Get a mind’s eye view of your touch-screen with Feel’n’See Screenshots!
What are Feel’n’See Screenshots?
Feel’n’See Screenshots are tactile diagrams with braille captions that can guide the blind in the use of touch-screen devices. Feel’n’See Screenshots are meant to help cultivate mental mapping capabilities. As those capabilities increase, muscle memory comes into play to create a phenomenon we refer to as “ear-hand coordination”, which can have a tremendous effect on the user’s touch-screen proficiency.
Feel’n’See Screenshot books are not intended to serve as stand-alone resources. However, when used in conjunction with our Feel’n’See companion videos, they become multimedia learning tools that can also be used alongside books such as Getting Started with iOS or iOS Without the Eye.
Our videos present the gestures required and resulting screen activity along with Voiceover audio as it occurs during the exploration process. These truly multimedia presentations will assist anyone wishing to mentor a blind user in mastery of the gestures and touch-screen interactions.
User proficiency can be further enhanced through the addition of a SpeedDots screen protector to the touch-screen. These screen protectors, which we highly recommend, provide single-dot tactile indicators for common control locations such as tabs, cancel/send buttons, and telephone keypad “5”. Find out more at SpeedDots.
At first, users can explore a Feel’n’See Screenshot with one hand while navigating through the corresponding touch-screen on their iDevice with the other. Through this process, a mental map of the screen begins to form. Required gestures can be rehearsed using the FeelaGram and then transferred to the touch-screen using the help mode and, finally, with live interaction.
Feel’n’See Screenshot users report that their experience has literally “taken shape”. In other words, they have become able to explore and then visualize what is on their screens. Once this occurs, the playing field is levelled, as everyone is then using a visual frame of reference. This makes it much easier to interact with family, friends and colleagues to obtain coaching and support, which can result in a generally higher level of social integration.
Over the past several years, while working as an independent living skills and assistive technology instructor at BALANCE for Blind Adults in Toronto, and as an avid iPhone user, I attracted a new group of program participants – adults who were particularly interested in learning whether an iDevice could act as a multi-purpose independent living aid. Could we assemble a set of accessible apps to replace our stand-alone light detectors, colour identifiers, barcode scanners, book players, and GPS?
We soon found that the most proficient – and least frustrated – users were those who could understand and negotiate the positional relationships of touch-screen elements. Otherwise, users tended to flick left and right (back and forth) through the screen elements as though they were beads on a string. This serial or linear method proved very time consuming and caused high levels of frustration, especially on more complicated screens. I determined that developing tactile screen representations to encourage mental screen mapping could make a difference.
Earlier versions of Feel’n’See Screenshots were produced by Tactile Vision Inc.,, using a patented tactile thermography process that rendered excellent results. Based on very positive user feedback and successful sales in Canada, the US and the UK, we launched a new product line, starting with a braille-only Feel’n’See Screenshot book for the iPad and iOS8. We are pleased to continue with Feel’n’See Screenshots for iOS10 in braille, large text and dual-mode formats.
Our design process is now in-house, using Tactile View software and an Everest braille embosser. Feel’n’See Screenshots can also be reproduced on a Tiger Premier Braille Printer. As well, with master files in electronic format, we can facilitate production and distribution through any organization with access to this software and hardware.
Future Feel’n’See Screenshots
We are eager to receive product suggestions (such as Feel’n’See Screenshots for the most popular apps), particularly from developers who have demonstrated an ongoing commitment to accessible and inclusive design.
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Tom Dekker & the AbraHound say welcome to the Eyes-Free Academy!