Innovation, Experimentation, Accessibility and Inclusivity

Posted on Aug 8, 2010
Innovation, Experimentation, Accessibility and Inclusivity

This past week saw an exceptionally high number of interesting developments in the area of inclusive design and digital innovation. This post will outline some of those advancements, with perhaps one or two surprises:

Eyeball Tracking for Video Games

A story on the use of eyeball tracking to control video games garnered some interest among the gaming community. Think of it as the human eye being surrounded by a field of electrode activity; as sight direction changes, so too does the field surrounding. These signals are passed to a data controller that manipulates Nintendo objects. A YouTube video from Waterloo Labs describes the mechanism with a short demonstration.

Virtual Treatment for Real Phobias

E-learning giant Karl Kapp discusses the use of augmented reality to monitor and control phobias. In a recent study detailing subjects’ fear of cockroaches, Kapp reports how virtual applications help users come to grips with their fear:

In a process known as “Exposure Therapy,” researches are overwhelming people with virtual versions of their fears to help them overcome fear through increasing exposure to the item the person fears. Eventually, the person is taught to cope with the fear and the exposure to the stimuli helps them become more comfortable with the item they fear.

Accessibility vs. Inclusivity

Sandi Wassmer wrote an insightful piece for RNIB on the difference between accessibility and inclusivity. Wassmer remarks (quite correctly) that these two terms are often used interchangeably, and she points out that there is indeed a demarcation to be recognized as a core design principle:

I have been thinking a lot about architecture recently and particularly about my guru, Frank Lloyd Wright. He referred to what he did as organic architecture and wanted his buildings to be at one with nature, and the people who use them, to reside comfortably within their surroundings and to be part of the ebb and flow of life. Since people are all different, this would ultimately mean different things to different people.

Americans with Disabilities Act

Speaking of interchangeability, there are still people who confuse the intent of the Americans with Disabilities Act and efforts relating to web accessibility. Jared Smith of WebAIM has assembled a terrific rationale on the ADA’s applicability to websites, as well as our responsibility as digital designers to understand how policy impacts design.

Touchscreens and the Blind

Mobile continues to be a topic of increased attention. An article on UI Trends this week describes a touchscreen interface for people with visual impairments. Author Jeff Noble and web developer David Reynolds survey the features of the iPad, iPhone Touch and Android devices.

Robotics

If it’s robotics that gets people excited, a new robotic arm called RAPUDA (Robotic Arm for Persons with Upper-limb DisAbilities) has been manufactured by the Intelligent Systems Research Institute at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology. RAPUDA helps people with upper-limb disabilities life and move things on their own, even if seated in a wheelchair.

#a11y Link Roundup

The always-reliable WebAxe issued an excellent link roundup for July. There is no better resource for up-to-the-minute news on accessibility and Universal Design, all coming from the same mind who brought Accessible Twitter to the digital landscape.

Virtual Worlds and People with Disabilities

Regular readers of this space know that the use of virtual environments by people with disabilities remains an ongoing trend to observe. The Philadelphia Inquirer released an article reporting on residents of Inglis House who are using Second Life to connect and engage. It would have been nice to see the article endure a deeper dive into the benefit of virtual worlds: sense of identity, community involvement, displacement behavior and haptic/neurological benefit. It is also worth noting that all but two of the residents quit the program, citing difficulties in the interface. Would be interesting to suss out what improvements should be made increase adoption and sustainability.

Finally, an announcement: Anikto will be speaking at the Accessing Higher Ground 2010 conference in Boulder, CO this November. The confirmed date is Friday, November 19 at 10:30 AM. Looking forward to connecting with folks interested in discussing the role inclusivity plays in developing innovative digital experiences.