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Challenging disability

The Techshare 2009 exhibition, which highlights the importance of digital technology for people with disabilities, featured lots of gadgets including talking jam-jars, a phone with a variable keypad, a pen that records audio and more...

india Updated: Sep 28, 2009 17:36 IST

The Techshare 2009 exhibition, which highlights the importance of digital technology for people with disabilities, featured lots of gadgets including talking jam-jars, a phone with a variable keypad, a pen that records audio on to objects. Welcome to the world of assistive technology.

EyesFree, a new interface for Google’s Android mobile phone operating system provides a way for blind people to use a phone with a touch-sensitive screen. The idea behind EyesFree is that wherever you put your finger on the touchscreen, it represents the number 5. If you want 1, you move your finger up and to the left, and if you want 8 then you move it straight down, and so on. You get spoken feedback for each selection, and if you pick the wrong number or letter, you can delete it by shaking the phone.

Plextalk Pocket is an MP3 player roughly the size of a mobile phone, and it also has a numeric keypad and a text-to-speech engine. The built-in microphone and loudspeaker mean it can be used for keeping voice notes, but the key feature for blind users is that it supports the Daisy (Digital Accessible Information SYstem). This means users can search for anything recorded and listen to recorded books anywhere.

RNIB’s PenFriend is a voice labeller but looks like a handheld microphone, and lets people use their voices to label things. You start by sticking a small round label to the object, register that using the optical scanner at the PenFriend’s tip and then record your comment. Pointing to the label will play back the associated comment.