Bluetooth may help the disabled use printers

By , IDG News Service |  Networking

SAN JOSE -- Bluetooth local wireless network technology may make it far easier and less expensive for workplaces to make document devices such as printers accessible to disabled workers, a Xerox executive said Wednesday at the Bluetooth Developers Conference here.

Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act, issued Aug. 7, requires all U.S. government offices to make information technology accessible to all employees.

Building printers that meet this requirement entails a long list of modifications that would dramatically increase the cost of the devices, said Edward Wooten, a corporate business strategist at Stamford, Conn.-based Xerox. But printers equipped for Bluetooth networking could be controlled using a wide variety of user interfaces designed to compensate for specific disabilities, Wooten said. Only one modification to the shared device would have to be made: namely, the addition of Bluetooth capability.

"This could potentially be a very effective way for us to meet the federal government's ADA 508 regulations," Wooten said in an interview following a presentation at the developers conference.

The vision of improved accessibility is part of Xerox's plans to separate interfaces, content and document devices with Bluetooth as the common link, allowing users to take advantage of the nearest appropriate printer without having to use a PC or to log on to a wired network.

"We think there are lots of applications for Bluetooth in the office as we know it today," Wooten said in his presentation.

Uses could range from simple replacement of network wires to systems that would let enterprise employees walk in to any office or facility within the company, find the nearest printer using a Bluetooth-enabled handheld device, and start a print job directly from that device. Users would even be able to print content stored in another location in the company, such as a file server. The data would reach the printer via wired and Bluetooth network links, Wooten said.

He acknowledged concerns about the limitations of Bluetooth, including its maximum 1Mbps throughput and interference with the IEEE 802.11b wireless LAN technology.

Although more than adequate for sending text documents to a printer, Bluetooth can lag far behind traditional wired connections such as Ethernet and serial connections when sending large images, Wooten said. In testing, a small ASCII text file was sent in just 0.02 second, but a 600-by-600-by-8 dot-per-inch TIFF image took four minutes, 55 seconds, he said.

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