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When Apple announced a host of new features for its next-generation iPhone in March, they unveiled a few surprises, but kept the best ones under wraps. Until today, at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, Apple revealed gigantic news: its new iPhone 3G S has a built-in screen reader for people with visual impairments — bringing this group one step closer to total cell-phone accessibility. The 3G S introduces VoiceOver for iPhone, Apple’s proprietary screen reader that speaks what appears on the iPhone display. VoiceOver lets visually impaired users make iPhone calls, read email, browse web pages, play music and run applications. TOUCH-SCREEN TECH. VoiceOver is already built into the Mac and iPod Shuffle, but for iPhone this screen reader is a whole new ball game. Calling it the world’s first gesture-based screen reader, VoiceOver for iPhone reads aloud what is touched on the screen. Users can then gesture with ... keep reading »
I’ve often argued that people with physical disabilities are functionally more ‘interesting’ human beings because they’ve incorporated machines into their brains and bodies. For those of you who haven’t already seen Iron Man, the superhero escapes from a cave in Afghanistan in part by building a pair of robotic legs. This sci-fi movie is more grounded in reality than it appears. Earlier this month, researchers at a university in Japan unveiled a robotic suit that reads brain signals and helps disabled people walk. The suit, known as HAL — short for “hybrid assistive limb” — is available to rent in Japan for $2,200 a month. (Cost to buy will be around $15,000-$20,000). This invention will have far-reaching benefits for the disabled as well as the elderly, giving them the “potential to lift up to 10-times the weight they normally could.” Other researchers around the world, including those at MIT, are ... keep reading »

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