Jane Farrall has posted an excellent review of the new Tecla Shield from Komodo OpenLab. This is a new switch interface that allows one or more switches to communicate with the iPad. Switch access for the iPad has been available for some time, but only for certain switch compatible apps. I have to admit that I am not an expert in this area, but I enjoy learning about cutting edge technology and this is an area of accessibility where exciting new developments are still ahead of us.
Tecla Shield is one of a new generation of interfaces that promise full switch access to the iPad (another is the iPortal from Dynamic Controls with its Accessibility add-on). Alternative access (which includes access with switches) has been an issue since the iPad first came on the market, so it’s great to see creative solutions that focus on this area. As Jane noted, the Tecla Shield device depends on VoiceOver hooks in IOS to allow switch access to the iPad.
The fact that both Tecla Shield and iPortal rely on VoiceOver to provide alternative access to IOS devices presents a great opportunity for us as people with disabilities to come together and push for accessibility in the form of VoiceOver compatibility. Now it’s not just people with visual disabilities who benefit from an app that has been properly designed for VoiceOver compatibility. A whole new population of people with mobility, motor and cognitive impairments benefit as well. So many times even we as people with disabilities tend to adopt a “that’s not my problem” or “that doesn’t affect me” attitude. Thus, some people with visual disabilities don’t really care too much about captioning for those with hearing disabilities and some people with hearing disabilities don’t care too much about screen readers. Unfortunately, that shortsighted attitude keeps us from achieving the kind of unity that would give us a stronger presence to push developers into really paying attention to all of our accessibility needs.