Wearable Technology and Blindness — A Look at the Tap Keyboard.

To use Tap, you type letters, numbers and symbols with your hand. No vision required.

Hey there, my name is Jayaram, and I am a visually impaired high school graduate from Denver, Colorado. I just recently became visually impaired - during my childhood I had sight, which allowed me to enroll in public school so that I could obtain equal education with other students by reading and writing in print as well as participate in variety of activities such as drama, art, sports, music, and more after school. I feel that having a sight during childhood gave me many opportunities to advance in my career without facing barriers or limiting my opportunities.

Later on I lost my site and became blind. Being in a developing country like Nepal, I couldn’t expect much technology or moral support. I was able to take all of my school’s examination using Slate and Stylus and move to the US. After coming to the states, I got an opportunity to use and understand the technology even more.

Currently, I use assistive devices such as a screen reader, Jaws, NVDA, GPS, and iPhone’s built in screen reader called VoiceOver. Assistive technologies are essential for visual impaired communities as they assist in navigating the world as well as enhance our independence by making our lives productive and meaningful. In this blog I will be focusing on an interesting new device called Tap, a wearable keyboard which also has a built in mouse. Doesn’t it sound interesting? Tap has cool features which make it convenient for people with visually impairment to type on any devices like iPhones, Android and computers.

Before I start writing about it features, I would first like to explain a little more information about it. Tap is a rechargeable device in the shape of 5 rings worn on your hand that has sensors to observe your finger movements. After the rings have been worn on each finger, it needs to be connected with your device via bluetooth. Yay! Now you are ready to use the device to type. Tap has developed its own finger patterns, which are taught using the TapAloud application by providing step by step instructions and practice and exercises.

Tap will assist in increasing typing speed while texting, writing/editing a document or even posting on social media. Tap is very beneficial device for visual impaired community, as it is portable, fashionable and easy to use. For example, you can message a friend, or email your supervisor without taking out your phone while traveling, even without dictating. Most importantly it eliminates barriers of navigating inaccessible websites by allowing navigating to the edit boxes. In addition, tap will take away stress as it will provide opportunity to exercise your fingers, improve hand coordination, as well as increase your attention span. Finally, it is accessible in variety of devices as it can be configured with VoiceOver, so if you are a user of any apple product, Tap can be a great device for you.

I would like to share my personal experience when I had found the tap most important. I went to NFB (National Federation of the Blind) Convention 2018 in Orlando, FL. I was roaming around independent market and I found the stall of Tap. I was surprised seeing those five rings, and more importantly how I could type on my iPhone using those rings. So I borrowed the device from my friend for a couple of week and since then, I am a Tap user. I am able to play audio games as well as I am doing most of my stuff on my phone using Tap. I was applying for a customer service job application in which the edit box was not accessible using windows screen reader, Jaws. The deadline to apply was right at the corner and I did not have anyone around to assist me in navigating the website. You could imagine how frustrating it must be for me to miss an opportunity I could qualify for due to inaccessibility barrier. It was very important for me to apply for the job, as I was passionate to help others. Tap helped me to navigate through those edit boxes. Traveling on a bus or on a train, I use my Bluetooth headphones and Tap, and it allows me to chat with friend or read news and spend time on social platform without taking my phone out. I think, Tap is a new revolution in the field of assistive technology. I highly recommend blind and visually impaired community to try out tap — www.tapwithus.com