Wishing you all a Happy New Year! In the spirit of a new year’s energy, I took a look at KPR’s activities in the past year. 2018 was unusual, in that we’ve intentionally not been engaged in a large funded project, in order to leave some space and see what might take shape. One overarching goal this year was to share more of what we’ve learned and developed with the wider world. To that end, we revamped the KPR website, incorporated a blog, and set up new systems for communicating with people who are interested in what we’re doing. It’s still a work in progress, but has been enjoyable and seems useful so far. We also continued research, development, and service work within assistive technology. Read on for a few specific highlights.
These highlights are roughly in chronological order. It may be true that, “If you want your life to have impact, stop dabbling.” Some might say that these highlights reflect dabbling to the max, with a little of this, a little of that. Is there impact, nonetheless? Hard for me to judge that objectively, but in any case it seems to be just the way I tend to do things.
KPR’s Compass software for access assessment is the only software that we actually sell. (Our other 6 software titles are completely free to use.). We released Compass version 2.5 in April 2018. The main new feature was support for Arabic tests, in conjunction with Noha Halawani, an assistive technology specialist from Saudi Arabia.
This was a fun and challenging project that helped me learn just a little bit about the fascinating Arabic language. It amazes me that the actual form of each letter can change, sometimes dramatically, depending on its position in the word. Anyway, Arabic joins French, Spanish, Portuguese as the available languages within Compass tests.
2. Scanning Wizard
We added an option for auditory scanning within Scanning Wizard, at the request of a user. We hope this will better support switch users who have difficulty reading or seeing.
The AT-node website is a test-of-concept for whether we could package text entry data from the literature into a form that is useful to others in the field. The database contains text entry rate (typing speed) reported for computer users with physical disabilities, across all available studies since 1989. Data can be retrieved in a number of ways, including by interface device (e.g., typing speed for people using speech recognition) or diagnosis (e.g., typing speed for people with cerebral palsy).
We added a few new features to the AT-node site in 2018, including:
- Bar graphs showing average text entry rate by interface, diagnosis, or body site
- Improved accessibility
- Added data from latest articles in the research literature, so we are up-to-date through 2017
The example below shows the graph of text entry rate by interface, for users with cerebral palsy (ASR refers to Automatic Speech Recognition). This is just one part of the overall report the AT-node provides.
AT-node is a fairly new website, and we’d like to know if people find it useful (or not). Try it out and let us know!
4. Text entry rate research
Sajay Arthanat and I completed a major project examining the features of text entry rate studies and making recommendations to the field. The resulting article, The design, conduct, and reporting of research on text entry with alternative access interfaces, has just been published in Technology and Disability.
5. KPR website + blog
I spent a lot of time on this in 2018, including:
- Re-organized the KPR site
- Created and integrated a WordPress blog within the site
- Revamped the Share-it e-commerce order page to use a mobile responsive storefront
- Enhanced accessibility of the entire site, and
- Wrote 16 blog posts
I also started paying attention to keywords and page ranking, but it’s unclear if this belated wading into the SEO sea has paid any dividends yet. Much of it relates to organic search, and honestly at this point we have very little organic search traffic to speak of. (In fact, the field of assistive technology has so many different terms for similar things that it can be difficult to know what to target as keywords.) At times SEO is a fascinating new area to learn about, and at times it’s a questionable investment of time and effort. We’ll see what 2019 brings…
Some of these efforts seem to have made a difference, as web traffic has definitely increased during 2018. Visits and pages are up by 3-4x (comparing Oct/Nov18 to previous 3 year averages). If you’re interested in things like web traffic, see the graph below for more details.
6. Outreach & mailing list
In connection with the theme of awareness-building, I set up a MailChimp system to send the following to subscribers:
- Blog updates
- New-trial campaign (a series of emails sent when Compass trial requested)
- New-user campaign (a series of emails sent when Compass license activated)
The hope is that these Compass-related campaigns will help users get up to speed with the software more quickly and easily, and make sure they know that we are available to help out with that.
We only use the MailChimp system with subscribers who have specifically opted in. If someone requests a Compass trial and does not opt in to the mailing list, we manually send them the new-trial introductory information, rather than using MailChimp to do it.
If you want to subscribe, you can complete this form or use the subscribe section at the very bottom of this page.
7. Accessibility of KPR website and web applications
Full accessibility for all of our sites is another area that really should have been tackled long ago, but finally this year provided some time to do it in a more thorough and systematic way. We developed a test plan (recipe) for assessing the accessibility of the KPR website, AT-node, and Scanning Wizard (i.e., all of our websites). Then I fixed as many errors as possible. I wrote 3 blog posts on this effort, covering the DIY recipe, results and remedies, and issues with third party code.
Feel free to use the DIY recipe for web accessibility for your own purposes. Some people are using it as a hands-on activity within an assistive technology course, while others are using it to examine their own websites. If you do use it, I hope you’ll let me know how it went!
After presenting at roughly 10 conferences in 2017 (in-person and online), I took a step back from that in 2018. I attended and presented at two conferences myself (ATIA and RESNA, for a combined 8 presentations) and had one co-author credit with Sajay Arthanat at another conference (AATC in Australia).
For more details about these conference papers and presentations, visit the KPR publications page.
9. Guide to hands-free mice
I completed a major field scan and guide to the hands-free mice that are currently available. (These allow you to do computer mouse functions without using your hands.) I’m hoping this resource will help AT practitioners and end users understand what’s out there and how to sift through the options to select something that best meets a user’s needs. The three resulting blog posts on hands-free mice were well-received (considerations, guide, how-to-choose), so there seems to be some value to this information.
Here’s an example of one comparison table in the guide, for the family of wearable sensor systems.
You can get the full guide, including all 6 comparison tables in one handout, using the link below:
Download the guide to hands-free mice
This was fun to do, but these in-depth product analyses are very time-consuming, at least for me – I spent about 4 weeks on the guide to 25 hands-free mice. Even so, it’s interesting work, and I’d be happy to do a similar series on another topic related to access interfaces. If you have any ideas or requests, please let me know!
I continued to contribute volunteer service, mainly in the following ways:
- Associate editor of RESNA’s Assistive Technology journal, to coordinate and perform reviews of journal submissions
- Chair and now member of the RESNA Research Committee (thanks to Sajay Arthanat for taking on the Chair position!)
- ATIA Strand Advisor, helping solicit and review conference submissions
- Reviewer for National Institutes of Health SBIR grant applications (2 study sections in 2018)
If you’re curious about any of these activities, please let me know. Both RESNA and ATIA are great organizations — you meet terrific people and learn a lot while helping out the AT field. The grant reviewing is very time-consuming but well-organized and probably the best way to get behind the scenes and learn more about the process.
Moving forward into 2019
KPR made a definite shift toward knowledge translation and awareness building in 2018, and it feels like a move in the right direction. I think KPR’s tools can be useful to a larger audience, but only if they know about them.
I plan to continue in this awareness-building mode for 2019. I’m also open to suggestions for blog topics, software features, questions regarding specific situations, etc. — so please keep in touch and have a fun and productive 2019!