Mobility Impairments

As someone who uses Assistive Technology (AT) to make it through her day, I’m telling you, you non-AT users can get pretty… weird. Something about interacting with an assistive technology (AT) user like me causes some normally very composed and astute people to lose a bit of their cool. I get it. I’m sure when I roll up in my wheelchair not in full control of my own body and chatting with my mom using my word board, I can catch the average bear off guard.

A motorized wheelchair tray called, “RoboDesk” may help people with disabilities more easily handle mobile devices such as an iPad and overcome the limitations of tables and moving from the chair.

RoboDesk and other assistance technologies are being developed by Brad Duerstock, an associate professor of engineering practice in the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering and School of Industrial Engineering, in the Purdue Institute for Accessible Science. Read more about RoboDesk.

Since I am a web accessibility analyst, I have the good fortune of being mobility impaired.  Of course, I only can say this regarding my work.  It is like being a veterinarian and not having pets.  Without the personal experience, you couldn’t empathize with the pets’ guardians.  You wouldn’t observe subtle, unique signs that a dog or cat is not feeling well.

When other people laugh at Jack Carroll’s disability, he does not become angry or embarrassed. In fact, he instigates the laughter. Jack, a fourteen-year-old school boy who has cerebral palsy, already knows what makes a comedy act successful. According to the young comedy genius, “in comedy your weaknesses are your strengths”. If you see his comedy act, you’d definitely agree…while laughing.

Micah Lahren of Technibble.com discusses assistive technology (AT) for business clients who have disabilities. Some of the AT he mentions includes:

  • Espeak – the default text-to-speech synthesizer for Ubuntu
  • Assistive Mouse Adapter  - a device that filters out unwanted movements, such as tremors, when using a mouse
  • Trackball – a device that offers a better grip for persons with dexterity impairments

To read more about AT that helps clients with various types of disabilities, read Assistive Technology Solutions for Your Clients.

Persons with dexterity disabilities may have little or no motor control in their hands to perform daily tasks. Many of them (including yours truly) still can operate the computer using one hand, one foot, eyes, a headpointer or a mouth stick. Adaptive keyboards and switches can facilitate persons with dexterity impairments to use computers. Accessibility features in an operating system can further enable users who cannot use their hands to type on keyboards easily.

March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Developmental disabilities include cerebral palsy, down syndrome, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, traumatic brain injury, and autism. Established by President Reagan in 1987, the commemoration depicts the achievements that persons with developmental disabilities have made and challenges that that they still face.

The following articles discuss Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in depth:

RocketKeys is a new augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) keyboard that can be configured to any size or other specifications. Developed by MyVoice, Inc., this adaptive keyboard accommodates users with dexterity and vision impairments. The talking onscreen keyboard also has word prediction.

For further details, go to the RocketKeys website.

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