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BBC Scotland Article

Hi guys,

After reading, a great article this past week from the BBC on how smart tech could transform the lives of people with disabilities. The original article originates from my ‘neck of the woods,’ Scotland and discusses how smartphones and other devices have created a layer of convenience for individuals with disabilities.

Man in hat is outside wearing dark glasses holding phone in one hand and cane in the other.

Photo credit – Getty Images

To review the article utilize this link and you will be sent over to the BBC Scotland article. I hope you enjoy the article as much as I did! Based on 2019, I am super excited to see what is ahead for accessible technology for 2020!

Thanks for reading,

Andrew

Credit: Sandy Murray, BBC Scotland.

Accessible Kiosks

Close up of Kiosk screen

A picture of a kiosk made by Storm Interface

Hello guys, this blog post is focusing on IT accessibility–to be exact electronic kiosks.  We are surrounded by a variety of electronic kiosks in our workplaces, colleges, libraries and in our community in general.  So if we are surrounded by electronic kiosks – it is of course absolutely vital that all electronic kiosks are accessible to all users especially those with sensory impairments.  Many kiosks are critical to our daily lives including buying train tickets, finding out when the next movie starts at the movie theater or even re-entering the USA after a visit abroad.

Airplanes at gates at airport.

A picture of several Aer Lingus aircraft standing at Dublin International Airport

 The machine pictured at the top of this post is very similar to the device used by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) as a means of providing and gathering data at Pre-Clearance locations like the one I visited recently in Dublin, Ireland.  It is very exciting to see that federal agencies are being mindful of universal access and accessibility when procuring electronic kiosks.  I did happen to notice that the CBP have installed kiosks with built-in accessibility features so that individuals with disabilities can have access to the same technology without the need for a human ‘helper/assistant.’

Vispero, an assistive technology (AT) manufacturer for the visually impaired and blind, has partnered with Storm Interface to combine the technologies within JAWS (Job Access with Speech) screen reading software with Storm’s accessible products to create an accessible kiosk experience for individuals with blindness, visual impairment and dexterity challenges.  The new kiosks will auto-start JAWS after headphones have been inserted into the machine and then a series of ‘routines’ will occur to make the system almost instantly accessible to non-visual users.  I am really excited to see the first Vispero and JAWS kiosk in-person – I will definitely add a new blog post when I get my hands on it!!!

Thanks for reading and talk soon,

Andrew

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year!  Today, I wanted to share out a little more on digital accessibility and in particular using commonly available tools test websites for accessibility.  Digital accessibility is a hot topic in the world today with many recent high profile cases making it all the way to the United States Supreme. Guys, I am super excited to introduce a tool from WAVE; it is their web accessibility checking tool.  

WAVE logo green circle with cursive w in it.

WAVE was developed and has been made available as a free assessment tool by WebAim at Utah State University.  This tool was launched back in 2001, the WAVE website notes that it has been used to evaluate the accessibility of millions of web pages.  WAVE is a pragmatic tool that can allow web developers, content managers and interested parties to determine the accessibility for a single webpage (at a time).  

screenshot of wave app with summary page showing errors, alerts, features, structural elements all color coded

WAVE allows the user to easily detect a range of accessibility challenges.  Automated accessibility testing is able to detect approximately 30-33% of all accessibility errors in any given webpage.  The industry standard best practice is to utilize automated testing in combination with getting your ‘hands dirty’ and manually test a webpage for accessibility to ensure accessibility.  To learn more about using WAVE as an accessibility evaluation tool, I would recommend you attend one of our upcoming web accessibility webinars in 2020!

Thanks for reading,

Andrew

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Time Magazine Inventions: WeWalk Smart Cane 

Cartoon of man and robot crossing street. Man is holding cane.

Hi guys, this week’s blog post shifts from digital accessibility to assistive technology.  One of the most popular publications on the planet – Time Magazine has featured several AT devices this year in their top 100 inventions of 2019.  The WeWalk smart cane was one of those fantastic and innovative solutions.  WeWalk was designed by Kursat Ceylan, who happens to be blind to overcome one of his activities of daily living – mobility in the world around him.

Close up of woman holding Smart Cane in right hand while standing in crosswalk.

The origin of the device came when one day, Kursat was heading to his hotel using a smartphone map app, his traditional white and pulling his luggage, when he walked into a metal pole injuring his forehead.  After this event, he co-developed the WeWalk smart cane to aid other visually impaired and blind people navigate their environment more safely than using a cane while simultenously utilizing a smartphone for spoken directions.  The WeWalk provides object detection above chest level (up to 1.7 m in height), and pairs with several GPS maps including Google Maps.  The device currently retails for just under $500.  WeWalk’s object detection is quite different from other devices due to the height of object detection which is ideal for detecting low hanging branches and sign poles.

Drawing of Man holding cane, with dimensions outlined of his height (175cm), distance in front of him (100 cm) and height to object in front (170 cm)

To learn more about WeWalk head to their website linked here

Thank you for reading,

Andrew

Smart Glasses

Blog post – Smart Glasses

Hi guys, this week I wanted to highlight a really cool piece of hardware that has just released today – it is the HoloLens 2. This is the latest high-end smart glasses from Microsoft and what is different about this
bit of kit is mixed realities (augmented and Virtual Reality). The product will retail for approximately $3500 and is available to ship this week directly from the Microsoft Store.

Side view of headgear lens on black background

Based on what I have seen– it has almost limitless applications and could end up becoming a game changer for individuals with disabilities by allowing them to do things their bodies may not allow. The HoloLens 2 in conjunction with the control devices allow the user to interact almost tactually with holographic content in almost natural and instinctually way! From my understanding, I will have a chance to demo this product at my next accessible technology conference later this month in Denver.

Woman wearing lens on head against gray background

The pricing for this device may be out of the reach for some consumers but the product is aimed at working professionals such as surgeons, engineers, scientists, designers, musicians, artists, composers and almost anyone that needs to visually interact with their work in a creative manner.  I envision this tool could helpful for individuals with gross motor challenges or those restricted to their home to immerse themselves in their work in alternative and augmentative manner.

I am really excited to see this product in person later this month!!!

Thanks for reading,

Andrew

To learn a lot more click this link

 

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Wow, MDTAP had the opportunity to participate in a fantastic event that focused on mobility and transportation for individuals with disabling conditions over at the Department of Transportation in Washington DC. We were welcomed and thoroughly enjoyed our time! MDTAP shared a table with our sister Virginia and Pennsylvania Tech Act programs. It was great to see the other Tech Act programs in-person and we all brought a variety of low and high tech devices to show off during the innovation event.

Front door of United States Dept of Transportation

I had the pleasure of showing off two awesome devices to summit attendees
primarily from the federal and district governments, respectively. The first device I showed off was the fantastic Victor Reader Trek. Which is a great audio player for individuals with low vision that read a ton of file formats. Another cool feature of the device is the GPS functionality so it can support independent travel for individuals with visual challenges.

Blue sign with write writing "Accessible Route" with arrow

The second device I displayed was the Buzz clip; a mobility device that aids the movement of individuals with low vision and blindness. The device is a sensor that provides haptic feedback and aids with object detection.

Close up of small black device with silver knob.

This particular device hails from Canada and I was fortunate enough to meet the device’s creator earlier this year in California at the CSUN Accessibility Conference. What I love about the device is its simplicity and usability. I have received feedback that this device is helpful but it was noted that they hope the next version provides more directional haptic feedback so the wearer could determine the origin of the object in their path versus a non-directional tactile alert to an object.

Man holding device and white cane as he crosses street in crosswalk.

Thanks for reading,

Andrew

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