Do you know someone who is blind? Perhaps you are visually impaired yourself.
Near the end of 2016 we were challenged to make the Sonar platform as easy and intuitive for blind / visually impaired (B&VI) learners as those with sight. At first blush we thought we were hooped. Our entire platform was based on owning the entire screen. In technical terms, we didn’t use the Document Object Model (DOM). In plain English, when a screen reader encountered our lesson/simulation/lab it appeared empty and would say something completely meaningless like “HTML content Mako. Head.” That’s it. No more explanation. Try going to one of our example apps in our gallery and you’ll see what I mean. They were completely and utterly unusable by B&VI learners. It was a deal breaker for selling into Higher Education.
After the initial shock, we began to brainstorm how we could create a solution, a work-around. We were all watching Stranger Things on Netflix at the time and the conversation turned to the Upside Down world. The conversation progressed from there and we wondered if we could, in effect, “spoon feed” the DOM what it needs to know, and only what it needs to know, for each interaction. Could it behave more like an adventure game from the 1980’s and describe everything in the room versus relying on you being able to see everything in the room. Could it ask you want you wanted to do next, and based on your input calculate the effects and take you to the next stage of your simulation? After some experimentation we proved it was not only possible, but was a way better experience for the B&VI community. We decided to call it the UpsideDOM.
We are very close to releasing a live demo of our B&VI solution, but based on early expert feedback I have to say I think it’s a winner. I’m so excited to share it with you, but you have to experience it. But you have to promise you will close your eyes and truly experience it as the 1.3 million B&VI learners would hear it. Then try the next best solution out there. It’s night and day. Actually, it’s cold versus hot. It’s rough versus smooth. It’s loud versus calm. It’s bitter versus sweet. You get the idea.