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Technology is a promising window of opportunity to people with disabilities and those who learn and assimilate information in a variety of ways. However, all too often, technology is created without regard to these people, and thus it becomes a barrier rather than an opportunity. Acessibility means excellent usability. For example, a telephone is quite universally accessible. It is inexpensive for a user, so the poor can use it. It is usable. Think of something that is the most usable of all technologies. Think of something that is the most universally accessible. If you can think of what these things are, you know how to make a piece of technology mostly accessible. A telephone is very accessible for a poor person. It is simple and straightforward. Matched with an automated telephone system enough to present selections broken into simple menus and speech feedback, it is very accessible to the blind. However, it is not accessible to the deaf. But combine this with a visual feedback such as a calculator has, a deaf person could use it. Calculators are cheap, and the screens would be sufficient for the feedback of an automated telephone system. But wait, how would a mobility impaired person acccess this little device. A speech recognition piece of software could work for recognizing short commands, especially considering that this is already employed in many telephone systems. People with mental disabilities would appreciate the simpliciy, and so would everyone else for that matter. Therefore the benefites of universally accessible technolgy end up yielding their greatest rewards to the normal user.

The classic example of an AssistiveTechnology that has improved everyone's life is the "curb cuts" in the sidewalk at crossings. While these curb cuts surely enable mobility impaired pedestrians to cross the street, they have also aided parents with carriages and strollers, shoppers with carts, travellers and workers with pull-type bags in doing the same activity. Good accessible design is universal design.

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Last edited January 23, 2001 5:12 am by RoseParks (diff)