I have recently returned from the CSUN International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference in San Diego where we presented on our accessible 3D Virtual Learning Project. The conference was held from the 14th-19th March at the Manchester Grand Hyatt, and hosted by California Statue University, Northridge. The image below of the San Diego Harbour was taken from one of the twin towers of the conference venue.
Pre-Conference workshops were held on Monday 14th and Tuesday 15th March. These workshops included sessions on accessible approaches to social networking (Larry Lewis) and creating accessible documents for students and the workplace (Victoria Essner) on the Monday, and three parallel streams focusing on the accessibility of HTML5 and Rich Internet Applications (Steve Faulkner, Hans Hillen, Jared Smith and Jonathan Whiting); an overview of assistive technology (Kelly Fonner and Scott Marfilius) and the use of the iPad and iPod Touch in the special needs classroom (Mark Coppin and Luis Perez). You can access the slides from the session on HTML5 and Rich Internet Applications from the following URL: http://webaim.org/presentations/2011/csun/html5aria/
The keynote address and welcome reception was held on Tuesday evening, 15th March. The host for the evening was Dr Arthur Karshmer and the key note panelists included Axel Leblois (Founder and Executive Director of G3ict Global Initiative for Inclusive Technologies), Mohammed Al-Tarawneh (Chief Advisor to the UN Special Rapporteur on Disabilities in Doha-Qatar) and Paul Shafer (IT specialist and Assistant Section 508 Coordinator at the US Dept of State). The featured speaker at the conference was Kareem A Dale, who is the Special Assistant to President Obama for Disability Policy. Mr Dale presented on the administration’s work on Technology and Disability during the keynote session from 12:45-1:30 pm on Thursday 17th March.
Several awards were presented at the conference including the Strache Award presented to Alan Muir, acknowledging his leadership in the field of disability and technology with an emphasis on continuing education. The 2011 Trace Centre’s Harry J Murphy Catalyst Award was presented by Dr Gregg Vanderheiden to Dr Klaus Miesenberger who has inspired action, fostered the achievements of others and contributed to the field of disability and technology. The Deque lifetime achievement award was presented to Jim Thatcher, who has been hailed as one of the founders of Web accessibility.
There were more than 250 parallel presentations conducted from Wednesday 16th to Friday 18th March. Sessions covered a broad range of disability and technology related topics; the sessions focusing on html5 and rich media applications, as well as those demonstrating new and emerging accessible iPad applications proved to be very popular.
I finally managed to meet Norm Coombs from EASI. I have been communicating with Norm via email and Skype for well over a decade, so our face to face meeting at CSUN was long overdue. EASI played an active role in presentations at the conference with sessions on IT and disabilities in Brazil and Mexico, Bookshare for university students and supporting research, a demonstration of the tool, LecShare, which turns PowerPoint into accessible Web content and a session on the the accessibility of Moodle, as well as a session on Android phone accessible applications. EASI has made the slides from these presentations available online via: http://easi.cc/conferences/
A feature of every CSUN conference is the expo on technology and disabilities, and this year was no exception. Approximately 150 exhibitors showcased their products and services across the Douglas Pavilion and Manchester Ballroom. The expo ran until Saturday 19th March and attracted a steady stream of both conference delegates and general public.
There were interesting products on show for people with vision impairments including Braille Note Takers and Voice Note Takers, as well as refreshable Braille displays and desktop video magnifiers produced by HIMS Inc (http://www.hims-inc.com), touch memo devices such as one produced by Vision Cue (http://www.visioncue.com) designed to enable individuals to label household objects with associated recorded voice descriptions for easy access when trying to locate objects, and a range of screen magnification and reader applications such as Zoom Text (http://www.aisquared.com) and iZoom produced by ISSIST (http://www.issist.com). Many of the well known distributors of assistive technologies were represented at the Expo including AbleNet, Words+, LSS Products and EnhanceVision.
I also stumbled upon an interesting graphite cane produced by Revolution Enterprises in California (http://www.advantagecanes.com). These canes have been designed to achieve optimum balance for use and comfort and are only 8.5 ounces in weight. Prices range from US $40.00 (support cane), $28 (folding) and $20.70 for rigid canes (for bulk purchases) and children’s canes are also available.
Another interesting technology on show as the Emfuse Color Braille Station, which prints hard copy handouts in colour, Braille and with tactile graphic representations of images on the page.
Perhaps not surprisingly, iPad applications were also popular and some of the accessible applications I found on show include:
- Predictable (produced by tboxapps.com), which is software for the iPad that supports same word and next word prediction, auto scanning and user scanning, direct access and switch access, provides auditory feedback and voice output (choice of 9 voices) together with a customisable user phrase bank (image shown below).
- Proloquo3Go (also supports word and next word prediction as well as voice output) by AssistiveWare.
- Pictello- as simple application that enables users to create talking photo albums and books. Also produced by AssistiveWare.
- ArtikPix (an articulation application with flashcard and matching activities for children with speech delays) produced by Jason Rinn and Eric Sailers.
All of these applications are available through the iTunes store. Also announced at the expo are new applications including Scene and Heard from Tboxapps (http://www.tboxapps.com/), which will support communication for augmentative and alternative communication users through contextual scenes, recorded spoken messages and videos. Another soon to be released iPad application is ZoomReader developed by the same company that markets ZoomText (http://mobile.aisquared.com/
We are hoping to trial some of these applications with AAC users and I will post reviews of the products at a later date.