2004 Conference Proceedings

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AN ACCESSIBLE PERSONAL ASSISTANT FOR THE BLIND

Presenters
Yvan LagacÚ, VP Sales and marketing,
VisuAide
841, Jean - Paul - Vincent
Longueuil, Quebec, Canada
Email: yvanl@visuaide.com

VisuAide is the leading innovation firm in providing high-tech solutions for the blind and visually impaired. VisuAide is the world leader in digital audio book solutions for the print disabled. It develops and manufactures the Victor Reader line of hardware and software audio players. VisuAide is also the leader in the adaptation of software products for French-speaking countries and is the largest distributor of computer aids for the visually disabled in Canada.

Personal Digital Assistants (PDA) are becoming a very popular product solution as personal agenda, data organizer and communication device. Among the most popular aspects of a PDA are its pocket size, its networking and wireless communication capability, a platform able to run third parties applications and an interesting processing capacity. We have also seen a major reduction in price that makes them affordable to a large number of people. For these reasons, VisuAide identified this off-the shelf product as an ideal platform candidate for the next product suite generation.

At CSUN 2002, VisuAide introduced the first of a new generation of products based on an off-the shelf PDA: The Victor Trekker. This state of the art product is a GPS-based orientation and mobility product for the blind and visually impaired.

This year, VisuAide has developed a suite of very accessible applications that will make available not only the basic functions of a PDA (agenda, address book, vocal note taking) but also will allow users to run a huge diversity of applications such as playing Daisy talking books or web browsing to access public information.

VisuAide accessible PDA take advantage of the availability of wireless communication networks such as Bluetooth to produce a cableless modular system that can be operated with or without an external keyboard (Braille or Standard) depending on the users preference and the tasks to be done.

The main characteristic of an off-the shelf PDA is its touch screen centric interface which remains inaccessible to blind and visually impaired until today. VisuAide faced two major challenges: delivering fully accessible applications and creating a physical adapted interface easy to manipulate and compatible with what the users know in a PC environment. During the development of this new and exciting product, VisuAide conducted several focus groups with blind users. By doing this, we have been able to improve our user interface. The presentation will discuss the result of these observations and how it influenced our product design.

VisuAide's accessible PDA objective is to provide the users with a low cost and highly portable mobile computing solution. By doing so VisuAide wants to make the technology aids more available to a larger number of blind and visually impaired. That will also increase their accessibility and enjoyment of the most useful and interesting opportunities found in their environment.

The main features of the VisuAide's accessible PDA are:

VisuAide will be please to share with you all the feedback and results provided by users as of January 2004.


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