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Technology Demonstrations at the Disability Network

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Technology demonstrations at the Disability Network (9/21/00)

The technologies on display at the Disability Network for the President's visit illustrate both how mainstream technologies can be made accessible to and usable by people with disabilities, as well as how specialized assistive technologies can enable people with various disabilities to take greater advantage of mainstream technologies. Some of the technologies are cross-disability in nature, while others are targeted toward a specific type of disability.

Eye Gaze, LC Technologies. Eye Gaze is a communication and control system for people with complex physical disabilities, such as Lou Gehrig's disease. By looking at control keys displayed on a screen, a person can synthesize speech, control the environment (lights, appliances, etc.), type, operate a telephone, run computer software, and access the Internet and e-mail. As a user sits in front of the Eyegaze monitor, a video camera mounted below the computer observes one of the user's eyes. The Eyegaze software continually analyzes the video image of the eye and determines where the user is looking on the screen. This technology helps illustrate how people with complex and seemingly very limiting disabilities can fully participate in the Information Age. This technology will be demonstrated by Nancy Cleveland of LC Technologies.

Electronic Books (DAISY), American Foundation for the Blind and Time-Warner. Time-Warner Trade Publishing and the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) will demonstrate the first commercial title ever to be released to the general reading public using an exciting, new, innovative electronic book technology. Developed in the blindness community, this new publishing technology promises to revolutionize reading and literacy for all people worldwide, including people who are blind or otherwise print disabled. The first publication, Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech, will be demonstrated using both software on a PC and specialized portable reading appliances. Readers can see the text of the book displayed on screen (or in braille) fully synchronized with a narrated recording; use next-generation web technologies to surf directly to any page, chapter, index entry, topic, or subsection in the book; and annotate the text with their own bookmarks and study notes. This technology is an example of how products designed to benefit people with disabilities often have broader applications for the general public, for example, as assistance to people learning English as a Second Language. This technology will be demonstrated by Janina Sajka of the American Federation for the Blind.

Scan-able, Coded Electronic Books, Intacta Technologies. A new application of Intacta.code technology, in partnership with IDEAL (Individuals with Disabilities: Enabling Advocacy Link) at NCR, allows virtually any document or computer file to be converted into compact, printed, 2D codes. When the printed 2D code is run through a standard scanner, the original file is decoded on a PC. The technology can provide persons who are blind and dyslexic electronic access to the audio or electronic version of any printed document, without having to access the original electronic version of the document. A demonstration can show how a purposely damaged and crumpled paper, printed with Intacta.Code, can be run through a scanner rendering a computer-based, screen-readable, version of a 200-page book, "Equality of Opportunity: The Making of the Americans with Disabilities Act." With this technology, a wealth of documents can be stored, for easy retrieval, on a simple piece of paper. This shows how mainstream commercial products can be used to increase access to information for people with disabilities if engineers are sufficiently aware of the needs and potential of people with disabilities. Steve Jacobs of IDEAL at NCR will demonstrate this technology.

JAWS for Windows. Jaws for Windows (JFW) is a screen reader that speaks everything on the computer screen for a person who is blind. It will read everything from web pages and email to Excel spread sheets. The Braille Window works with JFW to provide the user the ability to read the screen in Braille. This gives the user a true representation of the screen and allows for better editing of documents, quicker access to information, and is the only way for a deaf-blind person to access the computer. This illustrates how effective integration of third-party peripherals and mainstream technologies enable people with disabilities to command popular software applications with equal dexterity. Sharon Regal of the Visually Impaired Center in Flint and Luke Zelley of the Disability Network will demonstrate this technology.

Web Accessibility & Accessible Distance Learning, Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) and WGBH's National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM). Accessibility features developed by NCAM and WAI include captioning of audio for people who are deaf and hard of hearing, description of video for people who are blind or who have low vision, and Web design that makes navigation easier for people with physical or cognitive disabilities. These can be applied in the context of entertainment as well as educational materials. For example, NCAM has partnered with MIT to create the MIT PIVOT Project (Physics Interactive Video On-Line Tutor), which makes an introductory physics class accessible on-line by using captions and vide descriptions. This demonstration shows how Web sites and distance learning through the Internet can readily be designed to be accessible to people with disabilities, including individuals with visual and hearing impairments. Judy Brewer, Director of the Web Accessibility Initiative, will demonstrate this technology.

Additional technologies on display at the Disability Network's Access center will include:

Cyberlink Interface, Brain Actuated Technologies. The Cyberlink Interface enables hands-free control of computers and electrical devices. Brain and body signals detected by the sensors in a headband are amplified, digitized and transmitted to the computer to affect feedback displays, control a mouse or an interactive video game, navigate a productivity or business application, use a web browser, control almost any Windows application, play musical synthesizers or sound cards, activate peripheral devices, and adjust environmental controls.

Video Teleconferencing. Video teleconferencing at the Disability Network, using high-speed Internet connections, will enable users of the Access Center to participate in distance learning opportunities. This would also enable people who are Deaf to communicate over the Internet by using sign language, instead of relying upon a telecommunications relay service.

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