Reading the headline of this post you might ask, “Now what has accessibility got to do with mobile or tablet and touch technology?” Read on and hopefully you will get it. I admit that this is going to be largely an editorial, but hopefully we will learn something along the way and that makes it a how-to right?. Mobility and accessibility go hand in hand; however, for many, both are a great challenge. This “How-To” is dedicated to the memory of Lieutenant Colonel Larry “Rodney” Gwaltney, US Army. This will be one of very few “How-To’s” where I don’t directly tell you well, you know, how to; think of it today as a “where to” find important information and tutorials on this mobility inspired topic.
GBM How-To Series #26 : Using Vista and XP Accessibility Features
Many of us take for granted the ability we have of snatching up our system from a cradle or dock and dropping it into our bag as we head out the door, answering email on the fly, etc. Yes, that is one aspect of mobility but we often forget that there is a whole other side of mobility. That is, where mobility and accessibility are a challenge. Stay with me here, I promise I am going somewhere with this. While going through my calendar looking for an opening for an appointment , I found a recurring appointment that reminded me of someone’s birthday every December 1st. Having a large and close family where most remember special occasions without electronic help (not me), I would be lost without Outlook. The reminder was for my brother-in-law, Rodney. That brought back memories of him with regard to mobility that I would like to share.
You see, Rodney was an active and sociable character (by character I mean to say, he was one of a kind). He was always funny, a successful military officer that served in various positions at the Pentagon; a husband, father of three beautiful girls, a son and friend to more people than I think you could count that was struck down in the middle of the best years of his life by ALS; commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. A particularly cruel disease that is exhibits a slow degeneration of nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord that leads to almost if not complete paralysis and death. It is during those years when Rodney was immobile, I got my first hand exposure to how much it means for someone with a debilitating disease to communicate. During even the worst years before he finally succumbed to this illness, Rodney kept in touch his host of contacts by using his Dell laptop, early on controlled by a foot switch, and later by optical eye tracking. You see, ALS had all but robbed him of the ability to speak clearly if at all, and attempting to do so was exhausting for him. For many years I was amazed at his ability to continue to keep in touch with people by using the accessibility features in Windows ’98. Today I pause to think how much easier for him it could be because of Microsoft’s dedication to development of Assistive Technologies (AT) coupled with improvements to portable systems and technologies part of which has been added to or enhanced in Vista. Some of today’s improvements in this important segment of the computer industry; they are…
- Alternative keyboards – Sip-and-puff systems
- Wands and sticks – Touch screens
- Braille embossers – Keyboard filters
- Light signaler alerts –On screen keyboards
- Reading tools and learning disabilities programs – Braille displays
- Screen enlargers, or screen magnifiers – Speech recognition or voice recognition programs
- Text-to-Speech (TTS) or speech synthesizers – Talking and large-print word processors
- TTY/TDD conversion modems
OK, I’m off the soap box now, if you are interested in finding out more about the many different mobility and accessibility feature and solutions, or know someone who might have need or interest (now the “How-To” part) check out…
- Accessibility Tutorials for Microsoft Products
- Using Accessible Technology: A Guide for Educators
- Windows Vista Accessibility Demonstrations
Other related links…
- The Jim “Catfish” Hunter chapter of the ALS Association
- National Registry of Veterans with ALS
- DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) paper by University of Washington
In closing, often it is the families of those that are stricken with these types of disabilities who share in it’s effects. Today, I salute them for the tremendous burden that they carry as care givers and support providers. If you know someone that might benefit from looking into any of these technologies, please get the word out that there are options for keeping in touch that might just brighten a day, or improve the quality of someone’s life.