ATU226 – Tecla, Motorized Skateboard for Children with Disabilities, Accessibility Bugs in iOS9, AT in Schools Job Analysis Study


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Your weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.

Show Notes:
Tecla with Mauricio Meza CEO of Komodo |

RIT/NTID Research Team Earns $500,000 Grant to Study Communicative Interaction Between Deaf, Hearing STEM Students
‘Motorized Skateboard’ Helps Physically Impaired Babies Crawl
The Accessibility Bugs in iOS 9: From Serious To Minor | AppleVis
AT in Schools job analysis study | Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North America
App: CleverMind
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——-transcript follows ——

MAURICIO MEZA: Hi, this is Mauricio Meza. On the cofounder of Komodo, and this is your Assistance Technology Update

WADE WINGLER: Hi, this is Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana with your Assistive Technology Update, a weekly dose of information that keeps you up-to-date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.

Welcome to episode number 226 of Assistive Technology Update. It’s scheduled to be released on September 25 of 2015.

Today I talk with Mauricio Meza, who is the CEO of Komodo, about Tecla, their switch iPad and iOS interface. Also a story about a motorized skateboard that helps children with cerebral palsy learn to crawl; some accessibility bugs in iOS 9 that have been identified by the folks over at AppleVis; and an opportunity for you to chime in on a job analysis study about people who do assistive technology services in schools. That comes to us from RESNA.

We hope that you’ll check out our website at, drop us a note on Twitter @INDATAproject. Or ask a question, give us some comments. We love to hear your voice on our listener line. The number is 317-721-7124.


I’m looking at a press release here from the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at RIT, which is the Rochester Institute of technology. They are talking about a nearly half million dollar grant that was given to RIT from the National Science Foundation to look at the issue of communication among STEM students with diverse backgrounds. Stem, science, technology, engineering, and math, is an area of concern to make sure that students, especially younger students, are learning more about those topics. They are talking about in this particular research study, do students who use non-spoken communication mode, sign language and those kind of things, do they get to the same kind of access to stem curricula as students who are hearing. It looks to me, based on my reading of this, that they’re going to be doing some research where they pair up pairs of students who are hearing and students who are hard of hearing or deaf, feed them each information , and then using their communication methods, do they get the same thing? Do they arrive at the same place? Fascinating information. I’m going to pop a link in the show notes and you can head over to the RIT website and learn more about this pretty cool research project.


So sometimes I’m a sucker for a headline. When I read this headline that I found from our friends over at RESNA, it read, “Motorized skateboard helps physically impaired babies crawl.” Listen to the sound clip.

>> SPEAKER: This is the self initiated prone progressive crawler. It’s designed to allow or facilitate baby movement on the floor to teach them to crawl. It’s typically applied to children with disabilities. It was designed for kids with cerebral palsy. What it does is react to the baby movement. Any subtle positional change and this causes it to turn on and help them with that movement.

WADE WINGLER: So that’s from a video that came from Medical Design Technology Magazine. It features the work of Dr. Peter Pidco who is working on this device that’s made out of wood and has sensors and motors and batteries. They work with children who have cerebral palsy, and they put them on the skateboard-like device. When the kiddo makes a movement or tries to move in a particular direction, it goes with it. It moves with them and it encourages that kind of movement. In the video, Dr. Pidco talks about the fact that kids with CP often have so much resistance in such challenges with that that they don’t. He mentions that sometimes, instead of fighting these difficult movements that they are trying to learn, they just roll on their back and look at the ceiling. This device encourages that movement. There is documented data there that says when children with cerebral palsy are using this device, they play longer and cover more space and there’s a lot of good results. I’m going to encourage you to look on the link in our show notes, read this article from Medical Design Technology Magazine, and watch the video Because first of all, it’s cute babies, and second of all, it’s great technology working with these kids with cerebral palsy. Check our show notes.


I’m a big user of my iPhone, and I really quickly upgraded to iOS 9 just about as soon as it became available. I just can’t wait most of the time. I’m having pretty good luck as a sighted user who doesn’t rely on assistive technology all the time. However, our friends over at AppleVis have found some bugs related to iOS 9 that they have written a blog about. It’s pretty interesting kind of stuff. A quick disclaimer: this blog was updated as of September 18 of 2015, so there may be some things that have been fixed since then or things that have been worked around.

Anyway, the stuff that they have found includes, when you receive a phone call, sometimes the iPhone will become unresponsive and voiceover doesn’t speak. There are some problems with that. It’s intermittent but does happen. It says that if you use voiceover and zoom at the same time, there might be some problems with the voiceover gestures and the rotors might not be quite correct. They listed those as some serious bucks.

They also have a listing of some moderate bugs, some problems with braille displays disconnecting if you are in airplane mode, sometimes there are some problems with Safari and Chrome that entering text might be a little bit inconsistent when you are dealing with that. Then they also have a longer list of minor bugs, things like if you’re using Bluetooth audio and voiceover crashes, you might have to reconnect your audio device, or the command key on an iPad on a Bluetooth keyboard shows all the possible keyboard shortcuts; however, it doesn’t business early work with voiceover. There are some workarounds.

They are updating things with bug fixes. There is some dialogue here among the users of AppleVis who are really well-informed and use voiceover and other assistive technology on iOS. If you are using iOS 9 and you use voiceover or Zoom or any other assistive technology, it’s a pretty good place to learn about some of these problems and maybe even chime in on some of the areas for comments. I’m going to pop a link in the show notes over to our friends over at AppleVis, and you can learn more about these, at least for now, accessibility bugs and iOS 9.


Are you somebody who works in assistive technology in a school setting? What do you do all day every day anyway? I say that completely joking. That’s a question that RESNA is trying to answer. Right now, RESNA, the Rehab Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America, is doing a job analysis study for people who work in assistive technology in the schools. It’s an online survey that’s available. You can take it up through October 16. It’s going to ask you questions about how you spend your time doing assistive technology. How are you spending time on participating in the AT consideration process, student evaluations, delivering services, managing equipment? Those kinds of things. It’s a fairly robust survey that has lots of questions and won’t take terribly long to complete. I’m going to pop a link in the show notes. You can go over and take the survey and chime in. Let the folks over at RESNA know how people who do AT in schools spend their time. Check our show notes.


Each week, one of our partners is what was happening in the ever-changing world of apps, so here’s an App Worth Mentioning.

AMY BARRY: This is Amy Barry with BridgingApps, and this is an App Worth Mentioning. This segment’s app is called CleverMind. This app was developed for older adults and individuals struggling with cognitive impairments. The CleverMind iPad app is more than just an app, though. It’s an interactive, easy to use, and interesting way for seniors and people struggling with the cognitive impairments that accompany Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia to surf the Internet, connect with their loved ones, and to stay independently entertained while strengthening their cognitive proficiency.

When you first log on to the app, you are asked to fill in caregiver information and patient information. If you are a caregiver, you can set up a profile for the person you’re working with. The app does come with Myra, a built-in robot that will greet you when you log on. She can also be turned off if you prefer.

The opening screen shows the date, the weather, and calendar, and then you have a choice of laying games, reading the news, using the Internet, nutrition, family and friends, trivia, games, news, music and movies, books, and audiobooks, and also writing and pictures. Some of the features that we absolutely love and appreciate are the voice command controls and the limited dialogue interaction, the big buttons, the large fonts, and the intuitive interface. We also really liked the calendar interface to the native iOS calendar; the simplify the experience for social networks and connecting to media like Facebook; the personalized journal for daily writing or drawing; the simple but entertaining games for memory, thinking, and visual processing. The quizzes are fun for keeping the brain stimulated. It’s just got a very simple to use Internet web browser, not to mention the password-protected caregiver information is great.

CleverMind is available at the iTunes Store for $2.99. It is compatible with iOS devices. For more information on this app and others like it, visit


WADE WINGLER: Let’s face it, almost everybody is accessing information and entertainment and social interaction via smartphones and tablets and those kinds of devices these days. I know that that’s especially important for people who have disabilities. Recently I have learned more about a product called Tecla. I have Mauricio Mesa here who is the CEO of Komodo to talk with us a little bit about this product. Mauricio, thank you for joining us today.

MAURICIO MEZA: Thanks for having me, Wade.

WADE WINGLER: Went to start talking to us a little bit about Komodo, the organization of the company, and were you guys are located.

MAURICIO MEZA: We are located in Toronto, Canada. Komodo was founded by myself and my cofounder Jorge Suber as a way to help people with physical disabilities access smartphones and tablets. At the time, four years ago, we were a bit frustrated at the access to mobile technology that our end-users had. Both Jorge and myself had worked in the space of assistive technology for over a decade, myself as an assistive technology consultant in Canada’s largest spinal cord injury hospital, and Jorge as a researcher of assistive algae at the University of Toronto. We wanted to make this technology more accessible to our end-users. At the time, that’s when the iPhone had just come out and a lot of the people we worked with were asking for ways to get into these types of devices, but at the time, touchscreen devices were fairly inaccessible. We tried to start Komodo to address the problem.

WADE WINGLER: So around four years ago you guys started working on this? Tell me a little bit about Tecla. How does it work? What does the interface look like?

MAURICIO MEZA: Currently, Tecla, it’s a set of hardware and software that allows people with physical impairments, basically anybody that doesn’t have hand dexterity, to use a touchscreen. That’s for someone with a very high spinal cord injury that may have the ability to move their heads, or their shoulders, to users with cerebral palsy that they may have arm movement but it’s not reliable to use a touchscreen. Or we have some users, for example, with Parkinson’s. The issue is not that they can use the touchscreen but that they would make a lot of mishit on the screen. So Tecla allows them to control their mobile device uses external interfaces, so basically switches or buttons that they can control with her head, with their shoulders, by blowing, by blinking, using other interfaces like joysticks. Tecla can be integrated into wheelchairs, if the wheelchair has what’s called the ECU unit, almost like an outward port for the wheelchair. So then the user can control their smartphone or tablet in the same way they drive.

WADE WINGLER: So Tecla is a hardware component and a software component? Talk to me a little bit about the hardware and the physical interface, because you’re describing stuff there that sounds familiar to me by my exhibit sure how it would put the stuff into a tablet.

MAURICIO MEZA: So the interface, the hardware, the Tecla shield as we call it, it’s a Bluetooth device, so it connects wirelessly to the smartphone and tablet. It has ports for standard assistive devices, so for any switch that is out on the market, any kind of jellybean switch, body buttons, micro light switches. There are a huge number of switches. Pillows switches, big switches, small switches. Any of those can be used with the Tecla shield. We also follow that standard that allows the Tecla shield to connect it to a wheelchair. So pretty much any brand of wheelchair can be added to the outward port, so that in the same way the person drives a wheelchair, they can control their device. So the Tecla shield is wireless to the device, connects with the cable to the switch. It has a rechargeable battery. It usually lasts for about 90 hours of continuous use. But if you turn it off when you’re not using it, that night, for example, they can last for a couple of weeks.

WADE WINGLER: That’s great. So am I correct in assuming then that the physical hardware, for somebody who uses a wheelchair for example, that may be on the chair and wirelessly connected to a tablet or a phone that might be mounted in somebody’s field of you?

MAURICIO MEZA: Yeah. This way that’s how it works. We also have some accessories that make it easy to remove from the wheelchair. For example, some users use it during the day from their wheelchair, but at night they kind of remove it, put it at their bedside table, and continue using their tablet from bed with a different kind of switch. For example, during the day, they might be driving the wheelchair with a head away and controlling their phone, but at night the box is moved to their bedside table, and they may be using a switch to continue watching movies or reading books or controlling their home. All the different functions that now are available through smartphones and tablets are accessible to the user that cannot use a touchscreen.

WADE WINGLER: I’m starting to get a handle on how the hardware aspects of this work. I’ve got one more hardware question. Are we to assume that the switch access for the access method has already been determined before somebody starts using Tecla, but maybe another professional through an evaluation? Was a part of what you guys offer as well?

MAURICIO MEZA: We do offer consultations to users so they can contact us through our website. We can schedule a Skype call with just a phone call to kind of learn more about what are they currently using. Most of these we work with have already worked with an occupational therapist or a speech delay which pathologist, physical therapist, special education teacher, and they are controlling something else with a switch. It could be a remote control, it could be a door opener. We usually try to understand what other devices they are using and kind of pointing them to use the same kind of switch into what they are using or using their driving control. Most of the users would have spent months in rehab learning how to drive a wheelchair and become really efficient at it. In that particular case, it’s really straightforward. You just connect your Tecla shield to your wheelchair, and in the same way you drive, that’s how you control your device. It becomes very seamless transition from driving to the phone or tablet.

WADE WINGLER: That make sense to capitalize on this access is that of already been worked out and are trusted and tried. What about the software? Talk to me about the software side of Tecla.

MAURICIO MEZA: The software depends on what lesson you’re using. The Tecla shield is compatible with iPhone, iPad, iPod touch devices. That’s compatible with android devices. It can also be used in computers, so PCs and Macs. Depending on the platform, you may or may not need a software component. In iOS devices, we don’t have any software component. The first version of the Tecla shield, it did everything on the box, the scanning was all controlled by the box. But in the new version, we must integrate with switch control, so the switch accessibility function with iOS devices, we work with that. You set up your Tecla shield, you pair it with your device, then you go into switch control and assign the switch you have connected to your Tecla shield to functions on the iPhone or iPad, so moving to the next item, previous item, scanning rates if you’re using a single switch. We worked with the built-in function in iOS. We do have certain functionality that’s hardware-based. For example, you can set it up so that if you press and hold your button, your switch, yet instant access to the home key or to call Siri. You just don’t actually have to navigate through a couple of menus to get back to the homepage or to access Siri. They can just press and hold the button and that can take them there. That’s a big advantage. And other platforms, we do require software. In android, we have an app currently available in the play store. It’s called Tecla access. It’s a free download. You download the app, it synchronizes with the hardware, and it allows you to control your device. We are currently working on a new version of the app for android. With the new version of android lollipop, there’s been some changes that change the way the interface works, so we are making changes to make their platform or accessible. We are currently doing some beta testing, so there are people who have android devices and would like to try these new versions, they can actually join the beta testing program at our website and help us make it better. Then for PC, for Mac, desktop computers, or laptops, there’s also switch control that’s built-in that works with the Tecla shield. In Windows, you may need to combine amid other software. It works with scanning software like the grade or on screen keyboard like Whitbeck.

WADE WINGLER: It sounds like it’s a very versatile solution. Depending on what platform you are using, you’ve got different components that come into play. In the end, you get a solution that sounds pretty good, especially since I can interface with switches that you are already using or other interface controls. Mauricio, talk to me about the cost of this technology.

MAURICIO MEZA: So the main unit is $349. That’s the Tecla shield. And we have some accessories. For example, we have a mount, a magnetic mount that you can clamp into your wheelchair. It’s very easy to attach the Tecla shield to it and remove it when you need to charge it or if you need to use it in a different location. That’s $99. We also have a mount for the phone for uses who would need to have their phone positioned and they specific location on their which are be easy to remove. We do offer mounts for phones. And then we have a couple of other accessories. We recently added switches to our website, so people can buy entire kits. If you are a switch user, you can get the Tecla shield and the amount in your switch. If it’s for wheelchair access, then he can get both mounts for the Tecla shield and the phone and the cable that connects to the ECU output. Those are around $500.

WADE WINGLER: What about training? How do folks who use Tecla or the professionals were serving them learn how to use the product?

MAURICIO MEZA: For clinics and therapists, we usually offer online training. We can help them through the set up process, make sure they understand all the different modes. As you mentioned before, it’s very versatile. But because it has so many ways that it can be used, sometimes I can be a bit confusing. We try to work with clinicians to make them sure they understand. With end-users, it’s a bit different in the sense that they would be only using one platform. Once we have seen what their goals are and what their needs are and their abilities, it’s easier to kind of got them in the process. Once we kind of have it set up, because the iPhone, the iPad and android devices are becoming very easy to use, it’s usually just kind of the basics that we had to go over, how to navigate the different menus, how to turn pages, how to interact with the different elements of the interface. Once they can figure that out, it’s a lot of this is slowing the device. We usually walk them through the process to get everything sorted out, giving them a few pointers, and after that it’s mostly just specific question that they may have for specific apps. For example, how can I turn pages on the Kindle app that they would have? Most of the other things are very straightforward.

WADE WINGLER: Mauricio, we’ve got about a minute left in the interview. Tell me a story. Quickly tell me a story about somebody whose life has been impacted by Tecla. Speak to one of my favorite stories is from one of our users in Ireland. He really needed it Tecla shield back after he broke his unit. His urgency was great. He told us that we didn’t understand how important that was. That was the first device you turned on in the morning and the last device he would turn off at night. The biggest thing for him is access to Facebook, because before she didn’t have access to that we have communicating with his family and friends, that opened a lot of doors, and that’s how he actually met his girlfriend. So just give them the ability to access those kinds of social networks for us, it’s great to know where you can help people.

WADE WINGLER: that’s great. I love it when people find dates based on their assistive technology. If folks want to learn more, if they are interested in purchasing or finding out more about Tecla or what you’re doing there at Komodo, what contact information would you provide?

MAURICIO MEZA: They can visit our website. It’s From there, they can set up a consultation. They can look at videos of how it’s used. They can see some stories from our users. We have live chat options. If we are online, they can talk directly to us and ask any questions.

WADE WINGLER: And that website is Mauricio Meza is the CEO of Komodo, and today has been talking with us about Tecla. Mauricio, thank you so much for being on our show today.

MAURICIO MEZA: Thanks, Wade.

WADE WINGLER: Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update? Call our listener line at 317-721-7124, shoot us a note on Twitter @INDATAProject, or check us out on Facebook. Looking for a transcript or show notes from today’s show? Head on over to Assistive Technology Update is a proud member of the Accessibility Channel. Find more shows like this, plus much more, over at That was your Assistance Technology Update. I’m Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana.


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