1999 Conference Proceedings

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HOW TECSO HELPS PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES AND THE ELDERLY INTEGRATE INTO SOCIETY WITH THE HELP OF TECHNOLOGY

François Lapointe
Patrick Chassé
Philippe Mabilleau
Judith Proulx
Joëlle Carignan

TECSO Inc.
1575 Chomedey Blvd. Suite 100
Laval, Quebec
Canada H7V 2X2
http://www.tecso.qc.ca/

1. WHO IS TECSO?

TECSO is a Quebec-based research and development company specializing in New Information and Communication Technologies (NICT) for individuals with disabilities and older persons. TECSO's goal is to develop technologically advanced solutions to improve the quality of life and increase social integration of persons with special needs. To do so, we need to resolve a number of problems with several complementory approaches. This explains our projects are founded on a multidisciplinary and multi-intervention perspective.

TECSO is conducting research and development in the following areas: the development of technical aids and tools designed to address the needs of a specific clientele; the evaluation of products and services on the basis of usability; and the development of services and aids incorporating technological advances that are aimed at the general public, and which must therefore be available to all.

TECSO's main clients include companies, institutions and organizations that wish to ensure the accessibility of their products. These clients also wish to further integrate their personnel into the workplace while striving for greater productivity.

2. SPECIFIC EXAMPLES OF PROJECTS

2.1 A CD-ROM : TELEWORK AND DISABILITIES. A PLANNED SOLUTION.

TECSO is in the process of developing a CD-ROM on telework, presented as a means to adapt the working conditions to the needs of employees with a disability. Aimed at managers and employees interested in telework, this decision-making tool provides an overview of the essential principles of telework and, more specifically, deals with aspects concerning people with disabilities, in a job-retention perspective.

This CD-ROM has been developed using results of the JOB-ACCESS research, previously conducted by TECSO, targeting telework as a job-retention strategy for employees with disabilities. This three years research project has allowed TECSO to conclude that telework is a viable option when the employer, employee and colleagues adapt well to a less supervised presence in the office. Generally speaking, the social and professional integration of persons with disabilities must be the main consideration when turning to such tools of work adaptation as telework. However, the research shows that, within a global approach, telework should be considered as a means to work adaptation for persons with special needs.

This being said, how do we plan, implement and manage such a "global approach"? And what do we mean by a global approach anyway? The idea of using the communication power of interactive information tools comes from the necessity to find answers to those questions.

The CD-ROM proposes solutions to implement and manage telework according to the specific needs, constraints and capabilities of both the employer and the employee. It offers general information, decision-making criterias, technical advices as well as numerous hints and tips on implementing and managing a telework situation. Concrete examples, testimonials of people who actually are experimenting telework, and links to relevant Web sites all contribute to provide a grounded and useful information.

We believe an information tool like this one, will provide concrete solutions to make organizations and work conditions more flexible, and may contribute to open doors to people with disabilities on the job market.

2.2 TOWARDS THE STANDARDIZATION OF FRENCH CLOSE CAPTIONING

In Canada, closed captioning in French is well behind such captioning in English. The production of French captions are based on standards that have not been validated by the closed captioning industry. The implementation of standards that have been validated by the industry and Deaf and Hard of hearing consumers will greatly improve the quality of televised information, not only for the Deaf and Hard of hearing community, but for many groups of consumers including: persons and children learning how to read and write French, and immigrants learning French as a second language.

Under the terms of the project, research was carried out to validate stylistic and technical standards for French closed captioning. Bringing together a number of collaborators, this project was unique in that at each stage its results were validated by users who stand to benefit from captioning.

The project consisted of three phases:

2.3 AudioWin: A NEW APPROACH IN GUI NAVIGATION FOR NON-SIGHTED USERS

AudioWin is a sound driven layer which can be used with a screen reader in Windows(R) 98. As the user navigates with keyboard commands, AudioWin generates metaphorical sounds according to the object the user is on. Events, such as a menu opening or a dialog box closing, are also translated by specific sounds. Combined with the speech of the screen reader which indicates the name of the object, the sounds give the user the second essential information which is the type of the object (e.g. an icon, a menu header, an hyperlink, etc.). Receiving both information simultaneously, the user can navigate and make decisions more quickly. AudioWin comes with two configurable high quality sound banks : WAV and MIDI.

Another useful feature in AudioWin is the context sensitive help. This gives the user some textual information on the selected object in the Windows(R) 98 environment. For example, if the user is on a folder object in Windows Explorer, and invokes the context sensitive help, AudioWin will generate a pop up window that will give specific information on that object: what actions can be taken to act on this object and keyboard commands available. This pop up window is then read by the user's screen reader.

Having AudioWin running with a screen reader, blind users can now learn some of the concepts of the Windows(R) 98 interface while they are working.

2.4 Listening to Windows(R) 95: AN INNOVATIVE AND INTERACTIVE TRAINING TOOL TO HELP PEOPLE WITH VISUAL IMPAIREMENTS LEARN WINDOWS(R) 95

TECSO, in collaboration with the American Printing House for the Blind (APH), has developed an innovative and interactive training kit to help blind and partially sighted individuals become familiar with and learn how to use Windows(R) 95.

The interactive tools developed provide complete information in various modes such as audio and tactile. It is composed of a computer-based interactive tutorial on CD-ROM, titled " Listening to Windows(R) 95 ", as well as a series of complementary training tools: a tactile guide illustrating the Windows screens in relief which are refered to within the tutorial, and a manual in braille, large print, electronic and audio version in which is contain a list of the Windows(R) 95 keyboard shortcuts.

The tutorial consists of a narrative voice that teaches the user through an alternance of theorical content and exercises in the real Windows environment. From a main menu, the user select topics such as: Basic Windows concepts, Windows Explorer, WordPad, Windows Help, Configuring your System, and the Internet. After selecting a topic, another menu is presented to the user in order to select a particular lesson. After completion of a module, a quiz is presented to consolidate the user's new learnings.

To reinforce the visual concepts of Windows(R) 95, the tutorial refers to the tactile guide. This tactile guide gives different feelable representations of different Windows screens. From those, the blind user builds a mental image of what the Windows(R) 95 environment looks like.

" Listening to Windows(R) 95 " is compatible with most screen readers and with screen-enlargement programs. It offers an easy-to-use interface for navigating through exercises and lessons. For partially-sighted users, " Listening to Windows(R) 95 " gives the opportunity to configure colors to enhance contrast. Other smart commands such as the context sensitive help, fast rewind and fast forward are also available.

This training kit will provide users with: greater familiarity with graphical environments, access to a larger segment of the labour market, better sharing of on-screen information with sighted colleagues who use the same graphical applications, and enhanced capability for training and self-training.


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