People with Disabilities

IAP 2017-E5: Darren the Guide Dog

In this episode:

Co-host Mark Miller, who is sited, takes co-host Jeremy Curry’s guide dog, Darren, for a mismatched and confusing walk across a busy Chicago street. Learn a bit about the unique relationship between a guide dog and their owner through the story of this little misadventure.

GAAD Logo

As you may have guessed from the title, today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD)! If you don’t know what GAAD is, it is “to get everyone thinking and learning about digital (web, software, mobile, etc.) access/inclusion and people with different disabilities.”  And, if you are coming to our site to learn about accessibility, you are in the right place!  Interactive Accessibility is known globally for being the experts in digital accessibility.

Did you know there are only about 10,000 guide dogs in the United States? With only 0.003% of the population using a guide dog, it is understandable that people do not know how to react to a service animal. Whether it is an adult or a curious toddler, I’m often the focus of attention everywhere I go.  Many times, the public seems to forget all manners and yell out “Dog! Dog!” or “Puppy!

UMass Boston’s engineering students have collected a year’s worth of Wi-Fi signal data to create a map of the campus. Using the IBM Accessible Location-based Service, people with disabilities will be able to download an app on their mobile device and identify their location using the Wi-Fi signals. They can then put in a destination and the app will guide them, turn-by-turn, and give accessible route guidance based on the current physical campus environment.

This technology has great potential for other environments such as airports, hospitals, office buildings and shopping malls. It could benefit many people such as:

  • Firefighters
  • The elderly
  • People with short term memory issues
  • People with vision disabilities

Read Dr. Ping Chen’s article on GAAD. 

A Texas A&M University biomedical engineering researcher is developing a device that, while worn on the wrist, translates sign language into text. The wearable tech uses motion sensors in conjunction with measurements of electrical activity in the muscles to interpret gestures.  It can already recognize 40 American Sign Language (ASL) words with an approximate 96 percent accuracy. This gives great promise that the device could bridge the communications delta between people who are deaf and those who don’t know ASL.

For more information see the GAATES article.  

A hand-worn device developed at the University of Nevada, Reno by Yantao Shen uses robotic technology to help people with vision disabilities. The robotic device will allow these people to navigate past movable obstacles and assist in pre-locating, pre-sensing and grasping an object.

The new technology combines vision, tactile force, temperature, audio sensors and actuators to help the user pre-sense an object, locate it, feel the shape and size then grasp it.

Read more about the Robotic Aid

Browser extensions and accessibility settings are great for people who wish to further customize their experience to fit their individual preferences when accessing websites but these are not a replacement for adhering to accessibility guidelines.

The BBC has reported that the tech giant Microsoft wants to hire more people with autism to fill some of its full time positions. To accomplish this Microsoft will work with a specialized recruitment firm, Specialisterne. The announcement was made in the Microsoft on the Issues blog where senior executive Mary Ellen Smith wrote, “People with Autism bring strengths that we need at Microsoft.”

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.

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