‘Carthage must be destroyed’

D. Powazek, demonstrating his worth now for a second full decade: “Given how much work communicating has been for the majority of human history, do you really think that a software keyboard is going to stop people from ‘creating content’ on the iPad?”

I read this yesterday and enjoyed it. Then this morning I had a full Looney Tunes–compliant experience: I stopped cold and thought Hey, waaait… aaa… miiinute!

The iPad is the first popular use of an onscreen keyboard on a big screen. But what do you think quadriplegics and seriously disabled people have been using for a decade and a half?

If you can’t type for whatever reason, you can use a hardware keyboard, or a pointer, or a set of triangulated light beams, or any number of other methods to operate an onscreen keyboard with word prediction, just like the iPad (and, in miniature, the iPhone and iTouch). These products have been continuously developed for years and do more than just enter text; you can control a huge range of computer functions just by activating onscreen controls, through whatever mechanism works for you.

And it does work, whether you’re a member of parliament or a baseball columnist. Do you need to type? A lot of people need to type. Are you crippled? Well, who cares? We’ve got you covered.

It turns out that people with iPhones were using an adaptive technology all the while. If you don’t have a hardware keyboard and all you can type with is a couple of fingers – presto, you’re de facto disabled. And now the whole experience has been supersized: You the iPad user are doing the same thing every quadriplegic, zero-handed person, person with cerebral palsy, or any number of other disabled people have been doing since the 1990s.

With your big new iPad screen, you’re even more de facto disabled than ever! Welcome to the club. But since Apple has set up the entire system to solve that problem, why the hell is anyone complaining?

And yes, blind people have begun buying and using iPads, since VoiceOver is built right in. One podcast went into a lot of detail on how much easier it is to type on the iPad than the iPhone. It’s easier for everyone, isn’t it?

Here, then, is the future of adaptive technology: It’s no big deal if you’re disabled because everybody using the system is. Do you need to type? A lot of people need to type. Aren’t you crippled? Well, who cares? We’ve got you covered.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2010.04.07 13:36. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:
http://blog.fawny.org/2010/04/07/ipad-keyboard/

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