FlickType: 3rd Party Keyboard for the BVI Community is Arriving Soon!
Blog Post by Jessica Hodges
Many years ago, before iPhones were as common as stars in the sky, a small, twenty-dollar app hit the app store. This app, Fleksy by name, made quite a splash in the blind community, and the world at large. Their goal was a simple one, to make typing on a touch screen happy again. The way they went about this, was somewhat revolutionary.
The traditional way to type is fairly straightforward. Your finger finds a button that corresponds to whatever letter you want to input into your text field, and the letter is entered. ON a touch screen, particularly at that time, this was not so simple. There were no physical buttons to make typing by touch an easy alternative. The only ways to accessibly type, without a Bluetooth keyboard, were either to find each letter and double tap it, or find the letter, and lift your finger to select it. Both were somewhat slow, even for the most efficient touchscreen typists. Enter Fleksy.
Fleksy’s premise was a different one. Rather than having the user find a specific letter, the app had you tap in the general area you thought each letter was, then swipe to the right to input a space, and tell the app that you were done with the word. Based on the number of letters and the places you touched on the screen, the app would correct it to the word it thought you were trying to type. Wrong word? No problem. A swipe down cycled through a list of word possibilities. Punctuation was handled in a similar manor. A swipe to the right input a period, and a swipe down would cycle through all the available punctuation. The example the apps tutorial screen gave was the word banana. The b is on the lower rows of the keyboard, slightly to the right, so without knowing where the B specifically was, that’s where the user could put their finger. The a was on the middle left, the n to the right of wherever you’d pressed for the B, and so on. A swipe to the right would change the word to banana, without searching for, and finding any of the specific letters making up that word. If a custom word needed typing, a touch and hold would let you find specific letters, and a lift would enter them. Then a gesture would input them into the custom dictionary. This turned typing from a slow, clunky experience, into something pleasant, and above all, rapidly fast. Blind people were amazed, so much so that the app was inducted into the applevis.com hall of fame, a collection of extraordinary apps.
Years went by. Fleksy continued to improve. But companies and apps morph with time. Nothing can stay unchanging forever. Fleksy was becoming more popular outside the blind community. And so, it was, several years later, that social media giant Pinterest absorbed Fleksy into their company. Fleksy began to change, marketing itself in a more broad manor with themes, colors, and a fancy new interface. With that interface, a lot of the accessibility got taken away, and the service was much less usable. To try and mitigate this, Fleksy released a separate app, Fleksy VO, which was nearly exactly like the original fleksy. This received a lot of pushback from the blind community. Many felt that it was a form of discrimination, to be forced to use a separate app in order to use a service. In response, Fleksy pulled the app from the store and opensoursed the components that made up Fleksy VO, which garnered them even more of a bad reputation. People were extremely disappointed, and turned their sights to more built in typing options and more third-party keyboards, though there were many who continued to use the main Fleksy app.
Now, it is 2018, and the people behind Fleksy are returning to the blind community. An app called Flicktype has been built on the open sourced components that Fleksy left behind. Spearheaded by the original couple, Kosta and Ashley, who created Fleksy, this app is nearly exactly what Fleksy used to be, accessible and simple to use. Blind users are beta testers, and new versions are coming hard and fast. Communication is open, and beta tests are now including Flick type as a third-party keyboard. The tide of public opinion is shifting as user’s experiment, including Brian Fischler of “That Blind Tech Show,” who stated on air that he’d hated and been somewhat out of sorts with Fleksy, but tried Flicktype and fell in love with the concept all over again. And he is just one of many. Brian went on to say, “I thank them for working to include Flick Type as a third party keyboard, as it is fantastic to no longer have to get off the couch to my full keyboard to type long responses to people.:)
The developers, Kosta and Ashley, are eager to hear user feedback and have open conversations about the product, you can reach them on twitter @FlickType, or by emailing them and check out FlickType on the web.
In today’s app saturated world, a good app, and a good set of developers, can be hard to find. This, I think, is an example of both. So, go, try it out. For a mere one dollar a month, this can be used as a third party keyboard. But however, you choose to type, may it be swift, smooth, and trouble free.
By Jessica Hodges, staff writer
Thank you for listening!
You can follow us on Twitter @BlindAbilities
On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.
Get the Free blind Abilities App on the Google Play Store.