As much as technology has helped improve our lives, it’s not always as accessible as it could be, particularly for those with conditions like Parkinson’s disease which can cause tremors that make it hard to use some devices. But a new app called Staybl takes advantage of a feature included in the iPad since day one to make a simple task like surfing the web much easier even when tremors are being experienced.
Although the effects of Parkinson’s disease, “a long-term degenerative disorder of the central nervous system,” can take years to appear, the earliest symptoms include tremors in many parts of the body, but most commonly the hands, which can make the simplest of tasks extremely challenging. It’s why in the past we’ve seen companies develop assistive devices like stabilized spoons that counteract the movements of tremors allowing those with Parkinson’s disease to feed themselves again. Staybl was created to do the same thing but with mobile devices by taking advantage of already-present technologies that are otherwise used for gaming, tracking exercise, or simply automatically screen rotation.
The app was developed by Havas New York and Havas Germany who spent two years working with the German Parkinson’s Association and Parkinson’s patients in Germany and the US to test and optimize the app. At its core, it relies on an iPad’s accelerometer to detect the subtle movements of hand tremors and then move an on-screen web browser window in the opposite direction to cancel out those movements providing the user with a stabilized and steady view of a web page while holding a mobile device.
Other improvements made to the Staybl app that help make it more accessible and useable for those dealing with hand tremors were the removal of swipe and slide gestures required for navigation, enlarged buttons made easier to press, a higher contrast interface, and the use of the Atkinson Hyperlegible sans-serif font developed by the Braille Institute for improved legibility for readers with visual impairments through a design that makes individual letters easier to differentiate.
The Staybl app is currently available as a free download through the App Store for iPads running iPadOS 14.0 or later as it requires a larger screen and the device’s faster refresh rates, but its creators are hoping to bring it to other devices and platforms in the future.