On a smartphone, typing is the most frequently used yet most inaccessible feature for visually impaired users. In recent past, feature phones with physical keyboard were equal substitute of smartphones, however thats not the case anymore.
The sighted and non-sighted live in different perceptual worlds. Vision has been described as “a framework into which all spatial sensations can be integrated”. Due to strong integration capability of vision, our interfaces with machines have primarily moved towards Graphic User Interfaces (GUI). With heavy reliance on visual metaphors and graphic interaction tools (mouse, touchpad, touchscreen), visually impaired users have found it increasingly difficult to interact with ubiquitous gadgets. Mobile phones being the most noted example. This has resulted in a disturbing trend where marginalized users have to face technological apathy instead of inclusive growth.
At the same time, user centered design approach has made ubiquitous technologies more intuitive and functional for mainstream user segments. This project applies same principles for Visually Impaired users and reimagines one of the most used features (typing) on touchscreen phones.
There are many Braille keyboard apps available, most prominent one being the iOS native one. Most of these apps are based on either touching dots (iOS) or connecting dots (ours). Surprisingly, Android does not have any pre-loaded/default options for Braille typing yet.
Other typing options such as hardware keyboards are upwards of USD 1000, and can be a thing of past if powerfull software solutions are created.
It is essentially SwiftKey for the Blind!
7 Braille Keyboard is a simple and intuitive keyboard app. It is based on Braille pattern, wherein user has to “draw” the pattern out across a UI showing 6 Braille pins. S/he is assisted with sound, vibration and high-contrast colors. In portrait mode, users can type and in landscape mode users can edit text.
View UX Specs here or the video above to understand its working.
It is the fastest typing interface on touchscreen for visually impaired users.
View US Patent here.
While I was working on SimplEye app, we received numerous praises for its keyboard experience. This feedback motivated us make 7 Braille as a standalone app.
Since its inception, this project was defined and in true sense co-created with the users. We interviewed and installed beta with 500+ users to get continuous feedback.
Amongst its iterations defined by users, the 3 main versions are mentioned below:
Version 1: It was a 6 box layout with a screengaurd that had embossed markings complementing the UI on screen. Users found it too intuitive so we dropped the screengaurd.
Version 2: This one was a black and white UI with 6 boxes and safe areas between adjacent boxes. Users felt identifying the 3 rows was easy enough and there was no need to have 6 boxes.
Version 3: This is the final version displayed in pictures above. This has a colorful (contrasting) layout of 3 rows. Alongside, it also has a safe area in center