ATU416 – Appisode Featuring the Clinical Team at Easterseals Crossroads Part 1

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

Show Notes: Guests on today’s show: Craig Burns ATP, CAS, CEAS: Mobility and Cognition Team Lead, Belva Smith CATIS: Vision and Sensory Team Lead, Find out more about the Clinical Team:

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Transcript Follows:

BELVA SMITH:  Hi everybody, I’m Belva, the assistive technology vision team lead here at Easter Seals Crossroads.

CRAIG BURNS:  Hi, this is Craig Burns, mobility and cognitive team lead for the assistive technology center here at Easter Seals Crossroads.

BELVA SMITH:  And this is your Assistive Technology Update.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Hello and welcome to your Assistive Technology Update, a weekly dose of information that keeps you up-to-date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist individuals with disabilities and special needs.  I’m your host, Josh Anderson, with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in beautiful Indianapolis, Indiana.  Welcome to episode 416 of Assistive Technology Update.  It’s scheduled to be released on May 17, 2019.

So the date this show comes out is also the date of our AT 101 training.  It’s a training that our clinical team has been putting on for the last few years, and it’s for folks to come here to Easter Seals Crossroads and just learn about all the different technology that’s out there to assist individuals with disabilities and special needs.  I got to thinking, while I actually have my team here in house, why not grab some of them and have them just talk to our listeners about some of the apps that they use on a daily basis.  Maybe they use those for personal needs or to help their consumers. Luckily I corralled some of them here, and we are going to go ahead and have those interviews starting right now.


Our first guest today is Craig Burns, our team lead on the mobility cognition side.  Thanks for coming in today.

CRAIG BURNS:  You’re welcome.

JOSH ANDERSON: Perfect.  On today’s show, we are going to talk about some different apps to use with consumers and some of your favorites and how they help.  Go ahead and what’s the first one you want to talk about today?

CRAIG BURNS:  Probably the most popular one I’ve been recommending is Sonocent Recorder.  Sonocent Recorder is a companion app to the Sonocent audio note taker that works on your Windows computer, your Mac computer, or any other device.

JOSH ANDERSON:  For those of our listeners who don’t know what Sonocent is, what sets it apart from other notetaking accommodations?

CRAIG BURNS:  If you have individuals that either can’t write or really don’t like writing, it’s too painful, and we just do a recording of that. It shows all the information that’s being recorded like an audio bar, it looks like a bunch of bars going across your screen, and you can identify things as important things you need to review as you are listening to that lecture, for example.  And then later on, you can extract just that information that’s important.  Let’s say you have a 50 minute class, and you really have about 15 to 20 minutes of stuff that you just really need to listen to again to make sure that you understand it. You can extract the information and just listen to the 15 or 20 minutes.  It helps to reduce the study time of things that you don’t need to relisten to.

JOSH ANDERSON:  So you don’t have to – especially for hour-and-a-half classes, you are not listening to the question and answer period or things you remember?


JOSH ANDERSON:  I could see how that could be very helpful. On the program, you can import your PowerPoint, pictures, and those kinds of things, can’t you?

CRAIG BURNS: Right.  Most classes at the college level – and if you are not in classes, you are in other kinds of meetings – you can still work it the same way. With a PowerPoint presentation, each frame of the PowerPoint takes up a section, as we call it.  So as you are recording, as the instructor or presenter goes on to the next screen, then you just hit the enter key and it jumps that recording down.  It continues recording to the next PowerPoint slide and goes on and on.  So everything is coordinated with the slide presentation.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Very nice.  And the companion app itself, is that free or is there cost?

CRAIG BURNS:  There is a cost.  It’s $12.99 for the recorder app.  There is another app called Sonocent link.  That’s used if, for example, the school has an account with Sonocent.  They purchase a whole online thing, and you are just logging into your account and you use Sonocent link to do that.  I think that’s free.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Very nice.  I can see how that can definitely be helpful.  Hopefully more schools will start using that.  When Sonocent came out, we were pretty excited.  It’s very helpful.  I’ve used it with some folks.

CRAIG BURNS:  I know in Indianapolis, Butler is using it.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Very good.  What’s on the app?

CRAIG BURNS:  We have a math one, iMathematics.  It’s more of a tutor math self-help thing.  It gives you lessons to go through and says how many lessons you want to do, three or five or seven, and you can set that.  Each week it reminds you, or however often you wanted to remind you, it reminds you and runs through some problems and you work them out.  It’s a little bit more of a tutor oriented mass solving problem rather than just take a picture of the problem and let it solve the problem for you.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I know math has always been one of the big challenges, finding accommodations for that.

CRAIG BURNS:  This one does cost, it’s not free.  It has several different levels.  For example, one year of lessons is $16.49.

JOSH ANDERSON:  That’s not bad.

CRAIG BURNS:  That’s not too bad.  You can get a lifetime one for $80.

JOSH ANDERSON:  So it depends on how long you needed for.

CRAIG BURNS:  If you just needed for a year of classes that you think you need help with, just get the year lessons.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Does it break it down by math classes?

CRAIG BURNS:  All different math levels.  You choose what math level you want from college algebra to finite math.  I haven’t looks through all of them, but there is a list.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Very nice.  Is there one more?

CRAIG BURNS: Sure.  I do a lot with augmentative communication, a lot with brain injury people, a lot with people with dyslexia.  I could give you a whole list. For AugCom, one of the popular ones is Verbally Premium or Verbally Plus.  That’s a $100 app basically.  It has some core word vocabulary, but that it has word prediction.  You can say phrases, you can organize phrases in the categories or messages into categories, you could have basic reading categories.  A lot of people I work with, they work with it on an iPad, and they either have throat cancer or something that makes them nonverbal.  They are adults so they have language, so it’s a good app for that. We do things like set them up for calling the doctor or calling the pharmacist, so they have their pharmacist category and it will have their name, the last four digits of their Social Security number or address, the birthday.  And then they can put, “I need a refill on –” and list their drugs. You can have up to 12 spaces for that. That’s kind of a nice app for that kind of purpose, adults that have language already formed.

Assistive Express is one I use often as an inexpensive app for individuals that have the ability to type. What’s nice about it is it has an iPhone version, so it’s fairly small and you can type messages.  It has word prediction in it, so you can select from that word predation as well.  You can categorize things as well.  Not in a stated category, but I think it is color-coded.

Speech Assistant is one I’ve recently started using.  It shows up as all text or graphics, but you can modify each sound with a message in it to have a picture in it, either an actual photo you take right then or one from your library, or you can pick symbols from that as well.  Then those cells will get bigger, so the targeting size buttons can increase.  I’ve used at that a couple of times with individuals that do need that picture that helps them, so we can put the picture right on there.  It’s really easy to modify those quickly.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Very nice.  So the caregiver or friend or family member can help them along after —

CRAIG BURNS: Yes.  Oh, we need to take a picture of this activity, so they just go to that cell and take a picture of what they need to take a picture of, and it’s there, you can put the message on it or the statement, whatever they want. As usually, there is a label, or what shows on the button is different than what actually speaks, so if you don’t have a lot of room, and you have a big message, you can do that.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Very cool.

CRAIG BURNS:  AAC Flip Writer is one I use; however, I was just looking for it on the App Store.  I have it on my iPad and it lets me do a premium upgrade because they changed it around all the time.  Now it’s like saying you need to buy the premium upgrade for voice output.  But basically it’s one that you can type, and it shows you the message, and it shows a message window where the text faces the person across from you, so they can read it without having to look over your shoulder.

JOSH ANDERSON:  So it’s kind of upside down on the top of the screen?

CRAIG BURNS:  You want to do something without having to turn the screen around or show some across.  I’m confused as to whether it’s still available because I just looked on the App Store for it and it wasn’t finding it.  I’m not sure what the status of that one is yet.

For brain injury people, we have a popular one.  We had been using it in our BITES [Brain Injury Technology and Education Support] group for a while, called Elevate.  People seemed to like that.  With brain injury clients that I work with, I will often say to look that one and try the free trial.  Was people use the free trial.  If you want to purchase it, then you can purchase that – I’m not sure what the cost is for that right now.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I don’t remember if that was a one time or a monthly thing.

CRAIG BURNS:  I think it might be a monthly subscription, but I’m not sure.

JOSH ANDERSON:  What is elevate?

CRAIG BURNS:  Elevate is a brain training application.  People have heard of Lumosity, Brain Games. There are a few of them out there that just let you do exercises to sharpen your cognitive skills.  It brings up shapes that look similar, and one is different, and had to pick out the one that’s different.  Or the arrows are going up in one direction, and the one you need to focus on is going a different direction, so you need to identify what direction the arrow you are one thing is going.  Just different things that you have to think of. Actually enough, there are some games that I’ve used, but I’ve had people load a few times.  One is Cut The Rope.

JOSH ANDERSON:  How does that help?

CRAIG BURNS:  The interesting thing about Cut The Rope – I’ve always like that one for some reason – is it a game, but it makes you think. Once you get passed the first couple of games, now you have to start thinking, if I cut the rope here than the ball falls this way, so you have to – it falls multiple directions from catching different chains or ropes.  So you really have to look at it and think which one do I need to cut first, and then you had to have — with some individuals, there is also a dexterity issue, so it helps them get that movement across the screen and different cutting positions.  It’s kind of a fun approach to exercising your brain and cognitive skills and some physical dexterity practice.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Like you said, it keeps it fun.  When you don’t know you’re learning, sometimes it’s easy to learn those things as opposed to having someone tell you all the time.  Very cool. Craig, thanks for coming on the show and telling us about those apps.

CRAIG BURNS:  No problem.


JOSH ANDERSON:  Our next guest needs no introduction.  It’s Belva Smith from the popular Assistive Technology Frequently Asked Questions in the team lead for our vision team. What’s one of the apps you want to talk about?

BELVA SMITH:  I am excited to share with everyone that I have recently started using Apple Pay on my iPhone.


BELVA SMITH: Yeah.  The biggest reason I started to use it is because, as you are aware, in our job we are traveling all over the state, sometimes in very remote locations. I found myself swiping my debit card or credit card, whatever you want to call it, and all these little hole in the wall type gas stations or restaurants to buy myself a pop or a tea. Twice my card was shut down by my bank because they felt like it had its integrity violated.  So I decided to start looking deeper into Apple pay, because it is something that comes with your iPhone.  I decided that the security feature on it is, in my opinion, a lot better than swiping your card.  And I found it to be extremely convenient to use.  You can even use Apple pay now at vending machines at your rest areas.


BELVA SMITH: Yeah.  So for me, I have the Apple watch and I have my iPhone, so whatever I want to make a purchase, all I have to do is be in front of what would be the card scanner and double tap my phone or double tap my watch, whichever device I happen to have on hand.  My card comes up and I just put it in front of the scanner thing, and it gives me a buzz to let me know that it’s gone through.  

The other thing I’m really enjoying about it – well, maybe I’m not enjoying it as much as I think. It’s got a convenient location for all of my receipts.  I’m able to keep track of all of the energy drinks and tea and stuff and make a purchase for throughout the week or month, however I choose to.

I will say the reason I feel like it is more secure is that, when you swipe your card, your number from your card is actually being transmitted through the pay system.  When you use Apple Pay, that number is never even exposed.  It all happens with a special identification number that is attached to your Apple pay account.  As an additional security feature, what I did is I opened a second account with my bank that I’m using strictly for Apple Pay.  What I found is that once I had the account open, I also then had – I bank with FORUM, and I don’t know if every bank is like this or not – I also then had to inform FORUM that I would be using that account with my Apple Pay account.

JOSH ANDERSON:  That’s good.

BELVA SMITH:  And an additional security thing I like – and now you are thinking, Belva, if someone gets your watch or get your phone, then they automatically have access to your Apple Pay account.  Not true.  Most of the gas stations that I go to still require me to enter a four digit code. Even though it buzzes and says it went through, and I have to approve it with a four digit code.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Is that four digit code something you set up?


JOSH ANDERSON:  So kind of like a PIN number?

BELVA SMITH:  It’s a PIN number associated with that account. This past weekend, I bought tickets for the movie to take the grandkids to see a movie.  I have recently been buying them online.  The first time I was really nervous because I don’t like putting my credit card information online anywhere.  With Apple pay, I don’t have to.  I bought them from Fandango, and as soon as I said I wanted to purchase the three tickets, it came up and said would you like to use your Apple pay.  I said sure.  I touched another button and it was done.  No credit card information was needed, so that was really nice.  Like I said, I have found very few places that are not accepting Apple pay.  It’s amazing to me how many people actually are.  Also with Apple pay, something I have chosen not to start doing yet, just primarily because I don’t have a huge need for it right now, is the Apple pay cash feature.

JOSH ANDERSON:  What’s that?

BELVA SMITH:  It’s where I could text you money through a text message, or we could be sitting across from each other and put my phones together, and I could say send Josh $10.

JOSH ANDERSON:  And was sent right over?  Oh yeah.

BELVA SMITH:  I do have a friend who is a landlord, and he has several of his renters that are using the Apple pay cash to pay the rent, because there is no delay.  The money is going directly from them to him.  There are no checks in the mail or depositing, and you wait three days for the check to clear or whatever.  It’s automatically there.

Before I wrap up talking about this, I’ve talked about how easy it is to use but now I also want to make sure that everybody knows – because I did have to figure out how to find my receipts.  So the minute you make a purchase, the receipt will appear on your phone or your watch, whatever you made the purchase on.  But then it goes away.  In my mind, I knew those receipts our summer but where are they.  So if you open your settings and scroll down – or swipe down if you are using voiceover, because by the way, this does work well with voiceover as well – to, “Wallet” and “Apple Pay.”  You open up that screen, and you’ll see the payment cards that you have on file, because you can have more than one card on file if you choose to. So you just tap on that card, and there you go, there’s all of your latest transactions.  It’s funny, because if you look at mine, you’re going to see fandango, Speedway, Speedway, BP, Speedway.  Pretty much the only place I use it is that the gas stations.  I do like having them all there.  Like I said, at the end of the month or the end of the week, whenever I choose, I can go back and see just how much I’m actually wasting, I guess.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I’m glad you mentioned it working well with voiceover, because I could see how this could be helpful for folks who are visually impaired or especially blind.  Trying to pull out the credit card all the time –

BELVA SMITH:  And never knowing which way the card has got to go, swipe, and what but you have to press.  With Apple pay, you are not swiping your card.

JOSH ANDERSON:  And you are just holding it over.  You’ve already got your phone, using it for other things, having all in.  Once your card is in there, it’s stored.  You wouldn’t even have to cure your wallet with you.  You just have everything right there.  I could see how that could be helpful for folks with disabilities as well.

BELVA SMITH: Right.  My phone takes my thumbprint or passcode to unlock it, so another reason I feel secure with that, plus I have it set so that if my phone is lost and attempted to be unlocked, after so many tries they will automatically erase. So I don’t feel insecure with having the card information on my phone, I guess to a point, because that is primarily why I did open the second account, was that if something does happen, whoever gets it, they are not going to have access to all of my money, just a certain portion of my money.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I could see as we buy things online and, like you said, go to the different gas stations, you are putting her number a lot of different places.  Putting it in one place and, as you said, using a different method, that can make you feel more secure.

BELVA SMITH:  And restaurants are accepting it, vending machines. Like I said, Apple pay has become very widely used.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Not to exclude our Android listeners.  I know there is a Google pay that works the same in a lot of places.  If they accept one, they usually accept both.

BELVA SMITH: Absolutely.  I have not used the Google pay, but I’m assuming that the set up and features are all pretty much going to be equally the same as all the other android stuff.

These are the two apps that I use almost daily.  One is my Apple Pay, and the other one is Maps.  I just tested when I got out of the car here at work, because you can choose whether you what you are maps to give you driving directions or walking directions or biking directions, whatever you choose.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I think you can even do public transportation, depending on where you are.  I know some of the apps like rideshare, I think you can connect it to rideshare and stuff like that.

BELVA SMITH:  I think so.  I just got out of the car and asked Siri to find me the nearest McDonald’s, walking directions, and it popped right up.  I gone to her I can’t drive, even if I know where I’m going, I can’t drive without the voice tell me you are going to turn into hundred feet.  I just got so dependent on not really paying attention. I was always – what do you call them? I never went by street names, I always went by –

JOSH ANDERSON:  Third left by the big oak tree?

BELVA SMITH: Yes.  So when they tore down the Kroger that I was supposed to turn out, then I was lost.  It’s just a new habit that I have now to rely on having my maps tell me when I’m going to turn and which way I’m going to turn.  The great thing about it is, especially with driving, is if you do get redirected because of construction or anything like that, it just automatically reroutes for you and you don’t have to worry about now I’m in an unfamiliar environment and I don’t know exactly where I get to go.  I will say sometimes – and this just happened to me this week – I knew where I had to go, but I had it in my maps just so that it would give me my auditory feedback.  It was telling me to go a way that I knew I shouldn’t be going, and I said why?  I found out why.  There was an accident, so I ended up about 15 to 20 minutes in traffic that it was trying to take me around.  Sometimes it will let you know that it’s rerouting you because of an accident or construction, but not always.  Sometimes it just changes its mind and try to send you a different way. That’s happened to me a couple of times, so I think I’m learning the hard way to just listen and do what it tells me to do.

JOSH ANDERSON:  I’ll even use it if I want to take a different way that I know and just let it keep rerouting.  Eventually it’s like you don’t want to go this way because the road is closed because of an accident.  I use mine on the way to work.  I live 30 miles or so from the office, and I take the same way to work every day.  But I still turn it on before I leave because most of that is interstate.  If there is an accident in the middle of interstate, I’m stuck.  There is no way to get off once I get to a certain point.  I use it every morning to take the same route to work.  It saves me probably an hour of transit before, just from there being an accident on the way.

BELVA SMITH: Right.  I guess in mentioning the maps app, I also threw in a third app that I do rely on heavily, which I guess you could consider Siri in app.  I know it’s really a personal assistant.  Siri can do so much for you with a phone.  I do rely on that a lot for hands-free purposes, not only for getting directions, but it can text, email, give me a phone number. There’s a lot of things I do with Siri. I just take it for granted. Rather than picking the phone up and unlocking it and pressing buttons or whatever, I just asked Siri to do a lot of things for me throughout the day, check my calendar, check my email, that kind of stuff.

JOSH ANDERSON:  Thank you so much for coming on the show and talking about some of the apps you use every day.

Folks, unfortunately we ran out of time to get all those interviews in today, so we will go ahead and get the interviews with the rest of the team in a later episode.


JOSH ANDERSON:  Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update? If you do, call our listener line at 317-721-7124, shoot us a note on Twitter @INDATAProject, or check us out on Facebook. Are you looking for a transcript or show notes? Head on over to our website at Assistive Technology Update is a proud member of the Accessibility Channel. For more shows like this, plus so much more, head over to The views expressed by our guests are not necessarily that of this host or the INDATA Project.  This has been your Assistive Technology Update.  I’m Josh Anderson with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana. Thank you for listening, and we’ll see you next time.

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