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Proceedings of the Wireless RERC 2021 State of Technology Forum

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The Wireless RERC convened the Virtual State of Technology (SoT) Forum 2020One on March 23-24, 2021. The 2021 virtual SoT was a focused, robust event, with a lively, informed, and diverse group of attendees representing the research community, people with disabilities, industry, technologists, advocates, policymakers, and disability service providers who explored the state of, and emerging trends in, inclusive wireless technologies and applications. 

The Forum Proceedings is an interactive document with papers, presentations, videos, and bios from the two-day event. Further, it opens with a summation of the event and closes with a chapter on key activities to pursue to ensure inclusion is always at the forefront of wireless technology, design, development, and deployment.

Date of Publication: 
Wednesday, September 22, 2021

New Application Enables People who are Non-Verbal to Access Voice-Activated Smart Home Devices

Publication Type: 
Icon that shows two hands holding up a home.

August 11, 2021 – The IDEAL Group is pleased to announce the release of the Smart Home Helper (SHH). SHH is a free Android app (available on the Google Play Store) that enables individuals who are nonverbal and individuals with speech disorders such as stuttering, apraxia, and dysarthria to issue verbal commands to voice-activated smart home devices, using Android’s Text-to-Speech engine. SHH enables its users to issue smart home commands, in any one of 63 languages/dialects. Smart home voice commands can easily be created, organized, and shared with other users of the app. SHH development was funded by The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Wireless Inclusive Technologies’ (Wireless RERC).

About Voice-Controlled Smart Home Devices:
In the U.S., home-based, voice-controlled devices represent a rapidly growing market. Key players include Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, Samsung’s Bixby and the Google Assistant. According to and IDC:
  • Over 60 million people in the U.S. own 157 million smart speakers.

  • At least one voice-activated smart speaker is owned by 53 million Americans.

  • The number of smart homes worldwide is expected to be 451 million in 2025. 

  • Global smart home device shipments are expected to reach 1.4 billion in 2025.

Why SHH is important:

Given the benefits of voice-controlled smart home devices, those who lack the ability to speak, or who can speak clearly are not able to fully take advantage of these devices. The SHH was developed to level the playing field by enhancing the accessibility of these devices.

Nonverbal Statistics:
According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 70 million people worldwide stutter (about 1% of the population). In the United States, this represents over 3 million people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Autism Speaks, an estimated 30,000,000 people with autism worldwide are nonverbal.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, dysarthria is a speech disorder that happens because of muscle weakness. Motor speech disorders like dysarthria result from damage to the nervous system. Researchers don’t know exactly how common dysarthria is. It is more common in people who have certain neurological conditions, such as:

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS): Up to 30% of people with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) have dysarthria.

  • Multiple sclerosis (MS): Around 25% to 50% of people with MS get dysarthria at some point.

  • Parkinson’s disease: Dysarthria affects 70% to 100% of people with Parkinson’s disease.

  • Stroke: About 8% to 60% of people with stroke have dysarthria.

  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI): Some 10% to 65% of people with TBI have dysarthria.

Download Smart Home Helper from the Google Play Store

Smart Home Helper User Documentation


The Smart Home Helper (SHH) and supporting materials were developed by The IDEAL Group with funding from the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Wireless Inclusive Technologies (Wireless RERC).

Date of Publication: 
Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Helpful Alert Originator-Focused & Consumer-Focused Resources for Emergency Communications

Helpful Alert Originator-Focused Websites

12 Considerations for Accessible Emergency Communications:

IPAWS Alerting Authority Online Training:

Common Misconceptions Regarding People who are Deaf and Rely on ASL:

Effective Communications...

Call for Papers (UPDATED May 1, 2020) - Special Issue of Assistive Technology

Publication Type: 
Block numbers "2020" filled with a colorful collage of images of different types of wireless technologies and people using them. 2020 State of Technology. Include. Innovate. Transform.


In consideration of the recent World Health Organization declaration of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak to be a pandemic, we have reluctantly decided to postpone the 2020 State of Technology Forum.  The important work of the Wireless RERC continues, and as such, we see the postponement as an opportunity to produce a more robust Assistive Technology Journal Special Issue. The Issue reflects the  Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Wireless Inclusive Technologies (Wireless RERC), forthcoming 2020 State of Technology Forum key themes: Include, Innovate, and Transform. The journal articles (a) examine the evolving nature and capacities of wireless technologies, (b) identify the opportunities made possible by these technologies to meet a range of community needs for access, equity, and inclusion, and (c) set the stage to suggest the change-making mechanisms in research, development, policy, and capacity building to advance these objectives. These three cross-cutting elements have been chosen as particularly characteristic of the rapidly advancing, technology-driven field over the last 20 years. While wireless technologies have radically changed the economic, educational, and social landscapes, for much of society, they have especially served to increase the engagement and full societal participation of some 49.7 million people with disabilities, and an additional 52 million Americans aged 65 and older. That said, the industry cannot rest on its laurels, as positive change can no longer be about the technologies alone, but much more about the context of use and the capacity of wireless and associated digital technologies to facilitate the independent living and the community inclusion of people with disabilities. The key objectives of the assembled papers are to explore how inclusion and innovation in wireless technology design and development have and can continue to result in products that can be characterized as transformational and to define the mission, methods, and measures needed to realize the vision.

Call for Papers

We invite short papers (1500-2000 words) that are intended to provide background and context for the forum. Selected papers, as well as external papers, will be invited to expand the article to a target 4000 - 6000 words for a special Forum issue prepared for Assistive Technology Journal. Paul M.A. Baker, Ph.D., Editor, Helena Mitchell, Ph.D., and Salimah LaForce. M.S., Associate Editors.   

The following (representative) topics have been proposed for the Forum:

  • Impact of access to digital technologies on inclusive educational outcomes
  • Conflicting realities of rising wireless digital accessibility and widening digital disparities: What are the education, employment, or health consequences?
  • Inclusive Communications, Public Health, and People with Disabilities: Insights from COVID-19
  • The augmented human:  Moving towards the seamless integration of wearables, sensors and digital systems  
  • Skills, training, and the impact of augmented, virtual, and mixed reality applications that enhance access and inclusion
  • Wireless case study: Autonomous vehicles/transit: The real and imagined impacts on access and inclusion
  • Social media and platform applications: Crowdsourced information and user-generated content’s impact on independence and disability identity
  • Accessibility and the emergence of artificial intelligence in consumer products and their impact on independence
  • Federal regulation, policy, and standards:  access and inclusion outcomes
  • The Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA)
  • Modernization of the national alerting system to be inclusive of wireless technologies
  • The mainstreaming of AT: wireless technologies used in an assistive manner
  • Networks, Innovation, and the Gig Economy: The role of platforms, apps, and wireless connectivity
  • Shaping the future of inclusive design: Virtual reality as a teaching tool
  • (Inclusive) Smart places, spaces, and things: The role of IoT on mobility and participation
  • Socially Assistive Robotics – when the caregiver is made of wires
  • Wireless devices and services: A look at user experiences and expectations


Submission of abstracts for proposed articles should be 300-500 words addressing one of the proposed topics listed above or suggesting an alternative, but compelling topic on wireless access and inclusion. The papers may be review articles, methodological articles, research presentations, or papers that address technology transfer and market entry. Thematically, they may (a) address the evolving nature and capacities of wireless technologies, (b) discuss how these technologies can address community needs for access, equity, and inclusion and (c) explore change-making mechanisms in research, development, policy, and capacity building to advance these inclusion and participation objectives.

Submission should be made to Paul M.A. Baker, Editor, Wireless Forum Special Issue


Submission of 300-word abstract/Concept May 15, 2020
Notification of acceptance  June 1, 2020
Submission of 1500 word (3-5 page) Conference Paper July 1, 2020
Submission of  expanded Journal article for review   October 1, 2020
Reviews returned to authors December 1, 2020
Revisions due to editors February 1, 2021
Final papers to AT April 15, 2021


Date of Publication: 
Friday, May 1, 2020

Tactile Graphics Helper Available Now in the Apple App Store!

Publication Type: 
This is the icon for TGH as it appears in the Apple App Store

TACTILE GRAPHICS HELPER for iOS is available now:

October 3, 2019 - The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Wireless Inclusive Technologies’ (Wireless RERC) App Factory project team is pleased to announce the release of the Tactile Graphics Helper (TGH) on the App Store.  TGH was developed by researchers at the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute led by James Coughlan, Ph.D.   TGH is a free iOS app that makes tactile graphics more accessible to people with visual impairments.  The basic idea of TGH is to track the user’s pointing finger as they explore a tactile graphic, like a map or the periodic table, announcing text-to-speech information about the location they are pointing to.  

The Tactile Graphics Helper (TGH) is highly accessible to blind and low vision users and is intended to help them learn “graphicacy” (literacy with Tactile Graphics).   Tactile graphics  use raised lines, textures, and elevations to provide individuals with visual impairments access to graphical materials through touch. Tactile graphics are particularly important for students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, where educational content is often conveyed using diagrams and charts. However, providing a student who has a visual impairment with a tactile graphic does not automatically provide the student access to the graphic's educational content. Instead, the student may struggle to decipher subtle differences between textures or line styles, and must deal with cramped and confusing placement of lines and braille. These format-related issues prevent students with visual impairments from accessing educational content in graphics independently, because they oblige the students to ask for sighted clarification. The TGH app makes tactile graphics more accessible to visually impaired users, and might also be of significant benefit to students without recognized disabilities by facilitating a multi-modal (visual, tactile and audio) interaction with tactile graphics.

Helpful information on how to use TGH can be found here:

Please note that in its current (beta) version, TGH requires assistance from a sighted person to aim the camera properly on the tripod before the app is used.

Date of Publication: 
Monday, October 14, 2019

New Audio Guide Released! Wireless RERC and GaRRS Team Up to Release a Step-By-Step Set-Up Audio Guide for the Amazon Echo Dot.

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The Wireless RERC is excited to announce that it has teamed up with the Georgia Radio Reading Service (GaRRS) to produce an all-audio set-up guide for users of the Amazon Echo Dot, which GaRRS provides to their listeners. GaRRS is Georgia’s premier provider of information for individuals who have a vision or print disability. Every month, they broadcast and stream hundreds of programs, including local and national newspapers, books, magazines, events, employment opportunities, and shopping ads. GaRRS will distribute our audio guide when sending the Dots to their listeners as well as host the audio guide on their website.

The new guide is meant to be a tutorial for users that are blind or have low vision who want to set up their devices without assistance.  The production team has learned, through previous data collected from focus groups, that people with vision disabilities find digital assistants, like the Amazon Echo series of products, to be powerful devices that allow them to control their home environments, listen to news, music, books, or radio broadcasts, like GaRRS, or place orders for things just by using their voice.  But they often say that they require additional assistance by someone who is sighted to initially set up the device. Our new audio guide details this set-up process in a step-by-step format:

  • First, from what to expect when unboxing the Echo Dot,
  • Next, what the functions of the buttons on the top of the Dot do, and finally,
  • How to synch the Dot to the Alexa app on your smartphone or tablet so you can begin controlling the Dot by your voice.  

The Echo Dot audio guide in MP3 format can be listened to and downloaded from our website here: []

Or you can listen on the GaRRS website here: []

This audio guide complements our three-part series of video tutorials on the Amazon Echo.  You can find the videos on our YouTube channel here: []

Date of Publication: 
Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Three-Part Video Tutorial Series on the Amazon Echo Launched on the Wireless RERC’s YouTube Channel!

Publication Type: 

New owners of Amazon’s series of Echo devices with vision disabilities now have a step-by-step video guide they can reference to set up their Echos without sighted assistance.  This new three-part series of videos was produced by the Wireless RERC’s consumer outreach team.  The videos provide a thorough tutorial on the set-up and overall operation of the Amazon Echo.  

  • Part 1 – Guides the user through unboxing the Echo powering it up.
  • Part 2 - Educates the viewer on what the four top buttons do. 
  • Part 3 - Shows what to expect when synching the Alexa app and your new Echo.  

​While the videos are mainly geared towards users with vision disabilities, the videos also feature open captions and American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation to aid our viewers with hearing loss or use ASL as their primary form of communication.    These videos were produced in response to data we received from focus groups we conducted regarding smart home virtual intelligent assistants.   Participants who are blind or have low-vision particularly pointed out their need for sighted assistance in the initial set-up of these smart home devices, like the Echo or Google Home. They wanted to be able to set up the device independently.

You can view each of the videos at the links provided below:

A link to transcripts for all three of the videos can be found here:

We encourage you to subscribe to our YouTube channel, where we often upload videos related to the accessibility of consumer-focused wireless technology.  Be sure to hit the Like button for the videos, and leave a comment if you want.  We read all of your comments and will respond if you have a great new idea for a video we should do, or if you have a question related to the content of a video. Tell us how we’re doing!

Date of Publication: 
Wednesday, September 11, 2019


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The contents of this website were developed under a grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR grant number 90RE5025-01-00). NIDILRR is a Center within the Administration for Community Living (ACL), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The contents of this website do not necessarily represent the policy of NIDILRR, ACL, HHS, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.