Pitney Bowes Office SystemsTrumbull, Conn.Universal Access Copier System

Working people know how frustrating it can be to operate a copying machine. Imagine not being able to reach the buttons or read the instructions. For people with limited mobility or vision, office technology can be inaccessible and serve as an employment barrier. Pitney Bowes Office Systems has addressed this with the Universal Access Copier System (UACS), which uses voice activation, Braille labeling and keypads, an extra-large touch screen, and other design enhancements to make copiers easier to use for everyone, but especially for users with disabilities. The system can be retrofitted for some Pitney Bowes copiers already in use or included in new copiers. It also can be customized, for instance, emphasizing access by people who use wheelchairs. UACS research started out to address the unserved market of employable disabled people after passage of the Americans with Disabilities and Worker Investment acts, the company says, but it discovered in test marketing that even nondisabled users preferred the copiers. Students and workers at the Massachusetts Hospital School in Canton, Mass., and the American Foundation for the Blind in New York tested UACS in 1997 and 1998. "Many [students] have severe muscle degeneration and speech problems, and the copier responds very well," John Britt, executive director of the Massachusetts Hospital School, reported during the testing period. "The students are using [it] to complete homework assignments and administrative work." UACS developers faced technical challenges that included designing a system that could be incorporated in current copier technology and addressing a wide variety of potential disabilities. Most revolutionary, the company states, is speech-recognition capability, which responds to any language or speech impairment. John Teresko, John Sheridan, Tim Stevens, Doug Bartholomew, Patricia Panchak, Tonya Vinas, Samuel Greengard, Kristin Ohlson, and Barbara Schmitz contributed to this article.

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