An Innovation Historical Perspective

Designing For Human Needs

Digital accessibility is the digital equivalent of the wheelchair ramp for sidewalks. The provision of digital access is often termed the Electronic Curb Cut. These inventions benefit many people and have long been considered mainstream technology in turn leading to newer innovations. The graded inclines in sidewalks that allow people using devices with wheels to ascend from the street level was initially designed to accommodate people in wheelchairs, but the design improvement has benefited a wide variety of others; Like strollers, shopping carts, suitcases, and individuals using walkers or other assistive devices. In the present day, many Electronic Curb Cuts are being developed that relate to making computer and virtual technologies more accessible to those with disabilities and the aging population.
Teaching Accessible Computing – Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning plus Accessibility, by Jeffrey P. Bigham

Many of the tools commonly used among those with disabilities have potentially far-reaching purposes for the general public. There are many instances of advancements made with disabled people in mind that have yielded benefits for the greater good. For example, Pellegrino Turri developed one of the first working typewriters in 1808 to help his blind friend write more legibly. Some 70 years later, Alexander Graham Bell developed the telephone in support of his teaching of deaf students. Both of these inventions became common in the everyday lives of the general population.

Pellegrino Turri (1765 – 1828), an Italian inventor, invented a mechanical typing machine, one of the first typewriters, at the start of the 19th century for his blind friend Countess Carolina Fantoni da Fivizzano.
Pellegrino Turri – Wikipedia

Alexander Graham Bell (1847 – 1922), through his work with the deaf and his careful study of how sound is transmitted via the human voice, that led Bell to the invention of the telephone. Fascinated by Samuel Morse’s telegraph, Bell set out to use what he knew about sound and speech to improve upon the idea of transmitting communication. On 7 March 1876, Bell was granted US patent 174465A, for a method of transmitting speech by telegraphy, now known as the telephone.
Alexander Graham Bell – Wikipedia

Individuals concerned with improving the lives of people with disabilities have developed other staples of communication and personal leisure. For example, many people today enjoy listening to audio books, but What you may not realize is that the first such recording was developed in 1935 by the American Foundation for the Blind. In January 1976, the Kurzweil Reading Machine, invented by Raymond Kurzweil, was unveiled during a news conference by the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind. At that time, the device covered an entire tabletop, but today will fit in your pocket.

Two important developments occurred in 1933: the establishment of a uniform system of braille (Standard English Braille) for all English-speaking countries and the development of the talking book. The second development is described as the recording on a disc of the voice of a good reader, and its reproduction at will through the instrumentality of a reproducing machine or phonograph. Experimentation on the development of sound recordings for the blind had begun many years earlier. Aided by the Carnegie Corporation, AFB and the Braille Institute of America had been researching the development of suitable records and reproducers. Finally, in 1933, AFB produced two types of machines – one spring driven and the other a combination electric radio and phonograph. A durable record was perfected, recorded at 150 grooves to an inch, so that a book of 60,000 words could be contained on eight or nine double-faced, twelve-inch records. The turntable ran at 33-1/3 revolutions per minute, which permitted thirty minutes of reading time on each record.

Thomas Edison (1847 – 1931) invented the Phonographic talking machine, and The patent was issued on February 19, 1878. The Edison Speaking Phonograph Company was established on January 24, 1878, and as a novelty, the machine was an instant success, but was difficult to operate except by experts, and the tin foil would last for only a few playings. Edison’s phonograph was the first machine to both record sounds and play them back. Edison had hearing problems as a child, probably as the result of ear infections and Scarlet Fever. His hearing became progressively worse until he was almost completely deaf by the time he was a teenager.
Thomas Edison – Wikipedia
History of Edison Sound Recordings

Raymond Kurzweil, born 1948 New York City, U.S., founded Kurzweil Computer Products Inc. in 1974, and led development of the first omni-font optical character recognition system, a computer program capable of recognizing text written in any normal font. Kurzweil decided he wanted to be an inventor at the age of five. At the age of eight he built a robotic puppet theater and robotic game, and by the age of 12he was involved with computers when only a dozen computers existed in all of New York City. By the end of 1975, he had put together the omni-font OCR, the CCD (Charge Coupled Device) flat-bed scanners, and text-to-speech synthesis to create the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind. The Kurzweil Reading Machine (KRM) was able to read ordinary books, magazines, and other printed documents out loud so that a blind person could read anything he wanted.
Ray Kurzweil – Wikipedia
Kurzweil Computer Products

In 1979, closed captioning for television programming was invented. Not only allowing the deaf to listen to TV programs, this innovation also gives individuals in loud environments the opportunity to follow what what is happening on the screen. Mac Norwood became known as the Father Of Closed Captioning after bringing closed captions to mainstream television in his role at the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in the 1970s. Where Subtitles transcribe only dialogue and some on-screen text, Captions aim to describe to the deaf and hard of hearing all significant audio content; Like spoken dialogue, the identity of speakers, the manner of speaking, along with any significant music or sound effects using words or symbols. The term Closed Caption indicates that the captions are not visible until activated by the viewer via the remote control or menu option. On the other hand, the terms Open, Burned-In, Baked-On, Hard-Coded indicate that the captions are visible to all viewers as they are embedded in the video. Regular open-captioned broadcasts began on PBS’s The French Chef in 1972, and WGBH began open captioning of the ABC World News Tonight. Technical development prototypes of closed captioning began in the 1960s with Professor Alan Newell from the University of Southampton. More recently Real-time captioning was developed by the National Captioning Institute in 1982. In real-time captioning, stenotype operators who are able to type at speeds of over 225 words per minute provide captions for live television programs, allowing the viewer to see the captions within two to three seconds of the words being spoken.
Closed captioning – Wikipedia

The fastest growing communications medium of all time is the Internet Of Things with the World Wide Web, and this invention has changed the shape of modern life forever; Allowing people to connect with each other instantly, all over the world. This desire to consume information began during the 15th century with the invention of the printing press and mass production of books. About four hundred years later, alternative forms of writing was developed; like braille that uses raised dots to form text. However, like the break through the printing press was to the sighted world, digital communications through the internet has created greater levels of independence and and equality for blind people.

Johannes Gutenberg (1393 – 1468), a late medieval German inventor, created the first printing press based on previously known mechanical presses and a process for mass-producing metal type. By the end of the 15th century his invention and widescale circulation of the Gutenberg Bible became responsible for a burgeoning economical book publishing industry across Renaissance Europe and eventually among the colonial publishers and printers that emerged in the British-American colonies. This industry enabled the communication of ideas and sharing of knowledge on an unprecedented scale, leading to the global spread of the printing press during the early modern period. Alongside the development of text printing, new and lower-cost methods of image reproduction were developed, including lithography, screen printing and photocopying. The history of printing starts as early as 3000 BC, when the proto-Elamite and Sumerian civilizations used cylinder seals to certify documents written in clay tablets. Other early forms include block seals, hammered coinage, pottery imprints, and cloth printing. Initially a method of printing patterns on cloth such as silk, woodblock printing for texts on paper originated in China by the 7th century during the Tang dynasty, leading to the spread of book production and woodblock printing in other parts of Asia such as Korea and Japan. The Chinese Buddhist Diamond Sutra, printed by woodblock on 11 May 868, is the earliest known printed book with a precise publishing date. Movable type was invented by Chinese artisan Bi Sheng in the 11th century during the Song dynasty, but it received limited use compared to woodblock printing. Nevertheless, the technology spread outside China, as the oldest printed book using metal movable type was the Jikji, printed in Korea in 1377 during the Goryeo era. Woodblock printing was also used in Europe until the mid-15th century.
Johannes Gutenberg, Wikipedia
History of printing – Wikipedia

Charles Barbier de la Serre (1767 – 1841) was the inventor of several forms of shorthand and alternative means of writing, one of which became the inspiration for Louis Braille. In 1815, he published a book titled, Essai sur divers procédés d’expéditive française, where he explains that conventional writing is a barrier to universal literacy because it takes too long to learn, and people who must earn their living (farmers, artisans) cannot devote the necessary time to education. Barbier was also concerned about the barriers to literacy faced by people with visual or hearing impairments. He proposed a simplified writing system based on a grid, which existed in two forms. The first is the conventional alphabet in a grid of 5×5 (at the time, the letter W was seldom used in the French language). The dots were not intended to be made with ink, but pressed into thick paper with a blunt punch so that they could be read with the fingers. Barbier simultaneously invented three tools to make this possible: a grooved board (or tablette) to receive the impressions, the punch itself, and a guide to ensure that the dots lined up.
Charles Barbier – Wikipedia

Louis Braille (1809 – 1852) Coupvray, France, was blinded at the age of three in one eye as a result of an accident with a stitching awl in his father’s harness making shop. Consequently, an infection set in and spread to both eyes, resulting in total blindness. At that time there were not many resources in place for the blind, but he nevertheless excelled in his education and received a scholarship to France’s Royal Institute for Blind Youth. While still a student there, he began developing a system of tactile code that could allow blind people to read and write quickly and efficiently. Inspired by a system invented by Charles Barbier, Braille’s new method was more compact and lent itself to a range of uses, including music. He presented his work to his peers for the first time in 1824, when he was fifteen years old. It went unused by most educators for many years after his death, but posterity has recognized braille as a revolutionary invention, and it has been adapted for use in languages worldwide.
Louis Braille – Wikipedia

Disability awareness helped inform two staples of our everyday technological lives, email and text messaging. In 1972 Vinton Cerf, the father of the internet, integrated text messaging into the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) Network, a research and development agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the development of emerging technologies for use by the military; And in the 1980s Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web so that people around the world could communicate more effectively.

Vinton Gray Cerf was born on June 23, 1943, and in the 1980s, while working at MCI, he helped develop the first commercial email system (MCI Mail) to be connected to the Internet. His hearing impairment drove him to a career in computers, and as a developer on ARPANET, an early Internet-like network, used messages of text extensively to communicate with his deaf wife before incorporating them into that system.
An interview with Vint Cerf
Vint Cerf – Wikipedia

Tim Berners-Lee, born June 1955 in London, England. His parents were computer scientists who worked on the first commercially built computer, the Ferranti Mark 1, and as a child he learnt about electronics from tinkering with a model railway. Berners-Lee in the 1980s worked as an independent contractor at CERN, the largest Internet node in Europe, and he saw an opportunity to join hypertext with the Internet. While in Geneva, he proposed a project based on the concept of hypertext, to facilitate sharing and updating information among researchers, and to demonstrate it he built a prototype system named ENQUIRE. They used similar ideas to those underlying the ENQUIRE system to create the World Wide Web, for which Berners-Lee designed and built the first web browser. His software also functioned as an editor (called WorldWideWeb, running on the NeXTSTEP operating system), and the first Web server, CERN HTTPd (short for Hypertext Transfer Protocol daemon). Berners-Lee published the first web site, which described the project itself, on 20 December 1990; it was available to the Internet from the CERN network. The site provided an explanation of what the World Wide Web was, and how people could use a browser and set up a web server, as well as how to get started with your own website. On 6 August 1991, Berners-Lee first posted, on Usenet, a public invitation for collaboration with the WorldWideWeb project. In 1994, Berners-Lee founded the W3C at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It comprised various companies that were willing to create standards and recommendations to improve the quality of the Web. Berners-Lee made his idea available freely, with no patent and no royalties due. The World Wide Web Consortium decided that its standards should be based on royalty-free technology, so that they easily could be adopted by anyone. In November 2009, Berners-Lee launched the World Wide Web Foundation (WWWF) in order to campaign to advance the Web to empower humanity by launching transformative programs that build local capacity to leverage the Web as a medium for positive change.
Tim Berners-Lee – Wikipedia
Tim Berners-Lee co-invented the World Wide Web in 1989, and founded the W3C organization
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) international organizations working together to develop web standards