Last summer during Apple’s Developer Conference (unrelated: WWDC was an epic roadtrip), I bought a 32 GB iPod to install the beta version of iOS 7. Five days after buying that brand new iPod, I managed to drop it on concrete and completely destroy the sleep / wake button. Ouch.
I didn’t realize how many times I lock / unlock my device until I could no longer do that. Thankfully, I was able to restore this functionality by turning on “AssistiveTouch.”
AssistiveTouch is an accessibility accommodation that makes using touch gestures and hardware buttons easier for users. It places a tiny orb on the screen so that users can complete tasks with a single tap. Although it was designed for people with motor impairments, it benefited my inability to use my sleep / wake button. The beauty of universal design.
I was able to fully use my iPod without this button for eight months. For a Christmas present, Tyten got it repaired for me.
However, having to use this accommodation gave me incredible insight into designing for those who rely on it.
iPhone illustration with VoiceOver on screen curtain on
This is why I decided that for the next seven days I am only using my iPod via VoiceOver with the screen curtain on. My hope is that it will better inform certain design decisions in Compeer.
We’ve been testing VoiceOver with users and our own devices constantly throughout making the app. We’ve implemented dynamic type and gone to great lengths to make the app as accessible as possible.
However, I think relying on VoiceOver—and turning the screen off so that I can see nothing on it—will give me understanding of some of the barriers users with vision impairments experience.
Yes, I’ll have access to my iPhone with VoiceOver turned off, meaning that the iPod won’t be my only iOS device. But I believe that I use my iPod intensely enough that this will still be a great learning experience.