Monday, April 12, 2010

touch technology and autism

in the world of adaptive technologies, "curb cuts" refer to things that are originally designed for persons with special requirements that gain great utility for other persons. curb cuts literally are the slopes on the corners of most newly constructed sidewalks that allow wheelchairs to more easily transition from the sidewalk to the street, and up to the sidewalk again. but anyone who has dragged an uncompromising suitcase to a supposedly nearby subway knows that they are life - if not back & shoulder - savers. parents pushing surprising sweetly sleeping babes also love them, as do rollerbladers, joggers, and folks who's dexterity is not what it used to be.

in my research i often find myself examining the ways that something designed for a particular purpose, opens doors for unintended others. for example, SMS was a network technology intended for system traffic, boring stuff for the engineers and routers to send when there was a bit of spare capacity. then japanese teenagers began to make a language out of the numbers sent on pagers - turning numeric phonetics into alpha codes. this became the stepping stone toward the commercialization of text messages over SMS networks, and the rest is history (for more on this google search Mimi Ito).

in my current work i am looking at the use of iPod Touch devices and the 'app for that' mentality that has swept the globe. in particular touch technologies have great utility for children with communication disorders. at Beverley School in toronto a team of hard-working and visionary teachers led by a risk-taking principal are working with me to gather data on the extent to which these entertainment devices become social tools for children without a voice. the results are very promising and forthcoming. yesterday's Globe and Mail in canada ran a piece about the study - see for more, and watch this blog for more in Aug when phase 1 of the study is completed.

able & disabled r only labels.