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Jul 31, 2009

FCTD offers GREAT resources through summer A.T. Institute

The Family Center on Technology and Disability (FCTD) is wrapping up their 2-week A.T. Institute today. The two sessions available this year were:
1. Accessible Instructional Materials (AIMs)
2. Social Media Tools

With its unique format, the A.T. Institute provided a wide range of information in an interactive discussion with professionals of diverse backgrounds. Discussions were led by a team of experts including: Betsy Burgess, Annette Cerreta, Joy Zabala, Chris Bugaj, and Alice Wershing. Attendees particpated by asking questions and/or sharing their knowledge and experience with other participants. The two week course provided the opportunity to discuss pertanent information regarding today's needs for access to Accessible Instructional Materials such as digital text (Books on CD or in MP3 format for example) and eText and Social Media Tools such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and yes... even blogging!

A big THANK YOU to FCTD for providing this opportunity and CEUs all for FREE!!!

If you feel you have missed out, have no fear... FCTD maintains all of the discussion threads on their website at http://www.fctd.info/ by clicking on the "Online Discussion" link, then the "Archived Discussion" link.

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Mar 30, 2009

New Bluetooth Wireless Switch

The bluetooth wireless switch from Prentke Romich (PRC) is a great way to reduce the wire mess when connecting switches to PRC devices that use bluetooth. The devices that it will work with include ECO-14, Vantage Lite, and SpringBoard Lite!

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Feb 6, 2009

Assistive Technology for Learning Disabilities Presentation

On 2/6/09 we will be presenting at the Assistive Technology Institute Conference in Orange County on "Assistive Technology to Support Students with Learning Disabilities".

Our presentation handout can be downloaded or you can contact us to have them emailed to you.

Hope to see you at the conference.

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Jan 28, 2009

AbleLink Technologies Introduces First SmartPhone for Soldiers and Others with Traumatic Brain Injuries

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado, January 28, 2009 – AbleLink Technologies, a leading developer of cognitive technologies, today announced the first research-based SmartPhone technology designed specifically to assist people with traumatic brain injuries (TBI) with executive functioning. The new system, called Pocket Endeavor, is an integrated scheduler, voice recorder, cell phone and GPS system operating on a touch-activated SmartPhone. Pocket Endeavor was developed following research funded by the Defense Advanced Research Programs Agency (DARPA) as well as through direct interaction with hundreds of soldiers with brain injuries using AbleLink's other cognitive support technologies over the past two years.


Access to all the system functions is achieved through the Pocket Endeavor Dashboard, which masks the complexity of the traditional PDA operating system and integrates the entire system by providing straightforward and dedicated access to the other modules. Pocket Endeavor is designed specifically for those who need a simple, straightforward user interface. Pocket Endeavor provides visual, auditory, and text-based reminders, and features that allow the user to independently schedule events in advance or at any time needed. A powerful setup feature defines complex recurring events with ease.
Greatly simplified access is provided to key cell phone features; including placing calls using pictures, recognizing incoming callers, ignoring calls from unknown parties, one-button access to voicemail, and use of a visual address book. In addition, Pocket Endeavor provides the capability to easily record meetings, instructions, or class lectures for playback later as needed on the same SmartPhone device. The system also provides specially designed tools for creating audio reminders, step-by-step instructions and lists, with an unambiguous interface for retrieving and listening to stored recordings.

Test participants for the DARPA research project included active duty soldiers with a diagnosis of TBI. All were referred by rehabilitation professionals at Colorado Springs’ Memorial Hospital, serving soldiers from Fort Carson. The feasibility study indicated significant improvement in executive functioning as measured by self-report data from the participating soldiers. Further research will build upon the pilot project and investigate the impact of the system using additional objective measures.

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Jan 19, 2009

USARCfest '09 supports Ski Program for Disabled

USARC is having their annual fundraiser at Bear Mountain Resort, Big Bear Lake (just outside Los Angeles) on Saturday, March 7, 2009. This event raises funds to purchase adaptive ski equipment, train 200 volunteers and professional staff members, and subsidize the cost of every lesson!

USARC is a nonprofit organization that provides adaptive recreation opportunities throughout summer and winter to physically and cognitively challenged children and adults. It is quite remarkable what USARC provides. Just check out their website to see the mountain biking, water skiiing and snow skiing they offer.

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Jan 16, 2009

Assistive Technology Institute - Los Angeles/Orange County

The 5th Annual Assistive Technolgoy Institute is coming up on Saturday, February 7th 2009 all day at the Orange County Department of Education. With a preconference on February 6th 2009, 8:30 a.m.

This is a low-cost conference offering a wide range of training opportunities on assistive technology and a vendor area to meet many of the vendors local to the Los Angeles and Orange County. Believe Ability will be presenting a session on assitive technology for learning disabilities.

Scholarships are available.

Again here are the details:
Pre-Conference Friday, February 6th, 2009 (8:30 am – 3:00 pm)
Saturday, February 7th, 2009 (8:30 am – 4:00 pm)
Orange County Department of Education
200 Kalmus Drive, Costa Mesa, CA 92628

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Dec 2, 2008

Video Games for People with Disabilities

As part of the work we continue to do with wounded service members in San Diego, CA, we are occasionally asked about video games that these military men and women can play. In a communication I had with CAUSE as part of the digital library they are establishing at a facility in San Diego, I compiled a list of on-line resources for people with disabilities that want to play video games. The resources include adapted game controllers, like joysticks and a foot pedal for Guitar Hero; console games that may be easily accessed; on-line games with easy adaptations; and games with built-in accommodations. Of particular interest are games that can be played by people with one hand.
While not a comprehensive list, hopefully this has some useful resources:

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Nov 26, 2008

2009 Assistive Technology Institute

On February 7, 2009, the Assistive Technology Exchange Center (ATEC), a division of Goodwill of Orange County, the Orange County Department of Education (OCDE), and the Team of Advocates for Special Kids (TASK), will host the 5th Annual Assistive Technology Institute at OCDE in Costa Mesa.

This conference is a nice opportunity for teachers, parents, professionals and caregivers in the Southern California area (Orange County, Los Angeles, etc.) to learn and explore assistive technology.

We will likely be presenting a session again on assistive technology for learning disabilities.

More information about the conference can be found at http://ati.atec-oc.org/

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Nov 25, 2008

The Fusion vs. AlphaSmart and Word Prediction

I previously posted about a training with did at a school on the AlphaSmart Neo - Believe Ability Blog: AlphaSmart Neo School Training and included a handout.

Another tool similar to the AlphaSmart Neo is the Fusion by The Writer Learning Systems. One of the obvious differences is the look. The Fusion has a sleek pseudo-iMac style, which some students may find appealing. The Fusion does seem more delicate and heavier than the AlphaSmart Neo. In our experience, the Fusion also has a more limited battery life requiring frequent recharges.

The Fusion does offer two significant features:

  • text to speech - i.e. it will read aloud (through headphones) the text in a synthesized voice
  • flexible/phonetic word prediction - while typing, a list of possible words is displayed - while the AlphaSmart Neo does offer the Co:Writer applet, it does not provide word prediction based on phonetically misspelled words
In our experience, the Fusion's word prediction could handle simple phonetic spelling errors, such as "durt" for "dirt". However it could not correctly predict more complex phonetical spelling errors such as "oshun" for "ocean" or letter order reversals such as "trun" for "turn". Unfortunately, many of the people we see with learning disabilities have these more complex spelling difficulties.

Co:Writer from Don Johnston Inc. is a software program that requires a Mac or Windows PC or notebook and does have the ability to handle these more complex spelling difficulties. Unfortunately, this level of support for significant spelling difficulties does not appear to be available on a light-weight writing device like the AlphaSmart or Fusion. And, as we have discussed previously, a laptop or notebook computer is usually not a good solution in school settings.

If you are interested in more information on assistive technology for writing or our services, please contact us.

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Nov 18, 2008

Member of the Alliance for Technology Access

Believe Ability Inc. is a proud sponsor of the Alliance for Technology Access. This nation-wide organization is one of the first to focus on technology for people with disabilities. Their community-based approach is unique and provides opportunities for people with disabilities and their support team to explore assistive technology. We are happy to be supporting the ATA in the Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego areas.

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Nov 17, 2008

Richard Devylder's use of Assistive Technology for Independent Living

This video of "A Day In the Life: Richard Devylder" is a real life look at someone with no arms and no legs using assistive technology to live their life independently. What is unique about this video is it looks at everyday tasks that Richard is able to do independently with some adaptations. Richard is the former California Department of Rehabilitation Deputy Director. He is now the Special Advisor, Office on Access and Functional Needs, at the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services.

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Nov 4, 2008

AlphaSmart Neo School Training

We recently did a training for a few teachers at a school district on the basic of the AlphaSmart Neo from Renaissance Learning. For those unfamiliar with this device, it is a writing device similar to a computer but more durable, lighter, longer battery life, and focused on just writing. It is an assistive technology device we often recommend for students with learning disabilities or have difficulty with legible handwriting. It is a superior option to a laptop for school environments and most writing difficulties.

Here is the handout we provided as a simple quick reference guide.

We are able to provide in-service trainings or student trainings throughout Los Angeles and Orange County. Contact us for more information.

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Oct 27, 2008

Introduction to AT Resources

Introduction to Assistive Technology Resources
In Karen Janowski's Blog she provides some nice simple resources to understand what assistive technology is, how it relates to education and the implementation process.

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PRC Vantage Lite

Similar to the upgrade made to the Springboard Lite, PRC has ruggedized and added features to the Vantage creating the Vantage Lite communication device. I am especially happy to see the upgrade to the display, offering increased brightness and a better angle of view. This in addition to the successful UNITY language system makes for a very nice device.

Contact us if are looking for assessment, training or setup of this or other Assistive Technology.

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Oct 22, 2008

Benetech future work on accessible books

Beneblog: Technology Meets Society: President's Update: Summer 2008
Jim Fruchterman, from Benetech of Bookshare.org, hints at future work with Bookshare.org to make it more accessible to students with existing laptops, mp3 players or phones. Back in September, Bookshare.org received a $32 million award from Department of Education, to provide free accessible books to all students with qualifying disabilities. It will be interesting to see what develops for reading from this work and how it will benefit people with disabilities such as dyslexia, blindness/low vision, and fine/gross motor disabilities.

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Jul 31, 2008

Troops' brain injuries inspire a new mission - USATODAY.com

Troops' brain injuries inspire a new mission - USATODAY.com
Here is an article on some of the challenges and work being done with returning service members that have been injured in blasts. The difficulties of traumatic brain injury are complex. The work we are doing at Camp Pendleton and C5 in San Diego is directly supporting these men and women to return to their lives with the support of assistive technology. These service members need several types of support to return to their lives. We hope our work is a piece of the puzzle.

Contact us for more information about the work we are doing with TBI and wounded service members.

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Jul 9, 2008

ATA - Envision A World video

YouTube - Envision A World The Alliance for Technology Access public service announcement contest has a winner. More about the contest can be found at http://www.ataccess.org/EnvisionaWorld.html

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Jun 3, 2008

Increasing Demand of Assistive Technology by Wounded Troops

Wounded Troops Increasingly Demand Assistive Technology
Here's an article posted on America's News Today about the increasing demand for assistive technology by troops with injuries. The director of CAP, Dinah Cohen, speaks to some of the benefits of using AT by these troops.

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Apr 29, 2008

KNFB Reader Mobile

KNFB Reader - Home

This was one of the items that got my attention at the CSUN Assistive Technology Conference in March. It is a cell phone with the ability to take a picture of a book, magazine, or other printed text, run the picture through the Kurzweil software and speak the words aloud. It is targeted for people who have difficulty reading due to learning disabilities or people that are blind or with low vision.
One thing I especially like about this device is that it is unobtrusive. People do not have to carry an awkward or additional piece of equipment with them.
This was developed as a joint venture between Kurzweil Technologies and the National Federation of the Blind.

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Apr 16, 2008

Environmental Commitment

As part of Believe Ability's commitment to the environment, we donated 1% of our gross sales to Tierra Miguel Foundation, an organic farm based on sustainable farming practices. Here is Jason Hilkey presenting Farmer Mil with the check. 
The farm is also a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm, where members purchase a "share" of the farm at the beginning of each season and then receive a box of produce each week (or every other week) based on the production of
 the farm. 
As a member of 1% For The Planet, Believe Ability has pledged to give 1% of the company's gross receipts each year to an environmental organization. 1%FTP was started by Yvon Chouinard, founder and owner of Patagonia, as a means for businesses to succeed in the marketplace while also causing environmental change.
We encourage other business to consider taking on this commitment.

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