ATU354 – Identifor with Steve Keisman


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Identifor with Steve Keisman, VP Education, Transition and Neurodiversity Employment Specialists* | |
Bristol Braille Technology – Canute – Index

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——-transcript follows ——

STEVE KEISMAN:  Hi, this is Steve Keisman, and I’m Vice President of Education, transition, and neurodiversity employment specialist for Identifor, and this is your Assistive Technology Update.

WADE WINGLER:  Hi, this is Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana with your Assistive Technology Update, a weekly dose of information that keeps you up-to-date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs. Welcome to episode number 354 of Assistive Technology Update.  It’s scheduled to be released on March 9, 2018.

Today my interview is with Steve Keisman who is the Vice President at Identifor.  We talk a little bit about a new braille device called Canute.

We hope you’ll check out our website at, scent us a note on Twitter@INDATA Project, or call our listener line.  That number is 317-721-7124.


Coming to us out of the United Kingdom is a thing called Canute from Bristol braille technology.  It is a 360 cell braille e-reader.  That’s what they are calling the first a multi-line reversible braille display.  Now I can’t tell from the material whether it is a regular braille display that reads what’s on a computer or smart phone, or if it is an e-reader only.  And in fact, I think I’ll reach out to these folks and see if I can learn more, maybe even get them on the show.  But they are saying that this going to be tested here in March at a gathering of blind musicians at the Royal National Institute of Blind People.  They are going to be playing around with it and learning more.  They say that they have a target final price of less than $1000, or 660 or so pounds. I have to say, I’m looking at it on the website, and it’s pretty impressive, very sleek technology.  I’m going to pop a link in the show notes over to so you can learn more about it.  Like I said, we will reach out to them and see if they want to come on the show and talk about it.  But a multi-line braille display is something that I’m fascinated with and want to learn more about.  I’ll pop a link in our show notes.


Around here, I can always tell when people have come back from an assistive technology conference.  Craig Burns, who is our cognition and mobility team lead, came back and said, “Wade, I sat in on this session at ATIA about this thing called Identifor, and it really seems to be something new and different.  You got to check it out.” So we reached out to the folks at Identifor and were so excited when Steve Keisman, who is the Vice President of education, transition, and their diversity employment specialist, reached out and said yeah, I want to talk to you about this stuff.  They are excited and we are excited about today’s conversation.  Joining me via Skype is Steve Keisman.  Steve, how are you?

STEVE KEISMAN:  Great.  Thanks once again to you and your team, Wade, for inviting me today.

WADE WINGLER:  We are excited to have you.  I’m excited to hear about Identifor.  I know you did some work at ATIA trying to get the word out about it, and clearly it worked, at least for us.  We are interested in knowing about it.  Tell me a little bit about what this Identifor is.

STEVE KEISMAN:  First of all, Identifor is the world’s first game based career assessment tool that was specifically designed for teenagers with autism.  It can be used by people with many different types of disabilities, or no disability at all, but the idea is that our platform helps people with autism and other intellectual disabilities to plan for a more meaningful and more fulfilling life, starting way before they graduate high school and before the school bus stops coming.

WADE WINGLER:  In my right in understanding that it is game based? We are playing games?


WADE WINGLER:  Tell me how does that work.  How does games and autism turn into employment outcomes?

STEVE KEISMAN:  That’s a great question.  Let me start, before I tell you more, let’s take a look at some of the statistics.  The two statistics I would like to point out is, first, between 500,000 and 1 million autistic children are going to become adults over the next decade.  Somewhere between 84 and 93 percent of them will be underemployed.  The thinking here is that students, way too often, they leave school completely unprepared for the real world, for the demands of the real world.  The idea now is for us to be able to match the people with their skills and abilities to jobs that are available that are really going to challenge them and be jobs that are going to make sense to them.

So before I tell you about the games that we have and how that all works, it’s important to keep this in mind, that the people on the spectrum are notoriously bad testtakers, especially when it comes to pen and paper tests like they do so often with different kinds of career assessment tools.  The other thing to keep in mind as well is about one third of people with autism, they don’t speak.  Some communicate without words.  That’s a big number that we can’t just ignore as well.  So many people with intellectual disabilities have had a really sheltered existence, and because they’ve only had limited life experiences, they are not able to give us the same kinds of clues and same kinds of information that we get from neuro-typical people.

To your point, the one thing we know about people with autism — not just autism but lots of young adults and lots of teenagers love computer games.  Our cofounders Cuong Do and Lori Rickles, they considered this when they were putting together this platform.  They created this very powerful career assessment tool around the kids playing games.  So all kids know is that they are playing these cool, engaging games, but on the back and, Identifor is collecting lots of very viable data and information.

WADE WINGLER:  Let’s talk about some of the ways that it actually works.  Where does somebody go to play? Is it a website? Do people get on there to play the games? How do they sort of get started?

STEVE KEISMAN:  Great.  We have a website that can be reached either by going to on a tablet, on a computer, on a phone; or somebody can download our app.  The Identifor app can be downloaded either at the iTunes or Google play store.  They can use that on their phones, because so many people like to play these games on their phones, or they can play with a mouse on their computers as well.  That’s the best way to get started.  While people are playing these games, we are measuring stuff on the backend.  The stuff that is being measured is executive functions, multiple intelligences, and we are also taking a look at career interest as well.  While they are playing these games on our website or on their phone or tablet, what’s happening now is we are generating this very sophisticated dashboard that gives you specific careers that might make sense for the person is on how they are playing these games, and that our platform will point that person to the Department of Labor’s website so that whoever is working with that young person is not able to develop the specific goals and objectives.

WADE WINGLER:  That’s fascinating.  I want to understand the leap between how playing games turns into the identification of those job goals.  What are the games like? What kinds of expenses are the users having when they are playing?

STEVE KEISMAN:  There are many different games that we have.  Right now we have almost 50 games, which we will be probably doubling that number in the next three or four months. There are all different kinds of games that a person can play.  What I mean by that is that we have games such as matching games.  We have music memory games.  We have word games.  We have all different kinds of games that a person can choose to play so that we can collect the information I mentioned earlier and put that into a graphically displayed dashboard.

WADE WINGLER:  While they are playing the games, what kinds of skills are being measured? If you pick a graphic game or a music memorization game, what kinds of things are being measured? How does that translate into knowing that if you are really good at music memorization, that might equal some sort of job direction?  How does that link happen?

STEVE KEISMAN:  We are looking at lots of stuff like executive functions and also multiple intelligences.  Let me tell you a little bit about why we include that.  Identifor is strengthened based.  What we are looking for — we don’t really care about a person’s IQ.  We don’t care about their classification.  We want to change that usual narrative of somebody saying this person is bad at X, Y, and Z. What we want to do is look at what a person is good at.  What we have found is that the research is pointing more and more in the direction that the single greatest indicator of success for a person on a job is there executive functions, how well they are able to plan something and see to it that they are able to finish it to completion.  So we worked with one of the leading voices in the field of executive function, George McCloskey, who is on our team.  He helped us design the executive function measuring tool that we use on our platform.  So while people are playing, what we are able to do is we are able to look at their short-term memory, all of these types of areas that are being measured in the multiple intelligence realm.

Something else that is also going on behind the scenes, we are also measuring multiple intelligences.  We look at eight different intelligences that somebody might prefer, because our thinking is that if a person is able to be a nature person, if a person comes out as a nature person, even if they are terrific in math and they have amazing focus and computational skills, if we stick them in a job that is in a cubicle all day, it’s not going to be a successful match for them, most likely, over the long-term.

WADE WINGLER:  As a hiker, there are times when I’m in my office and wish I could be outside.  I totally get that.  As we look at the testing and games and those things that are happening, a couple of things. I understand from some of my preshow research that there are three prongs that are happening here, about career direction, finding a job, and supporting.  To tell me about those three prongs?

STEVE KEISMAN:  The first part of Identifor is career direction.  From playing these different games that I had mentioned before — and obviously the best way to see what they are is to go to our website, login, and start playing the games.  The first is to help the person get some kind of career direction so that we at least know during that transition period, while they are still in school from the ages of 14 to 21, we are able to set some kind of specific goals and objectives with a real possibility of a job that makes sense for the person once they leave school.  So that’s the first part, is to set up that career plan.

The second part is how do we use that information to help a person find and keep a job.  Rather than that whole 5F experience that I mentioned to you before, we shift the paradigm.  We say, listen, we’re not looking for somebody to be either a mascot or extra pair of hands of they could do more.  What we want to show you is let’s take a look at the dashboard that was generated and let the show you and talk to you, have a conversation, about how this young person can provide value to your company.  Rather than just trying to fit them into a place that already exists, we are changing that and saying how can this person bring some kind of benefit to what it is that your folks are doing on your team. That’s the second part, is helping them in that career discovery process to really give them all the tools that we can to help them find their job as well.

The third part — all of this sounds great.  When you think about it, this is something that so many educators tell us is missing for them to really create a plan and make sense for the students that they are working with all that is great.  We help them find jobs. We find that what they are good at.  But there is one problem with this.  Even if we are able to get them the best job, even if we can get a person on the spectrum with a job that is a perfect match for them, they love their job, their work performance is fabulous, they fit in, everything is great.  There is only one problem.  What happens in that job at the supervisor of the person says come back from your break in 20 minutes, and instead of 20 minutes the person comes back on Tuesday.  How long do you think they are going to keep that job? That has become a real concern for Cuong and Lori when they were designing this, because they didn’t just want to help somebody find a job. They wanted them to find a job, get the job, and keep the job, be successful at the job.

So what they did is they designed and developed something that we call the Identifor companion.  What that is, is it an artificial intelligence, live avatar app that sits on your phone and acts like a 24/7 life coach.  What I mean by that is it supports the person at the job, supports them at home in different ways, whether they are in school, University, or in a community.  It helps to keep them on track.  We do that with all different kinds of — in different ways with the ways this app was developed and designed.  There is medication compliance, which is a big issue for many people on the spectrum.  It has different ways of reminding a person of what their calendar is and when they should come back from a break.  We have a virtual wallet to help them figure out all different kinds of money challenges.  Not just a module for weather, but also one that includes icons that show what you need to do based on the weather. It might have an icon of an umbrella if rain is predicted, or maybe suntan lotion if it is going to be bright and sunny and hot one day.  We include that as well.  One of the things that we also have is a live avatar that we call Abbie who can answer well over 1000 questions that a person might to be challenged with during the day.  What should I do if I haven’t gotten paid in two weeks? What should I do if somebody is knocking at my door and I don’t know who they are? What is TGIF? All questions like that, including how do you cook and prepare different kinds of meals and other things that would be helpful for a person, whether they are in a supportive or independent living situation.

WADE WINGLER:  It sounds like a whole lot of support available in a handy way.  A couple of quick, practical questions.  Obviously people are showing a lot of information when they are having data collected.  I’ve looked.  There is a privacy page on Identifor website that spells out the privacy and encryption and stuff like that.  I think that’s great.  What is the cost for people to participate in this?

STEVE KEISMAN:  I’m glad you asked.  Probably the most valuable part of the whole package that we offer is no advertisement and no cost.  There is no cost to anybody with or without a disability at this point.

WADE WINGLER:  That’s remarkable.  How does the business model work? How are you guys able to provide that?

STEVE KEISMAN:  Identifor is both a company and the foundation.  When it was put together, the idea is that Cuong and Lori, when they were designing this for their own son, they decided that they would open this platform and make it available, not just for their one child, before the community, anybody who could use this type of support, they wanted to make it available to everybody.  They decided to fund it themselves.  The idea is, through the foundation, down the road we might start reevaluating whether we want to keep this free to all people who do not have a disability and just limit it to people with disabilities.  What I mean by that is so many people are finding benefit from this, even when they don’t have a disability, that we want to make sure that, first and foremost, people with disabilities will never have to pay for any of the pieces that I’ve been telling you about.

WADE WINGLER:  That’s remarkable.  We are getting a little close on time for the interview, but before we wrap up, I know that there have been some good stories, and I know you are a storyteller.  Tell me a story about somebody’s life who’s been impacted by Identifor in about a minute or so here.

STEVE KEISMAN:  Let me tell you about my own daughter.  I have a daughter, Melanie, who is 21.  My wife and I noted that there was something special going on with Melanie, not just because she is our own daughter, but because of all of the feedback that we’ve gone from people in the past who work with her or teachers in school.  We’ve never been able to put our finger on it, what that was. Melanie hates playing video games, so we were really unable to use Identifor to really be able to figure out what she was good at, until I came up with figuring out the magic words.  What the two magic words with Melanie are is cheesecake factory.

WADE WINGLER:  Those are good ones.

STEVE KEISMAN:  She said cheesecake factory? I said that’s right.  She says, wait a minute, you mean that you and mom would take me to the cheesecake factory? I said once you unlock that dashboard.  I want to digress for one minute here, you can play Identifor one or two times, one or two games.  But when you play many games over a period of time, this dashboard with valuable of information becomes unlocked.  Melanie, instead of getting frustrated with this, said, okay, if I can go to the cheesecake factory and have everything I want, I’ll keep playing these games.  She did.  The information that was revealed about Melanie, who has a cognitive disability, not autism, was remarkable.  What we were able to find out was that she had executive function profiled, multiple intelligences, and the career direction of something in the area of computers, but it wasn’t programming and data entry.  What we did was use that information with the job sampling program that she was in, and we were able to convince the hospital program that she was working in to have Melanie do training and their computer lab with the hospital’s employees who were neurotypical, and she was able to, over time, not only after the first three weeks, start typing 42 words a minute and then 48 words a minute, but she was able to get complete Microsoft Suite certification.  From that certification that she had throughout the hospital, instead of just her doing cleaning, instead of her just doing more rote stuff, she started to work in many different departments in the hospital such as the neuropsych labs, speech and hearing, to do very high functioning database management and other kinds of tasks.  She did so well that she was hired part-time to work with a small company that does outsourcing of camping and control work for not for profits.  Not because Melanie has a disability, but because she had the abilities and skills that they were looking for.  Because of that, Melanie ages out in June from her program, but because of that, my wife and I are very hopeful that she will be able to find a competitive job once she leaves the school system.

WADE WINGLER:  That’s a remarkable story.  I get, hey dad, you want me to play video games, and then we are going to the cheesecake factory, and then I’m going to get a really good job, and I’m going to take you to the cheesecake factory.

STEVE KEISMAN:  Wouldn’t that be great? I never thought about it that way, but wouldn’t it be great.

WADE WINGLER:  We need to wrap up, but before we do, let’s have the website address and contact information again.  We want people who are listening today and are interested to know exactly how to jump on and try this.

STEVE KEISMAN:  Let me give you a couple of piece of information. The first is, as I said before, the best place to learn about Identifor is that There you will be able to see the surveys that we have, the games that we have, what the dashboard looks like.  We even have our artificial intelligence person as well to help guide people on the website.  The second-place I suggest that you go is either the iTunes or Google Play Store and download both our games. Just type in Identifor into the search bar, download that, and also the Identifor companion.  The Identifor companion is Abby, who I explained before supports the person at the job, at school, and the living arrangement, or in their community.  The more the person uses Abby, the smarter she gets about the person because of its artificial intelligence capability.  So both of those are available either for Android or for the iPhone.  Those can be put on a tab as well.  If somebody would like to know more information how we can work with you, whether it is doing a pilot study, or whatever it is you need on the employer and or on a school side, whatever it may be, with some ideas that somebody might have, they could reach out and contact me directly at

WADE WINGLER: And identifor is I-D-E-N-T-I-F-O-R, right?


WADE WINGLER: Steve Keisman is the Vice President of education, transition, and neurodiversity employment specialist with Identifor.  Steve, thank you so much for being on the show today.

STEVE KEISMAN:  I really appreciate your time.  Thank you so much.  Have a great day.

WADE WINGLER:  Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update? Call our listener line at 317-721-7124, shoot us a note on Twitter @INDATAProject, or check us out on Facebook. Looking for a transcript or show notes from today’s show? Head on over to Assistive Technology Update is a proud member of the Accessibility Channel. Find other shows like this, plus much more, at The opinions expressed by our guests are their own and may or may not reflect those of the INDATA Project, Easter Seals Crossroads, or any of our supporting partners.  That was your Assistance Technology Update. I’m Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana.

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