Centre for Inclusive Technology (CFIT) Suggested Student Projects in Inclusive Design of Digital Technologies & Media
Mobile phone application for giving a blind person information about products based on barcodes and/or labels
Blind people have difficulties identifying and accessing key information about packaged products such as groceries or DVDs. All of these have barcodes that can be read by the camera on a mobile phone. There are already mobile apps available that can read a barcode and look up shopping websites to tell you where you can buy the product cheapest. What would be useful for blind people would be an app that could help the person to locate the barcode on a package and position the camera for reading it, read the barcode and allow the person to associate information with it, so that the next time the bar code is read, the information is available to them. This information could include voice recordings, text entered by the user or product details retrieved from barcode databases on the internet. It could have a system for filtering or classifying information. For example, you would be able to tell it that for food items, you are only interested in allergy advice and cooking instructions. It could be extended to associating the information with sticky labels that could be placed on miscellaneous items. For example, a blind farmer told NCBI he would like to stick phone-readable labels on the collars of his goats to make it easier to identify individual animals and assign them to the correct stalls, which would also be labelled.
Tactile/visual smoke detector interface
People who are deaf or hard of hearing cannot hear a smoke alarm and may fail to see a visual alarm (e.g. a flashing light) if they are not in the room or if they are asleep. Design a hardware/software solution that detects the smoke alarm (either by being directly wired into it or by detecting its emitted signal) and then transmits this to a handheld device that can vibrate and/or show a visual warning. A mobile phone would be ideal because people usually carry them around all the time. A further extension would be to interfaces with a self-designed or third party bed or pillow vibrator.
Chart plotting application for blind sailors
A blind sailor wrote to NCBI: “Last week I went to the UK to sail in blind week, an annual event. There were forty vision impaired sailors on twenty boats. We can helm boats because there is an audible compass. It bleeps a high pitch sound if you deviate to port and a low pitched sound for starboard. It is easy to use and you get used to it after a while. What we cannot do is plot courses. Paper charts are no good as we cannot read them. The other navigation system is chart plotters, a small screen and no sound. Because we cannot use charts we cannot navigate at sea thus taking away a large part of the fun of sailing. As a sighted person I loved chart plotting and feel I am not a complete sailor unless I can plot a course. This was echoed by those I talked to. Blind Sailing is an international organisation crying out for someone to devise an audible chart plotting system, which obviously has to be on the nose accurate or we could all be literally lost at sea. This is not a small group of people but a large number who continue to sail and want to learn to sail. I hope this is of interest to students”.
A social networking site giving a voice to people with disabilities in Ireland
Create a website for people with disabilities to share information, discuss issues of common concern and plan lobbying and disability awareness-raising actions. This will involve first finding out from a range of people with disabilities how they currently do these things and deciding what social media features would support them in a better way. This should include specific supports for creating online awareness-raising or lobbying campaigns targeted at government, businesses and media. The project should address sustainability by including a roadmap for future management and development of the site by its users (or a core of key users). It will be necessary to consider how the site can gain traction with a critical mass of users and what roles, resources and efforts will be required from a core team of people with disabilities to manage it as a successful resource into the future. The site and all its tools must be fully accessible to people with disabilities and compatible with assistive technologies such as screen readers and screen magnifiers and the project should involve user testing with the target group.
A social networking site for older people in Ireland
Create a website for older people to share information and discuss issues of shared concern. This will involve first finding out from a range of older people what needs they have for social integration that can be supported by social media. The design will take into account the technologies that are used by older people and their patterns of use which may be different from a general, particularly a young population. It will likely do a few simple things very well. Examples might be supporting the sharing of memories or the setting up of social events, both online and offline. These are only indicative examples however, and it will be necessary to find out the actual requirements from the potential users themselves. The project should address sustainability by including a roadmap for future management and development of the site by its users (or a core of key users). It will be necessary to consider how the site can gain traction with a critical mass of users and what roles, resources and efforts will be required to manage it as a successful resource into the future. The site and all its tools must be highly accessible and usable for older people, many of whom have impairments in vision, hearing, dexterity and cognition. The project should involve user testing with the target group.
Simple iPad apps for older people
Access to sporting activities or gym equipment to people with visual impairments
An example would be the RowMate Access. This is a system developed in a student project at NUI Galway that enables visually impaired exercisers to communicate with a rowing machine via a smartphone app which gives performance feedback in large text or speech and allows them to control the machine’s functions. See http://rowmate.net/rowmate/default.aspx.
Integration of children
Design a piece of technology or digital media that promotes embracing diversity within the classroom. A product, software or app that allows children with and without disabilities to interact together in the mainstream classroom. The emphasis will be on fun, education and interaction.
Making online house searching inclusive. Explore the accessibility of online housing search engines and the usefulness of their content for people who have specific housing needs. Investigate the house searching experiences of people with specific housing needs. Based on results, provide recommendations (e.g. an information sheet) for estate agents to improve the online housing search process for people with specific housing needs.
Online Public Services
Explore the experiences of older people or people with disabilities with one or more critical online public service(s). This will typically be a service that requires users to provide information through online forms. Following assessment of accessibility, then go on to develop functional and technical recommendations to improve future design.
Previous Project Examples
NCBI CFIT Technology Showcase
A number of student projects have been entered for the NCBI CFIT Technology Showcase. This is an annual competition with a €3,000 cash prize for Irish digital technology design projects that address the needs of people with sight loss. The 2012 finalists are listed and described in detail on http://www.cfit.ie/news-and-commentary-archive/607-ncbicfittechshowfinalists:
- LookAround, a smartphone navigation app that guides a blind user along a route through the use of haptic feedback.
- Abair DAISY, a program that reads aloud multimedia Irish language school books using synthesised voices.
- Voices as Gaeilge, an Irish language text to speech synthesize.
- HomeSense, a home safety system for blind people.
- RowMate Access, a smartphone app which allows visually impaired rowers to train independently using an indoor rowing machine.
- StoryBud, a story website for children and parents which can be read through text, read through images or listened to.
- Aquaeye, a system that can be installed in a swimming pool to alert blind swimmers when they are approaching the end of the lane.
- VisionRE, a device that alerts a blind pedestrian to upcoming obstacles and hazards using tactile feedback.
- Accessible version of the RTE Player, a development of the RTÉ Player making it accessible to blind people using screen reading software.
Vodafone Smart Accessibility Awards
The Vodafone Foundation Smart Accessibility Awards is a contest to promote the development of IT applications designed to improve the lives of older people and people with disabilities, helping them get more actively involved in society. Entries compete for a share of the €200k prize fund, spread across four areas: Social participation, Independent living, Mobility and Wellbeing. The 2012 winners are listed on: http://developer.vodafone.com/smartaccess2012/2011winners/.
Microsoft Imagine Cup
Microsoft’s Imagine Cup is an annual competition for student teams developing apps running on Microsoft platforms (Kinect, Windows Phone, etc.). It offers prizes of €50,000 in several categories. Some of the 2012 winners that relate to inclusive design can be seen on the following pages: