One of the things that most excites me about accessibility is that it has proven Time and time again to be a springboard for innovation. Speech to text, text to speech, curb cuts and ramps, the Segway, and even the typewriter keyboard are examples of how thinking about a problem from an accessibility perspective has lead to incredible innovations that we all benefit from every day. In the digital space, we see numerous accessibility-driven innovations: image/object recognition, and speech to text devices (Hey Siri!) being examples that immediately come to mind. I love innovation and love that I get to work in a field that can be a springboard for that innovation because innovation is something that can improve the world for everyone, not just for those with disabilities.
And so it was with much sadness that I came across the following tweet earlier today:
FlickType, and its predecessor, sought to solve a very particular problem: how to type more accurately, and with more speed on a tiny screen-based keyboard such as that on iOS devices or even the Apple Watch. Their solution is both elegant and ingenious: essentially map out where the user’s fingers make contact with the screen and determine what that user is trying to type regardless of whether the correct keys are actually pressed or not. Typing on a phone screen, accurately and with speed, is challenging for many people, myself included. In my case, I often attempt to type with my phone in one hand, a cup of coffee in the other and typing one-handed like this is even more challenging. Of course typing one-handed is a particular user preference of mine — I could very theoretically put down my coffee — but for people with the use of only one hand, that option is not available. FlickType didn’t totally eliminate all challenges with on-screen typing, but the accuracy with which it predicts what the user is trying to type significantly reduced those barriers. In my mind, FlickType didn’t think about what is possible, but rethought what possibility could be.
Today’s tweet from FlickType is very sad for me because it is a very modern, and for me very real, example of how accessibility can be a springboard for innovation that can improve experiences for everyone. I’m not sure what will come next for the FlickType team, but whatever they do, I hope they approach their next endeavor with the same passion, drive, and innovation with which they reinvented the experience of on-screen typing. Thank you, FlickType, for all you have done to reduce barriers, and thank you for bravely innovating to get it done.