Source:Eighth International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computer & Accessibility (ASSETS 2006), Portland, Oregon (2006)
This paper describes the evolution of the iCare Reader project at Arizona State University. This project, which started in the fall of 2003, has been funded by the State of Arizona, and by a grant from the National Science Foundation. The inspiration for the iCare Reader was provided by focus groups of people who are blind, who asked iCARE researchers for a reading machine that could taken anywhere, and that was easier to use than the traditional flatbed scanning technology solutions that are available for accessing printed text. The iCARE team conceived the idea of using a wearable digital camera instead of flatbed scanners to capture images of text. However, miniature digital camera technology did not have adequate resolution for text extraction, and wearable PDA-sized computers did not have adequate processing capacity to support a wearable reader device at that time. To allow research to be done concurrently with the advancement of camera and processing technologies, the research team created a 3-phase project roadmap that would allow them to take fullest possible advantage of these technologies as soon as they became available. The first phase involved the construction of a table-top iCARE Reader, the second phase a portable iCARE Reader, and the third phase a wearable iCARE Reader. The first phase prototypes have now been completed, and are deployed in educational institutions. The second phase prototypes have been constructed, and are currently being evaluated. The progress of the iCARE research, along with the issues encountered by the iCare reseach team since the beginning of the project are discussed. It is our belief that if assistive devices such as the iCARE Readers were manufactured and made available to people who are blind, and to prospective employers of these people, they would provide a very effective tool to promote job readiness, successful job placement, and sustainable employment.