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 Telecommunication Access. The update will provide briefings on recently completed projects, including: features to make cell phones more usable for people with cognitive disabilities and with low vision, techniques for adding voice access to phones, TTY and evolution of deaf telecommunication, a prototype voice, text, and vision phone program, and implementation of phone reference designs. These projects were done as part of the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Telecommunication Access, where the Trace Center is in partnership with Gallaudet University's Technology Assessment Project.

Cognitive Access Cell Phone Features

This project is based on a proof-of-concept for a feature which could be built into standard cellular phones which would make them more usable for individuals with cognitive disabilities. Two modes of operation were provided. With the first mode, a phone number and special locking code can be entered into the phone. Thereafter, each time the phone is opened, it would automatically dial that phone number. This can be programmed on the spot and given to a babysitter or a grandparent, so that they would be able to use the phone to call a parent instantly, without instruction and even during an emergency, when they might not otherwise be able to remember how to use the cell phone. If given to someone on a permanent basis, a photo of the person being called could be attached to the inside screen, so that the person's face was visible when the phone was opened up.

The second mode is similar to the first, except that four pictures are presented when the phone is opened. The individual can select any of the four, and that person will be called. The same phone can operate in both modes, so the individual can be introduced using the first technique and then graduate to the second.

A study to determine how low an MMSE Cognitive Score a person could have and still successfully use the phone is currently underway, and will be completed by the CSUN conference.

phone with 4 pictures.  Selecting a picture causes that number to be dialed.
Cell Phone Feature for Low Vision Access

Figure 1: Cell phone with 4 pictures. Selecting a picture causes that number to be dialed. Cell Phone Feature for Low Vision Access

Another proof-of-concept project was carried out for a feature that could be added to standard phones to allow individuals with low vision to be able to access them. This project focused on the problem faced by people with low vision in reading the small print on phone controls. For example, it is difficult to read the letters on the keys as needed to dial a phone number like "1-800-CARPETS."

With the ButtonHelp technique, individuals are able to hold down a "ButtonHelp" key. When any other key is pressed (either simultaneously or sequentially) the label on the key is displayed in large print on the phone's display. , Two modes of operation are provided. In the first, the operation of the phone is suspended while the ButtonHelp key is depressed. In the second, operation of the phone is delayed. Pressing the key for a short period of time will cause the labels to be displayed. Holding the key down for an extended (user adjustable) period of time causes the number to be displayed and then activated.

Cell phone with Low Vision feature activated showing the label of a pressed key in large print on the screen.

Figure 2: Cell phone with Low Vision feature activated showing the label of a pressed key in large print on the screen.

Integrated Voice Access to Cell Phones

The third proof of concept is focused on identifying very natural ways that voice access can be added to standard cellular phones. Rather than acting as a special program, this voice function would be integrated in such a fashion that it would be present in the phone for all users. It would allow access by individuals who are blind, but also allow eyes-free use of the phone for individuals who are driving, individuals who have difficulty reading, individuals who have left their reading glasses behind, etc.

One of the features would operate in a manner similar to the button help above, except that in addition to displaying the key label in large print the phone would also announce it aloud. The feature would also provide full access to all of the menus as well as the battery status, roaming status, signal level, etc.

TTY and Evolution of Deaf Telecommunication

The Center is working on three projects around the way that telecommunication options are evolving for individuals who are deaf.

One project is looking at the ways individuals who are deaf can communicate over internet-like (IP) networks. A "T-Hybrid" approach has been developed which allows a number of different strategies to be used together to transport TTY signals over IP networks. It also allows individuals to communicate between such things as instant messaging services and TTY users.

A related project is looking at coordinated international "any-to-any" activities. These activities are focused on allowing any individuals who are deaf to communicate between any two text communication technologies. This includes communicating between mainstream text technologies and deaf text technologies as well as allowing communication between the different deaf text technologies in different countries. Australia has had an "any-to-any" initiative for some time now. There have also been initiatives in Europe and the United States. The objective of a consortium in this area would be to allow these various efforts to work together, capitalizing on advances and ensuring intercompatibility.

PC Multimedia Phone Program

Another development is a prototype voice, text and vision phone program for PCs. This program allows individuals to make telephone calls between any two PCs using Voice over IP (VoIP) technologies. The program, however, goes beyond just VoIP; it also provides support for T140 text communication and for video communication. The result is that individuals who are deaf can communicate in speech, sign language, or text in one or both directions. The program is also usable by individuals with other disabilities, including speech or cognitive disabilities, where video or text alternatives would be useful additions to speech in making telephone calls. A demonstration of the free client under development will be given.

Reference Design Phone

A key effort at the Trace Center is the development of reference designs that show ways of providing cross-disability accessibility. The goal is to provide models that can be used by industry for exploring these ideas and for finding ideas for incorporation into their phones.

At the present time, Trace is working on two such reference design implementations; one is on a cell phone and one is on a Voice over IP business phone.

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