Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

A Study of Multifunctional Document Centers That Are Accessible to People Who Are Visually Impaired

Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

A Study of Multifunctional Document Centers That Are Accessible to People Who Are Visually Impaired

Article excerpt

The capabilities of modern photocopy machines have advanced beyond the simple duplication of documents. In addition to the standard functions of copying, collating, and stapling, such machines can be a part of telecommunication networks and provide printing, scanning, faxing, and e-mailing functions. No longer just copy machines, these devices are more aptly described as multifunctional document centers.

In the past, the accessibility of basic photocopy machines was not a significant issue for people with visual impairments (that is, those who are blind or have low vision). Typically, copiers had simpler user interfaces, with tactile keypads for selecting the number of copies and Start, Clear, and Stop buttons. As technology has advanced, the user interface was redesigned and has become more complex. Many multifunctional document centers also include a small, embedded touchscreen visual display.

Advancements in technology and changes to the user interface of multifunctional document centers created accessibility barriers for employees with visual impairments that previously did not exist. In addition, legislation and demographic factors contributed to the need to develop accessible multifunctional document centers.

Although estimates vary, it has been reported that approximately 21.2 million Americans have vision loss, 6.2 million of whom are aged 65 and older (Pleis & Lethbridge-Cejku, 2007). People with vision loss were defined by the 2006 National Health Interview Survey are those who reported that they have trouble seeing, even when wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses, are blind, or are unable to see at all. Recent employment data shows that of working age Americans with significant vision loss, nearly 60% are not employed or in the labor force (U.S. Department of Labor, 2009). As it has been commonly noted for more than a decade, nearly 70% of individuals in the United States who are legally blind are unemployed (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1995). Many factors contribute to this high unemployment rate, including the inaccessibility of common workplace technology. Over time, the problem will be compounded as the baby-boomer generation ages, because the population of older people with visual impairments will increase significantly.

The enactment of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 prohibits the federal government from procuring, developing, maintaining, or using electronic and information technology that is inaccessible to people with disabilities. In addition, more than 20 states have also implemented this law. Section 508 applies to office equipment products including multifunctional document centers.

In recent years, Canon and Xerox have introduced multifunctional document centers that provide accessibility features. Although they provide a similar level of access, these manufacturers use different product architecture to address the requirements of accessible design.

This report presents an evaluation of the accessibility and usability of the access solutions for people who are visually impaired of Canon's and Xerox's multifunctional document centers. It also takes the first steps in addressing the lack of a display standard for small visual displays, such as those used in both multifunctional document centers described here, and investigates how to optimize for people with visual impairments the parameters of designs of such displays (see Box 1).


Eghtesadi et al. (2002) noted that office workers who are blind or have low vision need to use all the major functionalities of a multifunctional document center, including duplicating, collating, and stapling. To create office equipment that is accessible to a wide range of people, manufacturers need to take a universal design approach. The seven principles of universal design focus on creating products that are usable by the widest possible array of people and that can be operated in the widest range of conditions. …

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