Your 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.
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Welcome new station: http://will.illinois.edu/illinoisradioreader
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Talking Drupal #049 – Assistive Technology with Wade Wingler | Talking Drupal http://buff.ly/1qmw2nm
5 assistive technology open source programs http://buff.ly/1keGjMm
Google Apps update alerts: Increased accessibility with Braille display support for Google Docs, Slides and Drawings http://buff.ly/1qmt16u
Wearable computing gloves can teach Braille, even if you’re not paying attention http://buff.ly/1qmrAFe
The Secret Powers Hidden in Your Android’s Accessibility Options http://buff.ly/1qmhDr6
App: Mad Libs www.BridgingApps.org
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DAVE HUBBARD: Hi, this is Dave Hubbard. I’m the chief executive officer of the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association, affectionately known as NMEDA, 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 162 of Assistive Technology Update. It’s scheduled to be released on July 4 of 2014.
First of all, happy Independence Day to all of our listeners in the US. I hope you’re enjoying some time off and some outdoor weather and maybe even some fireworks. Today our interview is with Dave Hubbard who is the executive director and CEO of NMEDA, the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association. We have some information about the Amazon Fire Phone and accessibility. Drupal and accessibility. Open source assistive technology. Some Google app information. And the secret powers hidden in your android accessibility options.
We hope you enjoy the show. We also hope you’ll check out our website at www.eastersealstech.com. Give us a call or some feedback on our listener line at 317-721-7124. Or shoot us a note on Twitter at INDATA Project.
Have you heard of an accessible information service or a radio reading program? Well did you know that Assistive Technology Update doesn’t only exist on the web and iTunes. We are also carried on some radio stations. In central Indiana, the Indiana Radio and Information Service, or IRIS, carries our show, and a new partner we’d like to welcome to Assistive Technology Update is the Illinois Radio Reader, which is part of WILL and Illinois Public Media. If you are looking for a radio reading service in your area to get access to newspapers and other periodicals in audio format, give us a call on our listener line at 317-721-7124. Send us an email at Tech@EasterSealscrossroads.org. or shoot us a note on Twitter at INDATA Project and we’ll try to help you find a radio reading service on your own. Again, a shout out to Illinois Radio Reader, part of Illinois Public Media for carrying Assistive Technology Update.
Would you like to work for our team? Here in the state of Indiana we are hiring for a position right now. We are trying to hire an equipment specialist who will spend time helping us with our adaptive technology lending library, going out into the community and doing assistive technology demonstrations, and just generally helping us out with the INDATA Project. If you’re in Indiana and don’t mind traveling and want to apply, check our show notes and we’ll have a link to the job posting.
If you’ve paid any attention to the news in the last few weeks, you know that Amazon has entered a smartphone market. The Amazon Fire Phone is new on the market and it has some accessibility built in. There’s a a screen reader and some magnification for folks were blind or visually impaired. It includes options for captioning and a TTY mode for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. For mobility it has an Amazon voice assist, some navigation shortcuts, and a little motion mode. It also has an accessibility user guide. I’m going to pop a link in the show notes over to Amazon’s website where you can learn more about the accessibility of the fire phone.
Okay, this is going to get a little bit nerdy here, but are you interested in open source assistive technology? I’ve got a story here from opensource.com that talks about five assistive technology open-source programs. The author makes a very good point that the more people who participate in open-source software, the more successful it is. That includes people with disabilities. He talks in this article about some stuff that I’d heard of and some stuff that I hadn’t. He mentions that for people who use Linux, there are installations called Knoppix and Ubuntu that can be installed with screen reader support, or Vinux, which is a specialist distribution of Linux for folks who rely on screen readers. It talks about NVDA, or the Nonvisual Desktop Access, which is a fairly well-known open sourced screen reader that seems to be gathering a whole lot of market share these days. Lastly he talks about a group of apps called Access Apps. It’s a collection of over 50 different assistive technology apps that includes a mix of open source and freeware programs. It’s about an 817 MB download that has all kinds of stuff to help people with reading, writing, planning, sensory and cognitive impairments, physical impairments, and it does include a discussion of NVDA as well. I’m going to pop a link in the show notes and you can learn more about these open-source assistive technology programs.
Do you use a refreshable braille display to access information on your computer? Are you interested in Google apps? Well if you’re a user of Google docs, Google slides, or Google drawings, you can now enable braille support in those programs and have access. I’ve got a link from the Google apps update blog and I’ll pop a link in the show notes where you can learn more about how to enable braille support and have better access to those Google apps.
From fizz.org is a headline that reads, “Wearable computing gloves can teach braille even if you’re not paying attention.” There’s a group out of Georgia Institute of Technology who created a set of gloves that are designed to vibrate on your knuckles and teach you how to type in braille and maybe even learn to read braille a little bit better. My understanding is this kind of haptic technology has been around for a while to train people how to use pianos. So you see a note and it vibrates according to the corresponding knuckle so that you can know what button to push on the piano. This is being ported over to braille. The idea is that you wear these gloves and it will vibrate in certain patterns over time and subconsciously teach you how to type and read braille. It’s a little more technical than I’m parlaying here, but I’m going to ask you to check out the link over at fizz.org so that you can read more about this new technology and how it might be something that can help if you need to learn braille. Again, check our show notes.
Do you rely on Siri? I do. All the time I’m dictating text messages and emails and notes to myself using Apple’s voice input system on my iPhone. I got an article here from Wired magazine and the title is, “Siri will soon understand you a whole lot better.” It starts talking about a party around Christmas in 2009 and how that led to lots of algorithmic developments in the world of speech recognition. Most recently some people who are really smart in that area being hired on at Apple. Apple seems to be building a team of not only manages but also technical folks and researchers were going to have the goal of making Siri were a whole lot better in the upcoming future. I’m going to pop a link in the show notes over to the wired.com article where you can learn more about how Siri is about understand you a whole lot better. Check our show notes.
If you’ve listened to the show for very long you’ll know that I am a self-avowed Apple fan; however, I do know a little bit about Android and know that it’s out there and doing lots of great things. I’ve got an article here from lifehacker.com called, “The secret powers hidden in your android accessibility options.” It goes through this really great article and talks about several different features including a way to zoom anywhere with magnification gestures, a way to use the power button to hang up your phone and end the call, a way to turn any book into an audiobook, a place we can set the systemwide text to be a little bit larger, and a way that you can have a shortcut to enable and disable the accessibility features. Against the article is really good. It’s from Lifehacker. I’m going to stick a link in the show notes and you can learn more about how to bring out the secret powers in your android phone.
Each week, one of our partners tells us what’s happening in the ever-changing world of apps, so here’s an app worth mentioning.
>> This is Amy Barry with BridgingApps, and this is an app worth mentioning. Today I’m going to share with you an app called Mad Libs. Some of the parents or older listeners might already be familiar with this game. Mad Libs is a super fun app where users make up silly stories are filling in sentence blanks with nouns, additives, verbs, and other word types. It’s really hard to believe that learning is actually taking place while playing this app because it is so entertaining. But it really does teach grammar, sentence structure, parts of speech, and vocabulary. The app features one book with 21 free stories and there are 30 more books with 21 stores each to buy with in-app purchases. Words can also be added by voice, and you can use your camera or photos from your camera roll to add an image to the story.
To begin playing, users choose from a variety of story titles. Then they are taken to a screen with the app asks them to fill in the blanks with nouns, additives, verbs, and other word types. At the bottom of the screen are boxes with suggested words typed in. So if the user gets stuck, there’s a button at the top right corner for hints. Once all the words are filled in, the Mad Libs story is created, allowing the user to read back some of the really funny stories.
Mad Libs can be played alone, but personally I think it’s more fun with friends. Laughter is inevitable when playing this app. The same stories can be played repeatedly because it can be drastically change with new words and they are always really amusing. This is a must-have language arts app. The Mad Libs is free at the iTunes Store and this app can be used on both iPhones and iPads. For more information on this app and others like it, visit BridgingApps.org.
WADE WINGLER: So it was just yesterday that I found myself driving a van, transporting a wheelchair to a friend and colleague of mine, and it occurred to me that somebody had to make this man and get it to us and make sure that it’s safe and all those kinds of things. It led me to realize that today I’m going to be talking with Dave Hubbard who is the executive director and CEO of NMEDA — and we’ll get into what that all means here in just a second — and we’re going to talk about vans and other kinds of accessible vehicles. Dave, are you on the line?
DAVE HUBBARD: I am.
WADE WINGLER: Good. Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to talk with us about NMEDA. Not too long ago, the RESNA conference was in Indianapolis and I know that we saw a lot of exciting things having to do with accessibility vehicles, so I’m excited to have you guys on to kind of follow up and help us expand our knowledge little bit in this area. If you wouldn’t mind, can you tell me a little bit about NMEDA, what it stands for, a little bit of history and what you guys do.
DAVE HUBBARD: NMEDA stands for the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association. It’s an association of mobility dealers, manufactures, and healthcare professionals like CDRS’s — we’ll talk about that in a minute — that are dedicated to providing safe, reliable transportation for people with disabilities, whether they are wheelchair users or an amputee or whatever the case may be. We want to give them safe, reliable transportation.
WADE WINGLER: That takes a lot of folks and you’ve talked about that a little bit. Tell me when somebody realizes or decide that they need an adaptive vehicle or need more independence with their mobility, how do they get started and who’s involved in the process?
DAVE HUBBARD: Well, there are really two ways to go about it. The first one — and because we’re NMEDA, we tell you to go to your mobility dealer. He will put you in touch with a local CDRS, Certified Driving Rehabilitation Specialist, or he’ll get you in contact with your vocational rehab. He generally has all the information you need to know. The reason we tell people to go to the dealer first is because there are different types of disabilities. We tell them to go to the dealer before they buy a new vehicle that they want to have adapted. Of course they can always buy a lowered floor minivan from that dealer, but if they’re going out to buy another vehicle and have become installed, you want to make sure that that equipment can be installed in that new vehicle. So we tell him to go to the dealer. The other route of course is to get a hold of a Certified Driving Rehabilitation Specialist can evaluate the person, their disability, and what they will need to be able to drive on the public highways in a safe and responsible manner.
WADE WINGLER: We have a couple of CDRS’s here in our shop. They are actually down the hall from me so there are people that, when we have pitch ins, Suzanne makes a really good chili so we know that about her. I know that there are a lot of folks involved. Tell me a little bit about the difference between the dealer perspective and the CDRS. How do they work together? Because my understanding is these people know each other and the kind of work collaboratively on a lot of situations.
DAVE HUBBARD: They know each other very well and they do work collaboratively in many different situations. For most of our dealers, most of our members, that’s the preferred route to have the team working together, the CDRS and the mobility dealer. The CDRS, in fact, takes a little bit of the onus off the mobility dealer. They are trained to evaluate the disability. They are trained in the equipment. They are trained to train the driver, the person with the disability, to drive. They write a prescription for the mobility dealer. Then the mobility dealer, from their standpoint, gets the right equipment to fill in the bill and install and make sure it fits the person because each one is a little bit unique. Then they work together to get that person trained and on the road and driving safely.
WADE WINGLER: That’s great. I know that with NMEDA, there’s a membership level and there are different levels of accreditation available to dealers. Can you talk about those differences a little bit?
DAVE HUBBARD: Well, there used to be quite a big difference, but now with NMEDA, we really have one level of membership, if you will, and that requires our quality assurance program. That’s what we call QAP. The QAP requirement as of two years ago went into effect. What that means is that a dealer has to have the right kind of insurance, has to have technicians who are trained on all of the equipment that they install, that they provide 24 hour emergency service, that they have the right kind of facility that is safe for a person in a wheelchair to move around in the vehicle and there’s plenty of room, a covered area for ingress and egress, exit and entry, into the vehicle. They are a number of different elements like that. We do have installer levels, modifier levels, within the membership, but generally speaking a CDRS or a dealer, that really doesn’t come into play from a consumer standpoint.
WADE WINGLER: Sure. And folks will be ready to navigate through those levels of technicalities as necessary. So from the consumer perspective — and I know the answer to most of these questions about assistive technology depends — but how long does it take from the time a person realizes they need an adapter vehicle to getting it and who pays for that?
DAVE HUBBARD: You’re right. It does vary. It can vary greatly. They can go from a week if all you need to do is get a vehicle adapted with a couple of simple pieces of equipment like driving controls or special seats, to several months where you’re actually putting an electronic driving controls. Many times a quadriplegic who doesn’t have use of fingers can drive because they do have use of the arm. So that requires a special kind of driving control, a special kind of training. That literally can take months to get that accomplished.
Beyond that, where you go for funding, it depends. The veterans programs are excellent for funding. The VA does provide benefits there. Vocational rehabs in the different states are all different and is different by state, so check with your mobility dealer. They are all trained on what’s available and what kind of funding a person would have access to. That’s really the best place to start with looking for funding.
WADE WINGLER: Excellent. That makes sense because the CDRS’s and the dealer swim in those waters every day, all day, they know who you’re local resources are going to be and probably can give you some pretty good advice in terms of how to navigate that and to use those resources most appropriately and most effectively. Dave, we’re recording this just little bit ahead of the announcements that you’re about to make, but I understand you’ve been very busy with National Mobility Awareness Month. Can you tell me a little bit about the project and what it means?
DAVE HUBBARD: National Mobility Awareness Month was started by NMEDA to bring awareness to all the different mobility solutions, automotive mobility solutions, that are available to people on a regular basis. We joke about it all the time but is not really a joke. It’s one of the best-kept secrets in the industry, is what people with disabilities have available to them, especially when we’re talking about senior citizens because they grow into their disability and don’t realize what’s available, nor do their children who are taking care of aging parents. That’s what National Mobility Awareness Month was all about when it got started.
To make them move forward, we started a Local Heroes contest. The Local Heroes contest is people with disabilities, caregivers, and seniors, can enter the contest and tell us why they are a hero in their local market. In other words, what have they done despite their disability to overcome their situation and become an inspiration to others. It’s a marvelous contest because we’re getting a lot of awareness for people with disabilities and what they bring to society and what they can do. Just generally a lot of good information.
But because they are voted on, they tell two friends and those tell two friends and those tell two friends, we actually get millions of votes. We had over 20 million page visits to the contest area this year. We got over 1.3 billion impressions. It’s wonderful what the contest is doing. We are just now wrapping up the contest. We have our winners selected. We’re going to be nothing those next week on June 2 — I realize this is going out in July so I can’t talk about the winners yet. It’s still secret. They are all excellent and we’re really looking for to it. This is actually one of the best parts of my job.
WADE WINGLER: That’s really good. The power of social media really becomes apparent in situations like that. I’m probably a little bit more attuned to a number of folks with disabilities than the average guy on the street but I have seen many Facebook post come across my timeline with people who I know who have applied and are interested in that and the awareness has been successful especially from that perspective.
DAVE HUBBARD: It really has. I just want to make this point too to your listeners and to anybody that may have applied this year or last year and didn’t win. Keep applying. You never know how close you came to winning. We don’t publish any of those results. There’s no standings or anything like that. A couple of the winners have posted before and didn’t win in the last two years so keep trying.
WADE WINGLER: There you go. Excellent advice. Dave, one of the things that I see in the news a lot lately are driverless and semi-autonomous cars. I interviewed Sam Schmidt earlier this year about the Corvette that he drove was 100 miles an hour around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This been a lot of buzz about the Google driverless car. What you think about the kind of technology and how it’s going to impact your industry?
DAVE HUBBARD: Well, I think it’s wonderful. I think it will impact the industry because it’s going to be allowing people with disabilities to get in a push a couple of buttons and drive. It’s going to be a long time coming I think. Just by virtue of the number of roads that would have to be converted. I think that even though you have driverless systems — and we’re talking about the next 20 years or so — even though you might begin to get driverless systems in place, you’re going to have to leave that driverless system, so I think driving technology is still going to require adherence to a person’s ability to manage the vehicle on their own. I think you’re going to see a combination of that coming. Eventually would be great if you never had to lift a finger other than to punch in the destination and there you go, but I do think that’s a ways off.
WADE WINGLER: I think so too. I’m excited that it’s happening in my lifetime and I’m getting to witness some of these changes. I kind of get a little bit of a George Jetson thing going in my head is a think about what this might look like. It’s exciting stuff. Dave, what other kind of emerging technology are you seeing in your field right now? What are some of the things with the rubber is hitting the road right now with the new technology and accessible vehicles?
DAVE HUBBARD: I think it’s mostly in the electronic driving control stages. We are seeing some of that. We do have a new company on board that’s building a ground-up vehicle for people with disabilities as opposed to converting an existing one. Although I do think the conversion market is here to stay and will be here for a long time to come. It’s a proven business model and a proven product. Driving technology is something that I think has continually improved and so is the acceptance level. The technology exists today to drive a vehicle basically without a proper steering device. As though systems get better and better, more and more people with deeper disabilities, if you will, will have the opportunity to drive and get some freedom. I see that coming into play in the future.
WADE WINGLER: You’re right. I’m seeing all kinds of automotive technology in the mainstream and I’m always excited about how that might transfer over to the world of accessibility for folks with disabilities. Dave, we’ve talked about finding a dealer, finding a CDRS. If somebody is listening to this interview and says wow, I need to learn more. What would your advice be to them to connect with NMEDA or their local resources? How do they take that next step?
DAVE HUBBARD: They can go to NMEDA.com and there is a dealer locator right on that side. All they have to do is plug in their ZIP Code and it will give them a list of the dealer’s nearest them. We have dealers almost all over the country, a couple of Northwestern states are devoid of NMEDA dealers, but everywhere else you should find a good list. That will get you started. If you wanted to, you could also go to the aded site to get a CDRS, Certified Driving Rehabilitation Specialist. My preference is I would start with the dealer because they will put you in touch with a CDRS near them. You do want a NMEDA dealer to make sure that you’re getting all the criteria, the QAP criteria, and the support system behind the product that you’ll need to obtain a safe and reliable product.
WADE WINGLER: I have to echo that because in the world of assistive technology and probably elsewhere, it’s one thing to have the device and the equipment, it’s another thing to have a services and the support go along with it so that you can use it effectively. I hear you.
DAVE HUBBARD: Absolute.
WADE WINGLER: Excellent. Dave Hubbard is the executive director and CEO of National Mobility Increment Dealers Association. David, thank you so much for being with us today.
DAVE HUBBARD: Appreciate it. Thank you for having me.
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. Looking for show notes from today’s show? Head on over to EasterSealstech.com. Shoot us a note on Twitter @INDATAProject, or check us out on Facebook. That was your Assistance Technology Update. I’m Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana.