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Employing Assistive Technology, Essay Example

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Essay

Employing assistive technology to help the blind cope with technological advances

Assistive technology refers to a generic term including adaptive, assistive, and rehabilitative devices for all people with any form of disability (Neil, 2010). This includes the process of use in the selection, location and using the technologies. The Technology Assistance for the Disabled Act of 1988 (US Law 100-407) presumes that assistive technology involves “use of assistive technology service or assistive technology device.” Assistive Technology enhances greater independence through enabling people to execute tasks that they were unable to accomplish formerly, or had grand difficulties in accomplishing the same (Rachael, 2009). The technology provides enhancements to or, methods changed in ways on how to interact with the technology required in accomplishing the respective tasks. Similarly, disability advocates summit that technology creation innovation often happens without regard to the disabled people, and this creates unnecessary barriers to the majority of the disabled in the pursuit of coping with the new technological devices (Miguel, 2009; Cook & Hussey, 2002; Cain, 2001; Brian, 2008).

Advocates for the blind people have complained for long that technology companies do precisely a poor job in making technology products accessible to everyone including the blind (Teklu, 2008). The Web, that is the latest technology and opens many opportunities for everyone still holds massive obstacles for the blind (Rachael, 2009). For instance, Screen-reader software required by the partially blind to enhance their vision in reading content as well as turns documents in the Web pages into speech. This is for the total blind is exorbitantly expensive; it cost more than $1,000, a price that is too high for the poor that holds most of the blind population (Miguel, 2009; Cook & Hussey, 2002; Cain, 2001; Brian, 2008). To make it worse, even with a screen reader, there are still difficulties because many sites are difficult to navigate (Neil, 2010).

Last year, the Federation of the Blind embarked on a landmark class-action lawsuit, which was against a company whose site literally was unusable by the disabled. In the settlement of the case, the retailer accepted to make the Web site accessible to all partial and total blind people. The federation for the blind has been assessing the usability of Web sites as well as certifying only a handful currently as fully accessible for the disabled (Miguel, 2009; Cook & Hussey, 2002; Cain, 2001; Brian, 2008). One enormous challenge for the disabled is that technology evolves often much faster than the respective guidelines for the physically disadvantaged making it hard to work with the technological equipments.

Following extensive lobbying from many advocates of the disabled in December, the Consortium on World Wide Web, released the latest Version 2.0 of its guidelines accessibility for Web sites to help the physically disabled handle the technology and use it easily (Rachael, 2009). The previous version of 1999 has therefore, grown archaic having consisted of static Web pages largely rather than actual interactive applications. There are many obstacles on the Web taking many forms all holding challenges for easy use by the blind (Neil, 2010).

Captcha is the most common type, a security trait consisting of distorted letters or even numbers that all users have to read as well as retype before registering for a new service or even sending an e-mail message (Miguel, 2009; Cook & Hussey, 2002; Cain, 2001; Brian, 2008). Very Few Web sites offer accessible audio Captcha meaning that it is a challenge for the blind because they cannot use the service. In addition, other websites have poorly designed pages for instance e-commerce sites where the wall are crowded and unarranged with “checkout” button (Miguel, 2009; Cook & Hussey, 2002; Cain, 2001; Brian, 2008). This poses as a great challenge for the partially blind people who strain in reading the website walls just to get the information and access what they need (Neil, 2010). The overwhelming industry undoubtedly still has not stepped up to the game in providing the blindness community with an equal opportunity to access respective products and services calling for an advocacy on the same.

The advocacy campaign will detail probing for user-friendly websites and other technological devices especially for the blind. This has been a problem making it unfair for the disabled in accessing as well as using advanced technology, which is the modern day solution to truly many problems (Neil, 2010).

The main goals of the advocacy include achieving user-friendly websites in the next two years. This is a desirable goal in improving accessibility of the Internet as a tool of advancement for everyone, and fair for the blind that also need the Internet to workout daily chores in the modern world (Sheryl, 2010; Miguel, 2009; Cook & Hussey, 2002; Cain, 2001; Brian, 2008).

A desired goal would also be to incorporate the blind people in the website software development across the globe for a participative development in the next three years. The goals will be adequate in allowing the blind to own the technologies developed for their advantage and apply the same in making work easier for them as pertinent parties involved in the development (Neil, 2010).

Another goal will be to teach the blind on the usage of respective established user-friendly websites to advance their skills and make work easy for them in usage in the next two years. The goal will be featuring websites that have developed new advances for instance Version 2.0 and the Screen-reader software (Sheryl, 2010).

The advocacy will also detail a goal of making all services and products cheap and accessible for the blind that enhance their reading capabilities in the next two years. The goal will focus on manufacturers of products and providers of respective services lobbying with them to lower prices or at least make them fair for people with disabilities, with a bias on the blind people (Teklu, 2008).

Some of the involved parties will be website developers, hosts including Google, Yahoo and Msn, which are the regularly used search engines across the globe, and organizations dealing with the disabled with a bias in blind people. The advocacy will all involve the blind people both total and partial, and specialties in the field of human disabilities (Sheryl, 2010).

Some of the activities prospected for this research include a meeting with Google’s search engine, which gives all users accessibility to many websites. This activity will be to lobby for the search engines’ preference to the respective Web sites that work properly with screen readers that assist the blind (Miguel, 2009; Cook & Hussey, 2002; Cain, 2001; Brian, 2008). The activity will be to convince the search engines on the advantages of considering the blind in the business and using this field as a great potential to increase the number of Internet users in the shortest time possible (Neil, 2010).

Another outstanding activity will be facilitating campaigns on at least 50 websites developers each month preferably inviting them for a conference to instill in them the need to consider the blind in their efforts to develop websites (Miguel, 2009; Cook & Hussey, 2002; Cain, 2001; Brian, 2008). The aim will be to collaborate with them in developing a system that is user-friendly for the employees. The service delivered from the collaboration will include the development of a screen magnifier helping to enlarge individual search results. This will be ideal to not only the partially blind but also the larger population, particularly on cell phones as well as other devices with exceedingly small screens (Miguel, 2009; Cook & Hussey, 2002; Cain, 2001; Brian, 2008).

The other main activity will be educating at least 50 readers per month especially the blind in using the recently developed technologies in the Internet field (Rachael, 2009). One of the sub-activities in this case will be training then the typing skills on the keyboard using screen readers accompanied by wireless headphones (Miguel, 2009; Cook & Hussey, 2002; Cain, 2001; Brian, 2008). The activity will be ideal in equipping the blind with knowledge on using the newly developed technologies that serve for their benefit (Teklu, 2008). It will allow equality in reading the website walls for the normal person as well as the blind with the user of the reader.

Another principal activity will be collaborating with at least 50 product manufacturers and developers each month to help produce products that are friendly for blind users. The activity will detail collaborating to manufacturer keyboard with shortcuts, which help the blind as well as other low-vision users in navigating quickly through search results as well as other website walls (Sheryl, 2010). The collaboration will also involve the development of tools in making sophisticated Web applications, for instance blog readers and e-mail, appropriate for screen-reading software (Miguel, 2009; Cook & Hussey, 2002; Cain, 2001; Brian, 2008).

There are extremely many challenges underlying this advocacy al involving the partisan parties. One of the biggest challenges is from the website developers (Rachael, 2009). The developers have had a complete evaluation of markets and they devote to develop a website and other software as per the market demand (Neil, 2010). Convincing them to change and consider the blind might be a difficult task following the drastic market changes (Miguel, 2009; Cook & Hussey, 2002; Cain, 2001; Brian, 2008). The advocacy will also require volunteers in the programs of advocacy to train the blind in a large number and facilitate their skills in using modern technologies (Sheryl, 2010).

Funds are also a considerable challenge in facilitating the entire advocacy program since each part of the program has a budget and might fall short of funds to make it a success. The other main challenge on this advocacy program is the mystified perceptions that people have towards the disabled people (Rachael, 2009). There are still a large number of people within respective communities who do not value the disabled therefore, do not respect any approach enhanced to help them in easy facilitation of activities (Miguel, 2009; Cook & Hussey, 2002; Cain, 2001; Brian, 2008). Changing the system and advocating for equity for the blind, as a part of the disabled within the society will therefore, experience a herculean challenge.

References

Alex, P. (2009, April 7). “Advocates for the blind protest Authors Guild’s stance on Kindle 2’s read-aloud feature” Los Angeles Times, from,            http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/2009/04/kindleblindreadaloud.html

Behrman, M. (2001) “Assisting educators with assistive technology: Enabling children to achieve independence in living and learning,” Children and Families 42(3), 24-28.

Bishop, J. (2003). “The Internet for educating individuals with social impairments” Journal of  Computer Assisted Learning, 19(4), 546-556

Brian, O. (2008). Simulating naturalistic instruction: the case for a voice mediated interface for assistive technology for cognition, Journal of Assistive Technologies Volume 2, Issue 2 (June 2008): 22-31

Cain, S. (2001). “Accessing Technology – Using technology to support the learning and employment opportunities for visually impaired users” UK: Royal National Institute for The Blind

Cook, A. & Hussey, S. (2002). Assistive Technologies – Principles and Practice, 2nd Edition. Ohio: Mosby.

Miguel, H. (2009, January 3). For the Blind, Technology Does What a Guide Dog Cannot. New  York Times

Neil, B. (2010, April 19). “A Tribute to Torstein Brand” Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind, from  http://www.matildaziegler.com/

Rachael, A. (2009, December 30). “Listening to Braille” New York Times, from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/03/magazine/03Braille-t.html

Sheryl B. (2010, February 3). Working Together: People with Disabilities and Computer  Technology, from, http://www.washington.edu/doit/Brochures/Technology/wtcomp.html

Teklu, A. (2008, June 10). Voices of Ethiopian blind immigrants and their families: facing the  challenges of life in Canada, UvicDspace, from, http://dspace.library.uvic.ca:8080/handle/1828/991

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