Accessibility Matters - iAid Update
Last week I wrote about the iAid, using it as an example of a device which was overly complicated and less useful than existing low-tech solutions. Before posting, I'd written to Alex Deans, its developer, with some questions. I have since heard back from him and believe my initial post requires an update.
Firstly, I was operating under the assumption that the iAid was designed to immediately replace the white cane. At its current state, this is not Mr. Deans' intention, because it cannot yet identify changes in pavement grade or stairs. I raised this concern last week, and was encouraged to see that he'd already thought of it. He is working on a camera that would be mounted on the iAid to perceive these terrain differences, which he hopes will negate the need for the white cane altogether.
The simultaneous use of the iAid and a cane means that the concern of walking in a straight line is also addressed. The tactile feedback the cane provides will allow for this, provided there is an existing straight edge (a lawn or a seam in the pavement) to follow.
I was concerned also about consultation within the blind community. Reaction was mixed in the informal, non-scientific, survey I did of any blind person I had reason to speak or email with over the past few weeks. It turns out that Mr. Deans consulted with about 50 CNIB clients over the past five years, using their feedback to further refine his design.
This is a good-sized sample, but I would be interested to see how well-practiced cane users would benefit from the iAid, In my experience most regular CNIB clients are those who have lost their vision as older adults so would approach cane use from a very different perspective than I or others in my demographic.
This is an ongoing tale, but it reinforces the importance for me of dialogue between developers and their end-user base. As with many similar interactions, Mr. Deans and I will certainly learn from each other's experiences and expertise.