I attended a talk, entitled"Universal Accessibility to Ubiquitous Services: Supporting the Everyday Life of People with Restrictions." This special accessibility talk was organized by UUID (Universal Usability & Interaction Design) SIG, Faculty of Creative Multimedia, Cyberjaya.
It was indeed a privilege to meet the speaker in person, a renowned accessibility expert, Professor Julio Abascal from Spain. I invited some of my fellow blind friends and also a couple of wheelchair-bound members from the MBPJ OKU technical committee. Together with the university students in the lecture room, all of us listened attentively to what the Professor had to share, particularly on the accessibility research work done in Europe .
Ubiquitous computing offers stimulating chances to assist people with disabilities and elderly people in managing everyday activities at home. Smart environments aim to support people, providing them with information for their tasks and security warnings when safety issues may arise.
Professor Julio continued to cite how computer technology and interfaces developed can provide better secured protection and monitoring of the elderly and the disabled living, either in community nursing homes or living independently on their own. Devices and sensors installed could help monitor the safety and health of the individual, say, if he or she has a slip and fall, an alert could be triggered to a medical control center.
Professor Julio further shed some insights into some of the current and what’s coming next in the world of accessibility. A mobile device could be linked via interface to the ATM kiosk to allow a disabled to handle one’s banking transaction and thus, accessible to the blind, little people and persons in wheelchair. Here, at home, it is a shame that, the local ATM kiosks are still “out of bound” to the blind as all the ATMs are not accessible and worse still, the blind are not allowed to own ATM cards by certain banks.
A universal remote device that could benefit disabled persons, such as enhancing their independence, indoors or outdoors, is currently undergoing prototype testing. A person in wheelchair or a blind person could, for example, use the mobile device to activate the lift’s control panel buttons remotely when one’s in a lift, switch on/off lights and other electrical appliances and electronic gadgets.
It is laudable that Professor Julio is so passionate in his research work and quest to help improve the lives of the elderly and disabled. He reminded all that Europe has a large aging population and thus, accessibility issues are a concern to all. Perhaps, we need to take heed of Professor Julio’s remark as we are fast becoming an aging society too. There are, certainly, much to catch up locally, in terms of research and development in accessibility. The present accessible facilities and amenities are still very much lacking.
It is comforting to know that Multimedia University is undertaking research work in the field of accessibility . This is definitely a positive step forward in making a difference to the lives of the elderly and the disabled!
More challenging times ahead!