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Hackability: Free/Open Source Assistive Tech


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Connecting open source software and web accessibility projects with some ideas behind physical disability hacks.

Published in: Technology

Hackability: Free/Open Source Assistive Tech

  1. Hack Ability: Open Source Assistive Tech Liz Henry 2010
  2. Hack Ability My wheelchair is a machine to get my body from one place to another. I'd like for it to be easy to fix and hack. Like a bike or a car.
  3. Hack Ability You can find info on how to fix a car Or you can go to a car repair place Anyone can start a car fixing business They're everywhere
  4. Hack Ability You can find out how to fix a bike And there's little independent bike shops everywhere
  5. Hack Ability But you can’t find out how to fix a wheelchair Or build one NOT!
  6. Hack Ability Because rather than just being a tool like a bike or a car or a computer It's a MEDICAL DEVICE
  7. Hack Ability YOU will likely be “disabled” - have a significant physical impairment - for around 8 years of your life
  8. Hack Ability ✤ Hands are important ✤ RSI is hard ✤ People invent stuff to help with that ✤ It’s proprietary and expensive ✤ Or in out of print books and abandoned blogs
  9. Hack Ability Everyone needs a voice In the last few years, Dynavox bought: Eye Response Technologies Mayer Johnson Enkidu Research Blink Twice AND MORE Assisted and Augmented Communication is big business
  10. Hack Ability ✤ Why care now? ✤ Until you need it, you don’t care ✤ When you need it, you will be busy, poor, and in pain ✤ Don’t count on magic benevolence or immortality nanobots. Design and code for your future.
  11. Hack Ability Why isn’t there more free/open source access hacking? * Medical expert model * Charity model: PWD are passive recipients of charity * PWD are often isolated from community * Solutions are individual, and then aren't shared
  12. Hack Ability Your impaired body is under the control of the MEDICAL INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX Your wheelchair repair manual or voice control hack might get you sued if someone is injured might violate copyright or a patent might ruin someone's PROFIT
  13. Hack Ability YOU will need assistive technology YOU WILL WANT TO HACK IT. You'll need DIY attitude @ access You'll need open source information structures and communities Vision, speech, gaming making some strides but mobility mods aren't integrated with open source culture
  14. Let’s Get Physical ✤ I have a sometimes obvious physical impairment ✤ People ask me questions about “web accessibility”! ✤ Disabled = all disability in their minds ✤ So let’s look at the commonalities. How are software, web access, projects handled compared to physical mobility gadgets/inventions?
  15. Physical Hacks: The Tennis Ball Walker ✤ Common DIY hack ✤ Simple ✤ Cheap ✤ Effective ✤ Standard parts ✤ Easily noticed + copied ✤ Still necessary!
  16. Easy Hacks ✤ Individual solutions ✤ Easy viral/info spread. People see it in public. ✤ No special skills, tools needed ✤ Crutch pockets and other carrying and gripping gadgets
  17. Easy Hacks ✤ Crutch holders on a bike ✤ Lesson for inventors ✤ Don’t assume ✤ People’s abilities vary ✤ Sometimes from day to day ✤ Or hour to hour
  18. Software !=easy ✤ Computer and web access is treated as an easy hack ✤ Bolt on the crutch holders! ✤ Add some alt tags! ✤ Stick hand controls on the gas pedal! (Be sure to patent that!) ✤ That creates many problems. It doesn’t make for a viable DIY or free/open source culture.
  19. Easy Hacks ✤ Information hack can be simple ✤ Labelling tape has raised letters ✤ Control languages for voice activation (use another human language for a meta language) ✤ Address labels on your crutches ✤ Individual, doesn’t require systemic change
  20. Complex Hacks ✤ Infrastructure changes ✤ Need strength, special tools ✤ Architectural mods ✤ Need maintenance ✤ (This is Miguel Valenzuela’s hydraulic $100 toilet lift) ✤ It’s a good hack: it’s not a viable ongoing project yet ✤ Still no pathway to make it one
  21. Complex Hacks ✤ Ramps. Online how-to information is rare. ✤ Nonprofits, state/county govt. ✤ Detailed blueprints. Disassembly too. ✤ Regulations, how to hire contractors or find volunteer group to build it ✤ LOTS of meta information. Good! ✤ But it’s all Web 1.0. Hand coded html pages, no feedback, no path to change. Metropolitan Center for Independent Living, Minnesota
  22. Complex Hacks Great potential. Giant legal disclaimers. NGOs. Center for International Rehabilitation
  23. Complex Hacks ✤ Complex open source access hacks need community ✤ Just as any open source project does ✤ Whether it’s hardware, gadgetry, or software.
  24. Web access ✤ “The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.” - Tim Berners-Lee ✤ Accessibility is still an afterthought. ✤ Accessibility for developers is important.
  25. AAC and web access ✤ Software and web devs consider access to info and UIs ✤ Speech recognition, Text to speech ✤ Eye control, Switches ✤ Web site accessibility ✤ Software navigation ✤ In practice this often means bolting a crappy handrail onto a decently designed building. That sucks for everyone! Design with access in mind from the beginning.
  26. Contributing to FLOSS “I hope to be able to read, browse the net, and even participate in conversations by email and messaging. Voice synthesizers allow local communications, and I am making use of a free service for ALS patients which will create a synthetic model of my own natural voice, for future use. I may even still be able to write code, and my dream is to contribute to open source software projects even from within an immobile body. That will be a life very much worth living.” - Hal Finney
  27. Accessibility Projects ✤ Voice banking ✤ FestVox ✤ ✤ Screen readers - ✤ Firevox ✤ NVDA ✤
  28. Accessibility Projects ✤ eViacam (Enable Viacam) Head Mouse ✤ control mouse with webcam and some head or finger control ✤ Any standard PC with webcam! ✤ GNU/Linux or Windows ✤ Great project!
  29. Captioning! ✤ YouTubeCC ✤
  30. Accessibility Projects ✤ Eye tracking ✤ ITU Gaze Group ✤ IT University of Copenhagen ✤ GazeTalk. Multilingual eye- typing with prediction ✤ StarGazer, COGAIN ✤ EyeTube
  31. Oneswitch ✤ http:// DIY/ Barrie Ellis. DIY site! ✤ Instructions to build, hack, integrate single switch devices ✤ Wheelchair controls, phones, games, computers, cameras ✤ general/simple-hands-free- camera-remote-hack
  32. Accessibility Projects ✤ GNOME projects for accessibility in Linux ✤ accessibility/ ✤ Cash for tasks completed. Good idea. Still active? KDE: KMouth, KMagnifier ✤ Adept1 (not free) ✤ Ophoenix (Ubuntu project) HowCanIHelp - Excellent guide to starting work!
  33. “There’s something inherent in the Bloggers, hackers, abundance of a digital world and dawning digital culture that requires, testers, consultants even demands, openness on many fronts.” ✤ Extreme users are excellent product designers and testers ✤ Experts on pushing systems to work in unusual ways, adapting them for new purposes ✤ - David N. Problems: Wallace * asking for volunteer work * work/benefits issues ✤ Glenda Watson Hyatt: http://
  34. Collect some information ✤ Global Assistive Technology wiki ✤ OATS (Open Source Assistive Technology Software) ✤ AbilityNet ✤ Disapedia, Wikihow ✤ Instructables ✤ Wikipedia?
  35. BBC Accessible Newsreader ✤ Create a user ✤ Choose content blocks ✤ Scanning speed ✤ Audio and font size setttings ✤ The site then scans through navigation options. Good for one switch or gaze control.
  36. Build it into FLOSS platforms ✤ BBC scanning idea is good! ✤ Could build similar options into popular platforms like WordPress ✤ Or into operating systems? Rethinking navigation and control.
  37. Tactile Maps ✤ Tactile Maps ✤ Mashup, maps for visually impaired ✤ Lighthouse for the Blind, SF ✤ $15 for businesses ✤ Free for California residents with visual impairment
  38. Text only geography ✤ What about a mashup of open street map and MUD/ Interactive fiction style text descriptions of geographic locations? ✤ You are standing in front of the convention center. To the north there is a stairway and a ramp up to the city center plaza. There is a small mailbox here.
  39. ✤ Creating systems that PWD Antifeatures! can’t contribute to ✤ Information silos ✤ One-off solutions that aren’t put into public domain (student contests, charity, what you might do for relatives) ✤ Exploiting vulnerable populations, insurance, govt. ✤ Freaking out about liability ✤ Selling out to industry ✤ Examples from charities.
  40. Arts for All ✤ Idealistic, cool, great! ✤ Golf carts, mowers, rotisserie motors, attach to walkers and chairs ✤ Patents + bad online store = limited and local implementation ✤ Could publish the plans as DIY, and still sell this stuff to FLOSS culture emergency! schools and so on.
  41. Free Wheelchairs ✤ Wheelchair Mission ✤ Neat invention ✤ Plastic lawn chairs, bike wheels in a kit, ship 500 to Uganda ✤ Unmaintainable, breakable ✤ Undermines local industry and market ✤ Thanks though...
  42. Whirlwind Wheelchair International ✤ Rugged $200 chairs ✤ Partnering with local industry in Nicaragua, Guatemala ✤ Manufacturing, training for local repair industry ✤ Focus on sharing information ✤ But not completely free/open source design (yet) for various reasons.
  43. 3D Printers? ✤ 3D Printers as materials get better may provide a pathway for inventors of stuff that will be useful for people with disabilities ✤ Ponoko, Shapeways
  44. Further Thoughts ✤ Medical model of thinking of assistive devices, liability, greed have limited hardware and gadget development ✤ Spreading FLOSS philosophies and community/ collaboration methods would help invention. ✤ The active FLOSS assistive tech projects out there are unusually vulnerable to loss of individual contributors, coordinators ✤ They’re also vulnerable to the power of the medical- industrial complex. Fight the power! ✤ Improve your software by considering extreme users.
  45. Radicalize! ✤ Cross pollinate ideas ✤ physical inventions, hardware, needs more open sourciness! ✤ open source culture needs physical inventiveness, adaptations driven by necessity, of pwd ✤ Document projects, preserve information
  46. IN THE FUTURE... Will you be a sad lonely person fumbling to epoxy tennis balls onto the feet of your totally World War II looking hospital walker ?
  47. Or will you be hacking your burning man jetpack in a vibrant community that supports serendipity and a culture of invention!
  48. A DIY approach to HACKING ABILITY will help everyone We'll invent cool shit We'll open source our way out of nursing home prisons run by the medical industrial complex and The future will be awesome!!! Date