New assistive technology tool makes computers easier to use


Morphic, a tool that makes computers easier to use for individuals who have difficulty using a standard digital setup, is now available at the University of Michigan.

Many accessibility and usability features, such as adjusting text size, contrast, screen readers, dark mode, and filters for colorblindness, are built into computers, but they can be hard to find. Morphic provides quick access to some of a computer’s accessibility features with one click.

Information and Technology Services installed a Morphic Basic toolbar on Windows and Macintosh computers at Campus Computing Sites on the Ann Arbor campus, with the option for other campuses to be added. The toolbar automatically populates when users log in to Sites computers, linking to accessibility features plus U-M Google Mail, MPrint, and Canvas.

“Installing Morphic on campus computers will greatly improve digital accessibility for users with a broad range of disabilities. Morphic will allow people to ensure they have the exact accessibility tools they need right away, from any workstation and regardless of familiarity with the operating system,” said Ashley Wiseman, LSA Global Scholars Program associate director. “It lets people with diverse access needs know they belong in our community.”

Individuals who want to use Morphic on their personal or university-owned Windows or Macintosh devices can learn more about how to install Morphic Basic on the Morphic service page. The Basic MorphicBar is the same one that is currently available on Sites computers without the custom buttons.

U-M will be an ongoing beta tester for Morphic, which means community members will gain early access to new features, such as changing complicated keystrokes into one-click buttons, as they are developed.

“We are committed to supporting an accessible and inclusive community,” said Ravi Pendse, vice president for information technology and chief information officer. “It is our hope that serving as a beta site for new products like Morphic that support our community will help every member of our community be world-class in their use of technology to teach, learn, research, and work.”

Jane Berliss-Vincent, ITS assistive technology manager, has been volunteering to help test and consult on the design and function of Morphic for more than 10 years.

“We’ve all had times when the standard computer doesn’t work for us, maybe our eyes are tired or there’s too much glare on the screen. There are already many helpful accommodation utilities built into computers, but they can be hard to find,” Berliss-Vincent said. “Morphic integrates easily into existing technologies, which is why it made complete sense for U-M to become a beta site.”

Faculty, staff and students will have the opportunity to help shape the future of this assistive technology tool by providing insights and feedback on these features as they roll out to Campus Computing Sites computers.

Individuals can sign up for the Early Feedback Program to download Morphic Plus at no cost. While there may be a cost for future signups, this will be waived for any current students, faculty or staff who sign up with their U-M email.


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