Friday, January 28, 2011

Text to Speech App for iPhone/iPod/iPad

Here's a great app for the iPhone/iPod/iPad that lets people with speech impairment to communicate very easily and efficiently with others. It is called Assistive Chat, and the strong point of this app is predictive text. Once the user types a letter, Assistive Chat gives them a list of six words. They can either choose one of the six words or type the next letter to get more suggested words. Once the needed word appears in the list, the user simply selects it, and that word becomes a part of the sentence. Once the entire sentence has been typed, a "speech" button read it out loud.

The idea behind this app is to have a decent conversation without involving too many keystrokes because that can be somewhat time consuming, and tiring.

Watch the video to see a demo of Assistive Chat.

The creators of this app advice people with disabilities to use it on the iPad because of its bigger screen surface. It sells on the app store for $24.99.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Michigan Assistive Technology Loan Fund

The Michigan Assistive Technology Loan Fund (MATLF) has made it possible for residents of Michigan who have disabilities (and seniors and their family members) to obtain loans to buy assistive technology devices and services (which include modification to vehicles and homes). The website's FAQ section has the following answer for the kind of products/services that can be bought with the loan money:

"Examples include: wheelchairs, scooters, hearing aids, vision aids, vehicle modifications, home modifications (e.g. ramps, widened doorways, roll-in showers), and much more."

There is no minimum amount for the loans, but the maximum amount is $30,000. The loan interest rates vary between 4.75% and 9.75%, depending on several factors that would determine how easy it would be for the person seeking a loan to pay it all back. Repayment terms can be as long as possible, up to a maximum of seven years.

The applicant will have to submit a (rather lengthy) form which can be downloaded here. The form is available in .pdf, .doc, and .rtf formats.

The factors that determine whether an applicant's loan would be approved are their credit score, how long they have lived at their current address (at least one year), income, debt/income ratio (maximum 50%).

Source: petoskeynews (thank you @mpaciello on Twitter!)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I learned about this very interesting website called Qwiki that reads text to its users. A Qwiki is basically a piece of textual information that is mainly derived from Wikipedia (think of it as a Wikipedia page itself). A Qwiki usually consists of several other Qwikis as well. A user goes to Qwiki's website and either searches for a topic or selects one of the featured Qwikis. Once selected, the Qwiki is read aloud to the user (in a rather pleasant ,voice). The speech runs in the background and the many images from the Qwiki are shown to the users along with the text that is being read (which can be considered as captions). Here is an example.

This is the main Qwiki website. Notice that it has a "Enter a Topic" text box that lets you search for topics, and a "Featured Qwikis" section.

Selecting one starts playing the contents of the Qwiki. As you can see in the next screen, it shows not only pictures related to the topic (red arrows; which are a part of that Qwiki), but also the text that is being read aloud (blue arrow).

Click the button below to listen to the audio (apologies for the quality and volume of the audio):

As I mentioned earlier, A Qwiki consists of several other Qwikis as well, Just like a Wikipedia page consists of links to other broader topics. Clicking the "Contents" tab on the top (red arrow) reveals all the other Qwiki a certain Qwiki may contain (blue arrow).

These Qwikis can be improved by users and also shared on popular social networking sites.

This looks like a great tool for students with disabilities who may not have access to their own computer that has text to speech software installed. Consider a student with low vision who is at the library without their personal laptop. In such a situation, they can just go to this website and listen to the millions of articles that are available to be read aloud. Also, a student with hearing impairment may just read the scrolling text that is displayed in a slightly bigger font. One great thing about Qwiki is that it displays only two lines of text at a time, which can be beneficial for students with learning disabilities (especially those who struggle with basic reading skills). They can pause the Qwiki whenever they want to and just focus on the pictures, and the text, and move to the next two lines whenever they are ready.

Hit the source link at the bottom of this post to see a demo of Qwiki by its creators. The demo also shows a Qwiki phone app with an alarm. A person would wake up to the Qwiki app alarm which would tell them the time, date, current weather conditions with highs and lows, and reads all their appointments to them. Not having to access a computer to get all that information would definitely be appreciated by people with disabilities!

Qwiki is still in Alpha.

Source: TechCrunch

Monday, January 17, 2011

Verbal Victor

Here is a great iPhone/iPad app that has an amazing back story (please read it!). But what does it do? It helps people with speech impairment (emerging communication skills and developmental delays) communicate with others.

Essentially, this app allows caregivers to take pictures, and associate phrases to go with them. Every picture becomes a button on the app. Whenever a person with speech impairment wants to convey a certain message ("I want to drink water", "I want to go out and play"), they push a certain button on the app that goes with the action to be performed. Pushing the button plays the associated audio message, and informs the caregiver.

This app is available in the iTunes store for $6.99.