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How Infrared Helps People with Physical Impairments

April 14, 2016

Wireless communication allows information to be exchanged between two devices without the use of wires (or cables). Terms commonly used in describing wireless communication include transmitter, receiver, and transceiver. Information must be transmitted by one device and received by another device.

The transmitter takes its input and creates an energy wave that contains the information. An infrared transmitter uses LED or laser diode. The waves are then captured by a receiver to process the waves and output the information in its original form. Depending on the communication protocol, a device may be capable of only transmitting or receiving information. If it is capable of both transmitting and receiving information, it is called a transceiver.

For individuals with mobility impairments, the use of infrared (or other wireless technology) can facilitate the operation of peripheral devices. For example, individuals with visual impairments can use infrared communication technology to locate and access assistive navigation devices where individuals using augmentative communication devices can use infrared as a more portable means of accessing communications.

As a form of wireless communication, infrared technology offers several advantages over wired devices and wireless devices using radio frequency transmission. Some of the advantages and disadvantages include:

Advantages of Infrared Technologies

  • Portability
  • High Noise Immunity
  • Higher Security
  • Few International Regulatory Constraints
  • Low Power Requirements

Disadvantages of Infrared Technologies

  • Requires Line Of Sight
  • Signal Blocked By Common Materials
  • Short Range (Performance Drop Off)
  • Light and Weather Sensitive
  • Transmission Rate Lower than Wired


What might be considered a disadvantage to infrared transmission could conversely be an advantage for the same type of communication. For example, because infrared has less transmission range (remember it is mostly dependent on line of sight), it is also more difficult to intercept when compared to radio frequency. Radio frequency can penetrate walls, making it much easier to transmit a message, but also more susceptible to a breach of security.

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