by

Radhika Panjwani Mississauga News – Ontario, Canada Nov 9, 2006

The digital world has not kept pace with the needs of the disabled, and some
Mississauga advocates are calling on the technology giants to catch up.

Yesterday in Brampton, at the Region of Peel’s 3rd annual Day of the
Disabled Person, many in attendance said that today’s fast-paced society is
passing them by.

Visually-impaired Rabia Khedr said assistive technology for the disabled is
outdated and expensive, which makes it frustrating for users such as
herself. For instance, she said, the computer software she uses to help her
read, although useful, has limitations.

Khedr wants big companies such as Microsoft to remember people like her.

“Technology that is there to enhance access is usually behind the times,”
Khedr said. “It (assistive technology) is always trying to catch up. We need
accessibility in the age of information technology. It is built-in to a
degree, but it is not enough.”

A recent survey by the Canadian Association of Independent Living Centres
(CAILC), an organization that supports the disabled, revealed more than
369,000 people with disabilities in Canada use or require augmentative and
alternative communication systems, such as larger computer screens, special
keyboards, voice recognition software and other systems. However, finding
money to buy the technology is also a huge roadblock.

The survey revealed that, unlike other forms of technologies such as
personal computers, the cost of assistive devices and software is
prohibitive.

Jutta Treviranus, director of the Adaptive Technology Research Centre at the
University of Toronto and yesterday’s keynote speaker, said software
companies and other digital stakeholders must address issues of
E-accessibility at the onset of creating their software or product. They
must take into account the needs of the disabled.

She suggested companies develop more technology that is useful for all
segments of society.

Treviranus pointed to the introduction of closed captioning on television as
an example. She said it was originally developed to assist those with
hearing impairments, but is now found to be useful in noisy bars and fitness
centres as well. Treviranus believes if hi-tech industries can be innovative
in this way, the results could be commercially viable and, at the same time,
benefit everyone.

You can reach Radhika Panjwani at rpanjwani@mississauga.net.


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