User Interfaces

There are many issues with user interfaces to technology. My approach has been to give up on reading the bits and pieces unless I have to. I work off of patterns. I don’t want to appear too cynical but there is no real push at making user interfaces accessible… I had the opportunity to get involved in the accessible user interface space whilst I was at Microsoft. I wasn’t acceptable as I wasn’t technical enough at the API or application programming interface level and to be credible you had too be. Seems the “politics” in the accessible user interface space is very intense. Vendors competing not interoperating. Nice. Thanks guys.

To be accessible many rely on the 3rd party tools as the base systems generally don’t have enough features for those of us with a recognized “disability”. Its a mess with the destinations and definitions of degrees of disability. Its not a black and white topic rather many shades of grey. I don’t think the disability scenarios have been mapped out well enough for real accessibility to occur. Besides lets face it the market is relatively small and big companies don’t get into little markets. Discrimination based on economics…..

ATM machines and debit terminals suck they are all different. No one has given any time to accessibility. When your disabled I suppose your not supposed to spend any money. Buy groceries that kind of thing. Unrealistic. One day when I get bored perhaps I should launch a class action lawsuit against the banks and retailers. I’m not that bored currently.

Spending my career with computers has been a good thing. I tried to be a programmer. I was smart enough however not sighted enough or I suppose patient enough to be a good one. Colon’s and semi colon’s were my Achilles heal.

When I started my career way back when in the dark ages of computing. I actually seen a paper tape machine. I didn’t have to program it thank goodness. I’m not a total dino however I never worked on a vacuum tube machine. The interfaces back then were mainly text based or textual interfaces. I actually studied on teletype machine terminals. A lot has changed and a lot hasn’t. A different discussion really but the concepts from back then are still relevant today.

I don’t know what the technical term is. But interfaces that are based on text. You could sort of work on them in patterns but for the most part you had to read the stuff to know what was going on then. User interfaces back then were cool to as the computer assumed you knew what you were doing so you actually did need to be careful. Now the computer goes delete file, then are you sure you want to delete the file?, then are you really really sure you want to delete the file?. Then the file is only moved to trash. Where, again, you have the option to recover the file and when you empty the trash the computer still asks if your sure you want to delete the file.

Today I consider myself functionally illiterate. I really can’t read in the traditional sense of the word. I’ll read a word based on the letters enough to understand the shape of the word. Then never again do I look at the letters. I do relatively well with the typed word but hand writing is a bear. I generally can’t read people’s hand writing.

I only take notes to accommodate sighted people. My manager at Microsoft, the one who’s door my guide dog took a dump in, insisted that I use pen and paper and specific body language in meetings. He was sure I wasn’t paying attention. Corporations don’t realize how truly pointless most meetings are. You could convey the same message in an email or a quick chat opposed to the big dog and pony show. All you have to do is listen.

I loved the dawn of the graphical user interface. The cool work done at Xerox Parc then the products delivered by Apple and Microsoft. Currently my favorite is Apple. I love the MAC. Yes there are a ton of accessibility issues and how do you provide context to a totally blind person in a graphical environment? The smart people of this world seem to have a work around at least. Check out the links section of this site for links to some companies that have figured it out. I love the graphical user interface. Patterns make it awesome. I can interact with graphical technology very well. The patterns make it usable for me. I’m FAST. When I was a technician people were stunned at how fast I could go. I just memorized everything. You don’t really need to see it after-all, Do You? I don’t.

Recently I’ve come across a system that for a lack of better words sucks. Its a text based graphical system. I rely on the graphics of a graphical user interface to give me context to determine what I do and don’t have to read. It is physically painful for me to read. Its a choice on how much pain I want to be in at the end of the day. It hurts there are times I can’t bring myself to read at all. This text base system uses basic graphical elements to present data. Squares and some color, the text is presented in such a rudimentary clumsy way as to render the system virtually impossible to use.

I’ve challenged the vendor to give me a demo where I can provide my feedback to their accessibility people. I’ll let you know how it goes.

About the Author:

Kyle has ocular albinism and has been legally blind since birth. Kyle leads a very active live and is besides his professional career involved in many projects for persons who are different.

Post a Comment