When a blind person touches each
cell, the pin configurations are recon-figured to represent the next line of
the text being read. Some examples
of these types of refreshable braille
displays include the 40-cell Freedom
Scientific’s Focus 14’s Ultra-Portable
Wireless Braille Display ($1,295) and
the larger, 80-cell Alva BC860 Braille
Display ($8,995), which offers simultaneous connectivity with two computers or a computer and a smartphone.
Manufacturers of smartphones have
not ignored this market, either. Apple
patented a technology for “
hover-sen-sitive devices” in 2011 that could detect
hand gestures made near the screen.
Rival Samsung has provided support
for its Airview feature, which lets users
enlarge text or activate apps without
touching the screen, on certain Galaxy
devices running Google Android.
Frederic Pollmann, a researcher at
the University of Bremen’s Digital Media
Group in Germany, has been working on
the issue of accessibility and smart de-
MORE THAN 20% of U.S. adults live with some form of disability, ac- cording to a September 2015 report released by
the U.S. Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention. The latest generation
of smartphones, tablets, and personal
computers are equipped with acces-
sibility features that make using these
devices easier, or at least, less onerous,
for those who have sight, speech, or
hearing impairments. These enhance-
ments include functions such as screen-
reading technology (which reads aloud
text when the user passes a finger over
it); screen-flashing notification when a
call or message comes in for the hear-
ing impaired; and voice controls of ba-
sic functions for those who are unable
to physically manipulate the phone or
computing device’s controls.
Other technologies that can help the
disabled have or are coming to market,
and not all of them are focused simply
on providing access to computers or
smartphones. Irrespective of the accessibility provided, most market participants agree more needs to be done to
help those with disabilities to fully experience our increasingly digital world.
Mobile Access Technologies
Thanks to the ubiquity of PCs, smart-
phones, and tablets, a significant
number of accessibility-related ap-
plications and enhancements are in
use today. The aforementioned screen
readers are interfaces that have been
developed to make it easier for people
to view and interact with content on
their computers, and vary in complex-
ity and features offered. Screen reader
software can range in cost from free,
such as the Orca software that works
with applications such as Open-
Office, Firefox, and the Java platform,
to for-pay options such as Serotek’s
System Access, which provides access
to Microsoft Windows, Outlook, Adobe
Reader, and Skype.
While each screen reader features
its own command structure, most are
designed so the operator can send commands via keystroke or a braille display
to the computer and instruct it to read
text out loud, and then have the computer’s voice synthesizer read a line or
full screen of text. More advanced features allow for voice or braille control
over spellchecking, verifying the position of a cursor, or modifying content.
Other technology designed to help
people who cannot see interact more
easily with their computing devices
includes a software/hardware solution
that reads content on the computer
and then provides output in braille.
The software captures words and images from web pages, then converts that
content into a digital version of braille,
which is then used to electromechanically control a set of pins contained in
cells, which are arranged side-by-side.
Technology | DOI: 10.1145/2892714 Keith Kirkpatrick
Can Assist the Disabled
Researchers consider how to adapt broadly available
technology products for those battling physical impairments.
iBrailler Notes allows the vision impaired to type Braille on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch,
with audio feedback.