A Boon for the Physically Challenged
No lip service. No big promises. No high talks. Just plain and simple delivery. That's what the Internet and computers have done for the disabled in the last few years, writes Puneet Mehrotra.
Overcoming the Challenge
No lip service. No big promises. No high talks. Just plain and simple delivery. That's what the Internet and computers have done for the disabled in the last few years. In a country like ours being handicapped is perhaps a curse, Internet has finally turned the tables.
A Boon for the Physically Challenged
Internet has turned out to be a boon for the physically challenged. For the disabled, the Internet offers great opportunities because it enables them to exchange information, to organize menus and to establish and keep up contacts with other people, irrespective of their disabilities.
According to Sussman in her book titled 'Opening Doors to an Inaccessible World', she says 'For the first time in their lives, many disabled people find themselves able to belong somewhere, a virtual community where they can be swept along by daily events, as in any other community.'
Chris Murphy has done commendable work compiling some of the problems the handicapped face and how computers have assisted them in overcoming them. His site is available on http://courses.cs.vt.edu/~cs3604/lib/Disabilities/murhpy.AT.html#Sussman
For the Blind
Braille keys, speech synthesizers, Braille printers and other devices enable a blind person to interact and communicate just like any other person. A blind person can send emails, work on the word processors and even on some of the graphic packages.
For the physically challenged
Computers are generally controlled by hand, using a keyboard, a mouse, or a trackerball. Many people who are unable to use their hands are thus disenfranchised from using this equipment. Recent developments have enabled controlling computers by eye rather than by hands.
For the deaf
Programs have been developed to offer training and practice for the hearing-impaired in such things as sign language, finger spelling, and even lip-reading. These programs are not just limited to the deaf or hearing-impaired. All the user needs is a system with a microphone and the correct software.
Technology is the bridge
Technology is helping the handicapped take on greater professional challenges. Internet offers excellent scope for telecommuting job. Take the case of this little gizmo which enables a handicapped person to perform normal computer operations.
A Micromeasurements binocular eye-tracker, which has been configured to send x,y co-ordinates of eye position (and also pupil size) to the PC which the person is viewing. Software on the PC takes this information and sends it to Windows as a mouse signal, and the x,y co-ordinates determine the screen cursor position. Selection (the emulation of pressing the button on a mouse) is achieved by the software detecting an 'unnatural event'. This can be either when the eye is held still for half a second, or when the person winks: a blink is natural and a wink (at a computer) is unnatural. The use of a binocular system allows the closure of the right and left eyes to emulate pushing the right and left mouse buttons respectively.
Other smart devices
Computer Screen Magnification
Speech Access and Screen Readers
Tactile Graphics & Multimedia
Recently VisuAide, a company making equipment for the impaired, announced the release of Trekker 2.0, an enhanced version of its GPS system for the blind. The new version includes features such as the motorized mode, allowing use in a moving vehicle, the route mode, which generates point-to-point itineraries, and the free mode, offering off-route information. Trekker users can pinpoint exactly where they are, learn about area attractions, and find out how to get to specific destinations. GPS lets them know their location, anywhere in the world, with continually growing precision. Trekker offers the visually impaired greater freedom.
It includes features allowing blind persons to know their exact position, create itineraries and receive information while traveling to a destination on foot or in a vehicle. Trekker also offers a search feature for a database of points of interest such as restaurants, hotels, office buildings, etc.
What centuries of human progress couldn't achieve, technology in form of a 15' by 10' machine has achieved. As we go deep in programming and multimedia maybe being handicapped will no longer be a handicap.
Puneet Mehrotra is a web strategist atwww.Cyberzest.comand editswww.MidnightEdition.comYou can email him on puneet @cyberzest.com
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