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Adaptive Computing

StreetWise Resource Guide for People with Disabilities

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  • Summary
  • Resources
  • Products
  • Web Accessibility

Adaptive Computing

Adaptive Computing entails making the typical personal computer (monitor, keyboard, and mouse) accessible to any user, particularly a user with physical impairments such as visual or mobility limitations. Such limitations generally require alternative means of interacting with the computer. For example, screen readers speak aloud the text on the screen. Voice-recognition software allows a user to input data by speaking. On screen keyboards may be used with joysticks, wands, mouth sticks or other adaptive devices. The field of adaptive computing also addresses issues related to making the Internet available to all.

Each tab profiles a selection of the most useful sites.

 

Adaptive Computing Resources

For ease of navigation, the web sites listed have been organized into three categories: Comprehensive sites that focus on many aspects of adaptive and assistive computer technology, information databases with links to other resources, computer hardware/software manufacturers' sites that present information on making their products more accessible, and sites that provide lists, information and/or links for specific equipment and products. Many of these sites have links to additional resources, including manufacturers or vendors of the products they describe.

Comprehensive Adaptive Computing Sites

Assistivetech.net provides information on assistive technology products. Search the assistive technology database by function, activity, or vendor. Links are provided to state AT ACT projects and the Pass It On Center. There is also an ATWiki and a list of discussion groups. This site was created by the Georgia Tech Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access (CATEA) and is funded by US DOE's National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR).

Comprehensive Sites for the Visually Impaired

The Low Vision Gateway's Computer and Internet Access area has these sections: Access to Computers, Computer User Groups, and Access to the Internet. Each section contains annotated links. In particular the Computer User Groups lists groups specifically for the blind or visually impaired.

Information Databases

Assistivetech.net provides an excellent searchable database on assistive technology. Browse by function, activity, or vendor.

The Adaptive Computer Products page from the disAbility Information and Resources site provides categorized links, most with a short description or comment. It includes links to vendors. This site has been referenced by many of the other disability related sites.

The Assistive and Adaptive Technology section of the Disability Resource Directory provides annotated links to assistive technology resources and assistive technology products both hardware and software.

Manufacturers' Sites

Apple Computer provides information on the accessibility features that are provided in the MacOS, iPhone, iPod & iTunes. Under resources, you'll find links to other sites with additional information and products.

IBM Accessibility Center provides product accessibility information, articles, developer guidelines, and other information.

The Microsoft Accessibility site provides several sections to choose from. Product Information provides accessibility information about Microsoft products, accessible documentation, keyboard shortcuts, and technical support. Tutorials and Training provides demos of accessibility in Windows, an overview and a search of product listings. step by step tutorials for the accessibility features in various products, guides by type of impairment, and Microsoft accessibility resource centers.

Information on Adaptive Equipment and Products

EASI (Equal Access to Software and Information) provides a list of adaptive hardware and software vendors. These are grouped into 3 categories: input devices, output devices, and other devices. In each category, the links are provided by company name with a description of the products provided.

Adaptive Computing and Assistive Technology Products

These sites describe specific Adaptive Computing and Assistive Technology Products. These are just a few selected from hundreds of sites.

General

Origin Instruments Corporation products include a wireless head-pointing device for use with PCs, Macs, and notebooks, computer access, speech and low-vision software, a sip and puff switch, and wireless switch transmitter.

RJ Cooper products include software and hardware. Categories include: learning/training software, blind/low vision software, software to access the computer, hardware to access the computer, positioning stuff and much more.

Mouse & keyboard adaptations or alternatives

IMG (Innovation Management Group) publishes software for on screen keyboards, area magnification, and joystick-to-mouse controllers.

In Touch Systems produces The Magic Wand Keyboard. It is a miniature computer keyboard that works with the touch of a hand-held wand or mouthstick.

Kensington makes mice & trackballs and other computer accessories.

Semco produces the Quadjoy Mouse.

Speech Recognition

Dragon Naturally Speaking from Nuance, is a speech/voice recognition program for both Windows and Mac.

Web Accessibility

As a primary information source, the Internet, including the World Wide Web, needs to be accessible by all people. A more accessible Web reduces the barriers for all users. During the last few years, there has been progress in achieving this goal. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) promotes the evolution and usability of the World Wide Web through the development of specifications, guidelines, software, and tools. In its most visible effort, the W3C works to enhance Web accessibility in uniform ways through the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). The WAI has developed voluntary guidelines for creating accessible Web sites and browsers. For more information about the WAI, check out their site.

How accessible is the Internet?

The accessibility of the Internet is improving every day. More and more web sites are being designed with accessibility in mind. For example, many web sites offer different access options on their home page. Text only, no graphics, or no frames options, for instance, reduce clutter. Some sites provide an entry page that lets you select whether or not you want "flash " (the animation feature) or lots of graphics. Some sites let you increase the text size. If selection options are unclear on any site, for accessibility choose the selection that indicates "less" rather than "more." You can always back up and try the other.

What does it mean if a site displays WAI logos?

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines from the Web Accessibility Initiative explain to web site designers how to make the content of a Web site accessible to all users. Each guideline has one or more checkpoints that are assigned a priority level of 1, 2, or 3, with 1 being the most important. For example, providing a text equivalent for every non-text element (images, symbols, animation, etc) is a priority 1 checkpoint. For a site to be classified as "accessible," a site must conform with all priority 1 checkpoints to be classified as "accessible." Sites that claim to conform to any one of the 3 levels of the guidelines may display a WAI Logo. As of December 2008, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 standard was approved and will provide better accessibility for more web content such as text, images, audio, video, and web applications.

What does it mean if a site displays a Bobby Approved Icon?

Developed by CAST, the Bobby web accessibility software tool is used to evaluate how well a site complies with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Sites that reach a Bobby Approved rating may use the Bobby approved icon. There are different icons to represent the level of accessibility achieved by the site-WAI 1, 2, or 3 or U.S. Section 508.

What is U.S. Section 508?

This section of the U.S. Code requires that U.S. Federal agencies make any electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. This means that agencies must give employees and citizens who have disabilities access to information that is comparable to the access available to others. National security systems are exempted. The U.S. General Services Administration Section 508 and Accessibility web site page contains more information for understanding and implementing these requirements.

Do Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari have accessibility features?

Internet Explorer allows changing fonts and colors and customizing the toolbar. There are also advanced options that can be set. Microsoft provides step by step tutorials for Internet Explorer version 8 and Internet Explorer version 9 for making these changes.

Firefox allows changing fonts, text size, and colors. Look under Tools on the Menu Bar and choose Options, then choose Content. It also allows you to zoom in on a page. Firefox is compatible with numerous assistive technology products. Keyboard shortcuts and mouse shortcuts also help simplify various functions.

Disabled World offers some good links.

Google Accessibility provides guidance for the accessibility features of all Google products including the Chrome web bowser.

Apple Accessibility provides information for the accessibility features for most Apple products including the Safari browser.