ITGS Syllabus

Monday, June 05, 2006

Topic 86

Multimedia solutions for disabled persons by Simon Ruiz

Images, sounds, and presentations are only considered to be functional for people with ordinary senses – to touch, to see, to smell, to hear, to talk, to recognize, and so on. The question is that what can the multimedia do to convey its function for people who are not able to use any of these senses? There are many ways that the multimedia can do in order to satisfy the needs of a disabled persons through advanced technology.

For example, the existence of “Care-O-bot” means a lot to people who are disabled. The Care-O-bot is a mobile service robot, which has the capability to perform to fetch and to carry and various other supporting tasks in home environments. Main emphasis is laid on integrating communicational and social features, like video telephone, automatic emergency calls and other interactive communication. The advantages and the benefits of this technology include the following:

- Increase of personal independence,
- Improvement of quality of life,
- Strengthening and support of personal mobility,
- Active aid during absence of care personnel and nurses,
- Increase of individual security,
- Unified and easy handling and operation of home infrastructure through natural speech,
- Better social integration via video-phone,
- Reduction of medical costs for in-house care.

Due to the given demographic trends and developments within the industrial societies all over the world, practical solutions are required to help to dam exploding medical costs. Besides new decentralised supporting services for elderly and disabled people living longer at home, new technological solutions are required to facilitate their daily life.With the developed concept of an intelligent Care-O-bot, an interesting solution is available that allows to further facilitate and enable the secure living of elderly people at their private homes under safe conditions – according to their own wishes.

As mentioned, one of the social issues concerned attached to multimedia solutions are medical costs. The stakeholders of this issue can actually be the government for they will be accused of not taking care of the elderly or disabled people within the nation – leaving them with the responsibility.

For specifically disabled users of the internet, there are different solutions to different disabilities. For blind users, the modality of the presented information must be changed to tactile and/or audio output. Moreover, supplementary orientation and navigation aids, like an additional table of content containing all internal and external links on a hypermedia page, are helpful for this user group. For wheelchair-bound users, detailed information concerning the accessibility of buildings (e.g., the existence and the dimensions of ramps and elevators, the type and width of doors) is important and should therefore be automatically provided. This information is redundant for normal users and should be omitted for them..

For users interested in a specific subject, more detailed information should be provided, (e.g. information about the history of an important sacral building). If the user lacks this specific interest, such information should not be presented in order to lower the efforts necessary for building a mental model of the current hypermedia page. For computer novices, usage instructions should be augmented by an explanation. Normally, this is not necessary for experienced computer users. The response time of a hypermedia system is extremely critical from a usability point of view.

Three individuals are considered in making these solutions come to work. One is the disabled end-user (the person with special needs, who is using the assistance system). Another one is the facilitator/care person (e.g. a therapist, pedagogue or family member) responsible for the configuration and adaptation of the user-interface. Finally, the integrator/administrator carrying out the technical set-up of the system. The co-operation between these three groups of users is essential for optimization and successful use of the system. The systems are tailored to the very specific needs and abilities of the three different user groups according to the specific roles they play in setting up, configuring and operating the entire system.


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