I have just had a very interesting conversation with Kajarii where we discussed keyboards ergonomics, alternative keyboard layouts, and typing tutors.
Kajarii is blind and touch types on a QWERTY keyboard, having learned by trial and error from a young age. Kajarii would like to learn colemak keyboard layout, but made a really good point: how do you learn a new keyboard layout when you can’t even see what the layout should look like and you have no feedback from what you’ve typed?
Once i thought about it, i realised that every typing tutor i’ve ever seen has relied heavily on being able to see. You have to look at what you’re meant to type, there is usually some kind of layout diagram that highlights the key, and quite often the use of colour for feedback if you have typed correctly, and the cursor moves on to the next letter. They are no good at all for somebody without the privilege of sight.
I think i could quite easily teach a blind person to touch type if we sat down side by side. I’d start with the index fingers on the home row, tell them what the letters are, give instructions of short bursts of letters to type, and give verbal feedback on what they typed. Like most typing tutors do, i’d gradually introduce new letters and form words to type using the letters learned so far. I can see this working well with one-on-one human interaction.
So can that be translated to an accessible typing tutor program? I think it probably could be. I would like to try. What would it be like? A terminal based app? A web app? A native desktop app? Would it rely on screen reader technology, or use pre-recorded instructions? I need the input of visually impaired people to know what would be most useful.
Is there anyone out there who would like to help write an accessible typing tutor? Anybody who would like to help test one?
Could we do an open source effort? Something that is extensible to adding different keyboard layouts? There are accessible typing tutors and there are typing tutors that support colemak, but i don’t think there is an overlap.
Please leave a comment if you are interested in helping to create something, or have some ideas about how it could be.
I guess i will never understand just how privileged i am to be blessed with both sight and hearing, but i am interested to learn more about accessibility issues, and i at least *want* to care more about the kind of difficulties i hope i will never have to face.