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Today and Tomorrow: The Benefits of GPII

We think that the GPII will improve accessibility and usability for people with disabilities, with additional advantages for many other stakeholders and society in general. Here's a vision of how GPII will work to provide those benefits.

Instant setup

Today - Mary has moderate low vision and all of the settings that she needs are already built into the computer. Someone once showed her how she can adjust the font size and the contrast and use zooming feature and some other settings and the computer was a lot easier to use. But when she was done they needed to undo it all for the next person. Now she can't remember how to make all the setting changes or where the magnifier utility is. And it is way too complicated to do all those things (and then undo them) each time she uses a different computer. And if she does it wrong she would mess up someone else’s computer for them.

In the future, with GPII - each time Mary sits down to a computer, it automatically sets up just for her, with all her font sizes, contrast etc. And when she is done, everything automatically changes back. So she is not afraid of using any public computer or borrowing someone's computer when she needs to.

Simpler to figure out what you need and what will help you.

Today - Ernesto is older. His friends talk about using computers and how he should just go to the library and use them there. But he went there once and he couldn’t use the computers. The librarian said there was some assistive technology (AT) but the people at the library seemed to be unfamiliar with how to set it up for him and it was not really the type of AT he needed. He also had to use certain computers at the library (that weren’t always the ones that were free).

In the future, with GPII - When someone goes into any one of the libraries for the first time the staff can take them over to any available computer and activate the personalization wizard on the web. The staff can then walk away and this friendly, and actually fun, program goes through and talks (using speech, captions, and sign language) and shows the person different access features and technologies and finds out what works best for them. When that’s done, it automatically stores what the person needs somewhere where they can use it anywhere, any time. Now when that person sits down to any computer, at any of the libraries, the computers automatically and instantly change into the form that they need. Ernesto doesn’t understand how - it is all like magic. But now he can use the library's computers just like his friends that don’t need special adaptations.

Assistive technologies that follow you anywhere

Today - For Chris the built-in accessibility features are not enough. Chris really needs something that is more powerful to work very efficiently. So he purchased some assistive technology and installed it on his computer at home and set it all up so that it is right for him. However, he also now needs to use the computer at work, at the community center, and other places. He ended up buying a second portable computer but found that it was just too much bother to carry it around everywhere. Also, these other computers at work had special applications on them that he had to use. So having access to his computer, even if he carried it with him everywhere, didn’t solve his problem.

In the future, with a GPII - Chris is able to go anywhere and use any of these computers. When he sits down to any computer that uses the GPII (they almost all do these days, at least all the public ones and even his friends’) it automatically loads the AT that he needs and then sets it all up for him: his settings, his vocabulary, just what he needs. The GPII knows what AT he has purchased, so it lets him use it on any computer, securely and privately. It is great. Now he can use the computers just like anyone else and his AT follows him anywhere, all set up just like he needs it.

Adjusts as your abilities change

Today - Maggie is a computer programmer with a severe physical disability. Her abilities change throughout the day quite significantly. When she is all set up at her work station in the morning she is quite physically able. When she is in her wheelchair moving about she doesn’t have the same arm support and has to use her computer differently. Her abilities also change over the day as she tires. And in the evening, when she is in her easy chair, she has to use things completely differently. It is so much of a hassle changing things around that sometimes she just doesn’t bother and then has to rely on others or just not do her work. Or she forgets before she changes from one situation to another and has to get someone to help her change her system so she can use it.

In the future, with GPII - it is a whole different story. Maggie has different profiles that she can use for different times of day or even for different types of work or activity. She just chooses the one that is closest to what she needs and then tweaks it as the day goes on (in the same way one might adjust a volume on a TV set as the programs or ambient noise in the room change). There is even a control panel that she can easily pop up that just has the few settings that she needs to tweak most often.

Enhanced awareness of options

Today – people who need special adaptations or formats usually have little knowledge of what is possible or available. Doctors and medical people who help people who are injured are not able to keep up – and people are rarely referred to the few people who know about many of the options. Even these people do not have time to keep up on all the rapidly changing options in the ICT world for all of the different types, degrees and combinations of disability. And elders may not ever have a “point in time” where they suddenly think of themselves as disabled and seek options. As a result most people who need special adaptations are unaware of the options of even that options exist.

In the future, with a GPII – using the Wizard to determine what would make ICT easier to use is so commonplace that everyone knows about it – and disability and senior centers use it daily to help their clients get a profile so they can use the computers at their facilities and the clients/patients home. Part of the Wizard process is to make the person aware of the different devices or built-in features that could be helpful to them. This also includes making them aware of services that they may be eligible for such as accessible books (free and purchasable). As a result of this – and the ongoing “there is a fix for that” publicity campaign on TV and counter stand-up displays at libraries, senior centers and more, everyone is aware that if they are having trouble using computers and electronic devices, there is a place to turn to to find out how to make things easier to use.

  • Anywhere Access – The GPII will allow users to invoke the access features they need on any computer they encounter – and eventually every cell phone. This includes all of the free public access features developers make available through the GPII as well as any commercial AT a user has purchased (or is eligible to use)
    • For example:
      • Jim works for a company who purchased a powerful screen reader that works with the sophisticated software at work. When he is home however, he can call up the same features on his home computer. And when he travels or is at a friends house, he can use any computer he encounters since he can call up his same features and AT on any computer.
      • Maria is in college and finds that she has to work on different computers for different courses (different parts of campus). Sometimes the software she needs is only on computers in one lab or department. Other times, the computers are connected to special hardware or machines and she must use that computer. The GPII allows her to be able to use her special access software and AT on any of these computers.
      • Tony can't afford a computer - but there are many computers around him, at school, the library, the community center. He can use any of them any time since he can invoke the basic access features he needs on any of them
  • Instant Setup for user – the GPII’s personalization profile will allow users to have the computer automatically invoke the features they need when they approach a computer. All they need to do is enter a code, or plug in a USB, or swipe a card or, in the future, bring their cell phone or other identifying object near the computer.
    • For example:
      • Victor is deaf and doesn't have trouble using most of the Internet. But each time he sits down to a computer he has to figure out where to turn on alerts, and finding the control for turning on captions on Web media - or finding the captioned version - is always difficult or impossible. Often he gives up, or doesn't even try, only to find out later that it was accessible if you just do this, or looked there. With the GPII's personalization profile and support, the computer sets itself up for him automatically, and captions are turned on automatically. He doesn't have to search for the way to turn them on. And it works on any computer he sits down at.
        He read recently that work is now being done on a service that automatically finds captioned versions if they are available anywhere on the Web. This doesn't ensure that everything is captioned, but it is easy for him to know if there are captions available for something anywhere. He just tries to view the movie like everyone else and, if captions exist somewhere they appear. He doesn't miss out on captions anymore just because he doesn't know where to look.
      • Miranda is 90 and her vision is very poor. But any computer she sits down to, at the assisted living center, at her children's house, at the elder center, automatically changes to large print when she inserts this "USB thing" they gave her.
      • Miranda's friend Tina is not good with computers at all - but her USB thing automatically gives here a very simple program that she can use to send and receive email and see pictures of her grandchildren. It is all very basic (almost no features) but is very simple and obvious. Kind of like when she was doing it with paper letters.
  • Anonymous Setup – The GPII will have hundreds of standard setups that a person could choose from and use anonymously. Using one of these will get a user set up the way they like, but because the same setup name or code is used by thousands of people, the user doesn't have to self-identify to get the settings they want.
    • For example:
      • Andrew does not trust using a sign in credential that could be used to track his activities. So instead of using a personal preference profile registered to him, he has selected one of the hundreds of standard profiles that match his needs. Whenever he sits down to a computer he uses it to have the computer set up just like he needs. But since tens of thousands of others are also using it isn't tied to just him.
  • Personal Settings Masked – Even if a user creates their own profile the profile system is designed so that the devices using the settings do not know whose they are. The user’s ID is encoded and goes to a central secure server (with multiple levels of isolation) which then passes on information regarding the settings, etc. without ever giving out the user’s identity.
    • For example:
      • Ti wants to use personal settings he uses a small GPII Profile routine that automatically generates a new number and uses it to sign him in. The number is decoded a the secure permission server and it is used to look up settings and permissions. These are passes on as needed to the interface but they are not tied back to Ti (except within the server.)
  • Preference, Permission and Payment (3P) Profile – The GPII will actually allow users to store and use more than just their settings anonymously. It will also allow them to store all the permissions or registrations they have for software or services as well– and let them get access to these things anonymously.
    • For example:
      • If Sing has purchased AT and therefore has permission to use it. When Sing signs in the secure 3P Profile server will inform the AT server that “this person” is allowed to use the software – without identifying who they are.
      • If Sing wants to read a book from a special accessible collection that only certain people are qualified to use, the fact that “this person” is qualified to look at the book can be certified without saying who the person is. For the first time a person needing special access could anonymously browse books in a special library in the same way that a person can browse books at the public library without identifying themselves unless they want to check out something that has to be returned.
  • Assistance on Demand (AOD)– The GPII also enables a whole new range of assistive services-on-demand where a user can bring up and assistant to help them (anytime, anywhere) for just a minute or even 10 seconds and dismiss them immediately after.
    • For example:
      • Theresa is blind and runs into a visual task (a CAPTCHA) that must be completed before she can use a site. She can instantly call on a ‘visual assistant’ and show them just that part of the page that they need help with (keeping the rest of the page private). The assistant can describe the object (or read the distorted characters) to Theresa, and Theresa can then just turn the assistant off and continue on her own. Now she doesn't need to keep asking her friends or be mystified with pages that assume vision.
      • Similar services for hearing, or reading, or speech or cognitive assistance, etc. can be available. (The GPII support of services-on-demand could also allow users to be able to support other users for free or as a job.)
  • Anonymous Micropayment for Services (the Payment part of the 3P Profile) – The GPII also allows people to use special services anonymously.
    • In the example above, the visual assistant could be a volunteer. Or it could be someone who does this for a living. These assistants spend all day doing little visual tasks for people on demand – one after another (through the assistance-on-demand infrastructure of the GPII). With the private or anonymous feature of the 3P profile server, however, the user could have the assistant help them and pay them without the assistant ever knowing who they helped. The 3P Profile server would assure the assistant that they would be paid, and arrange for payment (as little as a few pennies at a time) without the assistant needing to know or verify the user before or after rendering service.
    • Again, the feature allows a person with a disability to have the same privacy as anyone else viewing the page or application. Users with a disability only have to identify themselves when any user would have to, but never just because they need access services.
    • Note that the payment does not have to come from the individual. The 3P Profiles server could store the fact that a company or family or government agency (e.g., a school) will cover the assistance costs for the user for some activities or all the time.
  • No Technology – No Cost Access - Some individuals cannot afford access technologies and cannot afford computers or connections to the Internet either. These users must access the content and services on the Internet using whatever computers they can get to use. These may be at a library or local community center or a friend. The GPII would allow them to invoke the access features they need on any of these computers without having to install anything on the computers or change the computers in any way. When they were done, the computer would be exactly as it was before they used it.
    • Although the GPII doesn't create free access features itself – it facilitates the delivery of built-in and free access features that are created by others. The goal is to ensure that people without financial resources have good enough access to be able to use all of the information and services on the web without having to pay a ‘disability cost’ that others without disabilities do not need to pay to access the same information and services.
  • Virtual Commercial AT Anywhere, Without Affecting the Computer - Of course, if the user wants better, faster,access and can pay for an assistive technology, then it will be available to the user in the same “use it anywhere without affecting the borrowed computer” fashion. And it would be available on any computer the person wanted to use it with: at work, at home, while traveling, when an emergency arises, etc.
  • Access to Personal Profiles without Memory – For those who can remember a code number, a personal profile can be invoked with nothing but the number. Many people, however, may not be able to reliably remember such a code. A number of methods for providing the code without requiring memory will be possible.
    • Two examples would be a USB flash drive with fingerprint reader and use of a (network based) voice print authentication used with a USB flash drive (or cell phone).
    • A simple USB drive or smart card without any other authentication would be OK if there is no personal or payment information and it only contained a standard user configuration code (a code that is used by many people).
  • Generic Drivers – allowing users who need special devices, like Braille displays, to be able to use them with any of the features or software available through the GPII.
    • For example:
      • Alex is deaf-blind and needs to use a Braille display. He used to have trouble because some braille displays only worked well with some products and his didn't always work with the software he needed. With the Generic Braille Driver module of the GPII this is no longer a problem since most companies eventually support it and his display now works with all of the software products he needs.
  • Virtual Switches – The GPII would provide special drivers that could turn any webcam into virtual switches, allowing people who cannot touch a computer to be able to use it if it had a webcam on it. Many computers are now coming standard with a webcam. These drivers, being developed through a companion program called AEGIS in Europe, will allow people to use eye movement, eyebrow movement, head movement, even a smile to act as a switch or to use head pointing as a mouse pointer and someday (the developers hope) eye gaze. These may not perform as quickly and reliably as commercial devices but they could provide basic access to anyone on any computer with a webcam for those who cannot afford commercial AT or need access to a computer when they don’t have their head pointing or eyegaze AT.
    • For example:
      • Moshe has a high spinal cord injury and is paralyzed from the neck down. It used to be that he couldn't use any computers if he didn't have his special head switches with him and could connect them. With the virtual webcam based switches he can now use any computer with a web cam. He just moves his head from side to side as if he was hitting his switches and the webcam-switch module acts just like he is hitting two switches. This is great since it allows him to use any of the computers on campus in any of the labs.
      • Moshe has other friends who use the web cam for head pointing. And one who can't even move their head uses a web-cam based eyebrow switch. He just moves his eyebrow and it acts just like a switch.
  • Safety Net – The GPII, in combination with free public access features provided by other programs, could act as a safety net both for those who cannot afford AT and for those who have AT but do not have it with them when they need to access a computer. (If they have virtual commercial AT - that is, commercial AT that is compatible with the GPII - then they would of course have it available through the GPII wherever they were if it did not have a physical component they did not have with them.)
    • For example:
      • Norell had an emergency and dropped his computer in his panic. Now it won't boot so he can use it and his AT. But with the GPII he can use any computer, and invoke the access features he needs.
  • Auto Network and Local Backup - The GPII has redundant backup of all its data. But users who have local machines or USB flash drives also have an encrypted version of their data stored locally. So loss of the network or loss or damage to the local storage will not result in any loss to their settings etc.
  • Access and Learning - The GPII common code modules will include modules that can both provide access to people who cannot read and help support the reading process. The result is that AT or built-in access features can be developed that provide access today and help a person learn to read for tomorrow.
    • For example:
      • Michelle can't read. But the jobs she is applying for can only be applied for on-line. Using an access feature developed using GPII components she is able to have the text on screen read to her so she can look for jobs and fill out the applications. As she is doing this and looking up other information she is noticing that she doesn't need to use voice as often since she is learning to read more, and this is faster for finding information, especially when reading news and on line magazines when she wants to skip around.
  • Virtual Training and Technical Assistance – One advantage of the “assistance-on-demand” (AOD) capability of the GPII is the ability to receive training or technical assistance wherever you are. Users don’t always live near a good training program or near good technical support. The capability of the GPII to support AOD services could help users in remote or underserved areas get access to quality support and training services.