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Promoting assistive technologies
How AT supports personal mobility

How AT supports personal mobility

Author: David Banes, Deputy Director, Mada - Qatar Assistive Technology Center. Edited by James Thurston, Microsoft Trustworthy Computing Group

The ability to travel independently and safely is much sought after by users with a disability. The classic example of such support probably lies in the use of guide dogs by people who are blind to help navigate routes and identify potential dangers.

Technology is enabling a much wider variety of users to maximise their personal safety without the need to take care of a dog !

Examples of such technologies include GPS systems such as those on mobile phones, and local use of RFID tags to communicate location based information to users on a single street or corner.  

Location based systems such as satellite navigation are proving invaluable to users in many situations. Systems such as Wayfinder allow blind users to follow routes in towns and when out walking by directing them to a destination by voice prompts

  • Mobile Phone Access

Access to the feature of a modern mobile phone are much in demand by people with a disability. Software such as "talks" coupled with Symbian phones are giving users access to talking menus, texts and even mobile web browsing. See more on mobile phone accessibility.

RFID tags are being used to communicate information locally to and from disabled people to offer very local access. In some cases an RFID tag is used to identify a user and to open doors where security issues are important, but where physical use of a handle or a swipe card are impossible.

Similarly RFID tags are being used to identify locations by being embedded in the pavement and a user with a receiver is given constant information about location that can be communicated to a location device 

New technologies place Augmented Reality (AR) system onto low cost devices such as mobile phones. The technology locates the user in space, and then by use of an internal compass knows the direction being faced and can then overlay the image from a camera with data. Early examples include location information such as where to find the nearest underground station.