Computers and Software Helping the Disabled
Since the advent of computers, disabled people have been provided with new, exciting opportunities to connect, share, and work. In some cases, technologies have been developed and perfected to provide the disabled with an easier lifestyle. In others, technologies that have become available to the general public, such as the Internet, are not as accessible as one may hope. However, many computers and programs have and will continue to help blind, deaf, and physically disabled people.
Blind and Visually Impaired Individuals
There are a host of systems out there to help blind individuals. Some of them come in the form of unique hardware such as refreshable Braille displays, portable CCTVs, and large-print keyboards. However, much more helpful technology comes in the form of software. For example, screen reader software such as JAWS is often used by blind individuals. Many major operating systems, like Windows 8 and OS X, can provide a synthetic voice for browsing and operating a computer. Several apps are also available to help blind people “see” and navigate computer systems.
Physically Challenged Individuals
When it comes to providing accessibility to physically disabled individuals, many technologies focus on providing better input devices. The keyboard and mouse are easily used by many people but can be very difficult for those with paralysis, lost limbs, or diseases like muscular dystrophy. That’s why different devices can be provided, depending on the severity of the challenge. For those with less severe physical challenges, a trackball or joystick may be more efficient. For those with more difficulties, the options to control a mouse with head motions, eye movements, and sip-and-puff actions are also available. More efficient one-handed keyboards are also an option for those who have the use of one hand.
Deaf and Hearing-Impaired Individuals
Deaf people can more fully embrace both computers and the Internet than other groups, as much communication can be done through writing and reading. In addition, many online video providers, like YouTube, offer closed captioning. Even so, more and more devices and apps have been created to help deaf people. Many of them focus on assisting deaf people with the common issues of using a hearing aid, such as having difficulty with group conversations.
Those With Other Disabilities
People with cognitive, learning, or memory issues often can benefit with a combination of the aforementioned tools. For example, some with learning disabilities may benefit from assistive listening tools, which are also available to blind users. On the other hand, some may need more interactive tools, which are available for those with physical disabilities. Also, many software options and apps for the general public can be productive and helpful as memory aids.
Independent Living and Employment With Computers
Many of these options are created with the goal of providing independence to those with disabilities. Independent living is often attained by using a combination of technologies. Also, a degree of cooperativeness from an employer often helps a great deal. Under the Americans With Disabilities Act (or ADA), employees can formally request an accommodation using EEOC guidelines either during the application process or at any time while employed. If you are disabled, let your manager or HR person know if you encounter any workplace barriers.
- 10 Ways Technology is Changing the Way We Live
- How Technology is Changing Blindness
- Technology Resource List for the Blind
- Be My Eyes: App Helps Blind People See
- Screen Readers for Blind Individuals
- Assistive Technology for Blind or Low Vision
- Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP) For Blind People
- Assistive Technologies: Hearing Impairments
- Captioning for Access
- Technology for Deaf People (PDF)
- This Technology Could Change the Way Deaf People Live
- Understand Group Conversations with New App for Deaf People
- Apps for Deaf People
- Top 10 iPhone Apps for People Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
- Technologies for Students with Severe Physical Disabilities
- Input Devices for Physically Challenged Computer Users
- Adapting a Computer for Those With Physical Disabilities
- Wireless Sip-and-Puff Switch for Computer Access
- Web Accessibility and Assistive Technologies for Motor Disabilities
- Computer Technologies for Those With Disabilities
- Hardware and Software Options for Those With Physical Disabilities
- Assistive Technology Devices for Those With Learning Disabilities
- Stephen Hawking’s Computer
- Setting Up Windows 8 for Those With Visual Impairments
- Apple OS X Accessibility Tools
- Workplace Personal Assistance Services and Assistive Technology (PDF)
- Accessible Technology Action Steps: A Guide for Employers
- Guide to Negotiating Reasonable Accommodations With Employers
- The Law: Reasonable Accommodation Under the Americans With Disabilities Act
- Project: Possibility and Efforts to Create New Software for the Disabled
- An Inspirational Story of Disabilities and Technology: Farida Bedwei
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