For people with disabilities computers can be a lifeline and a curse. They offer a means of communication to those who would otherwise be locked in a frustratingly isolated world, but they can sometimes be difficult to use without assistive technology.
If you’re blind or visually impaired how do you read and decipher the text and graphics on screen and keyboard? If you’re deaf or hard of hearing then audible error bleeps and other alarms may be lost to you. If you have an impairment that prevents you using the keyboard or moving the mouse, how will you manage? If you have a learning disability like dyslexia how do you interpret the on-screen text?
Along with developments in computer software and hardware, adaptive technology has advanced and is generally quite sophisticated. It no longer has the Heath Robinson reputation that it once had – it holds the key to open up worlds to disabled people that were previously unattainable.
Chartwell Insurance, a completely independent insurance broker that offers a specialist service for people with disabilities, and their carers, takes a look at websites that examine what’s happening in the world of adaptive technology, as well as those that use computers to unlock communication barriers.
Disabled World defines adaptive computer technology as any piece of equipment that is customized to make life easier for a person who has a disability and goes on to explain some of the more common adaptations.
We Are Reason Digital explores four ways in which technology can help disabled people using the latest hardware, such as tablets and ipads, combined with apps like Instagram and Apple’s Assistive Touch technology. These enable visually impared people to share their world.
Kris Napper, a team member of Locker Gnome, has SMA (Spinal Muscular Atrophy). He explains how he overcomes some of the difficulties he faces when operating his computer by using an on-screen keyboard. In Windows, Microsoft has built in an Ease of Access Centre which can be accessed through the Control Panel and here the on screen keyboard, as well as and other helpful features, can be activated.
The RNIB has a section on technology that’s designed to help with computer use for those with poor vision or total sight loss. They recognise that technology moves on rapidly, so you can sign up for their newsletter to keep up to date with recent developments. Also useful is their Technology Support Squad, a team of 800 volunteers available across the UK to help users who may be struggling with a gadget that is designed to help them.
Assistive Ware develops assistive technology software for iOS and Mac OS X. The company’s flagship product, Proloquo2Go® for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch provides a “voice” for people who have difficulty speaking or cannot speak at all. In the community section there is a page of user videos that show the ways this technology makes a real difference to people’s lives.