The Blank App
The Blank App was developed for the AT&T Connect Ability Challenge by Code the Dream, a nonprofit initiative that teaches low-income students to code, and connects them with volunteer mentors to work on projects like The Blank App.
The Problem: Poor Web Accessibility for the Visually Impaired
The internet, and all the information, tools and experiences it offers, should be a boon to the visually impaired. It has the potential to bring a hard-to-navigate world to our doorstep. But sadly, much of the internet itself remains very hard to navigate for those who can't see or see well. We need to make it easier to share where the problems are and fix them.
Visually impaired users are often frustrated by images with no descriptions or fields that cannot be read by their screen reader. There’s usually no easy way to lodge a complaint or to coordinate with others facing the same problem. Even on sites developed by conscientious coders following accessibility norms, it’s easy to miss problems. Hence the need for more feedback directly from visually impaired users.
The Solution: Seamless Problem Logging and Automatic Fixes
Our team of developers includes visually impaired members who use zoom text and screen readers tools every day. Our easily downloadable browser extensions (currently available for Chrome and Firefox) allow visually impaired users to use a single keyboard shortcut to automatically capture problem URL’s and log their feedback.
With the browser extension, users will also automatically upload fully accessible “fixed” versions of sites commonly reported to have problems. Based on helpful feedback we've received from many of our first users, our team has a number of fixed sites currently in beta testing.
In addition to our in-house developed fixes, theblankapp.com will also share collected accessibility data and allow third-party developers to upload their own fixes for common issues — thereby creating a crowdsourcing platform to rapidly multiply the number of “fixed”, fully accessible sites.
Beyond directly improving visually impaired users' experience, we believe the data we capture will be a valuable tool for sharing with policymakers and fostering a more inclusive society with fully equal access.
Feedback From Our Early Users
Our first end-users were the visually impaired members of our own development team. Their own life experience, and conversations we had with other visually impaired users and accessibility experts, shaped our project. In addition, we are grateful to the enthusiastic early adopters who have tested early versions and provided their feedback. Many reported past frustrating experiences and said that they loved the ability to quickly report problems and go on with their day.
Among other changes, it was based on end user feedback that we quickly rolled out our Firefox extension after our initial Chrome extension, because some reported accessibility issues with the Chrome store site itself that made the download difficult. End users have also already provided a long list of site-specific accessibility issues that the team is working on adding to our automatic fixes.
We look forward to hearing from more users in order to improve future iterations and provide the true equal access to the web that everyone deserves.