Monday, 23 November 2009 12:36

How Assistive Technology Products can Improve Productivity in the Workplace

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Whether its aiding an aging workforce or assisting a disabled employee, there are a wide variety of cost effective products in the market today that can help employees become more efficient in the workplace.  Many of these technologies will also allow employers to take advantage of resource pools they once were unable to profit from.

Our analysis of assistive technologies focuses on two of the leading impairments faced by workers today, visual difficulties & dexterity impairments.  Those with either of these impairments can take advantage of many technologies discussed.  For example, Speech Recognition Software is a great tool for those living with either difficulty.  Furthermore, many of these technologies can be used to aid those with learning difficulties or simply assist those not living with any impairment.

Aides for Visual Impairments

Among adult computer users in the United States, more than 1 in 4 (27%) have a vision difficulty.  This large percentage of the population can take advantage numerous technologies to aid in everyday tasks.

 

  • ·Screen Enlargers – Working like a magnifying glass, these enlarge a portion of the screen as the user moves their focus. Many allow the user to further zoom in & out on a specific area of the screen as well.
  • ·Screen Readers – These programs used to verbalize, or "speak," everything on the screen including names & descriptions of control buttons, menus, text, and punctuation.
  • ·Braille Displays - Provide a tactile output of Braille letters such that users can read with their fingers.
  • ·Speech Recognition Systems - Allow users to enter data & give commands using their voice rather than a mouse or keyboard.

Aides for Dexterity Impairments

Among adult computer users in the United States, 1 in 4 (26%) have a dexterity impairment.  Technologies used to assist this portion of the population can also aid those with other disabilities, such as the Speech Recognition software mentioned above.

 

  • ·On-Screen Keyboard Programs – Displays an image of a keyboard on the computer screen allowing the user to select keys with a mouse, touch screen or electronic pointing device.
  • ·Keyboard Filters - These products reduce the required number of keystrokes enabling users to avoid inadvertently selecting keys they don't want. Examples are word prediction utilities & add-on spell checkers.
  • ·Alternative Input Devices – Modified keyboards, touch screens & electronic pointing devices allow data entry through unconventional means.  Electronic pointing devices in particular are extremely useful as they can be utilized by a variety of individuals facing dexterity problems.  Devices utilize ultrasound, infrared beams, eye or head movements, nerve signals and even brain waves.

Many of these technologies are not only for the impaired.  Any employee can take advantage these as well as many other means in order to minimize time & errors when performing everyday tasks.  For example, most programs allow for the use of macros for repetitive entries or allow the saving of favourites for quick access to certain screens.  Keyboard shortcuts can also be employed to reduce time during entry.  Even the settings on a standard mouse can be modified to adjust the double-click options or the left & right click settings.

Many employers are surprised to find most devices designed for the impaired require minimal investment or setup.  One or two of these systems in the workplace can go a long way to improving employee productivity & expanding ones workforce.  The disabled community is closely knit & presenting your company as one with an inclusive environment can also go a long way in improving corporate image.

Adam MacIntosh is the Senior Implementation Lead with WebSan Solutions Inc., a professional services consulting firm specializing in helping companies get the most out of their ERP systems and Supply Chains. You can contact Adam at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 416-499-1235 ext. 213.

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