2012 • Interdisciplinary Topics, Centers and Institutes
Providing Computer Accessibility for the Physically Disabled
Lead Presenter: Jeffrey Breugelmans
Computers and mobile devices have become part of the daily life of many students, workers, and older citizens. However, for the estimated 10% of people that experience some form of disability, the use of these devices is limited or impossible. This project focuses on the complications arising from physical disabilities such as paralysis, muscular dystrophy, and arthritis, which can significantly reduce an individual’s ability to easily and effectively use conventional computer interfaces. Given the evolution of digital media in society, the corresponding survival rates of persons with disabilities, and the evidence that illustrates the benefits of virtual immersion, it is paramount for engineers and medical professionals to work together to develop user friendly and accessible digital interfaces for those with temporary or permanent disabilities. In an attempt to overcome accessibility issues, some systems use modified versions of conventional input devices, while others display a shift towards body-movement based controls. Although these technologies offer great potential for increasing the fun and physical engagement people have with their computers, they provide limited benefits to disabled users due to a large reliance on the user’s freedom of movement. To reduce disparities and allow greater social interactions, we need a system that moves away from small button and desktop-bound input devices and those that require strenuous physical movements. This project is aimed at the development of such a system.