Open Source Accessibility

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Accessible technology has become a key issue in the tech world. Copyright licensing has prevented this technology from developing quickly enough to meet the demand of the over 3 million persons with a motor neuron disease or quadriplegia around the world.

Stephen Hawking’s voice software, designed by Intel, became open source last summer for PCs. It is called the Assistive Context-Aware Toolkit, or ACAT for short. This software uses visual recognition comprised of an infrared sensor on eyeglasses to identify cheek movements, and then sends a signal to the software to allow the user to use the system (i.e. move a mouse, etc.). The user can use this to type text which the software transforms into speech.

Users around the world can now tinker with ACAT’s code to help improve its functionality by downloading it from GitHub. According to Lama Nachman, principal engineer at Intel, this enables developers to “build on top of” what they have already spent years creating, “and not have to reinvent the wheel.”

Changing the software’s licensing to the Apache License 2.0 also enables persons with disabilities who may not have otherwise had access to such software to use it.

The company is working to improve the software as well, trying different sensors (besides the webcam currently in use) for activation. They will also collaborate with universities on this effort.

If you would like to work on the source code yourself, click here.

Contact Lama Nachman at for further information.

Source: Molly McHugh, Wired; Sarah Pratt,; Sai Prasad,