Disability Types That Require Modification to the Standard Computer Interface
The following describes different disabilities types and some adaptive computer technology (ACT) tools that can be used to assist individuals with special needs. It should be noted however that most of these tools require some sort of customization to be properly integrated into a client's standard Information Technology Infrastructure.
These range from slightly reduced visual acuity to total blindness. Individuals with reduced visual acuity may only need to have computer images reasonably sized or specially enlarged. Those with more severe impairments may require output to be translated into spoken text or Braille.
Screen enlargers, also called large print programs, allow the user to enlarge a portion of their screen. This effectively turns the computer monitor into a viewport showing only a portion of an enlarged virtual display. The user can then use the mouse or keyboard commands to move this viewport in order to view different areas of the virtual display.
Screen Reading Systems
Screen reader utilities take the information displayed on the screen and make it available through alternative media, such as synthesized speech or a refreshable Braille display. Screen review utilities often accept configuration files (also called set files or profiles) that tell the system how to work correctly with particular applications. Most Windows screen review utilities provide access to MS-DOS.
Individuals who do not hear beeps or recognize spoken words may require a program to prompt them in a different manner, such as a screen flash or displaying spoken messages as text.
There are several software packages available at little or no cost that can translate audio cues to visual ones. Notably for the Windows environments there are accessibility options that can translate audio cues to visual ones.
Some individuals with mobility impairments cannot use a standard keyboard, but they may be able to use one or more switches or points using a mouse or headpointer. An on-screen keyboard is a program which displays a list of choices to the user and allows them to select those choices using a point-and-click, point-and-dwell or simple clicking interface. Variations in this category include Morse-code input systems and single- or double-switch systems.
Cognitive and Language Impairments
Cognitive impairments take many forms, including Downs Syndrome, short and long- term memory impairments, and perceptual differences. Proper application design can increase functionality of computers for people with mild cognitive impairments.
Language disorders include such things as dyslexia, which can make reading or writing difficult. People attempting to learn new languages also have temporary language impairments. Usually a combination of screen reading, magnification systems and alternate input devices are used to provide computing access to persons with such impairments.
Specific patterns of light or sound can trigger epileptic seizures in some susceptible individuals. Using a combination of packages can usually reduce such incidences.
Physical impairments make speaking difficult for some individuals. Systems that can speak for its user can be used to help individuals with speech impairments. Most of the software packages used for these applications operate with a speech synthesizer.
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