Innovations for People with Disabilities in the Workplace
Gayle Yarnall doesn't consider herself a gadget freak, but you won't find her at a business meeting without her Voice Mate.
Unless you're blind, like Yarnall, you probably don't use a Voice Mate, a voice-operated personal digital assistant that lets users record and retrieve names, addresses and memos with voice commands. “Everybody's using them,” says Yarnall, president of
Growing List of Assistive Products
As many consumers buy the latest gadgets, like slick MP3 players and iPhones, workers with disabilities are finding new and innovative assistive technology to accomplish tasks others take for granted, whether answering phone calls from coworkers or reading office memos.
Online stores, such as
Products come from both startups and established players. IBM, for instance, offers Home Page Reader, special software to read and navigate Web pages for those who are blind or visually impaired. Motorola's pager products, such as the Timeport P935 and the Talkabout T900 -- mainstream gadgets for business and consumer use -- allow individuals with hearing impairments to communicate with colleagues when they're on the road. A small Pittsburgh firm,
One worker began using the software after having a tracheotomy operation. “The job was a lot of data entry into the computer,” says Jaime Oliva, a partner in Consultants for Communication Technology. “Occasionally, she had to speak to other people.” KeyWi2 offered a way to communicate with coworkers or take phone calls.
Here is a sampling of technologies being used today to assist the workers with disabilities:
Those with spinal cord injuries, ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) and other disabilities often don't have the ability to control a mouse or other pointing device.
The halfkeyboard, a hand-sized keyboard developed by
Signing for the Screen
Voice Mate is an organizer, but one that's activated by an individual's voice. It is essentially a talking organizer, providing a phonebook, voice notepad, appointment book, alarm clock and calculator. Need a phone number? Just speak the person's name, and Voice Mate will speak the number for you. Voice Mate will even send touch-tone signals to a phone to dial the number.