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Robert Pearson

  Accessible Media


Touch Devices and Voice-activated Assistive Technology: Inclusive to Some, Excludes Others?

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While leaps have been made in the realm of assistive and adaptive technologies for persons with disabilities, are these very devices excluding several others with specific or unique disabilities? G3ict Blogger Robert Pearson reflects.

As a person with a mobility disability in my left hand, my iPad has become an invaluable tool, allowing me to accomplish numerous personal and professional daily tasks. Having the ability to type with only one hand, I can use that one hand across the entire iPad keyboard to type efficiently and effectively.  Other touch devices and voice activated technologies have not proved as effective for me as the iPad has.

As a person with a mobility disability in my left hand, my iPad has become an invaluable tool

As a person with a mobility disability in my left hand, my iPad has become an invaluable tool, says Pearson

Working as a professional in the field of accessibility and assistive technology, I have had the benefit of having resources at my disposal that have allowed me to find the tool that best suits my needs.  Certainly though, while some tools continue to gain prominence as assistive technologies benefiting a variety of disabilities, there will be those who are excluded either due to specific or unique disabilities or the lack of knowledge of the tools that may be available for their use.

I have often considered the position I might be in if I were to have mobility issues in both my hands.  Would it be possible to work as efficiently and as effectively with the iPad as I now do on a daily basis?  You might not think so, but if you look not too far, it's possible to find some very versatile tools to meet unique needs.

Here are two examples.

· Komodo Open Lab Tecla Shield (

· The Tecla Shield is a device that enables connection of powered wheelchairs and adapted switches to Bluetooth-enabled electronic devices. When used in combination with VoiceOver, the built-in screen reader for iOS® devices, the Tecla Shield may be used to access and control the iPhone® and iPad®. The Tecla Shield is also available for Android.

· Sip and puff iPhone Prototype (

· Prototype hardware and software to implement sip and puff on an iPhone for environment controls.

I knew about these two technologies as the focus of my work is on accessible media and more broadly on disability technology news. Others though, who may benefit from these technologies, may not readily hear of them and that speaks to the need of ensuring that technologies such as these and other best practices of the industry are easily available to many within a central resource location. Not only that, but also industry news so that those who may be interested in doing so can stay ahead of technology and trends as they develop.

The idea of the central resource or the book of knowledge on accessibility is a current focus of the industry. The goal would ensure the aggregation of technologies such as these and the best practices of the industry while working towards a definition for the industry itself in terms of who we are, how we operate and what guidelines we follow.  While there will always be standards and semantics to follow as we all strive for greater inclusion, an understanding of how best to arrive there is important for both those with the knowledge and those who may be seeking it.

Therefore while it may be said that touch devices and voice activated technologies are inclusive to some while excluding others, it will only be a matter of time before new and innovative solutions are found to address that.

Microsoft recently released some guidelines for building touch friendly sites:

Technology will always be changing and inclusion will be achieved through knowledge. It becomes the responsibility of the industry to ensure that the assistive devices it develops consider that understanding and strive towards meeting that goal.

Robert PearsonRobert Pearson is an information technology professional who has been functioning, influencing, and engaging in the accessibility industry since 1999. As a Director with Accessible Media Inc (AMI), Robert is in a position to advocate, support and promote the community from which he came. Robert regularly speaks about his experiences within the industry and some of the personal challenges he has faced with his own unique disability.


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