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Top tech tools for people with disabilities

Technology can sometimes seem daunting to able bodied people, user experience for a person with a disability can be even more frustrating.

But technology is solving itself with gadgets and software to specifically aid disabled people in their interaction with computers.

What’s out there?

Image of foot mouse

Footmouse

This does exactly what the name suggests – a computer mouse that a user can use with their feet.

If a user has back problems or mobility issues, they can use the footmouse to move the cursor and select things with their feet instead.

A footmouse usually consists of two sides – one side is used to control the cursor and one is used to click the mouse and to select shortcuts.

A person with limited use of their hands and arms can type on a virtual keyboard by clicking each character.

Image source: dentistryiq.com

Image of accessible keyboard

Adapted keyboards

If someone has poor eyesight or hand eye coordination, a simple thing such as a different sized keyboard can make all the difference in user experience. 

A standard keyboard is designed to be used by two hands, favouring right handed people by placing the numeric keypad on the right hand side.

Changes can be made to this keyboard settings such as the modification of keyboard response, and a reallocation of keys and purpose.

However, keyboards specifically designed for disabled users can also be purchased.

No extra software is required to use these keyboards, which replace standard keyboards for Mac and Windows computers.

Small keyboards can be easily positioned and suit a single handed user best, ergonomic keyboards are split in two so there is less strain on wrists and arms, and larger keyboards provide a greater area for a disabled person to work with, can be colour coordinated and sensitivity can be adjusted.

Image source: ndipat.org

Text magnifier

People who have poor eyesight can benefit from a screen magnifier which brings sentences and letters into focus. 

Some magnifiers can blow text up to 32 times the original size; it can also be displayed in a variety of ways.

A good magnifier will have a synthetic speech processor so can read what it sees.

This means things like Word documents, emails, websites and application menus can be read out to the user, making navigation much quicker.

A user can also have the magnifier read back each letter or word they type to ensure that they haven’t included any typos.

Image of braille display attached to computer

Braille display

A braille display works with braille transcription software to read content on a computer screen and then convert it into Braille for a blind person to read on the physical display. 

A converter should easily allow a user to convert documents into various media files such as websites, large print and digital talking books.

Image source: mac.softpedia.com

Image of Google glasses

Google Glass

Our final gadget for people with disabilities is the Google Glass.

Wearable tech has been the hot topic this year in technology, with Google Glass being made available to the general public for anything from £500 to over £1,000.

But this technological advancement is also a significant development for disabled people in that it can be used to improve the lives of those with compromised vision, mobility and hearing.

Designed with feedback from disabled users, Google Glass is a light weight, voice controlled device with a touch sensitive temple.

Users send and receive texts and phone calls, take pictures and videos and access the Internet just through voice command.

A deaf person can set the glasses to type a real time transcript when people talk to them.

A quadriplegic man is currently using one to control a drone and see the world as though flying over it.

Someone with impaired eyesight can let Google Glass guide them with a bone conducting speaker encased in the right hand side of the gadget, and this same person can know where exactly they are as Google recognises it using Google Maps.

And lastly, in the coming years, it is hoped the glasses will have such high level facial recognition that they’ll be able to help disabled people who have trouble with human interaction and emotions.

Image source: wired.com