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Assistive technology

Assistive technology includes assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices for people with disabilities and also
includes the process used in selecting, locating, and using them. It is key component in modern education which
enables people with disabilities to perform tasks that they had great difficulty accomplishing and, therefore, allows
them to participate in various educational activities.

Alternative keyboards Alternative keyboards use different designs to attempt to change the users
posture. Usually, such keyboards have larger or smaller than standard keys, alternative key configurations,
adaptive key configurations and keyboards for use with one hand. Examples of such keyboards are
presented in Figure 1 and Figure 2.

Clevy Keyboard II - English Lower Case

A keyboard which allows various layouts.

Special mouse devices, adapted for humans with special needs. Several examples are shown in Figure 3.
Image 3: Several special mouse devices

Mouse emulators used to control the cursor on the screen without use of hands. Devices used include
ultrasound, infrared beams, eye movements, nerve signals, or brain waves. In Figure 4. One such device is
presented (tracker pro Electronic pointing device). This device is used to help people who are unable to
control a mouse and enables controlling the pointer on a computer screen by head movements. Another
example of mouse emulator is Sip-and-puff systemsactivated by inhaling or exhaling

Image 4: Mouse emulator - Tracker pro.

Image: Mouth-controlled mouse emulator.

Accessible software for blind or low vision

Screen-reading Software

Uses synthetic speech to read aloud the content that appears on a computer screen.
Compatible with most programs and features for PC operating systems.
Available as an add-on for PCs running Linux or Windows, while Mac computers typically run a built-in screen-
reading function.
Examples of screen-reading software include JAWS and WindowEyes for PC, VoiceOver for Mac and Orca for
certain distributions of Linux.

Magnification Software

Works similarly to a high-powered magnifying glass moving over a page. They can magnify all screen items by
following the mouse cursor or keyboard.
Compatible with most Windows operating systems. Mac computers have a built-in magnification function.
It is possible to use screen magnification software in conjunction with a screen reader for individuals who need both
types of technology.
Examples of screen-magnification programs include ZoomText and Magic.
Some low-vision individuals might be able to benefit from larger monitors and internal features that enlarge font,
increase contrast or otherwise modify computer functions.
However, those features are not adequate for many low-vision Individuals and additional magnification software is

Dictation Software

These programs often utilize standard QWERTY keyboards, but other modified accessories can be used as
Individuals who are blind or have low vision usually learn to touch-type, but if a blind individual has an
additional disability that affects typing proficiency, the individual may be interested in trying dictation
Writing Braille and Using Braille Embossers
Writing braille by hand with a slate and stylus is portable and most appropriate for shorter notes.
Individuals can also type braille manually with Perkins braillewriters although they are not as portable.
Can convert electronic text into a braille hard copy by sending computer files to a braille embosser, which is
the braille equivalent to an ink printer.
Braille embossers typically require heavyweight paper and utilize more pages than print.
Embossing contracted braille requires the use of a braille translation software programs.

Refreshable Braille Displays

Operates by raising and lowering combinations of pins to create braille characters.

Allows individuals to both read and write braille quietly and save files.
Portable and are usually able to interface with a computer and/or connect to the internet.

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Systems

Involves scanning a printed document into a computer and converting the picture image into text characters
and words, which screen readers and braille embossers can recognize.
If a pre-scanned electronic image is already available (e.g., if you have a PDF file), OCR systems can
convert it into text without scanning a hard copy.
This content can be read using synthesized speech, screen enlargers, and braille embossers.
When choosing an OCR system, be sure it does the following:
Recognizes a wide variety of typed/printed documents.
Retains the layout of the original text.
Copes well with columns, various paper sizes, and horizontally formatted documents.
Supports different types of scanners.
Comes with ongoing technical support and documentation in an accessible format.
Features an accessible interface.

Video Magnifiers or Closed-Circuit Televisions (CCTVs)

Uses a stand-mounted or handheld video camera to transfer a magnified image onto a TV screen or other
Cameras with zoom lenses provide variable levels of magnification.
CCTVs with stand-mounted cameras are particularly effective for handwriting because there is room for a
hand to fit under the camera.
Some newer CCTVs also have OCR technology and are able to read text aloud.
Note that eye fatigue and other physical problems can result from prolonged use.

Portable Magnifiers

There are also video magnifiers with handheld cameras, which are portable and useful for practical things
like reading signs and labels on the go.
Head-mounted displays (HMD) also offer portability and new ways of viewing the magnified images.
Portable notetakers are small information management devices. They have braille or QWERTY keyboards
for input and a synthesized voice and/or braille display for output.
Braille notetakers and other devices with refreshable braille displays can also be use to read materials.
Portable book readers allow individuals to access specially coded files via speech.
Accessible GPS devices or smart phone apps can provide turn-by-turn voice instructions
There are many apps for smart-phones and tablets that serve similar purposes to the hardware and software
listed including GPS, OCR and audiobook players.

Accessible software has become more common option included in popular software packages. The well
known example is Microsoft Accessibility set of programs. It includes the following useful features:

o Keyboard options which include filters with correction for erratic motion tremors and slow
response time, filters for typing aids, such as word prediction, abbreviation expansion tool and add-
in spelling checkers.

o On-Screen Keyboard - an image of keyboard (standard and modified keyboard) on computer

screen which allows user to select keys with touch screen, mouse, trackball, joystick etc.

o Speech recognition or voice recognition programs - people can give commands and enter data
using their voices rather than a mouse or keyboard using a microphone attached to the computer.
These programs can be used to create text documents.
o Screen enlargers or screen magnifiers which work like magnifying glass by enlarging a portion of
the screen.

o Text-to-speech or speech synthesizers suitable for people who suffer from visual impairing and
reading disabilities.

Providing for the needs of special education students will certainly is one of greatest challenges as a professional
educaton. These students demand more of time and patience; so, too, will they require specialized instructional
strategies in a structured environment that supports and enhances their learning potential.

For example students with celebral palsy very often have trouble with typing on keyboard. Sometimes the solution is
using special keybords for people with disability. Alternative keyboard and mice for someone are good solution but
there are a large number of students with special needs which are also have problems with using it. Belgrade
Metropolitan University (BMU) has certain experience with students who have disabilities and this is a reason which
they are a central figure. At BMU students often use MATLAB program for solving mathematical and programming
problems, so in this paper we adapt MATLAB software for students with special needs.
The main concept of this paper is creating an application using C# and COM (Component object model) framework
that will accept and respond to voice commands used for the MATLAB programming language, specially adjusted
for students suffering for palsy.


The introduction of accessibility technology for people with special needs has given them an equal chance of
education. One of the ways to aid these people is implementing a way for the computer to recognize their voice
(computer speech recognition).

Computer speech recognition (also known as automatic speech recognition) is a way of transforming voice signals
into a series of words with the help of an algorithm implemented in a computer program.

Voice recognition can be explained as a process which attempts to identify a person on behalf of something that
person has said, and taking that into account, that is what separates speech recognition and voice recognition. One of
the uses of speech recognition is using voice for selecting, voice calling and forwarding, simple data inputs(for
example, using words for communicating with the computer, as shown in this project), voice and audio content-
based searching (upon saying the word, the computer begins the search).

Speech recognition systems use microphones that are connected to the computer and can be used for creating a text
file (like e-mails, browsing the internet, moving around applications and menus, or using a program).


When speech recognition patents are in question, Microsoft and Alcatel-Lucent are the holders of the speech
recognition patent, and are in a law dispute since 2.mar.2007. The most commonly known speech recognition system
is embedded into the Windows operating system and it is called Windows speech recognition).
The basic functions of this systems are:
Using commands that will produce a computers response or using voice for text input;
Voice recognition can also be used for controlling the computer and interacting with Windows, this is
achieved by transforming speech into a series of commands.
Text editing and input is also possible, this is achieved by transforming voice into a text file corresponding
to the words spoken.

At this moment, Windows speech recognition is available only in the following languages: English, French, Espanol,
German, Japanese, Simplified and Traditional Chinese.

The best known speech recognition project on Serbian is AlfaNum, that was created by the faculty of technical
sciences in Novi Sad.

The projects results yielded 2 systems:

AlfaNumASR which recognizes continuous speech, so it can be used for recognition of whole sentences, not only
words. It can work independently from the user and does not need to be specially trained for recognizing new users.

AlfaNumTTS is a system for speech synthesis. Compared to other languages, the Serbian language is a bit easier to
synthesize because the words are written as they are spoken, but it cannot comprehend how the words are accented,
that makes synthesized speech uncomfortable for listening.

The MATLAB Voice application was develepoed with a goal to allow usage of the MATLAB programming
language by using only voice commands. The application itself is not meant to replace MATLABs development
enviorment, but to demonstrate the abilities of this approach. The application allows the execution of virtually all
MATLAB commands (calculations, drawing etc.)
Considering COM components and their integration with computer speech recognition, as well as integration of
MATLAB with C# - not much was done with combinations like these. This work is specific with its intent to help
disabled people (eg. People sufferning from cerebral palsy) be able to use the MATLAB enviorment.

Program development

Basic technical characteristics of the software development process

Programing language: C#
Development Environment: Visual studio 2010
Development time: 4 weeks
Number of classes: 6
Number of lines: around 1100 lines of code
Testing: White box and Black box

User interface

In Figure shows the look of the MATLAB Voices user interface

"MATLAB Voice" main window

The main window consists of 4 separate windows

1. The window that is used like command prompt (To show given commands as well as their results)
2. Window used as a reminder for basic commands
3. Window used for textual presentation of given commands ( History )
4. Window used as a virtual keyboard. The point of this virtual keyboard is to ensure the ability to input text
that does not contain a word, for example: The user wants to name the variable asd. Seeing as asd is not a word of the
English language, such command could not be recognized by the speech recognition algorithm. Besides that, some
letters may sound alike, so the virtual keyboard would allow the input of these kinds of letters.

Parts of the "MATLAB Voice" main window

Case scenario for using "MATLAB voice"

After executing the application, the main window is shown to the user. The user could give a MATLAB command
using his voice, while looking at the basic commands he could use, shown in window 2.
If the command the user wants is not on the list, the user could switch to using the virtual keyboard by saying the
command symbol mode, and input the wanted command Letter by letter by referencing 2 coordinates for each
The user could close the virtual keyboard using the regular mode command. Its important to note that the
difference between symbol and regular modes is only seen in the interpretation of spoken numbers.
In the first case, the numbers are interpreted as the symbols coordinates in the table, while in the second case they
are interpreted in their original meaning commands.
For the successful use of this application, extensive knowledge of the MATLAB programming language is required.

In this paper, we have created the application using C# and COM framework that is used to accept and respond to
voice commands used for MATLAB programming. This software is specially adjusted for students suffering from
cerebral palsy, in order to help them while using the MATLAB programming language, which is necessary if they are
students of BMU.