Panel – Brian Norton, Belva Smith, Josh Anderson, Wade Wingler | Q1 Writing Accessible Complex Math Equations Q2 Accessible Online Meeting Tools Q3 Word Prediction & Abbreviation Expansion Q4 Learning About IEPs Q5 Accommodations for College Students Q6 Amazon Echo Look
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WADE WINGLER: Welcome to ATFAQ, Assistive Technology Frequently Asked Questions with your host Brian Norton, Director of Assistive Technology at Easter Seals Crossroads. This is a show in which we address your questions about assistive technology, the hardware, software, tools and gadgets that help people with disabilities lead more independent and fulfilling lives. Have a question you’d like answered on our show? Send a tweet with the hashtag #ATFAQ, call our listener line at 317-721-7124, or send us an email at email@example.com. The world of assistive technology has questions, and we have answers. And now here’s your host, Brian Norton.
BRIAN NORTON: Hello and welcome to ATFAQ, episode 53. My name is Brian Norton and I’m the host of the show. Today I’m so happy to be in the studio with a few of my colleagues. Belva Smith who is the vision team lead on our clinical team.
BELVA SMITH: Hey Brian.
BRIAN NORTON: Also with Josh Anderson, the manager of clinical AT at Easter Seals crossroads.
JOSH ANDERSON: Good to be here.
BRIAN NORTON: And also Wade Wingler. Wade is the host of the popular podcast AT Update podcast we have here.
WADE WINGLER: We are so astonished that you made it through the intro. If anybody’s heard our bloopers before, half of our blooper material is you messing up the beginning of the show. That’s impressive. You did a great job.
BRIAN NORTON: I started to listen to the show.
WADE WINGLER: That’s why our statistics spiked last week.
BRIAN NORTON: I have 53 devices and I download it 52 times.
BELVA SMITH: I was thinking, we are all sitting here cheesing, he’s going to do it!
BRIAN NORTON: I made it.
WADE WINGLER: Hi Brian. Glad to be here.
BRIAN NORTON: For those that aren’t regular listeners, like Wade said, I usually don’t get through it.
WADE WINGLER: But we edit it out.
BRIAN NORTON: We make it sound great. I’m super excited to be here in the studio with Belva, Josh, and Wade. We have some great questions lined out.
For those that haven’t listened before, this is how the show works. We receive feedback and come across the various assistive technology related questions throughout the week. We put those together and form a show. As you guys listen today, if you have questions that you want to send us, we have a variety of ways to get those things to us. We have a listener line at 317-721-7124. We also have an email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Also a hashtag on Twitter, #ATFAQ. You can send a tweet. We look for those and gather those up that way as well.
Also, as you listen, not only sending us questions but also providing feedback. Feedback is a great part of our show where listeners are chiming in as well. We are here throwing out ideas based on the questions we get. Having the feedback included, we want to be able to play that on the show as well because we know you have some great expertise in these areas as well, dealing with some of these same situations, and you may have had an opportunity to come across great ways to overcome some of these challenges to questions that folks are asking. Please chime in with feedback as well.
For your friends, as you listen and fall in love with the show, great ways to be able to tell folks about how to find those things, we are on iTunes, a website at ATFAQshow.com. We also are on stitcher, the Google play store. There are a whole variety of ways to find us and tell folks about the show as well.
Without further ado, we are going to jump into some feedback that we received. Here we go.
BRIAN NORTON: The feedback we got today, both from Jane, a regular listener on our show. The first one is about the KNFB reader. We talked about that last week. The KNFB reader for windows looks like the iOS version. We were wondering what the Windows version of KNFB reader looks like. She’s claiming that it looks a lot like the iOS version. There are keyboard shortcuts for everything. Regarding android accessibility, I remember the years where nothing red. Now accessibility has come a long way where we can use the phones and tablets pretty well. The braille support needs some work. I think we touched on what that android accessibility was for some of those devices. According to her, she thinks it’s come a long way. The only thing that is a bit of work is the braille support. I guess there are a variety of different braille panels out there, and sometimes some may be supported and some may not.
BELVA SMITH: Even the ones that are supported are not 100 percent. There is a lot of need for improvement with the braille support with the tablets and phones.
BRIAN NORTON: A little buggy with that stuff.
The other thing, again a comment from a past show, we talked a little bit about accessibility with math and get equations down into word. She had a comment on that. She said, On the last episode, someone asked about the equation editor. As a student, I remember spending countless hours writing equations down for various math classes. In Word, on the ribbon, click “insert”. Inside the ribbon, there are symbols. There are different symbols that appear in a grid. This works fairly well using a screen reader. However, as the math level got higher for her, she couldn’t access all of the complex symbols because it just wouldn’t read the pallet correctly or at all. That led her to our question.
Our first question is a part of her feedback. She says, are there any accessible way to write long equations with complex symbols effectively? For every complex symbol, she has to write it by word or write it word by word. She could accomplish this by using one of her notetakers which is a notetaking device for folks were blind or visually impaired. I like to carry one machine, and that’s her computer. She’s looking for an accessible way to write math, especially the complex stuff, on her computer rather than on a notetaker.
BELVA SMITH: I don’t know.
BRIAN NORTON: That’s a good question, right? I think historically, just with math in general, math has been more of a recent happening amongst accessibility and coming out with different tools that can address math. I think there are some things with math that are out there. There’s something called Math ML which is accessible math content. It can be used with a math plug-in through a browser or within a particular program. It’s not something I’m completely versed in. Maybe this is a chance for folks in our audience to chime in who may know a little bit more about Math ML. I believe there are screen readers like JAWS and Window Eyes, Supernova, Browse Aloud that all support Math ML. It makes math and math symbols and things like that more accessible.
BELVA SMITH: I’m not sure about those higher levels of math. I think that’s still an area that needs improvement.
BRIAN NORTON: Right. I went to Wikipedia and found a website, math tools. It specifically talks about some accessible math tools. They had some equation editors that could do the Math ML stuff and had some accessible part to that. They gave quite a few different authoring tools for math. I can put a link in our show notes for that. It’s one of those things that I would probably spend some time with a screen reader, making sure that those complex symbols really do come across and talk the way you think they should talk to be able to explain the different symbols you are in. Any other thoughts on that other than opening it up to our listening audience who may have more experience in the area?
WADE WINGLER: I’m still digging into this. I would recommend that the caller look at a thing called Math Jax, which is a math version of Ajax. It’s related to a Java plug-in that works in your browser, but it’s very specifically designed to be able to render complex, elegant math equations in such a way that it’s accessible and works with a screen reader. It talks about taking a question from Office or Latex or other math formula generating software and then dumping it into a form that works well and looks nice in a browser and works well with a screen reader. It seems to be based on latex which is the math language that works well with screen readers. I would recommend looking at Math Jax. There seem to be some pretty heavy duty partners behind it. A lot of the academic math textbook people are behind it. The London Mathematical Society and Oxford University press are involved, as well as IBM and Pearson Education. If I were going to start looking, that’s where I would be looking to find more information.
MathJax.org, and there is a whole website about it.
BELVA SMITH: There’s a free demo you can try.
BRIAN NORTON: That might be a great way to download something, install a plug-in, and try it out with whatever screen reader you have.
WADE WINGLER: Based on what I’m saying with their website, there might be a community of other people you could talk to about it. It’s one thing to find a product or software solution. It’s another thing to find people you can talk to about it as well. It seems to be that it’s a pretty robust community there that might have some other helpful stuff.
BRIAN NORTON: It’s funny, with math in general, I mentioned it a little bit earlier in answer to this question. It’s an area where accessibility is now just coming to. I know even for folks with learning disabilities and things that aren’t necessarily related to sight impairment and stuff like that, math has been one of the subjects that has been a little bit left out from the mainstream. So there are lots of things that address reading and writing, but math has always been in afterthought. Even in the learning community, math is becoming more and more accessible, and folks are being able to spend more time with that and do more things with it. Great question. I would say for folks that have any experience with that with some more complex tools, with math and symbols, chime in and let us know if you have further things to be able to contribute to answering Jane’s question. Thank you, Jane, for sending us your email with the feedback. Again, if you have more information to better color that in for her as far as accessible math, that would be great.
BRIAN NORTON: Don’t forget, if you guys have feedback or a question that you are thinking about right now, you can send us an email at email@example.com. We will jump into our second question. I am looking for an accessible online tool for group meetings. I’m interested in accommodating folks who are visually impaired, deaf, or hard of hearing. Accessible online tools for group meetings. I’ll throw that out to the team.
BELVA SMITH: I came up with the Sarotek Accessible Event. There are several different ways that you can purchase that. They had different packages. The have up to 10 participants at one price, and I have a corporate which is up to 25 participants. If you have extras, you just pay $10 per block of 25 additional people. You can also do a personal day pass which is fairly reasonable, or you can have a personal subscription where you pay monthly, or you could also pay yearly. They say it’s fully accessible for screen readers, screen magnifiers, and they also work in conjunction with some of the mainstream programs like GoToMeeting and Live Meeting, go to seminar, connect, and of course they do captioning as well.
BRIAN NORTON: We use to try that. We were doing some group training years ago and were missing with that. It is a lot like some of those other tools where you can show the power points into things like that. Is that right? Am I remembering it correctly?
BELVA SMITH: Yes.
BRIAN NORTON: It’s been a little while since I’ve been inside the program.
BELVA SMITH: Is definitely worth looking at. I believe they will give you a free quick demo of it so you can try it out with a couple of folks. If you want more information on it, you can go to Sarotek.com/AccessibleEvent.
WADE WINGLER: I’ve used it before. I’ve been on their podcast before and that was a platform we used as a panel discussion. I didn’t know it would handle the captions.
JOSH ANDERSON: I know we’ve run into the problem in the past and using GoToMeeting and having the captions in a separate browser window so that if somebody were trying to watch it on their computer screen, they had to have the two windows open. Trying to see the things in the meeting became very compressed, very small, they couldn’t have it all.
We’ve even tried Out Zoom. It seemed to work really well with screen readers, seem to work really well with the captioning function you can do. In fact, anyone can go in there and caption in real-time.
WADE WINGLER: We’ve played around with it recently. I was impressed with some of the new accessibility features that were built into Zoom and how easy it was to make somebody a caption list. They basically log into the meeting, and you say as the administrator of the account that this person is going to do captions, and whatever they type in the chat room starts showing up as captions. One of the reasons I think we pay more attention to that now is a lot of universities are starting to use Zoom as sort of their synchronous video face-to-face platform for this kind of thing. I pay attention to what universities are doing because when they start using it, it’s likely that students are going to use it, and they are usually pretty good about vetting the accessibility stuff because they are beholden to 508 compliance. I’ve been really impressed with zoom recently.
BELVA SMITH: Is there a limit to how many people can be in a conference with zoom?
WADE WINGLER: I think 200. It has tiers, so depending on what level you pay for. It goes up to 1000 or something. For our purposes, we knew it would be enough at 200.
BRIAN NORTON: It’s fairly inexpensive, right? To get that number, it’s $20 per month.
WADE WINGLER: I don’t have the pricing in front of me, but it wasn’t terribly expensive. In fact, it was cheaper than a solution we had been looking at. Keep talking about this and I’ll see.
BELVA SMITH: That’s much cheaper than Accessible Event. For corporate I think it’s $89 per month. That gets costly at the end of the year. The funny thing is we didn’t try [ZoomText] with Zoom. I’m not sure if that would work very well or not.
WADE WINGLER: You mean magnification with zoom?
JOSH ANDERSON: Yes. But I did know a screen reader seem to be able to pick up everything on the screen. The captions were great the way it showed up.
BRIAN NORTON: I think that’s what was so unique about it. With folks that we had been using GoToMeeting as our platform for this type of tool for a long time, and for our folks who were doing captions and needing captions, are deaf or hard of hearing folks who were joining in on our meetings, the challenge was when they would then join with an iPad, they can only have one window visible so they are either watching it or looking at the captions. We had several conversations with some of our participants who were deaf or hard of hearing and heard that that was an issue. We had been looking at other platforms here at Crossroads. Zoom is the one we fell upon, just again because of what Wade was saying. The universities are moving towards that. One of the big universities here in Indiana is doing that and moving away from Adobe connect, which is very accessible in and of itself and has a lot of tools and features built into it as well for accessibility purposes. But they are moving away from it, moving over to zoom. We were intrigued by that and started looking at zoom a bit more closely. It seems really user-friendly when we started playing around with some of the accessibility features and tools.
WADE WINGLER: Their pricing is all over the map. The basic is free, so anybody can try zoom for free. I think it gives you a 40 minute time limit on a meeting. You can use it with most of the features, and after 40 minutes it puts you off and you have to reconnect with everybody pure that’s a free way to try it. Belva is smiling. That sounds like a JAWS demo. I don’t think this makes you reboot, but it does make you restart the meeting. Then they have different pricing tiers starting at as little as $15 per month. They charge a per host. If you are an organization and you have five people who are going to be zoom host and hold regular meetings, they charge you either $15 or $20 per host. There are some minimums and stuff like that. This is also one of those websites where everything says click here to talk to a sales rep, or if something that you need doesn’t fit our pricing tiers, click here to speak to a sales rep. It sounds like they are pretty flexible with putting together a solution that works for you.
BRIAN NORTON: Just to wrap that question up, I think Belva has mentioned Sarotek. That’s certainly something folks to take a look at. Zoom, GoToMeeting, Adobe connect are other online platforms that have some accessibility built into them. Take a look at those. Do some research. Dig into them. Talk to company reps. Asked them the questions you want answer, the technology you are using to get access to those particular platforms, make sure that you are asking about what a screen reader going to do, how are you handling captions, how are you doing those things. Hopefully they have good, well-thought-out answers to how that happens within their particular software package. Definitely follow up with them.
BRIAN NORTON: Don’t forget, if you have a question that’s been percolating in your mind, we have a listener line at 317-721-7124. Feel free to give us a call. Or maybe you have some experience with online tools workgroup meetings. Feel free to reach out to us. We would love to hear what you are using and some of the accessibility features you use and how that works and what works well, maybe what doesn’t with and some of the programs we mentioned here today.
Our next question is, I’m working with a client who is looking for a word prediction suite or abbreviation expansion application to speed up input while typing. Any ideas on word prediction or abbreviation expansion that folks might be able to tap into?
BELVA SMITH: You guys probably have more experience. I know you do, Brian. You probably have more experience with the software application for word prediction and expansion. I always just used Word. We didn’t get to hear what program they are using, but assuming that they are working with Microsoft Word, any version of Microsoft word going all the way back to the most current version has the auto correct feature which can be used as an abbreviation expansion. In the newer version, you can get to it by going to File, going to the word Options, and then finally choosing Proofing. That will open up the dialog box where, for example, my name, instead of having to type it out every time, I could put “BMS”. When I hit the space bar, it will populate with my complete name spelled out. Even though they call it AutoCorrect, which I do use it for AutoCorrect. As I often say, for some crazy reason I always type “teh” for “the”. I have mine set to fix that for me automatically. It really is limitless. It depends on the space you have and the RAM you have asked her how many you can put in there. That would be my first option. It’s free, a part of word.
BRIAN NORTON: I always call that the poor man’s version of abbreviation expansion.
BELVA SMITH: You’ve already paid for it though.
BRIAN NORTON: I also believe it’s in a couple of other programs. Any program that a Microsoft program that offers AutoCorrect, it’ll work just the same.
BELVA SMITH: Absolutely.
BRIAN NORTON: It does a really good job. The only challenge is it’s not in one place. If you are in word, if you make a change, you’re going to have to make that same change in another program. It doesn’t save it in one place and happens across the office programs. We have to go to each program and make that work.
BELVA SMITH: I look at that differently. I look it as it’s program specific. I could have the same “BMS” doing one thing for me in Word but doing something different for me in Excel.
JOSH ANDERSON: That would really confuse me.
BRIAN NORTON: I think the other thing that, just within these programs the need to keep in mind, is it’s really hard when you are coming up with abbreviation expansions — there are two different tools. There is word prediction, which as you type it is trying to figure out exactly what word you are thinking about. That’s word production. Then there is the abbreviation expansion software, which is where you actually type in an abbreviation. Just recently someone was saying is that really a code. I guess you could think of as a code that you are writing down. When you’re putting in abbreviations, make sure they are not tied to work that are. I used to think about “address”, and folks would put in “AD”. AD is a word. A way to get around that when you are thinking about abbreviation expansion is to put a colon before it or a number with it or some sort of simple to separate it from what may be a word that you are thinking of. There are many programs like that that are out there. Josh, you look like you’ve got a couple of options.
JOSH ANDERSON: I’ve used two different ones just because recently I switched over from using Windows to Mac. My Windows computer I used phrase expander, which is kind of like what Brian said. You put in three letters and the semicolon and you can have whole sentences, paragraphs, as much as you want to put in. When I move to Mac, I moved to a program that does about the same thing called text expander, which does a lot of the same things. For somebody who has to send the same email over and over again, it’s nice to be able to type III letters and fill in some boxes. I can put someone’s name, the name of the consumer, the name of something else. All I have to do is type those in and hit enter and it populates the entire thing. It makes it so much easier.
It’s not quite word prediction. I think I like text expander a little bit more because it begins to pick up on things that you type all the time and at its own snippets. You can go in and make your own codes for each one of those. It makes it weird because it starts to remember your passwords. I had to go back and delete those because it was starting to do that. Wade is one of our privacy officer to so I probably shouldn’t tell him that.
WADE WINGLER: I brought my handcuffs so watch out.
JOSH ANDERSON: It works great and save me tons of time. I realize how much I’ve started to use it more that I’m actually having a hard time remembering the abbreviations I’ve made up because I have so many.
BRIAN NORTON: Those programs, you talk about time-saving. I know text expander is one I use because I use Mac as well. Text expander is a really great application that does more than just predicting text. It will do a little bit of programming with you so that you can have entire responsibility in and you can say, I want to include this piece, I don’t want to include that.
It’s really a great program to speed up with a lot of different typing. I wanted to touch base quickly on the word prediction piece that they were talking about. Abbreviation expansion is when you type in a small word and expands out to something. Word prediction is one where it is phonetically trying to type out something or predict what you are typing at the moment. A couple of programs, Co-writer is one that does a pretty good job with word prediction. Also Word Queue is another one. Depending on the person’s abilities or cognitive levels, intellectual levels, sometimes word prediction is better because it is getting you a list of words as you type versus you trying to remember abbreviations. If they are at an intellectual level, a cognitive level where they can remember certain things or even print those out and have it to the side, it can speed up tremendously especially when it is a repetitive text that you are continuing to type over and over again. It speeds things up quite a bit.
BELVA SMITH: How much of those programs you were just talking about?
BRIAN NORTON: Word expander is free for windows.
JOSH ANDERSON: We didn’t actually talk about word expander. Word expander is free and only for windows. Does it work only in word?
BRIAN NORTON: I think it works anywhere.
JOSH ANDERSON: Is there a limit to how long you can make the responses?
BRIAN NORTON: I’ve never been able to fill it up.
JOSH ANDERSON: I haven’t either. It’s free for windows only. Phrase expander and text expander are about the same price, $100.
BELVA SMITH: Single user?
JOSH ANDERSON: Yes.
WADE WINGLER: When I was doing research on this question, I found a Google doc that compares some of the most popular word prediction apps. It comes from one of the teachers at Carmel clay schools which is north of Indianapolis, a few miles from here. I’ll pop a link in the show notes to the Google doc that compares the features of Word Queue, iReadWrite, Co Writer, Clicker Docs, App Writer US, and AbiliPad, which are apps that do this. It’s nice that it breaks it down in terms of their text-to-speech features, was that they have, how many words in the word production lists. It even tells you where the word production list appears on the screen, whether it’s on the left-hand side or above the keyboard, how many different font choices and whether or not you can export the word prediction vocabulary that it builds. It is super nice spreadsheet that led to get into the nitty-gritty of these tools before you go and try to purchase them. It also shows links directly to the app so that you can find the cost of each one.
BELVA SMITH: If I remember correctly, with word queue, you can control where the word pops up. It can be on the left, right, or above the keyboard.
BRIAN NORTON: And looking at who made that document. I’ve presented with her before. She’s been here in town at a conference before. That’s a really great document.
WADE WINGLER: Darla Ashton is the person that created that.
BRIAN NORTON: Don’t forget, if you guys have information that you guys want to share and feedback regarding that last question, or have a question yourself, a great way to get a hold of us is a tweet with the hashtag ATFAQ. I think I mentioned as a couple of shows back. Of all the three ways you can get a hold of us, our listener line, email, through twitter, twitter is the least used. We are so excited that we have a hashtag for ATFAQ. We would love if you guys are on twitter and want to send us a tweet, it could be a question, feedback or could just be how are you doing. We love to hear from you guys. We would love for you to take advantage of the hashtag we have set up for ATFAQ.
Our next question is from Cheryl. My child was recently diagnosed with a learning disability and now has an IEP in school. Since I’m totally new to the IEP process, is there a place where I can learn more about our rights and the possibility of a list of questions that I should be asking? They mentioned that they are in Illinois as a student in school. I thought I would throw that out to folks and see what we might have to reply back to Cheryl.
BELVA SMITH: Have you found all the money in the world and got all the time and resources? I believe that was the answer to Wade’s question last time, was what would you like to see? You said one place for everything.
BRIAN NORTON: One place to go. Unfortunately that’s not the case. I don’t know if you guys have a similar organization, especially about the IEP process. Here in Indiana, a great place I would send folks to just as a great resource is a place called InSource, an organization who very specifically helps parents and students understand the IEP process and helps them work through that, letting them know what their rights are and how to interact and how to participate in that process that students find themselves in. I would assume that there may be a similar organization in Illinois, but I’m not quite sure. Possibly by reaching out to InSource, they may be able to tell you who their counterpart is in Illinois. I would definitely reach out to them.
WADE WINGLER: It’s ironic that InSource started in Indiana because a group of parents had very similar questions. It was pre-IEP, `but it was about how do we make sure our kids get the accommodations they need in the classroom. They started as a parent group and have grown into an organization of paid staff. That’s who they are and what they do. The folks at in source are super nice who partner with them on a bunch of different things, and they could probably direct you to other states. I’m not sure every state has a program like that. I would encourage people to check their local AT act project. Much like we are aware of the Indiana AT act projects, the other states are going to know if there are resources like that. Some other states, the AT act does more in the space of IEP. If you want to find your local assistive technology act project, we’ve got a quick link set up for that, www.eastersealstech.com/states. They’ll take you to a listing of all the programs that you can find your local program.
BRIAN NORTON: I also found a couple of websites that had some interesting blogs about the IEP’s and stuff like that. Understood.org is a great place that helps parents, shows them what to ask before a school is choosing a tool or device for their particular students. There is a checklist of different questions that you might want to be able to have in your pocket as they talk about the accommodations or tools that they’re going to put in place for your child in school.
Also I came across a special education guide which talks about the IEP process and explained that, where it came from, the origin of the IEP process and what its purpose is, all the way through the eligibility, and it talks about the IEP itself, what goes into that and gives you a better understanding of the whole process from beginning to end, where it started and where it will end. That’s SpecialEducationGuide.com. It can provide good information regarding that.
BELVA SMITH: Did you tell everyone how to reach InSource?
BRIAN NORTON: I didn’t.
WADE WINGLER: InSource.org.
BRIAN NORTON: They are a great partner of ours. They were here a couple of weeks ago. We did a full day training on assistive technology for students transitioning from high school into college. They did a great job in talking about the transition into adulthood for students. They did a great job filling us in on that stuff. They are a great resource.
BRIAN NORTON: Just to tag onto Cheryl’s initial question, and maybe think a little bit about another question that falls into that same arena. As I was thinking about her question – maybe think about the dilemma for college kids as well. What questions should they be thinking about and asking as they transition to higher education? I think in the school and the IEP process, you are kind of surrounded by special educators, other kinds of folks. You are a little bit surrounded and taking care of and that K-12 environment, for better or worse. What of your experience is, I’m not going to say whether you’ve had a good experience in the process or not. At least there is a process. I think it gets a little bit different in my experience. I’ve been doing this for about 20 years, so my experience is as kids transition from K-12 into college, it gets a little bit hairy for them because of the different process. They are required to advocate for themselves. If they don’t advocate, nothing is going to come to them. They are not seeking people out. I was wondering and wanted to throw that out as a follow-up to her question. What about college age kids? Where do they go for that information?
JOSH ANDERSON: One thing I think is important – and you are right. There is more where you have to self advocate. But you also get more choices. I know I worked with a lot of students. Some of them actually choose the schools after talking with a disability services offices basin what was available, or they didn’t like talking to one certain place. I’ve had folks with hearing impairments be told, well, we don’t have light on the fire alarm. Someone will just wake you up if a fire alarm goes off and you can’t hear it. I’ve had other places say we are completely equipped with that. Not only are they super loud, but they also have the lights and will make sure that you have a room that has one. Really more accommodating. You do have advocate for yourself, but sometimes that choice can help you find a good place. Somewhere I would say to start is a disability services office at the different universities and colleges to see what they offer and how they can help and those kinds of things.
WADE WINGLER: My role today seems to be to plug our website. If you’re in Indiana, we have a list of those. If you go to www.eastersealstech.com/college, it’ll take you to a list that we maintain that have the contact information for all the disability offices in Indiana University.
BRIAN NORTON: You will be amazed at the wide variety. You mentioned certain schools have thought very thoroughly about accessibility for students in some schools it’s like, oh, this is what we have.
BELVA SMITH: In most of those cases, I think it’s because no one has set the path before.
BRIAN NORTON: Right.
JOSH ANDERSON: Some universities have adaptive labs with different equipment with things you can use. Some have software they will help put on your computer see you can use it whenever you need. It’s a lot of research and pounding the pavement and figuring that stuff out. And self advocacy.
BRIAN NORTON: I would start early. I would be calling those universities you are interested in and find out about academic accessibility, even beyond school like what career services they have, are they accessible, those kinds of things, talking about housing resources, finances, student life, what they have beyond school to enjoy yourself while you are there on campus and participating in the things they might offer. There is a lot to think about with regard to accessibility beyond physical accessibility and the academic side of things. You are going to spend four years of your life there, maybe more. You want your experience to be good. Definitely engaging disability services and other places about what they might have available is certainly helpful.
JOSH ANDERSON: You brought up a good point about starting early. Some accommodations take a lot of time. If you need your books in digital format, sometimes that can take months. If you need things in braille, that can take as long if not longer. If you can start really early, and they know you are coming, those accommodations are needed and they can be working on them, hopefully you’re not sitting and waiting when the semester actually starts. Lord knows there is enough to worry about that first year of college without starting behind because you are missing equipment.
BRIAN NORTON: I think that’s a challenge for a lot of folks. I remember being in high school. I didn’t Inc. about college until my second semester of senior year. I can only imagine if I’m going to have significant needs at college as far as accessibility is concerned, it’s never too early to start at least exploring and understanding what’s out there and what’s available to you. I think the natural tendency is that’s way off and we don’t need to necessarily think about it right now. I’ve learned that the days are long and the years are short. It’s on your doorstep for you really realize it’s there. Like you said, start early, as early as you can.
WADE WINGLER: We had a panel recently where we talked about transition from high school to college. We had a group of you the current college students with disabilities or recent college graduates. They kept pounding the point across that you have to be your own expert. The supports that you enjoyed in your K-12 environment just aren’t there. You need to know yourself, your needs, and advocate on your own behalf. They could say that enough.
BELVA SMITH: I think it’s important to say it’s not about what it was that you were using but why you are using it. I just did an evaluation for a young gentleman who is going to go to college following graduation. He has not talked to disability services at all. I told him you should’ve done that yesterday. Tomorrow, when you get up, make that your goal. It may seem like it’s early, but like Josh said, if you need any kind of special accommodation done for your books or whatever, you want to let them know as quickly as you can. You don’t want to be four weeks into the class and still not have her book. I’ve seen that happen.
WADE WINGLER: And now it’s time for the wildcard question.
BRIAN NORTON: Our next question is the wildcard question. This is where I send the mic to Wade and he asks us a question we are not prepared for.
WADE WINGLER: Which is the consistency among most of our questions. My news feeds and Facebook have been full of this new thing from Amazon. I want you to watch this minute or so that you and we’re going to talk about this.
SPEAKER: Alexa, is it going to rain tonight?
SPEAKER: Alexa, what’s on my calendar?
SPEAKER: Alexa, turn the light off.
NARRATOR: Alexa helps with thousands of things. Now she can help you look your best.
SPEAKER: Alexa, take a photo.
NARRATOR: Introducing Echo Look, a first of its kind echo with a hands-free camera. Echo look takes photos using just your voice. Its built-in lighting and depth sensing camera lets you blur the backgrounds to make sure your outfits pop, giving you clean, full-length photos that are easy to share with friends. Plus get a live view or take videos to see yourself from every angle.
We’ve also created an easy way to get a second opinion. Introducing style check. It combines the best from machine learning from advice from fashion specialist. Just pick two aphids, and style check will give you a recommendation based on current trends and what flatters you. Alexa can also help you create a personal look book. It tells you what you wore and when to you can keep track of your favorites and keep her closet with you wherever you go.
Plus, Alexa is built in the cloud and always getting smarter. So will echo look.
WADE WINGLER: After watching the video, you know what my question is going to be. I asked the same question about a lot of new and emerging technology. Not will this make you a snappier dresser, but what it is going to mean for folks with disabilities? What do you might imagine the future might be an assistive technology when we talk about Amazon echo look.
BRIAN NORTON: I thought it was an interesting device. At my house, I guess I got a device from the 1900s or 1800s which is a full-length mirror. And my wife who looks at me and says, no, don’t wear that.
WADE WINGLER: You just said Leah is from the 1800s?
BRIAN NORTON: For persons with disabilities?
JOSH ANDERSON: I can see you have color identifiers and things like that. Am I wearing the right kind of color? It didn’t really say who the information is going to. A stylist?
BRIAN NORTON: I think it said it’s all artificial intelligence. It’s based on the latest whatever. Artificial intelligence pick that out. Is that what I heard.
WADE WINGLER: That’s what I got. It seems to me that this thing is designed to sell you close. Is going to look at your alpha and recommend things to come by, presumably from Amazon, that might be trendy and might match. That at first blush. They also say it’s going to do more things in the future. It’s a camera, both video and still photographs camera associated with your Amazon echo. I tried to think about the fact that what can that thing be used to do. If you are someone who has difficulty with handling a camera to take a selfie, can it be you to take a selfie. Can it tell you what color your clothes are. Will it be able to do that in the future.
BRIAN NORTON: I think it did mention something about you can take a picture of yourself and send it to a friend. That might be a little more useful, if I can send a picture to Leah horrified a visual impairment, just asking about does this match.
BELVA SMITH: We can already do that. The whole idea of having the look in my closet while I am getting dressed seems a little freaky.
JOSH ANDERSON: It’s going to the cloud. Nothing bad ever happens to stuff in the cloud.
BELVA SMITH: Exactly. Everyone has been alarmed with the idea of Alexa listening. Now she’s going to be watching. I think that’s all different. Honestly, I don’t know. I’m sure there are going to be people that it will benefit. Right off the top of my head, I seriously can’t think.
BRIAN NORTON: You still get the personal assistant piece of it, which I think has a lot of applications for folks with disabilities and being able to know and add things to your shopping list.
BELVA SMITH: But you can already do that without this.
BRIAN NORTON: I know. But you still have that. For me, I think the biggest piece is being able to – the matching of clothes, looking at how your dress, doesn’t match. Isn’t that the purpose of it?
JOSH ANDERSON: If you have a fully automated home, can you see when you come in the door can’t turn on the light?
BELVA SMITH: That’s where they think it’s going.
WADE WINGLER: That’s what I’m going to suggest. I have a nest thermostat in my house. When I walk in the room, the thermostat turns on and showed me what it set to. It knows I’m there and looking at it. What I think we are doing is adding video to what Amazon echo can do. You are right. When I show up, will adjust the thermostat? Can I position it in such a way that it knows I’m in the room?
JOSH ANDERSON: Can you use it for security when you are not there?
BELVA SMITH: That’s where they think it’s going, more in the home automation direction more than just a style direction. I think you are right, Wade. It will be aimed to help people, those jeans look terrible; you need these new genes.
JOSH ANDERSON: And they are on sale for just $29.95.
BELVA SMITH: For shipping.
BRIAN NORTON: I wonder what it would do if I put a pair of skinny jeans on.
JOSH ANDERSON: Break.
WADE WINGLER: Break.
BRIAN NORTON: I’ve been threatening my daughters that I’m going to buy a pair of skinny jeans and they freak out.
WADE WINGLER: They only make them so big. It’s an idle threat if I try to do that. I wonder. Amazon echo is always listening, right? It’s cued on when you say the keyword “Alexa”. I wonder if we set off Alexa in somebody’s house.
BELVA SMITH: You did in my house the last time you did that.
WADE WINGLER: Alexa, Cancel. There you go. Is Amazon look always watching? Does it have a short video loop that is constantly watching? Could you use it for a home monitoring situation? You have someone who doesn’t live fully independently or is trying to live independently. Do you set it in the kitchen to know that Granny got up and made it into the kitchen today? Does that send an alert to her adult child who is trying to help monitor her care?
BRIAN NORTON: Could you have someone walk in the room and say – if you’re getting up in the morning or going down to the kitchen, don’t forget to take your medications today.
WADE WINGLER: You can set a reminder. And will it be connected to something like Apple face time so that my kids could walk up to it and say I want to talk to Grammy, and all of a sudden they are doing a videoconference. I’m seeing the hardware and starting to think about these software applications. I just wonder what those applications might look like.
JOSH ANDERSON: It’s one of those things that this might completely change. Maybe this is their first try at the video part. In a year it will look completely different and act completely different, have some different features.
BRIAN NORTON: Is it available now?
WADE WINGLER: It’s not. I read in the article that it will be rolling out among selected users over time. They will roll it out a little bit. It’s fascinating stuff and I think we are seeing more component added onto the stuff. My guess is they are trying to sell you the clothes because they need a revenue stream. They are probably not going to sell this for several hundred dollars. My guess is this thing will be fairly affordable. The way they do that with Amazon echo is they are selling you stuff. They are making it easy for you to order things, use Amazon music library and Amazon Prime and those things. Same with Kindle. Kindles are cheap because you’re going to buy the books. It’s the old “razors and blades” argument. I think this is what they are doing with this: make it easier for you to buy clothes and they can add on more functionality.
BELVA SMITH: I think before it comes out, it will do more. Right now I think people are looking at it just as I am: as that camera in the closet. I think before it gets released, they will have a doing more than just helping you get dressed in the morning.
BRIAN NORTON: Great question. Thanks for sharing that one with us. I can’t wait to see what that evolves into overtime. That’s our show for this week. If you have questions, don’t forget to give us a call on our listener line at 317-721-7124. You can send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or for an extra bonus point, send us a tweet with the hashtag ATFAQ. We keep an eye on those and monitor those day in and day out. We certainly want your questions and feedback. Without those things, we really don’t have a show. Be a part of it. Thank you here in the studio with me. Belva, Josh, and Wade, I appreciate you being here.
BELVA SMITH: It’s always my pleasure.
JOSH ANDERSON: It’s been great. Tweet so Brian’s happy.
WADE WINGLER: Please tweet Brian and call him so he will stop asking us to do that.
BRIAN NORTON: Have a great week. We will talk to you in a couple more.
WADE WINGLER: Information provided on Assistive Technology Frequently Asked Questions does not constitute a product endorsement. Our comments are not intended as recommendations, nor is our show evaluative in nature. Assistive Technology FAQ is hosted by Brian Norton; gets editorial support from Mark Stewart and Belva Smith; is produced by me, Wade Wingler; and receives support from Easter Seals Crossroads and the INDATA project. ATFAQ is a proud member of the Accessibility Channel. Find more of our shows at www.accessibilitychannel.com.
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