I've been thinking about Force Touch almost non-stop since the Apple event a few weeks ago — what it means for Macs now, what it could mean for the future of software development, and how it might change artistry on the iPad. I've also been musing on what it could bring to accessibility in computing.
What if we had a trackpad or other surface that could simulate Braille, for instance, if a setting was turned on? Or a Force Touch trigger that would let you know if you'd moved to the edge of a window, or on a button? There are so many potential avenues for exploration here — a thought accessibility ace Steven Aquino expounded upon in an article for MacStories:
Imagine, for example, iOS 10 or 11. Apple will almost assuredly bring Force Touch to the iPhone and iPad, and they could utilize the technology in a slew of ways. They could effectively solve the problem with buttons in iOS 7 and 8 by using haptic feedback to denote a "button press" everywhere in the system. Thus, visually impaired users like me wouldn't have to struggle so much in figuring out what's a button versus a text label. Likewise, Force Touch could save those with motor challenges from the work of extra taps by allowing force-pressing to bring up contextually-specific controls. There are lots of possibilities here.
Aquino has written for iMore previously on tech accessibility, and he's a smart cookie when it comes to this stuff — I can't wait to hear what he has to say once he's spent more than a few moments with a Force Touch trackpad.
His article more than ever convinces me as to the power of Force Touch in the tech disability landscape. During my time at the Apple Store, I once worked with a woman who suffered from partial blindness: In order for her to properly work at her laptop, she needed several accessories — including a Braille keyboard — during her training appointment; although we managed to help her get what she needed done, it was still a struggle for her.
With Force Touch, it's easier to imagine a future where the only laptop accessory she'd need was the laptop itself. And that's overwhelmingly exciting.