Welcome to Inclusive Technologies

We’re all about accessible and usable products — products that work better for everyone because they’re easy to use.

  • Industry: Trying to meet accessibility regulations without sacrificing your design flexibility or marketing strategy?
  • Public sector: Trying to find accessible products for your employees and the public?
  • Consumers: Trying to locate information about products that will work for you, with and without assistive technology?
  • Employers and technology managers: Trying to find technologies that will work for all of your users without sacrificing economy and productivity?

Inclusive Technologies provides free and paid consulting services to companies, public agencies, consumers, researchers, purchasers, and policy makers on how products can better meet the needs of all users, including users with disabilities and elders.

We’ve been involved in accessible and usable technologies for more than 30 years.  Our principal, Jim Tobias, has worked at Bell Labs and Bellcore, schools, rehab centers, and independent living centers.  He co-Chaired the Access Board Advisory Committee for Section 508 and 255. Other staff skills include clinical evaluation, hardware and software development, user testing, and legal/regulatory analysis.

Our clients and partners include the US Department of Labor, the California Secretary of State’s Office, the California State University system, Cisco Systems, HP, IBM, Microsoft, National Science Foundation, Panasonic, Raising the Floor, and Verizon. Contact us to learn how we can work together.

FDA Empowers Hearing Aid Users

In another step away from the medical model, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) removed the requirement for a professional evaluation before hearing aids can be purchased. This accelerates the trend to direct-to-consumer sales, and may be followed by the creation of a new FDA product category, over-the-counter hearing aids. Considering how much audio processing power there is in everyday portable gadgets, it may not be long until ‘hearing aid’ is just another setting on your smartphone. More disruption!

But speaking of ‘smart’, is this? While many consumers are certainly able to make these decisions independently, some may not be, and losing access to professional audiology services may jeopardize their results. The Hearing Industry Association responded to the FDA action with some interesting data on consumer satisfaction.

Posted in Hard of hearing, Laws, regulations, Mainstream-AT market interaction, Theories, models, frameworks, Volume control, clarity | Leave a comment

Another Step Forward in Automatic Speechreading

Bit by bit, computer vision analysis is advancing to the point of offering rapid, accurate speechreading. Cornell’s LipNet uses sentence-length, natural utterances to improve its accuracy, which at 93%, surpasses skilled humans. Just a prototype for now, we hope to see camera software like this widely available soon. Not just for individual communication, automatic speechreading offers better instant transcripts and captions. Better learn to cover your mouth when you mutter.

Posted in Communication, Computer vision, Deaf, Hard of hearing, Just a prototype so far, Redundant output, Speech-to-text | Leave a comment

Smile and Move Along

We’ve seen a lot of progress in facial recognition recently; now we’ve got facial expression recognition. That’s right, smile to control your wheelchair (or whatever). It’s a control capability and a way to authenticate a user.

Posted in Communication, Computer vision, Controls: number, size, spacing, force, Dexterity impaired, Education, Gesture interface, Identity/authentication, Just a prototype so far, Personal management and self-care, Redundant input, Transportation | Leave a comment

Do You Hearable What I Hear?

Hearables are wearable devices you listen to, such as earbuds and headphones. These product parts or accessories, already obviously popular, are positioned to grow in use and take over new functions, including replacing some visual interfaces, with embedded microphones, gyro sensors, and even medical monitors. Hearing aids are an obvious application, as are audible prompting for navigation or self-management.

Posted in Blind, Cognitively impaired, Communication, Hard of hearing, Mainstream-AT market interaction, Personal management and self-care, Redundant output, Simplicity, ease of use, Transportation, Volume control, clarity, Work | Leave a comment

Google Maps Adds Accessibility Info

Over the years we’ve seen several attempts to collect information about architectural accessibility (mostly wheelchair access) into consumer-friendly resources. These turned out to be too hard to disseminate or too local to attract enough usage — the bitter end for millions of websites.

No one can claim that Google Maps suffers from those problems! And now you can enter and view some basic accessibility information. (We’ll update this when we find out exactly how to add this info; right now it seems to begin by registering as a ‘Local Guide’.)

So we’ll see if the other side of the information resource conundrum can be solved: can a mainstream resource attract enough disability-specific input and usage to succeed in this ‘special’ function?

Posted in Building the culture of accessibility, Information management, Mobility impaired, Social participation, Theories, models, frameworks, Transportation | Leave a comment

First Sighting: VR in the Workplace

Interesting speculative article on VR for work. We’ve heard a lot of these ideas one at a time — less commuting, how to create happy-accidental encounters — but there’s all here in one place, along with some new ideas and interesting design directions. What about the inherently visual interfaces? The cognitive load? Yeah, yeah, lotsa problems, but let’s look at the upsides, too. There could be fewer distractions, more natural prompting, interpersonal ‘smoothing’, etc.

Posted in Controls: number, size, spacing, force, Horizon scan, Most or all disabilities, Okay, sometimes it *is* about the technology, Redundant input, Redundant output, Simplicity, ease of use, Virtual/augmented reality, Work | Leave a comment