Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Assistive technology roundup-- lots of news

I’ve discovered a lot of information about assistive technology in the news of late. Instead of writing individual posts about each item, I thought I’d do a more comprehensive AT round up. So, head ‘em up and move ‘em out, here we go!

Some of the more innovative uses of assistive technology are its applications at the
Center for the Intrepid,
the newly opened, state of the art rehab facility for severely burned and injured soldiers, located near San Antonio, Texas.

In what other setting might one find a firing range simulator as an application of assistive technology to aid in physical rehabilitation?

Although this isn’t exactly postsecondary DSS, these novel applications of AT are landmarks and are assisting a most worthy audience. These soldiers have sacrificed for our freedom and liberty, so let’s give them the best that we can for their recovery.

Voice of America
has been a mainstay on the airwaves of many countries across the globe for several decades. I only knew of this pro-democracy radio network through reading about it in books and history class. I’ve never actually tuned my radio in to a VOA broadcast. However, in this modern internet age, one doesn’t need a radio to listen to VOA. They provide on-line webcasts and podcasts, including accessible transcripts of these shows.

NO, Access Ability has not been commandeered as a shill for the U.S. government.

My reason for writing about VOA is that they recently aired a broadcast on
Assistive technology.
This was actually the third in a four-part series on people with disabilities. The first part aired in January and was on education, while February’s was about employment. If you missed these prior broadcasts and want to check them out, VOA has them archived at

If you don’t like the voice of America, then you might like to go to Japan where
The sidewalks talk.

The Associated Press article linked above reports that Tokyo’s Ginza shopping district has embedded 1,200 computer chips, transmitting information to receivers in portable media players that shoppers carry around their necks. The Tokyo Ubiquitous Technology Project, one of several applications of this AT across Japan, sends information about the shops that the users are strolling near to the media devices that also feature a small video screen.

“In front of Mitsukoshi Department Store, a voice explained how a statue of a lion has long been the store's trademark. Cross the street to Nissan Motor Co.'s showroom, and the gadget automatically switched to a chip at the showroom. "Welcome to Nissan Ginza gallery," a woman who appears on the video screen says. By pushing buttons on the device, the user can see additional information, such as a map or a historical photo.”

The use of technology such as this presents itself as an accessible , guided tour for the user, even if they are visually impaired. It has been previously employed in a similar fashion at national blindness conferences by
Talking Signs Inc.,
And is also akin to those already in place at some museums and national landmarks such as the Franklin D. Roosevelt monument in Washington DC.

The final piece of AT news that I want to share is about
Dadnab - Transit at your fingertips.
This is a melding of information technology that brings transit schedules to a user via text message. The assistive technology is brought about when it is information gathered by a blind user needing to know his/her bus or train route and has a cell phone with either the Talks or Mobile Speak screen readers.

This last application of AT was gained via
Wayne’s blog,
the personal blog of Wayne Merritt, a technology trainer at the Criss Cole Blind rehabilitation Center in Austin. Read Wayne’s post on Dadnab to fully understand and appreciate how this tech fusion can bring quick information access to a blind commuter relying on a city’s metro service for transportation.

That 'bout wraps up today's assistive technology roundup, pardner. I hope you enjoyed the ride.

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