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Happy Holidays from the Assistive Technology Center at Easter Seals crossroads. This is your Assistive Technology Update.[Festive Music]
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 235 of Assistive Technology Update. Yes, you hear it, it’s in the background. It’s that time of year. You hear jingle bells because this is part one of our holiday shopping episode. This is a special episode, so this week and next week, we’re going to break from our regular format. We’re not going to cover the news or do interviews related to assistive technology, but what we are going to do is spend some time with some of my good friends talking about holiday assistive technology shopping ideas. I am very excited to be joined in the studio today by Brian Norton, Nikol Prieto, Mark Stewart, and Belva Smith. We’re going to get to know these folks a little bit, what they do here at Easter Seals Crossroads, then we’re going to take some turns talking about holiday gift ideas for people with disabilities and also share a little bit of a peek into our holiday plans and what the holidays mean to us.
We’re going to start first with some introductions. Brian Norton is the Director of Assistive Technology here at Easter Seals Crossroads. Brian, you want to say hi and tell folks a little bit about what you do?
BRIAN NORTON: Hi, how is everyone doing? Brian Norton, I’ve been here for a long time and I oversee the day-to-day operations of our clinical department, which is kind of our comprehensive, one-on-one services we provide to throughout the state of Indiana. And we also oversee INDATA which is the Tech Act project for the state of Indiana.
WADE WINGLER: Excellent. Nikol Prieto is our social media education and outreach coordinator. I think I got that right, not exactly right. Nikol, tell them what to do.
NIKOL PRIETO: It’s an equally long title. We are famous here for our long titles.
WADE WINGLER: We’ll just call you Grinch for this purpose.
NIKOL PRIETO: I feel little bit better now that we are recording after Halloween, which happens to be my favorite holiday. My name is Nikol Prieto. I’m the Community Outreach Coordinator for the INDATA Project. It’s my responsibility to assist INDATA’s efforts of education and outreach of getting the word out about assistive technology throughout the state of Indiana.
WADE WINGLER: Excellent. Nikol, you are the person who has been here with me on every single one of these holiday shows. This is our fifth one. It’s kind of a big year.
NIKOL PRIETO: It’s hard to believe. It’s really fun. I look forward to it every year, but it’s hard to believe it’s been five years.
WADE WINGLER: It’s one of the few times and get you behind the mic to talk for more than just a little PSA or something like that.
NIKOL PRIETO: It’s true. It’s not the most comfortable place to be, but I enjoy it.
WADE WINGLER: Things are being here.
NIKOL PRIETO: Thank you.
WADE WINGLER: Mark Stewart is one of our Senior Assistive Technology Specialists on our Mobility and Cognition Team. Mark, how are you?
MARK STEWART: Good, how are you, Wade?
WADE WINGLER: I’m fine. Happy holidays. Tell us a little bit about what you do day in and day out.
MARK STEWART: Brian mentioned the INDATA Project and the clinical side of things. I work specifically on the clinical side of things, the kind of one-on-one comprehensive services. Picture me one in one working with folks with disabilities, primary focus is physical challenges or cognitive challenges or combinations of the two. I traveled the state of Indiana working with individuals, families, clinicians, seeing if I can help them solve their problems through assistive technology implementations.
WADE WINGLER: Absolutely. Great. Belva Smith, you are sitting here in your Christmas sweater. We are recording this before it comes out obviously, and you’re the only one who thought enough to dress festively.
BELVA SMITH: Actually, I went to the closet and said it’s cold because it was chilly this morning. I work also on the clinical team, and I work primarily with folks that are visually impaired to help them find the technology that they need to be able to go to school or do their job or just live independently.
WADE WINGLER: And we are glad that you’re here.
For some folks, this podcast is actually going to be released in a couple of different ways. Some folks are listening to this as part of Assistive Technology Update which is our weekly news program. Some folks are listening to this because it’s part of our new show, Assistive Technology Frequently Asked Questions. We are kind of taking this opportunity to let each audience know about the other show. That’s one of the reasons we have this particular group of people in the studio today that we do. If you’re familiar with our weekly show, Assistive Technology Update, we normally have news and interviews with thought leaders in the field of assistive technology. We’ve been doing that show for a little over four years now and I host that one.
Brian Norton, however, host of ATFAQ, which is our question and answer show. It comes on a couple of times a month and Brian and Mark and Belva and sometimes other guests as well do a really amazing job of handling all kinds of questions about assistive technology and providing answers. There is a way for people to call in with suggestions or questions. They can leave voicemails, they can shoot note on Twitter, they can send emails and let us know what the questions are. This group twice a month takes a chance to sit down and answer some of those.
Today we are sort of cross promoting the show. We have the cast of ATFAQ in here along with our traditional group, Nikol and I, who do this holiday show. We are excited to do something a little bit special today.
A couple of words of disclaimer: one of the things is we will be talking about a lot of products today. Because we talk about products doesn’t mean we endorse them or think they’re something that we particularly endorse. They are things we think are cool and relevant and interesting. You have to know that we aren’t endorsing products when we talk about them today. We are also going to break stuff up into a couple of different segments. You’re going to get a little bit of the show this week and a little bit of the show next week. We are excited to share the stuff with you.
WADE WINGLER: The holidays aren’t always only about kids and people and those kinds of things. Dogs like Christmas too, right, Nikol? You’ve got some dog stuff to talk about.
NIKOL PRIETO: I sure do. For people out there who have guide dogs, don’t leave them out. They usually become part of the family. Guide dogs are great for people with visual impairments and maybe even someone with other disabilities. So there are some gifts for those dogs. There is a guide dog pet gift Couch Pet Bed with Easy Roll Away Flap. It’s really nice, rolls over your couch. That way you don’t get your couch dirty and they can be up there with you enjoying the holidays. Also from MaxiAids, they have a Non-skid Dog Bowl and Tray. Nice to keep the environment safe, especially if you are visually impaired, keep your area dry, make sure there is no doubt in sitting around and keep everything tidy and in one spot so you’re not tripping over that. The other thing I came up with was a Dog Tag in Braille. I thought that would be really cute to add that on. You can even tie your package and have the braille be the tag for that.
WADE WINGLER: I’m going to jump in here. Most of my gifts throughout the whole thing are going to have to do with kids, because I got little kids in my house and so I have gone on to the Toys “R” Us accessible giftgiving guide and found some pretty cool stuff.
Two of the things I want to talk about today are from Leapfrog. My kids love the Leapfrog toys that are out there. I like them because they are kind of high-tech and they do some pretty cool stuff. The first one I want to talk about is leapfrog My Pal Scout. He’s kind of the green, more masculine version. There’s also Violet who is the more purple, more feminine version of that. My Pal Scout is a stuffed animal that’s actually pretty darn cool. It’s a stuffed animal that syncs with books and has some things on his paws that allow you to have it read a book out loud. You can push the hands on the scout dog and it will make different sounds, play songs, and it’s a very interactive sort of thing with kids. It costs about $19, and I’m going to pop links in the show notes to all of these things we can find more places to buy these.
The other thing from Leapfrog I think is interesting and sort of a classic is a thing called the LeapReader Reading and Writing system. It cost about three dollars. Really it’s a way to have books read out loud to kids who need a little bit of support like that. Basically you buy the system and it comes with one book, but then you can get another 100 books or so. The way it works is you open up the book and it has a special pin that you can hold over the words and the letters of the words and have it read out loud. It also includes some way to let you practice writing as well so that you can get support while you’re reading, support while you’re writing, and it has some really cool characters. For example, if you’re into Pixar, Monsters Inc., for example, there some books and stuff related to that. Some of the things are Leap and the Lost Dinosaur. Leap is this cool frog character from leapfrog. There’s also another book called Get Ready for Kindergarten. Again there is over 100 different books are available for the system and you can check those as well.
Brian, I know you have a couple of things on your list there. Can you tell me what you’ve got.
BRIAN NORTON: When I was looking for different gift ideas, I looked all over the place for different types of gifts for different types of disabilities. The first one I want to highlight is a portable suitcase wheelchair ramp. It’s a signature advance series by EZ-Access. It’s about $160. What’s great about it is it’s for persons who need assistance getting in and out of vehicles, maybe up on raised landings or in and over stairs, maybe folks in wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, those kinds of things. It’s a great way to take a ramp with you. So you may have one at your home built into a particular landing or set of stairs in your home, but when you’re out and about, sometimes you run into those types of challenges out in the community and what a great way to be able to bring something with you to be able to get it in and out of those places. They come in different lengths. You can get them to fit through six-foot. You can pick. Again, the cost will vary depending on the size or length of ramp that you end up getting, but just really is a great way to be able to access different places when you’re out and about.
WADE WINGLER: That’s pretty cool. I haven’t seen that kind of thing before. What else is on your list?
BRIAN NORTON: Another item that I thought was pretty interesting is these MagnaReady stress-free shirts. These are Oxford shirts. They actually are infused with magnets and allows for easier buttoning and clothing options for folks. Instead of being stressed out by trying to get that button through the slot on your shirt, you just move the shirt over and it will actually magnetically close itself for you. They are really super nice shirts. They look really nice. They’re made with high-quality materials, at least it looks like 100 percent cotton, machine washable. What a great way to be able to get clothing for folks who may have arthritis, maybe Parkinson’s or some other mobility, dexterity, fine motor control issues in their hands to be able get dressed in the morning. Maybe with these MagnaReady shirts.
WADE WINGLER: Did you say the cost on that?
BRIAN NORTON: They are about $65, around the cost.
BELVA SMITH: Is that just adults or the can you get those for kids too?
BRIAN NORTON: On their website, it looks like it’s just for adults, but I didn’t dig too far into it. They may be available for kids as well. I have to look.
MARK STEWART: That’s really cool. Buttoning has been a classic problem for the ages.
NIKOL PRIETO: Now I need a shoelaces for my eight-year-old son who can’t tie his shoes.
MARK STEWART: Do you think he would be okay with a pair of geriatric sneakers?
NIKOL PRIETO: he’s going to have to be to be or learn.
WADE WINGLER: Or some of those curly cue laces that are a little bit easier to type.
BRIAN NORTON: Now they’ve got something on my list is the Nike FlyEase Shoes.
NIKOL PRIETO: Those are cool.
BRIAN NORTON: For folks with disabilities.
WADE WINGLER: Mark, this is your first time on the show, but I know you’ve got some pretty cool stuff to talk about there. What’s on your list?
MARK STEWART: I’m going to throw a curveball and talk about something that’s not on the list that I gave to you guys. Nikol got me fired up talking about dogs. We all know how much I love dogs and this is a real holiday feel as well. Nikol mentioned guide dogs. How about therapy dogs or just dogs overall? Why not a dog as the gift? Nikol took care of the getting technology for the dogs, and I may be stretching the rules here little bit to talk about the actual animal. But again with the holiday theme, I’ve been amazed being out in the field seeing what some of these dogs do for folks. I guess the first one that comes to mind is a dog who was just doing a fantastic job as a PTSD therapy dog for a veteran with PTSD. I was just amazed at how that all worked together and how he affected his life so positively. I think we’ve all heard about doc that just do amazing things like detect cancer and all kinds of things like that. While they are still trying to figure it out, don’t we all agree it’s legitimate? It seems to work. What an amazing way positive influence that those dogs have on our folks.
WADE WINGLER: That’s a great point. Service animals get use in all kinds of ways for all kinds of things. I think they probably come with all kinds of price tags associated and all kinds of time frames related to that as well. This might be a great time to either start thinking about that process or moving the process along for somebody who might need a service animal.
MARK STEWART: Or look into volunteering. I think they need volunteers to help train these dogs, maybe house them temporarily.
WADE WINGLER: Good. Mark, we will go back to something that is on your list now.
MARK STEWART: Let’s go with the Logitech MX Master Wireless mouse. Versions of this mouse I’ve been using for a couple of years now. Picture somebody who may not have a more capable mouse. It would be a really nice stocking-stuffer or more. A couple of things. One, it has something that they call black field laser technology. It’s early three lasers that triangulate and it can work through glass and everything. The main thing that it does is it’s just crazy accurate. That’s obviously convenient, but for some folks that might have some physical challenges, it just allows the hand to relax more and the process becomes that much easier and everything cognitively and physically, things melt away because it’s just so precise. People just start to use it and love it. The other thing is it has this thing called hyper- fast scrolling. You have a mode you can go into where if you are in a large document or a large webpage, you can just spin the wheel and it will fly through pages and you can slow it down. That’s really precise. Form factor is pretty good, but again it’s the accuracy that I like a lot. If you’re thinking about getting somebody some operated tools for their workstation, that might be really good one.
WADE WINGLER: What with the price range on that kind of thing?
MARK STEWART: It’s pushing $100. Amazon has it for about $85.
WADE WINGLER: Belva, you’ve been uncharacteristically quiet so far as we’ve done the show. Tell us some of the things that you’ve got on your list.
BELVA SMITH: This is something I wouldn’t mind getting myself. I think that’s why I put it as my first thing on my list. I’m a big QVC watcher when it comes to Christmas time because they have some great gift ideas. A couple of weeks ago, they were showing the Vtech doorbell. It’s your standard telephone with an answering machine. You can program 50 names with phone numbers and it will allow a caller to record up to 15 minutes, which I’m saying if you’ve got to leave me a 15 minute message, we probably should have a conversation.
The cool thing about it is wirelessly, you can just attach it outside. When the person pushes the doorbell, your phone actually shows the video of the person standing at the door, and you can have a two-way conversation. My guests are supposed to be vision related. I may or may not be able to see exactly the person’s face at the door, but I can certainly have a conversation with them without having to go open the door. They can also — you can also record pictures of the person at the door. If you’re not home, and somebody rings the doorbell, then when you get home you’ll be able to look back and see, Johnny was here, or UPS was here, but they didn’t leave the package or whatever.
You can connect it one of two ways. You can connect it wirelessly. It will make – if you do the hardwire, it will allow both the doorbell and the Vtech doorbell to ring simultaneously. That could be helpful if you’ve got some hearing loss to maybe have both of them going off at the same time. Again, you can get a two-phone set, three-phone set, four-phone set. The cost varies depending upon how many phones you want in your home. The two-phone set, I think, starts at around $110 which isn’t bad for an answering machine and a doorbell.
WADE WINGLER: Excellent. The next thing I want to do is we’re going to come back after this little break with some more products, but we are going to spend some time talking about holiday plans.
WADE WINGLER: Around here, it’s not always only about assistive technology. We have families. We take vacation time and all that kind of stuff. I thought it may be kind of be nice to go around and talk about what your holiday plans this year. Belva, I’m going to start with you. What do you have cooking for the holidays this year?
BELVA SMITH: I’m hoping to be settled into my new home and have a Christmas tree up. Since I’ve had grandkids, we usually spend the night Christmas Eve with my son. Next year will be tricky because I’ll have grandkids that both houses. I don’t know how that will work out. It’s just tradition that I spend the night there and we make cookies for Santa. We usually put out the cookies and the milk and read stories and we all wear the same Christmas pajamas and then wait for Santa to come in the morning.
WADE WINGLER: That sounds great. Mark, how about you?
MARK STEWART: Not sure yet. Traditionally I’ve bounced around to a lot of different family members’ houses all around central Indiana. We have a new home as well that’s a little bit of a fixer-upper, but I think we seem to be starting a new tradition where the holidays are at our house. That’s a wonderful thing. We may be having Christmas at our place.
WADE WINGLER: How about you, Nikol?
NIKOL PRIETO: With Christmas, it’s really unique to my house because my kiddos go to California for a bit and I have a mom side in a dad side. We do Christmas all month long. One thing we do is Santa always ships us matching Christmas jammies before Christmas. We do put our jammies on and put up the tree and we have three or four different Christmases with everyone. We do all the traditional stuff: watch movies, bake cookies, put up the tree, wear our matching jammies.
WADE WINGLER: Excellent. Brian?
BRIAN NORTON: We haven’t decided yet what we are doing. I have a brother who lives in Kansas City, so there’s a good chance we will be road tripping it this year out to Kansas City to see him. That’s like eight and a half hours from here. It makes for a really fun car ride across nothing but the great Midwest. Or we may want to stay here, and that’s kind of what I am hoping for. Hopefully we can stay here because I’m usually the one driving eight and a half hours. But we really just love the holidays, staying home, playing games, card games like Nertz and Up and Down The River or setting up our decorations. We do all that traditional stuff as well. But it will be nice to be here in town in our own space celebrating our own Christmas. We realize the pressures of family and wanting to get out there to see everybody, because we don’t do that very often because of the distance, so there is a good chance we will be road tripping it despite my other plans.
WADE WINGLER: For us, it’s kind of fun. When the first holiday episode comes out, that usually happens on the day after things giving , or black Friday. I always get to spend that evening in the red suit, we call it at my house. I’m the town center in the town where I live, and I get to walk around the square and light the Christmas lights. It’s a whole big celebration which is a ton of fun.
When it comes to the actual Christmas holiday, those things are changing for us just a little bit. We’ve lost a lot of people in my family and the last two years, so the places we would normally have gone and the people we normally would have spent our time with, a lot of those folks aren’t here with us anymore. We will probably go to church and spend some time doing that kind of a thing, and then we are sort of becoming, Mark, like you said, the hub. We are becoming the place where the remaining family come and hang out. Also, Belva, like you, I have three kids, and so grandma and grandpa will come this year on Christmas morning pretty early to see us and we will open presents and have breakfast, but I have a nephew who’s going to be here next year, so next year we will have to sort out the where did Grammy and Papa go on Christmas morning because there’s an hour and a half distance between the grandkids they want to see on Christmas morning. It will be interesting to sort all that out. It will be fun to figure that out. We are kind of building new traditions right now so it’s a lot of fun.
BELVA SMITH: That’s a good thing.
WADE WINGLER: Brian, I know that your kids are probably to the age where they don’t wake up at 4 o’clock in the morning on Christmas morning. They might need an alarm clock or some help with that time – that may not be accurate anymore. You’re kind of giving me “the eye”. I know one of the things we will talk about is a clock. Let’s hear it. Do your kids get up or does it take an alarm on Christmas morning?
BRIAN NORTON: They will get up on their own. They are pretty interested in what’s down underneath the tree. Despite our locking our door, turning our lights out, and trying to be as quiet as we can be, they kind of banged on the door and come find us on Christmas. One of the things I would love to recommend for folks is that my Magnasonic Projection Clock. There’s lots of different clots that are like this. Essentially what it does is you have a traditional clock and will show the time, traditionally in the red letters and the red numbers and things like that on the front, but it will actually protect it onto your ceiling so you can see it. I would say for folks with mobility issues, you can’t sit up or turn and look and see what the clock has, it actually shines it up on the ceiling. For me, I just turned 41 this year. I’m going to be turning 42 in February. I can’t see the clock anymore from across my bedroom, so also for folks with vision impairments, what this will allow me to do is just sit in bed and see a very big projection of what time it is up on my ceiling. I’m really looking forward to that. I actually bought that as a Christmas gift for myself this year. Hopefully it will be here in a few days and I can start enjoying that.
Another thing I want to talk about is the Verilux HappyLight Liberty 5K Energy Light. It’s going to run you about $40, but it’s really cool. It’s about light therapy. For folks who may struggle during the winter time with moods or balance issues, I think a lot of times just how dark it is in the winter and the cold weather and things like that, a lot of folks may be experiencing the winter blues.
MARK STEWART: What is it, Brian, seasonal affect?
WADE WINGLER: Seasonal Affective Disorder.
BRIAN NORTON: this is a just a really inexpensive – about $40 – you can buy it from Walgreens or other drugstores. It will allow you to experience light therapy. See you just kind of stay in front of it for a period of time and it will — scientifically proven to help you feel better, less tired and sad throughout the winter months.
WADE WINGLER: Excellent. Nikol, I know you have a ton of things on your list there. What’s one of the more interesting things that you’ve got?
NIKOL PRIETO: I think about holidays and how busy everybody gets and just thinking about who doesn’t need reminders? One of the things on my list is Reminder Rosie Talking Alarm Clock with personalized voice reminders. This would be great for people with any kind of cognitive issues and also is great with people who are visually impaired because you can operate it almost entirely by voice. The nice thing about this reminder clock is it has the alarm clock and you can add all those personal reminders. It could be a reminder to get up and take your medication, or it could be for a caregiver to leave a message for what type of medication they need to take and what does such, any kind of reminder, get up and take a shower, you have a doctor appointment at 1 o’clock. It’s just a great tool. It works from 100 feet away. You get a nice audible sound from that. It could be a great assisted living device for a loved one, a senior, someone with a cognitive impairment. It also works as an alarm clock with a big LED display as well. It runs about $99.95 and you will find that on MaxiAids.
WADE WINGLER: We hope you enjoyed part one of our fifth annual Assistive Technology Holiday Shopping Show. Check back next week and we will have even more ideas for gifts and festivities
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 www.eastersealstech.com. Assistive Technology Update is a proud member of the Accessibility Channel. Find more shows like this, plus much more, over at accessibilitychannel.com. That was your Assistance Technology Update. I’m Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana.
Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update? Call our listener line at 317-721-7124. Looking for show notes from today’s show? Head on over to EasterSealstech.com. Shoot us a note on Twitter @INDATAProject, or check us out on Facebook. That was your Assistance Technology Update. I’m Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana.