2004 Conference Proceedings

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Gregg Vanderheiden
Trace R&D Center
2107 Engineering Centers Bldg., 1550 Engineering Drive
Madison, WI 53706-1609
Phone: (608) 262-6966
Fax: (608) 262-8454
Email: gv@trace.wisc.edu

This is an update on the Trace Center's projects in Information Technology Access. The update will provide briefings on six projects from our recently completed Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Information Technology Access, and a preview of projects from our new RERC. Projects include a new cross-disability access interface for kiosks, ATMs, airport terminals and other public places; a new tool for the analysis of web content by a new free downloadable tool for the analysis of web content for people with photosensitive epilepsy; a ShowCaptions strategy for operating systems to enhance accessibility by individuals who are deaf; latest prototyping update on the universal remote console work; a new SerialKeys to USB adaptor to facilitate the migration to USB for better AT-IT interoperability; and a natural, more seamless cross-disability voting strategy.

Cross-disability Access for Public Information Terminals

During the past year, the Center has made an exciting new advance in our work on access to public information terminals. This involves a modification of the techniques referred to as EZ Access® so as to make it easier and more straightforward - especially for individuals not familiar with the content of the system, and for individuals with cognitive disabilities. The Center is working to apply these techniques in the automated postal systems for nation-wide deployment by the US Postal Service, and in cross-disability information and paging systems for airports.

A Downloadable Epilepsy Tool

Working with Dr. Graham Harding and Cambridge Research Systems, the Trace Center has developed a free downloadable tool for evaluating web and computer content. This tool will detect flash and pattern events which can be provocative to individuals with photosensitive epilepsy. The presentation will include a demonstration of the tool as well as the theory behind it and how people can download a free copy for their own use.

ShowCaptions (ShowSounds 3)

Since the early 90s, the Trace Center has been promoting the use of special modifications to computer operating systems to enhance their accessibility by individuals who are hard of hearing or deaf. In 1990, Trace developed AccessDOS and licensed it to IBM for use in their PC DOS. This contained the first ShowSounds feature, which monitored the speaker for activity and provided indicators to the user who was deaf. This feature was later licensed to Microsoft, who used it with MS DOS. With the advent of Windows 95, Microsoft implemented the Trace Center's ShowSounds 2 concept, which was a system level flag that applications could use to provide captioning and visual equivalent to any auditory events. At this time, the original ShowSounds was renamed SoundSentry. A new ShowSounds, which we are dubbing ShowCaptions, has now been purposed to make it easier for application developers to add captions and to provide captions to some non-aware applications that would otherwise not provide any clues to individuals who are deaf.


In the 1980s, the Trace Center developed a standard for allowing communication aids and special interfaces to be able to communicate with emulators which could simulate keyboard and mouse input to computers. This provided users for the first time with a standard cross-platform and cross-AT method for allowing access to standard computers and software programs without modification. A program which utilized the GIDEI (General Input Device Emulating Interface) standard was developed and included in the AccessDOS package created for IBM. This program, called SerialKeys, has also been built into every copy of Windows since Windows 95, and a version of SerialKeys has also been made available for the Macintosh. Since that time, however, the universal serial bus (USB) was developed and is now used as a standard across hardware platforms and software operating systems. The key role that was played by SerialKeys all these years can now be better met by having the AT industry move from the SerialPort/SerialKeys solution to the USB capability on their assistive technologies. However, this move could leave behind those people with current and legacy AT. The Trace Center therefore developed the GIDEI to USB Program to create a special adaptor, which has been dubbed "GIDEI-UP." The adaptor will allow any current or legacy AT with a serial port to be able to use their old SerialKeys approach to emulate a standard USB keyboard and mouse. The AT can then be plugged into any standard computer which uses a USB and look like a standard mouse and keyboard. Testing has already been carried out on Windows and Macintosh computers. Testing is proceeding with other computers and operating systems. We are working with the Communication Enhancement RERC, ATIA and major AT, computer and OS companies to facilitate the migration from SerialKeys to USB and to disseminate the GIDEI-UP.

Universal Remote Console Prototyping

The Trace Center continues the work it began in the 1990s on the development of Universal Remote Console protocols. These protocols, if adopted by mainstream technology, would allow individuals to use assistive technologies to control the common appliances and other devices in their environments. In the late 90s, this work moved into the International Committee for Information Technology Standards, and a draft standard has now been developed. (See separate presentation at this conference related to the V2 standard.) In addition to work on the standard, the Trace Center has also been developing prototype implementations of the standard, including one that allows control of products by talking to them. We have also joined with Carnegie Melon University on the development of advanced voice control universal remote consoles.

Cross-Disability "Natural" Voting

Spurred by the voting accessibility legislation (HAVA), a wide variety of different strategies for accessible voting have recently become available. Most of these take the form of a standard method for voting augmented by a special method for individuals who have disabilities. Many of the special methods specifically target individuals who are blind. The Trace Center has been working since 1998 on a natural cross-disability method that would allow individuals who have disabilities to be able to vote in the same manner as individual who did not have disabilities. Originally, we had focused on trying to have a single voting device which would be usable by individuals with all types and degrees of disability. However, in trying to optimize the interface for individuals with cognitive disabilities and those who are older, we made an interesting discovery. This has led to our new hybrid approach. All individuals can still vote on the same machine in the same way, and thus their votes would be tabulated right along with everyone else's - there would be no need for people to use special machines. However, by using a split hybrid interface approach, we have made the voting accessible to a much broader range of individuals, while also making it much simpler to use for individuals who are older or those who have cognitive and/or reading disabilities.

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