Advancing an accessible future

Tecla Shield 3, School of Disability Studies, Ryerson University, accessibility, accessible technology, smartphones, smart home technology, Deborah Fels, Paralympic GamesThe Rio 2016 Paralympic Games have been making headlines this week with athletes setting new records and viewership hitting near-historic highs. While the Paralympians gear up for the final stretch—including some from our own Ontario universities—researchers at the School of Disability Studies at Ryerson continue to make important innovations in the education and research of accessibility.

Such innovation has included the reinvention of the standards of biomechatronics to rehabilitate people with impaired mobility by Bionik Labs; Zagga Entertainment’s video-on-demand service enabling those with vision loss to stream popular movies and TV shows with described video; and multiple augmented seating devices for children with special needs.

Deborah Fels, researcher and director of Ryerson’s Inclusive Media & Design Centre, has been testing a device that makes smart home technology accessible to people with upper mobility impairments. Smart home technology allows individuals to control aspects of their home such as lighting, heating/cooling, and security systems using their smartphones or tablets. However, this type of technology has been largely inaccessible to those with upper mobility impairments, who may only be able to control their environments with a single switch.

The Tecla Shield 3, originally developed by Komodo OpenLab at OCAD University’s Inclusive Design Institute, works with assistive switches ranging from buttons, sip-and-puff controllers, head arrays, joysticks, and wheelchair driving controls. These switches all open up the touchscreen interface to those who would otherwise be unable to use them (those experiencing limitations as a result of spine or brain injuries, stroke, or diseases such as MS and muscular dystrophy), but would largely benefit from smart home technology.

Through the Tecla Shield 3, individuals also gain full access to their smartphones, providing them the ability to communicate independently on their devices. The tool is invaluable in helping those with upper mobility issues live a more independent lifestyle and create accessible environments in both the workplace and the home.

Tagged: Health & Wellbeing, Technology

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