In this report I will address the issue of ICT aiding people with certain disabilities. I will also be evaluating the extent to which the technologies help the needs of the people with disabilities. Carl Heinberger has a few unfortunate disabilities including being deaf, suffering migraines and partial blindness. This hampers the everyday life of Carl, who needs a lot of assistance while accessing equipment he cannot use due to his disabilities. Carl has an everyday job of an administrator for the local Magistrates. This involves using a lot of VDU equipment (or Visual Display Unit e.g. computer), the photocopier and carrying out filing tasks.
A Braille keyboard is the first technology that Carl uses, as he has impaired eyesight. This particular type of keyboard was first invented to aid blind people and other people with eyesight problems to use the keyboard easily. It uses the Braille alphabet on top of the original keyboard, allowing blind and visually impaired people to use the keyboard as well.
* The keyboards aren’t that much harder or more expensive or manufacture than the normal keyboard, which results in low pricing costs.
* This technology allows blind or sight-impaired users to use the keyboard just like any other person would.
* Portable versions of Braille keyboards are also available, which allow users to utilize them on other screen readers apart from computers.
* The biggest disadvantage with a Braille keyboard is that it cannot really be found in an ordinary electronics shop on the high street. Many online stores sell them though.
* Some Braille keyboards on the market are too small and therefore provide a problem for many Braille users.
How the technology helps meets Carl’s needs
– It allows Carl to access his computer keyboard while on the computer. When Carl needs to either bank or shop online, he has to use the keyboard and this is where the special Braille keyboard helps him a lot. He cannot leave his house to shop or bank, as it may cause potentially fatal injuries due to his lack of ability.
Evaluation: The Braille keyboard helps Carl to stay safe and remain at the comfort of his own house while banking or shopping online. This leaves him more free time to do other things such as some of his other Admin work. Although, one major problem with banking or shopping online, is the risk factor that is involved. There is a chance of Carl’s credit/debit card details being stolen, if for example he decides to buy off an unencrypted website or he has malicious software such as malware on his computer.
This can be prevented by simply not visiting unencrypted websites and using an antivirus/antispyware program. An alternative technology to using a Braille keyboard would be the Eyegaze. Eyegaze is a communication and control system for people with complex physical disabilities. It uses Eye-Gaze Response Interface Computer Aid (ERICA), which is a device that tracks eye movement to enable hands-free computer operation. This means that Carl would be able to use his partial eyesight to help him control the computer. Compared to the Braille keyboard, this is a much user-friendly system, with easier functions. However, it also costs a lot more to purchase and Carl would still have to use his partial eyesight to control many of the functions.
The second technology I have researched that Carl heeds a lot of use for is a car loop. This technology allows a hearing aid user to hear conversations whilst travelling by car. The loop, which can be easily fitted, uses the ‘T’ switch on a hearing aid to enable the user to listen to general conversations, the car radio, or hear navigation instructions with minimal distortion and road noise. The device has a powerful amplifier approximately 15cm long, which can be fixed under the dashboard and powered by a cigarette lighter socket.
* Loop systems give clear sounds to the user.
* The loop sets are cost effective.
* Can be used without the need for a hearing aid.
* Car loops aren’t very well known at all and maybe an errand to find.
* They can only be used in cars.
* Setting up the loop may take a bit of patience and time.
How the technology helps meet Carl’s needs
– The car loop technology allows Carl to hear much more clearly than he can with a hearing aid and this is very useful for when he goes out with his friends in his car (even though he doesn’t drive it, he sits in the passenger seat). Carl likes to travel a lot with his friends and the journeys would be ever so boring if he were to sit and listen to silence or little heard mumbling. That’s where the car loops helps so much, especially as it allows Carl to hear so clearly.
Evaluation: The technology allows Carl to communicate and be involved in more conversations with his friends, which would not be possible without the loop system. The car loop also allows him to save up his money for a laser eye operation that he is planning to have, due to the fact that the technology doesn’t relatively cost too much. However, the problem with using a car loop is that you can only use it in a car. This means that Carl will not be able to participate in conversations as freely as possible with his friends, or hear as clearly as he can with the car loop everywhere. Another option that Carl can use to aid with his hearing problem is to use a more powerful hearing aid device, which will help him listen more clearly to things. The problem with this would be that it may cost a lot more than the cost effective car loop system.
The final technology I am going to talk about that Carl uses is called a WorkPace Monitor for his constant migraines. WorkPace monitors Carl’s mouse and keyboard use. By using personalised settings the software has small pop-up windows, suggesting the best times for taking regular breaks and warning messages are shown when the computer has been used for longer than the allocated time. A rule of on-screen exercises is also displayed at regular intervals. WorkPace is intended to stop people from getting sore eyes, or aches and pains, from using a computer.
* The technology doesn’t cost that much, as it is software and prices can get up to a minimum of ï¿½31 to a maximum of ï¿½520+ (which can only be achieved by purchasing the professional edition with more than 10 licenses – no need).
* The actual software isn’t that hard to use, with clear on-screen instructions.
* While exercising, the user also gets educated about muscle fatigue and recovery and the software also decreases the chance of Carl gaining RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury).
* The program may work particularly sluggish compared to other programs, as it uses more computer memory than most programs.
* Carl has to use his partial eyesight a lot and can miss the occasional pop-up or alert. This also puts a lot of stress onto his eye muscles, which are already weak.
* The pop-ups can get annoying sometimes when Carl is on a challenging project, as he may be on to a very important section on it and then a pop-up appears all of a sudden, even though he knows he is in his limits.
How the technology helps meet Carl’s needs
For work-related reasons:
– Carl does a lot of VDU (Visual Display Unit) work on his job as an administrator for the local Magistrates. This mostly includes using a computer and therefore a lot of time is spent with Carl working on projects and other administrative duties on it. The WorkPace monitor allows Carl to monitor the amount of work he’s being doing and take regular breaks, as he doesn’t notice when he’s over his limit in using the computer. Usually, Carl is set tasks that involve him using the Microsoft Works programs (e.g. Word, Excel etc.) and they are typically long, hard and winding tasks, which forces Carl to take regular breaks according to the WorkPace monitor. He also benefits from the exercises demonstrated and orchestrated by the software, which help in reducing the risk of him getting RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury).
Evaluation: Overall, this software is very useful for Carl as it helps in reminding him to take customary breaks. This also means that Carl reduces the number of migraines he gets. Before using the WorkPace monitor, he used to suffer from about 3 to 5 migraines a week, but now, he only gets the occasional once-a-week migraine. The biggest problem with using this technology is the problem with Carl using his impaired eyesight to view the pop-ups, alerts and other vital information. The program also gets annoyingly sluggish when Carl is using the computer with a number of programs open. Another choice that Carl has is to use a watch with an alarm function that can ring every hour which is the general time for when a break is needed. Although, it won’t have the versatility and fitness regimes that the WorkPace monitor technology contains. It would be a cheaper solution though, compared to the monitor.