Sunday, March 25, 2012

Christopher Hills - Video Editor With Cerebral Palsy

Meet Christopher Hills - a young boy who uses Apple products to edit videos. Christopher has Cerebral Palsy, which essentially makes it impossible for him to use a traditional computer setup. To operate his computer, he presses a switch on the back of his chair with his head, which in turn is connected to a Discover Switch, a device that gives full keyboard & mouse functionalities to people with severe motor impairment.

Watch the following videos to see Christopher's amazing work. He explains his setup in the first video.

After this video became a huge success on youtube, Christopher decided to produce more videos that would show him interacting with technology to produce videos, do web design, and interact with other people online.

Keep an eye on this remarkable lad's youtube channel (icdhills) to see his work!

Source: The Verge

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Audio Notetaker

screenshot of Audio Notetaker

Sonocent, a UK based assistive technology company, recently released its Mac version of Audio Notetaker - a very simple, intuitive, and easy to use note taking software that can be quite beneficial for people with dyslexia and those who may have problems focussing for a longer period of time (for example, in a classroom).

I downloaded the trial version of the software and found it to be very easy to use. I actually created a small PowerPoint and added audio notes to it within 10 minutes. The software displays very few icons on the top "ribbon".  I personally feel that not including too many icons/ options in the menu is a good thing for students (who may have learning disabilities) who don't want to get intimidated by all the features of the software showcased in the menu. The buttons are minimal and very well spaced, thus making them easier to locate.

The software either allows direct recording of audio or import of an audio file. I must mention that I have used audio recording software in the past, but they were all a little cumbersome to use, and the recorded audio quality was above average at best. However, the audio that I recorded using Audio Notetaker was crystal clear! Also, the recording process literally involves the click of just one button, nothing else!

Note: I recorded audio on a Macbook Air. If you are using Windows with an external mic, you might want to enable the mic before recording audio.

The software also lets you color code different sections of your audio. For example, if you are attending a lecture in which the professor discusses different topics, you can add different colors to different sections of the audio that will let you know what is where. You can also go back to a certain location repeatedly to listen to audio notes again and again. Audio Notetaker also allows the user to control the playback speed, which means that one can easily increase or decrease the playback speed as per their requirements.

Audio Notetaker offers quite many features, but I did not explore each one of them primarily because I felt that recording/playing audio, adding colors to audio sections, highlighting etc. would be the features that would be extensively used by students with dyslexia or anyone with some kind of learning disability.

Watch the introductory video to see what Audio Notetaker can do.

A 30 day trial of the software can be downloaded from their website here. A one year license would cost you $74.99 and a full license is $149.99.

Visit Sonocent's website for more information.

Click here to view the press release (takes you to

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Kinect Accessibility

picture of kinect

Perhaps the greatest innovation in the gaming industry in recent years has been the Kinect. No controller required, only your body movements. But how accessible is the Kinect? Has Microsoft taken care of its gamers who have physical/ sensory impairments?

Yes it has.

One important requirement for playing Kinect games is that the player has to be standing in order to get recognized by the Kinect sensors. But what if the player is in a wheelchair? There are some Kinect titles that allow the player to keep sitting while playing - no need to stand!

Microsoft encourages players in wheelchairs to try to move long protruding arm rests (some motorized wheelchairs have them) away from Kinect's view because the Kinect sensor may think that they are another set of arms. Also, it is advisable to keep the sensor at seated chest level or slightly higher, not below.

Microsoft is also encouraging publishers to include features that would be enjoyed by users while sitting. Quite many features in the latest XBox Live update allows users to use voice commands while sitting to navigate through the dashboard and perform required actions (play/ pause/ stop/ forward/ rewind/ next/ previous/go home) - a blessing for users with impaired motor skills for whom operating a remote control may not be easy.

If you have any questions regarding accessibility with Kinect, contact Kinect accessibility experts at xaccess[at]microsoft[dot]com.

Read more about Kinect accessibility here.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Unus Tactus - Easy iPhone Interface For People With Motor/ Cognitive Deficits

Unus Tactus is a new iOS app that is designed to simplify the lives of people with mild cognitive and/ or motor deficits. The app creates an easy to use phone interface and adds quite many important features that can be easily used for making calls and in case of an emergency.

Unus Tactus creates an interface that shows all contacts in the phone in a 4x4 grid. Each grid has a contact's name and a big thumbnail of them. Calling them simply requires a tap on the thumbnail.

Another useful feature is the big help button on the app, which is available all the time. Whenever  the help button is pressed, two things happen: a phone call is made to an emergency contact, and at the same time a link is emailed to the emergency contact showing the person's exact location on Google Maps. 

The app also has a very interesting feature called Geofence which keeps track of the phone owner's physical location. If the person exits the "fence" (which can be set on the phone - 1 to 15 miles radius), an email with a link to that person's exact location on Google Maps, and an iCloud link (for tracking in real time if the emergency contact knows the phone owner's iCloud login) is sent to the emergency contact. 

Both these features can be especially helpful to people who suffer from Dementia, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, or any other disease that affects judgement, cognition etc.

The idea behind the app is to give peace of mind to caregivers, and to assure them that their loved ones are safe. Although this app is meant for people with cognitive deficits, I see this app as a very useful tool for even people with visual impairment who may use the help button if they get lost during their daily travels, or exit their "geofence". People with low vision too may find the big thumbnails very helpful for making calls.

Currently, this app is only available for iOS (4.2 and above) for $9.99. Go to the Apple app store to buy this app.

To visit the developer's website, click here. The developer also has a Facebook page (Unus Tactus) and a twitter handle (@unustactus).