There have recently been a couple of interesting apps developed for the visually impaired.
Mario Romero, postdoctoral fellow at Georgia Tech, came up with the idea to develop BrailleTouch, an app that allows folks to type on the touchscreen without seeing it at all. The application works by putting the 6 dots of a braille character on the screen in landscape mode with 3 on each side. Three fingers from each hand then press in the appropriate patterns to create the desired characters. There is audio feedback to confirm the correct input and the screen flips regardless of orientation so a user does not have to worry about the phone being “upside-down.”
Studying math while blind is a difficult proposition because many concepts are visually represented using charts, graphs, and other methods. To help address this problem, Engineers at Vanderbilt University have developed an Android app for touchscreen tablets that essentially turns visual objects into tactile ones. When the user touches a line or other object on the screen, the program activates the built-in vibrator so that the object can be felt.
I am always impressed when people can step outside of their own world and anticipate the needs of someone else. I am ashamed to say, it has never even occurred to me to think that touchscreens would be difficult for blind people to use. I can’t help but imagine what other technology could be developed if we all got our heads out of the sand and took more interest in what was happening around us. Ironically, that would probably involve getting out of our self-imposed electronic worlds of texting, facebooking, and chatting online and actually observing the things that are going on in real life.