At least, that’s what
T. V. Raman has done.
From the New York Times article linked above:
Some of Mr. Raman’s innovations may help make electronic gadgets and Web services more user-friendly for everyone. Instead of asking how something should work if a person cannot see, he says he prefers to ask, “How should something work when the user is not looking at the screen?”
With no buttons to guide the fingers on its glassy surface, the touch-screen cellphone may seem a particularly daunting challenge. But Mr. Raman said that with the right tweaks, touch-screen phones — many of which already come equipped with GPS technology and a compass — could help blind people navigate the world.
So then, the question comes to mind, if he can’t see the touch screen, then how does he know where to correctly touch it to make a call?
Since he cannot precisely hit a button on a touch screen, Mr. Raman created a dialer that works based on relative positions. It interprets any place where he first touches the screen as a 5, the center of a regular telephone dial pad. To dial any other number, he simply slides his finger in its direction — up and to the left for 1, down and to the right for 9, and so on. If he makes a mistake, he can erase a digit simply by shaking the phone, which can detect motion.
He and Mr. Chen are testing several other input methods. None of these technologies have been rolled out, but Mr. Raman, who is already using the G1 as his primary cellphone, hopes to make them freely available soon.
(Few screen readers are available for smartphones today, and they can often cost as much as a phone itself.)
This is truly the insight that needs to be applied to touch screen phones, and should have applications that can be carried over to other touch screen devices that are ubiquitous and becoming more and more commonplace around households and businesses everyday.
Those in the blind technology circles might know who T. V. Raman is, but many don’t. For those of you who don’t, let me shed a bit of light. Mr. Raman is a computer scientist and engineer at
He is also blind due to glaucoma and And is behind several aspects of accessibility at the online search and advertising behemoth. He has a history of creating accessibility in existing products, including pdf documents for Adobe Acrobat.
I’ve read a good bit about Mr. Raman over the past few years, but this is, by far, the most interesting news to me. The reason why is the ondslaught of touch screens coming down the pike in the future of our everyday lives. If they can innovate and make this aspect of daily living more accessible, which I see becoming more and more integrated into our lives, then I’m all for it.