Texting is a perfect example of what AoMS is about–a mainstream technology that is seamlessly relevant to one or more groups of people with disabilities, in this case people with hearing or speech disabilities. However, when texting could be most valuable–in emergency situations–it’s been unsupported by 911 call centers. The FCC is aiming to change that by upgrading the system to accept not only text but also digital images, which could be critical for people with communication skills impaired either by disability or the urgency of the situation.
Using an Apple iPhone app, L.A. citizens can now take a picture of a broken sidewalk or other municipal flaw and send it directly to the city government for instant relief. How about reporting blocked curbcuts or illegal use of handicapped parking spaces?
Apple has patented a technique to hide sensors beneath the skin of a product. They will be completely invisible and undiscernible any other way as well (in direct contravention of 1194.23(k)(1) of Section 508, which is now under review). But embedded LEDs may announce their presence via patterns of micro-holes drilled by frickin’ lasers.
We love seamless input devices, we really do. We’re sleek as seals ourselves. But unless there is some redundant alternative or accessibility technique, blind and low vision users are going to be excluded.
To the list of disabilities that technology use emulates–like ADD–we can now add “inattentional blindness,” which causes cell phone users to miss blatant changes in their visual field, such as the appearance of a brightly-dressed clown on a unicycle. In lieu of requiring that all cell phone use occur inattent, maybe some more concerted compliance with architectural regs about reducing environmental hazards for blind folks could lower accident rates among walking talkers as well.
Here’s the dark side of accessibility features in mainstream products: Insurance companies may refuse to pay for, say, a communication aid if it’s implemented as part of a standard computer or cell phone, or may insist that all features unrelated to the communication function be deactivated. Unfortunately, this isn’t news to anyone who’s ever provided direct service to clients, but this is the first time we’ve seen the issues laid out this clearly in the mainstream press.
Ya know, California’s new hands-free-phone-use-while-driving law is one of the best design impetuses we could have ever wished for. Witness BlueAnt’s new Supertooth 3 phone: clips on anywhere, has voice dialing capability, automatically adjusts sound levels based on ambient noise, and reads the name or ID for incoming calls aloud. Sounds like a big dexterity/vision accommodation winner.
In just over two weeks, California law will require hands-free use of cell phones while driving. It’s a natural product development opportunity that Parrot has jumped on by creating a line of Bluetooth conversion products (not to mention an insufferably cute ad campaign lobbying for naming the Parrot as the state bird–”Parrot has created five models of hands-free car kits. The Valley Quail has created a nest made of twigs”). We’re atwitter at the implications for people who need hands-free telephony for accessibility reasons.