Access

Accessibility refers to the design of products, devices, services, or environments for people with disabilities. The concept of accessible design ensures both "direct access" (i.e., unassisted) and "indirect access" meaning compatibility with a person's assistive technology (for example, computer screen readers).

-- Accessibility (WP)

Introduction

I have been interested in accessibility for some time. As a young adult, I took a wheelchair-bound friend (Pete O.) on a number of expeditions. This taught me quite a bit about physical barriers to access. My own limitations in sight and hearing have also been instructive...

More recently, I've been working with a blind friend (Amanda L.) on ways to access images (e.g., charts, diagrams, maps), regenerate markup for text styling and structure in printable documents, etc. I'm also working with my friend Isaac Wingfield on assorted projects.

Projects

Arduino

The Arduino is a popular tool for teaching computer programming, electronics, etc. Various "shields" (i.e., daughterboards) extend the board's capabilities. However, these tend to arrive in kit form, rely on LEDs for user feedback, etc. Obviously, this is not going to work well for a blind person.

So, starting with the SparkFun Joystick Shield Kit, we developed a blind-accessible Control Shield which requires no assembly and uses audio for feedback. A small (but growing!) set of exercises provides starting points for working with the shield's controls (buttons, joystick, potentiometers, rotary encoder) and input/output jacks.

Mapping

Creating online floor plans for public interior spaces (e.g., corridors and lobbies in large buildings) is a gating item for certain kinds of navigation aids. It is also a largely unsolved problem, but it's mostly a "simple matter of engineering". So, I'm in the early stages of a project to create a Robotic Explorer and related infrastructure.

NoBat

Imagine that you had a "guide bat", a companion that used ultrasonic echolocation to examine its surroundings. It would then replay the echoes in a human-friendly fashion (e.g., filtered, slowed down), so that you could interpret them for yourself. NoBat is just such a companion, in electronic form.

The prototype hardware is nearly complete and the initial software is largely complete and tested. Once we have a robust and basically functional design, Amanda and I will start "tuning" the software and hardware to achieve convenient and reliable behavior.

Online

The Online area contains explorations into online (e.g., web, EPUB) access for the blind. At the moment, I'm working on a blind-accessible markup language that could be generated by a browser extension, software to generate graphics on a Braille embosser, etc.

Utiles

The Utiles project concentrates on the use of tactile surfaces (e.g., embossed, engraved) to encode images and text. For example, I recently created a set of tactile floor plans for Amanda, covering all seven floors of the Gates Dell Center (GDC) on the main campus of The University of Texas at Austin.

The plastic "tiles" depict geographic features (e.g., corridors, rooms) and contain terse annotations (e.g., EL for elevator lobby). They are large enough to be useful (11" H by 8.5" W), yet light and sturdy enough to be carried around. The tiles are relief engraved from acrylic sheets by a computer-controlled laser.


This wiki page is maintained by Rich Morin, an independent consultant specializing in software design, development, and documentation. Please feel free to email comments, inquiries, suggestions, etc!

Topic revision: r78 - 24 May 2016, RichMorin
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