So, since the iPhone already comes loaded with very good note-taking and navigation features and a voice system -- VoiceOver -- that can verbally guide one through every action the phone takes, what was needed was a user interface to exploit the phone's features more easily.
"At Floco we were kind of exploring how far we could take our mobile software in the assistive technology industry," Kirkendall said. "So we saw it as a natural progression to build this software that uses a QWERTY keyboard or a Braille pen to let blind people take notes in the same manner they would with a larger device."
By swiping the keyboard, the iPhone's VoiceOver function can read out -- icon to icon -- what option has been selected and how to access its features. Using AccessNotes with a wireless keyboard or Braille keyboard, and learning a core set of keyboard commands -- matched with VoiceOver telling you where you are -- and the iPhone's depths are more easily delved.
Using the iPhone's accelerometer function -- tipping the phone left and right and up and down to make it do things -- AccessNotes also allows you to switch between your notes if a keyboard is not at hand simply by tipping the phone.
"A note-taker is often used by us in a school setting, so you want to be able to take your lecture notes really quick and to be able to switch to another note, maybe your homework notes," said Burton.
AccessNote will also allow people who are blind or with low vision and working in a professional setting to keep pace with sighted colleagues in something as direct yet significant as taking and organizing meeting notes, he said.
"You're on the same level playing field and you can compete with your colleagues -- that's what a lot of this is about too," Burton said.
This is no insignificant matter in the working world -- or in the case of many blind people, their nonworking world, he added.
"The numbers are argued back and forth, but we have at least a 50 percent unemployment rate for people who are blind or have significant low vision."
So, if at the end of the year he and Kirkendall find that 1,000 to 2,000 people are using AccessNote to make their school and professional lives more productive and efficient, "We would think that would be a success," he said.
"If we sold something like 10,000, I'd think that, boy, we've really made a difference."
They hope the app also spurs yet more innovations, said Burton, whose technology work with the AFB is designed to do just that by improving the accessibility of products for people who are blind or have low vision.
"So we can go to the store and get things out of the box and not be second-class citizens," he said. "I want to be able to be independently doing things."
Reach Douglas Imbrogno at doug...@cnpapers.com or 304-348-3017.