Appropriate microphone and switch solutions for the disabled

People with reduced mobility have needs which place special demands on microphone and switch control solutions. Knowledge of appropriate solutions for special user requirements has proved very limited! MediaLT, together with other partners, is looking more closely at adaptable microphone and switch solutions.

Story by: - 29.11.2010

The pilot project SMIDIG is looking at adaptable microphone and switch solutions and is supported by ITFunk and The Norwegian Research Council.

Joint international challenges

MediaLT has recently worked with speech technologies, and particularly with the use of speech recognition for people with various disabilities. To our surprise, we discovered that there has been very little research to find appropriate microphone and switch solutions for people with severe mobility disabilities.

For users with severely impaired motor skills, there are many practical and ergonomic challenges to consider. Some challenges are related to ergonomics and others to functionality. The user group is large and complex, but the pilot project has chosen to focus particularly on the appropriate microphone and switch solutions relating to speech recognition.

It has proved particularly challenging to find good solutions for people with severely impaired motor function in the arm and hand, switch users and wheelchair users. There are many reasons for this. We have encountered problems related to posture, distance, movement and positioning of the microphone - things that are not normally tested when a microphone is considered suitable or unsuitable for voice control technologies. But for practical utilization of such speech recognition systems, there is a need for more than the occasional microphone with a high detection rate!

It has also proved very difficult to find good non-cable switch and microphone solutions and analysis of existing solutions in terms of user group needs.

Surprisingly, we cannot find expertise in this area among suppliers of microphone and switch solutions and voice control systems. Through this pilot project we would like to increase knowledge about appropriate solutions.


The project includes both manufacturers and suppliers of switch and microphone solutions, in addition to user representatives and those with expertise in the facilitation of technology for the disabled.


The project's main focus is to identify the main challenges, both of a technical and ergonomic nature, for people with severely impaired motor skills - and to examine whether these can be resolved in an appropriate manner. The project looks, for example, at opportunities for connecting switches and microphones such that they can be powered from the wheelchair. Such a solution will enable the user to avoid being dependent on external assistance - either for cable solutions, or to handle the extra boxes for frequent battery replacement for wireless microphone and switch alternatives.

The results of the pilot project will be published. We want to document typical challenges in the choice of microphone and switch solutions for people with mobility impairments, and to outline possible solutions, reviews and recommendations on the basis of project experience.

Since this is a pilot project, it will be interesting to see what the results identify in terms of further major development projects. We hope to find many opportunities for more flexible and appropriate microphone and switch solutions for disabled users!

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