Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Tongue-Drive; accessibile SW helps all

I just had to stop all I was doing and alert subscribers/readers to this neat example of "thinking outside of the box" -- a group at Georgia Tech has developed a way for people who use wheelchairs to navigate with their tongues, but instead of voice commands, they use magnets and muscle -- details at this article.

Personally, I am more impressed at the potential -- there are many people with many impairments, so use of the tongue becomes a viable option, and not just for wheelchairs. If the (software) system is design properly (abstraction, modularity, ...), one should be able to use it as input to other devices (computer, PDA, house, ...). I hope to explore these issues in my initial offering this fall of a course on software development for accessibility -- stay tuned.

I also stumbled across (thanks, ACM Tech News) an article that found (surprise?) that "Mobile users make same mistakes as disabled PC users," suggesting that "special software" to make a mobile device for a person with a mobility issue/disability may actually help all mobile users. I have found that this is more often that case than not, a direct, clear, "user-centric" focus on design can help all, and we expect this type of "thinking in the extremes" in general design with hopes that students develop solutions that work for a diverse a group of users as possible -- one definition of "accessibility" -- now do you see the connection between access and diversity? (sorry, just hopped off soapbox ;-) -- JD

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