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Techshare - the afternoon

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Emma Emma | 22:14 UK time, Thursday, 17 September 2009

It is mid afternoon here at Techshare 2009and the conference is just getting into its stride. The main focus is on the relationship between mainstream kit and assistive technologies, encouraging the relevant people to work together from the outset to make everything as useable as possible for disabled people. Happily, this means that there is very little talk about specialised hardware, and a lot more about the stuff you can pick up from your local tech seller or mobile phone shop. On another positive note, with the increased scope for large amounts of memory, quicker broadband and the use of the internet for more and more activities including watching TV and using the phone, things appear to be on the up in terms of accessibility and usability.

I went to a session this morning where a lovely, passionate phone user with dyslexia, showed us how to get the most out of our handsets and how they can be really useful if you have a disability. He personally uses the calendar constantly to remind him of everything, he says that he wouldn't get from A to B at all if he didn't have GPS on his phone, and he uses a piece of software that he created, called Captura Talk, to take a picture of a page and get it read back to him. He spoke about the ups and downs of voice recognition and how unfortunately, it still only works for carrying out basic functions.

Something I absolutely did not know is that on-phone projectors are on the way. This means that you can project material from your phone on to any surface, creating as big a screen as you like. We will all have these apparently.

After lunch I caught the second half of a session regarding the popular virtual world, Second Life. I thought this would be mostly about its accessibility and while it was, a little bit, mostly the presenter pointed out that it isn't just used by a large number of disabled people, but that there are areas specifically developed by and for. These include Virtual Ability Island where the built environment is actually accessible, including wide doorways, ramps etc, and a rehab centre, set up to help patients explore areas which they might find difficult to deal with in real life. Kell Smith, the presenter, talked about avatars. You can create a wheelchair using avatar if you so wish, but also, as we have discussed on the talk show in the past, Second Life affords disabled people the opportunity to do things we would never be able to in real life. Your avatar could be able to fly if you wanted it to.

Finally, Kell spoke about how some people on the autistic spectrum use Second Life to take first steps into social interaction, which they wouldn't necessarily feel they could do in the real world.

Obviously there are worries and issues around anonymity, and over-use of the virtual world, with possible negative impact on real socialisation, but all in all, something to think about. Should Ouch! Have a presence on Second Life?

The conference continues, so I'll write more tomorrow. Catch you then!

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Interesting! I've been a part of Second Life for several years now and it has huge positive opportunities for disabled people.. as mentioned Virtual Ability helps to facilitate the entry of new people with disabilities into the world and there are many other special interest groups for people with specific needs. It is of course important to balance the online world with real life social interactions, but just in the same way as any online community or forum. Apart from the obvious opportunities to move about in an unhindered manner and to socialise with people, I have found it a really creative outlet too - building new objects and virtual products and revelling in the positive feedback that I get from other people who appreciate the items I've made! It would be great to see Ouch! in world with a center for groups to meet and some information.

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