Adaptive Technology Resource Centre

 

Leading the Way to Accessible Technologies

New developments in technology are coming fast and furious, enabling us to accomplish amazing tasks. For consumers with disabilities, however, one great concern regarding new technologies is often whether or not they can actually use them. How does one ensure that accessibility remains a priority in new technologies?

The Adaptive Technology Resource Centre (ATRC), located at the University of Toronto, opened in September, 1994. The centre is an active and growing site for information resources, training, problem solving, consumer advocacy, and research and development as they relate to access technology.

In providing service, the staff at the ATRC inform rather than prescribe, supporting the philosophy of client-directed learning and choice-making. Many of the staff at the ATRC have personal experience with access technologies.

Information in various formats and demonstration work stations cover a wide range of access systems, including alternative keyboards, screen readers, screen magnifiers, voice recognition systems, and optical character recognition technology.

The ATRC serves students, staff and faculty from the University of Toronto and other educational institutions in Ontario and around the world. It is also open as a resource to anyone else who wants information about the application of access technology in the educational setting.

A large number of activities at the centre focus on access to the Internet. The Internet, commonly known as the “information highway,” is becoming a source of education and employment. More and more, it is an important vehicle for remaining informed and for obtaining services. The ATRC offers workshops on e-mail (electronic mail), using the World Wide Web and Gopher, as well as on finding and using electronic text.

The ATRC takes a proactive approach to research and development. ATRC researchers attempt to work with developers of mainstream technologies before the technologies are fully developed and the design established. This approach helps to avoid the need for retrofits and work-arounds. Rather than taking a regressive approach to providing access to new technology, ATRC researchers attempt to discover or devise ways to exploit emerging technologies to provide better access methods.

The ATRC is involved in Beta-testing new operating systems and emerging Internet-related software. It takes an active role in the development of Internet standards such as the HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) and VRML (Virtual Reality Modelling Language) standard on the World Wide Web.

As the ATRC is situated in Canada’s largest university, the skills and resources of the university community are brought to bear on access challenges through student projects and theses related to adaptive technology.

The ATRC has established a model World Wide Web site which is used to demonstrate and evaluate various approaches to making information on the Web accessible. The Web site is now used to publish ABILITIES magazine and will be used to publish Archtype, the magazine of Toronto’s Advocacy Resource Centre for the Handicapped.

Together with SoftQuad, the ATRC is developing an accessible World Wide Web browsing tools which is optimally compatible with alternative computer access systems and includes a large range of integrated access tools.

If you’d like to visit the Adaptive Technology Resource Centre, it is located on the first floor of the J.P. Robarts Library, University of Toronto, 130 St. George St., Toronto.

For more information about the ATRC, please call (416) 978-4360, send a fax to (416) 978-6110, or send e-mail to general.atrc @utoronto.ca. URL: http://www.utirc.utoronto.ca/AdTech/.

 

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