Dublin Maker

Calendar date 22nd July

Dublin Maker is a free community run event on Saturday July 22nd in Merrion Square. Dublin Maker takes the form of a “show and tell” experience where inventors/makers sourced through an open call, will have an opportunity to showcase their creations in a carnival atmosphere. It is a family friendly showcase of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the maker movement. It’s a place where people show what they are making and share what they are learning http://www.dublinmaker.ie/makers-2017/

Enable Ireland’s Karl O’Keeffe and Sean Loughran want to promote the making of Assistive Technology solutions, particularly in the areas of creativity and leisure.

Projects that they intend to show are a RánBot, a Bodhrán that can be played using eye gaze technology. The Bodhrán is played using a combination of solenoids (beat rhythm on skin and rim) and car door actuators to regulate skin tension from the back of the drum).

They are also going to demo LOMI (Light Operated MIDI Interface) prototype. LOMI is an open hardware project designed and built by IADT Dun Laoghaire Creative Media Technologies student Rudolf Triebel. LOMI uses a head mounted laser pointer and an array of photoresistors connected to an Arduino Mega to generate MIDI. Rudolf has created an Instructable and it is their hope that others will build their own and progress the design.

Karl and Sean are also going to demo the Flipmouse and hopefully get contact details from makers willing to build a Flipmouse for people in their community. The Flipmouse is a computer access device that incorporates a low force joystick, sip&puff input as well as switch input. It is built from a kit supplied, designed and supported by the Assistive Technology group at the UAS Technikum Wien (Department of Embedded Systems) and funded by the City of Vienna ToRaDes project and AsTeRICS Academy project. The Flipmouse is a well-documented versatile computer access/gaming solution that costs one tenth of similar proprietary devices while offering much greater functionality.

Karl and Sean are going to present some challenges that people with disabilities have come to them with. A couple they are working on are, trying to increase the accessibility of Blind-Tennis using technology and giving blind bowlers the ability to hear their score read out to them.

Hope to see you there.

Hands-free Minecraft from Special Effect

Love it or hate it, the game of Minecraft has captured the imagination of over 100 million young, and not so young people. It is available on multiple platforms; mobile device (Pocket Edition), Raspberry Pi, Computer, Xbox or PlayStation and it looks and feels pretty much the same on all. For those of us old enough to remember, the blocky graphics will hold some level of nostalgia for the bygone 8 Bit days when mere blobs of colour and our imagination were enough to render Ghosts and Goblins vividly. This is almost certainly lost on the main cohort of Minecraft players however who would most probably be bored silly with the 2 dimensional repetitive and predictable video games of the 80’s and early 90’s. The reason Minecraft is such a success is that it has blended its retro styling with modern gameplay and a (mind bogglingly massive) open world where no two visits are the same and there is room for self-expression and creativity. This latter quality has lead it to become the first video game to be embraced by mainstream education, being used as a tool for teaching everything from history to health or empathy to economics. It is however the former quality, the modern gameplay, that we are here to talk about. Unlike the afore mentioned Ghosts and Goblins, Minecraft is played in a 3 dimensional world using either the first person perspective (you see through the characters eyes) or third person perspective (like a camera is hovering above and slightly behind the character). While undoubtedly offering a more immersive and realistic experience, this means controlling the character and playing the game is also much more complex and requires a high level of dexterity in both hands to be successful. For people without the required level of dexterity this means that not only is there a risk of social exclusion, being unable to participate in an activity so popular among their peers, but also the possibility of being excluded within an educational context.

Fortunately UK based charity Special Effect have recognised this need and are in the process doing something about it. Special Effect are a charity dedicated to enabling those with access difficulties play video games through custom access solutions. Since 2007 their interdisciplinary team of clinical and technical professionals (and of course gamers) have been responsible for a wide range of bespoke solutions based on individuals’ unique abilities and requirements. Take a look at this page for some more information on the work they do and to see what a life enhancing service they provide. The problem with this approach of course is reach, which is why their upcoming work on Minecraft is so exciting. Based on the Open Source eyegaze AAC/Computer Access solution Optikey by developer Julius Sweetland, Special Effect are in the final stages of developing an on-screen Minecraft keyboard that will work with low cost eye trackers like the Tobii Eye X and the Tracker 4C (€109 and €159 respectively).

minecraft on screen keyboard

The inventory keyboard

MineCraft on screen keyboards

The main Minecraft on screen keyboard

Currently being called ‘Minekey’ this solution will allow Minecraft to be played using a pointing device like a mouse or joystick or even totally hands free using an eyegaze device or headmouse. The availability of this application will ensure that Minecraft it now accessible to many of those who have been previously excluded. Special Effect were kind enough to let us trial a beta version of the software and although I’m no Minecraft expert it seemed to work great. The finished software will offer a choice of onscreen controls, one with smaller buttons and more functionality for expert eyegaze users (pictured above) and a more simplified version with larger targets. Bill Donegan, Projects Manager with Special Effect told us they hope to have it completed and available to download for free by the end of the year. I’m sure this news that will excite many people out there who had written off Minecraft as something just not possible for them. Keep an eye on Special Effect or ATandMe for updates on its release.

Mefacilyta Desktop app

Mefacilyta Desktop

In this podcast, Sarah Boland, together with David Deane and Áine Walsh, talk about the training they hosted on 21st June 2017 on the Mefacilyta Desktop app in St John of God in Stillorgan.

Mefacilyta Desktop is a new Android app developed by Vodafone Foundation Spain in conjunction with St John of God, which can be individually tailored to support people with intellectual disabilities to learn how to carry out their everyday activities independently.Vodafone symbol with person pointing to letter M Mefacilyta app

Bloom 2017 ‘No Limits’ Grid Set

You may have heard about or seen photos of Enable Irelands fantastic “No Limits” Garden at this year’s Bloom festival. Some of you were probably even lucky enough to have actually visited it in the Phoenix Park over the course of the Bank Holiday weekend. In order to support visitors but also to allow those who didn’t get the chance to go share in some of the experience we put together a “No Limits” Bloom 2017 Grid. If you use the Grid (2 or 3) from Sensory software, or you know someone who does and you would like to learn more about the range of plants used in Enable Ireland’s garden you can download and install it by following the instructions below.

How do I install this Grid?

If you are using the Grid 3 you can download and install the Bloom 2017 Grid without leaving the application. From Grid explorer:

  • Click on the Menu Bar at the top of the screen
  • In the top left click the + sign (Add Grid Set)
  • A window will open (pictured below). In the bottom corner click on the Online Grids button (you will need to be connected to the Internet).

grid 3 screen shot

  • If you do not see the Bloom2017 Grid in the newest section you can either search for it (enter Bloom2017 in the search box at the top right) or look in the Interactive learning or Education Categories.

If you are using the Grid 2 or you want to install this Grid on a computer or device that is not connected to the Internet then you can download the Grid set at the link below. You can then add it to the Grid as above except select Grid Set File tab and browse to where you have the Grid Set saved.

For Grid 2 users:

Download Bloom 2017 Grid here https://grids.sensorysoftware.com/en/k-43/bloom2017

Makers Making Change – Canada provides $750,000 to fund development of Open Source AT

Makers Making Change have a mission, to “connect makers to people with disabilities who need assistive technologies”. This is also our mission and something we’ve talked about before, it is also the goal of a number of other projects including TOM Global and Enable Makeathon. Makers Making Change which is being run by Canadian NGO the Neil Squire Society and supported by Google.org differs from previous projects sharing the same goal in a couple of ways. Firstly their approach. They are currently concentrating their efforts on one particular project, the LipSync and touring the North American continent holding events where groups of Makers get together and build a quantity of these devices. These events are called Buildathons. This approach both raises awareness about their project within the maker community while also ensuring they have plenty of devices in stock, ready to go out to anybody who needs them. Secondly, thanks to the recent promise from the Canadian government of funding to the tune of $750,000 they may be on the verge of bringing their mission into the mainstream.

Canada have always had a well-deserved reputation for being at the forefront of Assistive Technology and Accessibility. It is one of only a handful of nations the rest of the world look to for best practice approaches in the area of disability. For that reason this funding announced by Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, Carla Qualtrough may have a positive effect even greater than its significant monetary value, and far beyond Canada’s borders. Minster Qualtrough stated the funding was “for the development of a network of groups and people with technical skills to support the identification, development, testing, dissemination and deployment of open source assistive technologies.” Specifying that it is Open Source assistive technologies they will be developing and disseminating means that any solutions identified will have the potential to be reproduced by makers anywhere in the world. It is also interesting that the funding is to support the development of a network of groups and people rather than specific technologies, the goal here being sustainability. Neil Squire Society Executive Director, Gary Birch said “This funding is instrumental in enabling the Neil Squire Society to develop, and pilot across Canada, an innovative open source model to produce and deliver hardware-based assistive technologies to Canadians with disabilities. Hopefully this forward thinking move by the Canadian Government will inspire some EU governments into promoting and maybe even funding similar projects over here.

What is the LipSync?

The Lipsync is an Open Source Sip&Puff low force joystick that can enable access to computers or mobile devices for people without the use of their hands. Sound familiar? If you are a regular reader of this blog you are probably thinking about the FlipMouse, they are similar devices. I haven’t used the LipSync but from what I’ve read it offers slightly less functionality than the Flipmouse but this may make it more suitable for some users. Take a look at the video below.

If you want to know more about LipSync have a look at their project page on Hackaday.io where you will find build instructions, bill of materials, code and user manual.

If the idea of building or designing a technology that could enhance the life of someone with a disability or an older person appeals to you, either head down to your local maker space (Ireland, Global) or set a date in your diary for Ireland’s premier Maker Faire – Dublin Maker which will take place in Merrion Square, Dublin 4 on Saturday July 22nd. We’ll be there showing the FlipMouse as well as some of our more weird and wonderful music projects. There will also be wild, exciting and inspiring demonstrations and projects from Maker Spaces/Groups and Fab Labs from around the country and beyond. See here for a list of those taking part. 

Control your home security via an app

Action24 intruder alarm app
The Internet of Things (IoT) has brought about a fundamental change in the way we use technology. There are many potential benefits of the IoT for people with disabilities.
For example, someone who is blind or has a mobility-related disability can monitor and control their home heating thermostat through an accessible smartphone interface, or they can have their door automatically unlock when they approach it.
Managing intruder alarms has typically been quite inaccessible as they tend to be installed in inaccessible areas and have inaccessible touch panels. A Dublin-based company, Action24 has bucked this trend by designing an intruder alarm which can be accessed via an app installed on their Tablet or Smartphone.

Action24 HomeTouch panel intruder alarm
The main part of the intruder alarm is the HomeTouch™ panel which controls all devices. Once the panel has been installed, further devices can be included such as IP CCTV cameras, smoke detectors and wireless carbon monoxide detectors for enhanced protection of your home. Any activations will be reacted upon in Action24’s monitoring centre and the devices are viewable also on the Action24 app.

Man approaching house
It is also possible to integrate the control of your lights or other electrical devices from your Action24 App. You can pair a Z-wave plug with the panel and you will be able to control the lamp or other electronic device connected to the Z-wave plug. The connected devices will then appear on your App and are controllable at all times, whether you are at home or away. A very useful option when you’re on holidays!

table lamp switched on

How much does it cost?

€500 for the panel, €200 for the smoke detector and wireless carbon monoxide detector, €100 for IP camera, €35/month for monitoring.

 How do you control alarm and home devices?

Active24 have partnered with alarm.com to bring together home security and automation app for your home.   Their App is available for iPhoneiPad, Apple Watch and any Android device.

What is monitoring?

Monitoring is done by trained operators in a 24/7 Alarm Receiving Centre.  Nominated keyholders/emergency services will receive a call from operators when activations occur. The monitoring fee is a requirement for this company.

 

The good: It’s an intruder alarm that’s accessible.

The not so good: A bit expensive if you are looking for the full array of additional features and extras.

The verdict: A good option for anyone who wants security and smart home control from the one app.

Alternatives: Considering the relatively high cost of this system and the monthly cost of monitoring it may be beyond the budget for some users.  Monitoring will definitely enhance the security of your home or premises, however, there are other alternatives that avoid the monitoring fees.

An alternative without a monitoring fee is to use a Z-Wave controller such as the VeraPlus advanced home controller for €190.  You can have similar Z-Wave window €50 and motion €60 sensors and cameras, carbon monoxide (CO) €85 and smoke detectors €70 which can be configured when activated to sound a siren or send a customized Text message to three mobile numbers using a SMS Controlled Switch €145.  You also have the options to control heating systems and lighting.  The full control of the alarm and smart home devices in a similar way as the Activate24 is available via an app.

A Free 24-Hour Online Community Event On Accessibility

calendar date 9th June

Part of keyboard with Access label on one key

 

 

 

 

 

Inclusive Design 24 celebrates efforts worldwide to ensure people with disabilities have full and equal access to the web.

They will be holding 24 free one-hour webinars on all things accessibility. The sessions range from beginner to advanced and are aimed at everyone from executives to web developers.

 How to join:

 No sign-up. No registration. All sessions will be streamed live and publicly on YouTube – see the entire playlist for the event. Live captions for each session will be available.

Have a question for a presenter? No problem! Tweet your questions to @paciellogroup using the #ID24 hashtag and moderators will make sure they get them answered for you.

Visit the ID24 website to learn more!

Sponsored by The Paciello Group

 

Boardmaker Online now launched in Ireland

Tobii Dynavox have recently launched their new Boardmaker Online product in Ireland through SafeCare Technologies. It has all the functionalities of previous versions of Boardmaker, except now that it’s web-based you don’t need any disks and multiple users can access it from any PC.

Instructor showing students how to use Boardmaker Online

You can purchase a Personal, Professional or District account and the amount you pay depends on the type of account, the amount of “instructors” and how many years you want to sign up for. You can also get a discount for any old Boardmaker disks that you want to trade in.

You get all the symbols that have been available in past versions, as well as some new symbol sets and any new ones that are created in the future will also be given to you. Because it’s web-based, you have access to previously created activities via the online community and you can upload activities you create yourself to that community and share them with other people in your district or all over the world.

Because it’s no longer tied to one device, you can create activities on your PC and assign them to your “students” who can use them either in school and/or at home. You no longer need to have a user’s device in your possession to update their activities and they don’t need to have a period without their device while you do this.

You (and the other instructors in your district if you have a district licence) can also assign the same activity to many students and by having different accessibility options set up for different students, the activity is automatically accessible for their individual needs. For example, you could create an activity and assign it to a student who uses eye gaze and to a student who uses switches and that activity will show up on their device in the format that’s accessible for them.

Picture shows how instructors can assign Boardmaker Online activities to multiple students

The results of students’ work can be tracked against IEP or educational goals which then helps you decide what activities would be suitable to assign next. You can also track staff and student usage.

One limitation is that you can only create activities on a Windows PC or Mac. You can play activities on an iPad using the free app but not create them on it, and you can’t use Boardmaker Online to either create or play activities on an Android or Windows-based tablet.

The other point to mention is that because it’s a subscription-based product, the payment you have to make is recurring every year rather than being a one-off payment, which may not suit everyone.

However, with the new features it’s definitely worth getting the free 30-day trial and deciding for yourself if you’d like to trade in your old Boardmaker disks for the new online version!

Controlling your home appliances with you voice

You know a particular technology is fast approaching mainstream when every manufacturer seems to be developing add-ons to make their products work with it.

From Samsung’s SmartThings to August Smart Home Locks, 3rd-party developed skills are voice experiences that add to the capabilities of any Alexa-enabled device (such as the Echo). For example “Alexa, set the Living Room lights to warm white” or “Alexa, lock the front door.” These skills are available for free download. Skills are continuously being added to increase the capabilities available to the user.smart controlled lock on a door

smart controlled lighting in a living room

he Amazon Echo is a smart speaker developed by Amazon. It is tall cylinder speaker with a built-in microphone. The device connects to the voice-controlled intelligent personal assistant service Alexa, which answers to the name “Alexa”. The device is capable of voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing weather, traffic, and other real-time information
However, it can also control many smart devices using itself as a home automation hub.
The videos below give an example of using your voice with smart home products.
https://youtu.be/V7WfxI3ecVI
https://youtu.be/pH8fg1noIj0

The good: As far as price goes, the Amazon Echo comes in various forms, the
Amazon Echo Dot costs £44.99 which seems affordable. All the Amazon skills that add to the capabilities of any Alexa-enabled device are free.

The not so good: Requires internet connection to work. If your internet goes down then your ability to control the devices around you also does too.

The verdict: A good way to dip your toe in the Internet of Things waters, more capabilities on the way.

Accessibility Checker for Word Tutorial

The Accessibility Checker feature has been part of Microsoft Office for the last few iterations of the software package. It provides a fast and easy way to check whether the content you are producing is accessible to users of assistive technology. By making accessibility accessible Microsoft have left no room for excuses like “I didn’t know how…” or “I didn’t have time..”. You wouldn’t send a document to all your colleagues full of misspellings because you were in a hurry would you? The one criticism that could have been leveled at Microsoft was perhaps they didn’t provide enough support to new users of the tool. As I said above it’s easy to use but sometimes users need a little extra support, especially when you are introducing them to something that may be perceived as additional work. Thankfully Microsoft have filled that gap with a 6 part tutorial video which clearly explains why and how to get started using Accessibility Checker. Part 1 is a short introduction (embedded below) followed by a video on each important accessibility practice; Alternative Text, Heading Styles, Hyperlinks, File naming and Tables. Each video is accompanied by a short exercise to allow you put your new skill into practice immediately. The whole tutorial can be completed in under 20 minutes. This tutorial should be a requirement for anybody producing documents for circulation to the public. Have a look at the introduction video below.