Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bike Science: Trigonometry and carbon fiber help Paralympian win

[After a hiatus, our Bike Science column is back. Below, carbon fiber master and engineer Shawn Small shares the science behind one of his recent projects.

Steven Peace at start line of 2010
UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships.
(Photo: Joy Anderson)
Steven Peace was a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy in his early 30s when he suffered a massive stroke while lying alone one night in his apartment. He was found 14 hours later when EMT’s broke down his door. When he came to, he was paralyzed on his right side and suffered from severe aphasia.
Only 6 months after leaving the hospital Steven quickly defied all odds by riding a Catrike Trail (recumbent) in the Soldier Ride which goes from Phoenix, AZ to Las Vegas, NV. Here's how Steven described that first ride; "..the ride was unbelievable, and life-changing. After the first ride, I knew I had to do another     more read...

Free software makes computer mouse easier for people with disabilities

Published: Friday, April 8, 2011 - 14:34 in Mathematics & Economics

Related images
(click to enlarge)

This is the Pointing Magnifier.
University of Washington
The hand moves the computer mouse, but the cursor doesn't comply. The cursor doesn't go where told. The hand tries again. The cursor shoots past the intended target.
The hand tries a third time – and the cursor loops farther from the target than where it started. And the user is frustrated.
So it often goes for computer users whose motor disabilities prevent them from easily using a mouse.
As the population ages, more people are having trouble with motor control, but a University of Washington team has invented two mouse cursors that make clicking targets a whole lot easier. And neither requires additional computer hardware – just some free, downloadable software. The researchers hope that in exchange for the software, users offer feedback.
The Pointing Magnifier combines an area cursor with visual and motor magnification, reducing need for fine, precise pointing. The UW's AIM Research Group, which invented the Pointing Magnifier, learned that users can much more easily acquire targets, even small ones, 23 percent faster with the Pointing Magnifier.
The magnifier runs on Windows-based computer systems. It replaces the conventional cursor with a larger, circular cursor that can be made even larger for users who have less motor control. To acquire a target, the user places the large cursor somewhere over the target, and clicks. The Pointing Magnifier then magnifies everything under that circular area until it fills the screen, making even tiny targets large. The user then clicks with a point cursor inside that magnified area, acquiring the target. Although the Pointing Magnifier requires two clicks, it's much easier to use than a conventional mouse, which can require many clicks to connect with a target.
Screen magnifiers for people with visual impairments have been around a long time, but such magnifiers affect only the size of screen pixels, not the motor space in which users act, thus offering no benefit to users with motor impairments. The Pointing Magnifier enlarges both visual and motor space.
Software for the Pointing Magnifier includes a control panel that allows the user to adjust color, transparency level, magnification factor, and area cursor size. User preferences are saved when the application is closed. Keyboard shortcuts quickly enable or disable the Pointing Magnifier. The UW team is also making shortcuts customizable.
"It's less expensive to create computer solutions for people who have disabilities if you focus on software rather than specialized hardware, and software is usually easier to procure than hardware," said Jacob O. Wobbrock, an assistant professor in the Information School who leads the AIM Group.
His group's paper on enhanced area cursors, including the Pointing Magnifier, was presented at the 2010 User Interface Software and Technology symposium in New York. A follow-on paper will be presented at a similar conference in May.
Another AIM technology, the Angle Mouse, similarly helps people with disabilities. Like the Pointing Magnifier, it may be downloaded, and two videos, one for general audiences and another for academic ones, are available as well.
When the Angle Mouse cursor initially blasts towards a target, the spread of movement angles, even for people with motor impairments, tends to be narrow, so the Angle Mouse keeps the cursor moving fast. However, when the cursor nears its target and the user tries to land, the angles formed by movements diverge sharply, so the Angle Mouse slows the cursor, enlarges motor space and makes the target easier to get into. The more trouble a user has, the larger the target will be made in motor space. (The target's visual appearance will not change.)
Wobbrock compares the Angle Mouse to a race car. "On a straightaway, when the path is open, the car whips along, but in a tight corner, the car slows and makes a series of precise corrections, ensuring its accuracy."
A study of the Angle Mouse included 16 people, half of whom had motor impairments. The Angle Mouse improved motor-impaired pointing performance by 10 percent over the regular Windows™ default mouse and 11 percent over sticky icons – an earlier innovation in which targets slow the cursor when it is inside them.
"Pointing is an essential part of using a computer, but it can be quite difficult and time consuming if dexterity is a problem," Wobbrock said. "Even shaving one second off each time a person points may save hours over the course of a year." Wobbrock suggests that users try both the Pointing Magnifier and the Angle Mouse before deciding which they prefer.
"Our cursors make ubiquitous mice, touchpads, and trackballs more effective for people with motor impairments without requiring new, custom hardware," Wobbrock said. "We're achieving accessibility by improving devices that computer users already have. Making computers friendlier for everyone is the whole point of our work."

Source: University of Washington 

more read...

Berne Union senior adapts to life, softball with disability

Berne Union senior adapts to life, softball with disability

Berne Union senior Alanna Sanborn is used to batting with just her left hand. Sanborn suffered a stroke either before or at birth, leaving the right side of her body weaker. After training and strengthening, Sanborn is now a member of the school's varsity softball team. / Abigail S. Fisher/Eagle-Gazette
SUGAR GROVE -- It's the best sleight-of-hand trick you'll see on a softball field, and Alanna Sanborn has it down cold.
The Berne Union senior outfielder camps under fly balls, catches them with her left hand, and in one fluid motion tucks her glove under her right arm and comes up throwing with her left. It's a technique that Sanborn has mastered not because she's a show-off, but because she's had to.
Eighteen years ago, Sanborn suffered an undiagnosed stroke either before or at birth. She's been overcoming obstacles ever since.
Instead of crawling as an infant, Sanborn half-scooted, half-spun as she made her way across the floors in her family's home. It wasn't until Alanna underwent an MRI at 9 months old that the stroke and its consequences were revealed.
"The technician said the damage was so great that she was shocked that Alanna could do everything that she was able to do," said Robin Sanborn, Alanna's mother.

Dogged determination

Alanna, 18, began working with numerous therapists shortly after the official diagnosis to help her build strength and regain some function on the right side of her body.
When she reached Berne Union Middle School, she partnered with Joan Schulze, an adaptive physical education teacher with the Fairfield County Educational Service System. Schulze, who has taught for 23 years, with the past 11 focused on adaptive physical education, learned of Alanna's ultimate athletic goal just a few short sessions into their weekly classes.
"She said she wanted to play softball," Schulze said. "I asked if she wanted to play rec league or school league, and she said her goal was to play varsity softball. We discussed the work and training and how much of an undertaking it would be, and she was willing to do the work."
Throughout the next two years, Alanna and Schulze worked on increasing Alanna's leg and core strength. The pair then focused on softball-specific skills, including hitting and throwing. Hitting, which has become Alanna's favorite part of the game, was one area in which she had to work the hardest, Schulze said.
"Hitting was very difficult for her at first," she recalled. "All of her strength would have to come from one arm. With time and working out and just her perseverance, she was able to figure out a technique where she could apply both arms and generate more power.
"She was just dogged."   more read....

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Enhancing the Lives of People with Disabilities

Abilities Expo World-class events and activities—the perfect complement to exhibits and education—make for three days of non-stop entertainment. There are adaptive sports, dance performances, gravity-defying stunts, technology showcases, canine assistance demos and much more. You can get involved or sit back and enjoy.  More read....

Handicaching aims to improve the accessibility of Geocaching for disabled people all over the world.

About Handicaching
Man looking
Handicaching aims to improve the accessibility of Geocaching for disabled people all over the world.
By rating caches using a simple system, disabled geocachers can quickly find the caches they are able to do. Too often a 1 star or 2 star rated cache turns out to be impossible, causing dissapointment. Our ratings aim to avoid that.
You can help by taking a few moments to quickly rate the caches you have visited!
For disabled geocachers we also provide tools and resources to find caches with ratings, find out what caches you will likely be able to do and a quick reference guide to the rating system.
goHave questions? Learn more 

How You Can Help
Use this site to rate all the caches you have visited! Rating a cache takes only a few moments and no personal information is required. The rating for a cache is generated by answering a few simple questions. Add links to the ratings in your log entries.
Rate the caches you have hidden and put the rating clearly on the cache page, with a link to this site. This helps increase awareness of this service for other geocachers and makes your cache more accessible.
goRate a cache now 
Link to us using our button or graphics. This also helps to increase awareness of our service. Let us know you have added a link and we will add a reciprocal link.
goLearn about linking 

Disabled? Find Ratings, Decode Ratings and More!
Find ratings for any cache! Either search by waypoint or download our utility to add our ratings to your GPX file
goFind a rating now 
Have a rating sucn as H15241 and want to know what it means? Decode it here.
goDecode a rating now 
Find your own rating so you can quickly compare cache ratings and see if you might be able to do them!
goFind your personal rating 
Print out our handy dandy quick reference guide to the rating system. Use it to quickly find out what a cache rating means!
goGet the printable Quick Reference Guide 

Latest Ratings