Mobility Impairments

New research from the CDC shows that one in four US adults have a disability that impacts their daily activities. The most common one is mobility disability, which disproportionately affects older adults ages 65 and above at a rate of 40%. The research also reveals an inverse relationship between income and disability, especially mobility. According to the CDC, “mobility disability is nearly five times as common among middle-aged (45- to 64-year old) adults living below the poverty level compared to those whose income is twice the poverty level.” The study also reported that those with vision disabilities were the least likely to have access to medical care.

People with speech disabilities could soon be speaking with their eyes. Building on a technology originally intended to help ESA astronauts, Ivo Vieira, used augmented reality to create the eye tracking technology used in EyeSpeak glasses, which helps people with speech disabilities communicate.

The EyeSpeak glasses detect eye movement across a virtual keyboard displayed on its lenses. The wearer can use the keyboard to write what will be spoken by a speaker worn on the arm. Moreover, the wearer can access content on the internet including email. All the information is overlaid on the lenses so the user can still see their environment.  

Read more about EyeSpeak on GAATES

Google has a well-known policy that allows its employees to spend 20% of their time working on projects not related to their main job. Rio Akasaka, a project manager on Google Drive, took advantage of this policy and put in 20% of his time as a project manager to work on accessibility features for Google Maps.

Mr. Akasaka has worked for a year with a small team of contributors to introduce accessibility guidelines to Google Maps. The result is that, in addition to the information the map tool displays about venues and locations, it now displays information helpful to people with access needs.

While this may seem minor it is a major help to those who use a wheelchair. As with much accessibility, the new information will help other people as well including people who use other devices to assist their mobility and parents of small children using strollers.

For more information read the Business Insider India article.

Crowd sourcing brings the knowledge of the masses to the needs of an individual. As a wheel chair user, Maayan Ziv had an individual need – to know if places in her city were accessible before showing up. This was the inspiration for her new crowd sourcing app, AccessNow, which collects and shares accessibility information around the globe.

AccessNow is a web based app that shows the accessibility status of hotels, restaurants, coffee shops and tourist destination all gathered from the globally crowdsourced information. The information is shown on an interactive map giving the user the benefit of the knowledge prior to traveling to the location. 

Developed at Ecole Polytechnique Federal de Lausanne (FPFL), a mind-controlled telepresence system aims to give some independence to people with paralysis or mobility disabilities.

Nineteen people tested the robot with a hundred percent success rate. Nine people with disabilities and 10 people without disabilities piloted a robot with their thoughts for several weeks. The testers wore an electrode-studded hat, which analyzed their brain signals and transmitted their instruction via the internet in real time to the robot. The robot was located in a lab in Switzerland. 

Fraunhofer has collaborated with victims of thalidomide to develop new IT-based fitness training. The training uses gaming elements to motivate users. The device uses a shoulder pad fitted with small sensors that record movement. The “smart shoulder pad” is connect via blue tooth to a tablet. The data from the shoulder pad controls the avatar allowing for gaming activity. The shoulder pads are part of the akrobatik@home project. Other parts such as a special seat cushion are developed by a project partner GeBioM. The game itself was developed by Exozet Berlin.

For more information see the Global Accessibility News article.

As we work our way into the new year, there are new issues every vertical must address. In 2015 many of these issues center around technology. Education is always at the forefront of new issues and ether reflects or predicts the concerns of the community at large. A January 15, 2015 article by Tanya Roscorla published on the Center for Digital Education website and titled, Top 6 Higher Ed Digital Policy Issues to Watch in 2015  demonstrates this listing the top policy issues as:

  1. Security threats
  2. State authorization for distance education
  3. Internet of Things management
  4. Competency-based education exploration
  5. Staffing shortage
  6. Electronic Accessibility for people with disabilities

Security has sat at the top of many lists for years as the protection of personally identifiable information is a paramount concern for everyone. Just as we clutch our wallets and purses on crowded city streets to keep our credit card numbers and other personal information safe, we demand that same information stay protected as we conduct business on the web.

The branches of the web grow and reach out of our computers into our everyday household items and cars. The internet of things is bringing inventory management into our refrigerators, allowing our phone to talk to our house and soon it may be driving our cars for us.

As we lock things down to protect our security and the web spreads into every aspect of our lives, number 6, the issue of access, becomes increasingly important. Convenience in everyday life needs to extend to everyone.  Digital education has put the classroom in the living room.  A convenience for anyone who is far away from the school or simply doesn’t have time for the commute, is even more necessary for a person with a disability who may have mobility issues or be blind. However, if the digital education platform is not accessible, what should be a convenience becomes a barrier for people with disabilities.

This, of course, extends to ecommerce and any other convenience on the web. Therefore, what is important for education in 2015 becomes important for business and institutions in general. When considering the issues it’s important to look at them together. If worked in silos, an issues like security can oppose accessibility. Looking at them together, however, strengthens both. The expansion of the internet into our things is easy to make accessible if they are work together. Retrofitting accessibility, however, can be much more costly.

While looking at these lists we can ask ourselves how these things are important to what we do and to the people we do it for. 

How do people that use a wheelchair know where to go during an emergency? This is the question the director of Egress Group Pty Ltd, Lee Wilson, asked as he was writing an evacuation guidebook for people with disabilities.

Realizing that existing exit signage does not cover people with disabilities, especially those that cannot use fire escapes or stairs, Lee developed the “Accessible Means of Egress Icon,” which can be used to help identify accessible egress routes, exit doors, refuges, elevators and other means of egress. The signs combine the Running Man image and the Accessible Means of Egress Icon working together to escape the building.

The Accessible Exit Signs website has ideas for accessible exit signage and example accessible exit signs.

Monday China Disabled Persons Federation (CDPF) and China Banking Association issued a guideline requiring China’s electronic banking service to provide easier access for people with disabilities.

The guideline focuses on three types of disabilities in order to promote accessibility for the E-Banking services such as phone and online banking:

  • Vision Disabilities – E-Banking will provide a specially designed shortcut menu, ID recognition and easy verification codes.
  • Hearing Disabilities – Offer multiple visual facilities and instant short messaging service.
  • Mobility Impairments – establish a long-distance self-service system allowing accounts that traditionally require a physical presents to be open from home.  

Information on accessibility assessments

The DynaVox 15, a powerful speech-generating tablet with a 15” display has been introduced by DynaVox Systems, LLC. The new tablet is part of the groundbreaking T-Series of touch-based speech-generating devices, which includes the DynaVox T10. The DynaVox tablets are intended for people who have aphasia, autism, cerebral palsy, cortical visual disabilities, early ALA, Locked-in syndrome, stroke and anyone else who can benefit from speech-generation.

The T15 was carefully developed to provide quick, simple communication and ease of use. It boasts a vibrant display with high-contrast PCS symbols that enhance clarity and target size benefitting those with vision disabilities. 

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