Friday, September 9, 2011

Friday, May 7, 2010

There Is No Such Thing As Goodbye, Just New Beginnings - Part 3

As I stated in an earlier post, I am very optimistic for the future of assistive technology for the disabled community. We have already progressed by leaps and bounds but there is still much that we can do. One of the greatest things about technology is that we are never content with our current devices. It appears that we are constantly searching for the next best thing, which in a way has pushed us to develop so many innovative inventions. Assistive technology is no different. For example, from the time humans could walk we have been using prosthetics. In the beginning we molded these prosthetics from materials like sticks, animals bones or even clay. However, as time has progressed we have developed prosthetics that work and look almost like a real limb. This is only of the hundred of different types of technology that is currently available. One of my favorite posts was a video that talked about how scientists in Europe are currently working on a device that allows individuals with disabled motor skills to actually play video games with their thoughts. In essence, a helmet was designed to read the brain waves of the individual wearing the helmet which would then transfer the electric waves to the device. Unknown to most of us, every time we think of something, we are transmitting electric signals and scientists in Europe have figured out a way to actually capture and read these signals. Before watching the video I thought that devices like this could only exist in movies or science fiction shows. However, this is no longer just an idea but has become a reality. Although there is stll a lot of research that needs to be done before this device is perfected, it is still exciting to know that some day in the near of future, individuals who are significantly disabled will have the ability to play a video games, turn a light switch on and off or even operate a computer or cell phone just with their thoughts along. It is devices like this one that make me feel optimistic that scientists will not stop trying to come up with better and better devices.

There Is No Such Thing As Goodbye, Just New Beginnings - Part 2

I cant say that I actually have a least favorite blog post because I truly enjoyed each of the posts I wrote. I love that I was able to learn so much each week and could apply what I had learned to my own blog. It served as an outlet to express myself while educating other to the type of technology there is for the disabled community.

I hope that readers who come across my blog will put their fears and stereotypes aside and read my blog with an open mind. Sadly is sometimes appears that many of us have stereotypes about the disabled community which often stems from our lack of understanding and knowledge. I feel that once we get past that, we can truly understand the steps that we need to take in order to help these individuals live as normal a life as possible. I hope my blog serves as a example to others of the types of technology that are already in place to improve upon the lives of the disabled community.

There Is No Such Thing As Goodbye, Just New Beginnings - Part 1

I started this blog four months ago as a requirement for my class. Having no prior experience with blogging I did not have very high expectations in the very beginning. However, my initial opinions drastically changed as the semester progressed and I become more knowledgeable about my topic. Although I have had prior experience with working with the disabled community, I was quite oblivious to the types of assistive technology that is readily available for them today.

One of my favorite blog posts was actually the one of gaming. When we addressed the topic in class I had a hard time coming up with a way to relate what we had talked about in class to my personal blog. I think this is because up to that point I had only considered the difficulties disabled individuals face in terms of using every day technology like a computer of telephone. I hadn’t thought of how assistive technology can help these individuals have fun through activities like playing video games. After doing a little bit of research I learned about several different types of assistive technology that help the disabled community participate in past-times that most of us take for granted. I found it quite fascinating to read about the different things that have already been developed and it makes me optimistic about the future because I’m sure even more technology will be developed.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Apple Helps the Disabled Community

For a good portion of my life I had considered myself to be a “PC person” and never imagined myself going to the “dark side.” However, after I started creating website for work and as a personal hobby I came to realize that switching to a Mac was the only way to compete in the very competitive market of web designing. After purchasing my MacBook I cannot imagine my life without it!

Recently I was reading an article about how Apple over the years have made a commitment to making their products more accessible especially for individuals with disabilities. Apple currently includes assistive technology in its products as st

andard features, which is great news for the disabled community as they do not have to pay extra money for these features. Currently, the iPhone, iPod, and Mac OS X include screen magnification and VoiceOver, which is a screen-access technology for individuals who are blind and/or visually impaired. Every Mac also includes an alternative, simplified user interface for individuals who have cognitive and learning disabilities. Apple included innovative solutions even for individuals who find it difficult to use a mouse as every Mac computer includes Mouse keys, slow keys, and sticky keys that adapt the computer to the user’s needs and capabilities.

Apple unlike many other companies made it a priority to listen to their customers and apply thoughtful solutions to problems. Apple, although for more than 20 years has provided new and innovative solutions for people with disabilities, continues to set a high standard for accessibility. Apple has created inventions like Braille mirroring, which allows deaf and blind kids to work together on the same computer at the same time. They have also invented the world’s first screen reader that can be controlled by using gestures. Also, captioning and downloadable digital movies are good examples of some of the innovations Apple has made over the years.

In addition to their commitment to accessibility, Apple trains its Retail Associated to serve customers who have disabilities. A disabled customer has the option to request help from an Associate if they have trouble viewing a product when they visit and Apple Retail Store. Apple employees are trained to assist these individuals, sometimes even moving displayed products to more accessible locations if possible.

For students with cognitive disabilities, the Mac computer is equipped with Test-to-Speech (TTS) technology that can speak a selection of text or an entire document aloud. Mac Text-to-Speech includes various male and female voices, including a new, more natural sounding voice named Alex. Alex has been programmed to sound almost like a “real” person because he actually pauses to “breathe” when speaking long passages. Alex apparently also sounds great at high speed as well as when he is speaking at a normal speaking rate. The Mac Text-to-Speech technology works with all applications that Mac OS X speech engine, including Mail, iChat, and TextEdit. This allows individuals, especially students who have a learning disability to improve upon their academic performance in terms of reading, math, spelling and more. These accommodations implemented by Apple allow disabled individuals to live more normal and independent lives similar to their peers.

For more information, check out this interesting article:

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Games Can Totally Be Fun and Educational!

I personally feel that a game can be both entertaining and educational. However, the secret to keeping a child’s attention and getting them to actually like the game is to weave the “educational” aspects throughout the game without making it obvious to the child that they are actually learning. If I were to design a game for a younger audience I would make an adventure type game where the child will have to complete various levels and tasks. It would be an educational game because the child will have to read what their tasks are, they will have to communicate with the other characters in the game, and will have to use math in order to buy tools or weapons. Although this might not be your traditional educational game I think a child would learn more and at a quicker pace if they are having fun and doing something their enjoy at the same time.

Gaming and the Disabled Community

In class last week we talked about how gaming can have quite a significant affect on young children especially when it comes to their academic performance. It is a proven fact that students who spend hours each day playing video games don’t do as well in school. This left us wondering why games cannot be education and entertaining at the same time.

This discussion left me wondering whether gaming is as influential is the disabled community. After doing a little research I found an interesting article that addressed this very issue. The article talks about how three graduates from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Class of 2008) developed a game that could allow for independence among disabled individuals.

The graduates named their game, “Capable Shopper” and simulated a shopping trip at a local super market. In the game, players could move through the virtual grocery store. The virtual store was actually designed using real blueprints of the store and players can shop in the store using a specially designed joystick or a head mouse, depending on how mobile the player is. The best part of the game is that a large group of people with varying disabilities can play the game.

For several years now interactive games have been a popular pastime for individuals of all ages. However, for some individuals who have visual, auditory or physical disabilities, gaming can be inaccessible. Fortunately for these individuals, companies have started developing assistive technology to make video games accessible for everyone, including the disabled.

For individuals who are visually disabled there are several assistive technologies that can be used to allow them to play video games. These individuals have to find games that are compatible with their computer’s reader or Braille interface program. Another option is play games that allow them to adjust the size of any text used in the game or to adjust the color contrasts to make the images easier to see.

There is also assistive technologies for individuals with auditory disabilities. It is possible for these individuals to select games that have closed captioning. Another option is to have a volume amplifier that can help increase the volume to a range in which they can hear.

Individuals with physical disabilities can also participate in gaming even if they have trouble gripping or if they have very limited fine motor skills. Luckily for these individuals, companies have made modified joysticks which have been designed to have an easier grip, and some are modified so that the buttons on the joystick are larger and easier to press. There are even some joysticks which have been created to be operated with a person’s mouth rather than their hands. For some disabled individuals, they do not have control over their hands, feet, or mouth. For these individuals there are special pointers that utilize their eye movements to guide the video game characters.

David Thomas, who is a paraplegic commented in an interview: “For me, social games, like the ones we make for Facebook and the iPhone also seem to have the same power; they can bridge gaps and provide a feeling of a shared experience.

Why? Well other than being a self-professed geek who loves playing video games, I am also a self-professed geek who loves playing video games living with a disability. Being able to participate in social games with my peers and friends is even more meaningful, because otherwise (in real-life) I am not able to do it as easily…The barriers of the physical world that were preventing me from playing side-by-side with my friends were now virtually and literally removed…I believe that my online achievements in Pac Man and Asteroids made me seem “normal” to the other kids. So it also helped my self-esteem. Now, they could finally see me as real competition and not just someone in a wheelchair…To conclude, for me, as someone who lives with a disability, computers, games, the Internet and social media (social games in particular) have opened many doors. These social spaces have allowed me to keep in touch with old friends and to make new friends.”

Over the past few years, creating assistive technology has become more popular and the market for assistive gaming technology has increased by leaps and bounds. All over the world there are accessibility stores that offer a wide variety and selection of assistive technology devices and most recently assistive gaming technology. Many electronic stores now carry modified joysticks and accessible video games. For individuals with disabilities if their local stores do not carry the modified technology or games that they need they can even contact the game manufacturer to see if they manufacture assistive gaming technology for their games, and if they do not they can in most cases tell the individuals where they can find them.