Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Two assistive technology resources

Today, I present two leads for assistive technology, one I discovered on my own and the other is a user review describing his adaptation of a gaming keyboard, turning it into an assistive technology device.

After a recent hard drive crash on my old computer, I was forced into looking at getting a new pc. In doing this, the one thing that I knew I wanted to avoid was getting a computer with the new Microsoft Vista operating system. I use JAWS as my screen reader and the newness that is Vista was something JAWS wasn’t quite up to handling just yet. I had no problem finding a pc with Windows XP and was soon back in the digital world.

One thing I took for granted on my old computer was the CD burning program, Record Now. That program had come installed as part of the manufacturer’s package and I was happily surprised when first using it because I found it was designed with accessibility in mind. There was even an accessibility heading under the help menu which told how the manufacturer wanted the software to work with screen readers.

When I first attempted to burn some files onto a CD on the new machine, I had to look around the programs to find the one to use. There are actually three applications on here that can do the job, but, unfortunately, none of them are very accessible, nor are they designed to be intuitive in their operation. This brought me to search for an accessible CD burning program.

Fortunately, this search didn’t take too long. I quickly found the Premiere CD/DVD Creator manufactured by
Premiere Assistive Software.
The program was easy to locate and download and, best of all, it was free. More than that, though, is that it was designed to be accessible to screen readers.

I instantly recognized the Premiere Assistive Software name, as it was the manufacturer of some software programs we used in providing DSS to students at my last position. The main draw of their software for our job was that they did the tasks we needed very well and were affordable. The link above will take you to a page listing all the available titles. Some, like the CD/DVD Creator and talking calculator, are free.

The other item I want to share is how somebody took a
Logitech G11 gaming keyboard
that was not intended as assistive technology, but after he saw the device’s abilities, quickly understood how it could be made to meet his AT needs. The focus is the keyboard’s additional, programmable function and mode keys. Instead of assigning game functions to these keys, the user assigned executable macros to them and made it function as AT to assist him in overcoming his physical limitations.

Again, technology not specifically designed to work as AT fits well into the DSS domain. This is the true beauty of designing products with universal access. If only the manufacturer’s could see this, they could open up new markets for their products.

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