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.
Jennifer White – CEO of Able Opportunities, | http://www.ableopps.com/
Novasentis and HumanWare Join Forces to Bring Radically New Sensory Experiences to the Visually Impaired | Business Wire http://buff.ly/ZHjcXo
Get to know iOS 8: Changes in the Settings app | Macworld http://buff.ly/1mLaJgq
iOS 8 Accessibility Roundup | ATMac http://buff.ly/1uEU111
Android accessibility settings: 5 hidden options everyone should be using – AndroidPIT http://buff.ly/1mLaiCQ
App: SenSpeller www.BridgingApps.org
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JENNIFER WHITE: Hi, this is Jennifer White, the CEO of able opportunities, 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 174 of Assistive Technology Update. It’s scheduled to be released on September 26 of 2014.
Today we have a chat with Jennifer White of Able Opportunities about their new Work Autonomy app. And then we spend most of our time today at the beginning of the show talking about iOS 8, the changes that have to do with accessibility, Android accessibility, and all things tablet and mobile computing. We hope you check out our website at the www.eastersealstech.com. Shoot us a note on Twitter at INDATA Project, or give us a call on our listener line. Let us know if you have questions, comments, or things to share. That phone number is 31 770 17124.
Kicking off for our stories today having to do with tablets and mobile PCs. It looks like HumanWare has joined forces with Novasentis. Humanware has been making technology for people who are blind or have low vision for many years, and Novasentis is the leading supplier of the world’s thinnest and most flexible polymer-based actuator technology. We are hoping that the outcome of this is a haptic interface that will create a tactile tablet interface. We’re going to have information on something similar in next week’s show, but I’m going to pop a link in the show notes and you could read this press release that talks about his new business partnership. In there are linked to the website from both HumanWare and Novasentis and you can learn more about this promising technology that might create a tablet computer that will work really well for folks were blind or visually impaired to check our show notes.
As you can imagine, the whole industry is abuzz with information about iOS 8 and the iPhone 6. And what will that mean for people with disabilities? We have a piece of feedback from Jay in our audience who says I can’t wait for you guys to share tips on dealing with the latest I was upgrade. I’m visually impaired and have found that the new iOS update — for him anyway — is extremely glitchy. He thought it was supposed to be so much better for accessibility things like voice over. He talks about how he is having trouble with things being slow and some different challenges that is having running iOS 8 on his iPhone 4s.
A couple of things. I’ve got a lot of stuff to talk about here related to wireless a, but the person or to stay as I have heard also from other users with and without disabilities that when running iOS 8 on an iPhone 4s, which is the oldest iPhone that you can use iOS 8 on, it is a little bit slow. One of the recommendations is maybe wait just a little while until some of the manufacturers get some of their bugs worked out in the apps and maybe even for a patch on iOS and to make it work more quickly on the older phones. That probably will be an encouragement for some folks to move into the new iPhone. That seems to be how things would work in the world of Apple.
The other thing that I will say about iOS 8 is that I’m playing around with it and having a lot of fun. Some of the things that are happening in terms of accessibility that I’ve noticed is there is a new voice called Alex which is a lot better sounding voice. In fact, here is a quick clip of the Alex voice or you can hear what sounds like.
Some of the other changes that I have found on MacWorld’s website about accessibility include that there are changes to zoom. I amassed around with it and it allows you to have more of a lens view in the serum system on your iPhone operating system so that you can set your zoom region to either be a window or a full screen and then you can adjust your magnification level. There’s some things about some titles and captions that have been moved into a new category. And then there’s also some things moving around in general. In previous versions of iOS, it was called the physical and motor category. Those are all renamed and moved into an interaction category. Another thing that might help folks with some kinds of disabilities is you can now turn also lock off. Always before, you could choose the amount of time before the phone auto locked, and now never is one of the options in there.
One of the things that I find terribly exciting are some of the changes that are happening with the world of keyboards on the iOS operating system. I had never used Swype or SwiftKey in the past, and in the last week or so since I’ve been messing around with this, I have really become a big fan of this Swype keyboard interface. The folks in the android world are going to say we’ve had that for a long time, but for people who aren’t familiar with Swype, it’s a keyboard that allows you to drag your finger or your thumb or even your stylus around on the keyboard instead of lifting and tapping.
So if I wanted to type my first name in the past, that would be four taps my thumb or finger. Now I just put my thumb on W and run it over the letters and it goes ahead and types for me. For somebody who has a hard time with lifting their thumbs or who just has chubby thumbs that tend to hit too many keys, this new Swype keyboard allows me to be much more productive. When I type, it does a good job of discussing which fingers I dragged my finger over and then above the keyboard there are three word prediction selections there. I’m going to guess I’m getting about an 85% accuracy rate right now with using the swipe keyboard. Also, when you have unusual words to add, like my last name is Wingler, once you type those in manually, it will allow you to add those to your dictionaries so that you can type those words in and then have them available for swiping a little bit later. And I know that there’s a lot of stuff coming in terms of adaptive keyboards, son excited to see what’s coming down the pike with those.
And with iOS 8, there’s going to be a lot of opportunities for app developers to do interactive kinds of things we can share information between your apps. That also is going to include some touch ID fingerprint recognition that will be available for other apps as well. If you are downloading an app for example, in the past you had to type in a long password. You’re not going to be able to use your fingerprint ID on a lot of stuff. That’s a pretty cool accessibility feature as well.
And then the last thing I will say about iOS 8, at least for now, is that Ricky over at AT Mac has a pretty cool blog post that talks about iOS Accessibility Roundup. She has a link here to several different blog posts, podcasts, and different kinds of pieces of information about iOS 8 accessibility. If there is a particular piece of accessibility you’re interested in learning more about, I’m going to pop a link in the show notes over to Ricky’s AT Mac article where you can check out all the stuff that she’s found related to iOS accessibility, at least so far.
So if you have found interesting things about accessibility or have questions about accessibility as it relates to iOS 8, let us know. Shoot us a note over on Twitter at INDATA Project, or give us a call on our listener line. That number is 317-721-7124. Ask a question or report back on what you’re finding in terms of accessibility with iOS 8 and the iPhone 6. We love to hear from you.
And not to focus entirely on iPhone related stuff, I’ve got a great article from Android Pit. The headline is “Android Accessibility Settings: Five Hidden Options That Everyone Should Be Using.” So whether you’re using an LG G3, a Galaxy S4, or a Nexus 5, this article talks about how the Android operating system has some accessibility features built into the focus on five in this article.
The first one is magnification gestures which will allow you to zoom in and out on things on your android phone or device. The text to speech which will rethink found not for you. Color division which will let you switch your white to black and black to white and get those colors inverted. Then it talks about talkback and explore by touch which will allow you to move your hand or your finger around the screen and have things read out loud to you. Lastly, it talks about the interaction control which will allow you to block certain areas of your screen so that you can’t access them with your finger.
This article isn’t completely exhaustive but does a pretty good job of giving you a good entryway into what’s happening with android and accessibility. If you’re interested in learning more about that, check the link in our show notes and you can check out more in this article from android pit on the five hidden accessibility options that everyone should be using.
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’s app is called SenSpeller, the autism spelling app. SenSpeller is a unique and innovative resource, targeted that the parents and teachers of children with special educational needs, particularly those with nonverbal autism. Its principal focus is to assist children to recognize words and spell them correctly and an environment that can be customized to suit each child’s individual requirements.
Communication and comprehension can often be limited with children on the autism spectrum. SenSpeller has three distinct stages of spelling development, and as a parent or teacher, you can monitor each child’s progress through the stages. This helps to ensure that the child is learning to spell rather than simply picture and word matching. Many children on the autism spectrum are visual learners and rely heavily on visual cues to aid their learning. SenSpeller makes the learning experience personal to your child and allows you to upload your own personal pictures and record your own voice. This ensures that the child can make those all-important literal connections between the words they’re trying to learn and the real-life object. For example, the word cats would be associated with a real-life picture of their pet cat.
It has also been recognized that many individuals on the spectrum experience some form of sensory sensitivity and have difficulty screening out unwanted stimuli. SenSpeller is low arousal, removing those colors, sites, sounds and movements that may cause distress. For example, all writing is black on a white background with no loud music or moving pictures. SenSpeller has the capacity to work with 10 children’s, progressing to different topics and stages, giving each child a unique learning experience. SenSpeller also has the capability to store 200 words at any one time period by giving you the ability to edit topics and words, more complex words can be added and learned as a child progresses through the educational stages.
BridgingApps highly recommends SenSpeller. SenSpeller is $9.99 at the iTunes Store. This app can be used on iOS devices. For more information on this app and others like it, visit BridgingApps.org.
WADE WINGLER: I think most of the folks in my audience know that the summer has been sometimes at the RESNA conference. While I was there, I met a lot of cool people and I attended a lot of great sessions are different kinds of assistive technology. One of those sessions was led by Jennifer white and some folks were talking about lots of stuff, but I was particularly intrigued with an app called Work Autonomy. I thought how cool would it be to have Jennifer come on the show and talk to folks about that a little bit. I have caught her on a drive, driving from place to place in the Pacific Northwest. Jennifer, I know you’re still there on the phone because I can hear you. How you doing?
JENNIFER WHITE: I’m very well. Thanks for having me.
WADE WINGLER: Thanks for taking a little bit of time — I know you having a busy day — to talk with me and my audience a little bit. I thought your app was really cool and I want to hear about it, but I also thought why don’t we start with talking a little bit about yourself and how you got into this business and then we’ll talk about Work Autonomy.
JENNIFER WHITE: Sure. I’m one of those very fortunate people that’s been in right livelihood my whole life, meaning I get paid to do what I absolutely love. My first job was at the Oracle bus county in Pennsylvania. Before that I used to follow my dad around. He worked in a school districts and he would drop me off and say watch this teacher or work this child with autism. So I got pretraining before I ever became professional in the field.
I moved from that into being interested in special education teaching. I went to central Washington University where I took sign language classes as an elective just out of the blue. I had no relationship to it previously. And shape the direction of my world. I moved to Seattle where I could really hang out and learn from death individuals. At a time, the program I went to was strongly focused on deaf blindness. Interestingly, as a learned how to sign and specifically how to organize language, all the students in my class which is my professional life, I was taking the classes personally because I wanted to learn the language, and in my professional life, every child on my caseload was getting better. Everyone with language challenges was improving because of the skills that I was learning. I open my own company in 1998, able opportunities incorporated, and have been able to continue to invent. As we know in this field, there such a need for better and better accommodations, especially now technology. So as the CEO of able opportunities, I get to spend some time inventing things and working with the people that actually support to help me invent things.
WADE WINGLER: And it sounds to me like you’re like a lot of people in the industry, that you’re a little bit entrepreneural, a little bit technician, a little bit visionary, and little bit of whatever it takes to get the job done.
JENNIFER WHITE: Yes. Exactly. I think everybody in this field has just a really creative and collaborative. I’m glad to be doing this.
WADE WINGLER: Good. Let’s talk a little bit about work autonomy. I know that it is an interesting and fascinating And does lots of different things. Can you give me an idea of what some of the key functionalities are and the different sections of the app and what it does?
JENNIFER WHITE: Sure. I’ll start a little bit before the invention of the app just to say that I work with nonlinguistic population site work with people with all kinds of abilities and varying disabilities, but I really specialize and get set lot of cases for people who don’t have whole language systems. Because of that, I have started investing in all kinds of things around organization of visual information and auditory information in a way that is structured for a brain that doesn’t have access to full language. So when I got to designing the app, you darted been using rudimentary versions of all these things, kind of real clunky rudimentary verses that take dragging along equipment. So now with the apps, it’s fantastic to be able to put all the things in one place.
The app itself is made for an individual who typically might have job coaching to learn the job. They may have short-term or long-term job coaching for social reasons to understand integrate relationships at work or to understand the patents and breakdown of the palace to maintain quality work.
We were interested in trying to figure out how to shift ourselves out of that role does the know with accommodations, people are able to access much more free, autonomous way to stay steady in their job’s. So that was what we are interested in doing period work autonomy app was made for the individuals and their employers to be able to capture and communicate about work expectation throughout a shift in overtime.
So there are three sections to it, and messaging section, and schedule section, and a production section. The production section occurred because we have a lot of people, especially with developmental disabilities, who don’t manage their own money. So going to work and going swimming, the only difference between the two is that the job coach is incentivized in the workplace. So we really wanted to get very clear information about production and earnings, people making decisions about going to work, leaving early, arriving late. We typically try to approach that ethically talking about with ethics and what an employer needs, etc. When we start to talk about dollars and how it impacts him his ability to spend their money, and made a big impact, so that was what the production section is for.
So there’s messaging, scheduling, and production. I’m going to start with scheduling because it makes so much sense around the workplace and I’ll go back and we touched the other two.
Scheduling is made so that if you were to have a new job, I would walk with you as your job coach through the job with the employer, capturing what your job is. You can capture the information using video, photos, voice and or text. So if you videotape, your capturing sound and visual information at the same time. Or you can record just your voice or other sounds in the environment. A coursing take a picture, and with text you can type anything you want. We can combine those captures other than video because you capture auditory at the same time you can add text to it but you can’t add voice over it.
But you get to capture it specifically to your accommodation and preferences. So someone could take a picture of the first part of their job, here’s the task, and underneath that after I’ve captured the photo, say for example my job is stacking ICU trace. I can take a picture of here his tray number one and what it looks like when it’s full. Then underneath it, I can break down into more photos for as many squares of they want to. Again I can capture using those four types of capture in every section of the app.
After you finish capturing all the expectations and tasks underneath it, the next page that it will take you to when you completed that step is a place we can capture the parameters of the job. So those are the expectations. Does the boss want to see how long it takes to do this particular task? Or you have this much time and had to be finished completing this particular task. Are you counting up or down? Are you using a real-time clock? So in this example, this young man got a job and the first day we captured all the information about what went in the train and how long and how much time he supposed to spend on at. He’s been working independently as far as tracking more than 100 items by himself from the first day on because he’s got a place to reference this information.
Once we’ve captured the entire schedule, when you run it and you press the first part of your schedule, the parameters that you set up with it, that timers, the clocks, the counter, those all come up next to the photo/sound/walk-through/however you capture that of the item so that you can see the expectations. With a timer, a screen for seconds, read four minutes, and blue for hours seated see how much time you have or see how much time is taking. You can count down or count up. The alarm clock will go off when spread, when you need to be moving into the next step.
That data as you’ve worked your schedule, you’ve captured it, and then you work at, you run through that clock and timer, and when you finish the entire schedule or when you’re done for the day, you hit finish. It goes back to the front screen of the app and you open up production. There you can see in two different graphs, one graph has captured the amount of time you spend on everything you set a timer on. For example, we set timers almost for every task so the employer can see how somebody is using their time. The other grant that is in the production section tracks someone’s earnings. So in the settings you are putting the number of hours per shift and the amount of money they make per hour, and the individual can see the impact of losing time. So they don’t arrive on time or if they’re getting bored and want to leave early, you can see in concrete terms the money that is lost. So we’ve approached it with ethical conversations for a long time, like I said earlier why it is important to go to work and how you can lose your job if you leave early. We find that the impact of the concrete terms of, oh, $25 period isn’t that a trip for you and your girlfriend to Olive Garden and a night out? Bummer. That’s the biggest impact in people’s changing performance about going to work on time and living on time.
So there’s the production section. I’m going to go to the messaging section because we work with a lot of peoples which have trouble with language or their social anxiety that makes it difficult for them to communicate as part of their job or to cross environments. For example, one of our PR stories his death and has down syndrome. So communication can be very challenging for him. He uses the messaging section of the app to be able to capture things that happen at home. Oh, my brother came home with a new baby. And go to work and have those stories for his coworkers just like you and I do when we go to work. The really cool thing is that his coworkers all have smart devices so they are doing the same thing now to. It allows them a new way to connect in the ways that you and I connect typically at work.
It can also capture in the same way using video, voice and/or text, and its pre-captured so somebody can play it when somebody comes up to greet them or talk to them if they’ve got some anxiety about responding to folks. So there can be prerecorded information like hey, I can take you to somebody that can help or any part of somebody’s work interactions. The crossing environments piece is really important.
There’s two sides to the messaging section. One of the individual captures everything that they want to say for themselves, and then the other section is made for everybody who usually has conversations without them about them. So for example his dad used to call me and say hey, his brother is coming to sound so we have some time off. That I would call the employer, etc. She was left out of that conversation. Now his dad can say, get the app, he reported, Reed will bring it to work and played for the employer. Reed will capture the employer’s response and he will bring it home so he’s involved in all the conversations about him. This has made a really big impact in pride and independence in the workplace.
WADE WINGLER: Jennifer, I think that’s a really important thing to have a communication going back and forth. Sadly, we have less than a minute left in the interview so I’m going to ask is can you tell folks what platforms the app works on, how much it costs, and if they wanted to get a copy or learn more about what’s happening with work autonomy, where to direct them?
JENNIFER WHITE: Absolutely. It’s called work autonomy. It’s available in iTunes now. It’s made for all Apple devices. It’s not yet ready for android but it will be. That’s our intention. It’s $189.99 because it’s a hefty app that does a lot of things. There are more apps on the way. Two things that are upcoming for the work autonomy app our interpretation. You want to have it translated into eight different languages. And also to have all of the data that is sent to the production chart is being held on a server and were going to make a server accessible. So for example, when someone has their annual evaluation, you can take a look at a years worth of data at once.
WADE WINGLER: That’s great.
JENNIFER WHITE: Our website is ableopps.com. Our number is 206-406-9900. I’m always interested in talking to people about it. Feel free to call me.
WADE WINGLER: Great. I’ll stick the phone number in the show notes of the folks will have access to that. Jennifer White is the CEO of able opportunities to Jennifer, thank you so much for taking time out of your drive today to talk with us.
JENNIFER WHITE: Thank you so much for having me, Wade. I appreciate it
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.