ATFAQ079 – BEST OF – Q1 Braille displays for iOS Q2 Amplification for meetings Q3 What to do with old AT Q4 Converting text to audio Q5 GPS tracking of students Q6 Differences between Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple Home Pod Q7 Modifications for food prep Q8 AT for math


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ATFAQ079-06-26-18 releases 07-09-18
BEST OF EPISODE – Panel – Brian Norton, Josh Anderson, Belva Smith, and Wade Wingler – Q1 Braille displays for iOS Q2 Amplification for meetings Q3 What to do with old AT Q4 Converting text to audio Q5 GPS tracking of students Q6 Differences between Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple Home Pod Q7 Modifications for food prep Q8 AT for math

——-transcript follows ——

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 Josh Anderson 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

***Transcript provided by TJ Cortopassi.  For requests and inquiries, contact***





WADE WINGLER:  Welcome to ATFAQ, Assistive Technology Frequently Asked Questions with your host Brian Norton, Director of 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, call our listener line at 317-721-7124, or send us an email at The world of assistive technology has questions, and we have answers. And now here’s your host, Brian Norton.

WADE WINGLER:  All right, everyone, we are going to do something a little different this time.  We’ve got a lot of people taking vacations, doing summer camps for kids with disabilities, and we are just not around.  So we’re going to do a Best-Of episode where our team here, Josh, Brian, and Belva have gone through and picked out some of the questions they thought would be the best to repeat.  Here we go with episode 79, which is our 2018 Best-Of.



[Timestamp 00:01:28] Question one – Braille Displays for an iPad, iPhone, or Android device



BRIAN NORTON:  So the first question is are there braille displays that would work with my iPad, iPhone, or Android device?


BRIAN NORTON:  Belva looks like she has an answer. Belva, what you think?

BELVA SMITH:  Yes, and the list is endless. There are more that will than what there is that won’t. But Brian, you provided two great websites. I went to both of those and checked them out, and that’s what I would highly recommend for anyone who’s interested in possibly trying to purchase a braille display. Or if you already have one and you just want to know if I get an iPad or Android tablet is it going to work, if you go to, and if you can’t remember that, you can probably just Google braille displays.

BRIAN NORTON:  And we’ll stick a link in the show notes as well.

BELVA SMITH:  Okay. Because that is going to pull up a list and you’ll see that there are oodles of them that are compatible. Same thing for Android, except you’re going to go to, and again put that in the show notes for them.

BRIAN NORTON:  And I found, it’s interesting with the iOS devices, because it has Voiceover built into it, their screen reader built into it, a lot of those braille devices will work with — you actually have to have a screen reader installed for those things to work. In an Android environment, you actually have to download — it doesn’t come preinstalled. There is not a preinstalled part of the operating system screen reader built in. The one that was brought up that I kind of had seen as something called Braille Back, which is a download you can do for your Android device. It’s developed by the Eyes Free Project and will allow you to then use a braille device with your Android device.

BELVA SMITH:  And if we’ve got time, I’ll take just a minute to remind all of our listeners that if you are trying to connect your braille device to your iOS device, you won’t do it under braille in the settings. You actually have to go to Voiceover to install your braille device. That’s true for your iPhone, iPad, whatever. So there’s keyboards, you won’t go there — you’re going to go to your Voiceover to at it.

BRIAN NORTON:  And most of those braille devices, they are not connected devices either. They are usually Bluetooth or wireless displays as well. And you’re right, it does look like there’s probably 50, 60 listed on the website there at Apple. And then the same is true for the Android as well.

BELVA SMITH:  You’re going to find way fewer that won’t — more than likely whatever you’ve got is going to work, or whatever you want to get is going to work.

WADE WINGLER:  So just to make sure I understand, if you’re on an iOS device, you’re going to connect your braille display via Bluetooth, turn on Voiceover, and Voiceover’s going to send the signal to the braille display. And on Android, you’re going to do the same kind of thing but you’re going to use talkback as the screen reader and Braille Back which gets added on to talkback which puts the braille it, right?



BELVA SMITH:  But you want to have your Voiceover on, and I’m assuming the same is true for Android because I’ve never actually done that. But you’re going to want to have Voiceover on before you even try to add a braille display as a Bluetooth device.

BRIAN NORTON:  So it’s likely true that you need talkback on as well as Braille Back activated for that braille display to work.




[Timestamp 00:05:20]



BRIAN NORTON:  Our next question is, I am hard of hearing and I’m having a difficult time hearing in small and large group meetings. Is there something you might suggest that could help me hear better in these environments?  I’ll just jump into this question. There are many, what I would referred to as personal listening systems, for folks. One of the great resources I go to when I run into situations when I’m doing evaluations or working with folks who have this need, is I go to Harris Communications,, H-A-R-R-I-S-C-O-M-M dot com. They have a whole – it’s a website dedicated specifically for this stuff, amplification systems, other system that really help you hear better in small or large group settings. Go there, check them out.  They are a great resource with lots of information.

A couple of actual things I’ve done in those situations, devices and apps that I’ve used. If you’re looking for an app if you have an iPhone and have a pair of headphones, even the built in headset for the iPhone, there are a couple of apps. The first one is Petralex for iOS. Petralex, through the speaker on the iPhone, captures audio, so it is using the microphone and then transferring it to your headset and amplifying it to a level that’s comfortable for you. There is a small hearing test that you take when you set up the user for that, but it’s actually an app that does a pretty good job of turning your phone into a personal listening system for you.

BELVA SMITH:  If I have a Bluetooth hearing aid, will it connect – yeah, because the phone will connect to my Bluetooth hearing aid. Otherwise I need to have —

BRIAN NORTON:  A wired headset.


BRIAN NORTON:  Another app I’ll throw out there, if you have a really hard time hearing, there is an app called Live Caption for iOS or android so it doesn’t matter what type of phone you have. That does real live transcription, so you could have it sitting between you and the other person and it is listening to the conversation and doing what I consider a fairly good job of recognition and giving you a print out of everything that’s being said, back and forth so that you can verify what you think you heard is really what you heard because it’s written out there for you.

BELVA SMITH:  By print out, you mean on the screen?

BRIAN NORTON:  On the screen of your phone or tablet or whatever. It’s doing a running tab of what it is listening to and hearing and trying to transcribe that for you. It works really well as well.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Does that work well in a group setting when you do have different people speaking, or is that more for one-on-one?

BRIAN NORTON:  I would say that’s a better one-on-one application because the further away people are from the phone, if you are sitting around a large table, it’s having a hard time identify everybody around the table. There are some apps – the name is escaping me – that people can use their own phone. As long as they are connected to that particular app and have it sitting out in front of them, all of those phones then become connected through it.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I know what you’re talking about, but it escapes me.

BRIAN NORTON:  I have it on my phone, but I don’t have my phone in the studio with me today. I will try to get that information out in the show notes later on. A couple of other things just to throw out there. If you’re looking for a dedicated device that does amplification for you, there are a couple of ones that I use that I think are pretty good. Sound World Solutions, CS50 plus personal sound amplifier. You can find that at Harris Communications. It does a really good job, it’s basically a wired headset that connects to your phone. You can then put your phone or Bluetooth device up towards the speaker in the room, so if you’re listening to a lecture or something like that, and then it feeds amplified audio directly to your ear. That seems to be a really good solution for folks.

There is what is called the Maxi personal amplifier by Bellman and Symfon that’s also found at Harris communications. Again, it’s a really simple device, just a microphone that’s placed in between you and the next person and you are listening to a headset and it is amplifying everything it hears. There are a whole lot of options in this arena. I think one of the best resources is Harris Communications. You’ll find lots of good information on that.

BELVA SMITH:  I’ll reiterate that Harris communications, I’ve used it quite a few times. Again, that’s H-A-R-R-I-S-C-O-M-M dot com



[Timestamp 00:10:22]



BRIAN NORTON:  Our next question is what do I do with old assistive technology?  I have a CCTV that is 12 years old and I want to get rid of it because I have a newer one now. Is there a place I could take it too?  I hate to get rid of it since it still works.

BELVA SMITH:  The first thing I want to say is thanks for asking the question because we would hope that anyone who has older technology that may still be working but has had the opportunity to get something new would look for opportunities to reuse it. If you’re here in Indiana, I would suggest you start out by contacting INDATA—

WADE WINGLER:  Bring it here.

BELVA SMITH:  Because that’s what they do, reuse and recycle assistive technology. Another good suggestion I could think of would be look for independent living centers that might be in your local area because I’m sure that they may be happy or know an individual that it could be given to. Speak to your friends and folks you know at church. Almost everyone has a grandma or in-laws that is older and getting some macular [degeneration] or cataracts and could benefit from the use of the CCTV or any technology.

BRIAN NORTON:  The INDATA Project, that’s Indiana’s assistive technology act project. There are 56 of those across the country. In every state and territory there is an assistive technology act project. If you come to our website, it will bring you to a directory of all statewide assistive technology acts. I would say if you call them, they will let you know who can recycle, who can reuse that equipment no matter where you go.

WADE WINGLER:  I can almost hear my friends in Georgia at the Pass It On Center jumping up and down saying wait, talk about us. At Georgia Tech there is a center called the Pass It On Center. My dear friend Carolyn Phillips runs the program down there. They are the Mecca of assistive technology reuse. In addition to the link that Brian gave, that will take you to the AT act projects, the Pass It On Center has all those plus also some programs that do AT reuse that might not be associated with the AT act. That’s a great resource for any of your assistance technology reuse, re-utilization, recycling questions. Their website is



[Timestamp 00:13:28]



BRIAN NORTON:  Our next question is, I was wondering if you knew of software, perhaps that’s even already on a computer, or resources to convert text to audio and have the computer read to you? I know there are apps, but this would be on a laptop computer.  I’m specifically asking about learning disabilities versus a visual impairment if that helps.  It would be for the Internet, Word documents, PDFs, etc.

JOSH ANDERSON:  There are a lot of different options for that.  Since you did say a laptop computer, I’m going to assume it’s a Windows computer.

BRIAN NORTON:  Yeah, I’m pretty sure.

JOSH ANDERSON:  So we will go with that.  Yes, there are different things: Internet, Word documents, PDFs. Word itself has an OCR program built-in.  It’s not super easy to get to.  If you go up to the top where you have the quick access toolbar, that has “save” which is the floppy disk that probably no one using a computer has ever used before in their life.

WADE WINGLER:  What’s that?

JOSH ANDERSON:  What’s a floppy disk? But somehow we still no it means to save.  Usually it has that, and undo, redo, and some others.  At the end towards the right-hand side of that is a drop-down.  You click on that and can customize your quick access toolbar.  Once you open that, click on more commands.  It’ll have a choose commands from lists, and you need to change that to all commands.  When you do that and scroll down, you should be able to find a command called speak.  You add that, and it will show up on your quick access toolbar.  After that, you can put your cursor anywhere, hit speak, and it will start reading to you.  That’s available on Office, anything after 2007.  I do not think it shows up on office for Mac, and I’m not sure about 365 if you are using that.  But if you have it installed on a Windows computer, it should be there.  That will read any of your Word documents to you.

BRIAN NORTON:  I’m looking at my Mac, it’s not there.

JOSH ANDERSON:  That’s why I said it’s not on the Mac version.  So that’s an easy way to read Word documents.  There are some other ways around it.  That should work in Excel and Outlook as well if you need it to read those kinds of things.

As far as the Internet, it kind of depends on what browser you are using.  If you’re using Google Chrome, there are a lot of free plug-ins you can use.  I think it’s Claro Read Chrome.  It’s free.  You click on it, it has a play and stop on, and that can read any Internet page, PDFs.  And if you are using Google Docs, it can read those as well.  There is another one I use called Read Aloud.  It does the same thing, but read aloud will actually pull your text into another box and follow along and highlight — [Audio edit contains repeat information]

— will help you read the word document and everything.  But if you need to read the Internet and everything, it depends in the browser.  A lot of folks use Google Chrome.  It’s free, pretty easy to use.  But there are some free chrome that you can use that can help you reading the Internet and PDFs and things.  One of them is Claro read chrome.  This one does have a paid version as well.  The paid version gives you a few extra features.  You can screen capture into if you of the things, but really if you just need to read the information and PDFs, the free version will work for you.  It’s very simple to use, has a play button, a stop button.  That’s essentially all it gives you.  It can read websites, PDFs, Google Docs, anything inside of chrome.  It can be very helpful.  There is also read aloud, which is another chrome plug-in.  It can read the Internet, can read most PDFs.  With some I’ve had issue with it being able to do it, but something that it will do is bring all the text, pulls it out of the website, puts it in a box and will highlight as it reads.  It can be a little more helpful of helping someone read along.  If you are looking for chrome plug-ins, if you just look them up, there are quite a few different ones that can do these features.  Some are free, some cost.  Try out some of the free ones, or if some give you so many uses for free, try them out and find one that works for the individual.

Another thing you can use as One Note.  This will work on Windows computers.  I do not believe it works on Mac. One Note is kind of a notetaking program.  You can import pretty much anything to it.  There is an add-in One Note called immersive reader.  Since you said this is for someone with a learning disability, immersive reader will not only read to the person, but it can separate words by syllable, can change the spacing between them, can change the color contrast. It can highlight one line at a time.  Some of those other things we don’t really think about with folks who have print disabilities and learning disabilities is sometimes it’s just the way that the information is presented, not so much being able to read it.  Sometimes just breaking it up by syllable or only having one line show up at a time can really help that person with comprehension and understanding. One Note is a free program.  It is part of office, but you do not have to pay for it.  You can import anything, copy and paste from the Internet, but were documents and there.  There’s also an app for phone call the office lens.  You can snap pictures of things, have it imported into one note and have them read to you in that way.  Immersive reader, if you get one note, is not in there automatically.  You just look it up and at the free download to throw in.

There is also paid programs.  There are lots of kinds.  A huge one is probably Kurzweil 3000.  It can be a little bit on the pricey side, but it does have a whole lot of features.  If the person needs help with notes, with creating good study materials and things like that, it can really help.  But since you’re just talking about the Internet, Word documents, PDFs, they may not be something that robust.  Kurzweil 3000 is helpful if you need to read whole books for college and things like that and make study materials out of it.  It may just be a lot more than the person needs.  There is also Read and Write Gold.  Claro Read has their own software, not just the chrome plug-ins.  There are a whole lot of them out there, but they are kind of becoming more mainstream.  More and more folks — I think we have audible to thank for that, of folks wanting to have the read to them and realizing it helps a lot of us with comprehension.  A lot of times I have my report read back to me because I can read my same report 10 times, I’m not going to find my mistakes.  But as soon as I have it read back to me, I realize I put “the” three times in a row, even though my eyes will play tricks and not show those to me.  There are a lot of different ones.  I really started using those chrome plug-ins a lot.  They are very helpful.

BRIAN NORTON:  There are a lot of free, low-cost option now when it comes to text-to-speech.  They are not robotic sounding or computer sounding.

JOSH ANDERSON:  They are much better than they used to be. Not everything has the Stephen Hawking voice anymore, if you will.

BRIAN NORTON:  I’ve been doing this for 21 years, and it used to be that way.  I think over the last three or four years, it’s been changing quite a bit.  Text to speech has become a lot more understandable and reliable.  Thank you for all those resources.



[Timestamp 00:20:58]



BRIAN NORTON:  This next question is an email.  Email says, I’m wondering if anyone in the assistive technology/tech department knows of any GPS tracking devices that can be used to monitor students? We currently use Tile; however, they are imprecise.  Any assistance in this matter would be greatly appreciated.  I’ll open it up to the group.

BELVA SMITH:  I don’t really know.  We put the Trackr devices on a couple of Todd’s things that he keeps on the house because the A-lady can help him find them when he loses them.  But I don’t know if that would be a good device to put on a student or not.  Are we talking about trying to keep track of them in the playground or in the building? You have to have Wi-Fi to do it at all.

BRIAN NORTON:  We don’t have that kind of information.  There is always the issue of elopement.  When kids are runners and they run away, where did they go? Can I track them? Those kinds of things.  There are things for that type of issue where you can do real-time GPS with very great detail about where they are.  You can see the moving along the street.  There are devices like that.

BELVA SMITH:  I’ve heard of people putting them on their dogs that are runners.  But they have to be connected to Bluetooth.  Once they lose that conductivity —

BRIAN NORTON:  There are real GPS monitors.  We actually have a couple in our loan library.  Here at, we have some as a demo unit.  We can’t give them out for real loans at this point because they have to be tied to a data account.  It takes about $10 a month free it to be able to connect it to your data account.  We have the ones that are called Trax Play. Those come with a variety of different mounting options so you can connect it to your dog’s collar, to the person’s belt.  They are really small and insignificant.  Just a great way for us to then connect it to somebody.  Then you can have GPS tracking.

The situation we came across here was tracking a student, but a student was running cross-country.  In the cross-country stuff, the coach was hesitant to have them be able to go out there and run the course by himself or with his teammates because if he ever got separated from the teammates, he wasn’t sure if the student would be able to make it back to the beginning points or the starting points.  He wanted a way to do real-time GPS.  Until he had something like that, he wouldn’t let the student run.  We looked at this is may be an option to let them connect that to the student, the coach could have an app on his phone and be able to track them wherever he is.

BELVA SMITH:  Couldn’t they have done that with the Apple Watch as well?

BRIAN NORTON:  I don’t know.

WADE WINGLER:  Find My Friends? Possibly.

BRIAN NORTON:  What I’ve found with Find My Friends, it is not real-time.  It takes 30 seconds for it to update itself.  When you finally get a location for somebody, you have to wait 30 seconds for it to update itself again.  The maps are not in great detail.  They’ll show you streets.  But if you’re running in the woods, you are just going to be in the middle of a big field.  That can sometimes be a challenge for folks as well.

WADE WINGLER:  I recently interviewed on Assistive Technology Update a gentleman named Adam Sobel. He’s got a company called Care Band.  We found out about Adam because he’s a recent Indiana University graduate.  He started this thing.  He’s sort of dealing with this.  His product isn’t ready yet, but it is going to be something that looks like an Apple Watch and is designed to be worn primarily by folks who have Alzheimer’s or dementia and who wander.

One of the problems he was trying to solve is GPS is great if you are outside and are not under a tree or some canopy that is preventing the signal from working, but it doesn’t do any good in the home.  If you think about a student who might be in the school but missing or not outside, or what does the GPS signal look like, that’s an issue.  Their system is designed so that it has — they call them low-power, wide area network beacons on the property, so at the nursing home or in the home or school or whatever, and it’s good for about three miles of distance from those beacons and also is GPS.  So the idea is that if the person who was wandering is in the home, you can tell based on the position, are they in the bedroom, the kitchen, the bathroom, on the front porch.  Or if they get outside, then GPS kicks in.  They said it has a three-day battery life and reports back to a family member or a caregiver, and they have an app that is real-time and can tell a lot of things like where are they now.  It can also do things like how often did that person go to the bathroom, or how often did that person fix themselves a meal.  Or at least spent time in the kitchen and the bathroom and the amount of time that makes sense for those activities.  They are still doing testing in are not on the market yet, but is their website.  We are going to release that show a little after the time this episode releases.  That’s scheduled form a March 30 release on Assistive Technology Update.  Adam and I spent a lot of time talking about how that technology works.  It’s an almost-ready solution that they might want to consider.

BRIAN NORTON:  Did you say it isn’t available yet?

WADE WINGLER:  They are still doing their last round of testing.

JOSH ANDERSON:  It’s supposed to be this fall, isn’t it? They are testing in Chicago and Bloomington.

BRIAN NORTON:  I’ve heard a lot about, you mentioned beacons.  Blind Square is a GPS app for folks who are blind or visually impaired.  They do a lot with iBeacons.  We went to a conference, ATIA, the Assistive Technology Industry Association.  They were displaying that.  I didn’t get to go to that particular session.  I think you guys were able to.

BELVA SMITH:  I went to one of the beacon sessions.  The new app that Microsoft has just released, Soundscape, also uses some of that beacon technology.  That’s becoming more popular.

BRIAN NORTON:  I suppose that’s a little bit of what they are using to figure out where you are in a particular home.

WADE WINGLER:  That’s the underlying technology.

BRIAN NORTON:  That’s interesting.

JOSH ANDERSON:  And there are so many different kinds.  Brian, I don’t remember the name, but maybe you can remember, the ones that have geo-fencing built-in.

BRIAN NORTON:  That’s part of the Trax Play, I believe, has geo-fencing.  So when you get a certain distance from a certain location, it’ll give you an alarm.


BRIAN NORTON: There’s the Trax devices. Wade mentioned the one for the Care Band. You can find more information about the Trax Play device at  There is also a blog that’s out there about these GPS tracking devices for 2018 that are specifically designed for kids. It’s  You can go to resources, and under there you will find a wearable GPS tracking devices for kids guide.  They have a list of those.  I think all of which needs — there are different costs points, but they are also tied to your data plan.  I think you have to add those.  There is watches, rectangular things you can attach to folks.  There are a bunch that you can check out. Trax Play is obviously one of those.  There are some different features available for those types of devices as well.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Some of them have built-in microphones and built-in speakers see you can talk to the individual or just listen in.  Kind of spying, I guess, but you can sit there and hear what’s going on around.

BELVA SMITH:  To be able to talk to them would be great.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Calm them down.

BELVA SMITH:  Have them stop wherever they are, tell me what’s around you.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Plus be able to hear what’s around them as well.

BRIAN NORTON:  Definitely a bunch of options for folks with this particular question of GPS and able tracking devices.  If any of the folks who are listening have had experience with something like this, some personal experience, we would love to hear about those but also additional knowledge about other things we didn’t talk about would be great as well.  Let us know.  There are a variety of ways for you to do that.  We have that listener line, 317-721-7124.  We have an email address to send it to,  We love to hear from you.

BELVA SMITH:  I just want to say that whoever this person was, they should definitely catch the podcast that Wade was talking about and get more information.  That sounds exactly like what they’re looking for.

BRIAN NORTON:  You said that in next week’s AT Update show?

WADE WINGLER:  Scheduled for March 30.  A couple of weeks out.

BRIAN NORTON:  Excellent.



[Timestamp 00:30:33]



BRIAN NORTON:  Our next question is more of a discussion.  During our last show, we spent a little time talking about the differences between the Amazon Echo, the Google Home, the Apple Homepod. I know there was some back and forth regarding that stuff.  I thought maybe we could hash out some of the differences that are between the Amazon Echo, the Google Home, the Homepod.  I thought I would open it up.

For me, I know a big difference is obviously the Amazon Echo has been around a long time and seems be a more well-defined product where it can control quite a bit of things in your home and whatnot.  Google home is a step down from that because it’s in your product.  But the Apple Homepod is brand-new and doesn’t do much at all.  Other things that make them distinct from the other?

BELVA SMITH:  I think you have to ask yourself what you want to do with your home assistant.  Are you an Amazon shopper? If you are an Amazon shopper, you probably want to consider the A-lady. If you heavily rely on the Google to do your calendar and email and appointments and that kind of stuff, then you probably want to consider the Google device.  You can shop with a Google device as well.  It’s just not Amazon that you’re going to be shopping at.  I think the number of devices that they will both control is pretty close to the same, but I think you will find more skills or apps — I don’t know if skills is what they are called.  You will find more skills for the A-lady then you will any of the others, just like you said Brian, it’s been around the longest.  And it’s Amazon.  Not to say that that’s any bigger or better than Google, but if you are looking to get more informative use of your assistant, then the Google is going to be the way to go.  I have both of them in the home, and I’ll ask one of them a question and asked the other, just to see who has the better answer.  Oftentimes I’m told by the A-lady I can’t help you with that, and yet Google can.  It just depends on the question.

As far as the HomePod, it’s Siri.  It’s very limited.  But the good thing is it’s Siri.  If you’re using an iDevice already, then you are going to be able to say text to my spouse and let them know I’ll be home at five tonight.  It’s going to do that for you.  Or create a reminder or create a note.  But you can’t make a phone call from it.  With all of them, you do have to have an account.  They all require that.  With the A-lady, you have to have the Amazon account.  With the Google, you have to have a Google home account.  With HomePod, you have to have at least a iPhone 5S or new iPod or iPad because you have to run iOS 11 to be able to set up the HomePod.

BRIAN NORTON:  The HomePod is not a standalone product.

BELVA SMITH:  None of them really are.  To set up any of them, you have to have an account.


JOSH ANDERSON:  That’s true.  With any of the other devices, you could just do it on your computer or on any cell phone.  But the HomePod, you actually have to have another device, a phone.

BELVA SMITH:  It can’t be a Mac computer.  It has to be a “iMobile,” I guess would be the thing.

WADE WINGLER:  The old Apple watches, you had to have a phone attached to it.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I think that gets into the biggest difference, which is price.  The HomePod — you can outfit your whole entire house with Echo Dots — but you also have to have either an iPhone or iPad, so you are looking at $700-$800 at least.

BRIAN NORTON:  $329 for one.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Plus the price of an iPad or iPod or iPhone.  When you put that all together.  Belva, I think you said it.  It’s what you are used to using, what you like using.  The only thing I read about the HomePod that seems to be a little negative is the speaker is apparently amazing, but for the price you could get a pretty good Bluetooth speaker and connect it to any of the others.  It works amazing with Apple music.  If you are an Apple music user, it is great.  If you want to use it with anything else, you can’t.

BELVA SMITH:  That will change.  They are going to have to open the door on that.  I think.  They are Apple.  They don’t have to do anything.

JOSH ANDERSON:  They are going to have to, but they are little — a lot of folks that are going to have these devices in their home, probably have them.  I don’t think they were holding out to buy the most expensive one or the Apple one.

WADE WINGLER:  That’s the thing for me.  We don’t have the Apple HomePod, but we have a couple of Echo’s in a Google home.  We got the Google home because they were cheap around Christmas and we got it for a little bit of nothing.  Mostly I feel like one is a Ford and one is a Chevy.  They mostly overlap into the same things.  We homeschool, and we have the Google in the homeschool room.  We find that as the kids are learning foreign languages, it does a better job of translating.  It does a better job of animal sounds and some of the encyclopedia kind of information that could just want to know about.

Honestly, we use the echo a lot more because we had it first.  We are used to it.  We use it for our shopping list and have it tied into our smart appliances and the light switches and the nest thermostat and all that stuff.  I think a little bit of it is inertia.  Josh, to your point, we’ve had echo a lot longer.  There is stuff we use Echo for that Google could do.  I’m not going to take the time to set it up again.  It’s already set up, already works.  I’ve already got my outlets figured out and my programming for that.  Part of it is just inertia and those changing cost.  I’m not ready to change.

JOSH ANDERSON:  You mentioned something else those can do, as far as having different ones in the house, having your own system throughout the house called the bedroom, the garage.  I don’t think the HomePod can link to other ones.

BELVA SMITH:  That’s what I was about to say.  Todd and I both have an iPhone.  It can only either keep track of my stuff or his stuff, not both of us.  It’s a one person type of thing.  I can’t keep my messages and calendar on it and his do the same thing.

JOSH ANDERSON:  So if it was links to yours, and he was home, and he said call Belva, it would say I can’t let you do that Todd.

BELVA SMITH:  I’m thinking probably not because it can’t call itself.  Also to control your devices with the HomePod, you have to have the stuff that is HomeKit compatible.  Like you, Wade, I started buying everything that was going to work of my A-lady because I knew that was what is going to buy.  What I’m finding is that now most of that stuff will also work with the Google.  I could, but I’m not going to, go in and start searching everything.  I say she does all the really hard work, and Google is just there to entertain me.

JOSH ANDERSON:  There you go.

BRIAN NORTON:  I thought at one point you could set up different accounts with your Echo.

BELVA SMITH:  You can with the echo.  I’m saying the HomePod.  With the echo, you can.

BRIAN NORTON:  With the echo, Todd could get on there and say call Belva and recognize that and make a phone call?


BRIAN NORTON:  I thought there is a joint household where you can have multiple accounts.

BELVA SMITH:  Right.  I’m thinking that again, it’s probably going to be one of the changes Apple will make eventually.

BRIAN NORTON:  I think they’re going to have to in order to stay competitive in that market.

BELVA SMITH:  I want to say they have to, but again, it’s Apple.  They don’t really have to do anything.  They get away with whatever they want to do.  Because the people who love Apple, love Apple.  They don’t already have the Google or the Alexa at home.  They’ve got the HomePod.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I’m just looking around at the nine Apple devices in the room.

WADE WINGLER:  You can’t fall down here without hitting an Apple device.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Talking about having the different accounts and everything, Google home recognizes different voices, doesn’t it? As long as it was linked up —

BELVA SMITH:  It says it does.  I’ll tell you what, my son walks in my house and uses mind just like he owns it.  It has never been trained.  I don’t know.

JOSH ANDERSON:  From what I’ve seen, if he would say put something on my shopping list, if you guys have separate shopping list, it knows the difference.  Or if he says call mom, or use a call mom, it would call the different one.  I don’t think it is locked down, but it will put things in different areas.

BELVA SMITH:  I will say that Google tends to understand — Zoey is two. Google does tend to understand her more than the A-lady.  The A-lady really doesn’t understand her, but Google will.  She can tell it what to do, and it does it, and it is stinking cute.

BRIAN NORTON:  Excellent.  Just to warp the question up, I know there are lots of different things that all those devices do.  I think, Wade, you said the inertia behind that product.  Obviously the echo has been around a lot longer, has more skills, is able to do a lot more.  Again, depending on what you are using it for and what you use — like you said, Belva, between Amazon stuff like shopping lists, to do list, those kinds of things are separate.  But if you do all that on Google, maybe the Google home would be a good device for you.  I feel like the echo and the Google products are in the same price categories.  There is not a lot of difference between price.  But then when you start thinking about the Apple HomePod, it is very expensive, limited in what it can do.  That may change over time, but again, it will need to catch up with what the other devices do.

BELVA SMITH:  I believe it is so expensive because it is an amazing speaker.  Amazon is a good speaker, Google is a good speaker cop but I’m using the word good, and I’m here in the HomePod is amazing.  It bounces off the walls and comes back at you or something like that.  It is supposed to be amazing.  And the processor is supposedly better.

JOSH ANDERSON:  When you get up in that price range, I don’t know why you wouldn’t just goat — if you are doing it for the music, for the speaker, go with some of the Wi-Fi enabled speakers.

BELVA SMITH:  I absolutely agree with that.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Those are cool and about the same price and give you more sound but won’t have the voice and things like that.

BRIAN NORTON:  If folks are listening and have any feedback as far as those different devices and the different functionality you might be able to find, when it gets down to the different features that things have, what makes them different from another, let us know.  We would love to hear from you.  You can send us a tweet with hashtag ATFAQ or give us a call on our listener line.  We would love to hear from you.  It’s 317-721-7124.



[Timestamp 00:42:32]



BRIAN NORTON:  Our next question is, I have uncontrolled arm movements and work in a food preparation job where I have to put small ties on the goods and bags. Is there any fast and effective way to do this task? Time is a factor.

WADE WINGLER:  Twisty ties?

BRIAN NORTON:  Twisty ties.

WADE WINGLER:  Like the things on a bread sack?

BRIAN NORTON:  Exactly.  I just started thinking about that.  To just put a twisty tie, there is a lot of fine motor, a lot of dexterity that goes into that.  That’s not an easy task when you start to think about it.  I think I can look at it as pretty simple, just run in and do it.  But if I have uncontrolled arm movements or maybe I am one-handed.

BELVA SMITH:  I find it quite annoying to tie or untie.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Because you never know which way is right.

BRIAN NORTON:  Especially if it is tight and you’re trying to get it off the back.  No, I made it worse.

WADE WINGLER:  I use a clothespin.

BELVA SMITH:  I use those metal things we get at OfficeMax.

BRIAN NORTON:  A lot of bread bags come with the plastic clip.  They are not the ties.

JOSH ANDERSON:  All those are good way to get around it, but they do make automatic bread tying machines.


JOSH ANDERSON:  Automatic twist tie machines. They make handheld models and tabletop models.

WADE WINGLER:  I suppose if you are in a food prep job, you don’t want to twist those things all day.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I guess if you were at a factory perhaps that made bread or things like that.  If you had something that could tie 50 bags in a minute, that really cuts down on production costs quite a bit, which is good because they went about $1500.

BRIAN NORTON:  But they are so cool.

JOSH ANDERSON:  They are pretty darn cool.

WADE WINGLER:  If it makes the difference between doing the job and not.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Exactly.  Especially of time is a factor.  Having those productivity numbers up there.  They are made by a company called Tach-it, T-A-C-H dash I-T. they have all different kinds, some that plug in and sit on the table top so you just bring the back over to it, push it in, ties the tie.  They also make handheld models so you can have batteries.  It just looks like a gun.  Put it up to it and it will wrap it up.  They even make some for agriculture. Tying beans to polls and stuff like that.  It does it a little looser so you won’t harm the produce.

BRIAN NORTON:  I sat there and watched the video of this thing doing its job.  It’s pretty amazing what it does from a roll of twisty ties to be able to wrap up anything you want.  It does it within a second.

JOSH ANDERSON:  The handheld model will auto adjust. It can go anywhere from an eighth of an inch to over an inch, inch and half.  It knows just by feeling the bag or whatever it is how much it needs to tie.  Pretty cool.

BRIAN NORTON:  What I would love to do with that, and I’ve done it with other things —

WADE WINGLER:  Put it in your sister’s hair?

BRIAN NORTON:  Yes.  That may be another good idea.  I like that.  I’ve actually worked with a company before two switch adapted things like that for folks, so folks who don’t have any arm movement, maybe they can just blink their eye, wiggle their big toe, or move their head side-by-side.  They can be able to do that in a workshop environment or something like that.  That might be something that can be done as a job task.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Like I said on the table top model, all you have to do is bring it over to it.  It slides in and automatically puts it on.  You could have very limited motion.

BRIAN NORTON:  You don’t even have to hit a trigger? As soon as it hits the back in of where he needs to go, just zips it?

JOSH ANDERSON:  Yes.  It just depends on where the person is working and what their skills and abilities are. If they need to be mobile, they probably need the handheld model, which does take more motor control, but not the fine motor control of sitting there and hold the bag, twist a tie around it anything else.

BRIAN NORTON:  It reminds me of one of these devices that are obviously designed to help with production and lower production cost and make things faster and easier, but for folks with disabilities, you put it into their world and it makes a job possible.  That’s pretty cool.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I guess you could think of it as assistive technology.  It assists someone without a disability to do their job faster and more efficiently. It makes that job completely possible for somebody with a disability.

BRIAN NORTON:  What’s the company that makes it?

JOSH ANDERSON: Tach-it, T-A-C-H dash I-T. I believe most of their stuff is there.  You can buy some of those devices on Amazon and other places.

BRIAN NORTON:  What is the cost?

JOSH ANDERSON:  I want to say the handheld model is $1400, and they all run somewhere around there.  They are industrial machines, so they should last you quite a long time.  I think they are meant to be use around the clock.

BRIAN NORTON:  You just purchased a spool of twisty ties material? Very cool.




[Timestamp 00:47:39]



BRIAN NORTON:  Don’t forget, if you have some experience with word prediction apps or abbreviation expansion apps, other things that may be applicable to that question, you can join in by giving us your feedback, giving us a call on our listener line which is 317-721-7124.  Or send us an email at

Our next question is, I am working with a 13-year-old girl at a mainstream secondary school.  She has a full-time scribe, but we need some ideas around using technology to support math.  Any ideas?

I’ll jump in there.  Math is a really tricky thing.  I don’t think there has been a whole lot — at least in my experience.  I’ve been doing this for 20 plus years.  Math was one of those things that was often overlooked.  There wasn’t a whole lot of great solutions for folks who struggled with math.  Until recently.  I know here in our clinical program, we use a couple of different apps that seem to be doing some really good things for folks.  The first one I’ll tell you about is Y Homework! That’s the letter “Y” and Homework with an exclamation point on the end. Another app is called Photo Math. Those two applications allow you to do a couple of different things.

WADE WINGLER:  Those are the cheater apps, right?

BRIAN NORTON:  Those are not the cheater apps.

JOSH ANDERSON:  They are total cheater apps.

BRIAN NORTON:  What’s really great about those apps as they do two things for you.  The first thing is you can either type. Y Homework! will allow you to type; Photo Math will allow you to type.  But Photo Math will also let you take a picture of a math equation, and it will saw it.  That’s where the cheater app comes in.  It will solve it for you.

WADE WINGLER:  That’s cheating.  It does it for you.

BRIAN NORTON:  But it also then breaks it out step-by-step.  For folks have a really difficult time understanding the concept, a math concept and how it works, they can then see as you get this complicated algebraic equation, they can see it broken down step by step by step.  That will then help them better acquaint themselves, better understand the concept behind of the question itself.  It doesn’t just give you the answer but helps them better understand the concept as they go.

WADE WINGLER:  It helps you cheat but then helps you feel better about it by showing you how to do it?

JOSH ANDERSON:  So you can copy down how you cheated on the problem, right?

FIONA JONES:  Show your work.

BRIAN NORTON:  I will tell you, I have a freshman in high school and a seventh grader.  I don’t know what they do with kids these days, but their math seems to be accelerated from when I was in grade school.

WADE WINGLER:  There are more numbers now.

BRIAN NORTON:  I’ll tell you what, Photo Math has saved my wife and I hours upon hours of trying to learn math because we can then solve the equation and then break it down into steps and help our kids better understand things as we go.

JOSH ANDERSON:  You don’t let the kids use the app.  You use the app.  Make the kids think you are smart.

BRIAN NORTON:  It makes parents really smart.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I believe that’s called cheating.  It’s cheating.

WADE WINGLER:  But if it makes parents seem smarter, all of a sudden I’m for it.

BELVA SMITH:  Last week at ATIA, I saw EquatIO from Texthelp.

BRIAN NORTON:  We were all at ATIA last week.

WADE WINGLER:  No.  We weren’t.  I wasn’t.  Fiona wasn’t.

FIONA JONES:  It was col here.

WADE WINGLER:  It was very cold here.

BELVA SMITH:  When I came in this morning, instead of her saying good morning, she goes I’m done with the cold weather.

WADE WINGLER:  It’s that time in February.  We are over the cold.

FIONA JONES: I was not happy about the cold.

BRIAN NORTON: You’re right; some of us were at ATIA and we were having a great time in the 65 to 70 degrees weather rather than here in Indiana in minus four degree weather.  I have heard of EquatIO.  It’s made by a company called Texthelp. It’s an add-on to Google Chrome and allows you to write to mathematical expressions.  You can write out your math on the web, solve your math on the web, and then turn it into folks as well.  It’s a way of making your math digital and easier to use.  But you did mention that folks who were blind are able to use their screen readers to do that, at least that’s what we’ve been told.  It’s a great tool to be able to then write to math questions more easily.

BELVA SMITH:  Right, because a screen reader won’t typically read those math equations the way that they need to be read so that they can be understood.  But if they are in with this program, then they can be read the way that they are meant to be read.  So that allows the student to be able to hear it the way that they need to hear it to be able to do the answer.  It’s not a cheater because you still have to be able to do the math.

BRIAN NORTON:  There is another one that does that same thing.  If you’re looking for an app like that, Mod Math is another one.

WADE WINGLER:  I’ve been hearing about that one a lot lately.

BRIAN NORTON:  You can then write your math expression on your iPad or your device and then be able to mail it or send it or print it to be able to send it to folks for you as well.

To get back to this conception of cheaters —

WADE WINGLER:  Can’t let that go.


JOSH ANDERSON:  Really focused on that.

BRIAN NORTON:  I think a lot of folks just struggle with math and the concept of math.  I for the argument lots and lots from teachers, and I understand it, because you want people to be able to do stuff.  I think about writing tools and other kinds of things from a PT perspective.  I’ve had a PT talk to me about this before.  You want them to be able to work on their dexterity and fine motor control by —



FIONA JONES:  Sorry, I had to give a plug-in.

BRIAN NORTON:  Maybe it is OT.  Yes.  You don’t want to take that away, but there are tools to help them be able to do a task and help them with that.  I think there is a balance.  I think the same is true with math.

WADE WINGLER:  I remember when they said digital watches mean people aren’t going to be able to tell time, and calculators mean people are going to be able to do even the basic math, and spellcheckers mean people aren’t going to be able to spell.  You’re going to give me the same argument that a program that just of your math for you isn’t going to keep you from learning how to do your math.  Right?

BRIAN NORTON:  Do that again.  Say that again.

WADE WINGLER:  People said the same thing about spellcheckers and calculators and digital watches, that those were too much help.  You’re suggesting perhaps that it is a scaffolding and that you will still be able to have those skills.  They said the same thing about augmentative communication.  The number one myth is that if you give a kid an AugCom device, they’ll never learn to talk.  That’s not the case. There is evidence that shows that even with AugCom devices, people will still develop language to the best of their ability.

BRIAN NORTON:  Absolutely.

WADE WINGLER:  I’m trying to come to your rescue.

BRIAN NORTON:  I’m already rescued.  I’m trying to rescue the people in the room that believe it is a cheater.

WADE WINGLER:  That was me.

BRIAN NORTON:  I will say if you are looking for a software package of this for the computer, is a website that has a lot of this for you as well.  That’s a subscription-based one.  I think it is $100 a year but also a really great tool to be able to help people with learning math concepts.  Just a few different option for folks to be able to look at.  It’s for all levels of math.  It doesn’t have to be higher math.  You can do all levels of math.

BELVA SMITH:  Math and science always seem to be a big challenge.

WADE WINGLER: Yeah, the STEM fields. The other thing I would throw and is Kahn Acadamy. Those are more tutorials they are going to teach you how to do stuff instead of just doing it for you.  I couldn’t have gotten through graduate statistics without Kahn Academy.  It’s necessary stuff.

BELVA SMITH:  That’s free, right?

WADE WINGLER:  It is free.  Do you know the story? Sal Kahn, I think he was an economist or stockbroker in New York, and he had a nephew in California who was struggling with math, so we started making these YouTube videos to explain to his nephew how to do some of the basic math concepts, and it sort of grew from there into what is now a business.  Using that same model but everybody uses it now.


WADE WINGLER:  We hope you enjoyed that quick walk down memory lane.  We will be back next time with our regular format.