In the few short months that Blindfold Racer has been out, I’ve learned a lot about the requirements to make an app both accessible and enjoyable. And its all been by making mistakes. And being cajoled, convinced or embarrassed by blind gamers to make it better.
First I learned about how much better Apple’s voice-assist mode is than our attempt to do something similar. We changed the most recent version to use voice-assist mode in the settings screen, and in the version to be released soon, we used it in all screens except when actually driving the car.
Next was the website fiasco. We needed a website to explain the app and the story behind the app, so we selected the hosting website wix.com. Using wix, we were able to put together a nice website in under four hours, and it was also mobile friendly.
Then I get an angry email from one of the gamers complaining that our website is not accessible. We search around for an alternative to wix, but can’t find anything outstanding (squarespace and others were not good enough). We tested several with a JAWS reader (a JAWS reader speaks the text on a PC or MAC screen), and didn’t find anything we liked. Exchanging email several times with that gamer, we decided to have two websites – one that’s very pretty for sighted users, and one that is fully accessible for visual impaired users. Our website – BlindfoldRacer.com – tells a visually impaired user to switch to BlindfoldRacer.org.
Then there was the honking horn fiasco. I naively assumed that everyone knows how to honk a horn in a car. You just push in the center of a steering wheel. What I didn’t think about was that children learn this by watching their parents. If someone is blind from birth, they never watched their parents do that. I probably received 50 emails from blind gamers asking how to honk the horn (you press and hold in the middle of the screen for about five seconds).
I decided that if blind gamers have a hard time with horn honking, there should be an equivalently hard level for sighted gamers. Some of the suggestions I’ve received relate to using a cane, or figuring out what floor an elevator is on (by counting the beeps). We’ll include that in a future version.
Most recently, I’ve heard from the testers of the newest version that putting buttons in the four corners was a good idea, but just too hard to use on a small device like an iPhone. When playing the game, the blind gamers occasionally hit a button. We’re changing the game to let the gamer disable the buttons while they drive the car; the app will respond to three finger gestures instead of buttons.