OLPdisAbledC - Improving Accessibility for OLPC and Sugar

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Computers came in all sizes. I fondly remember unloading a computer - the size of a fridge into our "unofficial pantry" office that was the meeting place for members of HcUG (an acronym for HK computer User Group for People with Disabilities - started in the late 80s it was awarded the Outstanding Self-help Organization Award by the Hong Kong government in 1994).

HcUG was a beneficiary of generous individuals and companies who donated their old computers for our "consumption" by people with disabilities. Looking back 20 years today, we had no clue how to "boot" this metal beast into functionality. Tears in my eyes then, I swore that HcUG should not to become an accidental physical dumping ground for corporate social responsibility act! How times have change. Today, if we received a "$25 computer" it is easy to figure out how to access our legacy Bulletin Board System (BBS). We just have google for information without worries on cost of mail packets via IDD modem calls!

The internet is now the new great equalizer for people with disabilities. Computers are common and very powerful compared to our good old days. Having said that I still love my underpowered OLPC XO 1.0 for providing a holistic educational computing experience. Since owning a few from G1G1 program in 2008 it has been a long dream that came true. I dream of packing dozens of computers into my car boot or a trishaw for a mobile extended roadshow. The XO's rugged design and low power consumption makes it all too easy (except for its weight).

While the XO is designed for normal children I am delighted that the Uruguayan team has improved its functionality for accessibility by people with disabilities. Testing the hacked Memorize activity made accessible with single-switch, and virtual keyboard access has ignited my interest for helping children with disabilities in developing/developed world. I wonder if special need children are receiving a priority in OLPC mission or in the design of Sugar activities? A One Laptop Per DisAbled Child (OLPdisAbledC) initiative can kickstart an interest in this very specialized area of work.

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After 20 years I renamed HcUG as Holistic computing Usability Group. This nurture group promote holistic One2One educational computing in Asia. We believe digital technologies (e.g laptops, netbook, tablets) and access to the internet can provide people with disabilities better equal opportunities. HcUG strongly support OLPC mission with an extended focused vision of targeting special needs children and individuals. Technology provide tools for learning and living that can enhance individual's cognition, action, relation & emotion. While we can wait, disAbled children need the tools NOW.

My first OLPdisAbledC initiative is to identify children with disabilities for "N = 1" deployment. A successful single case follow-up can prepare for future deployment needs arise. Currently I have identified a child in Northern China and a local group will provide support and follow-up. A Hong Kong group will be visiting the child this summer and to collect information on the number, severity and type of disabled children in that region.

Recycling unused XOs which are collect dust is a good way to start for the OLPdisAbledC initiative. So if you have an XO in your closet I will be interested!

Share your thoughts and support OLPdisAbledC in your own way!

Written by T.K. Kang


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