Revisiting touch on the OLPC XO laptop and hardware access design

November 16th, 2008 | by dnw |

“Accessibility is about accommodating characteristics a person cannot change by providing options” — Joe Clarke, 2001

* An outline

* some ideas in olpc first look was promising
* accessibility and usability are hardware issues too
* accessibility should venture out of the online space into hardware design

Last year I had a first look at one of the beta OLPC XO laptops, the experience I wrote about on the blog back here.

On that pre-release XO one of the things that I was very interested in was the comination input pad. It is three panels, and supposedly was to be a section for use with a finger and others for a stylus. On the beta unit the finger-touch section worked and I even managed to get some patchy response when using a stylus, however it was very intermittent and only worked in the top half of the screen. I put this down to beta issues and looked forward to seeing a release version and how things had improved.

Well after a year of trying a few channels to get a look at a XO after it was released (including signing up to the developer program, who I heard no response from) I finally got to get my hands on one last week.

I wanted to pursue the questions I had around the input panels and was hopeful that the effort and obvious thought around access to the hardware that was put into the XO could’ve provided impetus for other areas of the industry to think about hardware access design in general, and touch input in particular.

I was dissapointed. From what I saw things have actually gone backwards with the stylus portion not functioning at all on the XO I saw, and as I understand support for stylus operation on the XO is going to be dropped. This thereby relegates the XO to the level of the rest of the industry offerings around touch – no finger, no operate – no options.

So closes the year long chapter of getting my questions answered about the potential of touch on the XO, and it leading the way in demonstrating options in hardware input options.

And really people, it shouldn’t be THIS hard to get definative questions of access answered.

* Some footnotes:

Starting in 1985 Apple Starting in 1985, Apple had a five-person Worldwide Disability Solutions Group (WDSG). Steve Jobs fired the WDSG in January 1998, saving a paltry million dollars annually. [http://www.wired.com/techbiz/media/news/1998/05/12351]

Joe Clarke Quote from TidBits [http://db.tidbits.com/article/6311]

My thanks to Janet H and Bill K for getting me a look at the XO

* *
  1. One Response to “Revisiting touch on the OLPC XO laptop and hardware access design”

  2. By Bill Kerr on Nov 21, 2008 | Reply

    hi David,

    Thanks for explaining these issues to me when I visited. I just blogged about it:
    disability access to laptops is also a hardware design issue

    Also, check out this thread on the IAEP list (its an education project):
    <a href=’http://lists.sugarlabs.org/archive/iaep/2008-November/002713.html’ http://lists.sugarlabs.org/archive/iaep/2008-November/002713.html

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