I had my expectations of how software is used challenged last week when talking to the CTO of a med-tech startup. Their software shows data collected by sensors while a patient is being operated on. Processing the thousands of datapoints collected by these devices every second is fascinating.
There is another challenge: operating rooms need to be entirely sterile. There can be no keyboards, no mice, or any other physical input devices in there. Voice assistants are too unreliable for this scenario. If you ever struggled to set a timer through Alexa, you don’t want to mess with her while operating on a living person. Instead, they have a second person remote control the software from another room. The surgeon sees the software on a second display and tells the “controller” what buttons to click. It might not be efficient, but it’s effective.
This is an extreme case of accessibility, which is not just about giving access to blind users. Everybody can have limited access sometimes. You don’t need to lose an arm to not be able to use both hands. You could carry a baby on one arm, or temporarily have it in a cast because of an accident. Regardless of what our products do, accessibility cannot be an afterthought. To help you get started, check out these excellent guidelines:
Accessiblity posters by the UK Home Office