A New Tool for Making Computers Usable by Those Who Cannot

Dr. Gregg Vanderheiden (he/him)

2021 Disability Summit
April 13, 2021 – 9:30 AM-10:05 AM

Website: https://ischool.umd.edu/about/directory/gregg-vanderheiden
Email: greggvan@umd.edu


COVID-19 has exacerbated the problems faced by people who have trouble using computers – and their trouble using computers has exacerbated their COVID-19 isolation. This presentation will discuss the problems faced by people with low digital affinity and describe efforts and a tool created at University of Maryland, College Park to help address them. The new tool is designed to make computers easier to use for those who find computers too confusing (elders, people with cognitive disabilities, people new to desktop computing, etc.) as well as for those who use assistive technologies. The tool, called Morphic, is a unique new open-source developed tool that, makes it easier for people to discover and quickly access and use the features that are built into computers; lets you set up an ultra-simple way to use a computer for people who need to use a computer but currently can’t (or won’t) due to complexity; lets a person’s assistive technologies and settings follow them and appear on any computer they need to use, and will allow a person to have their AT automatically installed on the computer if it was not there (and then disappear when they leave the computer).

Presentation slides (PPT)

Tool shared during the presentationhttps://morphic.org/


Dr. Vanderheiden has worked in technology and disability for 50 years (since 1971). He was a pioneer in Augmentative Communication (a term he coined in the 1970’s) and in cross-disability access to ICT. His work is found in every Windows and Macintosh computer, iOS and Android phone or tablet, US Automated Postal Stations, Amtrak ticket machines and many other products you encounter daily. Most of the initial access features in both Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac operating systems came from the work of his research group. Dr. Vanderheiden created the first accessibility guidelines for computers and software (‘85), consumer products (‘91) and the web (’95)– and co-chaired both WCAG 1.0 and 2.0 working groups. He has worked with over 50 companies and numerous consumer groups and government advisory & planning committees, including the FCC, the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), the United States Access Board and The White House. He has received over 35 awards for his work. Dr. Vanderheiden holds a BS in Electrical Engineering, MS in Biomedical Engineering, and Ph.D. in Technology in Communication and Child Development from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.