a Dutch care institution for mentally handicapped people, organised two
demonstration projects in 1996. These projects aimed at demonstrating
how computers can be used in care institutions and homes for mentally
Handicom developed two prototypes: Vertel mij... (Tell Me, a digital "agenda") and Sesam (shell around Windows).
Computer programs allow people to play, draw, write, calculate... things that
mentally disabled people would like to do too. But most of them
can't work with a computer independently. Many things could go
wrong if they did; documents could get modified accidentally, settings
How can this problem be solved? This was the central question in the project called 'Sesam'.
Handicom contributed to this project by developing a prototype of the computer program Sesam. Sesam is a menu program for mentally disabled people. With Sesam one can determine which programs will be accessible for the user(s).
The software (prototype)
Sesam is put like a shell around the operating system (Windows). Many 'dangerous' settings can't be reached when Sesam is active. Sesam doesn't replace the ordinary system; that system remains on the computer and will be used when Sesam isn't.
With the graphical interface there is no need for Sesam-users to
be able to read. The first Sesam screen shows the picture of the user,
or as many pictures as there are users. The user has to select his or
her picture. A selection of shortcuts to programs appear on screen. When the user selects a program, the selected program opens up and is
ready to use. No other program can be used at the same time. After
closing the program the Sesam program screen appears again.
To select a picture, image or button on screen, the user can point at it with the help of a keyboard, mouse, joystick or, when a touchscreen is used, by hand.
The helper or 'manager' who prepares Sesam for use, can change the screens as they are seen by the users. The manager decides for every user which programs he or she will be able to use and in what settings.
Different Sesam users can get access to the same program, each with totally different settings. For instance a game can be set to a different level for every user. If a user is allowed to change the settings, e.g. to switch to a higher level, the settings for other players or users will remain the same.