Lecture to examine disabled/IT relationship


Lecture to examine disabled/IT relationship

Computer Weekly reporter

The paradoxical relationship between IT development and accessibility for the disabled will be the topic of next January's Turing Lecture.

The annual lecture, commemorating the war-time Enigma code breaker Alan Turing, is hosted by the Institute of Electrical Engineers and the British Computer Society. It will take place on 26 January. This year's speaker is Chris Mairs, director of Data Connection.

The paradox that exists between the disabled and IT is that while on the one hand technology makes life easier for the disabled, it also makes life harder.

Technology helps disabled people by, for example, enabling e-mail reading and writing through speech synthesis, but on the other hand, the technology-heavy 21st century lifestyle, with its mobile phones, iPods and other miniaturised devices, often disenfranchises the disabled.

At the lecture, Mairs, who is himself blind, will discuss what should and could be done to make things easier for the disabled through technology.

Mairs is heavily involved in charitable activities. He founded the A-Technic charity which develops technology for the disabled.

His "Bat Blaster" is used by blind water skiers throughout the world, including at four world championships where Mairs led the British disabled team to victory.

A-Technic's focus now is information access for the vision impaired. Their free Newsreader software will soon be followed by Newsbox, an easy-to-use speech-enabled system costing £300, which will give the blind access to broader content sources.

The title of Mairs' lecture is: "Lifestyle Access for the Disabled - Adding Positive Drift to the Random Walk with Technology". 

www.iee.org/events/ turing.cfm


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