Transforming Legal Kiosks for Universal Accessibility

May 30, 2024

Legal Kiosks serve individuals from all walks of life and making them accessible is not just a matter of compliance; it's about providing equal access to legal services. Our recent partnership with Texas Legal Services Center (TLSC) aimed to improve the accessibility of their kiosks, ensuring they are user-friendly for everyone, regardless of their abilities. Not only did we implement screen reading tools like NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access) and Magnifier for blind and low vision users in the first iteration of making their Kiosks accessible, but we pushed Kiosks even further to create an inclusive experience.

We integrated several accessibility tools: Voicebot, Camera Mouse, Dynamic Keyboard, Immersive Reader, and Helperbird. Accessibility software can be expensive, especially for legal aid and legal services organizations. Implementing free and open-source software was crucial in ensuring that we could meet accessibility standards without overwhelming the budget. All of these tools are freely available, except for Helperbird which was a necessary step given its broad range of features specifically for users with learning disabilities.

Here’s a closer look at each tool and what they do:

  • Voicebot: Voice-Driven Control
    Voicebot is free voice recognition software that enables voice-driven navigation and control of computers. Originally designed for gamers, it has been adapted to assist users with physical disabilities, allowing them to execute various tasks on Legal Kiosks through voice commands. Voicebot is ready to assist from the moment you approach the kiosk, requiring no need to click on an application icon. To activate Voicebot, users simply use the activation word "Voice." For instance, saying "Voice Browser" will open a browser. Voicebot’s integration with other tools like Camera Mouse and Dynamic Keyboard creates a seamless experience for users who are unable to use a physical keyboard and mouse.

Watch this video to see Voicebot in action on our Legal Kiosks:

  • Camera Mouse: Hands-Free Navigation
    Camera Mouse is free legacy software developed by Boston College. It allows users to control the mouse pointer with head movements, designed for individuals with limited motor abilities. It’s important to note that when using free or open-source legacy software, strict security measures must be in place because these products are not updated frequently. Using Camera Mouse is straightforward. Users launch the application by saying a Voicebot command then select a feature on their face for the camera to track. Movements of the head then control the mouse pointer. For clicking, Camera Mouse uses "Dwell Time," meaning that holding the pointer in a small area for a certain period issues a mouse click.

  • Dynamic Keyboard: On-Screen Keyboard
    Dynamic Keyboard is free legacy software developed by the University of Victoria. It is an on-screen keyboard designed for users with limited motor control. It offers predictive text input, which speeds up typing, and allows users to switch between open applications. Dynamic Keyboard works hand-in-hand with Camera Mouse, allowing users to type and navigate without the need for a physical keyboard. Like Camera Mouse, users state the Voicebot command to open Dynamic Keyboard. The keyboard displays five boxes, each containing five different letters, and a semi-circle in the center for predictive words. Users can use the top left arrow to open the keyboard and start typing.

Watch this video to see Camera Mouse and Dynamic Keyboard in action on our Legal Kiosks:

  • Immersive Reader: Enhancing Comprehension
    Immersive Reader is a tool integrated into Microsoft Word that improves reading comprehension through features like text decoding and focus modes. It provides text-to-speech functionality, line focus, and syllable splitting, making it easier for users with reading disabilities or visual impairments to engage with digital content.

  • Helperbird: Beyond the Basics
    Helperbird is a browser extension designed to improve the digital accessibility of websites by providing over 40 customizable tools. These tools include text-to-speech, dyslexia fonts, customizable overlays, and dictionary support. While the softwares listed above is invaluable, Helperbird addresses a broader spectrum of needs, making web content accessible for users with learning disabilities. Our collaboration with Helperbird’s IT team was crucial in developing a build compatible with our kiosk’s security settings, ensuring that Helperbird could function effectively without compromising the kiosk's security.

Our approach was collaborative and iterative, involving continuous feedback and adjustments to ensure the best possible outcome. Knowbility will follow-up with expert user testing to ensure these technologies effectively meet diverse user needs. These enhancements ensure that everyone, regardless of their abilities, can access and utilize the legal services provided by TLSC’s Virtual Court Kiosks. This project not only showcases the potential of technology in enhancing access to justice but also sets a precedent for future initiatives.

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