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 andDavid 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.
Professor Simeon Keates has been researching aspects of universal/inclusive design over many years. In this article he focuses on how designers can acquire the knowledge and skills to gain information about users and apply it to the design.
Abstract: Designing for Universal Access requires designers to have a good understanding of the full range of users and their capabilities, appropriate datasets, and the most suitable tools and techniques. Education clearly plays an important role in helping designers acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to find the relevant information about the users and then apply it to produce a genuinely inclusive design. This paper presents a reflective analysis of a variant of the “Usability and Accessibility” course for MSc students, developed and delivered by the author over five successive semesters at the IT University of Copenhagen. The aim is to examine whether this course provided an effective and useful method for raising the issues around Universal Access with the designers of the future. This paper examines the results and conclusions from the students over five semesters of this course and provides an overview of the success of the different design and evaluation methods. The paper concludes with a discussion of the effectiveness of each of the specific methods, techniques and tools used in the course, both from design and education perspectives.
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.
Gerard Goggin’s latest publication focuses on the Internet, which is now 25 years old, but mobile Internet accessibility is struggling to keep up. He asks, “the web is our virtual commons, but how can we empower all people to use and contribute to the web regardless of language and ability?”
Gerard Goggin is Professor of Media and Communications at the University of Sydney. His research focuses on the social and cultural aspects of mobile media and Internet, as well as disability and digital technology. He co-authored the landmark book with the late Christopher Newell, Disability in Australia: Exposing a social apartheid.A review of the book provides an overview of the issues covered. A good reference for understanding the routine oppression of people with disabilty in Australia.
Blurred lines: Accessibility, disability and definitional limitations.
This paper explores the history and utility of the concept of “accessibility” in relation to the iPhone and similar devices, and the difficulties of differentiating between accessibility for people with disability and usability concerns for the general public. Elizabeth Ellcessor is assistant professor of cinema and media studies, and has an engaging way of writing. She says the case of iOS7 indicates the difficulties of defining both accessibility and disability in the contemporary moment. Increasingly, the lines between accessibility and usability, disability and difference, accommodation and preference are blurring.
The author uses disability theory to argue that access is a complicated phenomenon, and that even given the difficulties in establishing definitions of “accessibility,” the concept is worthwhile because it carries with it reminders of the politics of difference, the difficulties of access, the history of disability rights, and the relationship of media to civil rights and public participation. Download the document.
Note: the webpage is not particularly accessible with on-screen small print.
Internet use: Perceptions and experiences of visually impaired older adults,published in the Journal of Social Inclusion, provides some excellent qualitative research – the comments from older people with vision loss are especially revealing. Anyone involved in internet communications should read this, especially those designing and posting to websites and designing email platforms. The study comes from the University of Northumbria, Newcastle UK. Note: the authors use the term “visually impaired”. In Australia the correct term is “vision impaired” or “people with low vision”.
This study has been made freely available by Griffith University Press.