Recent Innovations for People with Disabilities

There are amazing technologies being developed daily by incredibly talented people. Some of them are created to enable people with disabilities to participate fully in social networking. The development of these technologies often aren't covered by the mainstream press because they're considered of interest only to a small audience — a definite misconception.  When you consider that more than 1 billion of the 7 billion people in the world today have a disability*, and the world population is aging at the fastest rate in history** — these are not niche technologies by any stretch of the imagination.

Here are two technology innovations I found today, surfaced by Smart Planet:
  • Dyslexie font designed to help dyslexics read, write: Not your typical technology innovation, but for those with dyslexia, a cognitive disability that makes reading and comprehension difficult, this font could help them read for a longer time and with better comprehension, compared to other fonts. Dislexie was created by Dutch graphic designer, Christian Boer, who is dyslexic. The letters in Dyslexie are more widely spaced and distinct from each other, and "tied down"  — making dyslexics less likely to flip them, mentally.
  • New smartphone app lets users text ‘eyes-free’: Designed by the researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, this new iPhone application enables visually impaired users who are proficient at typing in Braille to type up to 32 words per minute at a 92% accuracy rate. Based on the same model as the Braille keyboard, the software, called BrailleTouch, employs gesture-based texting and uses only six keys, which are displayed as dots.
The researchers at Georgia Tech have been busy. I also found this article in Disabled World today:
  • Tongue Drive Wireless Device Operates Computers and Wheelchairs: This innovative device enables people with high-level spinal cord injuries to operate a computer and maneuver an electrically powered wheelchair by moving their tongue. The newest prototype of the system allows users to wear an inconspicuous dental retainer embedded with sensors to control the system. It was demonstrated at the IEEE International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco on February 20, 2012.
Many technologies created originally for people with disabilities have worked their way into the mainstream, making applications more usable for all. According to The Center for an Accessible Society, experts in the telecom access engineering field call it the "Electronic Curb-cut Effect", and have an extensive list on their website of IT (information technology) innovations, originally developed by, or in support of, people with disabilities that wound up benefiting everyone.

*10 Facts on Disability from the World Health Organization
**More than 600 million people are over the age of 60. By 2050, that number is expected to rise to 2 billion; more than 20 percent of the world’s population. World Health Organization

Image: Damian Brandon / FreeDigitalPhotos.net