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, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The world of assistive technology has questions, and we have answers.
Today I’d like to welcome the panel that we have here. First person is Belva Smith. Belva is the team lead for our vision team here at Easter Seals Crossroads. Belva, you want to say hey?
BELVA SMITH: Hey.
BRIAN NORTON: Second person in the studio here with us is Mark. Mark is the team lead for our mobility and cognition team here.
MARK STEWART: Hey, everybody.
BRIAN NORTON: Hey there. And then behind the board we have Wade Wingler. He’s the director of our technology division here at Easter Seals crossroads and the host of the popular podcast AT Update.
WADE WINGLER: Hey, hey, hey.
BRIAN NORTON: So some info for any of our new listeners here, just kind of a little bit about how the show works. This is a question and answer show, so people submit their questions and then we as a panel kind of toss them back and forth, try to answer them for folks. If you’d like to be a part of our show, you’ve got a couple of different way to submit some of those questions we talked about a bit earlier. But please, if you also want to be able to find our show Please check us out. You can find us on iTunes. We do have a website set up. It’s ATFAQshow.com. Or you can find us on Stitcher or at www.eastersealstech.com. You can drill down to our show through there as well.
Without further ado, we’ll jump into some questions.
BRIAN NORTON: So our first question today was an email that we received. It says, I’m looking for a math program that can enter numbers and fractions into a worksheet but haven’t been able to find one. The student I’m working with has ataxia and is able to type with the key repeat feature slowed way down on his laptop computer — so they do have some typing skills. The question is, is there a program that will help me do this? I’ll throw that out to the group.
MARK STEWART: I have a thought.
BRIAN NORTON: Great.
MARK STEWART: It sounds like the ataxia effects them quite significantly. It could affect their voice as well. If not, if they have a sufficient amount of voice control, and they can use Dragon NaturallySpeaking voice recognition software, there’s a program, actually a bundle of two programs, that can be bundled with Dragon called Math Talk, bundled with Scientific Notebook. It’s mathtalk.com. We’ve worked with that a few times in certain situations. What that allows you to do is to use certain customized commands that will now let Dragon do more higher-level mathematic and even scientific functionality. So you have certain commands that will make certain formulas be written out and things along those lines.
BRIAN NORTON: We’ve used the program many times over the years. One of the challenges I think I found with that, and I think other people would probably concur with it, would be just the simple getting it installed. It’s quite a challenge. There’s lots of T’s to cross and lots of I’s to dot with the installation process. If you miss something along the way, it just doesn’t work very well. So you have to be very meticulous as you install the program to get it to work correctly. But it is a really good program, and it is a really good job of being able to take voice commands and turning it into text. Now there is also a pretty large learning curve, I would assume, with that because of all of the new language that you need to learn to be able to get it to put the right kind of math symbol or equation out there. But is that kind of what you found over the years?
MARK STEWART: Exactly.
BELVA SMITH: And is it Windows 7 and Windows 8, or just Windows 7?
BRIAN NORTON: You know, I don’t know. I’ve got it up here. I brought up the website.
BELVA SMITH: The reason I asked the question is because we’ve got Windows 10 just weeks away from being released, so I’m just curious.
BRIAN NORTON: It looks like it’s both Windows 7 and Windows 8 compatible.
BELVA SMITH: Oh, good.
BRIAN NORTON: The most recent version, it kind of works with all Dragon NaturallySpeaking versions, but specifically 12 and 13 which are the most recent versions of it.
BELVA SMITH: And that would be Professional or –?
BRIAN NORTON: Those would be — you know, I don’t know. Mark, do they require Professional?
MARK STEWART: No. It’ll work with Premium.
BELVA SMITH: Oh, wow.
BRIAN NORTON: Great. So that’s a really good program. Another program that I’ve used occasionally is something called MathType. I don’t know if folks are familiar with what an on-screen keyboard looks like, but it essentially puts a visual representation of what a keyboard is. MathType is a Mac keyboard that will work with all sorts of different programs, things like Microsoft Office, Apple iWork software suite, Gmail, Blackboard, all those other kinds of places. It puts up essentially an on-screen keyboard where you can then simply take the mouse, click on a particular symbol, it inputs it wherever your cursor was within a particular program, and allows you to then be able to type those equations out and have it show up directly in the program you’re working in. That seems to work pretty well for some folks. Specifically if you do have — I guess you do have to have a basic feel for the keyboard or be able to access the keyboard pretty well to make that work. But that seems to be a pretty good program as well that I’ve used for a couple of clients in the past as well.
Other programs that I’ve kind of stumbled across, especially in the PC environment, there is one called Math Pad. That’s made by Intellitools Math. In fact, there is a Math Pad Plus which will allow you to do fractions and decimals and different things like that, which is specifically the question that the process and about, how do I do fractions. That’s something that folks should check out as well. It’s pretty basic. In fact, it talked about skill levels between the third and the fifth grade, so if you’re getting too high level math, probably not the best. But it does work in Windows and Macintosh computers. But according to their website, it does say it’s only compatible up to Windows Vista, so it doesn’t even have Windows 7 or Windows 8 listed there. In fact, they talked about having a patch needed to be able to get Vista to work as well. Maybe something to check out for those folks who may have a little older computer system.
And then just a couple of other programs I want to highlight for some folks just because I think they’re kind of cool and they kind of have some implication in this particular question. I was working with a client a while ago, and one of the challenges they had, they are actually using an iOS device. Their school provided iOS devices for folks, and the real challenge for them was they can scan in a math worksheet and bring it up on the screen, and then the user could actually handwrite the answers on there, but his handwriting was poor. He had dysgraphia so handwriting was kind of all over the place, so they actually found a program and an app that I kind of really like. It’s called Mod Math. Mod Math is a pretty interesting program where essentially it gives you a grid on the screen where you can tap into a particular grid or cell within that grid to be able to put numbers and letters and actually get your equations to look correct. So it gives you rows and columns to be able to line things up correctly. That’s a pretty good app if folks aren’t familiar with it. Definitely check it out. The only issue that I have with it is it allows you to be able to answer things. You can then email the answers to you with all of the work that you demonstrated on the screen, but it won’t let you port it into a different application. You can’t, say, copy and stick it into something. It keeps you from doing that.
BELVA SMITH: Can you print it?
BRIAN NORTON: I believe you can print it. I think its primary function is to email it to yourself.
BELVA SMITH: How much is that?
BRIAN NORTON: It’s actually free. Mod Math is a free app. I think they’re looking at trying to take it to the next level. If you go to the website, you listen to a little video, and they say, hey, to be able to take it to that next level of higher level math, we’re going to need some funding. They ask you to donate. But as a basic K-12 environment type of a math program, it does pretty well.
BELVA SMITH: For free, it sounds like a great place to get started.
BRIAN NORTON: Absolutely. And there’s a couple of other iOS apps I’ll throw out there. Check out Math Pad. There are two different versions of it. There’s Math Pad for the iOS which is not the Intellitools Math that we talked about before. There’s two of them that you can download. One allows you to actually handwrite an equation. When you handwrite the question, it’ll turn it into text, and that will allow you to port into different apps if you want to. The other one is — I forget the actual name of it. It’s Math Pad, but it’s got an additional little piece to it. It essentially allows you to type using an on-screen keyboard and be able to put the equations in there.
I will say there is an in-app purchase that’s needed for you to be up to port it to another program. That’s called multi-docs. If you’re going to use that particular app, if you do want to port it within the Math Pad app to something else, you’re going to need an in-app purchase to be able to make that happen.
MARK STEWART: Brian, you reminded me of something. Stepping back to when you first started speaking, you mentioned MathType. I don’t think you mentioned the website. I happened to be able to pull it up here. The company is Design Science, and it’s dessci.com. It doesn’t speak to this question specifically, but the company does have a bit of an assistive technology for layer or interest so they have some other plug-ins like Math Player and some things that use optical character recognition software that actually might help a teacher write out questions and things like that in mathmatical formulas or have it read back to a student with a visual issue.
BRIAN NORTON: Absolutely.
WADE WINGLER: And there’s another app that doesn’t do exactly what the caller’s asking here, but I found this very helpful, called My Script Calculator. Have you guys seen this one yet?
BRIAN NORTON: No.
WADE WINGLER: It’s for iOS and Android. It allows you to, with a stylus or your finger, draw the equation, and then it converts it to numbers and solves it for you as well. So the example on the website here says the square root of 36 times 81 over 8. And you just draw that and with a stylus leaving and it types it out and solves it. I’ve used it and it’s pretty cool. It’s a free app as well.
BRIAN NORTON: Great.
BRIAN NORTON: The next question is, is the ZoomText software able to be deployed over Citrix in the Zen desktop?
BELVA SMITH: No.
WADE WINGLER: Nope.
BELVA SMITH: That’s the short answer. However, with all that’s been going on with the merge with AI Squared and GW Micro, they are working to improve — I don’t know if improve is right word — grow, I guess, their software. They’re welcoming questions and concerns. Because we all know the ZoomText isn’t compatible with the Citrix environment, it’s a good time to call them up and let them know or send them an email — in fact, they are really encouraging folks to do that at this time — to let them know that you do need to be able to access the ZoomText in Citrix environments. I’ve had several situations where we needed to use ZoomText and were not able to. I know that this question is specifically asking about ZoomText, but I don’t know if the person knows that Magic is Citrix compatible, so it may be another option to look at and may be a suitable solution for the time.
MARK STEWART: For those folks who aren’t familiar with Citrix and specifically the Zen desktop, I recently had a situation, actually a low vision user was working for a bank, and what they do for their tellers is they have a server-based desktop for somebody. So basically they have terminals at their particular teller stations, and when they log in, the server is remotely sending them an image of their desktop. That’s kind of how the computer is deployed and the software is deployed. It’s from the server side. There is no real computer sitting there in front of the person. It’s basically a window into what the server provides for them.
I actually recently did talk to AI Squared tech-support about this particular issue because of the bank I was working for. They very specifically said that there is a driver issue that they’re trying to work on and fix, but they are not there yet. They directed me to somebody on staff that is kind of taking those questions and is actively working on that issue. But you’re right, Belva, the magic software is Citrix compatible. I’m not sure if it’s specifically compatible with the Zen desktop, how they deploy that desktop, but they do say they are specifically Citrix compatible. That’s a good thing.
BELVA SMITH: Do you think the Zen desktops are something that’s becoming more popular?
BRIAN NORTON: I don’t see it often. Most of the folks that I end up working with, they have a PC sitting at their desk or they have a laptop sitting at their desk. I don’t see a lot of server-side stuff. I’m sure it is popular depending on where you work in what you’re doing.
WADE WINGLER: And I’m seeing less terminal emulation stuff like that and more just web-based, cloud-based solutions anyway. So instead of running inside of a simulated desktop, they just run it off of the website. So that’s the direction that I’m saying. That solves a lot of these problems anyway.
BRIAN NORTON: I do know Windows Magnifier, because this is what they are currently using at the particular bank I’m working with, they are using Windows Magnifier at this point. We’re just trying to identify something that’s a little bit more robust for them as far as a magnification application for the person to be able to let them see things more crisp and clear, maybe provide some verbal feedback for them. So we’re trying to look at something beyond the Windows Magnifier. But for basic functionality, the Windows Magnifier does work through the Zen desktop and through Citrix the way it should on just the average computer system.
BELVA SMITH: Yeah, I’ve been in a couple of environment where we were able to use some of the Windows accessible features like increasing the pointer — because the pointer seems to be one of the big issues for the folks that are low vision. But we’ve been able to use the Windows accessible features to be able to increase the size of the pointer, the color of the pointer, and then like you said, the magnifier, which will get you through in some cases. Unfortunately, it doesn’t offer the full variety of enhancements that you can get from ZoomText or Magic, either one.
BRIAN NORTON: This next question received through email, the question is can you please tell me how to find a landline phone for the blind with a talking keypad, phonebook, and a caller ID? So there’s quite a few features they’re looking for. A talking keypad, so when they press the keys, they want to be able to have some verbal feedback for what keys they are pressing; maybe an auditory phonebook so you’re able to have some sort of a list of automated dialing options there, that it would run to the phone book that’s there, maybe say the name associated with a particular phone number; and/or a caller ID that talk as well, all in the same device.
BELVA SMITH: The talking phonebook, I’m thinking that’s probably going to be hard to find. It’s pretty easy to find phones that are made for folks that are low vision or blind that have the audible feedback when you’re pressing the numbers, the talking caller IDs. I noticed that you found a couple of really good options as well as good resources for where to go to look for those kinds of things. I typically will start out looking at LSNS products because they have a good variety of special phones that are, for the most part, reasonably priced. For example, they have a great Emerson talking caller ID that’s only $29.95, and it’s good for the folks that are low vision as well as blind, because it has a large screen where it displays the information, but then again it also feeds it back to you. You can scroll through, and it’s show several messages so you can scroll through and play them back. It tells you who the caller was and when they called, that kind of thing. Again, it’s only $30.
Some of the talking phones get to be upwards of $200, but I think if price is an issue, if you shop around at some of the different websites, you should be able to find a decent one with large buttons. I know we bought a family member one a couple years ago that held pictures because she could no longer see the numbers, but she recognized the faces of the families, so we were able to put faces and associate the number with that person to the picture. That worked out well. I think we paid $30 for it.
BRIAN NORTON: There’s quite a range in price for sure. I had that same kind of experience you probably had. I didn’t find — and I probably spent about an hour, hour and a half, just digging into it because I thought it was an interesting question. If there was something out there, I sure wanted to know about it. I didn’t really find anything that met all the criteria. Probably the closest thing I found was something called Clear Sounds CSE 1000. You can find it at a website www.Assistech.com. They have a photo keypad dialing where you can put a photo on there and press the photo and dial up a particular number. It does announce the numbers as it’s dialed, so you can press a button once you’ve dialed the number to make sure you dialed the right one. It does have a talking caller ID. So it has a few features that the person was looking for but not everything. A couple of other websites, you mentioned LSNS products, MaxiAids.com, IndependentLiving.com, and Assistech.com, as well are other places where you find a lot of assistive devices for many different needs.
BELVA SMITH: IndependentLiving.com was the only place that I was able to find a braille button. They actually have braille button phones. That was the only place I found those. But there are also the large numbers, so again accommodating for the low vision as well as no vision. And they do have cordless. I know this particular person, I don’t think they said whether or not they wanted cord or cordless, but specifically landline.
WADE WINGLER: I don’t hear these questions a lot anymore because everybody seems to be moving to cell phones and wireless —
BELVA SMITH: Not our older generation though.
WADE WINGLER: Yeah. But one of the things that immediately came to mind for me was the talking caller ID is something that you can either get built into the phone or add on. But when we talk about the phone book and that kind of thing, I assume there is still the option for free operator assist to dial the call and free information. You have to call your phone company and explain that you have a disability, maybe provide some documentation, but my understanding is once you get that service flipped on, you pick up the phone, you hit zero, and then you explain to the operator that you’re looking for a phone number. They look it up and they connect you. That’s a service that normally costs a buck or two to use, but for folks with disabilities, unless they’ve changed it, you can hit that. You can just pick it up and hit zero so then you bypass a lot of the complexity of that. Now that flies in the face of independence, right, so that’s not the most independent option, but it’s certainly convenient. All you have to do is pick it up and hit zero.
BELVA SMITH: And that is still out there. You have to provide one-time recommendation that you are visually impaired, and then there’s no fee for using the operator or information.
MARK STEWART: You talk about that particular service that’s been around for a long time, but even with folks using cell phones and iPhones, if you turn Voiceover on, you’ve got complete voice access to the phone itself. I know the person wants to learn about landline phones, but it’s my experience a lot of people are getting rid of landline phones and just going with their cell phones.
BELVA SMITH: Again, that’s the younger generation. Grandma is not. Grandma is still using her landline.
WADE WINGLER: Some of grandma’s are.
BELVA SMITH: Exactly right. Some grandmas are but most aren’t. I recently worked with the individual that was visually impaired and wanted to try talking with a phone. I shouldn’t have brought it up because I don’t remember the name of the device that we got. But we got a device where she can pick up the phone and say “Call Brian”.
BRIAN NORTON: There’s a company called Able Phone, which has something called Vocally.
BELVA SMITH: Vocally, that’s it.
BRIAN NORTON: Which is essentially a box which sits between the phone itself —
BELVA SMITH: Right.
BRIAN NORTON: And your wall jack —
BELVA SMITH: Right.
BRIAN NORTON: And that will allow you to get some basic voice dialing abilities.
BELVA SMITH: The problem that we experienced with that is all of the information had to be recorded in grandma’s voice, which took a very long time to get programmed, and then the voice had to remain the same for each time that she said “Call Brian”. If it was different at all, it didn’t work out so well. I think that brought more frustration than it did solving her problem. But I’ll tell you what we did end up doing that worked was the picture phone —
BRIAN NORTON: Oh, great.
BELVA SMITH: Because she only needed like five people that she wanted to be able to call with a push of the button, so we got one of the picture phones, and that seems to work for her.
BRIAN NORTON: The company, Ablephone.com, they’ve got a few different options. In fact, it’s kind of interesting, I was just talking to Mark earlier today about a person who needs a completely voice activated phone, not only outgoing calls but also being able to answer the phones hands-free. They actually have a dedicated phone — I guess it’s a standardized phone, but it’s completely hands-free. It seems to be an option for what we were looking for for that particular client.
BRIAN NORTON: The next question is, will the KNFB Reader app read cans and bottles? For those of you that don’t know, the KNFB Reader app is a combination — Kurzweil and National Federation for the Blind have an app out there that will allow you to take a picture of something with your iOS device, it could be your iPad or your iPhone, and what it’ll do is it’ll look and recognize the text that you’re looking at through the camera and be able to change that and read it back to you on your screen. Hopefully that was a good installation of it.
BELVA SMITH: Answer is, yes, no, and maybe so. How does that go with your explanation? If the person is looking for an app to take to the pantry or to the grocery store, it’s probably not the best app to take with you for that. Will it do it? Yeah, in some cases. In fact, after I’ve seen this question, I thought I haven’t tried it in a while, let me give it a quick shot. If you’re looking at a flat package, it’ll do a pretty good job. If you’re looking at a rounded canned good, it’s not going to do a very good job. You might be able to get the name to determine whether you’re looking at tomato soup or green beans, but if you’re looking for the nutritional information, you’re not going to be able to get that. If you’re looking at a prescription bottle, you might be able to figure out who the prescription is for, but you’re not going to be able to get the important information that you’re looking for in most cases. Again, I would say, to go back to the question, will it read cans and bottles, yes and no.
MARK STEWART: It gets really hard when you start having these materials or what you are looking at kind of rounds off at the end. You don’t get a really good image of what is at the top or bottom or sides.
BELVA SMITH: And is it a paper label or a shiny tin can, or whatever they make cans out of now, or a plastic bottle, because that was a lot of the problem that I experienced with some of the things I was trying to do. Reflection, it just couldn’t pick the text up. I think it’s important to remember that the app is great at doing what it was intended to do, which is quick access to printed documentation. It’s number one in my book as far as the apps go for doing just that. So if you’re looking for something to take to the pantry or the grocery store, you’ll probably want to try to find a different app.
BRIAN NORTON: Tell me if I’m wrong. It pulls from different scanning technologies, correct? It’s going to pull from accessing the cameras versus some of the dedicated scanning devices which are going to use lasers of certain types that are more robust?
BELVA SMITH: I think they all rely on the camera.
WADE WINGLER: It’s all camera. I think you may be talking about a barcode reader?
BRIAN NORTON: I am.
WADE WINGLER: So when you scan the products barcode and it looks it up in a database, that’s a different situation.
MARK STEWART: But that could be what they need for this. For example, we haven’t used it as much because of all of the high technology that’s come out like what we’re talking about, but for years we use the I.D. Mate barcode scanner.
BELVA SMITH: But the I.D. Mate’s purpose is different than the KNFB Reader app.
WADE WINGLER: But I think in this context it makes sense because they are asking can it read cans and bottles. I think Mark is right. If you have something with a barcode on it and you are using a barcode reader like I.D. Mate or one of those apps that do it, it’s going to do it differently. It’s going to look up the number, look it up on the database, and read what the database says as opposed to the KNFB which is really doing optical character recognition.
BRIAN NORTON: And if it’s not in the database, you do have the option on a device like the I.D. Mate to do a custom label for something where you can really get access to all sorts of things. And if you’re thinking about apps, there are barcode scanning apps. There are recognizer that can maybe do some of the same things that you’re taking the I.D. Mate might be able to do for someone, but in an app form, so maybe the KNFB reader is used for some things and maybe some of those recognizer apps are used for other things.
BELVA SMITH: I feel like this question may have come from one of our VR counselors, because I get that question a lot. So my consumers that are looking for the appropriate apps, they want to know if about the KNFB reader app, why do they still need another app to be able to go to the grocery store, because we’re doing two different things: we’re reading mail and —
MARK STEWART: We spend a lot of time during assessments with folks looking at, well, show me the things that you need to read. Show me what’s around your house, what’s in your home, what’s at your workplace. Show me those kinds of things and then let’s figure out what kind of technology will do this for you, what kind of technology would do that for you, so on and so forth. It keeps us in business, I guess. We obviously need to assist those things quite a bit.
WADE WINGLER: I guess the other thing worth mentioning is there’s another class of apps that are the ones like Tap Tap See or the ones that rely on the human being on the other end where you just take a picture, somebody else looks at it visually and sends you back a message with the content of whatever was in the picture, so in this case the label for the can or bottle. That is another option.
MARK STEWART: The Look Tell Recognizer app is a Tap Tap See kind of app.
WADE WINGLER: Did you say that one?
MARK STEWART: I said recognizer. I didn’t say Look Tell.
WADE WINGLER: I was probably ignoring you.
MARK STEWART: I only said recognizer. I didn’t throw Look Tell in there. Those kinds of apps are all pretty useful for different applications.
BRIAN NORTON: Our next question is, I have a disability, but I would like to maintain my independence by continuing to drive. What are the steps that I need to take to be assessed? For this question, I’ve invited Suzanne Prichard who is an occupational therapist and certified driver rehab specialist here at Easter Seals Crossroads to help us answer this question, as it’s a little bit outside the scope of discipline that we have with our traditional assistive technology specialists. Suzanne is here and I’m going to let her handle the question.
SUZANNE PRICHARD: Hello.
WADE WINGLER: Hi, Suzanne.
SUZANNE PRICHARD: Hi, everyone.
WADE WINGLER: Thanks for coming by.
SUZANNE PRICHARD: It’s nice to be a special guest. I’m not usually a special guest so thank you for having me.
BRIAN NORTON: No problem.
SUZANNE PRICHARD: This is a good question. It’s a pretty broad question so I’ll answer it in some broad terms. Certainly when folks have a disability, it means absolutely nothing in terms of whether you can continue driving or not. It is important — the word “assessed” I like in that question. So it is important to be assessed to see what abilities you have and how we can match those abilities in the car so someone can continue driving.
A couple of things can make a difference here. One, what type of disability someone might have. So is it a visual disability or a physical disability or a cognitive disability, all of which are assessed well by any certified driver rehab specialist. The place to find folks certainly and the states and Canada and France, several of the countries, is the website aded.net. You can type in where you live and it will locate the nearest driver rehab specialist for you. The next piece of that would be to have that person look at some licensing laws for you, and if you need equipment, what are the regulations within the state or province to say what you need on your license to be able to continue driving.
WADE WINGLER: ADED is a good place to start looking for the professionals who might be able to help?
SUZANNE PRICHARD: Absolutely. In Indiana, we have sort of a plethora. You might be in a state or a country that has a very few and far between, but that’s a great place to start. If it’s not someone that’s sort of in your backyard, you can really call any of those folks and they can help navigate the process for you.
WADE WINGLER: Suzanne, you’re an OT and a CDRS. Tell us a little bit about CDRS for folks who might not be familiar with the term.
SUZANNE PRICHARD: Happy to. Someone who is a Certified Driver Rehab Specialist is typically someone who has come in from an allied health field, so a lot of occupational therapist, physical therapist, recreational therapists, nurses, etc. Sometimes folks have taken a driver education path, and they are specially trained and then take a certification exam. Once you pass that certification exam, then you have continued education credits and things like that that you have to complete to be able to maintain that qualification. The specialty of a certified driver rehab specialist is working with people with disabilities to be able to either maintain or gain their license so they can continue modernizing around.
WADE WINGLER: There you go. And that’s a big piece of independence. That’s a big deal.
SUZANNE PRICHARD: Absolutely.
BELVA SMITH: A couple of weeks ago — and I’m wondering about the time with this question, because a couple of weeks ago I watched a special about a young man who had no arms and no legs and was getting to drive for the first time. Have you experienced working with someone like that?
SUZANNE PRICHARD: I have clinically assessed someone who had a developmental congenital disorder, where he did not have any extremities to speak of. That person would liely use a high-tech piece of equipment. We actually don’t have high tech here at this facility, but I’m aware of those controls and how they operate and can assess to see if someone can move on to that. It is pretty amazing, as we encounter not just our clients but folks in the community, and I think when you look at someone that might have a very clear disability, a clear challenge to driving, but that it’s so likely that there is something that is out there that can match their abilities and make driving a go for them.
BELVA SMITH: Sure.
SUZANNE PRICHARD: It makes this field really exciting because we all know what driving does for everyone. We know that just because you can see this disability does not necessarily mean that you’re out of the game.
BELVA SMITH: That’s exciting.
MARK STEWART: That is really exciting. Hey, Suzanne, it’s Mark.
SUZANNE PRICHARD: Hey, Mark.
MARK STEWART: What are some of the leading edge, cool technologies out there that come to mind?
SUZANNE PRICHARD: I think all of it’s pretty cool because I’m kind of a driving nerd. I know I’m amongst assistive technology nerds so I’m in a good nerd company. I think that one of the really exciting pieces is the high tech equipment that I’m talking about because that allows folks that have very little physical ability to be able to maneuver a car. So you’re talking about a joystick that looks like the joystick that you might operate a wheelchair with, allows you to do gas, brake, and steering with that little control. There are head switches, so if you have hea’d motion — no one can see me doing this but the people in this room — which is sort of rock your head back and forth and you can engage switches that do turn signals and horn and windshield wipers with your head. I think the bioptic telescope is a pretty fascinating tool. So people who are legally blind are able to be trained on this piece of equipment and continue to safely operate a car. We are certified to do that. And really, anything, even simple mechanical hand controls, something that a vendor can pop in in a half day and it operates the gas and brake like we would. You did your hands. I think it’s all cool.
MARK STEWART: So along those lines, I’ve heard lots of stuff in the media about driverless cars and the ability to kind of plug in a start and end address —
WADE WINGLER: She’s giving you the look.
MARK STEWART: She’s bobbing the head again but not in the same way.
SUZANNE PRICHARD: She’s not activating the turn signal.
MARK STEWART: What do you think about driverless cars and what impact that would have for folks?
SUZANNE PRICHARD: I’m being half silly. I do see little segments on the shows and his papers, and I try to pay attention and read those. Those seem fascinating in a way. They seem really far off too. I think what’s in my face are the folks that want to drive yesterday. So I honestly don’t have much an opinion on those truly driverless cars. I do think there have been some really amazing engineering and technology advances in cars that help folks parallel park, check your blind spots, just the reverse cameras, those things are all assistive pieces that are great for able-bodied drivers and fantastic for folks that might have disabilities. But if we get a driverless car here, let me know. You apparently need one.
WADE WINGLER: Brian’s famous around here. We call him Crash.
BELVA SMITH: Brian “Crash” Norton.
SUZANNE PRICHARD: His appointment with me is at 3 o’clock.
BRIAN NORTON: I’ve had my fair share of agency vehicle issues. It’s also one of those things, I’ve got a staff of seven or eight folks who travel the state here in Indiana. Wouldn’t it be great to see in my car getting my work done while my car takes me from place to place? That’s the far off dream of mine down the road.
WADE WINGLER: Make it happen.
SUZANNE PRICHARD: That’s called a light rail and public transportation.
BRIAN NORTON: That’s right. Very cool. Thank you, Suzanne, for jumping in and helping us answer that question. I appreciate it.
SUZANNE PRICHARD: Thank you.
WADE WINGLER: And now it’s time for the wildcard question.
BRIAN NORTON: So our next question is the wildcard question of the week. I’m going to throw the reins over to Wade so he can surprise us with his latest question.
WADE WINGLER: You guys just never know what I’m going to send your way. Today I want to talk about augmented reality. Those are the systems where you use something like Google Glass or Microsoft HoloLens or even a smart phone, an iPad or iPhone or something like that. Augmented reality is when you’re looking through something like the glasses or a tablet and you get a computer overlay of things in the environment that are showing up.
So the two examples of mainstream apps that I have seen that work this way is a thing called — I forget the name of it off the top of my head. It’s an app that lets you look at the stars and it puts the constellations over it and gives you information about the planets and constellations and what they are. The other one that I’ve seen lately is the monocle function of the Yelp app, so if you’re standing in downtown Chicago and you pop open Yelp, and you hit Monocle, it’ll let you hold up your phone, turns on the camera, and it’s like you’re looking through the phone and gives an overlay of restaurants that are nearby, maybe tells you about their menu and stuff like that. So that’s the concept of augmented reality.
So my question is, when we talk about augmented reality in the context of using it with people with disabilities, what’s your greatest wish for augmented reality as an assistive technology app?
BRIAN NORTON: That’s a tough question.
BELVA SMITH: Far out there.
BRIAN NORTON: Wildcard it is. For me, I don’t know, we talked years ago when the stuff started to make a little bit of sense with the newer devices being able to have a forward facing camera, knowing where you are with the GPS and stuff like that. I think initially my thoughts were for folks that are directionally challenged, need help, maybe it’s a cognitive issue, a visual issue, being able to put your iPad up a little like what that Yelp app can do, you can maybe look for a mission to say I need to go to my bank, and then be able to hold your iPad up safely, not by in front of you, maybe a little bit down so you can so see in front of you, but be able to give you footprints that walk in front of you to be able to get you to those places you need and auditorily tell you we need to go. That would certainly be interesting and cool and may have some applications.
MARK STEWART: We have so many wishes. That’s the problem.
WADE WINGLER: If wishes were fishes…
MARK STEWART: So augmented reality, you’re referring to visual overlay technology.
WADE WINGLER: Specifically the scenario where you’re using the tablet or something like Google Glass where you’re looking at the real world but the computer, the technology, is providing something to augment that, some sort of an overlay. One of the academic examples that I heard about, I haven’t seen it, is let’s say you’re going to a museum or a national monument and you hold up the camera on your device or your glasses, and it tells you something about the museum display or that national monument or whatever.
BRIAN NORTON: There’s a whole lot of interactive. Like in that particular application, we’ve done some things with an app called Erasma on the iPad, which is not really augmented reality but it’s got an interesting application where if you take your phone or you take your iPad and you hold it up over something that’s been recognized and something’s been recorded, you can make whatever you’re looking at come alive and start animating itself to get it to do different things. Maybe in a learning environment being able to see the textbook come alive for you a little bit or other kinds of things in the classroom come alive a little bit, to be able to give people a different experience than just reading and writing and arithmetic.
BELVA SMITH: I don’t know. One of the things that I would like to see — and I don’t know if this is answering the question or not — is a pair of Google-type glasses that could give good descriptive information about my surroundings, my location, for those folks that are totally blind. But is that considered —
BRIAN NORTON: Maybe give them a little bit of vision about what’s in front of them and description.
MARK STEWART: That’s where I’m having a good time getting lost in the possibilities, just wanting to say I want all those options as soon as possible. That’s where I landed as well, Belva, was what we don’t have a lot of — Wade mentioned two examples — wouldn’t it be great, couldn’t we help so many people in so many creative ways with a very reliable application of, or many applications of, where it’s just part of our world now that we can just augment or change our visual experience with all this other information, in other words there’s the dictionary, there’s the drop-down list of related photos, and who knows, let’s do some hand gestures to be able to manipulate those. So just to be able to supplement what we see in our experience as we walked down the street or look one way or the other is something that isn’t here in a consumer kind of way now and would just be wonderful to have.
BELVA SMITH: I think what you just said, walking down the street. Again, if I had those glasses that could tell me that library is on the left of and there’s the subway on the right. I know that there’s apps on my phone that can do that, but I have to have it up to my ear and have to have the app open. But if I can just put on a pair of glasses and walk down the street and have information given to me from my glasses to an ear plug in my ear where I can hear it, that would be amazing for so many people. I don’t know if that’s really answering your question. When I think about your question, I think about fantasy, not what’s really there but —
WADE WINGLER: Like an entertainment kind of experience, like, oh, there’s a dragon?
BELVA SMITH: Yeah. And like this weekend, we went to Conner Prairie, and they give us this cute red, white, and blue flag to fan ourselves because it was nice and hot, but it also had 3-D glasses, so when we looked at the fireworks, they weren’t just fireworks. They were amazing fireworks. So to me, that is —
BRIAN NORTON: I would think there’s probably some concern. It’s hard for me to say because I’m an introvert, but being an introvert, it’s just another way for us to —
MARK STEWART: You are a person who is introverted.
BRIAN NORTON: But it’s a way for us to fall in on ourselves. I don’t have to not do anything. I don’t have to call anybody or talk to anybody or see anybody. I can email them, text them, do all those different kinds of things. And in augmented to reality, I’d love to put on a pair of glasses and stay in my PJs the rest of the day.
WADE WINGLER: One of the things I think about is that suppose that. I think of people who might be on the autism spectrum who might be dealing with cognitive processing issues, or even some mental health kinds of issues we might be wearing these glasses and you’re in a social situation and you can discreetly reach up and hit a button and somebody live beams in a friend or a colleague or even a therapist and says you’re dealing with an angry person, you need to walk away, or, no, the signal you’re getting from that girl I think means she likes you, so go ahead with the conversation.
BRIAN NORTON: We can all use that. That would be great.
BELVA SMITH: Our personal assistant, right?
MARK STEWART: We can speak to levels of independence. In our work, usually what we’re helping folks strive for is high level of independence. A lot of the tools we work with help in that regard. There’s possibilities here. We work with technology that reads digitized textbook back to somebody. Well, that’s not necessarily better. We find this in the assessment it’s not necessarily better from a quality of auditory feedback standpoint than mom reading it. In fact, it’s probably worse. Great synthesized voices, but it’s actually not a human voice. But the reason we move forward with it and they want to move forward with it is because they don’t need to be dependent on him for that anymore. These are tools that we are talking about. Again, we can go much deeper and much more into complexity with these types of tools — Wade, you said the mental health and the autism spectrum — where all of the different types of visual and auditory cuing could come into play.
WADE WINGLER: I think about people who are in regular routines, maybe somebody who normally takes the bus to work a certain way. Ninety-nine times out of 100 that works, but the one time when the bus breaks down or they happen to get off at the wrong bus stop and need someone to look through their eyes and look over their shoulder to give them prompting. So they are keeping that independence most of the time, but then when things go off the rail a little bit, they’ve got someone who can beam in and help them.
I had a situation recently where somebody was coming to our summer camp and was the magician, and he was trying to find our building. He’s like, I’m on campus. I can’t figure out where I am. I don’t know how to describe where I am. If I could’ve just look through his eyes 42 seconds, I could’ve said you want to go up 46 street or whatever it was to get there. I can think of a lot of applications. I think it’s an exciting time. I’m excited to see some of the stuff develop and come out.
BRIAN NORTON: I’ve got to say, the stargazing app that you mentioned to set this up, I was in a family reunion down in the Ozarks three weekends ago. It was the first time I was exposed to that. We were literally sitting around a campfire one night, and somebody pulled that out — or they were sitting way across the campfire and it was like who is the genius who knows all the stars in the sky. It ended up being a darned smart guy, but he was also employing that app. It was just loads of fun.
WADE WINGLER: It’s called Sky View.
BRIAN NORTON: You mentioned Google Glass and Microsoft HoloLens. Those are different experiences in and of themselves. I haven’t had a lot of exposure to what Microsoft huddle lens is, but I’m pretty sure that covers your entire visual field.
WADE WINGLER: You’re thinking of Oculus Rift which covers up your whole eyes. HoloLens is a lookthrough sort of display.
BRIAN NORTON: So I was a little confused there.
MARK STEWART: Intel has a camera that’s out that’s pretty much experimental, but it’s a 3-D camera. What they are boasting is, is now we can play off of hand gestures and three-dimensional type gestures and facial recognition to control the computer.
BRIAN NORTON: It’s an exciting time to be in assistive technology. There’s lots of stuff on the bleeding edge of technology that really has a lot of impact on what we do.
BRIAN NORTON: Thanks everyone. Again, for our listeners, here’s how to find our show. You can find us by searching assisted technology questions on iTunes. You can look for us on Stitcher. Or visit our website, www.ATFAQshow.com. Also, please send us your questions by calling our listener line at 317-721-7124, send a tweet at hashtag #ATFAQ, or email us at email@example.com. We want your questions. In fact, without your questions, we really don’t have a show. Be a part of our show. Thanks.
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.