Nate’s Project to Help Children With Disabilities Use Social Media

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As one of Arcweb’s developers, Nate is constantly faced with technical challenges and finding creative solutions to problems. Even though he has years of experience under his belt, Nate decided to go back to school and recently graduated from Drexel University. There he took his innovative problem solving abilities and applied them to a field not often associated with software development – visually impaired children.

Nate helped his Drexel team to become the first ever computer science team to win the Drexel Department of Engineering’s Senior Design Contest with their VisAssist (VisAssist) mobile app. The team met with students from Overbrook School for the Blind in Philadelphia to ensure that they were developing something the kids wanted to use, that would have a positive impact on their daily lives. One of the main wishes of the students was to be able to use the same social media tools that their non-impaired peers frequently use. Nate and his team built Facebook, Twitter and MediaWiki apps (more details here: Media Wiki) that made using these social programs easily accessible to the visually impaired students. This was accomplished by enhancing the way content is presented to the reader, taking into consideration the unique challenges of the visually impaired.

They also tackled the problem of visually impaired students having to use computer screen magnification aids. These can be both cumbersome to carry around and expensive for parents to purchase. The team developed software that can magnify text and filter images that work directly on Android mobile devices. This greatly increased the accessibility of written content to visually impaired students since the software works on a device that they are already familiar using and can have easier access to. It also helps the children to feel normalized and not be stigmatized by having to use special machines to read social news.

The BinoBoard

If that wasn’t enough, the team also developed a “BinoBoard” keyboard that allows the user to swipe through character rather than have to type on the built in small keyboards of cell phones. Based on a Binary Tree, the BinoBoard is a huge innovation, that reads the letter or character so the user has selected to ensure accuracy, while allowing the user to choose letters. The keyboard will help not only children at this specific school, but can be used nation wide by visually impaired individuals. Nate said that the best part of the whole project was seeing the children actually using the app, and being able to use social media without the hassle it previously caused.

Want to learn more? Follow these links for additional details about the VisAssist program:

Drexel Department of Computer Science

Technically Philly

Lancaster Online Newspaper


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