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Accessibility technologies help vets use WWII Memorial info kiosks

Gregg C. Vanderheiden

Gregg C. Vanderheiden (large image)

WWII Memorial Kiosk

Trace EZ Access technologies make it easy for all people to use veteran-information kiosks at the National World War II Memorial. (large image)

Thousands of veterans and their families will attend the Memorial Day weekend dedication of the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. And those visitors can find their names and the names and service information of their friends and family members using touch-screen kiosks that incorporate accessibility technologies developed at the Trace Research and Development Center in the College of Engineering at UW-Madison.

Virginia-based Eagle Collaborative Computing Services (ECCS), Inc., a Vietnam-era veteran-owned company, developed the kiosks, which are located in the memorial's information plaza. ECCS implemented the Trace Center's EZ Access techniques.

EZ Access is a set of simple interface enhancements that manufacturers can seamlessly integrate into electronic products and devices such as public information kiosks, ATMs and cellular phones, so more people, including those with disabilities, can use them. A product that has only a touch screen may be difficult or impossible for many people to use. With the addition of just a few buttons and voice output, it becomes usable by people who cannot see, read, reach the screen, or make fine movements with their arms, hands, or fingers. The addition of captions further extends the product to people who cannot hear.

Trace Center staff trained the ECCS team how to design information systems that are cross-disability accessible and usable by the broadest spectrum of people. "It is especially appropriate that these kiosks will work well for the World War II generation who are being honored," says Gregg Vanderheiden, Trace Center director and a professor of biomedical engineering and industrial and systems engineering. "Many of these veterans now have limited vision, hearing or physical abilities that might have made a less accessible kiosk very difficult or impossible for them to use independently. ECCS has done an excellent job-beyond what they were required to do."

WWII Memorial Kiosk setting

There are four kiosks at the memorial. (large image)

The Trace Center developed EZ Access over the past six years as an outgrowth of its ongoing research and development on how to design standard information systems and products so that they are accessible for people with disabilities.

Funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, Trace has worked in the field of disability and technology for 33 years and is the leading center for research in the area of accessibility of standard information and telecommunications technologies.