Accessibility focuses on the degree to which people with disabilities can interact with the world around them. Unfortunately, most embedded applications (apps) for smartphones and tablets are not designed with accessibility in mind, especially for those with limited fine motor control. Such individuals have difficulty in providing the common pinch and swipe gestures required for tablet control. Our Wireless Controller for Tablet Accessibility (TabAccess) is just such a device and is designed to provide an alternative input interface for increasing access to tablet-based applications. This device, coupled with a supporting tablet App software library, enables the delivery of effective education and entertainment opportunities for individuals lacking fine motor skills.
Recent articles report how tablet computers are used to engage individuals with visual, cognitive, and learning disabilities through various applications. Tablet computers have an attractive, easy-to-use interface and are equipped with touchscreen, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, camera, accelerometer, and GPS, which increase accessibility of these devices. With a forecast value of $55 billion by 2016, the U.S. assistive-technology (AT) market is expanding rapidly. The current AT market has a focused competition between industries that target speech, hearing, and visual aids using tablet devices. However, the market has overlooked the large populace that has difficulty using the touchscreen interface, such as persons recovering from stroke, traumatic brain injuries, or living with cerebral palsy. By providing an alternative interface to control these tablet computers for individuals with limited fine motor control, we can provide unlimited potential for the development of tablet-based Apps that could assist individuals in their daily lives. When coupled with smart-grid components such as home-automation technologies, the device can provide increased quality of life and even create employment opportunities for individuals who might otherwise require caregivers or institutional care. JP Morgan Securities has estimated tablets will evolve into a $35 billion market by the end of 2012. As such, since the Tablet-industry is a new, growing market, early entrants into providing assistive technologies within this market have the potential to make large gains.
TabAccess: A Wireless Controller for Tablet Accessibility
Lead Engineers: Hae Won Park & Ayanna Howard
Provisional Patent: A. Howard, H.W. Park, et. al. “TabAccess: A Wireless Controller for Tablet Accessibility,” USPTO serial number 61/642,200, May 2012
L. Roberts, H.W. Park, and A. M. Howard, “Robots and Therapeutic Play: Evaluation of a Wireless Interface Device for Interaction with a Robot Playmate,” 34th Annual Int. Conf. of the Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, San Diego, California, August 2012 (to appear).