About the INCOBS project
A new project, INCOBS mainstream technologies, will investigate the accessibility of mainstream software and devices for blind and visally impaired users. Our particular focus will be on work place productivity. The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS). It will run for four years and is carried out by DIAS GmbH, with broad support from associations of blind and visually impaired people, public accessibility offices, training institutions, and assistive technology providers.
A new focus
The name INCOBS mainstream technologies signals a change of emphasis compared to the assistive technologies focus of the 'old' INCOBS project. The new project will increasingly focus on technologies that are accessible 'out of the box', i.e., work without a need for dedicated assistive technologies. Smart phones, tablets, und navigation devices are becoming increasingly important - also in the everyday work context of blind and visually impaired users. Increasingly, devices have screen readers already integrated as part of their operating system - Apple's VoiceOver is the most prominent example. We will conduct product tests to establish to what extent mainstream devices are usable for blind and visually impaired people in their daily work. We intend to publish test results also in English.
Updated market surveys of devices and assistive technology
Traditionally, the INCOBS-Projekt focused on assistive technologies for blind and visually impaired people - e.g., screen readers or magnification software. The aim was to provide information that would help users, employers and accessibility offices select the most suitable solution for the work place. Within INCOBS mainstream technologies, we will also continue to report on new assisitve technologies, contrasting their functionality to mainstream alternatives where these exist.
Moving from adaptation to general accessibility
Another focus of the new project are key software applications used at the work place. We will document to what extent these still require customisation of asssistive technologies. In many cases, assistive technology like screen readers is still being customised by special service providers to ensure that the relevant software at the workplace can be used by blind and visually impaired people. The problem: customisations are expensive and take time. Often, they are not sustainable - a new version of the software will require further customisation. A better solution is to ensure that software is accessible from the start. INCOBS mainstream technologies will provide resources to facilitate informed choices by users, employers and accessibility offices.
The Customisation Finder
INCOBS mainstream technologies will develop and pilot a web-based application (the 'Customisation Finder' - German: 'Anpassungsfinder') that will aggregate information on software customisaton cases. It will offer guidance as to what software is usable without customisation, and whether past customisation cases have been successful, effective and sustainable. By documenting actual occupational customisation cases, the Customisation Finder will create more transparency. It will support choices of accessible software and facilitate the re-use of customisation scripts that have been successfully deployed before.