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Better Tools For Disabled Geeks?

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the all-in-the-wrist dept.

Input Devices 228

layabout writes "We've seen tremendous advances in user interfaces over the past few years. Unfortunately, those UIs and supporting infrastructure exclude the disabled. In the same timeframe there has been virtually no advance in accessibility capabilities. It's the same old sticky keys, unicorn stick, speech recognition, text-to-speech that kind-of, sort-of, works except when you need to work with with real applications. Depending on whose numbers you use, anywhere from 60,000 to 100,000 keyboard users are injured every year — some temporarily, some permanently. In time, almost 100% of keyboard users will have trouble typing and using many if not all mobile computing devices. My question to Slashdot: Given that some form of disability is almost inevitable, what's keeping you from volunteering and working with geeks who are already disabled? By spending time now building the interfaces and tools that will enable them to use computers more easily, you will also be ensuring your own ability to use them in the future." Follow the link for more background on this reader's query.
This question is aimed mostly at the kind of disability we are susceptible to and I have been living with for the past 15 years. Even though we have speech recognition, it doesn't solve any problem except writing text. There have been a couple of attempts at making speech recognition more useful to programmers [0], but they have failed. The needs are clear:

[1] A working full-vocabulary, continuous recognition system on Linux.

[2] Tools that don't expect you to "speak the keyboard."

[3] Tools that let you edit as well as create code.

So why don't more geeks work on securing their own future, or at the very least, work to help their fellow geeks to stay on the economic ladder?

[0] VoiceCode and VR-Mode: VoiceCode or is an amazing piece of work. It makes it possible for a disabled programmer to generate Python code very quickly. Unfortunately, it does not solve the editing problem. Even more unfortunately, it's hand-wearingly complicated to set up and get working. VR-Mode makes it possible to use Naturally Speaking's "Select and Say" mode in Emacs — that is, if you can get it to work. It seems to have drifted into non-functionality as Emacs has moved forward.

[1] Naturally Speaking works well, is reasonably cheap, and works somewhat under Wine today. If we can make it work reliably under Wine, it solves the problem in months rather than decades. Other tools such as Sphinx 1-4 are great IVR systems if you have a vocabulary and grammar under 15,000 words. In contrast, Naturally Speaking's working vocabulary is in the 100,000-word range. Any disabled user will choose Naturally Speaking because it works so much better than the nearest alternative. We have people who are injured now and need these tools. They can't afford to wait 10 years or more for an OSS solution.

[2] "Speaking the keyboard" refers to speech user interfaces developed by people who don't use speech recognition. They expect you to say too much, which creates a vocal form of RSI — see [3]. Listen to what disabled users do, not to what you think they should speak.

[3] See VoiceCode in [0]. Unfortunately, today's tools are only for writing code, not correcting code. Code correction is a very different process and must be spoken in a different way: "change index" instead of "search forward left bracket leave mark search forward right bracket copy region." This is also an example of "speaking the keyboard."

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Cite please (4, Insightful)

HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331195)

"Depending on whose numbers you use, anywhere from 60,000 to 100,000 keyboard users are injured every year â" some temporarily, some permanently. In time, almost 100% of keyboard users will have trouble typing" Cite please?

Re:Cite please (0)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331319)

I'd be interested in seeing some sort of document too for the "60-100 thousand", do nurses really ask everyone if they use a keyboard? I think any figure would be pulled out of thin air, nevermind if it's worldwide or US only, or France or wherever this guy is from. As for the latter, does there really need to be one? I mean we all get old, we all die, I'd say that's "trouble typing".

Re:Cite please (5, Funny)

BobNET (119675) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331327)

In time, almost 100% of keyboard users will have trouble typing" Cite please?

It's hard to type when you're dead. Therefore I state that, in time, exactly 100% of keyboard users will have trouble typing.

Re:Cite please (5, Funny)

iamdrscience (541136) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331363)

I'm immortal, you insensitive clod!

Re:Cite please (5, Funny)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331407)

Then you're why the summary said "almost 100%"!

Re:Cite please (3, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331537)

I see you are getting an early start on your plan to insult the entire universe. Let me know when you get down to the S's.

Re:Cite please (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331539)

There can be only one.

Re:Cite please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28332181)

What about undead keyboard users?

Re:Cite please (4, Funny)

GrpA (691294) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331361)

I believe this Wikipedia article [http] covers that final statistic...

Or there's this explanation [wikipedia.org] to cover the period up until then.

GrpA

Re:Cite please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28331577)

This may sound dumb Is death not a 100% fact?
good enough citation if you ask me.

Re:Cite please (1)

AnonGCB (1398517) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331605)

I don't think I'll be too worried about voice recognition software after I die.

Re:Cite please (2, Funny)

B1oodAnge1 (1485419) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331735)

You think your ghostly digits will work on a keyboard?

I envy your optimism. O.o

Re:Cite please (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 5 years ago | (#28332145)

I don't think I'll be too worried about voice recognition software after I die.

I'd think at that point it might still be useful if the software recognized the word "BRAINS", at least.

Re:Cite please (1)

masshuu (1260516) | more than 5 years ago | (#28332339)

Now i picture a Zombie saying brains, and the computer translating that into boobs and googles it

Re:Cite please (1)

Kral_Blbec (1201285) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331705)

Not really. The only people who will have problems typing are those who advance into old age or some form of degenerative disease. Those who die from trauma or acute disease will never experience such problems. You can be typing along at 100 wpm and get shot in the head. I'd say that that person never experienced any problem typing. Including death in and of itself as a difficulty doesnt count.

Re:Cite please (4, Interesting)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331585)

    That's also assuming a fixed computer operator base, and not including in new additions (high school interns and recent graduates) and attrition to management (I don't send emails, my secretary does that for me) and retirement.

    Being that computers have been heavily in the workplace for say over 20 years, and typewriters for even longer, I'd say the warning should be taken just as seriously as the OSHA training that you get (don't stand on top of a tippy ladder, on one foot, holding live wires, over a puddle while drinking hard liquor and smoking a joint) and the frequently included warning of repetitive stress disorder on keyboards and mice. I particularly enjoyed one training where it was clear that we should go outside once an our and look at things far in the distance, to avoid eye strain. Good luck with taking that many breaks in a day without getting fired. :)

    I will admit, I have suffered pain from keyboards. I couldn't grasp anything with my right hand for about 2 days because of typing too much. (don't read anything dirty into that, please). It was on a Friday, so I did almost everything left handed. It was difficult to start my car, and shift gears (ya, I'm in America). Oddly enough, most doorknobs are ambidextrous, and most toilets flush from the left side. :) By Monday, the pain was gone.

    I've suffered worse pain from working power tools and hammers. Oddly enough, enough hammering will send some pretty good stress through your hands. It hurts worse if you misjudge your finger to hammer head distance difference. :) I haven't made that mistake in years.

    Keyboard stress? Bah. There are a lot of worse pains you can suffer. Unless you drop a server on your head (or have an unbolted rack fall on you), you haven't seen it. I knew one guy who seriously hurt himself because they were moving an enclosed sever cabinet. It started to fall. The guy on one side couldn't do anything (it was falling away from him). The guy on the other side tried to catch it by himself. He lived. He was hurt. He was very much not happy. He did say if it ever happened again, he'd jump out of the damned way. :)

    I've learned over the years, lots of people don't know how to judge levels of pain, because they haven't experienced high levels of pain. "Oh my god, this is the worst pain I've ever had" only means you haven't felt worse yet. I've seen grown men cry over stuff that my little daughter (2 years old) shakes off like nothing happened. She hurts herself and I tell her "that doesn't hurt", and she stops crying. Really, it didn't. She was walking barefooted in the house today, and accidentally closed an outside door on her toe. I heard a little noise from her, but that was it. She opened the door, removed her foot, and closed it again without the obstruction. :) It scraped the skin on her toe enough so I know it hurt a little (probably 2 on a scale of 1 to 10). We washed it, doctored her up, and she ran off to play. Later she pointed it out to me and said "owie." She just wanted the attention of it, she wasn't really complaining.

    She takes after me though. I've cut myself pretty bad in various ways over the years (I wasn't a gentle child), and doctored myself up without the need to whine about it. No infection, no lost parts, no problem.

  I think my finger hurts from flipping people off. Can I get workers comp and a voice operated home theater system? I don't think I can work the remote control without re-injuring myself? :)

Re:Cite please (3, Interesting)

UncleTogie (1004853) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331639)

I particularly enjoyed one training where it was clear that we should go outside once an hour and look at things far in the distance, to avoid eye strain. Good luck with taking that many breaks in a day without getting fired. :)

At my shop, I justify it by not taking a lunch. 6 minutes to smoke a cig once an hour, while looking around the landscape * 8 hours = 48 minutes, which means my boss gets an extra 12 minutes a day.

The cig smoking isn't the healthiest part, but it could be easily replaced by walking around the building once or twice. Either way, my boss gets an extra 12 minutes, so he has no cause to complain, and I get no eyestrain after 30 years in front of computers...

Re:Cite please (1)

SL Baur (19540) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331715)

"Depending on whose numbers you use, anywhere from 60,000 to 100,000 keyboard users are injured every year Ã" some temporarily, some permanently. In time, almost 100% of keyboard users will have trouble typing" Cite please?

Sounds to me like the same kind of statistics used to prove the evils of smoking.

Or better, if you are not allowed to smoke at your desk/keyboard, but are forced to take smoke breaks (that also rest your hands), then smoking is actually good for you.

I find switching mouse hands from right to left, left to right periodically is also a good stress reliever.

I *did* start to develop signs of something in the mid 1990s - sharp pain shooting up through my arm when I handled the mouse. Switching mouse hands made it go away and it's never come back.

If you are suffering at a keyboard/mouse, it's definitely a workflow issue and not something that is inevitable.

Re:Cite please (4, Informative)

layabout (1576461) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331731)

http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Repetitive+strain+injuries+stretch+higher-a018341055 [thefreelibrary.com] when you work through the reports, the 300k number works out to about 100k for IT. while this report is old, nothing has changed to drop the rate. uk reports are more current http://download.microsoft.com/documents/uk/hardwar/Ergonomics_and_Repetitive_Strain_Injury.pdf [microsoft.com] As for the near 100%, think arthritis, medication induced tremors, loss of flexibility as you age normally or via trauma. It all adds up to loss of hand function.

Re:Cite please (2, Informative)

layabout (1576461) | more than 5 years ago | (#28332069)

http://download.microsoft.com/documents/uk/hardware/Ergonomics_and_Repetitive_Strain_Injury.pdf [microsoft.com] http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Repetitive+strain+injuries+stretch+higher-a018341055 [thefreelibrary.com] http://www.rsi-therapy.com/statistics.htm [rsi-therapy.com] I think the UK stats are probably the best stats to go by. Most of the RSI injury rate information in the United States is based on the last clean census of injuries which was roughly 1994-1995. Unfortunately, since that time states with a large chicken processing workforce, have either stopped counting RSI statistics or have merge them into some other heading making difficult if not impossible to track down what the actual injury rates are. It's amazing the kind of government service you can purchase if your name is Tyson or Perdue. I know this sounds kind of conspiratorial but, up here in New England, the same thing happened with glass cutters and textile workers. Remember, programmers are nothing more than a clean form of blue-collar labor that can be replaced by cheaper labor in a heartbeat. As for the near 100% comment, well as we age, we lose ability. Since everybody ages, is a good chance you will spend decades being unable to use the tools and toys you use today. There's a better chance that the twentysomethings 30 years from now will be inventing all of these cool things that you will be excluded from.

:O (3, Funny)

DirtyCanuck (1529753) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331197)

"Given that some form of disability is almost inevitable, what's keeping you from volunteering and working with geeks "

I'm disabled.

Re::O (1)

Tigersmind (1549183) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331347)

Same for me actually.

Re::O (1)

johnlcallaway (165670) | more than 5 years ago | (#28332111)

I work for a living and spend my non-work hours enjoying what I made by working.

Besides, I don't write software unless I need it. So .. when I can't type, I'll use the crappy software we do have for whatever disability I have and make it better.

Because that's what geeks do.....

The reason that nobody really works on this... (5, Insightful)

adamkennedy (121032) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331209)

> By spending time now building the interfaces and
> tools that will enable them to use computers more
> easily, you will also be ensuring your own ability
> to use them in the future.

Nobody thinks they are going to be disabled.

It's as simple as that I'm afraid.

In the Perl world I know one major hacker that has done a ton of accessibility work. In his case, it's his daughter that has the the disability, so he has a direct and immediate interest in helping her.

Re:The reason that nobody really works on this... (1)

linzeal (197905) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331609)

I'm glad that most advances I have seen are integrated at least in a rudimentary in all major OS nowadays. It used to be that to use Windows 95 even with a mild disability required you to purchase multiple software packages that often were poorly supported if the company was even around by the time you bought the software.

Apple - I hate you! (4, Funny)

Col Bat Guano (633857) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331217)

I lost a fingertip in an encounter with a circular saw.

Later I bought an iPhone, and the documentation was titled "Fingertips".

I've also used a fingerprint reader to try to log into a friend's computer - it said "too short", so I can't blame SteveJ for everything.

I do hope that multi touch input does consider people who have less than full dexterity/digits, but somehow I suspect there are another class of people waiting to be left behind.

Re:Apple - I hate you! (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331791)

Don't you have other fingertips to use?

You could always use the ones that are undamaged. Unless you only enrolled with the damaged one (and didn't do multiples).

That said, it's a silly idea to allow just fingerprints to login. Fingerprints aren't secure and fingerprints are very likely to get damaged.

Then uh, why did you buy it? (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331809)

If you hate Apple so much, why did you buy the phone? You kinda got the gist that it was a touch phone from the ads, that was the gimmick...

Permanently disabled geeks also exist (4, Interesting)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331245)

I have a friend who was born with one arm and is about as geeky as they get. She uses voice recognition software for most online things (although apparently voice recognition software isn't so great for programming). I know someone else who developed hand injuries much later in life and has had a lot of trouble adjusting. It is much easier for people to adjust to being disabled at a young age than at an old age.

Re:Permanently disabled geeks also exist (3, Interesting)

plover (150551) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331687)

A relative was born with cerebral palsy which manifested itself as severe control problems, especially with her hands and upper body, including almost unrecognizable speech. She tried a mouse with a large wooden knob, and later a leather strap, but they were pretty frustrating as her control is so limited. Only close friends and family can understand her speech, so voice recognition has never been an option. But her feet are pretty good, so she's learned to manipulate a track-ball with her toe. It takes her a while, but she can get stuff done. ( I have to say being on line is one of the most liberating things that's ever happened to her. I'm glad she found a tool that works. )

Another relative suffered a stroke fifteen years ago, and she has very little use of her right side and mild aphasia since then. She learned to use her left hand, but complex or multitasking instructions are now beyond her. She needs a distraction-free environment in order to function well.

My point is that many disabilities are uncommon or unique. Some disabilities require a physical change to make the interface work -- it's not typically a problem you can solve in software. Others are environmental. So it's hard to find an off-the-shelf solution for any particular problem, as they're not economical to produce in quantity.

Re:Permanently disabled geeks also exist (4, Interesting)

complete loony (663508) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331937)

My father is an amputee, he lost both his hands when he was about 6. His left arm has about 4 inches after the elbow, and his right ends at the elbow.

In the early 8-bit hobby computing era he gave up his teaching job and started working as an analyst / developer. He types on a normal keyboard by holding a pen between his arms. Sometimes using his left elbow on Shift / Control keys.

However he is far more productive than most of the able bodied developers he works with because he's written so many macros in vim to automate just about everything.

Re:Permanently disabled geeks also exist (2, Interesting)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 5 years ago | (#28332217)

He types on a normal keyboard by holding a pen between his arms.

Having both hands myself, I am curious why he doesn't use some sort of attachment to hold a "pen" on each stump? Is it too much hassle to strap them on each time he wants to sit down and work?

Re:Permanently disabled geeks also exist (3, Interesting)

complete loony (663508) | more than 5 years ago | (#28332359)

He has tried prosthetics a couple of times, but they were always more hassle than they were worth. He'd lose tactile feedback and dexterity. Plus these days you need to swap from mouse to keyboard fairly quickly, having a pointing device attached to his arm would probably be more annoying to deal with.

Though talking about my dad in this topic seems a bit unfair. I don't think anyone who's met him would call him disabled. The only things he's incapable of doing by himself are fiddly things he can't reach, like tying a necktie.

My work has similiar concerns... (3, Insightful)

flyingsled (1475035) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331249)

At my work, they're grappling with the same problem. They have a number of blind people working the phones, and their workstations have all sorts of expensive specialised hardware to help them work. The problem is, as more apps move from older green screen technology (yep, there's still lots) to newer wiz-bang web applications, those web-apps have to be created with accessibility in mind. They use JAWS (a commercial product from Freedom Scientific) to make internal applications accessible. As for why there's not much work on the open source front, I guess it's one of those things where a competent developer hasn't had the urge to work on it. But I agree that making computers accessible at a reasonable price (or free) is very important, especially given as a huge chunk of society is getting to the age where this stuff will be needed a lot.

Not just keyboards (4, Funny)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331255)

It's not repetitive use of keyboards that is ultimately going to get me into trouble.

Get ready (1)

DeepBlueDiver (166057) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331265)

In time, almost 100% of keyboard users will have trouble typing

In time, all 100% of users will die. Should we start buying coffins?

Re:Get ready (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28331357)

Only if the community makes them free and releases the "source code" online.

Seriously though, there's money to be made in the disabled. While I believe the OSS community needs to make a push towards better accessibility software, the fact remains that the paid software will almost always be higher quality. Why would they release a Linux version when they can count on the fact that 99.9% of your users will be using Windows or OS X? I don't know of one person who would stick with Linux when switching OS means the difference between getting stuff done (with the accessibility software) and having half broken functionality.

Re:Get ready (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331515)

If you develop on Linux, particularly if you are a sysadmin or are very very good at Linux-only code.

Re:Get ready (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28331371)

Are you planning on living with your problem of being dead? Didn't think so.

Re:Get ready (1)

DeepBlueDiver (166057) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331421)

Yes, I'm planning to be a zombie. I should start training on eating brains.

Re:Get ready (3, Funny)

RuBLed (995686) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331415)

In time, all 100% of users will die. Should we start buying coffins?

not 100% though... you see, I'm planning to buy a big box, go inside along with a device that releases / exposes a radioactive material based on a randomly-timed trigger.

Re:Get ready (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28331469)

Actually now that you mention it, some people do buy coffins in advance of dying. Some people reserve plots on cemetery lands, for multiple generations even. Back in the days when the Internets weren't such a huge media platform, you used to (probably still do) see commercials on the television for prepaying funeral plans. Other commercials I've seen involved, for example, a woman assisting her husband in making sure that their insurance covers funeral costs for the dearly departed. He was dearly, and he has departed. Thus, that's why we call him the dearly departed. In other words, the nigger's dead! As you can see him laying here- I been here three days and the boy ain't moved a muscle. So I know the nigger's dead. And it seems that death was quite a surprise to his ass. Didn't think you's ever gonna die, did ya, nigger? Mmmm, I told you about fuckin' around, what was gonna happen.

However; he faced the ultimate test, as each man and woman must eventually face... the ultimate test. The ultimate test here- let me repeat that- the ultimate test here: whether or not you can survive death. That's the ultimate test for your ass, ain't it? So far, don't nobody we know has PASSED the ultimate test, least of all this nigger laying here. Cause this boy wasn't shit, I'm gonna tell you that right off. I saw him kicking his Mama's ass over there on 47th street. And if you think we gonna to bury you with them diamonds and shit on, you've got another think coming.

I'd like to introduce the boy's woman- hoe- bitch- I don't know what she was. She's laying over there in the booth. Say girl-- WHATCHU DOIN?! Well, don't sell no pussy in here... and if you do, I WANT A CUT! Shiiiiit, it's your fault the nigger's dead! If you'da been home when you was supposed to be, he wouldn't have been up in the hotel fucking that faggot. Boy's husband came home, caught 'em fucking, shot the nigger in the ass on the downstroke.

And if there is a God or a heaven, we don't want this nigger up there with us.

Can I get a "AMEN"?

Re:Get ready (1)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331761)

In time, almost 100% of keyboard users will have trouble typing

In time, all 100% of users will die. Should we start buying coffins?

Yes. I've left orders to my family that, in order to save money, I should be left to the wolves when I die. I have helpfully mapped out the locations of various wolf packs in the area to help them carry out my instructions.

Re:Get ready (1)

kramerd (1227006) | more than 5 years ago | (#28332095)

Oddly enough, there is a discount funeral store near me. You buy the package today, and when you die, everything is already taken of.

Full disclosure, I haven't bought a coffin yet.

Denial (2)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331285)

Just reading your question makes my fingers hurt. Doing what I do every day is clearly destroying my hands but its easier to just not think about it.

Re:Denial (2, Interesting)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331393)

Or make sure the keyboard is at a comfortable height and switch over to Dvorak. Dvorak isn't any faster than QWERTY, but it was designed to minimize unnecessary fatigue and strain while typing. Long periods of time at the keyboard do not cause repetitive stress injury, despite what the medical establishment used to say. It's long periods in poorly laid out surrounds that do.

Re:Denial (3, Insightful)

JorDan Clock (664877) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331777)

And the Segway was designed to revolutionize the way we get around, but that doesn't mean there is any evidence to suggest that happened.

Every time someone says "Dvorak is better for your hands" or "QWERTY was designed to be slow" really needs to do some basic research and stop spouting out everything they hear. Dvorak has never been objectively proven to be faster or more comfortable. The only studies to support this claim were of questionable integrity. I will gladly accept this claim if it can be objectively demonstrated, but until then, stop saying it please.

Re:Denial (1)

TBoon (1381891) | more than 5 years ago | (#28332249)

However, Dvorak also comes in one-handed versions. While regular dvorak might not be any faster than QWERTY, I wouldn't be surprised of the one-hand version (which exist for both the left and right hand) would be significantly faster for most typing tasks than using a single hand on QWERTY... Does anyone know any research about that?

Re:Denial -you're retarded (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28332393)

you're retarded

The speed records for typing in the Guinness book of World records was english on DVORAK keyboards for over 20 years.

there have been numerous studies on DVORAK being faster than qwerty.

Some people are anal and retarded and don't like facts that upset their rigid thought patterns I guess.

Amusingly, a fast qwerty typist can rapidly reach their full speed in DVORAK in under 2 weeks, how the brain does this I do not know.

Let me be the first to mention Dasher (3, Informative)

greenguy (162630) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331303)

Dasher is a great text-input interface: mouse driven, and you don't even have to click (very often). Not as fast as a keyboard, but still respectable.

Heck, I wish it worked for my N800, and I don't even have any disabilities.

Re:Let me be the first to mention Dasher (2, Interesting)

lwsimon (724555) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331511)

I've been thinking about building a Dasher input device for a long time - I'm thinking of a joystick with a 8" or so LCD to display Dasher. Running Linux, with USB, VGA, and even component video ports to attach to other display devices.

The advantage being, you could use this on multiple systems, without installing hardware. Let the device send standard keyboard codes, and handle the Dasher software inside the device.

Re:Let me be the first to mention Dasher (4, Interesting)

SqueezeKey (13505) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331771)

I have been using Dasher for the vast majority of my typing needs for the past year. I was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS) about two years ago and have slowly lost the use of my left hand and arm during those two years. Dasher is commonly recommended to paraplegic and quadriplegic patients. I know several ALS patients who use it with eyegaze or headmouse setups and love it. It should be usable on any *NIX system that supports GNOME. There are also Windows binaries available.

Another possibility that can be used is an onscreen keyboard with dwell clicking for the mouse and word prediction capability in the keyboard software. I know that both xvkbd and the GNOME onscreen keyboard (GOK) both support word prediction. There are also a couple of projects that have adapted the Dasher word prediction engine into an interface like a telephone keypad that could also be used with dwell-clicking to provide a decent interface. Seems to me one of those projects was called Tapir and the other one was called dKeys.

If anybody becomes interested in this kind of stuff and decides to take on a role in contributing to some of these accessible software projects, you will have the appreciation of hundreds of thousands of disabled users worldwide. Not a bad reward for a little bit of work.

Re:Let me be the first to mention Dasher (1)

DMUTPeregrine (612791) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331885)

Dasher is a good system. Especially if you can write language files for given programming languages.

Custom Solutions (2)

flnca (1022891) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331313)

There are custom solutions for disabled people on the market -- if you have health insurance, you can ask them if they are going to pay for it.

BTW, I always worry about things like accessibility, but employers for instance don't pay attention to that, and programming APIs for accessibility often dramatically increase the complexity of an application. That's why so few applications make use of accessibility functions. That must be changed someday. Thanks for the reminder. If I can, I will incorporate some of your ideas into an easy-to-use GUI framework, that frees the programmer from all extra work associated with it.

Oh yeah... (2, Insightful)

NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331353)

My question to Slashdot: Given that some form of disability is almost inevitable, what's keeping you from volunteering and working with geeks who are already disabled?

Nice -- throw out the guilt card right there at the end, when I'm just about to decide whether or not following the link is worth my time. That really makes me want to read more of what you have to say, yessir.

If I was going to work on hardware or software for disabled people, I'd be more inclined to work on stuff for people with little or no voluntary muscle control. What fraction of disabled geeks also can't speak?

Re:Oh yeah... (1)

AndyCater (726464) | more than 5 years ago | (#28332169)

I have relatively mild cerebral palsy. Some problems working with my hands, a stutter very occasionally which gets worse with nerves. I'm bloody lucky. Fine muscular control also, obviously, affects the larynx. A good many of my friends have scanning speech/slurred speech as well as muscle control problems. Intention tremor, where something gets harder to do the more you concentrate on it, is also not uncommon. Once you can find the appropriate solution for somebody, you can watch them grow in confidence and ability to communicate freely. Voice input is fine for the visually impaired but it's not a catch-all. I'm not sure I'd trust it for more than "Open the pod bay doors Hal"

Time, money, expertiese (4, Insightful)

holophrastic (221104) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331375)

I own two programming companies. We work on things that are a) profitable, in the short or medium term; and b) have the expertiese and understanding to accomplish.

I am not presently disabled. None of my employees / contractors are disabled. So it won't help us any time soon, and we have no experience in the field.

Here's the ironic part. I've built three development platforms (one for each type of device that we create). Each of the three "languages" (mark-up, script, whatever) have such stringent conventions that it wolud be pretty easy to develop a "vocabulary" to reference areas of the platform code such that while worknig with the platform code (as opposed to developing and enhancing the core elements) would be quite doable. That would cover about 90% of our workload too.

But in the end, it will never happen. Here's the thing. Right now, it's more profitable for me to work as-is, than to work on accessibility. The day I become disabled, even if it were to be tomorrowb morning, it would still be cheaper for me to hire a co-op student to type for me, or to read to me, or both.

Now, if hundreds of thousands of dollars of disabled clients were knocking on my door, it would take me fewer than six months to build the tools needed for a skilled programmer to navigate through my platform code with simple commands that could be mapped to .V.R., or a joystick, or a head-bob, or whatever. Right now, there are no such clients at my door-step.

Re:Time, money, expertiese (1)

holophrastic (221104) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331387)

And besides, what kind of "geek" asks for tools? Any disabled geek worth hiring if the tools were to exist could just as easily create those tools himself -- disabled or otherwise.

Re:Time, money, expertiese (1)

MeatBag PussRocket (1475317) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331745)

while i agree with your original explanation of finding adequate profitability a barrier to developing accessibility tools, i think its a little ignorant to say any geek worth hiring can make said tools himself. there are plenty of geeks that arent incredible coders. thats like saying, why do you need a SCSI controller card, any geek worth his salt could build one. i cant code my way out of a shoebox, but i could build a SCSI card given the tools. eveyone has their niche. also consider this: if you have no hands (or no motor function to them) how are you supposed to create the tools in the first place, even with the know-how? not every business is your buisness.

Re:Time, money, expertiese (3, Interesting)

SqueezeKey (13505) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331855)

You obviously haven't seen the markup that gets put on computer equipment that qualifies as a medical device. Take a look around on the Dynavox website (www.dynavoxtech.com) and see if any of those gadgets look terribly complicated or difficult to replicate. Then look at the price list. The cheapest gadget (palmtop) goes for $3000+. The laptop-sized device goes for about $8000 unless it has the eyegaze system, which goes for an additional $7000, bringing the total to a cool $15,000 per unit. All covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and most major medical insurance.

Re:Time, money, expertiese (1)

sowth (748135) | more than 5 years ago | (#28332087)

All covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and most major medical insurance.

This is why they are so expensive. They up and up the price because insurance companies have to pay legit claims, except of course the prices aren't really legit, but it is attached to the legit needs of the patients. Sort of like auto repair shops who reimburse customers with cash.

Even though it is essentially the spirit of embezzling, they get away with it because the system is corrupt. Most patients don't care because they don't get charged more (at least not right away), auto mechanic customers love it because they get extra cash out of their insurance claim. This is one of the major things which screwed up the medical industry and why medical care is so expensive.

From what I've seen, hearing aids are the same story. $3000(us) or so per pair. I could probably use one in my right ear, but this is too much to pay, especially since I am on disability (two strokes and kidney failure).

Re:Time, money, expertiese (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28331875)

You say you are not disabled- nor your employees/ contractors-
Look up the stats-
It runs about 40% chance YOU WILL become disabled, now multiply that times those other people.

26% of America is disabled.

Thats not a demographic?

Re:Time, money, expertiese (2, Interesting)

layabout (1576461) | more than 5 years ago | (#28332135)

I tried going the route of having someone type for me. It would cost me, by the time agency fees are factored in, around $100-$200 per day. If I'm billing, I can afford that. If I'm not billing, I can't and that puts me right back in the place of looking for a solution. Unfortunately, even at the best of times, it was a very tough experience. The typist could not type fast enough to keep up with what I was saying. I would try to teach her macros (stored in her head) and I would say things about constructing loops and method references etc., she would freeze up, think for little bit, and then start again. I would correct what she just typed and then we would keep going. Effectively what I was doing was teaching her to program. then I would have to pay her more money and she wouldn't want to type for me. She would want to write her own code. Get another typist... As you can see, the agency fees would add up and nearly get really expensive if I expected the typist to hang around until two o'clock in the morning so I could finish some work. The same money could be applied to developing these tools if the money was free to be used in this way. That's the second problem with being disabled. Before disability, you're making enough money to build the tools, after disability, you don't have enough money to build the tools and you don't have the physical ability to build the tools. This stuff is not simple. It is complex and you need a team of people and guinea pigs to make something work right. Hell, right now I would be happy if I could get someone to make vr-mode work

Re:Time, money, expertiese (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28332179)

You can create a market where none existed. It's been done over and over. Your argument is fine. No clients = no invoices = no payroll. Understood.

But the real issue is that is NOT REQUIRED BY LAW. If ADA-compliant computer accessibility were required by law (i.e. if you get sued or fined for not doing it or the FTC could pull your product from the shelf/forbid you to sell it, or government agencies couldn't buy it because it's not section 508 compliant) then and really only then will it get done. The same thing happened with wheel-chair ramps back when ADA first passed. People made the same arguments as you: I'm not disabled, my employees/customers aren't either, it will cost $$$, why should I, etc. After the ramps went in, businesses learned the reason they never got customers in wheelchairs is because they were housebound, knowing full well they'd never be able to wheel up the stairs and thru the weighted steel & glass front door. But now that they can, they do. We get disabled customers coming in their motorized chair, about 1 every other day.

That's why we have flash-only websites and AJAX garbage that makes accessibility almost impossible: because they can. There's no law that says they have to. Only the web sites of government agencies themselves fall under section 508. The government doesn't want to "stifle innovation" or "interfere with the free market" or whatever their lobbyists pay them to say.

Light operated Mouse and Keyboard? (2, Insightful)

GrpA (691294) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331377)

What about the LOMAK?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LOMAK [wikipedia.org]

GrpA

Re:Light operated Mouse and Keyboard? (2, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331535)

I'm not sure that would really work. The reason being is that these people can use keyboards (as in, they have use of their hands) but its simply painful or slow for them to type. Waving around head-mounted laser pointers isn't going to give them more productivity. Sure, for people who can only move their necks its a godsend, but for the average injured geek, that isn't worth the trouble.

A better command structure? (2, Interesting)

argent (18001) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331397)

verb-noun requires less typing

Instead of "search forward left bracket leave mark search forward right bracket ..."

You say "find left bracket change matching", which is the verbal equivalent of "f[c%" in vi.

Not quite "change index", but THAT could be a macro for "f[c%".

Go ask Obama for the money... (-1, Flamebait)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331439)

Look, the socialists are in control now. You can go and ask your comrade in chief for some bucks. What's the point of volunteering for anything when the jack booted thugs of America SSR are going to come and beat you into it anyway.

Cold Truth (3, Insightful)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331443)

It is about the law of diminishing returns. It might sound cold. It might suck. But you really need to consider why Pizza Hut doesn't offer Pickle Chocolate pizza... The effort and cost to patronize the .01% of potential users just isn't worth it.

Re:Cold Truth (2, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331509)

There's also a natural tension between making tools as useful as possible for the typical (able-bodied) user and the disabled user. Making a tool more useful sometimes means taking advantage of user capabilities which weren't being depended on before -- multi-finger touch-screen gestures, for instance. If you set up your system for the lowest common denominator you make it worse for the average user. If you try to include multiple interfaces appropriate for everyone from Stephen Hawking to Nastia Liukin, you'll never get a product out the door, or even out of the design phase.

Re:Cold Truth (1)

layabout (1576461) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331841)

try instead, each person has their own UI device and that device talks to all other devices like phones, atm's, gas pumps etc. you want multi touch, buy a multi touch display brick. want text to speech, get a tts brick. own your own ui.

Re:Cold Truth (1)

layabout (1576461) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331819)

what you describe is what we are doing today. looking at it from the IT viewpoint, if you assume each IT person contributes 50k value to the economy and you loose 50k people each year, that is 2.5 mil flushed. 10% of that would make it possible to solve the programming by voice problem in 2-3 years. rather cheap way to stem a multimillion resource loss. almost as cheap as telling the disabled to go sit on a street corner somewhere.

Re:Cold Truth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28332263)

No. The % of elderly in the worlds demographics is going up up up. And while health is improving into early old age, eventually the body begins to fail, first one part and then another. So the demand will be there. And soon. If you outlive your youth, it will happen to you too. It's just a matter of time.

Both MacOS and Windows have accessibility built-in. I don't think either is about "diminishing returns". Accessibility is HARD. If it were easy, disability access would be implemented six ways to Sunday in every OS and app, closed-source and free. That's why SourceForge is filled with apps that are easy to write: text-editors, programming languages, libraries, games, CD/Book cataloging apps, etc. Apps that solve hard problems (like drivers or OCR or science applications) are hard to get right, so few get started and fewer ever finish.

If someone can come up with a way to make the problem EASY TO SOLVE then accessibility will become easy to add to OSes and apps, and it will get done. Just imagine: controlling emacs or vi with your voice because your hands don't work due to birth defects. What's the difference between holding the control key and saying "control" to type the text? Imaging trying to write an essay on "Metaphysics" in emacs without false positives of it thinking you're trying to invoke meta-key commands. Good times...

Re:Cold Truth (1)

Eil (82413) | more than 5 years ago | (#28332293)

It is about the law of diminishing returns. It might sound cold. It might suck. But you really need to consider why Pizza Hut doesn't offer Pickle Chocolate pizza... The effort and cost to patronize the .01% of potential users just isn't worth it.

In the commercial software world, you are exactly correct.

However in the open source world, people create, work on, and use the software that they need. It's the whole scratching-your-itch thing. The best example I can think of this is internationalization and localization. In the commercial software world, very few companies ever spend money writing translations for languages that aren't major languages in their core markets. That means at best you get a handful of languages for a given proprietary application, although I would guess that the vast majority only have one: English.

Completely different story in open source. Any sufficiently developed software has little to no hard-coded language in it. Instead, most applications utilize a message library so that translations can be added easily and rolled in upstream. As a result, people who work in a non-English language can choose their language when installing their open source OS and end up a userland that's completely customized with their language, units of measurements, and other local features. You rarely get such a complete experience in the proprietary market.

Disabled geeks should take this as an example of how to add accessibility features to the open source software that otherwise does what they need. No, perhaps accessibility features aren't as easy as adding a language to a message catalog, but the overall idea is the same. There may be plenty of fully-abled (if that's a PC term) developers who like to work on accessibility features, but only the disabled really know what they need. They are the ones that will have to lead the charge on developing frameworks for alternative interface methods and so forth for open source software. Everyone else will help as best they can purely in the interest of making the software better and making it accessible to as many people as possible.

one word... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28331455)

girls

Text to speech (3, Informative)

Repossessed (1117929) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331521)

Text to speech in Linux actually works pretty well according to the people I've talked to who use it, in some cases better than the windows options. (GTK integration is pretty complete to my understanding). Some complaints of stuttering though. Ubuntu, and probably others, even have text to speech available in the installer.

The big problem is that the kernel likes to randomly drop one the text to speech modules thats needed for geeks who want to hear the start up messages.

Braille readers are a much bigger problem than the text to speech in Linux, the old serial port ones work fine, but expansion serial ports don't work right for it, and those are getting hard to find. Very few USB braille readers have Linux drivers. (Which i don't get, braille readers + a command line interface seem such a good match).

Re:Text to speech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28331661)

Only problem I suppose with the linux one is that not all blind people are technically inclined. Having something nice for Gnome/kde or what ever would be a good solution.

Text to speech for programming and editing should be pretty important.
Maybe some other forms of input might be worth considering (if your missing a arm you might be able to hook up sensors or something, you could wave your ghost arm around to move a window)

really...... lets just get that damn brain to computer interface working.

Advances in this tech isn't going to only effect you when you are disabled - This is going to mean becoming a real life gargoyle (snowcrash) so much more possible.

Re:Text to speech (1)

Repossessed (1117929) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331707)

Text to speech for programming and editing should be pretty important.

That I know for sure can be done in Linux, my source of information on all the text to speech in Linux stuff comes from a blind programmer who uses it for that reason.

Re:Text to speech (1)

spiffmastercow (1001386) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331899)

(s)he must be pretty bright.. Or at least have a good memory and a lot of patience...

Government safety net (0, Flamebait)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331541)

Given that we're paying for a socialized government safety net, my advice is - use it. Sorry geek, you lose your fingers, you retire on government welfare.

When did you stop beating your wife? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28331571)

Given that some form of disability is almost inevitable, what's keeping you from volunteering and working with geeks who are already disabled?

That's the equivalent of when did you stop beating your wife. Everyone has their own lives & interests - do not expect us to drop them to suddenly start developing accessible apps.

The answer is simple: people with serious forms of disability are in fact the minority. Temporary disability is just that - temporary. Time resolves that issue on its own. Accessibility, as you seem to recognize given your unhappiness with speech recognition, is a difficult topic with actual expertise required. Few OSS developers will have that or have picked it up. The OSS community in general has issues trying to attract (& keep) talented UI people to create usable interfaces for normal users, let alone those that are disabled, which I imagine would be even more difficult.

I'm not saying it's not a worthy goal - it is. But there needs to be some direction & an idea of what exactly makes something accessible. Not to mention that disabilities are unique, meaning what is accessible for 1 person isn't necessarily for another. Accessibility needs to come in at the toolkit layer & make it easy for developers to provide the semantic information so that the toolkit can do what it needs to automatically. Otherwise, you're essentially recreating the wheel every time you want to create an accessible app.

In time, almost 100% of keyboard users will have trouble typing and using many if not all mobile computing devices.

I have a seriously hard time believing this. There are a lot of keyboard users out there - I think we'd hear if there was a sudden disability that was affecting everyone. If you mean age-related issues, we may have to eventually face that. However, the elderly do make up a tiny portion of the electronics-using population. Then you also have to come to terms with that perhaps if you can't use the mobile device you have, maybe you should get one that better suits your needs. My mom wants a Pre for instance - obviously it doesn't suit her for all sorts of reasons, top of which is that the text on the screen would be too small for her too use & the keyboard keys too small as well.

Furthermore, whatever effort is put into accessibility will be for the average user surfing the web, accessing email, etc. A disabled coder is too small a minority to target. As you see, the only ones that appear to be putting in effort are for-pay products because it's a niche that requires non-programmer collaboration with programmers & they can charge enough money to be profitable since the product becomes pretty necessary day-to-day for this niche.

Re:When did you stop beating your wife? (4, Insightful)

layabout (1576461) | more than 5 years ago | (#28332003)

It was intended as a serious, albeit in your face, question. what I was hoping for was a serious answer. I don't expect you to drop anything

Let me introduce you to a term "TAB" Temporarily Able Bodied. It was created in recognition that physical ability is temporary, disability is the norm. I'm disabled because my hands don't work right. I'm also disabled because I need glasses. Minority or majority doesn't matter. My question was trying to provoke thought about what's going to happen to you when you become disabled. age-related ailments will steal your ability from you. But also do you want to leave the future to be a radical shift in career because your hands don't work or a shift in how you work?

As to the direction on what makes something accessible, there is a good 30 years worth of research on the subject in the library if people would only look. Is honestly simple concept of separation of functionality from presentation. If I need a word processor with a speech user interface, then I should be able to purchase a word processor and then purchase a user interface that does what I need. If a blind person needs a text-to-speech interface, then they should be able to purchase their own user interface. None of us should have to rely on adaptations or, as I like to call them, "brutal hacks" on the application.

Every two or three years we do hear about and disabilities. There was Nintendo thumb and now Blackberry thumb and other hand disorders from playing too many first-person shooter games. It's all right in front of us. we also have the issue of elderly, as you point out. I'm not worried as much about the elderly of today but, what happens when you hit 60 and you gradually discover you can't do anything. No texting, no video messages, no anything. Think about that future.

Also think about the implications of what our mobile devices are doing today. I've seen people advocate getting rid of voicemail because you can just send someone a text message. Or the only telephone you can use if you are blind is something that just makes calls and receives calls. These choices exclude people from the mainstream culture. If you are blind and cannot send a text message, you lose social connection. If you can't send a text message, you lose the ability to give someone a time delayed message the way of voicemail works. I do admit that it may be cheaper to warehouse disabled people but, it would be nice if we made a conscious decision.

And as a side note, I was not able to interleave my comments with your text because HTML is not friendly to the disabled.

keyboard help tab (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28331631)

AM USing brain directly to type nowfullstop carriagereturn unfortunately little bits of grey stuff keep sticking to the keys enter

Emacspeak (1)

SL Baur (19540) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331649)

My question to Slashdot: Given that some form of disability is almost inevitable, what's keeping you from volunteering and working with geeks who are already disabled?

Nothing at all and I added Emacspeak to XEmacs supported packages just as soon as I was made aware of it. The demo I got from its author, T.V. Raman, made a lasting impression on me. Being blind doesn't mean you have to be handicapped.

Supplementing traditional input methods (2, Interesting)

Lars512 (957723) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331671)

As someone who's been managing RSI for some time, and still needs to be careful to avoid overdoing it, I'd be very happy for a way to supplement keyboarding and mousing with even limited additional input methods, preferably methods which used a different paradigm altogether.

I've been checking out neural impulse actuators, like the one by OCZ [ocztechnology.com] , but it looks like they only provide 2-3 buttons, need recalibrating every time, and are only really supported for gaming. Does anyone know of similarly commercially available hardware? I'm aware of research systems which can control a mouse this way noninvasively, but surely it's time they came out of the labs.

I'm also curious about the long-term effects of devices which detect muscle action. People who migrate to voice recognition can damage their voice from the new strain. Would your face start creasing or cramping after a long time using a device which relies on facial muscles? It seems like some form of non-muscular neural interface is the way to go.

Well... (1)

mellestad (1301507) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331699)

Your main problem seems to be voice recognition, and all that goes with it...no offense, but this area is already getting millions (billions?) worth of research and the professionals can't even make it work...your best bet is probably to wait until someone invents it for other purposes and then adapt it.

Getting wrapped up in the details (1)

purduephotog (218304) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331775)

Some folks I've worked with get so wrapped up in the details or the fun of the project they forget the point- which may be what holds this up. Some of MS's interface stuff for voice and disability is pretty slick - but slick isn't functional and everything is still driven by the keyboard and mouse.

Now I've seen some exciting hardware that can interface to the tongue to display images (poor res) but basically it's rewiring the brain for a different type of input channel.

Who's got the time and money to build these? Not your average geek- and who's going to spend the weeks in deprivation to test it? Well, they might.... but not most folks I know. And if something goes south?

The best approach is to have a brain trust- a site that a research can come to and, with NDA's in place (I have reasons for that) With those NDAs in place then the researcher can say something like "I have this hardware and I need to be able to do..."

And thats when the power of the internet comes into play- the amount of research and pure power that can be drawn down to a single thread would crush through any difficulties- EE's, CE's, IE's, heck even your plain psychologists (if they hang out here) can bring talent to bear.

My thoughts, of course.

Bad premise (2, Funny)

hendersj (720767) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331811)

> Follow the link for more background on this reader's query.

Apparently I have a disability that prevents me from seeing the link referred to in the story.

> Given that some form of disability is almost inevitable

Somehow we got from 60,000-100,000 people injured either temporarily or permanently every year to "we're all going to be disabled". I don't see anything that makes this conclusion logical at all. It's almost as if the writer hasn't really done any research, and OH MY GOD MY HAND!!!!! AGHH!!!!

Re:Bad premise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28332399)

disabled this option!

Negative Experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28331835)

Please don't mod me troll... posting AC for a reason.

Honestly--my experience working with visually impaired individuals in the past (university helpdesk) was so OVERWHELMINGLY negative... I'd ...go out of my way not to help at present. Four or five blind students, and university disability services giving us basic...legal threats to help them with their problems when it was beyond capacity of our helpdesk (and why would you threaten someone in your own university anyway?!)

To boot--all five of them refused to use university provided services, and insisted on using their *own* tools. I don't mean JAWS. I mean they wouldn't use our mail clients and insisted on using AOL, MSN, hotmail, whatever. Instead of using student network drives, they'd carry around zip disks (urgh). Every time one of these assholes called, it'd be nearly 2-4 hours of wasted desk time on a call I wasn't allowed to let the techs refuse to support. I once had to waste three days of time documenting effort to get hotmail to change the tab order of their login screen because of the assholes at disability services... No--forwarding his email wasn't good enough--he had to use hotmail, and they can't change his interface because then he can't act independently or some shit...

Over the course of a year, these five students accounted for nearly 3% of the quantity, and probably more than that in time of the calls (15K students, well over 40k incidents/semester)--and almost ALL of their problems were ones that could have been prevented. They thought they were special because they couldn't see, and somehow deserved support beyond the normal incident policy. Disability services basically made us support whatever crap they were on, even if it was in violation of campus IT policy. Old version of unsupported software? Too bad...

I know there's lots of better people out there--but the taste has left me with such an overwhelmingly negative experience--I have no desire to assist that community ...at all.

I'm just saying--maybe some of the community needs to watch the image it's broadcasting. If I meet a blind guy in need of support that isn't a PITA someday--hopefully my opinion will change... but I'm going to go in expecting the worst.

Tools for the disabled are absurdly expensive. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28331877)

I know a couple of blind and nearly-blind people, and there are 3 packages they can use, such as WindowEyes. The problem is, all three of the packages cost $1300 or more. Why? WindowEyes, for example, bundles in French, Italian, Serbo-Croatian and twenty-seven other languages. They justify the horrendous prices of this software on the limited market - there aren't very many disabled people, so they need to charge a lot for it.

If you're a geek and you get disabled, you're out of work, buddy. Compassion is a word not in the business lexicon.

If I worked for any of those companies, I'd hang my head in shame.

This is a joke of a discussion. (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331883)

Because really, the problem is, you can't just go and "disable enable" a user interface. A user interface is a rich experience tailored to its users. If you really wanted to have computers that were enabled for the disabled, you need to be prepared to have entirely different interaction experiences.

Like, blindness is the worst. Obviously. The whole you can go where you see it metaphor for forms is just wrong for blind people. What you really need, for them, is almost like menus were in the DOS apps of old - press 1 for this, press 2 for this... and so on. And, you need way more sound. Like, every keystroke should produce an audible click and different items should have different pitches so you don't have to wade through the a whole voice menu to do something. There's a million things you can do to make a user experience richer and tailor it to the user regardless of how many limbs they have... a load of details that you can account for, engineering to be done, and pretending that a few add on utilities or even tweaks to a U/I will do the trick is just beside the point. You need a whole new class of applications.

simple (1)

binaryseraph (955557) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331931)

tin-foil hat should cover most of it.

new great voice recognition software? (1)

djdevon3 (947872) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331973)

"Oh Sexy Girlfriend Bonzai" nuff said...

It's being done. Now! (1)

Feldercarb.Frac (966049) | more than 5 years ago | (#28331983)

I won't get into discussions about the "nobility" of working to help our fellow man and I won't get into discussions about the "profitability" of developing for the disabled. If you are wrapped up in "profitability" or "nobility", then you're looking at the wrong entity for this discussion and you'll most likely never understand why a person would do what layabout is asking. Note, I did not say you wouldn't, but it's more likely that you wont. On the other hand, if you know someone who is disabled, in your family or not, then you may have a better understanding. I fall into the later category and have a company who's sole purpose at this time is to develop systems which will allow people with disabilities to interact with computers and with other people. While it's not a highly profitable business at this time, we have some items in development that could be very beneficial to people whether they have a physical or cognitive disability, or no disability at all. Our current development cycle has the first two systems coming on the market before the end of this year. The amazing thing is that if you think about it, building a system for the disabled is not much more difficult than a general purpose system. The only thing that makes it difficult is the way you think about it. And for anyone who thinks the possibility of becoming disabled is remote, remember...you're only one head injury away.

it's not an evil conspiracy (1)

jipn4 (1367823) | more than 5 years ago | (#28332101)

Listen to what disabled users do, not to what you think they should speak.

Even most user interfaces for non-disabled users contain serious problems. For disabled users, there are many more variations and restrictions, and the developer can't even use himself as a model and test subject.

It's easy to say "do it better", but doing it better requires a lot more time and money given current tools. A single developer costs $100k-$200k/year, and to come up with a really good user interface takes many developers and a lot of time. It also takes a lot of time with users and user testing, something users don't seem to be too interested in doing either.

Another approach would be the development of better tools and more automation in user interface development for the disabled, but that takes research funding, and there isn't a lot of that either.

Even developing better speech recognition is not exactly lavishly funded anymore and there isn't that much of a market.

Developers have to eat somehow. When they deliver half-baked solutions and inconvenient user interfaces, it's because they don't have time to do a better job or they don't even have the training.

Furthermore, the UI necessarily comes second to the actual functionality: software consisting of a great UI for a non-working back-end is less useful than software consisting of a bad UI for a great back-end.

So, I think while it would certainly be nice if more developers took user concerns and UIs more seriously, that's not enough. Good UI development for small target populations with many different needs means a lot of extra time and money,
time and money that needs to come from somewhere.

Ergonomics for Laptops or mobile users? (1)

HockeyPuck (141947) | more than 5 years ago | (#28332167)

At work I've got an ergonomic keyboard, an ergonomic trackball, a great chair etc... However, when I travel, it's back to typing on the laptop's keyboard, and using the trackpad. While packing a trackball isn't a problem, packing an ergonomic keyboard isn't exactly a piece of cake. Coupled that with trying to type at a hotel desk using a hotel chair, neither which are ergonomic, I'm asking for wrist issues...

Anybody got a solution to this?

Wait, what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28332185)

In response to point one, why does it matter what OS it runs on? You should check Windows/OS X as well. After all, something this important is worth dual-booting for.

In response to your second point, what's wrong with speaking to the keyboard? You seem to think it's a bad solution, without providing any kind of alternative other than "make it easier."

Change the system (1)

Tinctorius (1529849) | more than 5 years ago | (#28332305)

Probably somewhat related: I think the underlying system of "user" interfaces should be changed in such a way that window managers or terminals aren't talking to event or read loops, but rather to object models. I'm still trying to work out how exactly that's going to work for text editors and games, but it's definitely a step towards a more accessable operating system, among other things.

The idea is that all applications provide a (possibly dynamic) schema of all their mutable objects, and an interface to interact with them. A layer between the application and the user will translate it into a user interface; it will be doing just a bit more than drawing windows and widgets (GUI) or putting characters in the right places (CLI, curses).

If that 'UI' standard is made properly, then not only making keybindings will be easy and uniform, but so will making bindings between STT and actions. The bridge between the application and TTS (or braille output) could also be covered by the aforementioned layer.

(btw, if there's any prior art on this, I'd like to know :) )

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