Keywords: assistive technology, optical character recognition, ocr, refreshable braille
Technology has been advancing and developing rapidly in the current era. The current era, also known as the information era, have involved in workers in the creation, distribution and the use of information. However, an adaptive and assistive device is also being invented to aid the disabled in using the computer. An assistive device can allow disabled people to accomplish daily living tasks, work, and education or recreation activities. It helps them enhance their quality of life and achieve greater independence. Assistive Technology devices can also improve physical and mental functioning, overcome a disorder and impairment, and strengthen a mental or physical weakness, aid people in improving their capacity to learn or even replace a missing limb.
2.0 Adaptive input and output devices
An adaptive device is a structure, instrument or equipment which makes life easier for people who has a disability physically or mentally. It is a product which helps people who is not able to use regular version of products. It is invented for people with physical disabilities such as limitation to vision, hearing or mobility. Adaptive technology helps with greater effectiveness for people with functional limits or incapacities by allowing them to complete tasks that they were not able or had great difficulty to complete. Adaptive Technology also provides different methods of interacting with or enhancements in communication to the disabled. The personal computer (PC) can be the support of independence for lots of individuals with physical, sensory and learning disabilities.
Many individuals with disabilities face several problems in terms of computer input, or using a computer for reading documentation on the monitor and interpreting output. For the disabled, the keyboard, mouse and monitor are the prime concern so adaptive and assistive software and hardware have been invented to provide assistants. Screen reader programs are created to allow a totally blind person to use the computer. These programs convert texts and icons into dialogue so one is able use a computer without the need to look at the monitor.
PC access and accessible computer equipment aids can make computer users easier to use word processing programs, send e-mail, and surf the internet, but also able to aid non-computer users to handle many non-computer tasks. System which aids individuals who are not independent in verbal communication is known as an augmentative communication system. This system can include speech, sign language, gestures, synthesized speech, symbols, dedicated communication aids or microcomputers.
Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
There are many types of devices which are available to aid the disabled people. They are optical character recognition (OCR), screen readers, trackball and head wand or head stick. An Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is a software system which is used to scan printed or handwritten materials at electronic speed by simply scanning the form directly into the computer. OCR is able to scan word characters images through the scanner and then recognition engine of the OCR system interpret the images and turn images of printed or handwritten word into ASCII (America Standard Code for Information Interchange) data. This device allows users to automate data captured from forms, eliminate keystrokes quickly to reduce data entry costs and still maintain the high level of accuracy required in forms processing applications.
The Many Facets of OCR
The process of the OCR devices work
The Optical Character Recognition device replaces the monitor to aid the visual-impaired person. It has the ability to scan printed text or document and then speak it back in synthetic speech to the users or save it to a computer.
The screen readers are software programs which provide speech or Braille output. It allows a visually impaired person to read text or words on the computer screen and identify icons on the Desktop or buttons which is graphic like on a toolbar. The user receives info from the computer’s sound card or the speech synthesizer.Screen readers are commonly employed by person who is blind or visually impaired.
Screen reader also allows the user to navigate the computer using the keyboard instead of the mouse. Keyboard commands which are used by blind person are mostly the same commands a normal person can use on their computer. A special keyboard commands which provided by the screen reader is also used by blind persons.
Besides listening to the information read by the screen reader, some people prefer using a refreshable Braille display. A Braille display is different from the computer screen. The Braille display is usually located close or below the keyboard. The screen reader sends information on the screen to the Braille display. Then, the user put his fingers on the display and read the information in Braille as it appears on the Braille display. Braille displays for useful to people who are deaf and blind and people who work on a job which involve them to speak to clients on the phone or in a place which require people to remain silent like a library.
A screen reader uses text to speech synthesizer to send information out about what is displaying on the screen as it is a memory resident program. Currently, system hooks is use to gain access to keyboard input, menu and dialog box messages on most Windows screen readers.
The screen reader replaces the monitor as it is used by the blind people. A computer can be used without the use of the monitor with screen reader software that allows the screen display available as synthesized speech. Blind people usually use a screen reader to replace the monitor.
A foot mouse is a computer mouse which is used by a person who has physical disabilities with high-back, neck, limited or no use in their upper arms. The foot mouse can be used to control the cursor through the computer software program to select text, icon and other item in the same way as a normal hand mouse. Using a foot mouse can be slower, because most people have less accurate control movements with their legs and feet compare with their hands.
Most foot mice have two segments. One segment is used to control the cursor, while the other segment is used for mouse click or to select shortcuts. Most foot mice also have straps to help to sustain the device in position on the foot during use.
Foot mouse with programmable pedal
The pedal on the foot mouse with two-level design avoid user from stepping on the incorrect button. These buttons do not only function the same as the hand mouse clicks, it also allow people to program their own customize shortcuts. In addition to people with arm, shoulder or hand difficulties such as stroke, arthritis or amputation, the foot mouse is also suitable for people with carpal tunnel syndrome.
The traditional hand mouse can be replaced with foot mouse which allows user to operate the device by foot. It is an input device which is two-part with one foot navigating the cursor while the other controlling the mouse clicks and shortcuts. The cursor controller is just the same as a regular hand mouse.
Refreshable Braille Display
Reading an electronic document using hands instead of eyes may be almost impossible for most people. However, it is possible for this to be done by using a Braille Display. A Braille display is a device that allows users to read text displayed on the computer screen. With this device, a person who is blind is able to navigate through the computer’s desktop, edit and create documents or browse the internet. Braille Display is also known as Braille Terminal.
Usually, Braille display does not require to install a driver for it to function properly as there aren’t many types of Braille display and screen readers is able to support most of this device. Once the device is enabled, the Braille Display will obtain the text that is currently highlighted on the display, the screen reader will then translate the text from the computer screen in Braille and the Braille Display will display the translated text on its built-in Braille cells.
The Braille Displays use nylon pins or metal to make each cell of Braille dots on the device. Braille display is refreshable, this means when the user navigate to a specific line of text, the device shows the text’s Braille corresponding and when the user navigates to another line, the device will automatically display the new text in the new line in Braille.
Usually there are eight dots in each cell on a Braille Display. The six dots are for normal character of Braille while the two dots at the bottom are usually for denoting the cursor or highlighting texts.
Braille display which is placed under the keyboard.
The monitor can be replaced with Braille Display as monitors cannot be used or see by blind person. Braille Display can be a good assistive device for the blind people as this output device allows the user to read what is being display on the screen.
Eye gaze pointing device
The eye gaze pointing device is an input device which can be used by people who are unable to use a normal hand or foot mouse, keyboard or a remote control. This device is mounted onto the computer and it is set focus on the user’s eye. This device consist of a camera which constantly scans one of the user’s eye and a sofware which analyses the picture taken by the camera to determine which part on the screen the user is looking at.
Users are require to sit in front of the eye gaze pointing device with a specialized video camara mounted at the screen or monitor which observes one of the user’s eyes. Then the software which works together with the device will continually analyzes the image of the eye from the camera and determine where the user is looking on the screen. By looking at the keys or icon which are displayed on the screen. To make a selection with the eye gaze, the user stare or blink at the certain button, icon or other object on the screen which is equivalent to clicking it using a mouse.
The mouse and keyboard replace with the eye gaze pointing device. Eye gaze pointing device is suitable for people who are unable to use a normal mouse or keyboard with the their hands.
A Braille Embosser is an impact printer which translate text as Braille. This device makes Braille production more efficient and cost effective as it employs a special translation software to print a printed document.
Blind users normally call traditional printers as ‘ink printers’ to differentiate them from their Braille counterpart. Like ink printers, braille embossers also have all shape and size and are used by personal computer users to large organisations which requires fast, high-volume embossing capabilities.
Braille Embosser usually works like a printer. However, instead of printing a text document, this device prints Braille text. Braille Embossers usually requires a special braille paper which is thicker and more costly compare to a normal paper. Some embossers which are high-end are capable of printing on normal paper. Braille Embossers can be one-sided or two sided which can determine the speed of embossing characters per second.
The computer monitor can be replaced with this Braille Embosser for the blind people. This is because by using this output device, it allows a blind person to be able to read what is being display from the computer. However, the cost may be expensive.
3.0 Green Computing
Green Computing refers to environmentally sustainable computing. It describes the use of resources in computing efficiently. It is related to the study, manufacturing, design, use and disposal of computers or other related products or devices such as monitors, printers, servers and network systems among others. The motive of green computing is similar to green chemistry. Green computing is practise to reduce the environmental impact of computing industry.
Green computing has become very important as the impact of greenhouse gas production has on global warming and climate change. A number of manufacturers have begun improving the performance in environmental of their organisation, services and products in an effort to reduce their environmental footmark.
Computers and their peripheral devices use a considerable amount of power and contain hazardous materials. However, it is easy to reduce the environment impact. There are many ways which can make a computer more eco-friendly and minimize the environmental impact.
Use the power management settings whether it is under hibernation, sleep or standby mode. A computer has power management settings which enable it to sleep or standby automatically after certain period of inactivity. It is easy to enable these options through the control panel and can save up on electricity bill. Also disable the screensavers as running it can increase energy consumption as it may stop the monitor from being in standby when idle. By disabling a screensaver, the monitor can be switched off without wasting any electricity.
Computer manufacturers are also practicing in minimizing the environmental impact by developing greener computers. Computer manufacturers like HP is practising few steps to green computing, they are developing a sustainable green computing plan which includes recycling policies, recommendations for disposal of used peripheral. Discard unwanted device in an environmental responsible way. Computers have pollutants that can release harmful substance into the environment. Never throw away computers to the landfill. Contribute working computers to a non-profit agency. This manufacturer also reduces paper consumption as there are many easy ways to do so.
Computer manufacturers like ASUS also doing something to develop greener computer to minimize environmental impact. The Green ASUS philosophy comes in because the manufacturer believes in applying an eco-friendly way towards every aspect of their business. This manufacturer produced the world’s first motherboard which is lead-free and halogen-free and the first full-HD monitor which is halogen-free. It is the first notebook manufacturer to receive the EU Flower Eco certificates and EPD and the first among other computer manufacturers to obtain the Japan Eco Mark. ASUS was being known at the 2011 ENERGY STAR Award Ceremony for its Energy Efficient Product Design.
ASUS technologies are constantly being developed and improved with the main objective of environmental preservation. This manufacturer design products that are easy to recycle, reuse and disassemble and greener manufacturing processes which are halogen-free and lead-free.
Adaptive and assistive devices are very important for disabled people to use computer efficiently and productively despite the cost of the device. These technologies have made people around the globe to use the computer productively.
Green computer is very important for computer manufacturers, users and organisation to be aware as protecting and minimizing environmental impact can prevent from global warming and also able to save cost from electricity.