Estremera: Thinking like (again)

Spider’s web

I’M not a full techie, although I manage to explore programs and gadgets and figure things out through trial and error.

Cellphones for me are gadgets to be used until they give up. My smartphone has become my mobile office for writing, quick video productions, photos, recordings, and quick Photoshop when needed.

They’re not luxury items and I don’t buy every new model unveiled. So, my first iPhone was an iPhone5 since I had fully functional Sony Ericssons for years before I drowned two units at sea in a freak sea accident years before Androids became a thing.

Now I have an iPhone7 and a very old Nokia Qwerty that I keep handy for trips in the boondocks because its battery can last three days unlike the iPhone. I don’t have an Android.

Thus, when Sri Lankan journalist Shanika was trying to figure out how to operate her Samsung after she mistakenly set it for blind users and no one could figure out how to return it to normal, I offered to help. (I didn’t even know there’s such an app for blind users).

It was very unfamiliar made worse by its unresponsiveness. I noticed that everytime I tapped on something, it would vibrate but did nothing else. That means, it was on silent mode!

The first problem was how to get in since there is a password. The phone keypad seemed not working... worst, it was on power saving mode thus the display disappeared in about 10 seconds.

That was when inspiration hit me. What would the blind do?

First: The blind would touch, slowly and repeatedly. I did, and noticed that when I long press a key once, the letter would pop out and the phone would vibrate, apparently, there’s a voice and that voice was most likely saying what letter that was.

Back to blind mode. If a blind already knows the location of one key, what would he most likely do to engage the key? A long press is out, since that is to confirm that you got the right letter. A short press didn’t achieve anything. Now what? A double-tap?

I did that and the letter was finally typed out. Thus, as I tapped the password, I was going: Tap-double tap. Tap-double tap. That opened the phone. The problem is, even as the phone is now open, the scroller wasn’t working. That was until it hit me: Of course, a blind person will not be able to see a scroller nor know when to stop scrolling!

What to do again? I stared at the unresponsive screen and noticed the search bar. I long pressed the space bar then typed in the “tap-double tap” manner the app name: TalkBack. That brought me to TalkBack, and I turned it off. Shanika’s phone was finally reset for a regular user again, and I suddenly earned the reputation as the mobile phone expert.

Thinking back, all I did was put myself in the shoes of a blind person and imagined how he would do things. This made me understand how an unfamiliar gadget set for the visually-impaired works. That works for other things as well. By putting yourself in another person’s shoes, you get a better grasp of their actions, thoughts, and inclinations.


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