Assistive Technology

Logo Ola Mundo

Ola Mundo is a project established in early 2012 in Israel by parents of children with special needs aimed to meet a need that had been very challenging to them until then - effective communication with their children. The OlaMundo Messenger application allows children and adolescents who have verbal communication difficulties to communicate with their family members, friends and therapists using symbols and communication boards even when these people are not around them.

Google donated five pairs of Google Glasses to Newcastle University so that researches could test how they may be used to support people with long-term conditions. A team based at the University’s Digital Interaction group, part of the School of Computing Science, has focused on the acceptability of Glass in their initial studies.

The next stage of the project is focusing on using Glass to deliver discreet prompts linked to key behaviors typical of Parkinson’s. The behaviors included reminding the individual to speak up or to swallow preventing drooling. Glass can also be used for reminders such as taking medication and appointments.

EyeLens, a new app for Windows Phone, helps mobile phone users with visual impairments and that have trouble with color recognition. It can help people recognize color in everyday objects by displaying the name of the color. It also has filters and a zoom that can help visually impaired people read text on products newspapers and other things that may be difficult for them to see properly.

Ghotit Real Write & Reader has helped many people with dyslexia, dysgraphia and other cognitive disabilities when using their personal computers. Now the software, which provides reading and writing assistance for people with these learning disabilities, has been released for Windows Tablets.

This new product for the tablets has the following advanced functionality:

  • An intelligent context-sensitive and phonetic spell checker.
  • An advanced grammar checker.
  • A grammar and phonetics aware word prediction writing assistant.
  • A built-in proofreader.
  • A reader that reads aloud any document or web page.

Dr. Robert Iakobashvili, Ghotit’s CTO and co-founder said in regards to Ghotit Real Write & Reader’s release on the Windows Tablets, “Smartphones and tablets have become an integral part of our daily lives. We take them everywhere, even sometimes to bed. And Windows tablets, being compatible with a standard enterprise and educational IT, are becoming the predominant tablet platform for work.”

Ofer Chermesh, co-founder and lifelong dyslexic added, “The tablet revolution has affected the way people consume information and communicate. More and more people are adopting tablets and smartphones as the preferable means to communicate with each other. This is influencing the writing assistant tools developed for dyslexics. With the Windows tablet release of Ghotit Real Writer & Reader, people with dyslexia will be able to read, write and correct their text by using a standard tablet touch screen practices.”

Interactive Accessibility published an extensive article on the founding of Ghotit and the functionality of the Ghotit Real Write & Reader product and a comprehensive video review in December of 2013 when the product was only available for the PC.

CVS/pharmacy now provides ScripTalk prescription labels for home delivery from its online pharmacy, CVS.com. The talking label provides a safe and convenient way to access the information on prescription labels for individuals who have vision disabilities or are blind and cannot read standard labels. Customers who wish to listen to the information on the ScripTalk label can obtain a free ScripTalk reader from Envision America.

More information on ScripTalk

Children with severe, nonverbal autism may benefit from a technology developed by Purdue University and advanced by SPEAK MODalities LLC. SPEAKall! And SPEAKmore! are iPad apps developed for the company through research by Oliver Wendt, a Purdue assistant professor of speech, language and hearing sciences and educational studies. Wendt has worked with children diagnosed with autism for more than 20 years.

  • SPEAKall! uses photos and symbols that represent what a child wishes to say and helps them construct sentences using those images.
  • SPEAKmore! expands on SPEAKall!’s vocabulary for children who have advanced beyond the capability of SPEAKall!

The free version of SPEAKall! can handle up to 20 symbols, two activity sheets and one learner profile. The premium versions of the app enable enhanced features:

  • Access to different synthetic voices.
  • Unlimited symbols and activity sheet. Two learner profiles.
  • Unlimited symbols and activity sheets. Unlimited learner profiles.

Read Oliver Wendit's profile for more information.

Samsung has announced three new assistive technology accessories, which connect easily with the Galaxy Core Advanced, that add to the existing accessibility features on the devise. The accessories are designed for users who are blind or have low vision.

  • The Ultrasonic Cover: This innovative cover detects obstacles and helps users navigate unfamiliar surroundings by sending an alert through vibrations or Text-to-Speech feedback. The user holds the phone with the cover in front of them and it can detect people and objects up to two meters away.
  • The Optical Scan Stand: Allows the devise to recognize text from an image by positioning the device to focus on printed materials and activating the Optical Scan application.
  • The Vocal Label: Distinguishes objects by allowing the user to make notes and tag voice labels easily on-the-go. The user can record, stop and access their notes using NFC technology.

The innovative Smart Cane is a navigation and mobility aid for people with vision disabilities. The Smart Cane will be introduced by IIT Delhi and Chennai-based Phoenix Medical Systems. The cane detects objects up to three kilometers away, detecting the obstacles using ultrasonic sensors. Range of the obstacles is communicated using vibratory signals with varying characteristics.

This is one of many products being developed and marketed thanks to the Wellcome Trust initiative, which funds translational research for affordable healthcare in India.

The recent iOS 7.1 updates includes some updates to the accessibility features. Some of the Accessibility highlights include:

  • Keyboard, calculator and many icon glyphs are now included in the bold font option.
  • Reduce Motion now includes Weather, Messages, and multitasking UI animations.
  • New options to display button shapes, darken app colors, and reduce white point.
  • New wallpapers which low-vision users may find make it easier to see text and images. They are available in a selection of solid colors with a polka dot pattern.
  • New option turns on "Button Shapes". This is intended to make buttons easier to distinguish from other text on the screen (such as icon labels).

Although not tagged as part of accessibility, an update to Siri could have some positive implication for users with disabilities.

  • Manually control when Siri listens by holding down the home button while you speak and releasing it when you’re done as an alternative to letting Siri automatically notice when you stop talking.

More information on the iOS 7.1 updates and for more updates see

New, more comprehensive rules for TV closed captioning was unanimously approved. The approval will ensure that viewers who are deaf and hard of hearing have full access to programming and resolved concerns from deaf and hard of hearing communities to improve captioning quality. Moreover, it provides much needed guidance to video programming distributors and programmers.

Included in the new requirements are:

  • Accurate: Captions must match the spoken words in the dialogue and convey background noises and other sounds to the fullest extent possible.
  • Synchronous: Captions must coincide with their corresponding spoken words and sounds to the greatest extent possible and must be displayed on the screen at a speed that can be read by viewers.
  • Complete: Captions must run from the beginning to the end of the program to the fullest extent possible.
  • Properly placed: Captions should not block other important visual content on the screen, overlap one another, or run off the edge of the video screen.

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