Thursday, May 5, 2016

Apple Just Introduced An "Accessibility" Section On Its Website To Sell Accessibility Accessories

photo of a braille display, switch and skoog, a musical device

If you appreciate Apple products not just because of their ease of use but also for the accessibility feature they provide, you would be happy to know that recently, Apple launched a new "Accessibility" section on its website from where you can buy accessibility related accessories meant for your iPhone, iPad and Mac computers. There are currently 15 accessories on the website that can work with Apple products - from switches to Braille Displays to tracking displays. These accessories are categorized under "Vision", "Physical & Motor Skills", and "Learning & Literacy". 

The website also features Skoogmusic Skoog 2.0 - a tactile and accessible musical instrument accessory that lets users create music by just tapping, squeezing or twisting the sides of a cube.

It is possible these products may soon be available at Apple's brick & mortar stores too where sales assistants will be able to help disabled customers pick and choose the right accessories for them.

To learn more about Apple's efforts towards accessibility in its products, and the company's vision, visit here. (

Apple's accessibility products webpage.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

GlassOuse: A Head And Mouth Controlled Mouse For People With Disabilities

photo of glassouse

For amputees, people with spinal cord injuries, stroke patients, and other who have bad motor skills, a mouse for computers or their finger(s) for tablets or phones  are not the most feasible ways to operate their devices. GlassOuse, a new Bluetooth operated  eye and mouth controlled device, is meant for people who cannot use tracking devices in the traditional sense. The device is worn like eye glasses and has a "button" attached to it. Moving the head moves the mouse on the screen and also allows scrolling, and biting the attached (antibacterial) button performs clicks on the screen. It is an extremely light device and weighs only 50 grams (less than 2 ounces).

A GlassOuse can work with practically any device that has Windows, Mac, Linux or Android.

The inventor of GlassOuse, Mehmet Nemo Turker, is raising money through an Indiegogo campaign, and plans to deliver them by August 2016.  A GlassOuse would cost $149 through the campaign. He also plans to donate several of them to not for profit organizations.

Watch the video below to see GlassOuse in action.

Source: Indiegogo via The Verge

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Assistive Technology With IFTTT (If This Then That) + IoT (Internet of Things): Part 1

We saw a couple of months ago how Amazon Echo, or Alexa, can be such a huge help to people with disabilities. With very simple commands, Alexa can read us a book, control lights in our house, and also order a pizza for us! However, how about we take things a step further, and make a combination of technologies and applications just do things for us without us having to perform any sort of manual interaction with any app or device?

IFTTT, which stands for If This Then That, has been around for a few years now, and can do exactly what's described above. With IFTTT you can create "recipes" that look for a certain trigger and then perform a certain action. Here are some examples of IFTTT recipes that can be especially helpful for people with disabilities:

  • If I am approaching my house, turn on the living room light, and start playing music.
  • If I exit my house, turn off all lights, and set the thermostat to 68 degrees.
  • If my plants are dry and they need to be watered, send me a text notification.
  • If my client who has Alzheimer's, goes outside of a specific geographic location, send me a text message.
  • If I receive an email from my caregiver, send me a text message.
  • If I am on vacation at an exotic place, and I am taking photos there with my phone, upload them automatically to Facebook so my friends and family can see them too.
These are some very simple example of "triggers" (If I am approaching my house) that can initiate "actions" (turn on the living room light), and all of this is done behind the scenes via "recipes", which are just easy rules that are set up only once in IFTTT with very minimal clicks. These sort of recipes can be beneficial to blind and/or deaf-mute people, people in wheelchairs, people with bad motor skills and muscular dystrophy - anyone for whom interacting with a device like a phone may be an extra step that they would possibly like to avoid.

The IFTTT interface is very simple - it lets you choose from a huge list of "trigger channels" for the "THIS" part. So,  if a person in a wheelchair is creating a recipe that will turn off all lights and coffee maker when they leave their house, they will choose the trigger channel "location" and then choose separate "action channels" - "turn off light" and "turn off coffeemaker" for the "THAT" part.

You can watch this video below to see how IFTTT recipes are created for five different  scenarios.

  • When a patient walks out of a specific geographic location, send the caregiver a text notification with the patient's location.
  • A blind photographer is at a touristy location and is taking photos with their iPhone. Upload that person's photos automatically to a Facebook album so they are shared with friends, family, and fans.
  • Send text notification when you receive an email  from your caregiver.
  • When you ask Amazon Echo "Alexa" what's on your To-Do List, it automatically creates a reminder on your phone for those items so you have access to those items when you are out and about running chores.
  • Get notified when season changes on Mars!

As you can see, these recipes are extremely easy to create, yet so powerful and effective. For people with disabilities, a combination of these apps and technologies through IFTTT recipes can be extremely beneficial, and enable them to overcome barriers to every day living by automating (almost) everything around them and bringing comfort and convenience.

IFTTT website:

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Thai University Develops Touchable Ink For The Blind

map of  italy printed with touchable ink. Shows raised image of italy with some cities printed in text and braille.

Thailand's Thammasat University, in collaboration with Samsung, has created a new ink that rises up when heated, thus giving it an embossed effect, just like what you would expect from a Braille embosser. What's revolutionary about this ink is that it can be used with regular printers on regular paper, thus eliminating the need for expensive Braille embossers that emboss on special Braille paper. What's more interesting about it is that it would also be able to print non-braille objects as well. For example, a picture of a map could be printed with this ink on regular paper along with locations within the map printed in Braille (as seen in the image above). A combination of raised text and images will open new avenues for consuming  text based material for blind people.

This ink will not only make the entire braille printing process much cheaper, but will also enable braille printing to be available to practically anyone who has a printer. No more need for Braille embossers that can cost anywhere from $2,000 - $4,000. It is estimated that the current cost of Braille printing is $1.1 per A4 size page. Touchable Ink will reduce that cost to a mere 3 cents per page [1]

This is what a braille document printed in Touchable Ink looks like.

Source: Tech In Asia
[1] CNET

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Bio Hacking: The Future of Assistive Technology?

Artist Neil Harrison with an attachment connected to his head that lets him hear colors.

This post is meant to be thought provoking.  Please share your thoughts & feedback in the comments section below.

We live in a world that is inventing assistive technology solutions constantly. There are all sorts of devices, accessories, apps,  and wearables that are inexpensive, yet provide great  convenience to people with disabilities. Technology is amazing, and with access to all sorts of resources on the internet, inventing assistive technology solutions and reaching out to more and more people is becoming more common. Three or four decades ago, would we have ever imagined that assistive technology would take such huge leaps? 

The present is fantastic. Now..let's look into the future. How crazy can things get in the future?

Imagine a world where someone doesn't need to use any devices. Even though they may have disabilities, they will be able to go about doing their daily chores without the help of  assistive technology.  

How would that be possible though?

Bio Hacking!

By including chips in our body - chips that will hold and transfer different types of information and perform various functions for  us. Picture a blind person wanting to open a door that has electronic lock - instead of looking for their key fob in their pocket and then flashing it in front of the lock, the person just stands in front of the lock (or waves their hand in front of it) and the door unlocks. The same person could be at a check out counter at a grocery store ready to pay. The same chip (or a different one) embedded in their body that stores their credit card information could be read by the card scanner/machine without the person doing anything (reaching out for their wallet and pulling out cash/ credit card). When it's time to go back home, a chip that has GPS co-ordinates to their house, will give them step by step directions. Once you enter your home, the thermostat would set to a specific temperature, and the oven would start.

If someone requires frequent visits to the doctor, a similar chip in their body can eliminate or reduce visits by monitoring all their biomedical information over a period of time, and transmitting it to the doctor via Bluetooth and internet. Messages and text messages could be displayed on a screen embedded in their skin. Imagine how helpful that would be for someone that muscular dystrophy, ALS or limited motor skills, and pulling out a phone out of their pocket is a really tedious task.

Embedding tiny magnets in your fingertips will be able to give the person a sort of sixth sense - they would be able to detect magnetic fields around them. By just waving their hand in a room, they can get a sense of where things are, and also get some additional information like the shape of the objects. They would possibly be able to lift small objects with those embedded magnets.

Essentially, with the help of electronics and technology, our bodies would be enhanced and be able to do things that a "regular" body cannot do on its own. 

What is the inspiration behind this crazy vision though? 

First of all, depending on who you talk to, it may or may not be considered crazy. A lot of "Body
hacking" or "Bio hacking" is already being done by many body hackers, whose aim is to enhance the way the human body functions. They believe in running faster than a cheetah, smashing holes through walls, avoiding feeding the body because of hunger! Okay, these are definitely crazy ideas but their basic philosophy is that with a few tweaks,  the human body can do a lot more than what we are used to.

photo of tim cannon -founder of grid house wetware showing a chip under his skin on his left forearm.
Tim Cannon
A startup in Pittsburg, called Grindhouse Wetware, is already leading the way, with the goal of "augmenting humanity using safe, affordable, open source technology". Tim Cannon is a very well known biohacker in the community, and his vision of using technology to enhance human lives is very interesting.

We may think that all of this will happen anywhere from 10 - 70 years from now, but, the reality is that all of this has already started happening. This phenomenon is off to a start in a sort of an underground, not so mainstream, traditional community. However, keep an eye on this space because within the next few years, it has potential to get noticed by more and more bigger companies who wouldn't hesitate to make this more mainstream. 

Do we question the feasibility of body hacking? We did question the personal computer and cell phones when they first came out too.

Monday, April 25, 2016

New & Improved Accessibility In Google Products

If you use Google products like Android phones or Chromebook, you probably already know how well their accessibility features work. Google is constantly working on improving existing features and adding new ones to make their devices much more accessible and friendly for people with disabilities. Recently, Google introduced several accessibility enhancements to its products, some of which are listed below:

Accessibility Scanner: Accessibility Scanner is a new Android tool that suggests improvements regarding accessibility in Android apps. A user simply selects an app they want to scan and hit the "Accessibility Scanner" button. The tool will then provide improvements and suggestions for the user that may provide accessibility benefits. Suggested improvements can range from enlarging buttons, increasing contrasts to providing content description. These suggestions can be shared with app developers so they could include them in their apps. Developers can run this tool while developing their apps too so they could reach out to a larger audience base that would include people with disabilities.

screenshots showing instructions on how to use accessibility scanner and the results it shows.

Edit Google Docs with Voice: Do you use Google Docs extensively for creating word documents (or for writing your novel :))? You can now just speak to Google Docs and it will do all the typing for you. Voice typing can be enabled by selecting "Tools" menu and choosing "Voice Typing". Voice Typing can type in many languages and understands several accents*. It makes formatting of documents easier with voice commands like "insert table", "highlight", "copy", "start bullet point", "apply heading 1" and several others.

*Afrikaans, Arabic, Arabic (Algeria), Arabic (Bahrain), Arabic (Egypt), Arabic (Israel), Arabic (Jordan), Arabic (Kuwait), Arabic (Lebanon), Arabic (Morocco), Arabic (Oman), Arabic (Palestine), Arabic (Qatar), Arabic (Saudi Arabia), Arabic (Tunisia), Arabic (United Arab Emirates), Bulgarian, Catalan, Czech, Danish, German, Greek, English (Australia), English (Canada), English (India), English (Ireland), English (New Zealand), English (Philippines), English (South Africa), English (UK), English (US), Spanish, Spanish (Argentina), Spanish (Bolivia), Spanish (Chile), Spanish (Colombia), Spanish (Costa Rica), Spanish (Ecuador), Spanish (El Salvador), Spanish (Spain), Spanish (US), Spanish (Guatemala), Spanish (Honduras), Spanish (Latin America),Spanish (Mexico), Spanish (Nicaragua), Spanish (Panama), Spanish (Paraguay), Spanish (Peru), Spanish (Puerto Rico), Spanish (Uruguay), Spanish (Venezuela), Basque, Farsi, Finnish, Filipino, French, Galician, Croatian, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Icelandic, Italian, Italian (Italy), Italian (Switzerland), Hebrew, Japanese, Korean, Lithuanian, Malaysian, Dutch, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazil), Portuguese (Portugal), Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Slovenian, Serbian, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Chinese (Hong Kong), Zulu

Improved Screen reader on Chromebook: Every Chromebook comes with its own built in screen reader. Recent enhancements include a simplified keyboard shortcut model,  a new caption panel that displays braille and speech output, and a new set of navigational sounds. 

Voice Commands on Android Devices: Recently, Google introduced a new beta feature called Voice Access Beta that is meant for people who cannot navigate their phone options because of their inability to interact with touch screen, which may be due to paralysis, amputation, tremor or other reasons. This feature would allow users to control their phone via voice by speaking commands like "Open Chrome", "Go Home", etc. Since this is still in beta, a user has to sign up for testing by downloading the update from here

Vision Settings in Android N: Android's upcoming version is currently codenamed Android N. This version of Android will have important accessibility features like magnification, font size, display size, and TalkBack to the welcome screen that appears when a new phone is being set up. This will enable visually impaired users to independently set up their phone the way they like it and activate needed features right from the get go.

To learn more about Google's accessibility initiatives, visit this link.

Source: Google

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The RESNA ATP: Credential, Exam, AT Community & Resources!

resna logo

For anyone seeking a career in the assistive technology realm, there are various educational options available that they can pursue to start their assistive technology careers. However, technology, especially assistive technology, has seen a paradigm shift in recent years, and continues to make great strides change to either: make great strides or perhaps continues to grow or continues to expand. With technology making such rapid progress without any sign of slowing down, how does one keep themselves updated and learn about the latest? How do they enhance their skills? Are there certifications available for assistive technology professionals that will help them market themselves? We know continuing education is important but can we be negatively impacted if we don't continue to educate ourselves? How do we make sure that we get recognized for our skills, which will benefit us as assistive technology professionals and everyone we serve? Is there an organization that can help us with all of this and beyond?

Whew! That's a lot of questions! However, for anyone seeking answers to these questions, a group of people,  who are experts in this area, gathered together to answer these questions!  As someone seeking to expand assistive technology skills, enhance marketability, and earn more credibility, you can go through RESNA (Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North America) - a not for profit organization that is dedicated to promoting the health and well-being of people with disabilities through increasing access to assistive technology solutions. RESNA is great for any professional who is looking to get continuing education in assistive, adaptive, or accessible technology. RESNA also provides certifications that can be truly valuable. Why? Because there are organizations out there that are looking specifically for RESNA certified Assistive Technology Professionals.

But how does it all work? RESNA’s Andrea Van Hook, along with the following RESNA-certified ATPs  explain RESNA, continuing education, certifications, and answer  important questions along the way! 

Andrea Van Hook is RESNA’s Membership, Marketing and Communications Manager. 

Daniel Cochrane, MA, MS, ATP, is chair of the Professional Standards Board (PSB), the RESNA committee that governs the certification programs. A special educator by training, he is the AT coordinator for a K-12 school district in the Chicago suburbs and also teaches an online course for the University of Illinois in Chicago’s Assistive Technology Certificate Program. 

Diana Petschauer, M.Ed, ATP, is founder of AT for Education and Access4Employment, a consultant and AT trainer/ evaluator, and manager of AT professionals with a background in special education K-12 and postsecondary. Providing AT services nationally, Diana is also a RESNA PSB member. 

Let's start with the basics - what is RESNA? 

Andrea: RESNA, the Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North America, is a non-profit professional membership organization dedicated to promoting the health and well-being of people with disabilities through increasing access to technology solutions. RESNA members include rehabilitation engineers, occupational therapists, physical therapists, educators, researchers, technology developers, speech-language pathologists, assistive technology specialists, computer scientists, suppliers and manufacturers. 

Who is it for? Why consider RESNA for professional development? 

Andrea: RESNA is for any professional who works with assistive, adaptive, or accessible technology for people with disabilities. RESNA offers a wide range of continuing education for professionals and certified professionals, including webinars, courses, an annual conference, and a peer-reviewed scientific journal.  RESNA also offers multiple certifications for professionals that provide direct services to people with disabilities. 

Dan: The requirement for ongoing professional development is an important part of what makes professional certification valuable. ATP certified practitioners must renew their certification every two years by accumulating continuing education credits (see RESNA’s website for details). Consumers and employers will know that AT practitioners with RESNA’s certifications are deepening their AT knowledge and keeping up with new developments in the field. But continuing education credits for the ATP and ATP/SMS can be acquired from a number of different providers, not just RESNA. Although RESNA is the only membership organization dedicated to assistive technology, which is what I find interesting about it, other organizations have conferences and webinars too. These might be focused on specific sectors of AT practice, such as K-12 or seating and mobility.  

Diana: Acquiring my ATP credential via RESNA and accessing RESNA’s professional development resources have been significant in regards to support for my position now as well as the services that I provide. Schools, organizations, and companies seek the ATP credential when hiring an AT consultant and I am happy to have it to demonstrate my background and current knowledge in this ever changing and evolving field. I appreciate collaborating with other ATPs with various backgrounds and expertise. Many of my consultants are ATPs or working towards the ATP certification while specializing in various areas such as Augmentative/ Alternative Communication (AAC), access, learning disabilities and literacy supports, aging and older adults, blind and low vision, physical disabilities, deaf and hard of hearing, etc. 

Is RESNA certification available for assistive technology professionals? 

Andrea: RESNA offers two certifications for assistive technology service providers who have met a national standard of job-based knowledge and experience. The Assistive Technology Professional (ATP) certification recognizes demonstrated competence in assessing and analyzing the needs of consumers with disabilities, assisting in the selection of appropriate technologies to meet those needs, and providing training in the use of selected devices. The ATP certification program is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, the accrediting body of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence, which means that the program meets the highest quality standards in professional certification. 

The Seating and Mobility Specialist (SMS) certification is a specialty certification for professionals working in seating and mobility.  In order to be eligible for the SMS certification, a professional must first be ATP-certified. 

Dan: One of the interesting things about RESNA’s ATP certification is that it is not specific to one corner of AT practice. In other words, it’s not just for suppliers who work for seating and mobility vendors or just for physical therapists who work in clinical settings. Assistive technology is an interdisciplinary field that consumers can access in a variety of ways throughout their lives. Early intervention programs and public schools are required to consider assistive technology for children in their settings. Hospital and clinics provide AT services as part of healthcare. Private community-based organizations, such as independent living centers, home service providers, or independent businesses connect folks with assistive technology along with other types of services. Vocational rehabilitation programs help people find employment or get back to work with assistive technology. Federally funded Tech Act programs in each state help provide assistive technology at all stages of life. These are just some examples of the diverse AT service provision options and it seems I’m always learning about others. RESNA’s ATP certification applies to practitioners in all these settings. Although people tend to specialize in specific applications of AT, such as seating and mobility or augmentative communication, or they work in only one setting, such as a K-12 school system, the provision of AT services anywhere follows the same framework: assessment of needs and then feature-matching AT solutions to the person, the activity or task they need to do, and the environment where it needs to be done.   

How much does the certification exam cost?

Andrea: The ATP certification exam fee is normally $500.  However, RESNA is introducing a new, updated ATP exam starting in July. Candidates who take the new, updated exam between July 1 and October 31 2016 will receive a $100 discount off of the regular exam fee. The exam has been updated to reflect current assistive technology practice. 

During the past two years, volunteer subject matter experts representing a variety of assistive technology specialty areas, practice settings, and professional backgrounds have contributed their time and expertise as part of a rigorous process to update the exam.  At every step of the way, efforts were taken to ensure the new exam reflects the broad diversity of current assistive technology practice. The exam was previously updated in 2009. 

More information about the new, updated exam and the discount can be found on the RESNA website at

What career opportunities are available after getting RESNA certified?

Andrea: RESNA certification helps professionals establish their credentials as knowledgeable, experienced service providers. Many rehabilitation hospitals, clinics, school districts, durable medical equipment manufacturers and suppliers, and others recognize the value of the ATP certification and some require it for jobs that involve assessing and evaluating technologies for people with disabilities. In addition, Medicare and several state Medicaid programs require that a RESNA-certified ATP perform assessments for people needing certain seating and mobility equipment.  

Dan: RESNA certification is different from certificate programs and from licensure although these options are easily confused, especially as they relate to career opportunities. Certificate programs specify the coursework needed to get a certificate, which is just like getting a degree. Once you earn it, it can’t be taken away. Professional credentialing, such as RESNA’s ATP, is something you might get later to validate your knowledge base and experience level. It usually involves an exam and other eligibility criteria but most importantly, it is something that the practitioner needs to maintain by meeting renewal requirements. Professional credentials expire or can be taken away for ethics violations. Licensure is when a governmental organization, such as a state, makes the professional credential a legal requirement for those who want to practice in a specific field. This is common practice in medical, educational, financial and other fields. With licensure, the professional credential is directly tied to employment opportunities. RESNA’s ATP certification, on the other hand, is not directly tied to career opportunities because it is not tied to licensure. However, as Andrea mentioned, it is required for Medicare billing of certain seating and mobility equipment, so employers in that sector require it. In other sectors, employers may prefer candidates with ATP certification for dedicated AT positions. But because AT practice is multidisciplinary, AT services may only be part of a professional’s job responsibilities. In these cases, ATP certification is not so much about opening career opportunities as it is about validating a practitioner’s expertise to the consumer and their family. 

Diana: I started with my Master’s in Special Education as well as many years of hands-on experience with assistive technology with students of various ages and abilities. I attended certificate programs in postsecondary education that enhanced my knowledge of special education, disabilities, and AT use and implementation. I then applied for and took the RESNA ATP exam to show my knowledge and experience in the field to those who were hiring me.  Now I seek consultants with this credential when I hire consultants for our company. As we acquire contracts and work with clients, they inquire about our credentials and expertise and specifically ask for the ATP. It is indeed recognized by Medicaid and Medicare as well as insurance and continues to be recognized and required for certain positions and funding options. Many other professionals in various fields such as seating and mobility specialists, OTs, SLPs, educators, etc., have initial degrees, professions and credentials and acquire the ATP to demonstrate their expertise for further opportunities and to be part of the supportive RESNA community of professionals and experts, as well as the resources for professional development. It is important to note that the AT certificate programs at colleges are as Dan mentioned, certificates, and can help an individual to prepare for the RESNA ATP, as well as further their knowledge of assistive technology. The certificates are not the equivalent of the RESNA ATP. 

Does RESNA provide resources for continued education and professional development?

Andrea: RESNA offers a wide range of continuing education for professionals and certified professionals, including webinars, courses, an annual conference, and a scientific journal.  

Diana: The RESNA webinars and continuing education courses are excellent and can be found on the website.  I also like the RESNA job board that allows employers to post current employment opportunities on the RESNA website to find just the right employee from the vast array of professionals associated with RESNA . In addition, those searching for employment in the assistive technology field may, at no charge, create and post their professional profile for prospective employers to search. Click here for the Job Board

Once you get RESNA certification, how do you market your credentials?

Andrea: RESNA offers certified professionals a marketing toolkit, which includes logo guidelines, sample press releases, and tips on how to market yourself as a certified professional. In addition, as an organization, RESNA continuously promotes certification to the public, employers, and others. 

Are there University programs or classes available that will prepare me for RESNA certification?

Andrea: On the RESNA website, there is a webpage devoted to “Preparing for the Exam.” There are links to third-party providers that offer classes which may help candidates focus their study and gain additional knowledge that would be useful for exam preparation.  

Dan: I certainly benefited from completing an AT certificate program before I applied for the ATP credential. I already had years of hands-on experience in the school system where I work and knew a lot about certain aspects of AT. But I wasn’t tuned into the relevance of AT across the lifespan because my work is with K-12 students. Nor was I familiar with sectors of AT application that fall outside my scope of practice, such as seating and mobility. I took a 3 credit graduate course in this area and learned a lot. It’s still a practice area that is outside the scope of my professional training as a special educator, but I now understand how seating assessments work and know what to advocate for when I see a student whose seating and mobility needs are not being met. 

What are the benefits of becoming a RESNA member? What type of memberships are available? 

Andrea: RESNA membership, which is separate from certification, offers many benefits. By joining RESNA, AT professionals become members of the premier professional organization dedicated to assistive technology. RESNA is the only professional home for everyone that works in assistive technology. 

We offer individual, consumer, and student memberships, as well as organizational memberships for non-profit and for-profit organizations. For those new to RESNA, we offer a new member discount for the first year. Individual memberships are $165 a year, new members are $150, consumers are $80, and students are $60. 

With membership, AT professionals enjoy discounts on continuing education, including webinars, courses, and the annual conference, as well as a free, online subscription to the organization’s peer-reviewed scientific journal, Assistive Technology. RESNA members can also join up to 14 members-only online communities organized around specialty interest areas or professional specialties, networking, exchanging information, and exchanging referrals. RESNA members can also use the Member Logo on their business cards, email signatures, and in their own marketing; and can access any member for advice and consultation through the members-only directory.

Dan: I want to add that another benefit of RESNA membership is the opportunity to become involved in committee work that impacts the field of AT. While other organizations have great conferences you can attend once a year, they have no on-going opportunities for collaboration with other AT professionals. RESNA, on the other hand, provides multiple ways to get involved. Sometimes you end up chairing a committee, as I did! But there are other levels of involvement through participation in professional interest groups or professional specialty groups. These sometimes sponsor white papers or other projects that help advance the field. I find it professionally motivating to have the opportunity to be part of this important work. 

Diana: I enjoy being part of RESNA’s ongoing committees and groups to help support and promote the AT standards and practice in the industry as well as collaborate with other ATP’s and members in the field! I personally find others with the ATP to maintain and continue professional ethics and standards of practice which I share and help to make others aware of. 

So, there you have it! A great guide to continuing education and important RESNA certification information that hopefully gives you all good insights on how you can steer your career in the right direction by becoming a certified ATP, keeping yourself up to date on the latest & greatest, continuing to build skillsets that are in demand, while standing out in the industry as a true expert. If you want more information on what RESNA offers AT professionals, including certified professionals, feel free to send a message to Andrea at avanhook[at]resna[dot]org.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Clickability: Rate, Review & Find Disability Services In Australia

As a social worker in community mental health services, I spent a lot of my time looking for information. I looked for information to see how one of the participants in my program who experienced family violence could find some help. I looked for information to find a gym that another participant could use, that would be welcoming to him. Another person wanted to learn to drive; another needed information about his brain injury; another wanted to do art; another needed a physiotherapist; another needed support as he reduced his marijuana intake.

As a social worker in community health services, I googled my butt off. I made a thousand phone calls to find that information. And once I found it, I asked, “Do you have a waiting list? Do you work with people over 60 years old? Do you work with teenagers? Do you work with people who live outside your area? Does your service cost money? Is your facility near public transport? Is your facility wheelchair accessible?”

The skill that I developed was learning how to ask the right questions. And it’s seriously a skill. It’s hard to find the right organisations and services! It takes tenacity, patience, creativity, and a working phone and internet connection. Often, it also took a car and a couple of visits. It also meant that I was learning a lot about what was available in the community, and also that I was gatekeeping information -- the participants I worked with didn’t have access to everything I was finding out, and often I needed to write a professional referral and use a particular form.

The other frustrating thing was that often, because the participant was too old, or lived too far away, they weren’t allowed to use the organization they wanted. They had only one choice.

an image describing - you can rate and review services, and find reliable information.
Click to enlarge
The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is now changing things up for around 460,000 people with disability (including a number of people who need mental health services). Participants will finally have choice about where they go to get their services! When I heard about the NDIS, I thought, wow – participants are going to be able to make their own decisions about where they get to go! And then I thought, how on earth are they going to do that!? I have all this information in my head, and I know that everyone I’ve worked with does too, participants and staff. The only way we’ll be able to make informed decisions under NDIS is if we find a way to share that information.

So I created Clickability with my team. It’s a website where participants, carers, staff and advocates – anyone with experience – can share their experiences of disability services. My team calls it “Trip Advisor for disability services”! It’s for everyone who has used, or will use, disability services – wheelchairs, therapies, carers – anything that’s funded by the NDIS. We see three major benefits:
  1. The information is not created by the government, or by marketing teams… it’s created by the people who matter: the people who have actually used the services.
  2. By reviewing, you have your voice heard. You get to give real feedback about your experiences, and endorse the wonderful organisations you know.
  3. You can see what other people have said about an organization before you purchase services from them so you can make really informed decisions.
We’re starting with disability support services, because we want to see everyone able to get up, have a shower and get on with their day. So we’re starting by listing NDIS-registered services. Tell us about your support coordination service, your OT, the place you get your wheelchair fixed, the school that works with your kid who has autism. You can write a review here:

But our big vision is a fully accessible, welcoming society. So if there’s a taxi company, a swimming pool, a doctor who worked really well with you, and you want to write a review and let others know about them, they go up on Clickability too.

We’re taking your lead – what do you think is important? Which organisations make your life easier? We’ve made the website for you – we want to hear all about them, good or bad.

Aviva Beecher Kelk is a social worker and researcher. She runs and is doing a PhD looking at how people make decisions about which disability support services they purchase. She really likes cheese and dancing.

Image Source: International Day of People With Disabilities

Wednesday, April 13, 2016's $20 Million Grants Are Funding Some Really Awesome Assistive Technologies

a group of people smiling. There is a person in the middle in a wheelchair.

Google's philanthropic arm, has awarded $20 million in grants to 29 organizations around the world through  "Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities" - a mechanism to encourage forward thinking innovators to bridge gaps, and make assistive technologies available to a bigger audience. There are 1 billion disabled people around the world - that's 1 person in 7 who is disabled.

The grantees are all over the world, and their solutions fall under the "Hearing", "Mobility", "Cognitive", "Vision", and "Communication" categories.'s website has a list of all the grantees and descriptions of their solutions. You are encouraged to read about all of the cool innovations but here are a few, just to give you a taste of what kind of assistive technologies are being funded by these grants.

Smart Glasses by the Royal Institute for Blind People: The RNIB is developing smart glasses for people with low vision that identify objects, obstacles and people in their surroundings and turn them into high contrast shapes that can be easily recognized.

Wheelmap: Around the world, there is no easy way of finding accessible points of interest. Wheelmap is creating a global dataset and technology consisting of more than a million points of public places in a consistent format that will be used by several websites and apps meant for people with disabilities. 

The Arc: There are more than 20 million people in the US who have cognitive disabilities. Apps and assistive technologies meant for people with cognitive disabilities is on the rise, however, there is no easy way to find the right tool for a person's unique needs. The Arc is building a web platform that will look at a user's profile information, match it with others in the system, and identify tools and technologies that will most likely help the person with cognitive disabilities succeed.

Center for Discovery: Power wheelchairs provide a lot of independence to people with limited mobility. However, they  can be quite expensive. Center for Discovery is creating an open source add on that will attach to a manual wheelchair and convert it into a power wheelchair for 1/7th the average cost.

DAISY Consortium: DAISY is developing industry standards and working with publishers to ensure that all books published are also available in accessible formats.

Neil Square Society: For anyone who cannot use their arms, it becomes difficult to operate apps and services on a touchscreen device and get desired outcome. Neil Square Society is building an affordable open sourced mouth operated input controller that will let people with limited arm movements to interact with their touchscreen devices.

Leprosy Mission Trust India: The Leprosy Mission Trust India will be 3D Scanning and printing high fidelity, cost competitive, custom footwear  at a centralized facility to give people with leprosy the ability to walk. The current system for providing such footwear is inefficient, inaccurate, and has low compliance.

Dan Marino Foundation: The Dan Marino Foundation is creating a solution that will use interactive digital avatars and help people with Autism prepare for interviews. This solution will provide  repeated feedback on body language, movement, voice intonation,  and eye contact and prepare the user for successful interviews.

Be sure to check out the rest of the grantee's here!

Source: via Engadget

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

ASL Video Tours For Deaf Museum Visitors

a person scanning a qr code displayed on the wall with their phone to watch the exhibit's ASL video tour

Most, if not all museums provide audio or guided tours to their visitors. Audio tours are provided through an audio device that contains audio descriptions of each exhibit, and guided tours are led by a staff members . Needless to say though, neither of these methods are beneficial to deaf visitors (unless there is another guide who signs in ASL - which is unheard of).  Exhibits do have text descriptions but do we have the patience and the mental capacity to read and grasp all of it?

In order to provide greater convenience to deaf visitors, and to encourage them to visit museums to enlighten themselves, Kim Hunt, a certified sign language interpreter, along with Cain Chiasson, an instructor at Lamar University, have teamed up to create video tours that will have audio, ASL, and captions to enhance deaf visitors' experience. Each exhibit will have its own video which will be accessed via a QR code displayed on the wall. Scanning the QR code via a phone or tablet app (the museum has free wifi and tablets that can be checked out for visitors who don't have a smart phone) will launch a video explaining the exhibit the deaf visitor is at. These videos are displayed in a split screen fashion where one side shows a docent talking about the exhibit, the other side has an ASL interpreter signing what the docent is saying, and at the bottom are captions for the video.

Fire Museum of Southeast Texas is the first museum to make such videos for all of its exhibits. Cain Chiasson is also in talks with the city of San Antonio to provide ASL tours of the Riverwalk and also to expand the coverage of a couple of other museums.

Watch the video below to see what the ASL tours are like!