Working Together: People with Disabilities and Computer Technology

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[Dan] The computer is a vital tool for education and employment. There's really nothing that does the variety of tasks that the computer can do. But it's not perfect.
[Narrator] That's because not everyone can use the standard computer. And that's where adaptive technology comes in.
[Computer] DO-IT 1999 summer study... With a little extra hardware or software, computers and the Internet can be accessible to people with a wide range of abilities and disabilities. Adaptive technology delivers a big payoff for a relatively small investment.
[Dan C.] The cost of adaptive technology really is quite small. Particularly when you look at the impact that that can have for a person able to do their job more effectively, more efficiently.
[Narrator] Adaptive technology addresses the challenges imposed by specific disabilities. For example, low vision. 25 00:01:33,176 --> 00:01:37,015 [Nate] I use a screen enlarger, which allows me to see everything on the computer screen that a normal person would see with regular type on the computer.
[Nhi] I have a computer that has large screen and I also have a voice output which reads what's on the screen. When I use my computer and using the Internet, I could research for a term paper easily and faster. I could look up in the encyclopedia and have the computer read a subject on screen for me instead of using the encyclopedia book, which would take me a long, long time.
[Narrator] For someone who is sensitive to light, software can reverse the screen from dark on light to light on dark. 39 00:02:31,046 --> 00:02:33,985 [Narrator] Large print key-top labels may also be useful for people with visual impairments, especially if they're just learning to type. 42 00:02:46,556 --> 00:02:48,585 [Narrator] The most common adaptation for people who are blind is speech output.
[Computer] A powerful storm crawled across the southeast today, bringing icy rain and snow to a region still reeling from the wintry blast...
[Justin] Really, it helps me out a lot on the Internet; I have voice output that reads everything that comes up on the screen, on the computer screen; so I'm able to access anything that I want to on the computer, and it's really helped me out a lot.
[Wesley] Well, I'm kind of a computer junkie; but the aspect of computers that I really like is this whole Internet bit. Because it opens so many doors. And then the e-mail, too.
[Narrator] A scanner combined with speech output allows people who are blind to read printed materials. Other adaptations include Braille displays and Braille printouts. 60 00:03:32,656 --> 00:03:33,755 Some are portable.
[Justin] I can check the time. I'll turn the speech on, so you can tell that I'm checking.....
[Computer] Speech on.
[Justin] I'll go ahead and....
[Computer] Option.
[Justin] ....and then "T" for time.
[Computer] Twelve fifty-eight P.M.
[Justin] It has a Braille display down here, and anything that I type in here on the Braille keyboard comes up in Braille on the display, and I'm able to read anything, you know, that comes up; and I can type all my notes into it and print it out for my teachers to see in college or whatever. 76 00:04:12,046 --> 00:04:14,145 [Narrator] People with speech or hearing impairments can use their computers to communicate with friends, teachers, or co-workers.
[Katie] I really like using the Internet because it's easier to communicate with people rather than using the telephone. I can read it instead of listening, and it's easier for me to read it than to hear.
[Jessie] Yeah, the Internet is helpful, it allows me to communicate more easily, because of my voice. It allows me to say more and express myself more easily.
[Anthony] How are we playing this again? How are we playing this again?
[Professor] There are places you could land where you're on blue, and you're more conspicuous.
[Narrator] People who can't speak can use communication devices to participate in group discussions and one-on-one interactions.
[Anthony] It's like our army men wearing their clothes.
[Professor] That's exactly right...
[Narrator] Those who can't hear require visual alternatives to sound output.
[Buffy] When the computer speaks, they have ways of captioning that. 107 00:05:33,146 --> 00:05:35,635 [Lloyd] The computer system I use uses visual output, rather than sound output, which means instead of making a chime or a ring, it blinks the screen. 111 00:05:51,226 --> 00:05:52,785 [Narrator] People with learning disabilities can use a variety of software to help with reading and with writing papers. Adaptive technology ranges from spell check and grammar check to speech input and output.
[Computer] Missed a survey? Download the correct day from our 1999 DO-IT Snapshots.
[Patrick] Schoolwork, it helps me 'cause when me and my mom, like, try to work to do it, we usually fight, and so it usually ends up being a bad consequence. So if I can do it on my own, it's way better.
[Computer] Washington Phase Two schedule, August 7 to 13.
[Joshua] I've basically just used standard word processors with a grammar checker and a spell checker, and dictionaries on the computer. Just using the word processor alone reduces the amount of time that it takes to write things.
[Crystal] I have a voice box that it will read it to me, so I understand what I'm reading...
[Computer] Was Helen Keller the first deaf-blind person in the United States to be educated? And then when I have to, like, read books, I just scan those so they can read the books to me so I don't have to spend two hours reading one page or something.
[David Benedict] The things that I've found really helpful have been speech-to-text programs, you know, you talk to your computer and it writes.
[Person working] The University of Washington released the most comprehensive examination... I've written papers at college in a quarter of the time that it would have taken me to type them by hand. With speech-to-text, I just say the word and it shows up on the screen.
[Person working] New paragraph. 147 00:07:39,116 --> 00:07:41,055 [Narrator] People with mobility impairments have a wide range of adaptive technology options. For some, flexibility in the positioning of table tops, monitors, and keyboards is helpful.
[Mitch] I had Dan make a special keyboard holder to hold my keyboard in a vertical position so I could use both hands to type and we also turned my monitor on its side.
[Rodney] I use a mouthpiece that I type with. I can do at least 30 words per minute when the words are going from my head to the keyboard. I like to write lots of things, and were it not for computers and word processing and spell checking and things like that, it would take me ages.
[Erofei] I have a track ball which I roll around, and I use sticky Keys, like, to hold down "control" and "shift." The computer helps me type reports better, and it's easier on my arm. I don't have to wear my prosthetic.
[Jeffrey] One thing that I use is a keyboard where the keys are enlarged and there's more space between, because when I hit keys on the regular keyboard, I get double letters. 170 00:09:08,056 --> 00:09:09,635 [Narrator] For people who need to type with only one hand, left- and right-handed keyboards are available. You could also use an on-screen keyboard with a head pointer or a mouth stick for hands-free computer control. Word prediction software can increase speed and accuracy.
[Buddy] I have an on-screen keyboard, and it also has word prediction, to where I throw in a letter, like let's say I throw in a T, and like five words that start with T will pop up, the most common ones that I use. They'll pop up and I'll click on it and it'll just print it up. I got fairly fast.
[Narrator] Some people may choose to bypass the keyboard by using Morse code. A sip-and-puff switch registers dot with a sip and dash with a puff. Special hardware and software translate Morse code into a form that computers understand.
[Oscar] I'm a junior this year...
[Narrator] Other people may choose a voice-activated system to replace the keyboard.
[Oscar] I use a program that helps me type, whatever I say, it types. I talk into the microphone and it types it out on the computer screen. Makes me feel a lot more independent, and don't have to rely on somebody for so much, and I can do it myself. 202 00:10:36,086 --> 00:10:37,245 [Narrator] The Internet can be accessed from almost any location, at any time that a person wants to use it. This is a real benefit for people with health impairments.
[Nadira] I think that computers can help hospitalized kids. When I was in the hospital for Like, one month, I talked to other kids and I could, like, socialize with them and people sent me mails...greeting mails to get well.
[Mitch] In the past year I've... I lived in the hospital, and an Internet connection there allowed me to communicate with teachers so I could attempt to keep up on studies.
[Megan] I think the Internet would be helpful for people with disabilities that have to be home-schooled or stay home a lot, because it gives them access to resources and communication between the schools and the teachers, and access to people with disabilities like themselves. 219 00:11:47,086 --> 00:11:48,565 [Narrator] For anyone with a disability, adaptive computer technology is a vital link to success in school and in work.
[Buddy] It's more fun, I mean, I've had people try to type for me, and you know, it's just no fun trying to tell someone else what to write. Like I took a poetry class, and I felt weird trying to tell some friends or my aide what I'm thinking and what I'm trying to put on paper.
[Nhi] I like using my computer because it help me to be independent.
[Hollis] It lets me express my ideas.
[Shem] I virtually live on computers. On the computer, people are more on an even keel. On the electronic field, we're all equal.