ATFAQ098 – Q1- texting from a computer , Q2 – transition questions from high school to higher ed , Q3 – App Showdown: iPad versus Chromebook, Q4 – discreet microphone for use in classroom setting, Q5 – Accessibility features in O365, Q7 Wildcard question: What type of tech would you purchase if you had a $1000 dollars to spend.

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Panel – Brian Norton, **Belva Smith, and Josh Anderson – Q1- texting from a computer , Q2 – transition questions from high school to higher ed , Q3 – App Showdown: iPad versus Chromebook, Q4 – discreet microphone for use in classroom setting, Q5 – Accessibility features in O365, Q7 Wildcard question: What type of tech would you purchase if you had a $1000 dollars to spend.

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BRIAN NORTON:  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 where 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 tech@eastersealscrossroads.org. The world of assistive technology has questions, and we have answers. And now let’s jump into today’s show.

BRIAN NORTON:  Hello and welcome to ATFAQ episode 98.  My name is Brian Norton and I’m the host of the show.  We are so happy that you’ve taken some time this week to tune in with us.  We have a great lineup of AT question today, but before we jump into the questions, I wanted to take a moment to go around the room and introduce the folks who are here with me.  The first one is Belva Smith, the team lead for our vision team at Easter Seals Crossroads.  You want to say hi to folks?

BELVA SMITH:  Hi everybody.  Happy Monday.

BRIAN NORTON:  Exactly.  Next we have Josh Anderson, the manager of our clinical assistive technology program and also the happy-go-lucky podcast host of AT update.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Why, thank you, Brian.  Welcome back everyone.

BRIAN NORTON:  I don’t know.  I was trying to think of something creative to say about you.  Happy-go-lucky was all I got.

BELVA SMITH:  He is the proud papa of Penelope, right?

JOSH ANDERSON:  Exactly.

BRIAN NORTON:  Anyway, I just want to take a moment before we jump into questions to talk about the show.  If you are a new listener with us today, our show, we receive feedback and come across various assistive technology questions throughout the week, and then we compile them into a list of questions we think we can tackle and provide some good answers.  That’s what we do here.  We are sitting around in our studio today, just doing our best to answer those questions as best we can.

If you have questions – and we would love to hear from you – we have a listener line set up, that is 317-721-7124.  We also have an email address set up as well, tech@eastersealscrossroads.org.  Or you can send us a tweet with the hashtag ATFAQ.  We keep an eye on that hashtag and collect questions through Twitter as well.

Also, as we tackle questions, please keep in mind that if you guys have any feedback – we know you guys may deal with AT day in and day out, you may use it, or you may be a person who, like us, works with that a lot to be able to help folks to be able to use it better and be more independent.  We would love to hear from you if you guys have suggestions or answers to any of the questions we try to tackle.  We are trying to help everybody get the answers that they need.  Please let us know in those ways as well, through our listener line, our email, or by sending us a tweet.

If you are looking for our show or want to share the show with others, they can find in a variety of different places.  You can go to iTunes, you can go to ATFAQshow.com, you can find us on stitcher, the Google play store, lots of different places.  Or if you just want to send them to our website, EasterSealsTech.com, they can find it there as well.  That’s our main page for the INDATA Project here in Indiana, so you can find that information there.

I did want to take a moment to plug something that is coming up here with the INDATA Project.  On May 8, from 11 to 4 PM, we are holding a webinar on web accessibility.  If you are interested, if you are a web developer – it’s not for someone who is a novice and is basically looking to create a page for themselves.  But if you are a hard-core web developer and work on accessibility and would like to know more about accessibility, on May 8, we are having Dennis Lembry put on a full day training for us where he digs in to web accessibility.  If you don’t know, Dennis Lembry is renowned in the area of web accessibility.  We would love to have you join us for that.  You can find more information on that particular training at our website, EasterSealsTech.com/A11Y.  You can find out how to register and also find out more about what we are going to be covering that day.

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[4:24] Question 1 – texting from a computer

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BRIAN NORTON:  Our first question of the day came through Jennifer.  Jennifer sent us an email, and it says, “I’m looking for a way to send text messages from a Windows computer without having a phone to connect it to.  Any suggestions?”

BELVA SMITH:  I’ve actually done this a couple of different times with different clients.  Starting with Outlook 2013, Microsoft dropped in the support for Outlook text messaging; however, you have to know who the phone provider is for who you are sending the text to.  So instead of texting 317-555-5555, you are actually going to be texting some@verizon.com.  There used to be – and the way I found out how to do it, is a Google search to the different addresses for the different phone providers.  That’s probably still available somewhere out there on the web, but if not, you can probably contact the provider.  And then you can also receive texts back that exact same way.  For example, if I were to text you at AT&T from a Windows computer, then you could reply to that text and it would just come back to me in my inbox within Outlook.  It’s going to look just like an email message, but it’s really being sent and received like a text message.

BRIAN NORTON:  I believe all major cell phone carriers have an option where its 1234567@cellcarrier.com, so Verizon, AT&T, all those different places.  I do believe you are limited in the number of characters you can send.  I believe it’s 160 characters, is what I’ve learned.

BELVA SMITH:  Lets everybody think that.  Long text messages go through me like crazy.  I prefer short text messages.  A text message is something short and to the point.  If you need to do something longer, then it should be an email.

BRIAN NORTON:  Think about that 160 characters.  I thought it would be good time to mention the differences.  There is SMS, which is for text-only messages, and then you have MMS, for multimedia messages.  I’m not sure that the multimedia goes to the email like we are talking.

BELVA SMITH:  I think the Outlook only uses the SMS.

BRIAN NORTON:  So keep that in mind as well.  I did a little bit of digging, and I found a couple of different apps.  I believe there is Text Free, is an iOS and android app that has a web interface as well.  So if you are on the computer, you can get to it as well.  I do know that you need to sign up for an account.  Basically I think you need to sign in through Google or Facebook.  Many places require you to do that these days.  They give you the option to be able to use your Facebook credentials or your Google credentials to be able to sign up for an account.  Text free should be able to offer that.

I thought it might be advantageous to talk about some of the tools we use here in our department.  We used to use a program called Slack, and now we are using Microsoft teams because we just migrated to office 365.  I’m not sure if this is an employee or just someone who needs to connect with other folks.  Sometimes, depending what you have, Slack, it’s not HIPAA compliant per se –

BELVA SMITH:  I’m not sure about the accessibility on it either.  My guess is where we Jennifer is helping with this, they are probably looking for something that is accessible.  That’s what will make Outlook –

BRIAN NORTON:  I think we’ve tested that hear a little bit.  I don’t think it’s crazy inaccessible.  There may be some issues with it, but I do think it’s pretty accessible.  We use it to do lots of things around here to be able to talk about our schedules, to be able to send quick question to the team, other kinds of things.  It just allows you to have – there is a web interface or an app that you can download to your computer to be able to talk and converse.  Think of it like the old Instant Messenger if you will.  It’s kind of more of a deluxe version of the Instant Messenger program that used to exist.  Slack and Teams would be the other program.

JOSH ANDERSON:  There is also Google voice.  You can use it to send text messages.  It’s just voice.google.com and you can get your own phone number.  I think you can pick from available once.  And then you can send text messages right there from your computer or make phone calls.  If you have an android phone or a Google account, it will go ahead and link to all your contacts that you have as well.

BELVA SMITH:  And there is a limit to that, right?

JOSH ANDERSON:  I don’t think so.  I think as long as you sign up for a personal account, I don’t think there is account or anything like that.  I think if you do it for business, it might be different, because I’ve never tried that.  Yeah, it’s very simple to set up.  I didn’t try it with any accessibility features or anything like that, but I would assume it’s probably pretty good with those.  Very simple to use.  And you can use on your device as well, but right there from the PC.  Just go to voice.google.com, set up a quick account.  If you have Google account get it will go ahead and link itself there.

BELVA SMITH:  In researching for this question, I also notice that I found some information about that text messaging and in for Outlook.  I don’t recall having done anything with an added when I did it.  It’s been a couple years ago, but I would say if for some reason it’s not working for whatever version of Outlook you’re trying to use, then I would double check to see if perhaps there is some sort of an add-in that you might have to add to your current program.

BRIAN NORTON:  I also heard from somebody – and I’m not sure exactly where I heard this.  But they mentioned that Skype allows you to text message as well.  I believe it allows you to send some text messages, but there is no – without a number associated or a connected phone.  I’m not exactly sure.  Someone had mentioned that as a possibility, so you may – and Skype is free, right?  Unless it’s Skype for business.

BELVA SMITH:  Skype is free in some aspects but not in others.  I don’t know exactly what it is.  It used to be that Skype is free for all VoIP calls, but that has somewhat changed now.  VoIP is the acronym for Voice over Internet Protocol.  That has somewhat changed, and exactly what, I’m not sure.  If you are interested in trying Skype, I would say just Google it and find out what the requirements are.  It may be that you are limited to so many.  That’s why I was asking about Google voice, because I know a lot of these will limit you to only being able to do 10 messages a week or something like that.

BRIAN NORTON:  I remember years ago when I figured out, like what you originally mentioned, that you could put the person’s phone number and at whatever the cell carrier is dot com, I just thought that was the most amazing thing ever. I was like, oh wow, I didn’t realize you could do that.  I thought it always had to be phone to phone.

BELVA SMITH:  No, and it made texting accessible for individuals that were using screen readers that didn’t have a phone or that maybe they had one of those old flip phones, but you had to use a keypad to spell out your words, which was a total nightmare compared to typing it on the keyboard.  I remember that.

BRIAN NORTON:  Totally cool.  I would love to hear from folks who are listening.  If you guys have run into this situation before, we would love to have you guys chime in.  You can do that in a variety of different ways. Our listener line is 317-721-7124.  Or you can send us an email at tech@eastersealscrossroads.org.  We would love to hear from you.

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[12:18] Question 2 – transition questions from high school to higher ed

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BRIAN NORTON:  Our next question came in an email.  It’s from a parent, and the question goes like this, “I’m a parent, and my son has various learning disabilities including auditory processing disorder and dyslexia.  He is getting ready to enter his senior year of high school, and I want to stay ahead of the game as he transitions into Higher Ed.  What question or steps should I be considering or asking the IEP team about or the university or colleges we plan to visit about at this point?” I think it’s how do we plan for that transition.  I think that’s the question all parents have as they get to the end of high school and they realize, hey, now my son or daughter, they are going to go either into a vocational field at that point or they are going to go into higher Ed.  Higher Ed is the case in this situation.  I think there’s a lot to consider in that, just simply watching lots of the students transition over the years.  We used to do and still do quite a bit of help for high school students who are transitioning into higher Ed as they work to the VR system here in Indiana.

I think the first thing to realize is it’s going to change and it’s a pretty drastic change from high school and college.  I think the biggest change that I see is that in high school, you have a system that’s surrounding you and scheduling appointments for you and your family to be able to be brought up to speed on what type of support are being offered in high school.  That’s the IEP meetings you may go to, which is an individualized education plan.  I think the real challenge is you’ve been so developed into the system that cares for you and is there for you it is going to help put the supports in place for you that once you get to college, those things completely change.  As you had to college, the coin is then flipped into you having to advocate for yourself for the supports and the things that you need to be successful.  They have the same support available to you that are in high school.  They are just not seeking you out.  You have to seek them out at this point.

BELVA SMITH:  I would say that in most cases, they have the same supports.  In some cases, they have more.

BRIAN NORTON:  Right.  I think as far as this parent is concerned, as they talk with their student, as they get closer and closer to graduation, I think in that IEP process, what I would be asking them is – you should be talking to them about where you are going to be going; what your transition plan looks like; that you are going to going to college or higher education in some way, shape, or form; talking about where you are headed; what the deficits that you have in certain areas.  Hopefully they’ll be able to pour in and provide you information about who to contact at those places, or as you are meeting with admissions folks at those particular universities that you’re going to visit, you need to be talking about and being forthright with what types of struggles or challenges that the student has so that they can then put you in touch with places like disability services or adaptive educational services.  What you’ll find is those offices are named different things at different places, so it’s definitely to consider and talk about as you meet with them to be able to figure out who do I need to talk to?  Who do I need to be open and honest about the struggles I’m having?  Because those departments at those colleges and universities will be the ones to work with the teachers and the professors in those particular classes that you’re going to take to be able to put those supports in place.  Because each individual teacher needs to be brought up to speed about what type of support is needed.  Is it a scribe?  Is it a notetaker?  Do you need your exams proctored?  Really, most of what I see an IEP’s in the high school settings, does look very similar to the things and supports that are being put into place for college students.  It’s just now that they are in college, the students had to ask for those.  It wasn’t somebody who was appointed to then follow those students along and be able to make sure they have what they needed, like they are in high school.

JOSH ANDERSON:  It’s important to make sure that you are talking to those offices.  Just telling your teacher isn’t going to do you any good.

BRIAN NORTON:  Right.  Because they are not going to approve anything without it going through one of those offices.

JOSH ANDERSON:  And also get a hold of them early.  If you need certain things, like or books in alternative formats, that might take some time.  Especially if those books aren’t automatically available, the school is going to have to maybe send them out and have them changed, everything else.  If you don’t get there early, you might as well start off behind, and starting of behind as a freshman is not a very good thing.

BRIAN NORTON:  You get behind very quickly.

JOSH ANDERSON:  And it’s very hard to get caught back up.

BELVA SMITH:  I want to say good job to the parent for being ahead of the game, because that’s very important.  Also, a lot of times, what I have experienced with my transitioning students, in their school, their grade school, high school, whatever, a lot of times they are provided loaner equipment that has special software on it that helps accommodate whatever their different needs are.  Once they get into college, there is not going to be any loaner equipment.  You are going to need to figure out, for example, if your student is blind – and I don’t think that’s our case in this situation – but if your student is blind and they have been relying very heavily on perhaps a Braille notetaker, and that device has been loaned to them, or they’ve been relying on a tablet for whatever reason, the minute they finish high school, that device goes back to the high school.  Figuring out how they are going to get access to that kind of equipment once they get in college is going to be very important. 

Also, depending on the age of the student – I know for both of my boys, when they started college, they were still 17.  In fact, one of them was 16 and turned 17 at college.  But if your son or daughter is reaching the age of 18, then you would also probably be eligible for vocational rehabilitation services in your area.  That might be another area you want to start to get your feet wet and learn a little bit about how those services work.  But again, I applaud the parent for being ahead of the game, because I have seen the students who wait until school starts, and then they start trying to locate the disability services.  Before you know it, they are feeling out of the first semester because they didn’t get things lined up in advance.

JOSH ANDERSON:  That’s something to consider when you’re looking at colleges.  As you are going and visiting them, just how accessible the college is, but also what’s the disability services like?  Some of them even offer some software packages.  I think Kurzweil is available at some schools, which can help with print disabilities.  Read and write gold is available at some schools.  You might take that into consideration, especially if you are in between schools, review which one handles that part better.

BELVA SMITH:  I know personally, several of my clients have chosen specific schools because of the services that they were going to be providing.  If you think about it, it’s really no different than saying, I’m going to be an architect and choose a college that is really phenomenal in that area.  That’s definitely something to be checking out.

BRIAN NORTON:  Along those lines, sometimes what I encourage folks to do is beyond just talking to the department, the disability services department or adaptive educational services department, asked them for folks who – and maybe they can’t tell you because it might be a HIPAA problem.  Really, asked them about other folks who may receive similar services or what not to be able to be put into contact with folks.  If they can’t do that, talk to your peers or other family members or families that may have gone to a particular school and taking advantage of some of the services.  I always love to hear firsthand, not necessarily from the department, but someone who receives services to be able to tell what’s the real story, how are things really done.  Did they get you the things you needed when you needed them?  Those kinds of things.

I will say for colleges and universities here in Indiana, on our website, EasterSealsTech.com, you can put forward slash /college.  We have a college and university resource page.  Every college and university in the state of Indiana is listed there.  If you click on the link, it’ll go ahead and take you down to their page to where you can link to a phone number, an email address for that disability services department.  A really quick, easy way to connect with a few folks.  Some will put you directly into the admissions department because colleges and universities are small enough that they don’t have a specific department for disability services.  But it will somehow be connected to the admissions department, so you will be able to find or at least talk to someone who would be aware and knowledgeable about how to get in touch with someone to talk about the supports that you need to.

BELVA SMITH:  I think I’ve been doing this long enough that, years ago, a lot of my clients were going to college and laying the path for this is what kind of accommodations I need and then others like me are going to need.  But I think that that path has been laid now, pretty much.  I think almost all the colleges are aware that there are different people with different abilities and accommodations that are going to need to be available.  I think they do a good job trying to make sure that those are there for them.

BRIAN NORTON:  Absolutely.  I know there’s got to be some listeners who have gone through this situation.  Maybe they have a student or a child themselves, or maybe they’ve gone to the process themselves alone.  We would love to be able to hear from you, be able to know what your situation was and what you may have thought were good ideas as you look back on that time when you transitioned from high school to college.  We would love to be able to talk to you guys.  You can give us a call on our listener line at 317-721-7124.  Or send us a tweet with hashtag ATFAQ.  We would love to hear from you.  Thanks very much.

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[22:50] Question 3 – Showdown: iPad versus Chromebook

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BRIAN NORTON:  Our next question is actually the showdown question.  We change the name.  It used to be app showdown, but we are talking about all types of assistive technology these days and really just looking at two different products, kind of what the pros and cons are between those products and some basic information about it. 

Today I thought we would dig into iPad versus Chromebook accessibility.  And really the reason I chose those two things is those are the more common technology that you will find that schools are purchasing for kids.  They either get an iPad for their textbooks or they get a Chromebook.  Josh just mentioned in his district that his kids go to, they get Chromebooks.  But that’s expensive.

JOSH ANDERSON:  MacBooks.

BRIAN NORTON:  That is a Chromebooks?

JOSH ANDERSON:  Don’t get them for free.

BRIAN NORTON:  They make the parents pay.

JOSH ANDERSON:  They are not given anything.

BELVA SMITH:  I believe you are paying a rental on that, aren’t you?

JOSH ANDERSON:  You are.  Unless something happens to it, then it’s yours.

BELVA SMITH:  Part of the book fee.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Completely and totally.

BELVA SMITH:  I believe some of the high schools are leaning toward doing the MacBooks.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I’ve got to say it’s a little more helpful.  Especially with this year as a work with college students, as I’m reading their websites to make sure I’m recommending the right kind of computer, the student has a right kind of computer, I’m starting to see disclaimers that say do not buy a Chromebook or do not think that you can do your college work on just an iPad.  You really need a computer.

BRIAN NORTON:  That’s interesting.

BELVA SMITH:  I will say that in some of the transitioning evaluations I just did, those were my words exactly to these future college students.  You may have gotten through high school on this tablet, but you’re not going to get through college on a tablet.

JOSH ANDERSON:  It specifically said, don’t do that.  It’s not going to be enough to do everything that you need to do.

BELVA SMITH:  To try to get focus back on your question here, Brian –

BRIAN NORTON:  Let’s reel this back into the question.

BELVA SMITH:  The first thing about accessibility is, obviously, with one of them you’ve got a keyboard, a tactile keyboard.

BRIAN NORTON:  That’s the Chromebook.

BELVA SMITH:  Of course having a tactile keyboard with a tablet is also a possibility, but then it becomes two things that you are caring around.  You’ve got to worry about the Bluetooth connectivity, whereas with the Chromebook you’ve got it all.  As far as I’m a blind student, either device is going to get me the ability to access it with screen readers, because I got – what is on the Chromebook?

JOSH ANDERSON:  Chrome Vox.

BELVA SMITH:  Chrome Vox.  And then I get voiceover on the tablet.  So I’ve got my accessibility that way.  The magnification is pretty much equal length either way.  I think the biggest thing I see is the ability to use the tactile keyboard all in one piece, not two.  With a tablet, you do have the option of using the pencil or the Koran, which I guess is becoming pretty popular with the kids.

BRIAN NORTON:  For notetaking and things like that.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I would say it kind of depends on the user.  Was easier for you?  The tactile – some Chromebooks to have the touchscreen cost you get a little bit of both.  I would say that apps would be a giant difference, but I know that on Chromebooks you can get the whole Google play store now.  Pretty much any app you can get on an android phone, you are going to be able to get on there.  There is also of all the accessibility chrome plug-ins that you can use.  Different ones I can think of for reading, writing, stuff like that.  Of course there are a lot of apps on the iPad that do many of the same things.

BELVA SMITH:  For example, to read the selected text, that’s in adding for the Chromebook.  That’s part of the OS for tablet.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Very true.

BELVA SMITH:  It’s going to be a back-and-forth with what’s part of the OS and was in adding.  But can I do it?  Yeah, you can do it on either device.  It’s just a matter of the you have to go get a third party app to do it.  As far as the price goes, they are pretty comparable.  Again, these are being provided by the school’s most of the time.  It’s not like something you have to go out and get.  I do feel like for students especially, the Chromebook might be a little more durable, because of the fact that you can actually close the lid.  But then again, if I got complications or difficulties getting the lid open and getting the tablet – or get in the computer on the desk, then maybe a tablet is the better way to go, because you don’t even necessarily need to hold onto the tablet.  You could always have a tablet around your neck.  The computer has to be on a desktop.

BRIAN NORTON:  What’s so fascinating to me is just over the last several years, you seen the accessibility on these devices kind of turn a 180.

BELVA SMITH:  Blow up.

BRIAN NORTON:  Now you got lots of tools.  IPad for me is arguably one of the most accessible devices ever made.  Between all of the things it can do with folks with visual impairments, whether that’s blind or low vision, or you just have difficulty reading print.  With a learning disability, they’ve got tons of speech options, whether it’s a full-fledged screen reader to select to speak.  Then you get into ways to kind of help folks with challenges of focus and attention.  So they’ve got – what’s that feature?

JOSH ANDERSON:  Guided access.  Where you can lock it down to just a few apps or a certain amount of time on them.

BELVA SMITH:  So you think that Apple or Google had this in mind as they were developing these tools?  Or is this just, it just came out that way.

BRIAN NORTON:  I think really what’s happening today is they are realizing that they’ve got to get into the game.  That’s because baby boomers are getting older.  There are age related disability starting to become apparent, vision loss, other types of things.  Mobility, those types of things are becoming reality and their products are going to have to meet those needs.  I remember 15 years ago when I was in this, they kind of left companies alone to do their own thing with accessibility stuff.  We are going to work on the productivity part of it and leave the accessibility to folks who deal with that.  But now I’m seeing it built into the product.  For me, I look at it, some of those companies, the new Bill Gates of Microsoft has a son with cerebral palsy —

BELVA SMITH:  Of the new Bill Gates of Microsoft?

JOSH ANDERSON:  The CEO?

BRIAN NORTON:  Exactly.

JOSH ANDERSON:  They cloned him, Belva.

BRIAN NORTON:  There is a vested interest in making those products.  You even see adaptive gaming controllers, other kinds of things.  Again, I think with the iPad, it’s always had a lot of accessibility built in.  I think it was may be part of the product when they released it.  Certainly they’ve improved upon it.  They’ve done a ton to make it more user-friendly, accessible, and usable for folks.  There isn’t a whole lot of difference between what you can do with chrome and what you can do with Apple, in my book.  A lot of those same features are there.

BELVA SMITH:  I totally agree with you, Brian.  Taking back over the years, for the student in a wheelchair who may be had four different classes, that’s four different books that had to go class to class with him, they had to figure out how am I going to get it out of the bag onto my desk.  If they’ve got a tablet, it’s on a mount on their chair, and their book is right there.  Nobody has to help them, they’ve just got it there.  The same thing with the Chromebooks.  Instead of having a backpack full of books, they’ve got just one device that they are taking from class to class with them.  I think that’s why you’ve got some districts that are using the Chromebooks and some districts that are using the iPad’s, because I think the schools have realized that it doesn’t matter which one is more accessible.  They are both equal.  Which one costs more, they are both equal.  I think it’s just a matter of what they started out to purchase, whether it’s going to be an Apple device or an android device.

JOSH ANDERSON:  You got me thinking, talking about the individual in a wheelchair.  I know iPads do really well with switch access.  There’s a lot of different ways you can read that thing up to control it with a lot of different ways.  A Chromebook being based more on the keyboard, I don’t know if it would be as easy to set up those kinds of controls.

BELVA SMITH:  Again, if I’m in a wheelchair and I’ve got my Chromebook, it can be on the mount for me, but then I’ve got to get that lit up and down and all that stuff.

JOSH ANDERSON:  And access the keyboard to do some stuff.

BELVA SMITH:  A tablet is just right there at my face, ready to go.

BRIAN NORTON:  It has been remarkable to see where things are now as to where they were previously.  I’m kind of excited about where we are headed as big companies like Microsoft and Google get into the accessibility game a little bit more.  I think we are going to see more intuitive types of interfaces for folks, more option for folks to be able to use, making things more accessible and usable at the very same time.  I can only imagine that it’s going to get better and better.  Again, I think as we take a look at the two, I know Belva and I sat in on the same presentation at ATIA where they did this exact thing.  They said they’ve looked at Apple iOS and Chromebook accessibility, and they had what they call the smack down.  Really, in ATIA, for folks who don’t know, it’s the assistive technology industry Association.  They have a larger conference in Orlando, Florida every year.  It’s where a lot of vendors and a large conference where a lot of vendors are there, lots of providers are there, and they’re looking at those adaptive tools that help people be more independent.  One of those was that question about iPad and Chromebook accessibility.  Really, it was a standoff.

BELVA SMITH:  It really was.  It goes back I always compare Ford and Chevy.  If you are a Ford person, you are a Ford person.  If you are a Chevy person, you are a Chevy person.  Will get the same results.  It’s just a question of which device you are going to use.  I remember, if I’m not mistaken, the guy that was doing the Chromebook, it wasn’t that way a couple of years ago.

BRIAN NORTON:  Right.

BELVA SMITH:  It’s in the last year or so that everything jumped up and became even.

BRIAN NORTON:  I’m just excited of where it’s headed.  If you guys have experience with the iPad or Chromebook and want to chime in and let us know your thoughts on the accessibility of each, we would love to hear from you.  You can give us a call on our listener line at 317-721-7124.  Or send us an email at tech@eastersealscrossroads.org.

***

[34:37] Question 4 – discreet microphone for use in classroom setting

***

BRIAN NORTON:  Our next question is, “I’m looking for recommendations.  I have a high school student who needs a mic for voice to text.  We are looking for a good one that can be used during class so that he is not always needing to leave.  Are there good ones out there that would pick up his voice if he speaks softly in the classroom yet minimizes the background noise?” There are a lot of great microphones out there.  Probably the easiest one – and I see a lot of people use this type of technology — is a good set of earbuds with the mic and the cord.  I don’t think there’s anything simpler.  The reason I say that is you can move that mic close to the person the mouth just by holding up the cord closer to your mouth to be able to pick up what’s being spoken, and at the very same time eliminating the background noise as you are doing that because you are getting it closer to the person’s mouth instead of just thinking down by your neck where it is picking up everything around you.  That’s definitely an option.

Also, I would recommend a steno mask.  I don’t know if you guys have seen that.  Steno masks are masks used for court stenographer is a lot of times if they use any type of dictation.  It will allow you to speak into a mask does right, Josh?

JOSH ANDERSON:  That’s it.  You end up looking like Top Gun or something like that, almost like –

BRIAN NORTON:  It does look like an aircraft pilot.

JOSH ANDERSON:  It keeps all the sound out, so it works really well for folks who are transcriptionist or talk about important stuff.  That way everyone around him isn’t going to hear them because they are going to be talking into a tube, I guess would be a way to say it.  Something else to look into, and this is something I know we used to do.  It sounds weird, but if you think about have you ever been to a truck stop and seen all the different headsets they have for long road truckers, a lot of times those work really well for voice input because there may to block out some of that noise from the truck, from the road, from all these different things.  Usually the microphone can be pulled pretty close to the mouth so the person doesn’t have to be super loud, and they are also usually comfortable for all day.

BRIAN NORTON:  They are super good.

JOSH ANDERSON:  They are usually not super expensive.  Usually under $200, you can get pretty decent once.  There are all kinds.  I know we’ve used Blue Parrots before four different stuff.  They are usually Bluetooth enabled and usually work pretty well.

BRIAN NORTON:  There is a lot you can do with a microphone.  There are unidirectional microphones, ones that are better at noise canceling than others.  Certainly look at the recommendations.  I even think Dragon, if you are using Dragon – it didn’t necessarily say specifically what they were using for voice to text.  But if you are using Dragon, on their website, they have a list of approved microphones.  They give you the list by I believe dragons. It’s a five-dragon microphone.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Or is it little flames?

BRIAN NORTON:  Maybe flames now.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I can’t remember.

BRIAN NORTON:  There are a lot of really quality microphones.  I know we use one here called six-in-one speechware that it’s basically a boom mic.  It can pick up the slightest whisper from an individual.  We’ve had a lot of folks that were soft-spoken, and they are using one of those to be able to pick up their voice.  What’s great about it is you can just pull up to the desk, if you are in a wheelchair or whatever.  It’s not something you have to put on your head.  Is not something like those earbuds where you had to put them in your ear.  You can just pull up and be as close as you can.  It all depends on the environment, specifically what the environment looks like and then the user themselves, what are their abilities to put on and off a headset.  And then matching up the type of microphones.  But there are a lot of great ones that can do a lot of good things for you.

JOSH ANDERSON:  You brought up a good point.  If I’m using Dragon, I can look and Dragon’s website and find ones that work really well. If they are using Windows speech recognition, I’m sure they can find information on that.  I’ve never looks, but I’m sure the information is there, or whatever they are using.  I’m sure someone has done a review on the different ones.  Somebody besides just us.

BELVA SMITH:  I believe any microphone you can get close to the user’s mouth, just a couple inches away, will be suitable for them to use a low voice without picking up too much of the surrounding noise.  My concern would be them dictating in the classroom, being disruptive to the rest of the classroom.  Even if they are using a quieter voice.  Josh, I think we just had this discussion not too long ago.  I’ve used the Windows speech recognition on my computer many times, just using the built-in microphone.

JOSH ANDERSON:  You are a big proponent of the built-in microphone.

BELVA SMITH:  I really am.  I’ve had good experience with it.  Again, that’s not what I’m going to be able to get close enough to use a whisper.  I would talk as if I were talking to someone sitting next to me in the room.  I’m not yelling, not whispering.

JOSH ANDERSON:  If you are in a shared workspace, using the one on there, it’s probably going to pick up the other people talking.  It’s not going to get everything they say but enough that it’s going to be annoying.

BELVA SMITH:  That’s why I believe getting one close to you will be a better solution.

BRIAN NORTON:  I would also recommend, when you do that, when you get a microphone, consistency is important with the where you position a microphone, especially with voice to text software.  So is not getting too much value in not getting too little volume.  When you first put that microphone on, if you want to position it very close to the person’s mouth can do it the very first time.  That will help Dragon auto calibrate your microphone a little bit so it can make it softer and not get distorted by being so close.  It will actually even out the levels on your microphone to be able to solve small those recognition accuracy is that may come when you are just initially setting that up.  Again, long term consistency is the name of the game with Dragon.  If you’re going to say something, say the same way all the time.  The same way goes for the microphone in its position.  Always position the microphone in the same place so there is consistency and you are getting the same level of volume to the microphone so it can do a better job of voice recognition accuracy over the course of time.

BELVA SMITH:  I think this is a good place to throw in the ad for your local assistive technology.  For us here, if you’re in the state of Indiana, that would be in data.  See what kind of microphones they have in their library that you might be able to experiment with to try and see which one feels good and comfortable and yet meets all the needs you have.

BRIAN NORTON:  We don’t have all the microphones, but I know here at INDATA Project we have quite a few.

BELVA SMITH:  That would be a very large number available microphones.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Even if you can’t try them all, you can get —

BELVA SMITH:  Get an idea.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Try a tabletop, try a headset, try a couple ones and see which one is going to work best for you.  Then just go from there because you then know what style you need.

BRIAN NORTON:  I would bet that for a lot of folks, it’s not going to be — the more you pay for a microphone doesn’t mean it’s going to work better for you.  Sometimes the difference becomes negligible in some respects.  It’s much like – I don’t know – zero flicker screens and other kinds of things.  To the naked eye, I can’t really tell what the difference except it’s costing me $100 out of my pocket.  Same thing with microphones.  I think if you take the time to set it up the right way the first time, and really work on making sure it’s got the right volume coming through it, it is positioned consistently, you are going to have some results with most microphones these days.  I’m not saying that some aren’t better than others, but sometimes the difference is negligible.  You’ve got to weigh the cost versus the benefit at that moment.  Definitely reach out to us.  If you live here in Indiana, you can borrow from us to borrow some of microphones, try some things out, some different styles, lapel microphones, desktop microphones, headset microphones, those kinds of things.  Figure out what best works for you, what feels most comfortable for you.  If you are not from Indiana and you are interested in connecting with your local assistive technology act, do that at eastersealstech.com/states, is where you can find who your local AT Act provider is on our website.

***

[43:22] Question 5 – Accessibility features in Office 365

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BRIAN NORTON:  Our next question also came in through email.  “Thank you all for the great work that you do.  My work as a pretty our productivity software to Office 365.  Will you take some time to discuss some of the more prominent accessibility features built into the new environment?” That’s ironic because we just recently upgraded ourselves to Office 365.  We just recently went through the upgrade and it went pretty well for us.  There weren’t a lot of hiccups.  I know for other departments it was more hiccups.  I guess it depends on how technical you can be and how flexible you can be in using new products.  Thoughts on that?

JOSH ANDERSON:  I would say the immersive reader is the biggest one that is pretty cool and available in a lot of the stuff.  It’s been available for quite a while in OneNote, but I think you can actually use it in the Word now.  Immersive reader is for folks with different types of print disabilities.  It can read everything back to you, it can split things up by syllable.  You can change the way the text is shown.  You can have it highlight as it reads so that you can actually read along.  Really did something with attention, with focus, and getting access to those kinds of things.

Other one is the Dictate that’s built in.  I think you have to get the add-in if you don’t have 365.  I know that it works in Word.  I’ve used it in the Word, and I think you can use it in PowerPoint and maybe Outlook.  It’s a pretty good dictation program.  Is not quite as good as Dragon or something like that, but it’s free.  All you have to do is enable it.  One thing I think is pretty cool about it is if you change one setting, it will actually put the punctuation in for you.  I know a lot of folks with dictation, it’s very hard to say, “Oh, it’s really great to see you, Belva!”  And throw all those in.  It will actually try to throw those in for you.  It’s a bit wonky the way that part works, just because if you talk like any normal human being, you pause a lot and it throws a period in.  It can be a little bit weird. 

Those are pretty cool features.  Some of those have been available in office before, but I think this is the first time they are available in more programs.  Pretty cool.

BELVA SMITH:  I think most importantly with Office 365 is if you are using a screen reader, it’s important that you not only have access to Office 365 online apps, Word, Outlook.  Those need to be installed directly on to the computer.  They can be, and it’s a whole mess of how it has to happen, but it can be done.  What you are going to find if you try to use word with the online version only, and you’re trying to use a screen reader, you are going to find things just aren’t working the way that they should. An Outlook example, you can’t use the key command to bring up a list of folders.  So if you need to get from your inbox to your sent folder, it’s impossible at this point.  It’s very important if you are a screen reader user that those applications be installed directly, not just accessible through the online version.

Office 365 applications, usually all of them have the Tell Me assistant —

BRIAN NORTON:  I like that feature.  That’s pretty neat.

BELVA SMITH:  Yeah.  You can also be reminded to check accessibility for any of your documents or spreadsheets that you are creating.  I know we are putting together a presentation for a couple of weeks out.  I did actually use the accessibility checker to make sure that the presentation I put together was accessible.  It was very helpful because I found out that it wasn’t.  It gave me the advice as to what I needed to do to fix it.  That was very helpful. 

I don’t know what specifically this individual is looking to know more about, but I would advise that you go to the Microsoft accessibility website and look at all they are boasting about.  It’s full of accessibility features.  They really have tried to accommodate pretty much everybody in some way or fashion.  I would definitely go there and see what all they are offering.  If you have a need that you aren’t finding that they address, I would encourage you to contact the Microsoft accessibility helpline and let them know that, hey, I’m a person who has this issue and I can’t find any kind of accommodation.  Just so that they are aware.  It may be something that they haven’t considered that could be addressed in a future release of the software.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I would say under the one that is pretty cool is Microsoft translator.  I think you can use in a lot more of the programs now.  If you are giving a PowerPoint presentation, let’s say maybe you don’t have an interpreter, you don’t have a CART person for transcriptions, with just a simple microphone and turning that on, you can actually go ahead and have captions kind of show up.  They are not going to replace a cartographer, replace an interpreter, but in a pinch you can give you something that you can use.  What else is cool is if you have people in your audience who speak different languages, maybe English isn’t their first language, they are having a hard time following along, they can download that app on their phone or open it up on the computer and have everything translated into their native-language pretty much right away.  If you make your PowerPoint available, they can actually click one button and you are entire PowerPoint can change languages.  It’s pretty cool, pretty neat.  Like I said, it happens really quickly and helps, especially if you happen to work somewhere or be working with individuals who have English as a second language or don’t speak the same lay which is you.  Being able to translate that quickly is helpful.

BELVA SMITH:  You also have the inclusion of the Office Lens which allows you to take printed text and turn it into digital content so that it can be read aloud.  As long as you got a computer that’s got a camera on it, which almost all laptops do – I don’t think you can buy a laptop nowadays that don’t.

BRIAN NORTON:  I have also found dictation – Josh, did you mention that earlier?

JOSH ANDERSON:  Yeah.

BRIAN NORTON:  What I’m finding is that they are all, especially in those online versions, a lot of the tools are right there on your menu bar.  They are easy to find.  I’m just so impressed with where they are going with some of the stuff.  Again, they’ve got some things to work out, some bugs for folks who use screen readers and other types of things to be able to use some of those online tools.  Right now, you need to have the installed versions a lot of times to make those work well for somebody.

BELVA SMITH:  I don’t think that’s ever going to change.  That’s the world of screen readers and the Internet.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Software on the computer works well with a screen reader.  Things on the Internet [noncommittal grunt].  It’s been that way with almost everything the entire time that I’ve been doing this, which isn’t as long as you guys have.  I know it’s always been things on the Internet are if he.

BELVA SMITH:  I would also like to encourage any of our listeners that are using any type of assistive technology to consider, if you consider yourself to be tech savvy, you are very good with technology and very good with the Windows environment, I would encourage you to consider becoming one of the Office Insiders.  Those are individuals that get access to things before the rest of us get it to test it and try it.  For example, if you are a screen reader user and you are pretty good at your screen reader and pretty good with your Windows environment, then contacting Microsoft and volunteering to become one of their insiders would give them –

JOSH ANDERSON:  Invaluable information, because you are going to notice things that they would never think of or tried to access.  It will make a big difference when the big version comes out.

BELVA SMITH:  Right.  It helps the releases be more less likely to be bug infested.  They could be bug free.

BRIAN NORTON:  Belva, I know a couple weeks ago we passed out the accessibility – maybe it was last week when we were talking about Microsoft versus accessibility with the other products.  They have an accessibility line.  Is that right?

BELVA SMITH:  That’s correct.  Depending – one of the first questions I will ask you is what type of assistive technology are using.  Are you using a screen reader?  Are you using a screen magnifier?  And then they will make sure to accommodate through whatever type of technology that you are using.  I know you’re going to ask me to give you that number again, so I’m trying to find it really quick.  It’s the Microsoft disability support line, and that is 1-503-427-1234.  Again, when you first contact them, they’ll ask you what type of assistive technology you are using, what Office program or Windows program are you trying to use, and what kind of problems are you having.  They are there to understand your problem and hopefully resolve it quickly.  It has worked well for me every time I’ve had to use it.

BRIAN NORTON:  Perfect.

***

[53:42] Wildcard question: What type of tech would you purchase if you had $1,000 to spend.

***

WADE WINGLER:  And now it’s time for the wildcard question.

BRIAN NORTON:  The next question is our wildcard question.  This is where I’ve gotten a question that Belva and Josh have not had a chance to prepare for.  This is a really simple question.  If I were to give you $1000 – not that I will — but if I were to give you $1000 to spend on technology, what would you spend it on?  This could be at home, at work.  What kinds of things would you want to spend your money on?

JOSH ANDERSON:  I feel like we’ve had this question before.

BELVA SMITH:  We have, but it wasn’t a thousand.

JOSH ANDERSON:  It was a lot more money last time.

BELVA SMITH:  Brian is a lot tighter than Wade.  I think Wade gave us $10,000.

BRIAN NORTON:  Ten thousand dollars, holy smokes! Good gracious.  I’m not that rich.  Better watch out or I’m going to move it to $100.

JOSH ANDERSON:  One dollar.

BELVA SMITH:  $1000 for technology.

BRIAN NORTON:  What would you buy?

BELVA SMITH:  Samsung phone.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Really?  Getting away from the iPhone?

BELVA SMITH:  I just want a Samsung phone.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Just something different?

BELVA SMITH:  Yeah.

BRIAN NORTON:  Would you really use it?  Do you think you would really use a Samsung phone?  Because you have an iPhone?

BELVA SMITH:  I wouldn’t use my iPhone anymore.

BRIAN NORTON:  Oh, you would switch?

BELVA SMITH:  I would switch.

BRIAN NORTON:  Okay.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Really?

BRIAN NORTON:  Interesting.  Why is that?  What’s your reasoning behind that?

BELVA SMITH:  Because they look really sexy.  Have you seen the new Samsung?  They are really nice looking.  I think the entered accessibility stuff is really amazing.

BRIAN NORTON:  It’s making me laugh, because for a thousand bucks, you couldn’t purchase a brand-new iPhone.

BELVA SMITH:  You can’t with Samsung either. I would have to throw some money in there.  I think it’s like $1100.  It’s very comparable to whatever the iPhone is.

BRIAN NORTON:  Josh, what about you?

JOSH ANDERSON:  I’m taken aback by what Belva said.  I thought she was Apple for life and then suddenly jump to the Samsung.

BRIAN NORTON:  Wait till she said she was going to move away from JAWS.  Then we will just pass out and die over here.

JOSH ANDERSON:  She does like NVDA a lot now.

BELVA SMITH:  But JAWS is still the leader.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I know.  You are not quite ready to jump that ship yet.  That’s hard. I really don’t know.  I really want a good pair of noise canceling headphones so when I mow my grass, I can listen to things without having to blare them.  That’s about it.

BRIAN NORTON:  Really?

JOSH ANDERSON:  I don’t know.  We have so much technology between us, and iPhone and iPad and computer and everything else.  I don’t know if I really want any technology.

BELVA SMITH:  What were you playing with in the lab this morning with the lights on and off on your tablet?

BRIAN NORTON:  That was just the Alexa app.

JOSH ANDERSON:  You just made everyone’s house go crazy by saying that.

BRIAN NORTON:  One of our social media content specialists is in a wheelchair.  I’m trying to make the lights in our conference area where her desk is, I want her to be able to turn on and off those lights without having to work the switch.  That could be challenging for her.

BELVA SMITH:  You need to put a smart lock on the door so that she can unlock the door.

BRIAN NORTON:  She has requested one and we’ve talked about it.  But we haven’t put one there.

JOSH ANDERSON:  That wouldn’t really help because occasionally Brian has to come asked me for my keys because he lacks is in the office.

BRIAN NORTON:  That’s more often than not.

JOSH ANDERSON:  So with your thousand dollars, are you getting a smart lock so you don’t [INAUDIBLE]

BRIAN NORTON:  I literally would invest in more IoT types of things around my house.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I did think of something, Alexa for your car.  I’ve seen that and it’s like $30.

BRIAN NORTON:  And that hooks to your radio?

JOSH ANDERSON:  I think so.  I really haven’t looked at it a lot, but I know you can put it on for hands-free everything in your car.  I don’t know if it’s compatible with all cars.  It would be pretty cool and helpful, especially when we change radio stations.  Find something good, Alexa.  I don’t think it’s that good.

BELVA SMITH:  Maybe instead of the Samsung phone – wait, I’ve got a thousand dollars. Can I change my mind? I’ll get the Owl security system for my car.

BRIAN NORTON:  What’s that?

BELVA SMITH:  It’s cameras inside the car, outside the car.  It records in front of you, in back of you.  You can turn them off for the insight a people are freaked out about being recorded it while they are in your car.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Are they small cameras?

BELVA SMITH:  Yes.  You plug it in to the onboard diagnostic thing so it is powered whether the car is on or off.  And it records, like if someone walks by your car and bumps it or throws a rock at it, it records all that.  If they still the camera, who cares because it has already shut it to the cloud and they are caught.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Nice.

BELVA SMITH:  It’s expensive.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I’m going to go with that too.

BRIAN NORTON:  Josh has changed his again.  You guys are wishy-washy.

BELVA SMITH:  Who needs a Samsung when you got an iPhone?

BRIAN NORTON:  Exactly.  For me, I would invest.  I’ve been getting into the IoT kinds of things.  It’s been around for a while, but I’ve been playing around with smart plugs and other types of things.  I found a couple of things, like with the Amazon products and the Amazon smart plugs themselves, it’s pretty intuitive.  They are pretty quick to set up.  Just around our building this week or last week, the whole sensory room on the second floor is completely IoT enabled through an Amazon echo device.  We had a plug, for whatever reason, about four inches from the ceiling on one wall, so we put an Echo dot right there.  We put an iPad 4 down there.  And we also gave them an Echo remote.  Those therapists can either say, computer, turn on the light tunnel and it will turn it on, or they can go to the iPad and use the Alexa app on there and turn things on and off by themselves.  Or they can use the Echo remote and just press the microphone button and say turn on lights tunnel and it will do it for them.  I’ve been pretty impressed with that.  Like I said, just recently this week, I just finished one light, but we’ve got three or four lights in our conference room that can be voice-enabled.  Just getting into that a little bit more and figure out how to do different routines and put up different rooms and environments and whatnot.

BELVA SMITH:  It helps to be lazy.  I did just tell Todd the other day, when we buy a new ceiling fan for the bedroom, I’m getting one that’s Alexa enabled.

JOSH ANDERSON:  That was going to be my next question.  How do you enable the ceiling work we do you have to use the light bulbs?

BELVA SMITH:  You have to buy an Alexa enabled smart fan.  Because I have to keep getting up and down out of bed to turn the fan on and off.  I just want to be able to have my Echo do it for me.

JOSH ANDERSON:  My wife and I would continuously, Alexa turn on the fan. Alexa, turn off the fan.

BELVA SMITH:  We do that with the thermostat.

BRIAN NORTON:  They do have remote ones.

BELVA SMITH:  I do have a remote one but I still have to go to the remote.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Or just put the remote next to your head under your pillow.

BELVA SMITH:  We do that with the thermostat.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Just hide it from Todd.

BELVA SMITH:  Todd will be in the sunroom and he will say Alexa, what’s the house temperature.  Set the house temperature to 78.

JOSH ANDERSON:  78?

BELVA SMITH:  I’m in the bedroom.  Alexa, what’s the house temperature.  78.  Echo, said the insight temperature to 67.

BRIAN NORTON:  Does he really set it to 78?

BELVA SMITH:  Not that high.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Does he own stock in the power company?

BELVA SMITH:  But we constantly have the echo battling each other with the thermostat.

BRIAN NORTON:  Awesome.  That’s our show for this week.  I just want to take a moment to think Belva and Josh for being here with me today.  Belva, you want to say anything to folks?

BELVA SMITH:  Thank you guys.  It’s great to be here.

BRIAN NORTON:  Excellent.  And Josh?

JOSH ANDERSON:  Thanks for joining us today.

BRIAN NORTON:  I would love to know what you guys would spend your money on.  Let us know.  With questions or feedback, there are a variety of ways to get in touch with us.  You can do that to our listener line at 317-721-7124.  Send us a tweet with hashtag ATFAQ.  Or email us at tech@eastersealscrossroads.org.  Without your questions, we really don’t have a show, so be a part of it.

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BRIAN NORTON:  Information provided on Assistive Technology FAQ 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, and receives support from Easter Seals Crossroads and the INDATA Project.  ATFAQ is a proud member of the Accessibility Channel.  Find more of our shows at www.accessibilitychannel.com.

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Transcript provided by TJ Cortopassi.  For requests and inquiries, contact tjcortopassi@gmail.com***

BRIAN NORTON:  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 where 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 tech@eastersealscrossroads.org. The world of assistive technology has questions, and we have answers. And now let’s jump into today’s show.

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BRIAN NORTON:  Hello and welcome to ATFAQ episode 98.  My name is Brian Norton and I’m the host of the show.  We are so happy that you’ve taken some time this week to tune in with us.  We have a great lineup of AT question today, but before we jump into the questions, I wanted to take a moment to go around the room and introduce the folks who are here with me.  The first one is Belva Smith, the team lead for our vision team at Easter Seals Crossroads.  You want to say hi to folks?

BELVA SMITH:  Hi everybody.  Happy Monday.

BRIAN NORTON:  Exactly.  Next we have Josh Anderson, the manager of our clinical assistive technology program and also the happy-go-lucky podcast host of AT update.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Why, thank you, Brian.  Welcome back everyone.

BRIAN NORTON:  I don’t know.  I was trying to think of something creative to say about you.  Happy-go-lucky was all I got.

BELVA SMITH:  He is the proud papa of Penelope, right?

JOSH ANDERSON:  Exactly.

BRIAN NORTON:  Anyway, I just want to take a moment before we jump into questions to talk about the show.  If you are a new listener with us today, our show, we receive feedback and come across various assistive technology questions throughout the week, and then we compile them into a list of questions we think we can tackle and provide some good answers.  That’s what we do here.  We are sitting around in our studio today, just doing our best to answer those questions as best we can.

If you have questions – and we would love to hear from you – we have a listener line set up, that is 317-721-7124.  We also have an email address set up as well, tech@eastersealscrossroads.org.  Or you can send us a tweet with the hashtag ATFAQ.  We keep an eye on that hashtag and collect questions through Twitter as well.

Also, as we tackle questions, please keep in mind that if you guys have any feedback – we know you guys may deal with AT day in and day out, you may use it, or you may be a person who, like us, works with that a lot to be able to help folks to be able to use it better and be more independent.  We would love to hear from you if you guys have suggestions or answers to any of the questions we try to tackle.  We are trying to help everybody get the answers that they need.  Please let us know in those ways as well, through our listener line, our email, or by sending us a tweet.

If you are looking for our show or want to share the show with others, they can find in a variety of different places.  You can go to iTunes, you can go to ATFAQshow.com, you can find us on stitcher, the Google play store, lots of different places.  Or if you just want to send them to our website, EasterSealsTech.com, they can find it there as well.  That’s our main page for the INDATA Project here in Indiana, so you can find that information there.

I did want to take a moment to plug something that is coming up here with the INDATA Project.  On May 8, from 11 to 4 PM, we are holding a webinar on web accessibility.  If you are interested, if you are a web developer – it’s not for someone who is a novice and is basically looking to create a page for themselves.  But if you are a hard-core web developer and work on accessibility and would like to know more about accessibility, on May 8, we are having Dennis Lembry put on a full day training for us where he digs in to web accessibility.  If you don’t know, Dennis Lembry is renowned in the area of web accessibility.  We would love to have you join us for that.  You can find more information on that particular training at our website, EasterSealsTech.com/A11Y.  You can find out how to register and also find out more about what we are going to be covering that day.

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[4:24] Question 1 – texting from a computer

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BRIAN NORTON:  Our first question of the day came through Jennifer.  Jennifer sent us an email, and it says, “I’m looking for a way to send text messages from a Windows computer without having a phone to connect it to.  Any suggestions?”

BELVA SMITH:  I’ve actually done this a couple of different times with different clients.  Starting with Outlook 2013, Microsoft dropped in the support for Outlook text messaging; however, you have to know who the phone provider is for who you are sending the text to.  So instead of texting 317-555-5555, you are actually going to be texting some@verizon.com.  There used to be – and the way I found out how to do it, is a Google search to the different addresses for the different phone providers.  That’s probably still available somewhere out there on the web, but if not, you can probably contact the provider.  And then you can also receive texts back that exact same way.  For example, if I were to text you at AT&T from a Windows computer, then you could reply to that text and it would just come back to me in my inbox within Outlook.  It’s going to look just like an email message, but it’s really being sent and received like a text message.

BRIAN NORTON:  I believe all major cell phone carriers have an option where its 1234567@cellcarrier.com, so Verizon, AT&T, all those different places.  I do believe you are limited in the number of characters you can send.  I believe it’s 160 characters, is what I’ve learned.

BELVA SMITH:  Lets everybody think that.  Long text messages go through me like crazy.  I prefer short text messages.  A text message is something short and to the point.  If you need to do something longer, then it should be an email.

BRIAN NORTON:  Think about that 160 characters.  I thought it would be good time to mention the differences.  There is SMS, which is for text-only messages, and then you have MMS, for multimedia messages.  I’m not sure that the multimedia goes to the email like we are talking.

BELVA SMITH:  I think the Outlook only uses the SMS.

BRIAN NORTON:  So keep that in mind as well.  I did a little bit of digging, and I found a couple of different apps.  I believe there is Text Free, is an iOS and android app that has a web interface as well.  So if you are on the computer, you can get to it as well.  I do know that you need to sign up for an account.  Basically I think you need to sign in through Google or Facebook.  Many places require you to do that these days.  They give you the option to be able to use your Facebook credentials or your Google credentials to be able to sign up for an account.  Text free should be able to offer that.

I thought it might be advantageous to talk about some of the tools we use here in our department.  We used to use a program called Slack, and now we are using Microsoft teams because we just migrated to office 365.  I’m not sure if this is an employee or just someone who needs to connect with other folks.  Sometimes, depending what you have, Slack, it’s not HIPAA compliant per se –

BELVA SMITH:  I’m not sure about the accessibility on it either.  My guess is where we Jennifer is helping with this, they are probably looking for something that is accessible.  That’s what will make Outlook –

BRIAN NORTON:  I think we’ve tested that hear a little bit.  I don’t think it’s crazy inaccessible.  There may be some issues with it, but I do think it’s pretty accessible.  We use it to do lots of things around here to be able to talk about our schedules, to be able to send quick question to the team, other kinds of things.  It just allows you to have – there is a web interface or an app that you can download to your computer to be able to talk and converse.  Think of it like the old Instant Messenger if you will.  It’s kind of more of a deluxe version of the Instant Messenger program that used to exist.  Slack and Teams would be the other program.

JOSH ANDERSON:  There is also Google voice.  You can use it to send text messages.  It’s just voice.google.com and you can get your own phone number.  I think you can pick from available once.  And then you can send text messages right there from your computer or make phone calls.  If you have an android phone or a Google account, it will go ahead and link to all your contacts that you have as well.

BELVA SMITH:  And there is a limit to that, right?

JOSH ANDERSON:  I don’t think so.  I think as long as you sign up for a personal account, I don’t think there is account or anything like that.  I think if you do it for business, it might be different, because I’ve never tried that.  Yeah, it’s very simple to set up.  I didn’t try it with any accessibility features or anything like that, but I would assume it’s probably pretty good with those.  Very simple to use.  And you can use on your device as well, but right there from the PC.  Just go to voice.google.com, set up a quick account.  If you have Google account get it will go ahead and link itself there.

BELVA SMITH:  In researching for this question, I also notice that I found some information about that text messaging and in for Outlook.  I don’t recall having done anything with an added when I did it.  It’s been a couple years ago, but I would say if for some reason it’s not working for whatever version of Outlook you’re trying to use, then I would double check to see if perhaps there is some sort of an add-in that you might have to add to your current program.

BRIAN NORTON:  I also heard from somebody – and I’m not sure exactly where I heard this.  But they mentioned that Skype allows you to text message as well.  I believe it allows you to send some text messages, but there is no – without a number associated or a connected phone.  I’m not exactly sure.  Someone had mentioned that as a possibility, so you may – and Skype is free, right?  Unless it’s Skype for business.

BELVA SMITH:  Skype is free in some aspects but not in others.  I don’t know exactly what it is.  It used to be that Skype is free for all VoIP calls, but that has somewhat changed now.  VoIP is the acronym for Voice over Internet Protocol.  That has somewhat changed, and exactly what, I’m not sure.  If you are interested in trying Skype, I would say just Google it and find out what the requirements are.  It may be that you are limited to so many.  That’s why I was asking about Google voice, because I know a lot of these will limit you to only being able to do 10 messages a week or something like that.

BRIAN NORTON:  I remember years ago when I figured out, like what you originally mentioned, that you could put the person’s phone number and at whatever the cell carrier is dot com, I just thought that was the most amazing thing ever. I was like, oh wow, I didn’t realize you could do that.  I thought it always had to be phone to phone.

BELVA SMITH:  No, and it made texting accessible for individuals that were using screen readers that didn’t have a phone or that maybe they had one of those old flip phones, but you had to use a keypad to spell out your words, which was a total nightmare compared to typing it on the keyboard.  I remember that.

BRIAN NORTON:  Totally cool.  I would love to hear from folks who are listening.  If you guys have run into this situation before, we would love to have you guys chime in.  You can do that in a variety of different ways. Our listener line is 317-721-7124.  Or you can send us an email at tech@eastersealscrossroads.org.  We would love to hear from you.

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[12:18] Question 2 – transition questions from high school to higher ed

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BRIAN NORTON:  Our next question came in an email.  It’s from a parent, and the question goes like this, “I’m a parent, and my son has various learning disabilities including auditory processing disorder and dyslexia.  He is getting ready to enter his senior year of high school, and I want to stay ahead of the game as he transitions into Higher Ed.  What question or steps should I be considering or asking the IEP team about or the university or colleges we plan to visit about at this point?” I think it’s how do we plan for that transition.  I think that’s the question all parents have as they get to the end of high school and they realize, hey, now my son or daughter, they are going to go either into a vocational field at that point or they are going to go into higher Ed.  Higher Ed is the case in this situation.  I think there’s a lot to consider in that, just simply watching lots of the students transition over the years.  We used to do and still do quite a bit of help for high school students who are transitioning into higher Ed as they work to the VR system here in Indiana.

I think the first thing to realize is it’s going to change and it’s a pretty drastic change from high school and college.  I think the biggest change that I see is that in high school, you have a system that’s surrounding you and scheduling appointments for you and your family to be able to be brought up to speed on what type of support are being offered in high school.  That’s the IEP meetings you may go to, which is an individualized education plan.  I think the real challenge is you’ve been so developed into the system that cares for you and is there for you it is going to help put the supports in place for you that once you get to college, those things completely change.  As you had to college, the coin is then flipped into you having to advocate for yourself for the supports and the things that you need to be successful.  They have the same support available to you that are in high school.  They are just not seeking you out.  You have to seek them out at this point.

BELVA SMITH:  I would say that in most cases, they have the same supports.  In some cases, they have more.

BRIAN NORTON:  Right.  I think as far as this parent is concerned, as they talk with their student, as they get closer and closer to graduation, I think in that IEP process, what I would be asking them is – you should be talking to them about where you are going to be going; what your transition plan looks like; that you are going to going to college or higher education in some way, shape, or form; talking about where you are headed; what the deficits that you have in certain areas.  Hopefully they’ll be able to pour in and provide you information about who to contact at those places, or as you are meeting with admissions folks at those particular universities that you’re going to visit, you need to be talking about and being forthright with what types of struggles or challenges that the student has so that they can then put you in touch with places like disability services or adaptive educational services.  What you’ll find is those offices are named different things at different places, so it’s definitely to consider and talk about as you meet with them to be able to figure out who do I need to talk to?  Who do I need to be open and honest about the struggles I’m having?  Because those departments at those colleges and universities will be the ones to work with the teachers and the professors in those particular classes that you’re going to take to be able to put those supports in place.  Because each individual teacher needs to be brought up to speed about what type of support is needed.  Is it a scribe?  Is it a notetaker?  Do you need your exams proctored?  Really, most of what I see an IEP’s in the high school settings, does look very similar to the things and supports that are being put into place for college students.  It’s just now that they are in college, the students had to ask for those.  It wasn’t somebody who was appointed to then follow those students along and be able to make sure they have what they needed, like they are in high school.

JOSH ANDERSON:  It’s important to make sure that you are talking to those offices.  Just telling your teacher isn’t going to do you any good.

BRIAN NORTON:  Right.  Because they are not going to approve anything without it going through one of those offices.

JOSH ANDERSON:  And also get a hold of them early.  If you need certain things, like or books in alternative formats, that might take some time.  Especially if those books aren’t automatically available, the school is going to have to maybe send them out and have them changed, everything else.  If you don’t get there early, you might as well start off behind, and starting of behind as a freshman is not a very good thing.

BRIAN NORTON:  You get behind very quickly.

JOSH ANDERSON:  And it’s very hard to get caught back up.

BELVA SMITH:  I want to say good job to the parent for being ahead of the game, because that’s very important.  Also, a lot of times, what I have experienced with my transitioning students, in their school, their grade school, high school, whatever, a lot of times they are provided loaner equipment that has special software on it that helps accommodate whatever their different needs are.  Once they get into college, there is not going to be any loaner equipment.  You are going to need to figure out, for example, if your student is blind – and I don’t think that’s our case in this situation – but if your student is blind and they have been relying very heavily on perhaps a Braille notetaker, and that device has been loaned to them, or they’ve been relying on a tablet for whatever reason, the minute they finish high school, that device goes back to the high school.  Figuring out how they are going to get access to that kind of equipment once they get in college is going to be very important. 

Also, depending on the age of the student – I know for both of my boys, when they started college, they were still 17.  In fact, one of them was 16 and turned 17 at college.  But if your son or daughter is reaching the age of 18, then you would also probably be eligible for vocational rehabilitation services in your area.  That might be another area you want to start to get your feet wet and learn a little bit about how those services work.  But again, I applaud the parent for being ahead of the game, because I have seen the students who wait until school starts, and then they start trying to locate the disability services.  Before you know it, they are feeling out of the first semester because they didn’t get things lined up in advance.

JOSH ANDERSON:  That’s something to consider when you’re looking at colleges.  As you are going and visiting them, just how accessible the college is, but also what’s the disability services like?  Some of them even offer some software packages.  I think Kurzweil is available at some schools, which can help with print disabilities.  Read and write gold is available at some schools.  You might take that into consideration, especially if you are in between schools, review which one handles that part better.

BELVA SMITH:  I know personally, several of my clients have chosen specific schools because of the services that they were going to be providing.  If you think about it, it’s really no different than saying, I’m going to be an architect and choose a college that is really phenomenal in that area.  That’s definitely something to be checking out.

BRIAN NORTON:  Along those lines, sometimes what I encourage folks to do is beyond just talking to the department, the disability services department or adaptive educational services department, asked them for folks who – and maybe they can’t tell you because it might be a HIPAA problem.  Really, asked them about other folks who may receive similar services or what not to be able to be put into contact with folks.  If they can’t do that, talk to your peers or other family members or families that may have gone to a particular school and taking advantage of some of the services.  I always love to hear firsthand, not necessarily from the department, but someone who receives services to be able to tell what’s the real story, how are things really done.  Did they get you the things you needed when you needed them?  Those kinds of things.

I will say for colleges and universities here in Indiana, on our website, EasterSealsTech.com, you can put forward slash /college.  We have a college and university resource page.  Every college and university in the state of Indiana is listed there.  If you click on the link, it’ll go ahead and take you down to their page to where you can link to a phone number, an email address for that disability services department.  A really quick, easy way to connect with a few folks.  Some will put you directly into the admissions department because colleges and universities are small enough that they don’t have a specific department for disability services.  But it will somehow be connected to the admissions department, so you will be able to find or at least talk to someone who would be aware and knowledgeable about how to get in touch with someone to talk about the supports that you need to.

BELVA SMITH:  I think I’ve been doing this long enough that, years ago, a lot of my clients were going to college and laying the path for this is what kind of accommodations I need and then others like me are going to need.  But I think that that path has been laid now, pretty much.  I think almost all the colleges are aware that there are different people with different abilities and accommodations that are going to need to be available.  I think they do a good job trying to make sure that those are there for them.

BRIAN NORTON:  Absolutely.  I know there’s got to be some listeners who have gone through this situation.  Maybe they have a student or a child themselves, or maybe they’ve gone to the process themselves alone.  We would love to be able to hear from you, be able to know what your situation was and what you may have thought were good ideas as you look back on that time when you transitioned from high school to college.  We would love to be able to talk to you guys.  You can give us a call on our listener line at 317-721-7124.  Or send us a tweet with hashtag ATFAQ.  We would love to hear from you.  Thanks very much.

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[22:50] Question 3 – Showdown: iPad versus Chromebook

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BRIAN NORTON:  Our next question is actually the showdown question.  We change the name.  It used to be app showdown, but we are talking about all types of assistive technology these days and really just looking at two different products, kind of what the pros and cons are between those products and some basic information about it. 

Today I thought we would dig into iPad versus Chromebook accessibility.  And really the reason I chose those two things is those are the more common technology that you will find that schools are purchasing for kids.  They either get an iPad for their textbooks or they get a Chromebook.  Josh just mentioned in his district that his kids go to, they get Chromebooks.  But that’s expensive.

JOSH ANDERSON:  MacBooks.

BRIAN NORTON:  That is a Chromebooks?

JOSH ANDERSON:  Don’t get them for free.

BRIAN NORTON:  They make the parents pay.

JOSH ANDERSON:  They are not given anything.

BELVA SMITH:  I believe you are paying a rental on that, aren’t you?

JOSH ANDERSON:  You are.  Unless something happens to it, then it’s yours.

BELVA SMITH:  Part of the book fee.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Completely and totally.

BELVA SMITH:  I believe some of the high schools are leaning toward doing the MacBooks.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I’ve got to say it’s a little more helpful.  Especially with this year as a work with college students, as I’m reading their websites to make sure I’m recommending the right kind of computer, the student has a right kind of computer, I’m starting to see disclaimers that say do not buy a Chromebook or do not think that you can do your college work on just an iPad.  You really need a computer.

BRIAN NORTON:  That’s interesting.

BELVA SMITH:  I will say that in some of the transitioning evaluations I just did, those were my words exactly to these future college students.  You may have gotten through high school on this tablet, but you’re not going to get through college on a tablet.

JOSH ANDERSON:  It specifically said, don’t do that.  It’s not going to be enough to do everything that you need to do.

BELVA SMITH:  To try to get focus back on your question here, Brian –

BRIAN NORTON:  Let’s reel this back into the question.

BELVA SMITH:  The first thing about accessibility is, obviously, with one of them you’ve got a keyboard, a tactile keyboard.

BRIAN NORTON:  That’s the Chromebook.

BELVA SMITH:  Of course having a tactile keyboard with a tablet is also a possibility, but then it becomes two things that you are caring around.  You’ve got to worry about the Bluetooth connectivity, whereas with the Chromebook you’ve got it all.  As far as I’m a blind student, either device is going to get me the ability to access it with screen readers, because I got – what is on the Chromebook?

JOSH ANDERSON:  Chrome Vox.

BELVA SMITH:  Chrome Vox.  And then I get voiceover on the tablet.  So I’ve got my accessibility that way.  The magnification is pretty much equal length either way.  I think the biggest thing I see is the ability to use the tactile keyboard all in one piece, not two.  With a tablet, you do have the option of using the pencil or the Koran, which I guess is becoming pretty popular with the kids.

BRIAN NORTON:  For notetaking and things like that.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I would say it kind of depends on the user.  Was easier for you?  The tactile – some Chromebooks to have the touchscreen cost you get a little bit of both.  I would say that apps would be a giant difference, but I know that on Chromebooks you can get the whole Google play store now.  Pretty much any app you can get on an android phone, you are going to be able to get on there.  There is also of all the accessibility chrome plug-ins that you can use.  Different ones I can think of for reading, writing, stuff like that.  Of course there are a lot of apps on the iPad that do many of the same things.

BELVA SMITH:  For example, to read the selected text, that’s in adding for the Chromebook.  That’s part of the OS for tablet.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Very true.

BELVA SMITH:  It’s going to be a back-and-forth with what’s part of the OS and was in adding.  But can I do it?  Yeah, you can do it on either device.  It’s just a matter of the you have to go get a third party app to do it.  As far as the price goes, they are pretty comparable.  Again, these are being provided by the school’s most of the time.  It’s not like something you have to go out and get.  I do feel like for students especially, the Chromebook might be a little more durable, because of the fact that you can actually close the lid.  But then again, if I got complications or difficulties getting the lid open and getting the tablet – or get in the computer on the desk, then maybe a tablet is the better way to go, because you don’t even necessarily need to hold onto the tablet.  You could always have a tablet around your neck.  The computer has to be on a desktop.

BRIAN NORTON:  What’s so fascinating to me is just over the last several years, you seen the accessibility on these devices kind of turn a 180.

BELVA SMITH:  Blow up.

BRIAN NORTON:  Now you got lots of tools.  IPad for me is arguably one of the most accessible devices ever made.  Between all of the things it can do with folks with visual impairments, whether that’s blind or low vision, or you just have difficulty reading print.  With a learning disability, they’ve got tons of speech options, whether it’s a full-fledged screen reader to select to speak.  Then you get into ways to kind of help folks with challenges of focus and attention.  So they’ve got – what’s that feature?

JOSH ANDERSON:  Guided access.  Where you can lock it down to just a few apps or a certain amount of time on them.

BELVA SMITH:  So you think that Apple or Google had this in mind as they were developing these tools?  Or is this just, it just came out that way.

BRIAN NORTON:  I think really what’s happening today is they are realizing that they’ve got to get into the game.  That’s because baby boomers are getting older.  There are age related disability starting to become apparent, vision loss, other types of things.  Mobility, those types of things are becoming reality and their products are going to have to meet those needs.  I remember 15 years ago when I was in this, they kind of left companies alone to do their own thing with accessibility stuff.  We are going to work on the productivity part of it and leave the accessibility to folks who deal with that.  But now I’m seeing it built into the product.  For me, I look at it, some of those companies, the new Bill Gates of Microsoft has a son with cerebral palsy —

BELVA SMITH:  Of the new Bill Gates of Microsoft?

JOSH ANDERSON:  The CEO?

BRIAN NORTON:  Exactly.

JOSH ANDERSON:  They cloned him, Belva.

BRIAN NORTON:  There is a vested interest in making those products.  You even see adaptive gaming controllers, other kinds of things.  Again, I think with the iPad, it’s always had a lot of accessibility built in.  I think it was may be part of the product when they released it.  Certainly they’ve improved upon it.  They’ve done a ton to make it more user-friendly, accessible, and usable for folks.  There isn’t a whole lot of difference between what you can do with chrome and what you can do with Apple, in my book.  A lot of those same features are there.

BELVA SMITH:  I totally agree with you, Brian.  Taking back over the years, for the student in a wheelchair who may be had four different classes, that’s four different books that had to go class to class with him, they had to figure out how am I going to get it out of the bag onto my desk.  If they’ve got a tablet, it’s on a mount on their chair, and their book is right there.  Nobody has to help them, they’ve just got it there.  The same thing with the Chromebooks.  Instead of having a backpack full of books, they’ve got just one device that they are taking from class to class with them.  I think that’s why you’ve got some districts that are using the Chromebooks and some districts that are using the iPad’s, because I think the schools have realized that it doesn’t matter which one is more accessible.  They are both equal.  Which one costs more, they are both equal.  I think it’s just a matter of what they started out to purchase, whether it’s going to be an Apple device or an android device.

JOSH ANDERSON:  You got me thinking, talking about the individual in a wheelchair.  I know iPads do really well with switch access.  There’s a lot of different ways you can read that thing up to control it with a lot of different ways.  A Chromebook being based more on the keyboard, I don’t know if it would be as easy to set up those kinds of controls.

BELVA SMITH:  Again, if I’m in a wheelchair and I’ve got my Chromebook, it can be on the mount for me, but then I’ve got to get that lit up and down and all that stuff.

JOSH ANDERSON:  And access the keyboard to do some stuff.

BELVA SMITH:  A tablet is just right there at my face, ready to go.

BRIAN NORTON:  It has been remarkable to see where things are now as to where they were previously.  I’m kind of excited about where we are headed as big companies like Microsoft and Google get into the accessibility game a little bit more.  I think we are going to see more intuitive types of interfaces for folks, more option for folks to be able to use, making things more accessible and usable at the very same time.  I can only imagine that it’s going to get better and better.  Again, I think as we take a look at the two, I know Belva and I sat in on the same presentation at ATIA where they did this exact thing.  They said they’ve looked at Apple iOS and Chromebook accessibility, and they had what they call the smack down.  Really, in ATIA, for folks who don’t know, it’s the assistive technology industry Association.  They have a larger conference in Orlando, Florida every year.  It’s where a lot of vendors and a large conference where a lot of vendors are there, lots of providers are there, and they’re looking at those adaptive tools that help people be more independent.  One of those was that question about iPad and Chromebook accessibility.  Really, it was a standoff.

BELVA SMITH:  It really was.  It goes back I always compare Ford and Chevy.  If you are a Ford person, you are a Ford person.  If you are a Chevy person, you are a Chevy person.  Will get the same results.  It’s just a question of which device you are going to use.  I remember, if I’m not mistaken, the guy that was doing the Chromebook, it wasn’t that way a couple of years ago.

BRIAN NORTON:  Right.

BELVA SMITH:  It’s in the last year or so that everything jumped up and became even.

BRIAN NORTON:  I’m just excited of where it’s headed.  If you guys have experience with the iPad or Chromebook and want to chime in and let us know your thoughts on the accessibility of each, we would love to hear from you.  You can give us a call on our listener line at 317-721-7124.  Or send us an email at tech@eastersealscrossroads.org.

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[34:37] Question 4 – discreet microphone for use in classroom setting

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BRIAN NORTON:  Our next question is, “I’m looking for recommendations.  I have a high school student who needs a mic for voice to text.  We are looking for a good one that can be used during class so that he is not always needing to leave.  Are there good ones out there that would pick up his voice if he speaks softly in the classroom yet minimizes the background noise?” There are a lot of great microphones out there.  Probably the easiest one – and I see a lot of people use this type of technology — is a good set of earbuds with the mic and the cord.  I don’t think there’s anything simpler.  The reason I say that is you can move that mic close to the person the mouth just by holding up the cord closer to your mouth to be able to pick up what’s being spoken, and at the very same time eliminating the background noise as you are doing that because you are getting it closer to the person’s mouth instead of just thinking down by your neck where it is picking up everything around you.  That’s definitely an option.

Also, I would recommend a steno mask.  I don’t know if you guys have seen that.  Steno masks are masks used for court stenographer is a lot of times if they use any type of dictation.  It will allow you to speak into a mask does right, Josh?

JOSH ANDERSON:  That’s it.  You end up looking like Top Gun or something like that, almost like –

BRIAN NORTON:  It does look like an aircraft pilot.

JOSH ANDERSON:  It keeps all the sound out, so it works really well for folks who are transcriptionist or talk about important stuff.  That way everyone around him isn’t going to hear them because they are going to be talking into a tube, I guess would be a way to say it.  Something else to look into, and this is something I know we used to do.  It sounds weird, but if you think about have you ever been to a truck stop and seen all the different headsets they have for long road truckers, a lot of times those work really well for voice input because there may to block out some of that noise from the truck, from the road, from all these different things.  Usually the microphone can be pulled pretty close to the mouth so the person doesn’t have to be super loud, and they are also usually comfortable for all day.

BRIAN NORTON:  They are super good.

JOSH ANDERSON:  They are usually not super expensive.  Usually under $200, you can get pretty decent once.  There are all kinds.  I know we’ve used Blue Parrots before four different stuff.  They are usually Bluetooth enabled and usually work pretty well.

BRIAN NORTON:  There is a lot you can do with a microphone.  There are unidirectional microphones, ones that are better at noise canceling than others.  Certainly look at the recommendations.  I even think Dragon, if you are using Dragon – it didn’t necessarily say specifically what they were using for voice to text.  But if you are using Dragon, on their website, they have a list of approved microphones.  They give you the list by I believe dragons. It’s a five-dragon microphone.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Or is it little flames?

BRIAN NORTON:  Maybe flames now.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I can’t remember.

BRIAN NORTON:  There are a lot of really quality microphones.  I know we use one here called six-in-one speechware that it’s basically a boom mic.  It can pick up the slightest whisper from an individual.  We’ve had a lot of folks that were soft-spoken, and they are using one of those to be able to pick up their voice.  What’s great about it is you can just pull up to the desk, if you are in a wheelchair or whatever.  It’s not something you have to put on your head.  Is not something like those earbuds where you had to put them in your ear.  You can just pull up and be as close as you can.  It all depends on the environment, specifically what the environment looks like and then the user themselves, what are their abilities to put on and off a headset.  And then matching up the type of microphones.  But there are a lot of great ones that can do a lot of good things for you.

JOSH ANDERSON:  You brought up a good point.  If I’m using Dragon, I can look and Dragon’s website and find ones that work really well. If they are using Windows speech recognition, I’m sure they can find information on that.  I’ve never looks, but I’m sure the information is there, or whatever they are using.  I’m sure someone has done a review on the different ones.  Somebody besides just us.

BELVA SMITH:  I believe any microphone you can get close to the user’s mouth, just a couple inches away, will be suitable for them to use a low voice without picking up too much of the surrounding noise.  My concern would be them dictating in the classroom, being disruptive to the rest of the classroom.  Even if they are using a quieter voice.  Josh, I think we just had this discussion not too long ago.  I’ve used the Windows speech recognition on my computer many times, just using the built-in microphone.

JOSH ANDERSON:  You are a big proponent of the built-in microphone.

BELVA SMITH:  I really am.  I’ve had good experience with it.  Again, that’s not what I’m going to be able to get close enough to use a whisper.  I would talk as if I were talking to someone sitting next to me in the room.  I’m not yelling, not whispering.

JOSH ANDERSON:  If you are in a shared workspace, using the one on there, it’s probably going to pick up the other people talking.  It’s not going to get everything they say but enough that it’s going to be annoying.

BELVA SMITH:  That’s why I believe getting one close to you will be a better solution.

BRIAN NORTON:  I would also recommend, when you do that, when you get a microphone, consistency is important with the where you position a microphone, especially with voice to text software.  So is not getting too much value in not getting too little volume.  When you first put that microphone on, if you want to position it very close to the person’s mouth can do it the very first time.  That will help Dragon auto calibrate your microphone a little bit so it can make it softer and not get distorted by being so close.  It will actually even out the levels on your microphone to be able to solve small those recognition accuracy is that may come when you are just initially setting that up.  Again, long term consistency is the name of the game with Dragon.  If you’re going to say something, say the same way all the time.  The same way goes for the microphone in its position.  Always position the microphone in the same place so there is consistency and you are getting the same level of volume to the microphone so it can do a better job of voice recognition accuracy over the course of time.

BELVA SMITH:  I think this is a good place to throw in the ad for your local assistive technology.  For us here, if you’re in the state of Indiana, that would be in data.  See what kind of microphones they have in their library that you might be able to experiment with to try and see which one feels good and comfortable and yet meets all the needs you have.

BRIAN NORTON:  We don’t have all the microphones, but I know here at INDATA Project we have quite a few.

BELVA SMITH:  That would be a very large number available microphones.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Even if you can’t try them all, you can get —

BELVA SMITH:  Get an idea.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Try a tabletop, try a headset, try a couple ones and see which one is going to work best for you.  Then just go from there because you then know what style you need.

BRIAN NORTON:  I would bet that for a lot of folks, it’s not going to be — the more you pay for a microphone doesn’t mean it’s going to work better for you.  Sometimes the difference becomes negligible in some respects.  It’s much like – I don’t know – zero flicker screens and other kinds of things.  To the naked eye, I can’t really tell what the difference except it’s costing me $100 out of my pocket.  Same thing with microphones.  I think if you take the time to set it up the right way the first time, and really work on making sure it’s got the right volume coming through it, it is positioned consistently, you are going to have some results with most microphones these days.  I’m not saying that some aren’t better than others, but sometimes the difference is negligible.  You’ve got to weigh the cost versus the benefit at that moment.  Definitely reach out to us.  If you live here in Indiana, you can borrow from us to borrow some of microphones, try some things out, some different styles, lapel microphones, desktop microphones, headset microphones, those kinds of things.  Figure out what best works for you, what feels most comfortable for you.  If you are not from Indiana and you are interested in connecting with your local assistive technology act, do that at eastersealstech.com/states, is where you can find who your local AT Act provider is on our website.

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[43:22] Question 5 – Accessibility features in Office 365

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BRIAN NORTON:  Our next question also came in through email.  “Thank you all for the great work that you do.  My work as a pretty our productivity software to Office 365.  Will you take some time to discuss some of the more prominent accessibility features built into the new environment?” That’s ironic because we just recently upgraded ourselves to Office 365.  We just recently went through the upgrade and it went pretty well for us.  There weren’t a lot of hiccups.  I know for other departments it was more hiccups.  I guess it depends on how technical you can be and how flexible you can be in using new products.  Thoughts on that?

JOSH ANDERSON:  I would say the immersive reader is the biggest one that is pretty cool and available in a lot of the stuff.  It’s been available for quite a while in OneNote, but I think you can actually use it in the Word now.  Immersive reader is for folks with different types of print disabilities.  It can read everything back to you, it can split things up by syllable.  You can change the way the text is shown.  You can have it highlight as it reads so that you can actually read along.  Really did something with attention, with focus, and getting access to those kinds of things.

Other one is the Dictate that’s built in.  I think you have to get the add-in if you don’t have 365.  I know that it works in Word.  I’ve used it in the Word, and I think you can use it in PowerPoint and maybe Outlook.  It’s a pretty good dictation program.  Is not quite as good as Dragon or something like that, but it’s free.  All you have to do is enable it.  One thing I think is pretty cool about it is if you change one setting, it will actually put the punctuation in for you.  I know a lot of folks with dictation, it’s very hard to say, “Oh, it’s really great to see you, Belva!”  And throw all those in.  It will actually try to throw those in for you.  It’s a bit wonky the way that part works, just because if you talk like any normal human being, you pause a lot and it throws a period in.  It can be a little bit weird. 

Those are pretty cool features.  Some of those have been available in office before, but I think this is the first time they are available in more programs.  Pretty cool.

BELVA SMITH:  I think most importantly with Office 365 is if you are using a screen reader, it’s important that you not only have access to Office 365 online apps, Word, Outlook.  Those need to be installed directly on to the computer.  They can be, and it’s a whole mess of how it has to happen, but it can be done.  What you are going to find if you try to use word with the online version only, and you’re trying to use a screen reader, you are going to find things just aren’t working the way that they should. An Outlook example, you can’t use the key command to bring up a list of folders.  So if you need to get from your inbox to your sent folder, it’s impossible at this point.  It’s very important if you are a screen reader user that those applications be installed directly, not just accessible through the online version.

Office 365 applications, usually all of them have the Tell Me assistant —

BRIAN NORTON:  I like that feature.  That’s pretty neat.

BELVA SMITH:  Yeah.  You can also be reminded to check accessibility for any of your documents or spreadsheets that you are creating.  I know we are putting together a presentation for a couple of weeks out.  I did actually use the accessibility checker to make sure that the presentation I put together was accessible.  It was very helpful because I found out that it wasn’t.  It gave me the advice as to what I needed to do to fix it.  That was very helpful. 

I don’t know what specifically this individual is looking to know more about, but I would advise that you go to the Microsoft accessibility website and look at all they are boasting about.  It’s full of accessibility features.  They really have tried to accommodate pretty much everybody in some way or fashion.  I would definitely go there and see what all they are offering.  If you have a need that you aren’t finding that they address, I would encourage you to contact the Microsoft accessibility helpline and let them know that, hey, I’m a person who has this issue and I can’t find any kind of accommodation.  Just so that they are aware.  It may be something that they haven’t considered that could be addressed in a future release of the software.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I would say under the one that is pretty cool is Microsoft translator.  I think you can use in a lot more of the programs now.  If you are giving a PowerPoint presentation, let’s say maybe you don’t have an interpreter, you don’t have a CART person for transcriptions, with just a simple microphone and turning that on, you can actually go ahead and have captions kind of show up.  They are not going to replace a cartographer, replace an interpreter, but in a pinch you can give you something that you can use.  What else is cool is if you have people in your audience who speak different languages, maybe English isn’t their first language, they are having a hard time following along, they can download that app on their phone or open it up on the computer and have everything translated into their native-language pretty much right away.  If you make your PowerPoint available, they can actually click one button and you are entire PowerPoint can change languages.  It’s pretty cool, pretty neat.  Like I said, it happens really quickly and helps, especially if you happen to work somewhere or be working with individuals who have English as a second language or don’t speak the same lay which is you.  Being able to translate that quickly is helpful.

BELVA SMITH:  You also have the inclusion of the Office Lens which allows you to take printed text and turn it into digital content so that it can be read aloud.  As long as you got a computer that’s got a camera on it, which almost all laptops do – I don’t think you can buy a laptop nowadays that don’t.

BRIAN NORTON:  I have also found dictation – Josh, did you mention that earlier?

JOSH ANDERSON:  Yeah.

BRIAN NORTON:  What I’m finding is that they are all, especially in those online versions, a lot of the tools are right there on your menu bar.  They are easy to find.  I’m just so impressed with where they are going with some of the stuff.  Again, they’ve got some things to work out, some bugs for folks who use screen readers and other types of things to be able to use some of those online tools.  Right now, you need to have the installed versions a lot of times to make those work well for somebody.

BELVA SMITH:  I don’t think that’s ever going to change.  That’s the world of screen readers and the Internet.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Software on the computer works well with a screen reader.  Things on the Internet [noncommittal grunt].  It’s been that way with almost everything the entire time that I’ve been doing this, which isn’t as long as you guys have.  I know it’s always been things on the Internet are if he.

BELVA SMITH:  I would also like to encourage any of our listeners that are using any type of assistive technology to consider, if you consider yourself to be tech savvy, you are very good with technology and very good with the Windows environment, I would encourage you to consider becoming one of the Office Insiders.  Those are individuals that get access to things before the rest of us get it to test it and try it.  For example, if you are a screen reader user and you are pretty good at your screen reader and pretty good with your Windows environment, then contacting Microsoft and volunteering to become one of their insiders would give them –

JOSH ANDERSON:  Invaluable information, because you are going to notice things that they would never think of or tried to access.  It will make a big difference when the big version comes out.

BELVA SMITH:  Right.  It helps the releases be more less likely to be bug infested.  They could be bug free.

BRIAN NORTON:  Belva, I know a couple weeks ago we passed out the accessibility – maybe it was last week when we were talking about Microsoft versus accessibility with the other products.  They have an accessibility line.  Is that right?

BELVA SMITH:  That’s correct.  Depending – one of the first questions I will ask you is what type of assistive technology are using.  Are you using a screen reader?  Are you using a screen magnifier?  And then they will make sure to accommodate through whatever type of technology that you are using.  I know you’re going to ask me to give you that number again, so I’m trying to find it really quick.  It’s the Microsoft disability support line, and that is 1-503-427-1234.  Again, when you first contact them, they’ll ask you what type of assistive technology you are using, what Office program or Windows program are you trying to use, and what kind of problems are you having.  They are there to understand your problem and hopefully resolve it quickly.  It has worked well for me every time I’ve had to use it.

BRIAN NORTON:  Perfect.

***

[53:42] Wildcard question: What type of tech would you purchase if you had $1,000 to spend.

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WADE WINGLER:  And now it’s time for the wildcard question.

BRIAN NORTON:  The next question is our wildcard question.  This is where I’ve gotten a question that Belva and Josh have not had a chance to prepare for.  This is a really simple question.  If I were to give you $1000 – not that I will — but if I were to give you $1000 to spend on technology, what would you spend it on?  This could be at home, at work.  What kinds of things would you want to spend your money on?

JOSH ANDERSON:  I feel like we’ve had this question before.

BELVA SMITH:  We have, but it wasn’t a thousand.

JOSH ANDERSON:  It was a lot more money last time.

BELVA SMITH:  Brian is a lot tighter than Wade.  I think Wade gave us $10,000.

BRIAN NORTON:  Ten thousand dollars, holy smokes! Good gracious.  I’m not that rich.  Better watch out or I’m going to move it to $100.

JOSH ANDERSON:  One dollar.

BELVA SMITH:  $1000 for technology.

BRIAN NORTON:  What would you buy?

BELVA SMITH:  Samsung phone.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Really?  Getting away from the iPhone?

BELVA SMITH:  I just want a Samsung phone.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Just something different?

BELVA SMITH:  Yeah.

BRIAN NORTON:  Would you really use it?  Do you think you would really use a Samsung phone?  Because you have an iPhone?

BELVA SMITH:  I wouldn’t use my iPhone anymore.

BRIAN NORTON:  Oh, you would switch?

BELVA SMITH:  I would switch.

BRIAN NORTON:  Okay.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Really?

BRIAN NORTON:  Interesting.  Why is that?  What’s your reasoning behind that?

BELVA SMITH:  Because they look really sexy.  Have you seen the new Samsung?  They are really nice looking.  I think the entered accessibility stuff is really amazing.

BRIAN NORTON:  It’s making me laugh, because for a thousand bucks, you couldn’t purchase a brand-new iPhone.

BELVA SMITH:  You can’t with Samsung either. I would have to throw some money in there.  I think it’s like $1100.  It’s very comparable to whatever the iPhone is.

BRIAN NORTON:  Josh, what about you?

JOSH ANDERSON:  I’m taken aback by what Belva said.  I thought she was Apple for life and then suddenly jump to the Samsung.

BRIAN NORTON:  Wait till she said she was going to move away from JAWS.  Then we will just pass out and die over here.

JOSH ANDERSON:  She does like NVDA a lot now.

BELVA SMITH:  But JAWS is still the leader.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I know.  You are not quite ready to jump that ship yet.  That’s hard. I really don’t know.  I really want a good pair of noise canceling headphones so when I mow my grass, I can listen to things without having to blare them.  That’s about it.

BRIAN NORTON:  Really?

JOSH ANDERSON:  I don’t know.  We have so much technology between us, and iPhone and iPad and computer and everything else.  I don’t know if I really want any technology.

BELVA SMITH:  What were you playing with in the lab this morning with the lights on and off on your tablet?

BRIAN NORTON:  That was just the Alexa app.

JOSH ANDERSON:  You just made everyone’s house go crazy by saying that.

BRIAN NORTON:  One of our social media content specialists is in a wheelchair.  I’m trying to make the lights in our conference area where her desk is, I want her to be able to turn on and off those lights without having to work the switch.  That could be challenging for her.

BELVA SMITH:  You need to put a smart lock on the door so that she can unlock the door.

BRIAN NORTON:  She has requested one and we’ve talked about it.  But we haven’t put one there.

JOSH ANDERSON:  That wouldn’t really help because occasionally Brian has to come asked me for my keys because he lacks is in the office.

BRIAN NORTON:  That’s more often than not.

JOSH ANDERSON:  So with your thousand dollars, are you getting a smart lock so you don’t [INAUDIBLE]

BRIAN NORTON:  I literally would invest in more IoT types of things around my house.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I did think of something, Alexa for your car.  I’ve seen that and it’s like $30.

BRIAN NORTON:  And that hooks to your radio?

JOSH ANDERSON:  I think so.  I really haven’t looked at it a lot, but I know you can put it on for hands-free everything in your car.  I don’t know if it’s compatible with all cars.  It would be pretty cool and helpful, especially when we change radio stations.  Find something good, Alexa.  I don’t think it’s that good.

BELVA SMITH:  Maybe instead of the Samsung phone – wait, I’ve got a thousand dollars. Can I change my mind? I’ll get the Owl security system for my car.

BRIAN NORTON:  What’s that?

BELVA SMITH:  It’s cameras inside the car, outside the car.  It records in front of you, in back of you.  You can turn them off for the insight a people are freaked out about being recorded it while they are in your car.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Are they small cameras?

BELVA SMITH:  Yes.  You plug it in to the onboard diagnostic thing so it is powered whether the car is on or off.  And it records, like if someone walks by your car and bumps it or throws a rock at it, it records all that.  If they still the camera, who cares because it has already shut it to the cloud and they are caught.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Nice.

BELVA SMITH:  It’s expensive.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I’m going to go with that too.

BRIAN NORTON:  Josh has changed his again.  You guys are wishy-washy.

BELVA SMITH:  Who needs a Samsung when you got an iPhone?

BRIAN NORTON:  Exactly.  For me, I would invest.  I’ve been getting into the IoT kinds of things.  It’s been around for a while, but I’ve been playing around with smart plugs and other types of things.  I found a couple of things, like with the Amazon products and the Amazon smart plugs themselves, it’s pretty intuitive.  They are pretty quick to set up.  Just around our building this week or last week, the whole sensory room on the second floor is completely IoT enabled through an Amazon echo device.  We had a plug, for whatever reason, about four inches from the ceiling on one wall, so we put an Echo dot right there.  We put an iPad 4 down there.  And we also gave them an Echo remote.  Those therapists can either say, computer, turn on the light tunnel and it will turn it on, or they can go to the iPad and use the Alexa app on there and turn things on and off by themselves.  Or they can use the Echo remote and just press the microphone button and say turn on lights tunnel and it will do it for them.  I’ve been pretty impressed with that.  Like I said, just recently this week, I just finished one light, but we’ve got three or four lights in our conference room that can be voice-enabled.  Just getting into that a little bit more and figure out how to do different routines and put up different rooms and environments and whatnot.

BELVA SMITH:  It helps to be lazy.  I did just tell Todd the other day, when we buy a new ceiling fan for the bedroom, I’m getting one that’s Alexa enabled.

JOSH ANDERSON:  That was going to be my next question.  How do you enable the ceiling work we do you have to use the light bulbs?

BELVA SMITH:  You have to buy an Alexa enabled smart fan.  Because I have to keep getting up and down out of bed to turn the fan on and off.  I just want to be able to have my Echo do it for me.

JOSH ANDERSON:  My wife and I would continuously, Alexa turn on the fan. Alexa, turn off the fan.

BELVA SMITH:  We do that with the thermostat.

BRIAN NORTON:  They do have remote ones.

BELVA SMITH:  I do have a remote one but I still have to go to the remote.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Or just put the remote next to your head under your pillow.

BELVA SMITH:  We do that with the thermostat.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Just hide it from Todd.

BELVA SMITH:  Todd will be in the sunroom and he will say Alexa, what’s the house temperature.  Set the house temperature to 78.

JOSH ANDERSON:  78?

BELVA SMITH:  I’m in the bedroom.  Alexa, what’s the house temperature.  78.  Echo, said the insight temperature to 67.

BRIAN NORTON:  Does he really set it to 78?

BELVA SMITH:  Not that high.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Does he own stock in the power company?

BELVA SMITH:  But we constantly have the echo battling each other with the thermostat.

BRIAN NORTON:  Awesome.  That’s our show for this week.  I just want to take a moment to think Belva and Josh for being here with me today.  Belva, you want to say anything to folks?

BELVA SMITH:  Thank you guys.  It’s great to be here.

BRIAN NORTON:  Excellent.  And Josh?

JOSH ANDERSON:  Thanks for joining us today.

BRIAN NORTON:  I would love to know what you guys would spend your money on.  Let us know.  With questions or feedback, there are a variety of ways to get in touch with us.  You can do that to our listener line at 317-721-7124.  Send us a tweet with hashtag ATFAQ.  Or email us at tech@eastersealscrossroads.org.  Without your questions, we really don’t have a show, so be a part of it.

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BRIAN NORTON:  Information provided on Assistive Technology FAQ 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, and receives support from Easter Seals Crossroads and the INDATA Project.  ATFAQ is a proud member of the Accessibility Channel.  Find more of our shows at www.accessibilitychannel.com.

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Transcript provided by TJ Cortopassi.  For requests and inquiries, contact tjcortopassi@gmail.com***