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Accessible Lab Instruments for Visually-Impaired People: Developing Non-Visual Displays for a Digital Multimeter

Multimeters used in electronics work typically provide readings only through visual displays. This project involves displaying the serial output from a digital multimeter into forms that are more accessible to visually-impaired students.

Department: School of Systems Engineering, Systems Engineering

Supervised by: Dr Faustina Hwang

The Placement Project

A lot of science and engineering laboratory work involves using instrumentation. However, lab equipment often presents information solely in a visual format which can be inaccessible for people with vision-impairments. The aim of this project is to develop a system that can present measurements from a digital multimeter through non-visual displays (e.g. audio and haptic). The project will address research questions about how to communicate information (i.e. meter readings) effectively through non-visual channels. Proprietary multimeters are available with serial communications that allow the display of measurements on a PC. This project will involve determining the format of the information sent between meter and PC in order to allow for this information to be conveyed audibly instead of visually. The first step would be to use software on the PC to output the information audibly, and to investigate how the data should be sonified in order to be intelligible and useful to the person making the measurements. The software approach should then lead onto a more portable solution consisting of a standalone microprocessor. During the placement, specifications for this standalone unit should be developed as well as preliminary designs. In addition to audio feedback there will also be investigations into other display formats including haptic interfaces. This is a stand-alone project, but will be carried out in an active research environment.

Tasks

The project involves: • conducting a review of accessible (scientific) instruments for people with vision-impairments • determining the format of the information sent from the digital multimeter to the PC • developing a software application to convert meter readings to audio output • investigating a range of methods for displaying meter readings in audio (e.g. speech versus pitch variations in a tone), based on prior literature and empirical study • investigating alternative displays such as haptic displays • investigating requirements for a standalone unit with a microprocessor • developing preliminary designs for a standalone unit

Skills, knowledge and experience required

Excellent programming skills. Knowledge of analog and digital electronics is desireable, as is an enthusiasm for improving accessibility for people with disabilities.

Skills which will be developed during the placement

Using literature search facilities effectively, using Endnote, programming with audio output, electronic circuit design. This work could potentially lead to a conference publication.

Place of Work

UoR

Hours of Work

Approximate Start and End Dates (not fixed)

Monday 23 June 2008 - Friday 01 August 2008

How to Apply

Please apply by letter + CV to f.hwang@reading.ac.uk.


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