Friday, January 11, 2008

Improve usability with assistive technology

Making IT usable by everyone ...

"IT companies have made fortunes on a philosophy of mass production and one size fits all. However, in a small but growing part of the industry, a band of companies has stood this model on its head.

For companies that produce hardware and software designed for disabled people - known as assistive technology - low production runs and customisation are the order of the day. Their products can be adapted to the individual requirements of a user, allowing disabled people to communicate, work, shop online, and so on.

Assistive technology has produced an extraordinary array of devices, and the ingenuity of some products is startling. With the aid of a small pipe that operates a two-state switch, a person with little or no movement can do everything a non-disabled person can with a computer simply by sipping and puffing on the mouthpiece.

Eye gaze technology

Some developments are at the cutting edge of technology. For example, eye gaze technology uses a camera to track the movement of a user's pupils to detect where they are looking, and in this way allows them to control a pointer, select options and operate an on-screen keyboard.

Eye gaze systems, like many other assistive technologies, were originally developed for quite a different purpose. For some years they have been used by designers to track the way people respond to web pages, advertisements and other complex images.

Researchers are trying to take tracking one step further by building systems that detect the minute electrical charges generated by the brain to allow users to control a machine by thought. But that is still in the realms of science fiction.

The reality is that those who buy and develop IT are under increasing pressure to ensure that their systems can be used by everyone."    (Continued via ComputerWeekly)    [Usability Resources]

Assistive Technology - Usability, User Interface Design

Assistive Technology

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