[AI] Assistive technology for the disabled

balasaheb londhe balondhe at gmail.com
Sat Jan 26 21:25:44 EST 2008

Hello Viraj,
Thank you for sharing such interesting and knowledgeable article.
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Viraj" <vkafle at gmail.com>
To: <accessindia at accessindia.org.in>
Sent: Saturday, January 26, 2008 11:12 PM
Subject: [AI] Assistive technology for the disabled

> Although we may be aware of many of the assistive technologies theorised 
> in the article below, the way in which the author has theorised them with 
> regards to various disability requirements appears quite interesting. One 
> also gets a glimpse of the development towards such technologies in other 
> third-world countries. Somehow I couldnt access the URL .
> :The Daily Star: Internet Edition
> Saturday, January 26, 2008 11:25 PM GMT+06:00
> Assistive technology for the disabled
> Farooque Hossain Kamrul
> Disablement, needless to say, significantly reduces the life quality of a 
> person as it substantially diminishes their work ability. Assistive or 
> adaptive
> technology, however, can bring back the individual's employability at an 
> acceptable level.
> Unfortunately, most people, even the disabled themselves, in the third 
> world countries are not aware that assistive technology may become their 
> real friend
> in assisting them in everyday life. I would like to highlight in this 
> article some assistive technologies for different types of disabilities; 
> before that
> it is worth mentioning what an assistive technology means.
> There is no specific definition of Assistive Technology (AT). It simply 
> denotes any item, piece of equipment, or system that is used to increase, 
> maintain
> or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.
> The definition does not necessarily imply that AT must include computers, 
> or that it must be expensive, or that certain medical professionals can 
> only
> prescribe it. This definition permits AT to be restricted by your own 
> creativity and imagination.
> The followings represent samples of the many types of AT, grouped by the 
> nature of a user's disability, that are available.
> AT for visual impairments
> Visually impaired users face a great challenge when interacting with 
> graphical user interfaces. Typically, they use software applications known 
> as screen
> readers that turn the texts, events, and elements in applications and 
> websites into synthesised speech. For example, when a user opens a new 
> window in
> Microsoft Internet Explorer, a screen reader such as JAWS (Job Access with 
> Speech) or Home Page Reader might say "new browser window".
> A physically challenged person, I took part in a specialised training 
> program last year, where 19 other physically challenged people also 
> participated.
> Of them, 12 were visually challenged. I observed with sheer astonishment 
> how my visually impaired friends worked smoothly on computer using screen 
> reader
> software like JAWS or FSB reader. They used special key combinations to 
> move around screen in order to direct the screen what to read. By 
> listening to
> this speech, they were able to understand a screen's content.
> Another AT for the visually challenged is refreshable Braille display, 
> which may be used as an alternative to screen reader. These devices 
> convert screen
> text into Braille and display the Braille on a number of cells comprised 
> of independently controlled pins. When editing and reviewing text, 
> refreshable
> Braille displays can be much better to work with because a vision-impaired 
> user can easily reread characters on the same line and check spelling. 
> Screen
> readers are capable of reading words character by character, but the 
> process of moving backwards in text to review and then moving forwards can 
> be cumbersome.
> Despite their potential advantage, refreshable Braille displays are less 
> common due to their higher cost.
> In addition, a Braille embosser converts computer-generated text into 
> embossed Braille output. Braille translation programs convert text scanned 
> in or
> generated via standard word processing programs into Braille, which can be 
> printed on the embosser. The results on thick paper are the individual 
> dots
> that constitute Braille characters.
> However, choice of appropriate hardware and software will depend on the 
> user's level of functional vision. Put another way, it relies on the 
> intensity
> of impairment. For example, low-vision users can use hardware such as 
> large monitors, adjustable task lamp, Copyholder, closed circuit 
> television, modified
> cassette recorder, and scanner to improve visibility. Moreover, this can 
> be helpful to people who have difficulty reading or seeing self-voicing 
> applications
> such as talking web browsers.
> AT for the hearing challenged
> Although hearing impaired individuals encounter less accessibility than 
> the visually challenged do, they face tremendous difficulty in terms of 
> learning,
> job access and social inclusion. These are due to the traditional way of 
> learning.
> However, computer technology has emerged as blessing to the hearing 
> impaired. As computer prompts such as spoken messages and beeps can be 
> misunderstood
> or go unnoticed by hearing impaired individuals, this problem is solved 
> through the use of tools that produce visual warning when the system plays 
> a sound
> and/or display captions in place of a spoken message. Light signaller 
> alerts the computer with light signals. This is useful when a computer 
> user cannot
> hear computer sounds. As an example, a light can flash alerting the user 
> when a new e-mail message has arrived or a computer command has completed.
> In addition, hearing impaired person can use TTY/TDD (Telecommunication 
> Device for the Deaf), which is an electronic device for text communication 
> via
> a telephone line, telecare, closed captioning, teletext and multimedia 
> projector to address accessibility problem. Moreover, newer text-based 
> communication
> methods such as short message service (SMS), internet relay chat (IRC) and 
> instant messaging have also been accepted by the deaf as an alternative or 
> adjunct
> to TDD.
> AT for mobility impairments
> Mobility impairment refers to any condition that limits an individual's 
> ability to navigate through their environment. Mobility assistive 
> technology products
> and services for the physically challenged are used to ensure freedom of 
> movement around the home or office. For example, persons with mobility 
> impairment
> can use wheelchair or electric wheelchair to overcome challenges to daily 
> activities. A permanent or portable ramp can also help in this regard.
> In addition, alternative pointing devices allow mobility-impaired 
> individuals to control the mouse pointer via a mechanism other than the 
> mouse. These
> are typically used when someone lacks dexterity to manipulate a standard 
> mouse. Again, some software exists that converts the keyboard arrow keys 
> into
> directional movements for the pointer. Other keys are used to signal a 
> left and right mouse click. Besides, for individuals with severe 
> impairments who
> are entirely unable to manipulate the mouse and/or use a standard keyboard 
> can use HeadMouse wireless pointing device that converts the movements of 
> a
> user's head into corresponding movements of the mouse pointer by tracking 
> the motion of a single point on the user's head. A standard keyboard may 
> be completely
> replaced by using this system in conjunction with software that produces 
> an on-screen keyboard.
> Mobility-impaired individuals may utilise speech recognition applications. 
> This software can be used to both control applications via speech commands 
> and
> as a means to dedicate text, with speech converted into text in real time.
> Disability is not inability; rather, it is a blessing in disguise. If the 
> disabled get some opportunity, they can also prove their potential in the 
> real
> field. As evidenced by the above descriptions, assistive technology 
> services address a variety of disabilities in numerous ways. Regretfully, 
> technology,
> created without regard to people with disabilities, often creates 
> undesired hindrances to hundreds of millions of people. We should know 
> that assistive
> technology, or more specifically universally acceptable technology, 
> equally yields great rewards for the typical users. One example is the 
> kerb cuts in
> the sidewalk at street crossing. While these kerb cuts enable pedestrians 
> with mobility impairments to cross the street, these also aid parents with 
> carriages
> and strollers, shoppers with carts, and travellers and workers with 
> pull-type bags.
> And here in Bangladesh, though the availability of disabled friendly or 
> assistive technology is alarmingly low, YPSA -- a specialised non-profit 
> social
> development organisation -- is doing some exciting work in this respect. 
> As a result, the organisation has been selected by DAISY (Digital 
> Accessible Information
> System) Consortium, to ensure information in accessible format for people 
> with disabilities (PWDs), especially for the print disabled. We sincerely 
> hope
> that other organisations would follow YPSA's effort in this regard to make 
> the PWDs lives somewhat easy and enjoyable.
> The author, a physically challenged person, is a trainee at Thakral 
> Information Systems Pvt Ltd, Dhaka.
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