Monthly Archives: August 2006

OATS Meeting Aftermath 1

On the 8th of August 2006 the BCS Open Source Specialist Group and the BCS Disability Specialist Group welcomed Simon Judge to present the work of the Open Source Assistive Technology Software project (OATSOFT).

Simon discussed the aims of assistive technology in general and demonstrated the state of the art using illustrative videos demonstrating some of the assistive technology devices that he helps to deploy in his work. The OATS project was then introduced and the various facilities offered by the project including the Forge, the academic resources, discussion forums and most importantly the list of Open Source assistive technology systems.

Much of the floor discussion during the presentation revolved around the input problems experienced by users of assistive technology systems. Though innovative systems are available, they are often not widely adopted due to issues such as the initial learning curve, the availablity of support and the cost of any specialist hardware required.

The floor were also interested in the possibilities offered by using commodity hardware such as old mice and commodity computing devices in place of expensive dedicated devices. Coupled with the Open Source assistive technology components offered by OATS, this could provide a new route to better assistive technology.


OATS: Using the Open Source development model to innovate and improve software for people with disabilities. 1

We present a talk by Simon Judge of OATS (Open Source Assistive Technology Software). Please email your name to the event coordinator to book a place at this event.


This presentation will present the OATS project – the world’s first site dedicated to Open Source Assistive Technology Software. OATS – Open Source Assistive Technology Software – is a pilot project to promote the availability and development of freely available software for users of Assistive Technology (AT).

Assistive Technology enables people with disabilities to overcome barriers – for example how can you efficiently access a computer if you cannot use a mouse or keyboard? Assisitve Technology is an increasingly important field, given, for example, the ageing of the population. There is also a massive cross over between Assistive Technology human-computer interaction, usability, accessibility and simply good design. There will always be a need for customised and/or specialist software for the population for whom existing software is not appropriate and catering for these needs has the potential to improve design and usability for the mainstream population.

Software (combined with increasingly powerful and mobile computing) offers a very effective means of meeting a wide range of Assistive Technology needs and these will be outlined and examples given and demonstrated (including existing open source Assistive Technology software).

Open Source software is now a well-established development model, however it has not been fully utilised within the Assistive Technology world. The project participants believe that Open Source is, naturally, an excellent development model for Assistive Technology – since it encourages standardisation, innovation and brings users and developers closer together.

The project has developed a website,, to host a repository of freely available AT software and a forge to promote the development of new software. Fundamental to the project is the concept of a ‘community’ bringing together users of assistive technology and software developers. In designing the website particular attention has been given to the needs and abilities of these two groups of users. Accessibility and usability have been uppermost considerations.

The website is based on PLONE – the open source content management system – this was chosen because of the good inherent accessibility features, the software development tools already available and the active PLONE community. Software development tools, accessible through the forge, include ‘bug tracking’, code versioning and extensive documentation capabilities. The site will be demonstrated and the issues surrounding it’s implementation discussed.

Although undoubtedly capable of further development, the OATS website is fully functional and has attracted considerable interest from both users of assistive technology and software developers. This project was a pilot project and the proposed route to move beyond this successful pilot will be presented and the opinions and feedback of the audience sought on this.

Biography of Simon Judge

Simon works as a Clinical Scientist at Access to Communication and Technology (ACT), Birmingham. ACT1 is a specialist NHS service providing Electronic Assistive Technology (EAT) to people with communication problems and/or physical difficulties that might be helped by technology. As part of his day-to-day job Simon meets and works with a large number of people of all ages with often profound disabilities. Providing Assistive Technology equipment to these clients allows a unique insight into the extremes of accessibility and usability.

Working within the Assistive Technology field since 1999 Simon previously worked for a not-for-profit organisation (MERU2) where he jointly set up and ran a service providing custom made EAT controls to children with disabilities.

Simon has an MEng in Electronic and Electrical Engineering from Imperial College, London. He has a particular interest in Human Computer Interaction with relation to the use of ‘restricted’ interfaces and also the potential impact of Open Source Software on the Assistive Technology market.

The use of the Open Source software development model for Assistive Technology has been a passionate belief since entering the field. The OATS3 project is the culmination of many years of developing and evolving work in encouraging FLOSS within the field. It was inspired by interaction with some brilliant software engineers and Assistive Technology professionals and seeded from a meeting with Richard Stilgoe, founder of the Orpheus Centre4.

Further information can be found at

08-08-2006 @ 18:00 (presentation begins at 18:30)
BCS Central London Offices, First Floor, The Davidson Building, 5 Southampton Street, London WC2E 7HA
Contact Name
Paul Adams
Contact Email
Contact Phone

A printable flyer is available for this event