Access Granted

Tommy Edison was born blind, but he hasn’t let that interfere with his ability to socialize with the world online, or for that matter, review movies. The following video demonstrates how Tommy uses Instagram to shoot and post photos for his followers. 

It’s amazing to see how the web has become more accessible to visually impaired users. Special browsers and screen readers have enabled blind people to navigate the web via audio cues that explain what the webpage or app is displaying. But not all screen readers are user-friendly. Watching this video it’s painfully obvious that not all web developers have caught on.

Semantic coding is one way to ensure that content is accessible to everyone because it allows screen readers to correctly dictate the contents of a web page. In this type of coding, HTML mark up is used not for styling, but only for its intended purpose. For example, an <h1> header tag is only used for the most important page headline, and an <em> emphasis tag is only used to provide needed emphasis. In addition to semantic coding, alt properties that describe an image enable users to have a richer, more interactive experience. The American Foundation for the Blind also provides a set of guidelines for the designer/developer concerned with accessibility. 

3D touch screens make typing easier

Anyone who owns a touch screen device knows the difficulty of re-learning to type on a flat surface. We’ve resigned ourselves to the belief that tapping tiny buttons you can’t feel is the price we pay for the cool new technology parked in our pockets. The first week with my new phone had me convinced that my fingers were abnormally wide and would never be able to type a text message in less than five minutes.

I am happy to say that help is on the way. Earlier this month at CES 2013 , the Consumer Electronic Association’s international trade show, the folks at Tactus Technology offered a solution to the touch screen problem: a tactile user interface. In the demonstration video above, keys magically pop from the touch screen when the keyboard is needed and again become flat when the keyboard is hidden. The company’s website also offers a number of examples in which this technology can be used such as remote controls, gaming devices, medical displays, automobile interfaces, and more. Expect to see this technology on the market by the end of the year or early 2014.