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Computers and Software Helping the Disabled

by Sean Curiel, on Sep 16, 2015 2:08:00 PM

There are a host of systems out there to help blind individuals. Some of them come in the form of unique hardware such as refreshable Braille displays, portable CCTVs, and large-print keyboards. However, much more helpful technology comes in the form of software. For example, screen reader software such as JAWS is often used by blind individuals. Many major operating systems, like Windows 8 and OS X, can provide a synthetic voice for browsing and operating a computer. Several apps are also available to help blind people “see” and navigate computer systems.

Physically Challenged Individuals

When it comes to providing accessibility to physically disabled individuals, many technologies focus on providing better input devices. The keyboard and mouse are easily used by many people but can be very difficult for those with paralysis, lost limbs, or diseases like muscular dystrophy. That’s why different devices can be provided, depending on the severity of the challenge. For those with less severe physical challenges, a trackball or joystick may be more efficient. For those with more difficulties, the options to control a mouse with head motions, eye movements, and sip-and-puff actions are also available. More efficient one-handed keyboards are also an option for those who have the use of one hand.

Deaf and Hearing-Impaired Individuals

Deaf people can more fully embrace both computers and the Internet than other groups, as much communication can be done through writing and reading. In addition, many online video providers, like YouTube, offer closed captioning. Even so, more and more devices and apps have been created to help deaf people. Many of them focus on assisting deaf people with the common issues of using a hearing aid, such as having difficulty with group conversations.

Those With Other Disabilities

People with cognitive, learning, or memory issues often can benefit with a combination of the aforementioned tools. For example, some with learning disabilities may benefit from assistive listening tools, which are also available to blind users. On the other hand, some may need more interactive tools, which are available for those with physical disabilities. Also, many software options and apps for the general public can be productive and helpful as memory aids.

Independent Living and Employment With Computers

Many of these options are created with the goal of providing independence to those with disabilities. Independent living is often attained by using a combination of technologies. Also, a degree of cooperativeness from an employer often helps a great deal. Under the Americans With Disabilities Act (or ADA), employees can formally request an accommodation using EEOC guidelines either during the application process or at any time while employed. If you are disabled, let your manager or HR person know if you encounter any workplace barriers.

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