Mobile and Wireless Initiatives

Project: A Study of the Requirements and Compatibility Issues of Wireless Networks for Providing Public Services to Persons with Disabilities.

Year: 2004-2005
Collaborators/Partner: Dr. Dave Michelson, University of British Columbia Department of Electrical Engineering

Description: Growing consumer and commercial interest in wireless applications for the general public has lead to standardized connectivity solutions that could provide increased independence and greater accessibility for persons with severe physical disabilities. This research looks at the issues involved with providing wireless services in public spaces such as large office buildings or mall complexes where persons with disabilities would work or visit. The wireless technologies range from simple radio frequency (RFID) tags used for inventory control and security access all the way up to wireless network (WiFi) access points installed in cafes and other public spaces to provide Internet access. The researchers will identify any technology gaps and examine the requirements and compatibility issues around implementing accessible wireless technologies in a cost effective, practical and functional manner.

Improved Access to Public Service for Individuals with Spinal Cord Injuries through Bluetooth, A Consumer Connectivity Standard

Year: 2002-2003
Collaborators/Partners: Living Lab

Description: Public Services systems such as automatic banking machines, information kiosks and point of sale terminals are not accessible to persons with significant physical disabilities. It is simply not feasible to create an electronic public system with all the necessary interfaces to accommodate every disability. Electronic Aids to Daily Living (EADL) enable people with disabilities to interact with their home environment, but no standard means exists to link these devices with public service systems. Initiatives driven by the disability community to promote standardized connectivity to universal access have so far failed to gain broad acceptance. However it is expected that the growing consumer and commercial interest in wireless access to public services using personal electronic devices will result in a viable standard. Emerging wireless technologies such as Bluetooth for Personal Area Networks (PANs), are backed by the consumer electronics industry and are designed to connect consumers to enhanced public services regardless of location, in a standardized and seamless manner. These wireless technologies could succeed in standardizing the inter-connection of EADL‘s, which in turn, would allow people with disabilities to access the same public services as able-bodied consumers. This project looked at the underlying feasibility of using Bluetooth technology to improve the accessibility to public services for a range of disabilities. The best elements of previous disability supported standards were used to evaluate the technology. This study It also looked at the psycho-social and human interface factors that influence the adoption of PAN based systems by persons with disabilities.

Project: Accessible Cellular Telephone

Year: 2001
Collaborators/Supporters: Nokia

Description: Many people with disabilities that could benefit from newer technologies are affected by the increasing “digital divide” that results from the limited accessibility of these devices. While mobile cellular telephones have been adopted by a significant portion of the population, they remain inaccessible to many people with severe physical disabilities. The lack of alternative input methods for accessing the cellular telephone’s basic and advanced features are a huge barriers. This research created a prototype alternative access method and interface for a Nokia cellular telephone. The system was designed to support activation through a single and a dual switch input from the user.

Project: PALM PC Technology for the Next Generation of Electronic Aids for Daily Living

Year: 2000 to 2001
Collaborators/Partners: Living Lab

Description: Personal Digital Assistants (PDA‘s) provide most of the sophisticated computing and communications features of larger desktop PCs. By tailoring these features to meet the needs of people with severe physical disabilities, PPDA devices can be configured as basic wheelchair mounted task-specific controllers or scaled up accordingly to serve as mobile “gateways” for more advanced home networked systems incorporating a wide range of telecom and environmental control functions. This project developed an accessible PALM PC device. This project included laboratory usability studies with persons with severe disabilities.

Project: Gateway for Seniors

Year: 1995
Collaborators/Partners: Simon Fraser Department of Gerontology

Description: This project was undertaken to determine the viability of adapting the Gateway technology (see The Gateway Project) to assist seniors. The handheld Gateway device was developed in 1995 for a research project that was conducted jointly with the Department of Gerontology at SFU. The electronic circuitry from the wheelchair-mounted Gateway was essentially repackaged to allow the installation of a larger display and touch screen. The purpose of the project was to perform usability studies to determine how well a group of elderly persons with various disabilities would interact with an advanced home control device that incorporated an extremely user-friendly interface. Researchers gathered time and motion analysis data on close to a hundred seniors as they evaluated the Gateway in a simulated apartment setting.

Project: Wireless Remote Gateway

Year: 1993
Collaborators/Partners: V-Tech

Description: This project focused on the development of a wheelchair-mounted device that provided advanced home control and telephone communications features in a wireless package. The Gateway was based upon a sophisticated environmental control system design concept developed in 1989. The advanced features of the initial prototypes built in 1993 are still in many ways superior to most commercial ECS products available today. The Gateway device provided cordless telephone connectivity and access to a wide variety of home appliances and entertainment electronics via a 900Mhz digital transceiver. With a single input switch, the user could access a series of control menus that appeared on a high contrast LCD screen. With the emergence of PDA‘s, the research group ported the technology into a small palm-sized computer product.