Benefits of Accessibility

Now people with hearing disabilities voices will be heard. Two Turkish scientists have created a prototype of “talking gloves” that can translate sign language to spoken language. The gloves, invented by Elif Saygi Bavunoglu, computer engineer and her husband, Harun Bavunoglu, a Ph.D. student in mathematics and computer science, were chosen as a one of the final project at New Ideas New Businesses. New Ideas New Businesses is Turkey’s first and largest technology-based entrepreneurship competition by Middle East Technical University.

Vocal ID logo

I am non-verbal, and one of the reasons that I haven’t been fond of voice synthesizers is that the synthesized voice never sounds like mine.  Yes, although I cannot verbalize, I still can vocalize.  Just ask my IA colleagues when I grunt to signal affirmative responses during our Skype conferences.  My words spoken by a computerized voice, no matter how feminine it is, sounds disembodied.  Moreover, the same synthesized voice may be shared with many of the 2.5 million people in America who cannot talk.

The online entertainment service, Crossway Media Solutions, is creating films and television that are more accessible for people with disabilities. They year they will launch TalkingFlix, which will be the first on-demand entertainment service that is audio-described for people with visual disabilities.  Their hope is to help sited and non-sighted people have a shared social experience.

TalkingFlix, a worldwide entertainment platform, will allow people to purchase or rent individual titles, or gain access to a growing library through a monthly subscription.

Advancing Accessibility and Inclusion in Social Media – The User Experience, will be a virtual town hall dialogue examining the accessibility barriers of social media for people with disabilities. The dialogue is put on by The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy and the National Council on Disability. The public is invited to participate.

The Event will take place Monday, March 17, to Friday, April 4. It will be the first in a series of three social media events on accessibility held online and taking place over the next three months.

The Value of social media in the lives of people with disabilities will be explored through the conversation during the event. Focus will be on work and identifying accessibility issues and creative approaches to make social media tools more accessible and usable. As a participant you will be able to discuss your social media experiences and submit ideas, comments and vote on potential solutions.  

You can register for the event, which is being coordinated under ODEP’s ePolicyWorks initiative.

Reem AI Marzouqui, a student at ABU, made a mistake on an assignment that cost her the grade. She was supposed to find out how everyday items had been modified to help people with disabilities. Instead, she made modifications to an everyday item. She may have botched the assignment but what she did was revolutionary for people with mobility disabilities allowing them to drive a car with relative ease.

Inspired by a documentary about an American woman with arm disabilities who was able to fly a plane much easier than drive a car, Reem set out to modify a car that could be driven by people with similar disabilities.

Reem is now participating in Innovation 2014, and exhibition by the Technology Development Committee, which hopes to encourage innovation among residents in the UAE.

AbleRoad allows users to comment and rank business on their accessibility using a five star rating system. AbleRoad worked with Yelp.com allowing both Yelp and AbleRoad ratings to be viewed on the same screen.

AbleRoad’s rating system is based on four main categories and twelve sub-categories. The four main categories are:

  • Mobility
  • Hearing
  • Site
  • Cognitive

The forty-eight distinct categories allows users to rate accessibility issues which include:

  • Path of Travel
  • Directional Signage
  • Captioning on TVs
  • Braille Information
  • Guide-Dog/Service Animal Access
  • Knowledgeable and Respectful Staff

AbleRoad also allows people to upload media and share on social media platforms. There is a badge system allowing users to rate each other and establish the trustworthiness of the source.

As the world becomes increasingly reliant on mobile devices for productivity in their work and personal lives, it is increasingly important that we look at the accessibility of the device itself as well as how publicly available digital content works with mobile accessibility features. At this year’s ATIA Conference in Orlando Florida Kathy Wahlbin, CEO and Founder of Interactive Accessibility, tackles this subject in her iOS Accessibility Workshop.

An Israeli startup called Project Ray has developed the first smartphone specifically designed for users who are blind and visually impaired. Smartphones can overwhelm many visually impaired users. Typical touch screens don’t provide enough tactile clues to assist a user who is blind making it difficult for them to navigate menus.

Project Ray offers an interface that is very simple yet still robust. It is designed to make sense for people who are visually impaired. The screen displays five to twelve icons and allows users to simply move their finger to a specific direction to open apps.

More can be read at the Project Ray website.

IBM and UMass Boston will work together in conjunction with state and federal government agencies, local and global organizations to advocate for key policies and legislation for technology accessibility. The purpose of the collaboration is to explore ways assistive technologies and the design of mobile devices, apps or websites that enable access for people with disabilities can be integrated and how overall user experience can be improved.

As part of this initiative, IBM will give students, professors, researchers and UMass Boston’s new School for Global Inclusion and Social Development access to technology and industry expertise.   

Examples of applications that the collaboration will work on are:

  • IBM My Campus Mobile App: This is a navigation application for the UMass Boston campus. It uses GPS and mapping technology to identify accessible features of architecture such as ramps or text-to-speech capabilities and helps guide people around campus.
  • IBM Media Captioner and Editor: This application automates video captioning.

Read more on the Research to advance technology solutions for people with disabilities.

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