Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Accessibility - This One's Personal

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For 50 years, Dad has been blind in one eye.
For 25 of those years, he's seen nothing at all out of that eye. No light, no shade, nothing.

A month or so back - he noticed something in his good eye.

A leisurely Friday trip to the doctor turned into a month of bright lights, lasers, fog and tendrils drifting through his vision.  The retina in his good eye was starting to let go.

His good eye is weak from doing the work of two eyes for the past 50 years, so recuperation hasn't gone as smoothly as any of us hope.  Thankfully, he is getting his sight back.  There is still a long way to go and we're not entirely certain how permanent this fix is.

The thought of my Dad becoming functionally illiterate if things go wrong scares the heck out of me.
He's put up a good front, and has engaged in more than a little denial, but I know he's scared too.

Right now - we have a chance to come up with a back-up plan.  Dad currently has vision enough to read (albeit uncomfortably) and learn a new tool.  Time to strike while we still have the chance.
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One of the benefits of a formal instructional technology education is exposure to assistive technologies.
I haven't had to take a look at the state of the field in a very long time (like 7+ years).

Now - I'm motivated.
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My Dad is an Apple fanboy.  However - he's of the "buy once and use until death" school of IT.

He had his Power Computing desktop for over 10 years before he finally had to break down and buy a new tower a few years ago.

My first thought was to use Mac OS 10.6.x built in accessibility tool - VoiceOver.

Um...yeah.....

This sighted person could not figure out how to get the thing to work the way I wanted it to with the control I would like - even being able to SEE the screen.   I am not the only one (read the comments).

Really awkward multi-finger keystrokes are required.  Might be OK for a kid (or me).
Very awkward for a 70+ year old - even with decent dexterity.
There also didn't seem to be any way to integrate voice commands with the technology.

I had Dad try out the solution. He (rightly) rejected it out of hand.

How do they expect me to use this if I can't read my keyboard?  How indeed.
There had to be a better solution.

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