NY Times

The fact is, I blather a lot on this blog, but I don’t actually have a disability. Read this blog post about this written by someone who is actually affected by the issue.

Scroll down on his post and read his related posts on the issue.

As well as the American Foundation for the Blind’s take on it.


Text-to-speech under attack

February 27, 2009

In case you were not aware, Amazon’s Kindle 2 electronic book contains a text-to-speech feature that reads e-books out loud using synthesized speech.

Amazon's Kindle 2 e-book

Amazon's Kindle 2 e-book

People with vision impairments or who are otherwise unable to read can download the newspaper or a novel from anywhere (it uses 3G over the cell-phone network) and it will read it aloud.

Cool feature, right?

Roy Blount Jr, president of the Author’s Guild doesn’t think so. Read the rest of this entry »

Tablature in Braille

February 25, 2009

How does one who uses a braille display read tab?
Being a primarily graphical method of communication, it doesn’t really do much for people who cannot see.

Turtle Dove for banjo in tab

Turtle Dove for banjo in tab

Here is a solution.

There are two ways of thinking about this alternate method.
First, it would be interesting to create a computer script that could translate this automatically.
Alternately, this is a good project for crowdsourcing. If every guitar player or banjo player translated one song into the new notation, each person would only contribute a small amount of work, but the cumulative work completed would be enormous.

This is the concept behind One to One-Thousand by Sam Sennott. How much work could we get done if we all contributed a small amount toward the same end?


Check this out. The crowdsourcing has already begun.

updated post

Cognitive maps

February 24, 2009

So let’s say you are here


you see this sign


and you want to go the third floor.

Do you go up the stairs or or down? What does the sign indicate?

The sign indicates that the third floor is down from where you are standing. It may seem obvious to you that this isn’t right, but why?

Read the rest of this entry »

Disability in pop culture 5

February 23, 2009

Family Guy

Family Guy has several examples, so it gets a rather more extensive post.

The Griffin Family

The Griffin Family

Read the rest of this entry »

Disabilities in pop culture 4

February 21, 2009

Zatoichi, the Blind Samurai

And none of this 2003 remake crap.

There were something like a thousand Zatoichi films and there was always, always some damsel in distress that needed rescuing.

Sometimes being blind can be an asset. (See also Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark)

Disabilities in Pop Culture

February 20, 2009

Esquire has a list that I’m not sure if I should be amused or offended by.

“The Five Most Incredible Physically Disabled Action Movie Heroes”

It is a little surprising to me that Zatoichi, the Blind Samurai is not on this list.

Machine Awareness

February 19, 2009

So here are the results of the machine awareness survey:

  1. GPS
  2. motion sensor (infrared?)
  3. thermostat
  4. light intensity sensor
  5. rain detector
  6. weather sensors (wind, barometer, humidity, etc)
  7. RFID
  8. weight-sensitive (like the mats that open supermarket doors)
  9. traction control
  10. volume of cell-phone traffic
  11. accelerometers (wiimote, Macbook sudden motion sensor)
  12. accelerometers for tilt detection (turn sideways to change mode)
  13. wi-fi (presence of and use of for location tracking)
  14. circuit breaker
  15. camera
  16. camera + object recognition, facial recognition
  17. microphone
  18. microphone + voice recognition, noise recognition
  19. switches in the hinge (Macbook sleeps when closed)
  20. Clock/calendar

So what is this for?

I’ve become convinced that we are not using all of the resources available to make augmented communication effective and seamless.

Much of our electronic lives have become a sort of augmented input and augmented communication. We use GPS and maps to augment our awareness of our surroundings. We text people, allowing us to communicate anywhere. All of this is a gradual blurring of the boundary between the machine and our reality (cyberspace and meatspace as it were).

AAC users already rely on machines for communication. They are a generation ahead of all of us in terms of the merging of computer and interpersonal communication. The next step in the evolution of AAC is to make the devices more responsive to all aspects of the environment. Right now, the only input to an AAC device is the user and perhaps a programmer (like teachers/parents/SLPs). This is okay, but it requires too much time and energy to input everything involved in communication. How can we make the machine do some of the work?

AAC researchers are not the only ones working on this problem. I am hoping that by looking at how other fields are blurring the boundaries between cyberspace and the real world we can use some of their lessons and tricks.

Apropos to nothing

February 17, 2009

It would appear that the jet pack situation of the 21st century (i.e. the lack of jet packs) is on its way to resolution.

It’s less a commuter vehicle than a $130,000 variant on water-skiing/parasailing, but clever nonetheless. Makes me feel a little more Jetsons.

Interactive toys

February 13, 2009

Now this is a toy with clever design!

TED talks

PDF from MIT Media Lab
As an AAC person, I am always thinking about modalities of communication and contexts for interaction. In addition, we need to be looking at new interfaces for humans and computers to communicate. This toy rethinks the way that people interact with the computer.