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.
And so today we have kind of a regular crew here. I want to welcome Mark. Want to say hey?
MARK STEWART: Hey.
BRIAN NORTON: And Belva?
BELVA SMITH: Hey.
BRIAN NORTON: And Wade is also in the room.
WADE WINGLER: Hey, hey, hey.
BRIAN NORTON: And so we are back to kind of our regular crew. Just wanted to, for those folks that haven’t had a chance to listen to last week show, just want to recap and plug that show for you. Last week we had some special guests on the show with us. Craig Burns from our staff who has spent 15 plus years in the augmentative communication field was on the show, and we also had John Effinger from the Illinois Assistive Technology Act on the show as well talking about augmentative communication and some of the things related, lots of questions related to augmentative communication about not just funding but also devices and when is the appropriate time to recommend other things. So if you haven’t had a chance, definitely take a look at it. It was a really good show.
I wanted to kind of for our audience talk about the show a little bit, tell you a little bit about how the format works. So this is a question and answer show. Without your questions, we don’t really have a show, so there are ways for you to ask your questions. Like I said a few minutes ago, we have a listener line. That’s 317-721-7124. You can also send questions to us over email. That’s at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can send them through Twitter as well. You can post your question out there on Twitter with the hashtag #ATFAQ and we kind of monitor Twitter for the information as well. So the show comes out every other week, so please definitely check us out. You can find our show on iTunes, ATFAQshow.com, our website. You can find us on Stitcher or at eastersealstech.com.
So without further ado, we’ll jump into our first question. This was actually a question that was sent out via Twitter with the hashtag #ATFAQ. The question was, is there an app that will allow students to type and then highlight text in a variety of colors? They’re looking for an app that has the minimal steps preferred. They didn’t want to have a whole complicated ways to be able to make that happen. So I’ll throw that out to the group. Is there an app that will allow a student to type in information and highlight the text in a variety of colors?
WADE WINGLER: Just to clarify, are we talking a computer app, a tablet app, iPad? Was it that specific?
BRIAN NORTON: I’m assuming because they mentioned app I think they were looking for kind of an iPad app. But they did not — the question wasn’t very specific whether was computer app or other things. Either/or.
BELVA SMITH: Can I just throw in when you guys provide us with your questions, the more information that you can give us helps us come up with the answers. So if you’re asking a question about your operating system, if you can be specific about what the operating system is, whether it’s Windows 7, Windows 8, Mac OS, whatever, that’s really helpful for us to do our research.
WADE WINGLER: And do it in 140 characters or less.
BELVA SMITH: Exactly.
BRIAN NORTON: So let’s refocus the group back onto is there an app, and we’re going to talk about mobile app or an iPad or maybe an Android app, that will allow students to type and highlight text in a variety of colors? Again, with the extra step of minimal steps preferred if possible.
MARK STEWART: The answer is yes. I know we talk about this a lot. I’m interested in you talking out of the gate.
BRIAN NORTON: I did a little bit of digging into my iPad and a lot of the apps that I have stored on there, and I started to play around with lots of them to see what would happen if I could do that. A couple of them that came to my right away is the new Word app for the iPad, and the Word app definitely does that. There are also apps like notetaking apps that people have Notebility or Audio Note are also a couple of options where — those are really — I don’t know if you guys have had a chance to take a look at Audio Note or Notability, but they are really fascinating apps that do a great job of not only allowing a person to take notes, but then you can do highlights, you can annotate them all over the place. It’s just a really sophisticated notetaking application for the iPad or Android if you’re using Audio Note.
MARK STEWART: This person may be leaning into or just starting an investigation process where they’re looking for the multisensory approach to learning, be it an app or application on a computer. But perhaps they know about those things and they are asking a specific question, saying that they really benefit from color or a particular color. Maybe yellow doesn’t work for them very well, but they realize that some of the colors make things pop. So they might be asking kind of a technical question about applications that have a lot more control and really maybe have more than yellow and green. I may defer back to you, Brian, to talk a little bit more about Audio Note, Notability. But if we can go the computer route, I think likely one of the most robust solutions for them would be Kurzweil 3000, the writing applications within Kurzweil 3000 where you can write and type, get auditory feedback which they didn’t specifically ask about, but then you can turn around right away and highlight your work in most every color in the spectrum and lots of different combinations. You can change the color of the highlights of the whole sentence. You can change the color the highlights the particular word that’s being read back. And then you can control that for, again, not just the feedback part — for example, if you’re going to be writing a paper, making an outline, you can coordinate things based on theme and color. So that might be the kind of thing that they’re looking for. What are your thoughts on that?
BRIAN NORTON: Absolutely. We probably all have run across kind of the theme when we meet with folks about certain colors they can see very well that kind of helps draw their attention toward something on the screen, helps keep them distracted from other things that are happening on the screen, helps them focus in a variety of ways. So, yeah, I think you’re right with looking at very specific colors, just how broad of a range are you looking for, and does the app have a particular color that you need and want.
As I was looking at my iPad, I found lots of other apps that I have there, a couple of them I’ll throw out there as well. One was Claro PDF, and Claro Speak is another one. I don’t think Claro Speak has the option to highlight per se. It’s just more of a speaking app. But Claro PDF certainly, and then Voice Stream is another one where they don’t have the ability for you to actually type into it necessarily, type out a message or something like that, but you can bring up written documents and then do lots of annotation to them. So whether that be writing with a pen on top of it or typing in and over, kind of making a Post-it note kind of annotation into it, but lots of different options that way. As well as the highlighting piece that that person was for. But that one doesn’t allow you to type. You could type it into another app and then open it up with and Claro PDF or a Voice Stream and do some pretty neat annotations within that document.
MARK STEWART: And if they are also really emphasizing that — to use the word robust again — the most robust writing capability and usability, they may be interested in application on the computer to power away with Microsoft Word or what have you or within a Kurzweil or Claro Read for the PC and then really take advantage of the highlighting features as much as possible.
BELVA SMITH: And what about Read Write and Gold? I haven’t had the opportunity to work too much with that type of software, but I know it does allow you to type and then go back and highlight and even put in audio notes. Didn’t they recently come up with an app for the iPad as well? Or am I wrong?
BRIAN NORTON: Text Help does have an app for the iPad so absolutely it does. I’m not — it’s been a little while since I interacted with the app to know if it specifically would apply to the question that we have before us. But they do have an app for the iPad. And there are lots of programs, and they range greatly in cost. For the PC application of things, we mentioned Kurzweil. That’s probably the top end. It’s about $1500. And then all the way down to maybe a Scan and Read Pro from Premier Programming which is more in the lines of $200-$300 for scan and read, and then notetaking.
BELVA SMITH: And Notability is, what, $9.99? Or is it $4.99?
BRIAN NORTON: Notability, I think, is $4.99 last time I looked.
MARK STEWART: Back on the PC, there is more middle-of-the-road to high-end players, Wynn from Freedom Scientific. I guess on this topic, I had a consumer client in particular – talking to someone with a learning disability, went and met this person, and they had set out a whole bunch of colored pencils and pens already, multicolored, and their handwritten notes on paper, there wasn’t anything in black. It was all in color. And this is the way it ended up with this case, that in particular, color just made things pop. That was what got them over the hump as far as being able to — there was almost a memory issue when it was black and white, and colors just triggered the right types of channels in the brain and that was the answer. The client was going off to college, so we wanted to set her up with computer technology and all those sort of things available, and it ended up being Kurzweil that we used, but not so much for the auditory feedback and some of the other more classic reasons it’s used. She just wanted those multicolored highlighting features, and that’s really all she needed and that was the main thing that she took a vantage of.
BELVA SMITH: Interesting.
WADE WINGLER: One of the things I thought of while we were sitting here, we also have some AT specific apps that will do that. But I just found a pretty cool website. It’s by a guy named Brett Terpstra, who’s sort of famous in the MacWorld, about text editors that are generally used by computer programmers but have the ability to do syntax highlighting. When you write in code, that’s really important to be able to color code certain words in certain ways. He’s got a list here of maybe, I don’t know, 100 different apps that are designed specifically for writing computer code that have the ability to do text highlighting or syntax highlighting. Some of these are free and some of them cost, you know, $10 or $15. I did notice that Notability which we consider an AT app is also listed among them, so I’ll pop a link in the show notes over to this Brett Terpstra that’s all about computer programming apps that have some ability to do color highlighting, and that kind of might be something that’s helpful.
MARK STEWART: I’ll just note this for a moment. I think the foundation is fascinating. There is specific areas of the brain that are set aside for memory of color and memory of 3-D shape and memory of two-dimensional shapes. So there’s the potential to, you know, have certain channels that are really hampered, but who knows? Those channels and those memory mechanisms for color might be particularly heightened or intact. So let’s take it manage of them. It’s our job to find the technology that backs that up.
BRIAN NORTON: So our next question is where can I get a Lucy keyboard? Specifically, or maybe before we answer where you can get it, for other listeners, maybe let’s talk about what it is. What is the Lucy keyboard? Maybe where you can buy it. Talk a little bit about cost. Just to kind of start the conversation, I did a little bit of research on the Lucy keyboard. It’s not keyboard that I’ve had personal appearance with, but what it is, is it’s a keyboard that uses an alternative input. The particular place that I went talked about for those that aren’t able to get access to normal keyboards, they can operate the Lucy keyboard with essentially a laser pointer. So you wear a special pair of glasses or maybe a hat or something like that that actually has a laser pointer on it. And by pointing that laser at the screen, you’re able to then, with a little bit of delay by hovering over the key be able to press that key. And that’s very similar to other kinds of technologies that we use. There are head pointers for a mouse that use reflective dots, so instead of having maybe a laser pointer on the glasses, you maybe have a camera or an infrared sensor on top of your screen that’s bouncing off a reflective dot back onto your monitor, and you’re moving your head around and being able to activate keys on the screen with a little bit of delay by hovering over what I call dwell select option for folks. It’s a very interesting keyboard, and we’ll kind of stick a link to the page where I found it on the Internet so people can kind of take a look at it.
BELVA SMITH: Brian, did I misunderstand? Because when I was researching, I didn’t think that it was a special kind of glasses. I thought it could just be any kind of glass because it’s really all about the pointer that gets attached to — like, if you’re wearing your standard glasses, you can attach it. Or if you just wear a baseball cap, you can attach it.
MARK STEWART: I thought they mentioned even handheld as well if you are so capable.
BELVA SMITH: Yes. And the gentleman that I was reading about was boasting on the fact that he was typing like 100 words per minute.
BRIAN NORTON: Correct, yeah.
BELVA SMITH: So it’s extremely fast if, you know, you get talented at it. I do want the listeners to be aware though, too, because as I was researching, it appeared to me that it was only compatible with Windows 98, XP, and Vista.
MARK STEWART: Correct.
BELVA SMITH: So should you be using one of the newer operating systems. And if you’re using one of the older ones, I would be very cautious about spending the amount of money that it costs with the older operating system. But I don’t know. I mean, the research I was looking at was from 2015, so I don’t know if they have updated their software or if it’s still just compatible with those older operating systems.
WADE WINGLER: And it looks like it’s being developed and sold from the Netherlands as well. I’m looking at the website now, and, yeah, it does seem like it only works with Windows XP or Vista.
BELVA SMITH: I did see 98 somewhere.
BRIAN NORTON: And it does look like it also – you don’t have to use the laser pointer. You are right. It is just a laser pointer that attaches to a pair of glasses or touches your hat, those kinds of things. It looks like you can also maneuver that mouse pointer over the screen, over the keyboard, and be able to activate it as well. It also has some single switch activation features, probably most likely for the mouse options that might be available for folks. The specific question is where can I get a Lucy keyboard. There’s a website called Lucykeyboard.com, and on that website, there’s a specific link for basically it says “Buy Lucy.”
BELVA SMITH: Yeah, when you click on that “Buy Lucy,” you’re not really buying Lucy. You are filling out a form and waiting on them to get back to you. So it’s not like you’re actually making the purchase.
WADE WINGLER: It’s an inquiry form where you can reach out to them.
BRIAN NORTON: Interesting.
WADE WINGLER: It seems to be a very small company creating a limited number of these. And are there other products in this category that we use pretty routinely?
MARK STEWART: There are. To broaden the discussion, playing off of this question, Brian, you were summarizing this. There are. Let me start off by answering. I haven’t had this in front of me either, but what they seem to be part of and selling as it were with regards to the Lucy keyboard is efficiency and accuracy. And that is the challenge, a fight that we are fighting, with regards to this topic of if somebody’s going to be using this without their hands, they probably have a pretty substantial disability, and they have a number of challenges with regards to coordination and endurance. So the subtleties really matter.
Some of the things I saw, again without having my hands on this device, that I potentially like is the accuracy of the laser. They may have actually dialed in the sensors a little bit so it’s efficient that way. It’s also a dedicated keyboard set aside on its own so it’s just larger. In their literature, they knew that there are other approaches to keyboarding or navigating the computer if you can’t use your hands. They were saying that this can be more efficient and you don’t have to move your head as far. That could be it’s the laser technology is really accurate, as I said. It’s a larger device. The keys are arranged in an efficient kind of the way and they are larger. Now you should have to move your head less to be able to get to that key without making a mistake. That’s a challenge we have sometimes when we have an onboard virtual keyboard or on the computer screen, a virtual keyboard, you still want to see what’s going on on the computer itself, so the keyboard is pretty small and that can effect targeting. Brian, there’s the low Mac keyboard that we worked with and have in the lap?
BRIAN NORTON: Yeah. That’s a very similar keyboard. It does have a light pointer, kind of a headband you can wear. It has a light pointer. You shine it at the keyboard. It’s got its keys arranged in a very specific manner, almost looks like the old-style telephone dials. You can simplify it based on the person’s experience using it. So there are overlays that you can put on top of it to be able to dial it down a little bit depending on what their experience with the computer is. That works very well. That’s the low Mac keyboard. I’m also thinking of the head mouse extreme that’s out there. That’s an infrared.
MARK STEWART: Smart Nav 4 by Natural Point, as well.
BRIAN NORTON: Absolutely.
BELVA SMITH: Did we mention the price of this?
BRIAN NORTON: No, we didn’t. The price from the website that I was at was about $4100.
BELVA SMITH: That’s what I found too.
MARK STEWART: That’s for the Lucy keyboard.
BRIAN NORTON: And you’ll find some of the other technologies are much less expensive. The Smart Nav 4 that Mark just mentioned is about $400. Again, depending on what you’re doing, I mean, obviously there may be some advantages to the Lucy keyboard versus these other things based on what Mark was saying. It’s really something to get in there and get researched or maybe go to an evaluation site, take a look at all of these things that you can to make the most informed decision on what you’re setting yourself up with.
MARK STEWART: Brian, you may have summarized this exactly, but I’m thinking of the listener who may be kind of new to this topic. So in summary, if we’re talking about hands are severely affected, maybe a lot of the rest of the body is severely affected, ALS, MS, high-level spinal cord injury. Things you might be looking at are eye gaze where you just use the eye muscles and the neck really can’t work voluntarily very well at all. If you have a little bit of voluntary use of the neck, now you might be able to use these head pointer devices that we were talking about where the device on the computer actually senses the movement of a dot on your forehead. And then we have this approach of putting a laser on the side of your head are on a pair of glasses and then targeting the keys so that you don’t have to physically type the keys in. Perhaps that’s helpful just to go to those categories again.
BRIAN NORTON: Absolutely.
BRIAN NORTON: Okay, the next question is if I can only do one thing to make my web store more accessible, what should I do? I’ll kind of throw this out to the group. I’m kind of looking at Wade over here in the corner of my eye. I know he deals with web authoring and those kinds of things. He’s kind of a webmaster in another life or something like that. I’m kind of looking at him out of the corner of my eye. But I know something for me that I run into a lot when I’m working with clients and I go to a place where things aren’t very accessible for them specifically those folks using screen readers, is when they come across something that isn’t labeled very well. So they tap across something and it says image, blah, blah, blah, and it doesn’t describe or doesn’t say anything to them that makes any kind of sense about what it really is. So I think those are called alt tags in your web browsers. Anyways.
WADE WINGLER: I think there are a couple of different levels of issue going on here. It’s interesting that they said a web store and how to make it more accessible, because web accessibility is kind of one of those never-ending battles. It really is a battle of awareness more than it is a critical battle. It’s about getting the people who design web systems and web content to understand how to make their stuff work better for assistive technology. A lot of that boils down to screen readers. Screen readers are probably one of the hallmark assistive technologies where you really need to make sure that you are developing your content in an accessible way.
But there are kind of two things going on here. I don’t know very many people who make their own web storefront. Most of the time, unless you’re a big company, and you have an in-house team of developers, most people are using a module on a website. Maybe they have a WordPress based website, or maybe they go to one of the companies like Square Space or one of those companies that let you sort of build your own website. And usually the store part is something that you turn on or that’s built into the website. So there’s what is built into the website in terms of the store and then there’s how do you put stuff in it. There’s an opportunity to kind of mess it up in both situations. If the web store module on your website, whatever it happens to be, isn’t built in an accessible way to begin with, then you’re kind of hosed, right? You’re not going to be able to make something accessible based on top of a framework that’s inaccessible to begin with. So I guess my first piece of advice would be you’ve got to talk to the people who are hosting website or providing you the content management service or the CMS that allows you to build your website. And you got to ask them is it accessible. You want to ask them some specific questions. You want to ask them are they built in such a way that it’s 508 compliant, or do they comply with the WCAG guidelines which is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. I’m going to guess that a lot of times the manufacturers or the developers of those systems aren’t going to know the answers to that. You’re going to have to point them to the resources. So if you go to the W3C website which is w3c.org/wai, it’ll kind of give people sort of an on-ramp in terms of how to build the website in such a way that is accessible. I guess before you pick a tool that lets you open up a store on your website, you want to talk to people who create it about whether or not the architecture itself is accessible.
And then once you choose a web store system that’s accessible, then you’ve got to make sure that the stuff you put in there is accessible, right? Kind of the building analogy works in the situation. If you’re going to start a store in the building, you want to make sure that you’re using a building that has ramps. It doesn’t have a big staircase and the front of it. And then once you find a building to rent that’s accessible and has the right doors or the right ramps or whatever, then you also want to put your shelves and your products in there in such a way that they are accessible. If you put the shelves too close together or the aisle to close together, somebody can get a wheelchair through there. If you don’t label your product so you don’t put them in an order that makes sense, and it’s not going to be very accessible either.
So if you’re building an online web store, you need to be able to make sure that when you put the description of your product in there that you write and in such a way that it’s clear and easy to understand. If you’re putting pictures in there, and most of the time you’re going to have a picture associated with the product in your web store, you do want to make sure that you put a text alternative on that, alt tag or something that allows somebody who sees the picture to also get a narrative description of that. If you are selling your product or services, and that includes video or audio content, you want to make sure that it’s captioned so the people who are deaf or hard of hearing can get in there. You know, there are all sorts of guidelines about don’t put a flashing thing up there because it might induce seizures. There’s all kinds of good things about contrast and reading level. So for the developers to make the web store, the w3c.org/wai is a good resource. And also for people who are putting content into the website, that’s the same good resource, w3c.org/wai. And then I also like to encourage people to invite assistive technology users to test her stuff so that a real person gets the chance to look at it.
BRIAN NORTON: Because it goes beyond just meeting standards are meeting a guideline for what you put on your website and how you label it. I deal with this a lot with the folks that I work with. It’s also about usability. It’s going to take me 20 keystrokes to get to something on the website. It can be a real problem. It can take a long time for people to get down and dig down to where they want to be and where they want to go. Sometimes they just give up before they ever get there because they’re just not getting there. It’s usability as well, not just meeting the basics. You’ve got to think about usability as well.
BELVA SMITH: And I don’t think it’s just for the screen reader users. People tend to think web accessibility means that a screen reader has to be able to do it. It’s more the people that are using screen magnification as well as the folks that are using voice recognition. Things need to be written the way that they appear visually on the screen so that I can navigate them. Wade, there’s a tool that I often — because I had the exact question presented to me from one of my clients about six months ago. My answer to her was you go and make sure that whoever is doing this for you is following. One of the tools that I will have folks try is called Wave. Have you heard of it?
WADE WINGLER: Use it all the time.
BELVA SMITH: Okay. That is wave.webaim.org. You can put your web address in there and it’ll search your page and let you know what’s accessible and what’s not accessible.
WADE WINGLER: Web Aim is another really good resource for accessibility and development.
MARK STEWART: Quickly back to question number one that was about highlighting. There are these plug-ins by companies like Kurzweil 2000 that allow a more stripped-down version of their software where it can be read back to you and it’s highlighted as it goes along. That works on some pages and not on others so that’s an interesting point, Belva, that we need to be careful not to just be traditional about populations we are picking about.
BELVA SMITH: Right.
BRIAN NORTON: You’re talking about specifically web plug-ins and stuff like that for websites?
MARK STEWART: Right.
WADE WINGLER: Another quick thing that I’ll mention. At the time of this recording, we are recording this in early May 2015, Section 508 of the Rehab Act is also going under a refresh in Washington DC. When that legislation originally came out, it certainly addressed accessibility for buildings and parks and stuff like that, but it happened before the web was kind of a thing that was ubiquitous and being used everywhere. As we are recording this, there are town hall meetings happening where people who are on the access board, which is the federal government’s accessibility group, they are talking about how can they reinforce accessibility on the web and what is that going to look like. So we’re going to see probably shortly after this recording some new legislation related to how to make your web stuff work better.
MARK STEWART: Wade, how do you think these are going overall, broad strokes, with regard to universal design and those types of movements?
WADE WINGLER: I think we’re getting better by and large. I think it’s getting better overall. I think some of the tools are having a big piece to do with that. I think the move towards mobile is making people simplify and be a little more thoughtful about design we talk about web accessibility. I also think that the K-12 world is moving more towards online content in general and e-books and stuff like that. So I think some of those forces are kind of pushing the issue of accessibility, and I think sometimes is more incidental than intentional. But I think it’s getting better. At the same time, the amount of content is exploding. So in some ways, you wonder how good can you get and still try to catch up with this rocket ship that’s going 1 million miles an hour. I don’t know, the altruistic part of me says it’s getting better.
BRIAN NORTON: Next question is can I get my iPad connected to a Verizon or another data plan, maybe Sprint, AT&T, because I don’t have a Wi-Fi connection at my workplace. So I’ll throw that out there.
BELVA SMITH: This question is the one that made me think, gee, we need more information, more information, more information. Because it really depends, first of all, what version of iPad are using and when it was purchased. When you purchase an iPad, you have to kind of decide at that point are you looking to connect with Wi-Fi or cellular or both, because that matters as to what version, we’ll say, of the device you buy. So for example, if I’m an AT&T user, I need to make sure that I’m purchasing my iPad to work with AT&T. If I then later change my mind and said I want to switch to Verizon, I have to buy a new iPad. It’s my understanding. At this point, I don’t think there’s any way to change that. So for this individual question, I would have to know when it was purchased. Was it purchased to include the possibility of having a data plan? Or was a purchased maybe just to be Wi-Fi? And then if it was purchased for a data plan, was a purchased for Verizon or was a purchased for AT&T? I mean, I know that you can do the crazy thing with your phone and crack it so that it can work with either one, but I don’t know that you can do that with an iPad, or even if you could, if you would really want to. So I can’t – I don’t see how we can possibly answer the question without knowing what type of iPad to have. Take it into the store. They can certainly tell you if they can put it on their data plan or not.
BRIAN NORTON: Right. That’s definitely a decision that you need to think about as you purchase the iPad. There are those two different versions of the iPad. There’s a Wi-Fi only. There’s the Wi-Fi + Cellular version. And that’s really an upfront purchasing decision that you need to make.
BELVA SMITH: I think with the iPad Air 2, you no longer have to decide whether it’s going to be AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon. But you do have to know if it’s going to be data or Wi-Fi or both.
BRIAN NORTON: Right. When I’m looking at the website right now, they include some built-in support for AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile, and they say optionally you can add support for Verizon with an additional SIM card. Some of that support is built and now where I know back in the day you had to actually specify this is a person iPad, this is an AT&T iPad. And really, for the end user, there is a significant cost difference. I mean, are talking anywhere from $400 around that range up to $600 depending on $400 for the Wifi only or $600 for a Wifi+Cellular iPad. That’s not including AppleCare or any of those other costs that you probably want to consider when you purchase one.
BELVA SMITH: Right. So I know as I’ve made recommendations over the last couple of years, that’s always been an upfront question that I asked. You know, are you currently using an AT&T plan or a Verizon plan or do you plan to in the future? So that I can try to play off of what they are currently using. I also know that for those folks that may have a data plan but don’t want to have to pay the monthly fee or sign a contract or whatever, most of those providers will provide you a month by month if you want it, now. So for example, when we use my boyfriend’s iPad when you travel, we just get a month’s worth of data. We can get it by the week or anything, but we get it by the month. And then we turn it off when you get back home.
WADE WINGLER: I want to loop back to the whole carrier issue. So when you’re talking about the iPad, we are really talking about a collection of devices in there. There’s a processor, memory, camera, soundcard, and then there are a couple of different radios. So one is a Wi-Fi radio which is what allows you to connect to the 802.11 or whatever, so that’s a Wi-Fi radio. Your regular iPad has a Wi-Fi radio in it. Then the one set our equipment so your have at least one more radio in them. So when you connected via cellular, you might be using LTE or CDMA or GSM, different kinds of connections castles got to have the hardware. It has to have the right kind of radio to connect, and then you have to have a SIM card. So the radio allows you to connect to a particular company’s tower, and then the sim card is programmed to say okay, not only are they connected but they are also an authorized user. This is their phone number and it’ll happen. It’s my understanding that in the older model iPads, it didn’t have multiple cellular were radios in it. You had to pick whether you had an AT&T radio in your iPad or you had a Verizon or a Sprint radio in your iPad. Now they either have – and I don’t know what the cuts are. You can look it up on iFixit. You can look and see whether — it either has multiple radios in it or it’s got a radio that’s smart enough to speak all those different frequencies. On the Apple website, it even tells you which radio frequencies they are talking about. So it seems to me that on the newer model iPads, you can get the cenotaph to work on different carriers. It is going to require a difference in.
BELVA SMITH: And Wade, when you say Sim card, to me that’s a like something that I the user can just switch out.
WADE WINGLER: Yeah, I think so, or the store for sure. It still a microchip that they popped in your phone at the store.
BELVA SMITH: That’s good. That’s why I was excited to see that look like with the iPad Air 2 that I was no longer committing myself from now until the lifetime of my iPad to a particular carrier. We met one more thing I want to chime in here. I think the reason we all aren’t solid experts on this exact issue is for two reasons: one, we had a hard time getting out funding sources, vocational rehabilitation in most cases, to pay for the stuff. So because it’s an ongoing cost to the end-user, we are usually recommended the Wi-Fi models because that’s what we know that we can get paid for. And then the other thing is we also internally definitely have this need We don’t use or cellular iPads. We have hotspots or we get our iPhones to become a hotspot to provide that data connection. That’s another reasonable solution to this problem. If you got a Wi-Fi at that and you have a smart phone that connects the via cellular data, you probably can turn your phone into a hotspot that then your iPad can connect to. Your phone starts acting as a Wi-Fi signal at that point and you just sort of piggyback your iPad onto your smart phone and you may not even need to buy in your iPad because your smartphone may already be providing that connection. You just tell your smartphone to share it over to your iPad.
BELVA SMITH: And quite frankly, Wade, when I explained this all to the folks that I’m working with, most of them say all gone now, forget it. If I get to pay monthly service charge for the data plan, I don’t want that. Just give me the Wi-Fi.
WADE WINGLER: Yeah.
MARK STEWART: And to be sure, in the state of Indiana, we also need to be careful about setting folks up for ongoing cost that they are stuck with after the process that the other was really needed is over with. Just a different way of saying the same thing, from an advocacy standpoint, we are actually looking out for them too, to not just assume that they can take on monthly costs.
BELVA SMITH: And maybe the possibility of paying a huge deposit if they aren’t currently using an AT&T or Verizon, they may end up having to pay huge deposit just to get a data plan started.
BRIAN NORTON: So here’s a subsequent question for me. I’m wondering can you get an iPad that is Wi-Fi+Cellular but just don’t activate the cellular piece of it.
BELVA SMITH: That’s what I was saying earlier. That’s what we do with Todd’s. We only activate it when we go to travel. So we end up paying one month’s worth of data service and then the other 11 months out of the year it’s not active.
MARK STEWART: I wonder if — check my logic on it — back to the specific question. Like Belva said, we don’t know, but let’s say this person did happen to have an iPad that is only Wi-Fi capable. Did Wade come up with a solution going to the phone as a hotspot?
WADE WINGLER: Yeah. If your phone can turn into a hotspot and drive that is only Wi-Fi, do it all the time. You could piggyback. And then you’re not by two data packages. You just want to make sure that your smart phone package has enough data to accommodate what you’re going to do on your iPad. If you start watching Netflix all the time and you had a fairly small data package, you may be surprised when you get your bill.
BELVA SMITH: Yeah, definitely check that out before you start doing it.
BRIAN NORTON: Just as a rapper to the question, it sounds like obviously it’s a purchasing decision. When you go to purchase your iPad, you should be thinking through that kind of information about who do I want to be my provider and am I going to want the cellular functionality because it’s going to cost me more in the end. Also think about your other devices. Do you have another phone that actually can connect to the Internet and maybe can tell you that to your iPad to provide that wireless connection. There are lots of possibilities there.
WADE WINGLER: And now it’s time for the wildcard question.
BRIAN NORTON: Okay, our next question is the wildcard question of the day. For that, I’ll let Wade take the mic.
BRIAN NORTON: I love this part. I live because nobody but me knows the question until this very moment. This is a question not really about assistive technology, although I think it unveils some assistive technology stuff. Are you a Mac or are you a PC? Do you use a Mac or do you use Windows, and why? And if there was ever a change, when did that change happened and why did it happen? So we’re going to go around the horn, and I’m going to start with Brian.
BRIAN NORTON: Okay. Well, I use a Mac exclusively. I made the change to Mac probably about two years ago, so my Mac is about two years old. The reason I made the change, I guess in my industry, there was just a lot built in assistive technology there. The agency I belong to is a Windows agency. That’s the pieces that the support for their folks. In our area, they are a little bit different. They kind of let us manage our own IT here in my department. I just felt the need to kind of explore what Mac was all about. I’ve really kind of fallen head over heels. I would consider myself a Mac boy. I got a Mac sticker on the back of my car, stuff like that. I’ve really found a lot of the built in accessible features of the Mac and the apps that you can download, something that’s really neat and interesting and has made my workflow may be a little bit more proficient.
WADE WINGLER: I’m going to bounce over to me and I’ll move over to Mark. Mark probably doesn’t know that he’s the reason I use a Mac, funny enough. He’s giving me this really funny look right now. So I used a Mac in college. I did some data entry for some professors and I used a Mac. I kind of liked it back then, but then when I came to work here at Easter Seals crossroads, it was all about DOS at the time and early windows, so I switched to a PC. But Mike spends a lot of time in Bloomington, Indiana, and turned me onto the Indiana University surplus store a number of years ago, and he said mankind can get all kinds of cool stuff there. So I wandered into the Indiana University surplus store probably five or six years ago and was just looking for stuff. I ended up buying my daughter an electronic keyboard there for a Christmas present so she could play the piano stuff. I saw this Mac for $100 and I thought man, I really loved working on a Mac when I was in college. It was almost Christmas time, so I thought I’m going to splurge for myself and get a Mac for Christmas. So I did and I got it home and I hated it. In fact, I named it nemesis. The name of the computer was nemesis because I couldn’t get it to work and I couldn’t get it to work. It turns out that it was an older Mac running an operating system that really wasn’t optimized for it. But in figuring out how to make that Mac work and getting under the hood and fussing with that, I understood as a to get a grasp on some of the elegance related to the Opry system. And then I started investing some time and energy into it is starting to love some of the things they could do. Over the course of about a year from buying this used Mac that I really fought with, I ended up getting a Mac at work and started getting into the apps and the productivity. For me, I kind of feel like I spent the first 10 or 15 years of my career working on computers and trying to get them to work, and then there became a shift in my career where I just wanted the computer to work and I wanted to focus on creating the content and writing and producing audio and more artistic kind of things. So once I switched over to a Mac at that point, then I don’t think I’m heading back. I’m a full-time Mac all the time. I not only have an Apple sticker on my car but I have a black Apple sticker on my car which is what you get with a Mac Pro. That’s the super snappy sticker on your car when you have a Mac.
BRIAN NORTON: It took me almost a year to become comfortable with my Mac because my fingers, it was muscle memory for keystrokes on the Mac to be able to figure out what am I doing. When I want to close an application, I did all keystrokes for things, so alt-F4 on Windows is now Command-Q on the Mac and it took me about a year for me fingers to relearn where I need to go to be able to hit those keystrokes. Now I work with folks and do assessments and trainings and things like that, so now I’m returning myself every time I sit down someone to say oh, my goodness, what was the Windows keystroke. They’re just different enough that it can throw you for a tizzy.
MARK STEWART: PC at the moment for me. A few reasons. I was raised up on PC, and that’s what I’m familiar with. In my current role, I do a lot of case management, just business productivity and efficiency and power using Outlook and things like that, so I like and hold onto that business productivity, no-nonsense kind of logic with the PC. But I actually have no particular preference. It’s not an emotional thing for me as far as the battle between PC and Mac. I work with folks out in the community that have different types of jobs or off a college and things like that, and if a Mac is more appropriate for them or that’s what they are familiar with, then I readily recommend Macs and do my best to train them on Macs. Really, it’s somewhere on my to do list to switch over to Mac, but that muscle memory and those types of issues that Brian was talking about are a real concern of mine with regard to staying productive and efficient.
BRIAN NORTON: Yeah, actually, I’m challenged to go that direction just so that I know more about computers overall. I actually need to get in your computer coming up, and I think I’m going to go PC. Call me a wimp.
WADE WINGLER: Belva, I wanted to save you for last.
BELVA SMITH: Both.
BRIAN NORTON: No.
WADE WINGLER: No.
MARK STEWART: No.
BRIAN NORTON: You like to tease, Belva.
BELVA SMITH: Now, I’m dead serious.
WADE WINGLER: You’re an imposter.
BELVA SMITH: I’ve been doing both for a long time. My very first Mac was the iMac that was the huge little pod thing. I said they named their —
WADE WINGLER: The lamp?
BELVA SMITH: Yet. They should’ve named that the iPod. But I got it because, let’s just face it, Apple’s cool, right? I set it right next to my lovely PC, and I used to just sit and look at it and think, wow, that thing is really beautiful. Oh, I think I’ll open up a window over here. So currently I no longer have that iMac. It’s gone. I let go of it last summer. But currently I have a Mac that I’m running Windows on. Brian seems to think that I can’t let go of Windows, but I’ve got to do both. My honest answer is both because all the training that I do is Windows. I very rarely get to do any training on a Mac.
WADE WINGLER: Brian and I are bursting over here.
BELVA SMITH: Yeah, I know.
WADE WINGLER: You’ve got Mac hardware but you only run Windows on it. It boots up, it says Microsoft.
BELVA SMITH: This is not true. There’s Mac running right in the background.
WADE WINGLER: But you never touch it. You just run Windows on your Mac.
BRIAN NORTON: You’ve got parallels on your Mac —
BELVA SMITH: I do.
BRIAN NORTON: Which has Windows.
WADE WINGLER: You didn’t realize the show was an intervention did you? So she runs Mac hardware but she runs Windows all the time.
BELVA SMITH: Yeah. My Windows looks really cool when I close it. It’s got that nice apple on top of it.
BRIAN NORTON: That is a really interesting thing. You can do that.
BELVA SMITH: And if you look at the end of the day, what did I do the most of that day? It’s going to be Apple, between my iPhone and my iPad, you know.
BRIAN NORTON: Right.
WADE WINGLER: But it’s interesting because Belva does a lot of JAWS training, a lot of screenreader stuff, and she does it right there on your Mac. Our internal document management system, our electronic medical records system, is a PC-based system, so she running Windows and JAWS and stuff on her Mac all the time. She could switch over and use the little icons on the bottom of her dock if she wanted to. Someday she might.
BRIAN NORTON: I keep preaching to her. I will say in the field we find ourselves in, in assistive technology, there is still a greater amount of assistive devices for the Windows environment than there is for the Mac environment. However, we are finding that pendulum swing a little bit more to where there’s just different camps when you’re concerned with accessibility. On Windows, it’s a lot of third-party stuff. There is some stuff that’s built into the upper system. Over here on the Mac, there’s other camps that will say everything is built in and there’s lots of great inherent tools built into the Mac, and they are there for you to use. But again, when you’re talking about a very customized software package, I’ll just throw Kurzweil 3000 out there, which is available on both environments, so maybe that’s not the best product to be able to throw out there.
BELVA SMITH: Throw JAWS out there.
BRIAN NORTON: We’ll throw Dragon. Dragon is a great program. I mean, Dragon is a great program. It works really well. It’s just not developed as much for the Mac environment as much as it is for the Windows environment. So we had to make some tough choices on what kind of operating system you want to put someone on based on the adaptive items that we can put in front of them to make them be the most successful and productive with the equipment that they have.
BELVA SMITH: Well, and even though the software might be developed for both, and I know for a fact that this is true with both programs that you just mentioned, and I throw some text in there, it’s made for both Windows and Mac, but yet the things that I can do with it in the Mac environment are very limited compared to what I can do with it in the Windows environment.
WADE WINGLER: And I think that’s typically related to the fact that Mac and Apple operating systems in general are less permissive. They have more stuff locked down so the apps don’t have the same ability to get under the hood into things in the Apple ecosphere is they do on Windows.
MARK STEWART: And I think it’s important. We can have personal fun battles on preferences and stuff like that, when it comes to assessment and what have you, we really need to be objective and look to the person’s future and what they are used to and my two best with.
BELVA SMITH: And I used to always hear that if you are doing anything with photography, you had to have a Mac, because PCs just couldn’t do photography the same. That was always just a myth and still is a mess. Some people believe it, but it’s really not true. Mac and Windows are very much the same. But in the business world, you’re going to find more PCs than Mac.
WADE WINGLER: Yeah, the market share is still very much Windows.
BRIAN NORTON: All right, thanks everyone. Thanks everyone for coming. Again, here’s how to find our show. You can search assistive technology questions on iTunes. Look for us on stitcher. Or visit ATFAQ show.com. Also please call and chime in. We love to hear your questions. In fact, without your questions, we really don’t have a show. So be part of our show. Again, our listener line is 317-721-7124. You can ATFAQ show.com, send us your questions there. You can Tweet hashtag #ATFAQ or email us at email@example.com. Thanks and have a great week.
WADE WINGLER: Take care, everybody. Have a great week.
BELVA SMITH: Thanks. See you in two weeks.
WADE WINGLER: Happy springtime!
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.