Adaptive Technology for the '90S

Article excerpt

Reading and Rapping Adaptive Technology

Reader, beware! "Adaptive technology" actually translates to "addictive technology." The reason for the addiction is simple. Adaptive technology unlocks the print world (and the information contained in it) for intelligent people who have print impairments, gives a voice to those who are unable to communicate by using a natural voice box, and provides those who can only move one part of their body with a bit of personal freedom and dignity.

Once you put a mechanism into place that allows a patron to access information on, say, a prescription drug in a media that they themselves can read, there's no turning back.

It feels really "good" to be the person who puts the technological parts together (OCR scanner) that allow a "forty-something" newspaper columnist and journal editor to read nonpartisan voting information in braille (her preferred reading media) for the first time in her life. It is equally exhilarating to provide a relay system (TDD/TFY) that allows patrons who are deaf to call the library to find out if a particular book is available.

Providing adaptive technology for patrons who need technology to help them access information can be akin to disseminating information services "for the first time." You find yourself wanting to read and talk about it every free minute you have -- but where do you find reading material on a regular basis and where do you find people who share your enthusiasm?

Meckler Publishing has been a pioneer in affording forums for the exchange of information on adaptive technology, both in their mainstream publications and at their "events," such as their annual Computers in Libraries conference. And since the advent of the Americans With Disabilities Act, other library-oriented publications, such as the Library Journal and American Libraries, have begun to feature occasional articles on adaptive technology.

Mainstream library supply vendors, such as Gaylord, Highsmith, and Demco, are actually publishing catalogs with adaptive equipment. This still is not enough information -- so where do you go to find more? There are actually more publications out there on adaptive technology than the average person has time to read. The following titles will afford you a good stack of paper to peruse. I have also included information on organizations and upcoming events that will provide you with the chance to "rap" adaptive technology.

Reading Matters

Closing the Gap is a bimonthly "newspaper" totally dedicated to adaptive technology for the work, home, school, and business environments. Each issue is filled with articles and product information that strive to make it easier for individuals to access life. The December 1992/January 1993 issue, for instance, included a step-by-step instruction guide on how to redefine PROMPT commands to eliminate keystrokes when launching DOS commands and applications. These instructions let the user redefine a standard keyboard, making it easier for a patron who has a motor impairment to use the programs that require keys to be pressed down simultaneously (e.g., ALT or SHIFT combinations).

Two of the fifty-some products announced and reviewed in this issue included Arkenstone's "An Open Book Unbound," a software program that makes an accessible Windows reading application available to readers who are visually impaired or blind, and Wordlinx 1.0, a software program that functions as a menu item in Windows-based word processors and applications. In addition to the articles and product reviews, Closing the Gap publishes an annual guide to technology (included with subscription) and organizes a large conference every October in Minneapolis.

Computer Disability News is a quarterly publication of the National Easter Seal Society. This newsletter reviews new products and publications and provides the reader with funding ideas and a brief calendar of conferences on adaptive technology. …