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Assistive Technology for the Differently-abled


Welcome to the era of digital natives where technology is the king. Right from hand held devices, touch screen, tablets, e-books, videos, movies, everything to do with entertainment to education is delivered through technology.

Thankfully, it has been a boon for children with special needs who wish to overcome their impairment, through learning computers for learning as well as to stay relevant in terms of future employment opportunities. With the advent of internet, now its easier than ever to have access to information with the use of computer/ mobile phone/ TV via assistive technology tools.

Assistive Technology is a wide term used for any tool or technique that make e-inclusion of PWDs a reality. Its a step closer to inclusion and keeping pace with the times. Not to mention the easy to use software and functional tools are much preferred over the cumbersome assistive aids of earlier times.

 

In this article, I am sharing some of the devices for persons with visually impairment. For children with low-vision, complete or partial blindness, and color blindness a range of software and hardware are available in the market or online portals.

One of the most popular and widely used software is JAWS (Job Access With Speech). After installation of JAWS, the user can listen to the commands via use of headset and navigate the computer without any assistance. Another interactive program for Windows called Talking Typing Teacher helps the child to learn typing skills on the keyboard. Screen reader like NVDA (Non-Visual Desktop Access) reads the screen for MS office. For low vision computer users, MAGic screen magnification software with speech offers big fonts and magnification from 1x to 36x.

Can you imagine going out without your mobile phone. No? Its such a inseparable part of our lives. But have your ever thought how visually impaired people use mobile phones? Through installing Talking mobile phone software called Mobile Speak, one can convert the phone into a talking phone. By doing this, your phone will read your text messages, search phone book, take voice commands and read e-mails too. In simple language, what JAWS is to a computer, Mobile Speak is to a mobile phone.

With the use of optical character recognition, now its possible to convert text to speech and read a book via installation of Optical Open Book Software. Low vision users can enlarge the fonts size and read it on the screen while others can hear the book.

Among hardware, Large Print Keyboard and portable mouse magnifier Bonita are handy. High color contrast makes it easy for typing and also in built commands gives liberty not to memorize all the keyboard shortcuts. Bonita is like an ordinary mouse which can plug into any monitor or TV. You just have to mouse-over the material you want to read and it will come on the screen. Its low cost and also handy. Its immensely useful for elderly people too who wish to read in big font size.

There is whole plethora of assistive technology with innovative devices available for the user to choose from and make reading, learning computers and browsing the internet fun and productive.

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Shweta Chooramani is Manager of Corporate Fundraising at NGO Samarthanam, which works for the empowerment of persons with disabilities through education, sports, rehabilitation and income generation activities. She fulfills her love for writing by contributing to several blogs, along with being a full-time mother. Her personal blog can be read at http://sinhasat302.blogspot.in/

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One thought on “Assistive Technology for the Differently-abled

  1. Shweta Chooramani

    People interested in accessing print for CWSN, can go and browse DAISY Forum of India (DFI). it’s involved in production of books and reading materials in accessible formats for persons who cannot read normal print.

    Reply

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