Assistive Technology Survey Do you or someone you know use Assistive Technology to support them in their daily lives?

people in a speech bubble

The Disability Federation of Ireland in collaboration with Enable Ireland are doing some research on Assistive Technology provision for people with disabilities in Ireland. We are interested in hearing the views of people who use technology, either at home, in work, or at school. We are also appealing to parents, professionals and service providers within Ireland with experience of supporting someone to use or get the technology they need, to ensure that their voices are heard through this survey.

By filling out this survey, you will be contributing to our work, calling for better access and provision of Assistive Technology.  We are working to ensure that people get the technology they need, so that Ireland is fully inclusive of people with disabilities and disabling conditions so that they can fully exercise their civil, social and human rights.

This survey is to support and inform the work that we are doing. The results of this survey will be used to inform policy recommendations and models of best practice in Ireland. We define assistive technology as any piece of equipment or software that is used to help people of all ages to carry out tasks and maximise their capabilities.

Please feel free to share this widely with anyone who may have an interest in/or uses technology for everyday needs.  Please click on this link to complete the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/XMWFQD3

*This is an Irish survey, open to Irish AT users and their families*

Please note the date for completion is September 8th 2016.  We value your comments and if you have any questions about the survey please contact: Siobhan Long, Enable Ireland: slong@enableireland.ie

For information on our work in relation to Assistive Technology contact: Pierce Richardson, Disability Federation of Ireland piercerichardson@disability-federation.ie

 Participation is voluntary and the results will be completely anonymous. We are grateful for your time and thank you for your participation in advance.

Tobii Power Clinic Online Webinars

TobiiDynavox the AAC arm of Tobii Group, industry leading eye gaze/tracking solutions manufacturer, are currently producing a series of webinars on their range of products. Although they have completed 8 webinars to date they are all recorded and available on Youtube and the Power Clinic Online page. Taken together these are a fantastic resource for anybody interested in EyeGaze input. While some are product specific (for example “Getting Started With Communicator“) others are more general and will have content of interest to both therapists and technicians working in the area (Amazing Calibrations for EyegazeAAC and Autism – Strategies for challenging behaviour & EyeGaze Strategies for Reading!).

Tobii users, especially those new to the technology will be particularly interested in Eyegaze Windows Control for beginners! and Advanced Windows Control (eyegaze). If you rather the live experience make sure to sign up for next weeks webinar AAC AND MUSIC (PERFECT SYMPHONY) and you will be able to ask questions and contribute to the discussion.

We have created a playlist of all the Tobii Webinars to date on our Youtube channel if that makes it easier for you to access and share them (Click here)

New browsealoud toolbar on ATandMe

We hope you like our new browsealoud toolbar on ATandMe.  We want to reduce barriers between our content and all of our audience.
This support software adds speech, reading, and translation onto websites facilitating access and participation. Online content can be read aloud in multiple languages using natural voice to transform the user’s reading experience.
Please note: Not all features are available at all times within browsealoud

Hover to Speak Hover to Speak starts reading the page out loud – this feature is on by default

 

Play symbolPlay starts reading selected text or reads from the top of the page

 

 

TranslateTranslate Page provides written and spoken translations in multiple languages

 

Generate MP3Generate MP3 converts selected text into an MP3
Screen mask blocks distractions on screen with a tinted mask

 

Screenmask Screenmask blocks distractions on screen with a tinted mask

 
Page MagnifierText Magnifier enlarges text and reads it out loudWeb

 

 

SimplifierPage Simplifier removes clutter from the screen, displaying only the main text

 

Settings customise optionsSettings customise options to suit individual needs or preferences

 

 

help symbolHelp show a simple help page that explains what the browsealoud toolbar does

 

More information on browsealoud 

WP accessible plugin Also, setup on our site on the left-hand side is a WordPress plugin called WP Accessibility.  This allows content to be changed to a high contrast as well as an enlarge text option.

 

Disabled Drivers Motor Show & Conference 2016

people standing around an adapted accessible car

Motor Show and Conference will take place in the RDS, Dublin on Friday 16th and Saturday 17th September 2016.
This event provides the opportunity to discover everything you need to know about motoring with limited mobility. You will be able to view a wide range of cars, wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAV’s), the latest adaptations and the various associated products and services available to people with limited mobility.
In addition, the conference will cover key topics including recent changes to the Disabled Drivers and Passengers Tax Relief Scheme, Changes to the Fuel Grant Scheme, Vehicle Finance and Adaptations available. Open to all and admission is FREE.
For further information  visit www.ddmotorshow.ie

Assistive Technology (AT) in the era of the Digital Schoolbag

child using tablet computer to study biology- zooming in on screen on mid section of human skeleton

Increasingly schools are opting for what is sometimes termed a digital schoolbag. This involves the purchase of an electronic device, usually an iPad with a package of digital textbooks pre-installed. Digital textbooks are undoubtedly a step in the right direction in terms of accessibility and are indeed essential for many students with disabilities. There are students however who may need to use a different platform (hardware and/or operating system – OS) because of compatibility issues with their Assistive Technology. Currently the most popular platform being adopted by schools is Apple iOS with parents being directed to purchase an iPad from a contracted supplier. Many readers of this article will be well aware of all the great inbuilt accessibility features within iOS however if you are a user of Eye Gaze or Speech Recognition (for access) it does not currently support your chosen AT.

It is understandable why from a school’s perspective having all students using identical standardised devices would be preferable and there are plenty of reasons why Apple iOS would be the obvious choice. There is a concern however that the small minority who may need to use other platforms because of access difficulties could be put at a disadvantage or perhaps not be able to participate fully in all activities. One of the leading school suppliers have assured us that the textbooks can be accessed on Windows, iOS and Android and as these textbooks are sourced from the same few publishers one can assume this applies for all suppliers. It is therefore up to the schools to ensure all lessons utilizing technology are identical whenever possible; equivalent when not, regardless of the device/platform you are using. Parents, particularly those whose children use Assistive Technology should not feel pressured by schools to purchase technology that isn’t the optimum for their child’s needs. If a therapist or AT specialist has recommended a particular solution that differs from what is being suggested by the school, the priority should obviously be the students’ needs. When it comes to AT it is the school’s responsibility to accommodate the different needs of its student, just as it was before the digital schoolbag. The use of technology within our schools is to be embraced but it is important that schools ensure that the curriculum is open and in no part dependent on one particular platform or device. That would just see us swapping one form of inequality for another and that’s not progress.

If anyone would like advice on what technologies are available to support access, literacy and productivity on any platform they should feel free to contact us here in the National Assistive Technology Service in Sandymount, Dublin.

ORACLE AND EDF OFFER A SCHOLARSHIP TO A STUDENT WITH DISABILITY

computer user siting on letter e

APPLY BY 15/09/2016
EDF and the company Oracle are pleased to announce a scholarship of 8.000 EUR to a student with disability of a high education programme studying in the field of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in the academic year of 2016-2017. It will be awarded based on a project or thesis that will be conducted during the academic year. The project or thesis should take into account the needs of persons with disabilities in terms of accessibility to ICT, and/or an innovative solution to enhance their access. How can you apply? Find more information on EDF’s website.

Applications to be sent by 15 September 2016.
If you have any questions, please write an email to: eaccessibility.scholarship@edf-feph.org.
DFI is a member of the European Disability Forum. The European Disability Forum (EDF), is the umbrella organisation representing 80 million persons with disabilities in Europe.
EDF have partnered with Oracle and have announced an e-Accessibility scholarship

From LOMAK to MILO – Good ideas are never obsolete

One of the more dubious advantages of working in a long running Assistive Technology service is access to an ever growing supply of obsolete hardware. While much of it is worthless junk now considering the technological progress in the field over the last 10 years, there are some real gems to be rediscovered. These were innovative solutions of their time grounded in strong research and while being seemingly made obsolete by a newer technology actually still have much to offer. The LOMAK keyboard is certainly one of these and being possibly the only piece of AT on permanent display at New York’s Museum of Modern Art I’m obviously not alone in thinking this.

top picture showing a man using the LOMAK keyboard with a laptop computer. bottom picture shows the layout of the LOMAK keyboard. Three rings, large centre ring for letters, right ring numbers, left ring symbols

The LOMAK (Light Operated Mouse And Keyboard) was invented by New Zealander Mike Watling and first came on the market in 2005 after a number of years research. It allowed hands free computer access through the innovative use of a laser pointer and light sensitive keyboard and mouse controls. To make the light sensitive keyboard and mouse (I’ll call it an input device from here) Watling used an array or photoresistors, one for each keyboard, mouse action and setting. This amounted to a whopping 122 photoresistors and possibly the most electronically complex input device ever marketed. Although complex the idea behind the LOMAK is quite straight forward. Photoresistors change their resistance depending on the amount of light they are picking up. Once you figure out roughly how much shining a laser pen on the resistor changes its value you have a good idea of where to set your threshold. You can then use the photo-resistor as a straightforward momentary switch, like a keyboard key, that activates once the resistance goes above/below a certain threshold. If you are like me you will want to see inside this thing so here it is.. (Below), a thing of beauty I’m sure you’ll agree.

The LOMAK keyboard opened out to reveal the photo-resistors and the circuit board.

So why aren’t more people using LOMAK keyboards today? Well eye tracking technology was just starting to become a realistic possibility for AT users with devices like the Tobii P10 hitting the market.  Eye tracking just made more sense for computer access, it allows a neater more mobile solution and it a more direct input method. What has given the whole concept behind the LOMAK a new lease of life is the availability of cheap user-friendly prototyping platforms like Arduino.
This was the basis of one of the project proposals we made available to the final year students of the BSc (Honours) Creative Media Technologies course in IADT. Over the last few years Enable Ireland AT service have worked with IADT lecturer Conor Brennan to provide students with a selection of project briefs that both fit with their learning and skills while also fulfilling a need that has been recognised through our work supporting AT users and professionals in the area. This particular brief was to create a MIDI interface based on the same concept as the LOMAK that would allow someone to perform and compose music using only head movements. There are solutions available that use eye tracking to achieve this, for example the fantastic EyeHarp and more recently Ruud van der Wel of My Breath My Music released his Eye Play Music  software. However these solutions all require a computer, we wanted something that was more in keeping with current trends in mainstream electronic music which seems to be moving back to a more hardware based performance. Thankfully a particularly talented student by the name of Rudolf Triebel took on the challenge of designing and building what we are now calling the MILO (Musical Interface using Laser Operation) (previously called LOMI Light Operated MIDI Interface which I think is much better..:). Rudolf exceeded our expectations and created the prototype you can see in the (badly filmed, sorry) video below. He has also created a tutorial including wiring diagram, code and bill of materials and put it up on Instructables to allow the project to be replicated and improved by others.

If you would like to see and maybe have a go of the MILO prototype (in its spanking new laser cut enclosure) Conor Brennan of IADT will be showing and demonstrating it at the 25th EAN Conference which takes place in University College Dublin between Sunday 29th – Tuesday 31st May.
Keep an eye on electroat.com where I hope to add a few more detailed posts on building, modifying and increasing the functionality of Rudolf’s design. I will also look into the possibility of using the same concept for building a hands free video game controller.

AAC Awareness Day – 24th August 2016

Hi Everyone

Just to make you aware that there’s a FREE AAC Awareness Day being held at the Central Remedial Clinic, Clontarf on 24th August 2016.

Liberator’s AAC Awareness Days are designed for anyone who works with or cares for a non-verbal individual – therapists, teachers, parents, carers etc. This is an excellent opportunity to learn more about:-

  • Natural Language Development in AAC
  • Language Acquisition through Motor Planning (LAMP) – The Centre for AAC and Autism
  • AAC Implementation Strategies
  • The Power of Core Vocabulary
  • Exploring EyeGaze
  •  An Overview of Low-Tech AAC Products

If you would like to attend, please contact:-

Lauren Argent
AAC Consultant Support Executive
Lauren2@liberator.co.uk
Tel: 00 44 1733 889 799
Fax: 00 44 1476 552 473
www.liberator.co.uk

 

Difficult to read traditional print books?

Shelf with many books

Bookshare and LibriVox are two projects that have the potential to open up the world of reading for people who find it difficult to read traditional print books. This may be due to a visual impairment, physical disability or severe learning disability.
Bookshare offers a large collection of accessible titles, currently more than 400,000. With Bookshare you can listen to books with high quality text-to-speech voices, hear and see highlighted words on screen, read with digital braille or enlarged fonts. There is a charge for individuals of $50 annually + $25 setup.
LibriVox is another project. Their objective is to make all books in the public domain available, for free, in audio format on the internet. Librivox is a non-commercial, non-profit and ad-free project and welcomes all volunteers from across the globe, in all languages.
Both are requesting volunteers to help with their projects. All you need is a computer, a microphone, some free recording software, and your own voice. They accept all volunteers in all languages, with all kinds of accents. Be inspired, get involved!

Quadriplegia – Life without Hands – One Man’s Working Solution

I am a C4 spinal injured person with full quadraplegia for the last 34 years.  Over this timespan some of my assistive technology has remained the same and stands the test of of time.  But I’ve also adopted useful new tools over the years as computer hardware and software developed.

I was 18 when my spinal injury happened.  After rehab I went to Rosyln Park college and studied office subjects, payroll, accounting, word processing and office software usage.  While office administration would not be my primary interest, it is something that I can do despite quadriplegia.  At that time used a chin strapped pointer for computer keyboard usage.

One headpointer version

Headpointer available from Jackson Technology, Waterford.
http://www.assistireland.ie/eng/Products_Directory/Communication/Writing/Pointers/Zygo_Head_Pointers.html

After I finished in Rosyln Park I subsequently got a FAS scheme based office job in Cheshire Ireland where I converted the office tasks to computer based.  This developed into a full-time job in payroll based in Sandyford.  When I started initially, I continued to use the chin strap pointer for a while but wasn’t happy with it.  A friend suggested a mouthstick might be more convenient and less cumbersome.  Ever since then my mouthstick is my primary piece of assistive technology!

The mouthstick is a 5mm diameter thin piece wood dowelling, approximately 450mm long, with a 50mm piece of plastic tubing on the mouth end and a rubber tip on the end.  I use it for keyboard entry, mouse app use, light switches, hands free phone and ebook reader use.  I even have a second mouthstick for giving treats to my dog!  Instead of a rubber tip this mouthstick has a point with which the stab small pieces of frankforter or cheese.

However the mouthstick has its limitations.  It is a relatively slow but accurate method of typing.  I find it particularly essential for working with numbers where accuracy is a priority.  For more general text I use Nuace NaturallySpeaking, for example for emails and Word documents.  NaturallySpeaking is a continually improving voice recognition application.  I use it in conjunction with a wireless headset.  This means that I am not tied to the computer with a wired headset.  NaturallySpeaking also has extensive Windows usage commands built-in.  I use it both at home and at work.  The headset also facilitates me making and receiving phone calls over a VOIP soft phone application, as well as Skype.

As to other technology that I use, I use a mini cherry keyboard because that makes it easier to reach the left and right hand side compared to the standard keyboard.Mini cherry keyboard

For mouse usage, I use two separate input devices.  I use a small device called Helpiclick made by a company called Helpicare.  At work I use a numeric keypad in conjunction with the Windows accessibility feature to emulate mouse.  Other Quadriplegic colleagues that I know use Eyegaze for mouse control as well is typing and find it excellent.  I did try this application but found it very straining on my eyesight.

Helpiclick

http://www.helpicare.com/helpiclick/?lang=en

Outside of work, I very much enjoy reading.  I struggled over many years with regular books, usually opting to get second-hand books which were easier to turn pages and keep open.  With the advent of ebook readers, this has transformed my reading experience.  I use a Kobo Auro H2O book reader because I’m not a fan of Amazon!  This is an excellent e-reader which includes background lighting for evening or night time reading.  I use it with my mouthstick, although I had to get mouthstick that conducts electricity.  The e-book reader like tablet computers and smart phones requires capacitive touch.  For able-bodied people they simply use their finger which has a tiny electrical current from the human body.  Hence the need to use a conductive mouthstick.  There are other e-book readers, such as the Sony e-book reader that will work with any pointing device.  However the Kobo e-reader is slightly larger which I like.  I am currently trying to get a technology student or university to link a voice recognition circuit to my e-reader so that I could say “next page” or “previous page”.  This is  an ongoing project as I write this blog.

With regard to my environment, I use a chin controlled wheelchair which gives me significant independence both in my own home and also out and about.  In my home I have a number of door openers, including a card reader based door opener for the outside as well as a separate card reader for turning the house alarm on and off.  I also have a remote control for turning on and off lights, but only really in my living room.  I had more extensive assistive technology but found it very problematic and finally got rid of it, keeping only what is essential.

I also have a wall mounted desk at a 45° angle.  This gives me full freedom of movement with my wheelchair underneath the desk and having my keyboard and e-reader at 45° makes it much easier to use.

While the various pieces of technology work pretty well for me on an ongoing basis, I  try to stay informed about any novel technologies that come along which might improve my living experience.  I would recommend everybody do the same.

Eugene Callan