

This alone is why we should try to think about these things, just so we don't overlook our best resources due to our own ignorance. I certainly would have been completely dumbfounded to see such a bug report coming from a blind person.

--BitZtream

Why? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41709431)

Why should we coddle the retarded? They're just going to mash their hands on the screen and probably throw it that squirrel that is "threatening" them.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41709745)

Why shouldn't some developers cater to the retarded?

After all, slashcode was WRITTEN by retards.

Blind leading the blind? (5, Funny)

sureshot007 (1406703) | about 2 years ago | (#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?

Silly headline dyslexia. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41709453)

Read it as "The Group That Makes Tech Disabled For Work"

Figured it was an article about IT-departments that suck.

partially-sighted user (1)

tverbeek (457094) | about 2 years ago | (#41709587)

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 questions and wanted to better understand how the device worked. They were mostly "old guy" questions, not "nearly blind guy" questions, and I was more than happy to help him. While I can certainly see how the original iPhone and its OS were "essentially useless" for someone with no vision at all (obviously Siri changes that dramatically), you should never assume that someone with a disability will be unable to make use of something if given a little assistance. They may surprise you.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus (1)

jupiterssj4 (801031) | about 2 years ago | (#41709597)

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.

Misleading summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41711613)

The summary gives a rather misleading impression of what the article says. As the article states, iPhone accessibility is largely due to Apple's engineering, though groups like NCAM are helping by setting standards and advocating for accessibility.

Blind Developer Here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41717731)

As a blind software developer I have to give NCAM props. The sad sorry state of the world is that unless you are blind, most dont care about the blind or how they use tech because its a minority problem that doesn't help generate income or revenue to worry about for most companies. Without the lobbying muscle they have and without the work they do a lot of our lives in the blind community would be much worse because sighties (Sighted people) sadly dont care about this stuff.

I only wish they got more funding and support from the open source community; They are truly doing good work and I wish more sighties helped them.

Physical Disabilities (1)

Wintermute2_0 (166842) | about 2 years ago | (#41722251)

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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