Even Grounds Blog
In this blog, I will reflect on issues which effect the accessibility of technology. I would like to bring certain issues to my readers attention which are either interesting, directly effect our lives, or bring issues into our attention which we would have never thought of.
Tom Babinszki, Director of Even Grounds
When you’ve developed a software, it’s definitely rewarding to know that many people are finding it useful and benefiting from it. And you certainly have made your own way to ensure that your software would be enjoyed by as many persons as possible.
You can nonetheless reach an even larger set of users by ensuring that your software has these basic yet very helpful features.
“More important than the right to speech is the right to speak.” The world renowned British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking knows this exactly to be true. Having been robbed of his ability to speak to a motor neuron disease, Stephen Hawking had to struggle with crude communication systems just to be able to tell his wants and needs…until he discovered VOCAs.
If it had not been for VOCAs, Stephen Hawking’s insights into the nature of space and time would not have been known. This assistive technology has allowed him to communicate, write and publish his works, and give lectures to live audiences around the world in spite of losing his ability to speak.
In this post we will explore what VOCAs are and how these instruments give people an ability that most of us take for granted.
Tied up with an invisible chain -- you’d probably think this to yourself if you suddenly found out that you can’t walk, move, lift your arms, or even just curl your fingers.
This could easily be anyone’s reaction if they’ve had a spinal cord injury and is left paralyzed from the neck down. But this doesn’t have to be so. For the many people living with quadriplegia, life doesn’t have to slip away from them even if it had slipped away from their limbs.
This is exactly what our friend will show us as he invites us to a day in his life. We will see the daily challenges that he has to face and how assistive technology and adaptive tools are helping him to overcome them.
It is considered good economic practice to include as many people inn the workforce as possible. The more people that are participating and contributing to the economy, the more productivity gains and economic returns we can expect for the community.
While people with disabilities have the capacity to positively contribute to the development of a country’s economy and social capital, many of them are not given this opportunity due to many barriers. One of these is the employers’ perception of costs and benefits of accommodating and employing people with disabilities.
Although there may be situations where accommodations have to be made to address the needs of people with disabilities, there are numerous ways companies can support people with disabilities with no extra cost. And the costs to accommodate them, if there are any, outweigh the contributions that people with disabilities can give to the economy.
A few nights ago, I was looking for something interesting on TV. I came upon this cooking show. I wasn’t particularly fond of this kind of program, but I have to admit I was interested to see the finished dish.
So I watched it for a few more minutes and an idea struck me.
Wonder what that idea is? No, I didn’t realize that I wanted to be a cook. On the other hand, I had a thought that cooking shows, of all programs, demonstrate a basic principle of accessibility.
Japan is one of the most technologically advanced and accessible countries in the world. Most major cities have the infrastructure to support accessibility for people with disabilities. In Japan there are elevators in almost every train station, busses with passenger lifts, and electronic signboards. There is also Braille everywhere--on the sidewalk, signboards, money, and even on beer cans.
Japan is also starting to build infrastructure for making information--particularly digital information--accessible to people with disabilities. This is best shown through the standards and policies that Japan has instituted to make its sites accessible.
Imagine spending a day without reading, spelling, or writing. Sounds impossible, right? This just proves how important these activities are to our lives.
That’s why when you face difficulties in any of these tasks, your daily life would be greatly affected. But there is still a way to rise above this situation. And this is done by understanding this condition and identifying the technologies you can use to cope with it.
In an earlier post, I have written about how a deaf blind person does her daily tasks with the help of assistive technology. Let us now focus more on the communication devices that deaf blind people use to connect with other people and exchange information with the world around them.
There are many ways for deaf blind people to communicate. The methods that they use vary with the degree or combination of their vision and hearing loss, their background, and education. And with the recent advancements in assistive technology, deaf blind people are now finding more ways to connect with other people, whether they are sitting side-by-side or kilometers apart.
Getting Help and Returning the Favor: How You Can Work with Persons with Disabilities to Make Your Site Accessible
While working with people on the accessibility of their site, I noticed one common concern. It’s very difficult to see for yourself what the problem is.
When people try to examine the accessibility of their site, they usually go “Hey, this seems easy to navigate. I can quickly find the stuff I need. What’s wrong with my site?”
Of course you can always ask a consultant to find out the site’s accessibility problems. But your web site is your baby, and before hiring one, you want to know for yourself what needs to be improved.
In reality, the only true way to be able to know the accessibility problems of something is to see it through the perspective of a person with a disability. Trying to use a site through the perspective of persons with disabilities can indeed help you better understand their needs. But there’s an even better way, and you can do this by...
I was listening to Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony last Sunday. And as I enjoyed the beautiful melodies, I remembered a radio documentary I heard several years ago about this man of music.
A huge part of that documentary focused on how Beethoven was still able to compose music at a time when he was completely deaf. And you know what? Beethoven’s techniques were not only interesting, but they also present something important we can all learn.