Drawbraille Mobile Phone (Design Concept)
Designer Shikun Sun has put together a stylish mobile phone design idea for the blind - via Yanko Design:
DrawBraille Mobile Phone is one of the most compelling concepts that focus on making mobile phones easy-to-use for the blind. The entire UI and input keys are in Braille and even the touch panel reflects this system. The design and approach have a surreal finish to it and I am quite sure that Shikun Sun is on to something big with this!
More information, including photos and a video, can be found at Yanko Design here
This is a great concept that is not without practical challenges. Braille displays are very expensive and somewhat fragile; to consider putting one in a pocket like an iPhone, where it could be easily damaged … one would have to have a lot of money to throw away on daily repairs.
The input is probably fine as it is, but if one follows the model of the iPhone’s use of a Qwerty-keyboard, a Braille typewriter layout may be the preference of users.
An alternative concept worthy of exploration would be to place the display on the back side with the thumb entry on the front. Since displays are read with the finger tips, and opposed thumbs are used to write, the design above would require the user to flip their hands with each transition between reading and writing. If the display were on the opposite side, the user would be capable of reading and writing simultaneously, as is the case for a sighted person using a visual display. Opposing the display and the entry would also allow greater space to increase the display size to more characters.
Best practice in designing practical adaptations is to work from the simple, with reluctance to move toward toward the complex. In conceptual design, however, exploration is the goal; in that respect, this is fantastic. It is also good in that it highlights the dire need for some way to improve the durability of, and to drive down the cost of Braille displays (each dot is an individual solenoid, which means there are there are at least 210 in this design. I believe most are still tediously hand wound which means they are very expensive).
It may be a confusing concept, but sighted designers tend to be limited by vision, at least initially; they tend to design from their eyes outward. It is a difficult thing to ignore vision and design first from the involved senses (in this case, fingers that can reach around an object to see from the back side). Conversely and additionally, it would be tempting to replace the Braille display with text-to-speech in this concept model - such a change would replace the tactile with the audible, however, and render it entirely impractical to the deaf and blind community.
The designer(s) deserve praise for their work. In a world that is dazed by shock-and-awe capitalism, we see a deluge of shiny objects churned out for the masses, and we see far too little thought given to people with impairments.
(Wægen has over a decade an a half of experience working with people with disabilities, and specializes in adaptations for people with blindness and visually impairments. Wægen is not only a service provider for the vocational rehabilitation industry, but has recently become a recipient with the onset of chronic ocular migraines.)