The recent ABC science program, Catalyst, featured a new invention by Dr Jordan Nguyen. It demonstrated how a 13 year old boy living with cerebral palsy could use his eyes to directly control the lights, the fan and the television. Various environmental control systems designed for people with disability have been commercially available for many years, but these often require the use of a tablet or computer. Occupational therapists and bio-medical/rehabilitation engineers can skillfully adapt existing devices to suit individual needs.
Research on eye-tracking or eye-gaze systems is going on all the time and David Hobbs and his team at Flinders University are at the forefront of such inventions and adaptations. For those interested in some of the background to these systems, you can download their most recent publication on using low cost, portable, tablet-based systems for children.
Spectronics Australia has a catalogue of assistive technologies for children with disability, including devices using eye-gaze techniques.
Google Maps and similar web and mobile apps are being used more frequently as a means of getting around easily. But the rapid growth of technology often means that accessibility for all is getting left behind. While work continues on the accessibility of the web in terms of text and graphics, maps have not attracted much research and development.
The study by Tania Calle-Jimenez and Sergio Luján-Mora presents an analysis of the barriers to the accessibility in geographic maps, and explains how technologies and tools have evolved. In their conclusions they claim to have a technical solution that enables maps and map symbols to be intepreted by a screen reader for people with low vision or who are blind. The format can describe elements such as polygons, lines and points which can be interepreted by screen readers for people with low vision.
Download Web Accessibility Barriers in Geographic Maps article from the International Journal of Computer Theory and Engineering
Ability Technology has a great website providing solutions to everyday accessibility problems, with computers and mobile phones. Topics include using email, writing, reading, using the keyboard and playing games. There is also a section on environmental controls such as opening doors, operating lights, switches and air conditioners.
Ability Technology also conducts research and papers can be accessed on their website as well.
Accessibility guidelines are in place for websites and webpages, but we need to go further and start to consider people with vision impairment who use mobile apps. Making IOS compatible with Braille is the purpose of this study. The authors conclude that a set of development guidelines are needed similar to the web guidelines for accessibility.
From the abstract: In this revolutionary time of expanding tablet use and app development, universal design and accessibility is paramount to the construction of mobile apps. Some issues in accessibility are easily identified and may be addressed at the onset of software development. However, guidelines for software development are minimal (Sapp, 2007), particularly in relationship to mobile app development. Despite efforts to create universally designed software from the onset, many issues with accessibility are unknown until the app is in use. Similarly, teachers, students, individuals with disabilities, technology specialists, parents, and users of a particular device may identify a variety of different needs and options that make an app user friendly. In some cases, the app may be fully accessible, but successful use of the software requires advanced technology skills (Sapp, 2007), and the development team must simplify the user interface. To address ease of use, the opinions of a variety of different users, especially teachers, who have varying experiences and technology skills during development is critical (Falloon, 2013). The purpose of this paper, is to share the research-based, iterative, and organic process of development that authors used to create the iBraille Challenge Mobile App.
Download Methods in Creating the iBraille Challenge Mobile App for Braille Users
The authors* of this chapter examine how to blend universal design (UD) with e-learning tools used by post-secondary faculty and with information and communication technologies (ICTs) used by students in traditional classroom, hybrid, and online courses. The focus is on how instructors can design and deliver their courses in an accessible way using e-learning. The authors conclude: “Considering UD when selecting and using e-learning materials in traditional, hybrid, and online courses can ensure an accessible learning experience for the diversity of students in today’s colleges and universities. Collaboration between the wide array of stakeholders is needed to design, implement, and support accessibility and usability. This includes the students, instructors, ICT vendors, institutional IT procurement specialists, and campus disability service providers.”
*In S. E. Burgstahler (Ed.), Universal design in higher education: From principles to practice (2nd ed.), pp. 275-284. Boston: Harvard Education Press.
Dowload the chapter here