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.
MIT has come up with a prototype for an invisible mouse. You cup and move your hand as you would with a standard mouse, but instead of a physical piece of plastic, there’s a camera and light source that track your movement. To click, just press on the table. Potentially useful for people who have difficulty with grasping.
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?
Most of us have wallets or keychains bursting with loyalty and membership cards for various stores, and it doesn’t even take having a disability to experience difficulty finding and retrieving them when needed. Enter the Numi Key, which stores all your card information electronically, then lets you retrieve as needed and wirelessly transmit to a POS device. The display looks pretty legible (can we beg for a voice-output option in a future release?), and the buttons could well be tactilely discernable.
We’ve written before about automated Twitter messages as a communication strategy, but most examples were either hacks or left little leeway for consciously choosing a desired message. Enter Buddy Radio, a simple device currently being tested with elders by the UK’s National Health Service. Turning the dial sends one of several messages indicating the user’s mood–not clear whether this is preprogrammed or personalizable. Apparently it works not only with Twitter, but also with Facebook, email, and so on. It’s currently being evaluated as a signaling system; off-site family, friends, and other message recipients would presumably be able to interpret when a user needs some type of intervention services. But we have cause to wish it were commercially available now so that people in hospice, recovering from serious injury, etc., would have a nearly effortless way to just provide brief but treasured messages to their circles.
Holiday Inn will soon be installing special room locks that open when you play a coded song for them from your smartphone. Both the unlock tones and your room assignment will be sent to your phone automatically, so you can skip the front desk. The OpenWays system may help customers who have dexterity or visual difficulty using keycards, but it also makes the accessibility of smartphones that much more essential — as these mobile devices become ever more integral, being left out really means being left out.
Environmental control has always been a huge issue for people with mobility disabilities; if you can’t control the TV from afar, for example, you may be stuck watching bad reruns long after your program of interest has ended. Ability to integrate environmental control for multiple devices into a single, easy-to-control unit is always good. If that unit is a widely available and affordable mainstream device such as an iPhone or iPad, so much the better.