Redesigning an interface for the visually impaired

Subject: Redesigning an interface for the visually impaired
From: "Martinek, Carla" <CMartinek -at- zebra -dot- com>
To: "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 30 Sep 2010 08:08:05 -0500

This is an article about how RFID tagging (which my company does) helps vision-disabled workers to accurately pack boxes with correct types and quantities of items.

The following excerpt stood out and I thought it was worth sharing as it relates to technical communication. In working to make an interface that the vision-disabled workers could use, they ended up improving the entire interface.

For vision-disabled personnel, SimplyRFID overhauled the interface that runs on each PC, because this existing interface to its Nox software provided many drop-down menus and options that those workers would be unable to see. "In the old system, a lot of data was displayed on the PC monitor at each reader station," says Carl Brown, SimplyRFID's president. "There was the total tags in view, the total items packed. You might also see a number of error messages on the screen. There is a lot of information that is hard to process. Sighted workers have 10 to 12 options on what they can do at any moment when interacting with the software. The blind version has only yes/no options, which are provided through over 110 audio commands."

So with the Nox system that SimplyRFID designed for the vision-disabled workers, users interact with the system based on audio alerts and commands, as well as a simple touch-screen interface. Gone are the myriad options and drop-down menus offered by the older software. But what SimplyRFID didn't anticipate is that by removing the software's complexity, it also made interfacing the software much simpler for all users - - even those not optically challenged.

"We're now actively looking at deploying this version of our software for all our clients," Brown says, referring to general manufacturers - - including those making goods for the DOD - - as well as companies that utilize SimplyRFID's solutions for tracking assets. "Starting with our next customer deployment, we will demonstrate both systems and let the customer decide. Developing it really forced us to make the interface more efficient and simple. And I can't see us deploying the [older] version again [for any client]."



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