Archive of ‘Accessibility’ category

Use of an AAC, the good and the bad

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AAC Board

As a BCBA, I teach people how to use Augmentative & Alternative Communication (AAC) devices. AAC devices help people communicate who have trouble asking for things they want.

The good results:

An AAC device enables people to do more in their home and community. When an AAC device is successful:

  • The whole team works together.
  • The team uses the AAC device to communicate.
  • The AAC device is setup for the person.
  • The AAC device enables the person to get their favorite things.

When everyone works together, an AAC device can enable people to get their favorite things.

The Bad results:

When the wrong program used, or the AAC Device is setup wrong. It often ends up going unused. This happens because:

  • The AAC is too complicated.
  • People don’t use the AAC device.
  • The person’s favorite things are not added to the AAC device.

AAC Devices can help people. Work with an expert when you start working with an AAC device.

Some online resources for selecting AAC programs:

Jane Farrell AAC App List – a list of AAC Apps.

PrAACtical AAC Blog – more AAC resources.

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking with An Augmentative Device

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Person using agumentative deviceMy 25 years old son is non-verbal. He uses his phone as his speech output device. He has worked hard to learn the software on his phone.  This software speaks the words that he types into his device.  He has used a variety of other speech output devices in the past.  There are many more options for speech output devices available now.  And, there are places like MassMatch (1 ) which can help each user to find the best choice.

When he was younger, family members and teachers would always be with him and speak for him. These days he still always with someone when he is out in the community.  But, now, he is interested in speaking for himself.  He also has the vocabulary and skills to speak for himself.

So, how does it go?  Well, it depends… Let me describe a common situation that shows how much effort it takes for my son to communicate in public places. Ordering fast food or in a restaurant is something that we all do. For my son, it is a chore. He must get the waiter’s attention. Then, he will order his food.  Most of the time, he needs to repeat his order.  e needs to repeat it more than one time. If the waiter stops and listens, it is easier.  but, most of the time, he needs to repeat his order.

Speaking in public is hard for many people. It is more difficult for someone who uses a speech output device. He shows us that many strangers do not choose to listen.  Our public places, malls, restaurants, outdoor spaces are noisy.  here is music, talking, traffic, and other sounds.  My son cranks up the volume on his phone. On a good day, a stranger will listen to his computer voice.  The pride my son takes in talking with someone is worth the effort. This photo shows my son speaking to us.  You may be in a place where someone is trying to speak with a device.  Please take the time to listen and respond. It only takes a little bit more time and the rewards are great.

(1) MassMatch

Dyslexia and technology, moving the gap.

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My name is James Northridge. I’m a researcher in assistive technology. I am from Ireland. I girl using a tabletam based in Boston for a fellowship.

I have dyslexia. I battle with it daily. It is a challenge when working in research. There is a level of expectation. Mainly that everyone should have a certain ability. I use technology to help me overcome these challenges.

I’m going to discuss technology to help with reading and writing. I will give you some Apps that can help with dyslexia.

There are many famous people that have dyslexia. Examples are Tom Cruise, Richard Branson, and Steven Spielberg. I look at my dyslexia as a super power. It enables me to think differently. It gives me the ability to consider possibilities. It also gets in the way. It makes life hard at times. Like all superpowers I guess!

We are in a time when many people have access to a smartphone or a tablet. I really do believe it’s a great time to have dyslexia. There is so much technology that can help. It’s easy to get.

5 technologies that can make the difference

  1. Voice Dream Reader on the App Store – iTunes – Apple. This is a Text to Speech reader. It is one of the best available.
  2. Claro ScanPen Reader on the App Store – iTunes – Apple. With this app, you take a picture of a page and it reads to you.
  3. Notability on the App Store – iTunes – Apple. Useful for taking notes in class. It records the class. It matches any notes you take in class or images from the board.
  4. SnapType Pro on the App Store – iTunes – Apple. Useful for filling in a form digitally.
  5. Prizmo – Scanning, OCR, and Speech on the App Store – iTunes – Apple. Use this to scan larger documents that you have to read. You can save them to review or read later.

Bonus App: Flat Tomato (Time Management) on the App Store – iTunes – Apple. This is an app that helps you manage your time. It uses the Pomodoro technique.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), what is it and where do I start?

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My name is James Northridge. I’m a researcher in the disability and assistive technology boy using a tabletfield. I am from Ireland. I am based in Boston for a fellowship.

I am developing a selection tool for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) apps. It will help parents, teachers, and specialists choose the correct App for users.

So, what is this AAC that I’m talking about? Well, it’s any form of communication that enables people to express themselves. We typically think voice is the only method of communication. However, we use many forms of contact each day. Can you think of ones you are using right now? Did you use any facial expressions or hand gestures? Maybe you drew a picture to explain something?

Selecting the correct AAC App is all about what works for the person who will use it. That’s the point at which you must start when looking to choose AAC Apps. This is true whether you are a parent or a professional.

Steps in the process of selecting AAC Apps for Parents

(If you have access to a professional, start there)

  1. What is the goal for the user? For example, is it choice making, requesting, or supporting literacy?
  2. Have access to a list of AAC Apps that you can review.
  3. Work on some feature matching to find out what the user needs.
  4. Reduce the list of AAC Apps to those with the required features.
  5. Try some of the shortlisted Apps, and create a shortlist.
  6. Gain insight from professionals, so ask for input from a teacher or care worker.
  7. Try no more than 3 AAC Apps to see which one works best. Keep some notes on the experience.
  8. Select one App from the shortlist and work with it for a few weeks.
  9. Training the user on how to get the most out of it is important.

These are the starting steps when going about selecting AAC Apps. Everyone is different. Therefore, their needs and wants are different too. This means an App that works for one person may not work for another person.

Some online resources for selecting AAC Apps

Jane Farrell AAC App List – this is a good list of AAC Apps

PrAACtical AAC Blog – this has some great AAC resources

 

Winter Activities

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icon of a sit-skier Staying active in the winter is hard. You want to stay warm and cozy inside. But it’s important to stay active year round. Just because it’s cold and snowy outside doesn’t mean you have to stay indoors. There are many fun things to do outside. There are outdoor activities for people of all abilities to enjoy. There is skiing, sit-skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, kick-sledding, and sled hockey.

In western Massachusetts, CHD lists activities like bowling, skiing, sled hockey, and wheelchair basketball.

To find information on outdoor recreation in Massachusetts look at The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.

For fun sports programs in New England that offer downhill skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing, check out: the Winter Adaptive Sports & Recreation Activities for People with Disabilities

If you want to stay indoors you can enjoy bowling, dancing, basketball, and drama. Other activities available are sensory friendly movies and theatre, and adaptive music programs.

The Carroll Center has a listing of Audio Described Theatre shows and schedules.

SPED Child and Teen lists events in Massachusetts including arts and theatre, music and dance, sports, museums, and movies. They also list sensory-friendly arts, museums, movies, and story times.

Find Sensory friendly movies in the Boston area at Sensory Friendly Films.

Find Sensory friendly movies on the Cape at Chatham Orpheum Theatre.

Using Tablets to Talk!

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Picture of school-aged girl sitting at table using tablet.Communication

There are some children who have difficulty talking. Using a tablet can help.  Finding the right tablet for each child is not easy. A specialist, called a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP), is like a doctor. A SLP meets with the child and watches the child playing. The SLP also speaks to the child. The SLP enables the child to play with different tablets. The purpose is to see which tablet the child likes to use the most. The SLP then asks the child to do a few tasks. The difficulty of the task levels go up to match the level of the child’s understanding. The
SLP has questions for parents as well. The SLP wants to understand how parents and their children talk to each other at home.
Once the SLP finishes meeting with the child, the SLP will write a report. Parents will receive a copy. If parents want to get a tablet for their child, parents and the SLP will work with each other for at least a month. They watch the child using the tablet at school, and then at home. The purpose is to see if the new tablet is really helpful for the child. Parents will take some data to share with the SLP.
Once a child has the right matching tablet, it is important for the parents to know how to use it. Training for parents is important. Parents need to know how to help their children. Many are afraid of allowing their children to use tablets. They worry their children will become dependent on a tablet and not vocalize any more.
For more information, contact Massachusetts Advocates for Children.

Why Visit a Museum?

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kids touching baby head sculpturePersons with disabilities can:

  • Learn the past
  • Talk about big and small issues
  • Share ideas
  • Listen to others
  • Make things to share your ideas

The community gains:

  • A place for everyone
  • A place for everyone to learn new things together
  • A place to share ideas

I lead an organization called Our Space Our Place, Inc., an after school program for youth who are blind. We visit many museums. Our students learn about different cultures. They write stories and poems. They talk about the stories in art. They talk about their favorite paintings and sculptures with their families and friends. Taking a tour or making art opens new worlds.
For more information about museum programs for people with disabilities contact:

  • Museum of Fine Arts
    • Hannah Goodwin
    • Phone: 617-369-3189
    • TTY: 617-369-3395 or
    • Email: access@mfa.org

Using an iPad and double switch to make choices

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“IPad and double switch device

IPad and double switch device

I am the mother of a child who has a developmental disability. My daughter uses her iPad and switch to make choices. She can’t talk. She understands well many things. At times it can be hard for her to let people know what she needs or wants. That is why she started using her iPad and switch. She started about 2-3 years ago. Her iPad uses a program called “Go Talk Now”. This program helps in creating and recording option sets for her to choose from.

What are the steps?

The switch connects to the iPad to the program “Go talk now”. Then you have to open one of the option sets. For the first steps my daughter needs help. Then, using her hands, she pushes the left side of the switch to listen to her options. She pushes the right side to choose the option she wants.

The iPad and switch to play games:

The switch and iPad can be used to pay games, read stories and play music. There are many apps you can use with a switch: iPad and switch to play games

In summary:

The iPad and switch can be used to communicate wants and needs. They can also be used to play games, listen to music and read stories. For my daughter this has been great in giving her a voice.

World Usability Day is a Platform for Stevie Wonder’s Call to Action

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“Stevie Wonders addresses the audience during the 2016 Grammy Awards ceremony.” Legendary singer and activist Nina Simone believed that the role of artists goes beyond the art they create: “How can I be an artist and not reflect the times? That to me is the definition of an artist.” This idea came to life during the 2016 Grammy Awards ceremony when Stevie Wonder called for people of the world to “make every single thing accessible for every single person with disabilities.” While the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) outlaws discrimination against people with disabilities, there are still many areas of life that are inaccessible, including the digital world. Bias and negative attitudes continue to create barriers and limit expectations of what can be done to make a difference. So, what can we do? Being a reflection of the times is not just an artist’s duty, it is a responsibility we all share. The stuff we buy, the people we vote for, and the topics we discuss help to influence decision makers in government and business. In response to Stevie Wonder’s challenge, Chester Goad suggests 6 steps that each person can take. These are:

      (1) pay attention
      (2) be educated and educate others
      (3) be proactive, not reactive
      (4) avoid labels of “inspiration”
      (5) understand that disability is diversity
      (6) vet your creations.

One important opportunity for educating yourself and others is World Usability Day. On November 10th, 2016 advocates, students, professionals, government officials, and leaders will exchange ideas and showcase products with the goal of creating more user-friendly experiences in all areas of life, including education and technology. This year’s theme is sustainability. Just as Earth Day shows the world that the environment matters, World Usability shows the world that accessibility matters and that it is an important part of creating a sustainable future.
For more information about user experience (UX) design and Elizabeth Rosenzweig, the founder of World Usability Day, read Successful User Experience: Strategies and Roadmaps.

About the author Lauren Lange

Recreation Programs for People with Disabilities in Massachusetts

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bike riders
As the parent of a young man with special needs, I know how important it is for people with disabilities to be able to learn and take part in sporting and recreational activities with family and friends.  These activities help people be healthy and happy; and form social connections.  Massachusetts has a wide variety of adaptive sport and recreational programs.  Some are free and some charge a fee.  Most programs that charge a fee offer scholarships.  Here is a sample of the many programs that are offered to people with disabilities and their families. Now find a program that you enjoy, get out there, and have fun!

Sailing

Horseback Riding

Variety of Summer and Winter Activities

Skiing

Here are two additional websites that list programs in
Massachusetts and all over the United States
Sped Child and Teen
MNIP Fact Sheet Recreation Opportunities For People With Disabilities

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