A Visual Impairment and Accessibility Technology Research Lab

Projects – Current and Past

Current Projects

Improving the efficiency of creating image descriptions for students with print disabilities

The purpose of the research is to enhance the process of producing accessible descriptions for textbook images for students with print disabilities. Graphical representations of information are widely used in STEM education, and pose a particular challenge for users who have print disabilities, defined as persons who cannot effectively read print because of visual, physical, perceptual, developmental, cognitive, or learning impairments. Creating accessible instructional materials (AIM) for students with print disabilities is essential to promote better educational, and consequently better employment outcomes for this population in an increasingly technologically oriented world. We propose developing a set of open-source software tools to improve current workflows in the authoring of image descriptions for scanned textbooks.

Funded by NIDILRR Grant no. 901F0114, “Image Categorization Expert System to Facilitate Creation of Accessible Educational Materials,” Ender Tekin, PI (10/1/16 – 9/30/19).

ZoomBoard: An Affordable, Portable System to Improve Access to Presentations and Lecture Notes for Low Vision Viewers

Low vision students in mainstream classrooms and working professionals who need to attend presentations suffer from a lack of a portable and affordable solution to access lecture notes and slides. We propose developing a solution called ZoomBoard that consists of a portable device that uses a camera to capture and broadcast a video stream of the target to be observed (such as lecture slides or a whiteboard), and companion apps that can be installed on viewers’ mobile devices. Compared to existing proprietary approaches, ZoomBoard is (i) affordable (using existing devices or cheap off-the-shelf components), (ii) portable (does not need any other infrastructure such as Wi-Fi to function), (iii) easy to use (requires only minimal set-up by the instructor and users) (iv) customizable (multiple viewers can independently and simultaneously explore different portions of the screen with their own settings) and (v) extensible (open source platform can be customized for different needs and environments). ZoomBoard can help students and professionals with low vision easily navigate, read and take notes, leading to improved educational and employment outcomes and productivity in the workplace. ZoomBoard is being developed by a team consisting of engineers with experience in developing accessibility technologies as well as low vision professionals with expertise in rehabilitation, clinical work and classroom accessibility, and will be evaluated in a classroom setting with ongoing feedback from students with low vision and teachers for students with visual impairments.

Funded by Research to Prevent Blindness – 2018 Innovations in Technology Low Vision Research Award. “ZoomBoard: An Affordable, Portable System to Improve Access to Presentations and Lecture Notes for Low Vision Viewers,” Ender Tekin, PI (08/01/2018-07/31/2019)

Past Projects

  • Principal Investigator on NIH Grant no. 1 R21 EY022200, “Video-based Speech Enhancement for Persons with Vision and Hearing Loss”, Co-Investigators J. M. Coughlan and H. Simon (6/1/13 – 5/31/15).
  • Co-Investigator on NIH Grant no. 2 R01 EY018890, “Providing Access to Appliance Displays for Visually Impaired Users.”, J. M. Coughlan (PI) (9/1/13 – 8/31/16)