Intern's thoughts about Accessibility

Eshtiak Ahmed worked as an intern during autumn 2020. Here are his thoughts about technology and accessibility. He also tells a bit about projects he have been involved with.

While technology is mostly used by people who either are familiar with them or have natural interest when it comes to new technologies. However, technology is not strictly for people who want to use it. There are users in the society who actually need it to lead a better life which for people without disabilities is a normal life. Every human being does not born and grow up with same kind of capabilities. As a result, different people have different needs in life. There are people who do not really need any assistance to lead a normal life and might use technology for pleasure or convenience. It can also become a choice for them whether they want to use the technology or not. However, people with disabilities and accessibility issues do not have this novelty of choosing to use technology or not. In these situations, technology becomes the modality that they need to adapt in order to make their life more streamlined or normal.

In normal context accessibility issues are generally cause by physical disabilities. Such as, you have to make a system accessible to those who are blind, so you can implement the system to work with voice input and output systems. For a person with hearing and speaking problem, sound will never work, so you need to use gestures and haptic feedback for making it work. However, accessibility issues do not restrict to physical disabilities only. Lack of opportunity and lack of education can also result into accessibility problems. As example, people who do not have knowledge of the English language, might find it difficult to operate machines or technologies like smartphones, ATMs etc. if their own language is not available for them. In this context, making the system user friendly for that group of people is an accessibility problem to solve.

I was involved in several research projects focusing on accessibility to technology. I worked toward the projects related to cloud-based medical system for remote health monitoring in developing countries, enhancing the quality of life of the people with disabilities. One of the projects in this area was “Autism Barta” [1] which is a smartphone based automated autism screening tool developed for Bangladesh. I was part of the team that developed this platform which included a mobile application as well as other web-based features. The finding of the project was later published in an IEEE sponsored conference. Recently, I conducted another simple accessibility related project, which also got published. This project [2] focused on developing more meaningful and interactive icons for smartphone interfaces. We suggested newly designed icons for a section of the Google play store and evaluated them with actual users. The aim of this work was to try and design better icons that could someday lead to a totally text free interface and the results were very encouraging. I have a keen interest in developing solutions for people with various kinds of disabilities. Another interesting topic for me is the development of language independent interfaces.



[1] Sharmishtha Bardhan, G. M. Monjur Morshed Mridha, Eshtiak Ahmed, M. Anwar Ullah, Helal Uddin Ahmed, Shaheen Akhter, Md. Golam Rabbani, Khandaker Abdullah-Al-Mamun, “Autism Barta – A smart device based automated autism screening tool for Bangladesh”, 5th IEEE International Conference on Informatics, Electronics and Vision (ICIEV 2016), May 2016, Dhaka, Bangladesh.

[2] E. Ahmed, M. Hasan, O. Faruk, F. Hossain, A. Islam, A. Islam “Icons for the Mass: An Approach Towards Text Free Smart Interface”, in IEEE 1st International Conference on Advances in Science, Engineering and Robotics Technology (ICASERT-2019), May 3-5, 2019, Dhaka.