In previous blog posts I talked about ways technology assists different people. Lately I have been thinking about how technology enhances accessibility. A number of breakthroughs in the last few years allow alter-abled people to participate in activities many of us take for granted. I will highlight just a few products and I hope that you will share others that you are familiar with.
Lights, Camera, Action
Sony introduced Entertainment Access Glasses in the fall of 2012. Regal Cinemas placed them in theaters nationwide in 2013. This is a wireless device that connects to the digital server and projector. The glasses aid hearing impaired patrons by projecting closed captioning using holographic technology and aid the vision impaired with an audio assist function.
The Access Glasses look like normal glasses, although larger, but they broadcast closed captioning in the wearer’s field of vision. The wearer gets private assistance without disturbing other theatergoers. I know people who use this device and it really does help them to take part in social gatherings such as a night at the movies. This also sets the theater chain apart and allows them to attract additional customers for a small investment.
Classroom Accessibility Technology
There are several products that help low vision students in the classroom, but Dolphin SuperNova integrates a number of technologies into one package. It can be a screen reader with audible voice; it can magnify a screen; and it can connect to an interactive whiteboard in the classroom linked to a student’s laptop, allowing them to magnify text or employ the screen reader to deliver the information audibly. This is a great way to assist low vision students. Of course, as an instructor I need to be diligent in designing lessons and material that can be interpreted by screen readers and magnifiers such as SuperNova.
Low Tech Assistive Solutions
There are some decidedly low tech aids for young people with sensory processing issues or autism or attention deficit disorder. It is difficult to sit still in a classroom when learning is interrupted by the need to move. Therapy Seat Cushion is an inflatable cushion with soft rubber spikes on one side so children can sit in one place but still get the sensory stimulation they need. It allows the child to focus on their learning and not on their need for movement. It can also be overinflated to create an uneven surface for balancing. Similarly, the FootFidget is designed to allow a child to move their feet quietly. I know several adults who could benefit from these products so I am not certain they are just for kids. These are great solutions that fill an often overlooked need.
These are just a few products that allow people with different abilities to thrive in and enjoy their world. I would love to extend this topic to future posts so let me know what accessibility products you are excited about.
Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.