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BRIAN NORTON: Welcome to ATFAQ, Assistive Technology Frequently Asked Questions. I’m your host Brian Norton, Manager of Clinical 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 or call our listener line at 317-721-7124. The world of assistive technology has questions, and we have answers.
So today in the studio we have with us three folks. Mark Stewart who’s been on the show.
MARK STEWART: Hey, Brian.
BRIAN NORTON: And we’ve got Belva Smith.
BELVA SMITH: Hey, Brian.
BRIAN NORTON: And we also have Wade Wingler.
WADE WINGLER: Good morning, everybody.
BRIAN NORTON: So we are really excited to be back with you guys for ATFAQ Episode 003 of ATFAQ. It will be our third show. I’m really enjoying the questions and answers in the things we’ve done so far and looking forward to continuing this as we go on. Today we have seven or eight questions we’re going to get through. Without further ado, we’ll jump into those.
The first question we have today is, are there assistive technology funding sources for non-work or non-school purposes?
I think to do right by the people who are listeners, it’s probably helpful for them to understand the day in and day out of who we work with. A lot of times, the folks we work with, they have funding sources. We are looking at very specific applications, be it at work in a job accommodation type of setting or an educational setting where they are working through transition with either their local voc rehab agency here in the states and/or with their K-12 environment, paying for the evaluation and for the equipment in those situations. But we do have lots of folks who come to us that don’t have a funding source. Those are the times and situations where we try to look at other alternative funding sources.
MARK STEWART: When I look at the question, it’s the opposite of what we specialize in. We specialize in work and school related funding sources.
BRIAN NORTON: Right.
MARK STEWART: And all things A-Z as far as that’s concerned. But certainly we are involved in a lot of different things and we do our research as well. There’s also the question of scope of assistive technology. We work a lot in computer access and other things along those lines. There’s your Durable Medical Equipment. There’s a lot of medical device DME type things where Medicaid and Medicare certainly are big funding sources. But even for nonmedical items and even for computer access type items, certainly there are other resources people should know about.
BRIAN NORTON: Right.
BELVA SMITH: I think each state has, like we do, INDATA, the Indiana Assistive Technology Act, where you can contact them and see if you can apply for the low interest loans. Because I think most states to have those. I don’t think that has to be necessarily work or school related. Of course, a large number of the manufacturers offer easy payment plans. For example, if you need a screen reader, and you don’t have $1,000 to buy it, I know GW Micro was offering a payment plan. I know AiSquared, now that they’ve merged, I think you can still do a payment plan for their software. Certainly you would want to start by contacting the manufacture of whatever the device is that you’re looking for and find that they do offer a payment plan.
BRIAN NORTON: I’ve run across other funding sources too. You mentioned all the animal clubs, as I’ll call them. All of these not-for-profit organizations who are looking for interest stories or ways to be able to support the community. A lot of times there’s funding opportunities through the Lions Club, those kinds of things, to be able to get assistive technology for folks. You mentioned assistive technology acts. There is one in every state and province. Definitely contact them. A lot of these have alternative financing programs that help people purchase equipment on their own. Also, disability specific organizations are there to. United Cerebral Palsy, they all have local chapters. Contacting them about different opportunities and different grants that they might have for folks to be able to purchase their own equipment is also out there as a potential funding source.
BELVA SMITH: There’s all kinds of different fundraisers that you can do. I know when my kids were little, we did fundraising for our Little League team and for the Cub Scouts and the Boy Scouts. If nothing else, you can do a little fundraiser for yourself.
WADE WINGLER: Brian, I love that you said animal clubs. So you mean the lions of the elk and the owls and all those clubs that are named after animals that might do a fundraising thing.
BRIAN NORTON: Absolutely.
WADE WINGLER: I think the nature of the question is an interesting one. It says are there funding sources for non-work and non-school. I think that point to the fact that most assistive technology funding is based on what you’re going to use the technology for as opposed to what the technology is. So if it’s something you’re going to work for school or on the job or for medical purposes, you look to those systems to fund that kind of stuff. And then there are some sort of programs based on who you are. The Veterans Administration tends to be one of those for us. We find that the VA, and various independent bodies of the VA, the different sections and different groups within the VA that do that. Mostly the first question we asked when we talk about who’s going to pay for assistive technology is what are you going to do with it, because that makes a difference in terms of who’s going to pay for it.
MARK STEWART: There’s activities, daily living. Hopefully Medicare or Medicaid or Medicaid waiver could kick in. But again, the animal clubs, as Brian calls them. There’s quality of life things come even beyond the medical activities of daily living. Sometimes there’s very strict guidelines as far as what qualifies and what doesn’t with regards to our definition from the government standpoint of what you need in the home to get by. As far as a little bit of better quality of life, you may very well have some needs, and that’s where you need to be a little more creative sometimes to find funding resources. That’s where the Elks Club or the Lions Club, folks like that might be able to help.
BRIAN NORTON: I would encourage folks. We have at Easter Seals Crossroads, Indiana Assistive Technology Act, there are also ones in every state as I mentioned before. A lot of what they do is information and outreach. So if you’ve got questions about funding, giving them a call, they are probably going to be more aware of what type of funding sources are available to you in your area, in your state, and would be able to hook you up with those places based on what the need is. If you’re looking for a ramp for your house, they might have resources for you to tap into for those types of things as well. It might be a good starting point for folks.
WADE WINGLER: I’ll do a quick plug here. If you’re looking for the AT act in your state and you don’t know where that is, we’ve set up a quick link on our website to help you find the one for whatever state you’re in. So if you go over to www.eastersealstech.com/states, it’ll take you to the list of all the different programs. I’ll pop a link in the show notes.
So Brian, we don’t have the perfect answer there.
BRIAN NORTON: We don’t. The funding sources are kind of all over the map depending on what type of equipment you’re looking for, what your particular situation is. We don’t have a perfect answer for that. I guess to be able to kind of point people into certain directions as far as where to go and what’s the next stone to overturn when you’re looking for a particular funding source for your need, I think the first place I would send some folks to would be to their tech act project, their local tech act project within their state. There are also great resources on the web. ATIA puts out a page on their website that talks specifically about funding sources. There are lots of web-based resources out there for folks to kind of look at the different types of funding sources for different situations that exist. We’ll include a couple of those links in our show notes so that people can follow up with those. Take a look at those to get a broader idea of the different types of funding for that that might be out there for folks.
BRIAN NORTON: Question two today is an interesting question. I want to preface the question with we are not certified computer technicians. We don’t have an A+ certification and those types of things. But because we work in the field of assistive technology and are dealing with computers and are dealing with folks with disabilities and how they access computers, we find ourselves in this predicament quite a bit with our folks.
So the second question we have today is my computer has a virus. How did it happen and how can I avoid it in the future? We run into situations all the time. When you’re using a computer, you can go anywhere on the web and download this or that. Somehow something goes crazy with your computer and it happens it be that you’ve either gotten a malware or adware in your computer somehow, or you now have a virus. What do people do?
BELVA SMITH: I think the first part of the question is how did my computer get this virus?
BRIAN NORTON: Right.
BELVA SMITH: I have witnessed and experienced on many occasions where people will agree without reading, especially folks that are using magnification, because they don’t take the time to read what the dialog box or the pop-up window is saying to them. Sometimes they’ll just go ahead and say yes or say no without having any idea what they’ve agreed to or disagreed with.
BRIAN NORTON: I think that’s a common problem. I do that. I see the okay button, I click it, okay, okay, okay, all the way to the install and don’t really realize what I’m going to or what I’m not.
BELVA SMITH: Right.
WADE WINGLER: I think he does that with vacation requests that you guys put in.
BRIAN NORTON: Exactly. Looks good to me.
BELVA SMITH: I think it’s very important to make sure before you agree or disagree with any dialog box, you take the time to read what that saying or asking. Also when you go and download anything anymore, just about anything, there are going to be hidden things that are going to automatically come along with your download. So for example, you think you’re going to download a free antivirus program, and you get that all downloaded. The next thing you know, you got all the scourges of going on a computer because along the way of getting that download, you also agreed to having a toolbar to start here and a toolbar installed there. Things are checked just to sneak in. It used to be years ago, many years ago, that as long as you didn’t open an email attachment, you were pretty safe as far as keeping yourself clean from viruses, and if you had an up-to-date antivirus program. But that’s just not the case anymore. Of course, email attachments are still dangerous, but not the only way that you’re going to get infected.
The second part of the question was how can I make sure that this doesn’t happen again? I’m just jumping ahead with this, Mark. I’m going to let you say which are taken as well. But I tell people the only way that you can be 100% sure that you won’t to get a virus is to not plug anything into it and to not have it on the Internet. That is the only way that you can be sure.
MARK STEWART: It’s been my experience you don’t even have to download anything anymore. Just by going to a particular website that leaves cookies and leaves junk on your computer, just by going to a website. There’s no way to avoid it necessarily. The other thing I always throw out to my clients, make sure you’re going to places that you should be going to and not venturing out onto the web which can put you in quite a predicament in certain situations. I think we all know what I mean by that.
BELVA SMITH: Pirating software too. People think I’ve got this free music site and I’ve got this free movie sites. Along with those free movies and thosee free music, you are getting all kinds of stuff that you may not even be aware of.
WADE WINGLER: So is it true that if you have a Mac you don’t have to worry about this?
BELVA SMITH: No.
BRIAN NORTON: Not anymore. That story is changing a little bit. I will say I have a Mac and I use it exclusively. I don’t have nearly the amount of problems, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have certain malware or those kinds of things pop up occasionally. I don’t think that’s necessarily true anymore.
WADE WINGLER: I still think it’s much less often because is not as much of a market share with OS 10. But I think we are not completely safe, those of us who are using Mac.
MARK STEWART: A few tag-on’s there, just things that I see for somebody that might have a little bit of a learning disability, cognitive challenge, or just new to computers, things that tend to help. I know I’m overlapping some, especially with what Belva said. If you’re going to download Adobe reader, for example, it’s going to have that checkbox that wants to download something else with it. Kind of assume that. Even with the things that are otherwise legitimate or maybe even a trainer says to download, start to see how that works. It’s free and I do need it and that hopefully is going to be okay, but one of the reasons it’s free is because there’s bloatware attached with that, that might be sketchy. Get into that habit of seeing how that works and always look for what might be going along with it.
If you’re going to download things like Firefox, like Chrome, some other type of major program — I know I’m saying this in a general kind of away — really work hard to find the actual manufacturer’s website, the original, true location for it. You might even want to Google comments about where the original location is. Folks who are little more computer savvy, you kind of can tell, but it can be tricky. Without going on, do your best. Do your darndest to find the true originating site and download it from there, because if you don’t, if you downloaded from one of these other sites, it’s probably going to have some malware attached to it. You guys have seen as well, right?
BRIAN NORTON: Absolutely.
MARK STEWART: For example, downloading Firefox from the wrong location, you can get some pretty malicious malware. We see that folks give us a call, “I’m having problems with Firefox or Chrome.” You can almost guess it’s because of where it came from.
BELVA SMITH: I’ve always trusted CNET as a safe place to go and do downloads, but I’ve noticed within the last six or seven months that there is some malicious stuff there, especially like you were saying, Firefox. Just because I’m finding it and it’s on CNET doesn’t mean I’m getting what I think I’m getting. As Mark said, be careful, be cautious.
BRIAN NORTON: I just want to circle the wagons a bit. Obviously we’ve talked about viruses. They are hard to stay away from, or at least malware, adware are going to be hard to stay away from on your computer. As we circle those wagons for folks a little bit, obviously we work with clients day in and day out. We also need to think about what kinds of tools we use with our clients to be able to help them. I know for my clients, I look at Microsoft Security Essentials, maybe Malwarebytes as malware protection for them. But I know a very important thing to keep in mind when you start looking at those tools is accessibility, specifically for screen readers and other things. A lot of those things have Java applets that will pop up from the bottom right hand corner of the screen and they are not active windows, so screen readers don’t necessarily recognize that and they are providing very important in the mission I was going on on your computer. So those things are often missed. Any suggestions for folks about either good free or paid versions of virus protection, adware protection for their computer that may be accessible for folks?
BELVA SMITH: Ad-Aware does have an accessible mode, so to speak. So I do use Ad-Aware, Microsoft Internet security. I’ve had good luck with that as far as being accessible with screen readers. I do want to say at this point that it’s also very important that you keep that stuff updated. A lot of times I have clients that will say, “Well, AVG has been saying that it needs to update for the last six months, and I just keep telling it no.” Please don’t tell it no. If it’s telling you that it needs to update, allow it to update. Your antivirus, and unfortunately Windows. Ten years ago I would say no, no don’t do your Windows updates. But now you wouldn’t hear me say that. It’s very important that you keep your antivirus and your operating system both updated.
MARK STEWART: A lot of the updates in Windows update are going to be security patches. I heard you use the term that might help folks, not just updating the program but the virus definitions. The bad guys, for a multitude of reasons, want to put things on your computer. You’ve got the good guys, as we’ll call them, working for the company of the program that you’ve chosen to put on your computer to protect it, trying to state up with what the bad guys are putting on it. They are doing that not just with a whole new program, but they feed in these virus definitions to counter on a day in/day out basis the up to date problematic viruses and malware.
BRIAN NORTON: It’s going to be a challenge for folks to keep up with that stuff. But it’s vitally important. All of us use computers, or a lot of folks use computers these days and keep all of their information on it. I know I do at home. Just one download of the wrong file or those kinds of things are going to completely mess up everything you have organized and could really create some pretty big inconvenience on your end.
MARK STEWART: What about backing up? Is that going too far to roll off into backing up on a disk?
BELVA SMITH: You can backup viruses, just so you know. If you backup and you’ve got a virus, you just backed it up. Another thing that I was going to throw out there is a lot of inexperienced users will say yes to the pop-up that says this is Microsoft and we think your computer has a virus. If you click yes then we’ll scan your virus for you and get rid of that virus. That is a virus. Don’t allow any pop-up to scan your computer for anything. It’s come from Microsoft and several good anti-virus software programs. I’ve had several people that have gone viruses that way.
BRIAN NORTON: Good point. To speak back to you about the backing up, obviously if you do a whole computer backup, you’re going to back up that virus. But oftentimes I find it really helpful to keep a secondary backup of maybe the pictures that I have, important financial documents that I might have scanned into the computers I have available to me on the computer. Just keeping those important documents, pictures, those things that are really important to me that I’m going to want backed up onto either a secondary hard drive. In fact, I hear a lot of times folks talking about the three different places: having it locally on your computer; also having something physical, a physical backup drive that you have information on; but also serving it to the cloud as well; just having things in multiple locations so that the matter what may go wrong, you have access to those things.
Again, speaking to your point, Mark, the backing up, those things oftentimes have an automated backup where once a week or whatever you specify in the settings will back up those things for you. But if you don’t set those things, then it’s not backing itself up and you may be with a six-month rendition of the past of what you’re files were and not have anything up to date. So it’s really important to keep up with those things as best as you can.
MARK STEWART: I try to encourage folks to be proactive about that and do a push. Don’t assume that those programs are taking care of things, because they can be a little glitchy sometimes.
BELVA SMITH: You can scan your backup too. Just because I said that if you backup and you got a virus you just backed up the virus doesn’t mean that it’s not a good idea to do it. You can still scan the backup to make sure that it’s clean if you need to access or want to access the information that’s on your backup.
MARK STEWART: What do you guys think the best first level is at this point? A few years ago, it was a hard drive backup, right, with some software on it that would hopefully run automatic backups or use Windows backup. But that’s a physical device with mechanical parts in it that can break down. Cloud based was kind of newer. People didn’t really know how secure it was, maybe it cost more. But I’m getting a lot of vibe out there that cloud based is the level one, most efficient, first way to go, but then also be redundant with either a flash drive or physical hard drive.
BRIAN NORTON: The cloud base for me is my step number one. I prefer online tools like Dropbox or box.net, other online cloud storage areas. But I think it’s a personal preference, what you want to do, because I think a physical hard drive, a secondary hard drive, external hard drive is just as effective. What I do like about the cloud base is I can get to it from anywhere. I can get to it for my laptop and other places as well.
WADE WINGLER: I’ve got some questions about that then. I believe you need a multistep strategy. I think you need to have an on-site, in your house or office backup. For me, I run Mac stuff, so I run Time Machine on an external hard drive. I’ve just got a drive plugged in to the outside. And then I’ve got Dropbox set up. I’ve played with things like Backblaze and other services where you pay a monthly fee and it automatically backs up.
A couple of things about that. One, I started with, I believe it was Backblaze, one of the paid backup services. It sucked down so much bandwidth on the initial backup that my cable Internet bill went up the first month. I ended up throttling that back and eventually abandoning that whole set up and relying on Dropbox. Brian, you mentioned Dropbox, and it made me raise my eyebrows a little bit. Dropbox synchronizes with a folder on your computer across the cloud to other computers, but if you do something that you erase the folder on Dropbox on your computer, does it not then also erase on the cloud and erase it across the board on the other ones? Isn’t that a situation where if you erase your backup Dropbox on your computer, you’re probably going to erase it everywhere and you’re kind of messed up at that point?
BRIAN NORTON: I don’t know. You’re giving me that look, too.
MARK STEWART: Yeah.
WADE WINGLER: I think that’s a common misconception, that if you are backed up to Dropbox you think you are backed up, but you’re not. You’re just synchronized. If you wipe stuff on your main computer, you’re wiping it everywhere. Within moments it will catch up and erase it everywhere, right?
BELVA SMITH: Yes, that is right. I personally am not as faithful with backup as it should be, although I tell everyone to do it.
WADE WINGLER: True confessions from the trainer.
BELVA SMITH: Exactly. But I do believe that you need it in multiple places, especially really important stuff. So I suggest either having it backed up a portable hard drive, from drive, CD, DVD, or something, along with having a backup. What’s that backup site?
WADE WINGLER: Blackblaze, the one I just mentioned?
MARK STEWART: Carbonite?
BELVA SMITH: Carbonite.
WADE WINGLER: They’re all competitors.
BELVA SMITH: Carbonite. If you’ve got really valuable stuff — I don’t think most people would need to worry about using a surface like that for family photos because more than likely you can put those on a DVD and be safe with that. But if you’ve got important documents, you might want to consider a paid for service like carbonate. I personally have never used it, but I’ve heard nothing but good things about it from folks that have used it.
WADE WINGLER: Very unscientificly-speaking, I think we’ve just done the cross-section of how people do with their backups. Well, what I say I do, what I actually do, and oh, is that really working, and uh-oh.
MARK STEWART: Right after the time I need to go back up.
BRIAN NORTON: Carbonite is around $60 per month.
BELVA SMITH: I think it’s a little cheaper than that now.
MARK STEWART: Belva, you mentioned location and then went on to something else. It’s a fantastic point, the logic of that. If you have a hard drive backup or a flash drive backup, and even if mechanically it doesn’t fail, well, God forbid, if there’s a fire, if somebody comes in and steals your computer and they are thorough, they’ll take that as well. To your point, that’s the logic of also having the cloud or something like that because it’s going to be in a different location.
BRIAN NORTON: I just realized I’ve got lots of holes in my protection now that I simply just use Dropbox. I’m going to go out and figure out what I need to do to make that work for me. Very interesting.
WADE WINGLER: So I’m googling here real quick, and it looks like the Carbonite — and we are not endorsing Carbonite particularly, but they are about $60 per year for that system. That’s the personal. They have personal and business and different levels. And then I looked at Backblaze, which is $50 per year. So that’s kind of the price levels you are looking at those kinds of things.
BELVA SMITH: Which is really cheap if you’re talking about losing important documents or things that can not be replaced.
BRIAN NORTON: You don’t care until it happens to you, then you wish you would’ve spent the 60 bucks, 60 bucks to make it right. Because it’s going to create a whole lot of hassle for folks.
WADE WINGLER: Like any kind of insurance.
BELVA SMITH: Right.
BRIAN NORTON: So our next question that came in is what is My Healthevet? I’m going to open that up to the group here.
BELVA SMITH: My Healthevet, and I say that “E” with emphasis because that’s the way that it’s spelled. It is a web-based web portal, so to speak, place where veterans can go and keep track of all of their medical history.
There are three different levels. It’s free, so it doesn’t matter which level you have; they are all free. I’m not sure exactly what the criteria is to get the different levels. One of the levels, you basically can just login and get updated health information in general, get your health information. Your medical professionals can also login and look at your medical information. You can order your medicine through the VA, through that website as well.
Some of the medical professionals are only going to, if they have not already started, only communicate with you through what they call a messaging, which is primarily an email program. But you’re not emailing individual. You’re emailing a group. So for example, it’s one general email that would go in to, say, our vision team. I might get it, Jim might get it, one of the team members would get it and respond to it. So if you wanted to ask any kind of a question, you could message through that system. You also keep track of your upcoming appointments through the My Healthevet. If you need to change an appointment, you can do it through the messaging.
BRIAN NORTON: Right. And I guess I should mention, as a part of this question, we see a lot of vets in what we do. We do work with voc rehab here in Indiana and surrounding states. We also work with the VA, the VR [vocational rehabilitation] system through VA. We also do a whole lot with the VA prosthetics department, the local VIST team, specifically on the vision side of things. So this is a particular question directed at the vets that we serve.
It does look like they are three different versions. There is a basic, there is an advanced, and there is a premium. They all give you a different level of access to your medical records. It’s really something that we are seeing a lot outside of the Healthevet. This is kind of their version of what other places are doing as far as health networks being able to do more and more online, and as a patient or person that receive services from them being able to see your health information via the web instead of always having to do that in person or passing paperwork back and forth through the mail and stuff like that. I just wanted to preface the question for folks.
BELVA SMITH: It is going to become the only way that you can communicate with some of the health professionals. They won’t accept a general email. They’ll only take the messages through the messaging. You can sign up yourself online by going to the website, or you can go to the VA and they will help you set it all up. What you have it set up, it has to be activated. So I think that takes about 24 hours or something like that for it to actually become active so that you can have full access to the privileges that you have with your level.
BRIAN NORTON: It sounds like you’ve worked with a few folks with Healthevet?
BELVA SMITH: Yes. I’ve set many people up with it. I’ve also trained many people how to navigate the web portal.
BRIAN NORTON: I was wondering about the accessibility. Does it seem pretty accessible with the adaptive software that folks are using?
BELVA SMITH: Oh, yeah. The messaging has some screen reading issues, but it works fine with screen magnification. And it works with a screen reader; there’s just some flukes.
MARK STEWART: In our work, we travel the state, and I think Belva, you’ve been working the most with the vets, perhaps by far of late. Just that program and also just remote access capabilities from rural locations back to the VA hospitals, some awesome potential and stuff going on already, correct? As far as being able to communicate from home more efficiently with the doctor, with the health professional?
BRIAN NORTON: I think that’s the whole purpose behind it, is they have lots of vets in a rural areas. It’s just oftentimes difficult for people to get to the doctor back and forth.
BELVA SMITH: This isn’t to prevent them from going to the doctor. They still have to go to the doctor.
BRIAN NORTON: Right, right, but you can pass information back and forth much easier and in a much more faster way.
BELVA SMITH: All your information is in one place, one system. You may have literally 10 or 15 different professionals that you’re working with through the VA hospital, for example, but this is just having your information in one place.
Yes, Brian, what you referred to earlier, my doctor is doing something similar. It’s called My Chart, which basically, once I signed up for it, all of my doctors can see all of my stuff in one place. And then also to allow them to be able to reorder their medication and see what medications they’ve had bad luck with or good luck with, whatever. As far as being a way for those folks that are rural to have a tool to be able to communicate and stay informed, yeah, that’s the whole purpose behind it.
BRIAN NORTON: Great. That’s My Healthevet. We’ll put a link in our show notes to that site that talks a little bit more about that, a little bit more about the three different levels, the basic, the advanced, and the premium. It tells you a little bit more about what types of services you get based on those different packages and how that kind of helps folks.
BELVA SMITH: There is a phone number there too if you want to call them and have them walk you through getting it set up or created.
BRIAN NORTON: Next question. What are the differences between Dragon Standard, Dragon Premium, and Dragon Professional?
Obviously, Dragon is a voice input program, and there is a few different versions of the program. We use it a lot for folks who have difficulty with turning their thoughts into writing, dysgraphia, those types of things, also just difficulty getting access to a traditional keyboard, traditional mouse. It can do lots and lots of different things for folks. But there are some distinct differences between Standard, Premium and Professional. We find ourselves, as we work with folks, kind of vetting out what particular features do they need, what do they not need, and making sure that the funding sources are purchasing the right person for folks. I’ll open that up.
BELVA SMITH: Didn’t there also used to be, or is there still, Dragon Home and Dragon Medical?
MARK STEWART: The Standard actually isn’t current anymore. I think it’s Premium, Professional, and —
BRIAN NORTON: There are three different versions. There is a Home, there is a Premium, and there’s a Professional version of Dragon. As I work with folks and try to explain the differences between the software — I won’t get into all of the nuances. I may let that kind of flow to others in the room. But as I explain in layman’s terms, it’s really for dictation. You use it to be able to dictate your words, have them turned into text on the page, and that works great for folks.
A distinct difference from Home to Premium would be that in the Premium version, they have what I would refer to as text macros, where I can create custom commands to be able to put text on my screen. So I can say “my address”, and by saying my address it would put my address on the page, not just “my address” as in words, but my actual address which I won’t repeat on the radio today. But it would actually put that forcing, my city, state, zip, anything I really want in there. So I can create text macros in Dragon Premium.
When I talk about Dragon Professional, I take the next step beyond that where, instead of just text macros for folks, it will also do computer macros, which will allow you to manipulate the cursor, open and close programs. It does a whole lot for you to be able to automate the computer system for you. So if there are inaccessible buttons inside of a certain program, I can get Dragon to follow my mouse cursor, do all sorts of different keystrokes and combinations of different things and tie it to a voice command so that when I say a two or three word command, it will go ahead and fire off a series of steps that I’ve included with it. I find those are really the three distinct differences between the programs. They all offer different various features, but that’s where I would start with folks.
MARK STEWART: That’s my core as well, most of which you taught me. I would add on to that, that the switch from what used to be Home to premIum, level one to level two, is that all of them work with word processing programs like Microsoft Word. But the more basic version, the Home version, isn’t certified or locked-in to work with spreadsheets like Excel. That is a common feature that could be handy to folks.
BRIAN NORTON: That’s great. There are a couple of other versions out there that aren’t widely used – or maybe they are, but not in our particular areas of interest and service. There is also a Dragon Legal Edition which comes with a language component that includes specific language modules for folks in the legal profession. That is out there as well.
There used to be one called Dragon Medical, and now they’ve changed that. It’s not within that suite or the lineup of all the software. Mark, I know you’ve worked with it a couple of times. I’m not sure specifically what it’s called nowadays, but is different than it used to be.
MARK STEWART: It’s a little tougher to find, but it still exists as such. Dragon Medical Practice Edition is the standalone one that you can purchase. They are up to Medical Practice Edition 2 now, but they are rolling out a lot of initiatives having to do with networking and all hospitals and stuff like that. But you can get a standalone. It’s targeted more for the small doc’s office, but for example, if we needed for an individual with a disability who is in those types of fields, that would be the one to get as well, Dragon Medical Practice Edition 2.
BELVA SMITH: Brian, remind me again what’s the question exactly?
BRIAN NORTON: The specific question is what are the differences between Dragon Standard – or Dragon Home as it’s called now – Dragon Premium, and Dragon Professional.
BELVA SMITH: I’ll just throw a quick note here for folks that are using screen readers or screen magnifiers. In order to use Dragon – because one of the common questions that I often get from the folks that I work with is well, I heard there is this great program that will allow me to control my computer and dictate to my computer called Dragon. I want to get that.
I just want to throw out there to those folks, in order for you to use Dragon NaturallySpeaking with a screen reader, there is a third program that you have to use, and you do have to use a specific version of screen reader as well as a specific version of the Dragon NaturallySpeaking. The third program is called J-Say. That program marries the two programs, the screen reader and the speech recognition, together and allows them to work on the same computer. I just wanted to throw that out there.
WADE WINGLER: J-Say is specific to JAWS and Dragon, right?
BELVA SMITH: That’s correct.
BRIAN NORTON: From what I’ve read and what I understand, the three things that are included – because really, I think what folks are trying to decide between or should I purchase Dragon Home or should I purchase Dragon Premium. Dragon Professional is pretty expensive. It’s about $575. So for a lot of folks, the price point for that really takes that off the table a lot of times unless you have a funding source. The three things I think you’ll find in all of those programs, both of those programs, Dragon Home and Dragon Premium will turn your voice into text on your screen. Both of them do that very well.
MARK STEWART: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think across the board. So all three of the speech engines are the same.
BRIAN NORTON: That’s my understanding. I think so. So you’re going to get that recognition accuracy from both of those programs. It should be pretty similar. The other thing that it’ll do in both programs is, I think will also be able to manipulate the mouse in both programs. You should be able to click. You should be able to move and drag that mouse with voice commands between both Home and Premium. And then the third thing, which I think you kind of alluded to as well, Mark, was both of those program, the Home and Premium version, will work with a word processor, whether that’s WordPerfect, Open Office, or Microsoft Word.
WADE WINGLER: WordPerfect? Who is using WordPerfect?
BRIAN NORTON: I don’t know.
MARK STEWART: Used to be my go to. What are you talking about?
BRIAN NORTON: The things that do not happen in Home that will happen with Premium is, like you’ve mentioned, Premium comes with a specific support for Excel and PowerPoint.
A feature that I find a lot of my folks using, because I am working with folks with learning disabilities, the future of having things read back to you. I think that’s a really helpful correction tool for folks. So after you voice something on the computer, there is a way to have that spoken back to you. I think that only a Premium version. That’s only something that you’ll find in the Premium version. So you can say select a certain block of text and have it read back to you. That’s really helpful for correction and spelling and making sure that your document has been edited correctly.
I think another option that I’ve read about that’s only available in Premium would be the ability to use two different inputs, microphone inputs, maybe a Bluetooth microphone and a USB microphone, with the same profile. So you can add or move around microphones as well. Those are some things that I’ve read that are different.
And then jumping from Premium to Professional, just the automation piece that comes with Professional is really what stands out to me as the real difference maker. For some folks, it is worth the $575 that you pay for the automation, specifically depending on what the tasks they are doing on the computer. You can make that really hum for somebody who may have difficulty getting access to a particular program or being able to be fluent or proficient with the computer in certain respects.
MARK STEWART: The macros, let me drill down on that. You mentioned the text macros, in the beginning, for Premium. Considering cost effectiveness, going from the Home version to the Premium version isn’t as big as a jump nearly as it is going from the Premium version to the Professional version?
BELVA SMITH: Right.
MARK STEWART: It depends on the individual. We mentioned some things about how the Home version will fit the bill. Prices change, but we are talking about jumping up $100 or so, may be a little less depending on sales and stuff like that, sometimes quite a bit less to go from Home to Premium.
Those text macros that you mentioned are cool sometimes. I think a classic example would be for a long archaic email address, you can create a verbal command where you say “my email address” and it types out that long archaic string. Those types of things can be really handy. You can do it with business addresses, things like that, as well as the other improvements that you mentioned. So it’s not as big of a leap cost wise to go to Premium. I wanted to point that out.
A bigger leap pricewise to go up to Professional, but the different types of macros as you described, those macros that sometimes it’s worth it because it helps the person with really substantial physical disabilities. But their job is very consistent with regard to what they had to access. Sometimes that can be worth the extra cost.
BRIAN NORTON: Right.
MARK STEWART: What I’m doing there is giving you my two cents in the way I think some of those things through.
BRIAN NORTON: That’s great.
BELVA SMITH: Mark, you may not know the answer to this, and that’s okay. But what will like I get with Dragon home for $80 that I can’t do with Windows speech recognition?
BRIAN NORTON: Let me jump in on that. Windows speech recognition is also a very good voice to text application that’s located – it came out with Windows 7 and now it’s gotten better as they gone to Windows 8 and other places. It’s very good. In fact, I’ve got some clients who prefer that over Dragon. I think the differences I find with it a lot is Windows speech recognition works really well in Windows applications or Microsoft applications. So in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, it seems to do a very good job. What I think the real difference that folks may find – and the sweet spot that I find from most folks is Dragon Premium, that thing to be able to do –
BELVA SMITH: Yet, but I’m just going with the Home.
BRIAN NORTON: The Home? In my humble opinion, usability is a little bit better. I think recognition accuracy gets a little bit better. Their speech recognition engine behind the scenes is very good. It gives you high levels of accuracy. I feel like usability is much improved. It’s a little smoother for folks. But I have people on both sides of the fence. I have some folks that I work with that prefer that Windows speech recognition. Again, as I go about my job, I lean into what people prefer.
BELVA SMITH: I’ve always had a good experience with Windows speech recognition. I understand the difference when you get into the more advanced versions of Dragon. You can’t even begin to compare those two at that point. But as far as the Home version, I was just curious if there really is a huge difference in what it can do versus what speech recognition can.
BRIAN NORTON: Yes.
BELVA SMITH: Okay.
BRIAN NORTON: There are some definite benefits to it.
MARK STEWART: Maybe I didn’t hear you say cost. Window speech is free, embedded. So when you consider the cost-effectiveness factor, you can do some good things with it. They had some type of speech way back in XP.
WADE WINGLER: Than Vista. It got much better.
BELVA SMITH: Seven is when it really good.
BRIAN NORTON: Our next question is our wildcard question of the day. I’m going to turn the mic over to Wade and I’m to let him ask that. We are going to scramble to find what we think is the answer.
WADE WINGLER: This is not only my favorite part of the show, it might be my favorite part of the whole week, when I get to throw a question a you guys that you don’t get to prepare for.
Seriously, in the last few weeks as we are recording this, I’ve been doing a lot of speaking at universities as part of disability awareness kind of stuff. I had somebody come up and ask me this question cold, and I didn’t have a good answer for them. So I’m going to throw this question to you guys and see if you have an answer for me. I had a gentleman walked up and said, “Hey, you’re the assistive technology guy. Tell me, what’s the best smartphone for an adult with ADHD?” I went “Uh, tell me more.” He goes, “Well, you know. Smartphone. ADHD.” That was all I had to work with.
BRIAN NORTON: I think that’s not enough information necessarily to give a grade-A answer to. Obviously we would have to meet with the person in figure out exactly when they say ADHD, was does that really mean day to day for the person. If we are specifically talking about smartphones, maybe the first thing I would say is do they really need a smartphone? Can they use a flip phone with just buttons on it so it’s not so confusing and there isn’t so many things that are kind of flashing in front of you. That’s maybe the first thing I would say in regard to that.
MARK STEWART: I’ve got a wildcard question answer. The one that they want. Right? Shotgun answer. Smartphones tend to be pretty amazing off the shelf these days. That factor of having one that they actually want to have around and are interested in might make the difference.
BELVA SMITH: I think my first question back to the person would have been what is it that this individual wants to do? Because that’s going to be how we are going to determine which phone is going to be appropriate. For example, Brian, you said maybe a flip phone might work. Maybe a flip phone might work if all we need to do is make some phone calls or take some phone calls. But if we’re trying to use it as a tool to help us remember when to do things, as a directional tool, then we would probably need to be looking at a real smartphone or a different smartphone. So that would have been my first question. No matter what the situation was, if someone says to me what’s the best, I always say what it is that you want to do. Because what’s best for this might not be what’s best for that.
BRIAN NORTON: I was going to throw one more thing in there with regard to the question. Maybe the question is a little bit off in the respect that it’s not necessarily be a smartphone for someone with ADHD. It may be the kind of apps. Because really a smartphone is a smartphone. You can go from an Android to an iPhone. Really what makes those phones particularly special with regard to ADHD or other disabilities is the apps that you might put on them. I think we’ve talked about before there is a couple of different organizations that have lots of tools to be able to go search for apps like BridgingApps.org and other places. It’s really maybe not necessarily the smartphone itself, but it’s what kind of apps can I put on my smartphone to be up to help me more.
BELVA SMITH: I think to go back to what Mark said, it is about what the individual wants. So that would be the second thing, I would suggest you get different phones in your hand and see which one feels good in your hand, which one can you use with ease, and also which one is going to do what you want it to do.
MARK STEWART: You can go to your store, send them to the store to try it out. The story I’m going to describe I’ve seen play out just a little bit differently, but almost otherwise textbook, time and time again, say it is ADHD or some other cognitive challenge where organizational strategies or things that might be lacking and we are trying to focus on, so we are considering a smartphone or modern technology or an iPod touch, what have you, to see if it would help. The way the conversation goes is that they have been trying to stay organized and maybe had tutors or proactive family members or what have you, but they use a hard copy calendar book, but they keep losing it. It should be pretty scary, and sometimes is, to think this through. Well, if they are losing their hardcopy, and extensive calendar book, then are we going to recommend for them to have an expensive high-tech device to keep things on? Is that even going to be worthwhile? For one reason or another, I’ve pushed through with that and gotten that device for them, followed up in a year, and they are still using all kinds of stuff, but they don’t lose that smartphone.
WADE WINGLER: That’s interesting.
BELVA SMITH: And they have Find My Phone if they turn it on and set it up. You’re right. There is something about that tool that they want to keep near and close to them.
WADE WINGLER: Because it has Trivia Crack on it.
BELVA SMITH: Exactly.
WADE WINGLER: The funny thing is the way I ended up handling that question, it was one of those deals that I was getting ready to go on and give a talk so I couldn’t engage the person and ask the questions. I’m impressed with what you came up with because it was what I came up with. I hope it’s the right answer.
What I said was, you need to engage the people that you know who have smartphones. Talk to your friends, talk to your family. I sent it to show you their smartphone so that you get exposure to the different things that are out there on the market, maybe not in the context of being in a sales pressure situation where you feel like the guy’s trying to sell you something, but where you can talk to people you know a little bit more comfortably and ask them what they like about the smartphones. And because this tournament talked about ADHD, it was interesting. It’s not like he said I’m totally blind and need a smartphone. He’s talking about the kind of tools that people are going to be using, regardless of whether or not they have something like ADHD, just reminders and scheduling and stuff. My answer was to just push back and say talk to everyone you know that has a smartphone and asked them to show you how to use it. Tell them what you’re having trouble with and asked them to solve some of your problems. Because I bet that sort of homegrown crowd sourced solution will give you lots of information. And then I said, if I don’t have any other information, then I would pick an iPhone. The reason I would pick an iPhone is because there’s just more apps. There are more options out there and you get a lot of people you can talk to.
BELVA SMITH: I’ve used that exact answer but the iPhone, because the iPhone is more popular. Currently there are more apps available and more and more apps being created as we talked.
BRIAN NORTON: I think obviously that’s a loaded question. Maybe that’s something we can kind of vet out a little bit in a future show. Maybe we can answer that question more fully with a little bit more time. I think we are running short on time today, so I would say maybe we will look at in the next couple of weeks tackling the question a little bit more thoroughly for folks about some of the different apps that are out there and other nuances that may come about with that.
Because we are out of time today, I just want to say thank everyone here in the room. Here’s how to find our show. You can search assistive technology questions on iTunes. You can look for us on Stitcher. Or visit us at www.ATFAQshow.com. Also, please call and chime in. We love to hear your question. In fact, without your questions, we really don’t have a show. Be a part of our show. We love to hear from you. Our listener line is 317-721-7124. ATFAQshow.com. Or you can Tweet #ATFAQ and slight or just email your questions at email@example.com.
BELVA SMITH: See you in two weeks.
MARK STEWART: See you next time.
WADE WINGLER: Later.
WADE WINGLER: And it seems every week we have at least one blooper. Here we go.
WADE WINGLER: Mark is raising his hand on a radio show. Yes, Mark?
MARK STEWART: It’s the radio. I just want to make sure he’s going to cut this out.
WADE WINGLER: Don’t worry about it. I’ll edit it.
BRIAN NORTON: He made a little mark on his pad.
BRIAN NORTON: There are some definite benefits to it.[phone beeps]
WADE WINGLER: Belva, did you just accidentally activate Siri?
BELVA SMITH: Yep.
BRIAN NORTON: [mumbles]
WADE WINGLER: Belva, tame your phone. It’s buzzing the whole table.
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 steward 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.