Disability,ICT and Accessibility – an Assistive Technologist’s Perspective

Disability, ICT and Accessibility – an Assistive Technologist Perspective 

In reading Graham Pullin’s Manifesto it resonated with me as my early career options was to be a designer. But alas , that is not what I am now. I am  – for want of a better word- an Assistive Technologist. I find my role is to problem-solve from the disabled person and their circle of influencers with the disabled person in the middle.” 

“It’s good but it’s not Carling” 

This is the mantra of a recent Carlsberg advert but it is also a triusm for Assitive Technology where it just doesn’t quite meet the need.  Some speech recognition software  not designed for the blind especially does not read out websites. Siri does not read out websites or emails. Speaking Email does and on both iOS and Android. It doesn’t take a great deal of re-programming to make small adjustments to accommodate new disabled needs . When it comes to function it needs to do he complete job. Not half or three-quarters of the job! 

Design – form follows function – and is asethetically beautiful. 

In the education sector dyslexic pupil I have found do not want to stand out. They want to be like everyone else. That is why the iPad was so good. If everyone uses it  it becomes the norm. It’s not “special”. Remember VOCA’s ? Speech output devices. Generally speaking we need them but what if they were designed to be more discrete, more cool, even more lighter and portable.   

When I first started using eye gaze systems they were bulky and hard to configure. They were expensive, Only able to used in certain lighting conditions. This emergent phase led on to the bolt on solutions to existing kit that exist today, We can add them to our usual tools.  

New tools bring new uses 

Something totally new like the smart speakers and internet of things can open up the world to the blind and sensory impaired. They provide contact, intellectual interest , and control to their surroundings. Just by using your voice. For the dyslexic it can provide dictonary definitions. Short memory notes. Reminders and to do lists.  But there are more uses they could be put to we haven’t yet considered. The ability to write – author a book, write to an audience, make a podcast, develop a library of resources to share. What a powerful tool we have to employ/ 

And what about the users! 

Really important. The user /pupl/disabled person should be at the centre of design, implementation and research development. Or how else can we enable and empower the things that need to be enabled and empowered? We need to listen, empathise and modify our solutions to their not always PC wishes!!  Personal preference as well as personalised semantics should go hand in hand.  If someoene is familiar with a particular technology and someone wants to update – should they have to? ?  

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