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How swipe typing makes communicating easier for those with physical disabilities

2nd March 2015

Hi everyone,

Meet Mihai Sucan, a 27-year-old SwiftKey user from Romania. Mihai was diagnosed at birth with recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa, a genetic skin condition that, among other effects, makes typing very difficult for him due to the extreme sensitivity of his skin. Mihai has found that despite this, using SwiftKey Flow, our swipe typing feature keeps him up to speed – he can reach 70 words per minute! Mihai also speaks four different languages, so being able to communicate seamlessly in Romanian, English and French, while he is also learning Arabic, is critical for him.

Home-schooled and self-taught since primary school, Mihai has his Master’s degree in computer science, he works for Mozilla Firefox as a developer, and is also incredibly passionate about technology. We talked to Mihai to find out more about him and his life, and how he’s accomplishing his goals despite physical obstacles:

“I tried many keyboards from the Google Play store. I decided to pick SwiftKey because it had better multi-language support,” Mihai said. “I constantly write in English and Romanian. It’s ridiculous how some keyboards require you to keep switching the language. The keyboard should work with you and for you.

“From day one, it improved my typing a lot – I always mistype words,” he added. “I just tap at the letters, as close as possible, from muscle memory. I don’t see the letters because a single fist covers the whole keyboard on a 5.5 inch phone. I don’t make an effort to be accurate. SwiftKey does that for me.”

Due to complications from his condition, Mihai is only able to type with his fists on a physical keyboard. As a result of this, he told us that he’s always been a huge fan of using SwiftKey Flow: “Swiping works much better for me than tapping letters on the screen… far better accuracy.” But he told us that he has recently started to do one-handed tapping on his phone as well, enjoying the ability to alternate between the two depending on the setting and his comfort level. For example, “I noticed that during eating or wound care, I can’t keep the phone in the right angle, which lowers swiping accuracy. Tapping works better from any angle and it can be more accurate and faster actually.”

Like any great engineer, Mihai gave us his opinion on a variety of SwiftKey features he’s come to know well in his time as a user: “I very much like that SwiftKey adds a space by default after you complete a word because it makes a lot of sense and leads to fewer surprises during typing, unlike other keyboards. I know others ask for no space when typing but I don’t agree with the idea.”

Due to his severe illness, Mihai hasn’t been able to use a normal keyboard for about a year. “I type using normal QWERTY keyboards, but I avoid fancy designs or layouts. Imagine typing with only two fingers – that’s what I do with my fists.” Since then he has used SwiftKey almost exclusively. He recently wrote a blog post using SwiftKey to raise awareness of his condition, and the importance of EB medical research.

An enormous thank you to Mihai for sharing his story with us.

How do you use SwiftKey? We’d love to hear your stories – share them with us on Twitter and Facebook!

Nicky & the Comms Team

To learn more about Epidermolysis Bullosa and help with research efforts, please visit the Sohana Research Fund. Mihai’s greatest wish is for people to show their support for EB research.

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