ATU429 – Holiday World and Play Day with Leah Koch

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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:

Holiday World Website: www.holidayworld.com Disability Emojis: https://cnn.it/2Zi68qY

Olympic Robots: http://bit.ly/2ZkPpmP

VR cops: http://bit.ly/2Zj7lON

VR OT: http://bit.ly/2Zkb6Ub
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————–Transcript Starts Here————————————

Leah Koch:
This is Leah Koch and I’m the Director of Communications on Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari, 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 in data project at Easter seals, crossroads and beautiful Indianapolis Indiana. Welcome to episode 429 of Assistive Technology Update is scheduled to be released on August 16th, 2019.

Josh Anderson:
On today’s show, we’re going to release our inner child. We have on Leah Koch from Holiday World here in Indiana to talk about something they do special for individuals with disabilities called Play Day, and some of the accommodations that they have there at the amusement park. We also have stories about some new emojis coming out to include those for the disability community. Some robots that are going to be utilized at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo to help out folks with accessibility and a couple of stories on virtual reality.

Josh Anderson:
One actually dealing with virtual reality to help individuals with autism interact with law enforcement and another one for how VR can help OTs in their treatment program. And remember, if you ever have any questions, somebody that’d be great for us to interview or anything like that. Give us a call on our listener line at (317) 721-7124 or shoot us an email at tech@ eastersealscrossroads.org.

Josh Anderson:
Are you looking for more podcasts to listen to? Do you have questions about assistive technology? Are you really busy and only have a minute to listen to podcast? Well, guess what, you’re in luck because we have a few other podcasts that you should really check out. The first one is assistive technology frequently asked questions or 80 FAQ hosted by Brian Norton and featuring myself Bell, the Smith, and then a bunch of other guests. What we do is we sit around and take questions about assistive technology, either about accommodations, about different things that are out there or about different ways to use things. We get those questions from Twitter, online on the phone and in many other ways. We’re also trying to build a little bit of a community as sometimes believe it or not, we don’t have all the answers. So we reach out to you to answer some of those questions and help us along. You can check that out anywhere that you get your podcast and wherever you find this podcast.

Josh Anderson:
We also have Accessibility Minute, so Accessibility Minute is hosted by Laura Metcalf. And if you’ve never heard her voice, it is smooth as silk and you should really listen to that podcast. She’s going to give you just a one minute blurb about some different kinds of assistive technology, kind of wet your whistle a little bit, and just let you know some of the new things that are out there so that you can go out and find out a little bit more about them yourself.

Josh Anderson:
Again, check out our other shows, Assistive Technology frequently asked questions and Accessibility Minute available, wherever you get your podcasts.

Josh Anderson:
Emojis, love them or hate them, we all use them probably in some way, shape or form. If we text or communicate with anyone through text messages, some folks even send ones. And I have no idea what it is they’re trying to say, but at least, I guess they’re fun little pictures to look at. If you don’t know what an emoji is, it’s the little smiley faces to all other kinds of pictures that we attach into text messages, emails, and the like. I found a story over at cnn.com, the articles by Amy Woodyatt, and it’s called Apple Unveils Disability Themed Emojis, and Push for Greater Diversity. So it looks like when more emojis, I think it says 50, some odd ones are coming out sometime this fall, they’re going to actually include some more inclusive emojis.

Josh Anderson:
There will be an individual using a white cane. I believe there is just a white cane by itself, a guide dog, an individual in a wheelchair, an individual in a powered wheelchair, a prosthetic arm, a prosthetic leg, an individual wearing a hearing aid and an individual using sign language. Very cool that they have actually thought to kind of put these in and be a little bit more inclusive with the disability community. Says that Apple is beginning off by choosing options that are most inclusive for people in four main disability categories, and that will be blind and low vision, deaf and hard of hearing, physical and motor disabilities and folks with hidden disabilities. This is really just a beginning, it looks like this is something that is on their radar that they will be putting out there a little bit more.

Josh Anderson:
That is really kind of nice, that now individuals with disabilities, if they do want to use emojis that maybe represent them a little bit more, they will have these cute little pictures that they can always use. Then of course, there’s a bunch of other ones coming out too, but I just thought these were really the important ones that kind of relate to this show. Keep a look out for those. Looks like there will be 59 new emojis arriving in the Fall and some of those will be inclusive for individuals with disabilities.

Josh Anderson:
We’re a little less than a year away from the 2020 Olympics, which are going to be held in Tokyo. And I found a really interesting story about some of the accessibility things that they’re already starting to get in place. Stories by Steve McCaskill and it’s over at Forbes. It talks about Tokyo 2020 to use robots for a more efficient and accessible Olympics. It starts off by just talking about some different robots that are going to be sent out in order to help out the athletes, be able to get some different things to them and help them out.

Josh Anderson:
Most of these robots are actually made by Toyota. We know that Toyota has done some different accessibility things in the past. As we come down, we have a whole section about improving accessibility. There’s, [inaudible 00:06:00] robots that they call HSR or Human Support Robots that will guide spectators to their seats. If you’re trying to find an accessible seat, you can tell this robot that, and it will actually guide you to it. They also have Delivery Support Robots that will bring you food, drinks, merchandise during the action, so you don’t have to leave your seat. Which can be really helpful for an individual who just really wants to watch the games, but for an individual who has difficulty with mobility and actually getting to the food stand or to the gift shop, it can be great. It can really open up that door for them, let them get this thing right to them.

Josh Anderson:
Since Toyota also has built a robot mascot that kind of welcomes people into different venues and has facial recognition and a ton of little joint units, so it can really do almost any physical kind of movement. They also made a T H R three, which is a humanoid robot, and it mimics the movement of this mascot robot, but at a different location. And it can also provide images and sound so that you feel like you’re in the Olympic stadium, even if you aren’t. It actually says here, that this means it will be possible to actually have a conversation with an even high five, one of the world’s most famous athletes. This has made for individuals who, because of mobility restrictions might not be able to attend some of the events at all, this can actually bring the events straight to them.

Josh Anderson:
It’s got a quote here from the Chief Officer of Toyota’s Frontier Research Center, Nobby Koga, he says that as we transfer into a mobility company, we’re expanding our robotics efforts to provide all people with the freedom to move. I know that Toyota, has done some of these things in the past, but it’s also pretty neat that they’re doing on such a large scale here to help out folks at the Olympics. It also says that while folks are at the airport, there’s going to be autonomous mobility scooters that can be able to take them to their gate and different places. Uses laser to detect obstacles and can really help people get to where they need to be. Just another neat way, the companies and places are starting to use robots and artificial intelligence to interact and assist individuals with disabilities.

Josh Anderson:
Very cool stuff that Toyota’s doing and planning for out there in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. We’ll put a link to that story over in our show notes.

Josh Anderson:
What’s your reaction when you get stopped by the police, whether they’re walking down the road, driving in a car or really anywhere, Do you tense up? Do you think of every bad thing you’ve ever done in your entire life and wonder if they may have finally caught you for it? I don’t know. I mean, it’s kind of hard to tell. I know that probably teenage Josh would probably tell you a totally different reaction than adult Josh, but that’s a whole story for another episode, I’m sure. But, what if due to a disability you have difficulty with social cues or not just that maybe you act a little different. So police officers are trained to look for certain things.

Josh Anderson:
If you avoid eye contact, you talk a little slower, have slurred speech, or don’t really answer, seem to pay attention or continuously try to avoid them or get away from them, they might think that you’re hiding something or that you’re on drugs or that some of these things might be happening when really, and truthfully, it could just be an unseen disability such as autism. But, who teaches individuals with autism, how to deal with police and not only that, does the anxiety and stress of being with a police officer kind of negate, the training or the teaching in and of itself. I found a great story over at the Philadelphia Inquirer, it’s written by Rita Giordano, and it’s called People with Autism face special risk dealing with police. This virtual reality program could help. What it talks about is a virtual reality program that was made from a partnership between the children’s hospital of Philadelphia Center for Autism Research and the Creator of Floreo. Floreo is an immersive viewing kind of education system that is made in order to help individuals with autism learn through virtual reality.

Josh Anderson:
And what this does, it actually is a virtual reality, you put it on and it simulates a police officer walking up to you and asking you questions, you interact with them and go through all these different scenarios in virtual reality. So not in the real world, you don’t actually have to make eye contact with a real human being in a uniform with a gun and a taser and a badge and a stick, and all these other kinds of things that could be very scary and hard to do. Actually says the inspiration for this Florio system was a 2016 Florida case.

Josh Anderson:
I do remember when this happened, an incident where a police officer fired three times, that an individual with autism who was holding a silver toy truck, the officer had mistook for a weapon. And on this show that we don’t do politics. We are definitely not here to point blame. I definitely would have a very hard time making split second decisions. And from the policemen’s standpoint, he doesn’t know if someone’s just waving something and maybe kind of being a little belligerent or, who knows. You got to make split second decisions and hindsight’s always 2020, and from a long distance, it’s much easier to see these things. But, at the same time an individual with autism, if you don’t know how to interact with police, it can really pose challenges. It can sometimes cause dangerous situations such as this, or maybe even result in being arrested and under suspicion of something, when really no crime may have actually been committed by you. This is a very cool tool and I can see how this could be used in a lot of other situations as well.

Josh Anderson:
I believe we’ve had the stories on here before about this kind of virtual reality for some things like, going to the grocery store, working a job and other stuff. But, this is an interaction a lot of people probably don’t think about. I really see how this could be useful for not just folks with, autism spectrum, but for a lot of individuals probably could interact with each other with law enforcement and with, everyone out there a little bit better. It does say that, they’re also doing this kind of the other way. So, not with virtual reality, but they are training police officers on how to deal with emotionally disturbed people. However, they don’t do a lot of instruction about autism at this time, but that’s something that they’re trying to kind of work towards. And I think that’d be really helpful.

Josh Anderson:
We got to remember police officers are just like, you and I come from all different backgrounds. So you’ll have some that are very used to dealing with individuals with autism due to probably a family member, a friend or someone else they’ve encountered in their life. But, a lot of other folks may have never really come in contact with someone with autism. When they drop their eyes and don’t make eye contact, look away, maybe walk away or become invasive, just because of an uncomfortable situation. Again, that could really put that person A at risk and B, then you have a police officer kind of, you know, wasting their time, pursuing someone who is not the suspect of whatever they’re looking for while, you know, criminals and other folks probably kind of run free. So very cool thing. And I think this could really truthfully help folks.

Josh Anderson:
It can help them know how to answer a police officer’s question, maybe how to follow up with other questions. And it even says in here, it can go as far as advise people with autism to come out and just say that to a police officer. So to self identify, if it’s something that they would actually kind of want to do. But if we really think, and we’ve talked about robots and virtual reality and how sometimes, especially for individuals on the spectrum, it might be a little bit easier to interact with someone who’s not staring at you. Who’s not making you know, facial responses that you don’t a hundred percent understand or interpret correctly. Sometimes it’s a little bit easier to use a virtual person or a robot in order to learn these cues, learn these different things and be able to interact and make sure that we’re doing the correct communication, with police officers and really with the other individuals in general.

Josh Anderson:
We’ve got a link to this story over in our show notes, and we’ll keep kind of scouring and finding other places and other things that are made to help individuals with autism, or maybe just individuals who learn differently. Be able to interact a little bit more with the world around them and vice versa. Help the world around them, be able to interact with them a little bit easier.

Josh Anderson:
Let’s go and stick with the virtual reality thing for a minute. I found something over a med tech outlook and its virtual reality for occupational therapy and rehabs. This talks about some different healthcare providers, developing HR enabled rehabilitation systems. This is going to try to help patients with both physical and cognitive and challenges involved in daily activities. A lot of what it talks about here is kind of individuals who may have had a stroke or a brain injury and going through OT to kind of get some of the skills and everything back. It talks about some places are starting to bring VR into that. It does have some information on some studies. I’ll let you kind of read that if you want to, but it does show that there has been a substantial benefit shown in many of these studies when the VR systems were brought in.

Josh Anderson:
Now, it says that they have some different kinds of VR systems that they’re putting in place. And normally we think of the goggles, the fully immersive goggles, maybe some earphones or something like that. This has some other different things that they’re using. First one kind of a smart glove. And when I first think of a smart glove, I think of Nintendo when I was a kid and they had the power glove, so that dated myself. Most people probably might not even know what that was. I never got to use it. We didn’t have one, unfortunately, but, I just remember that. But anyway, the smart glove here is an ex silicone XO glove communicates with a tablet using Bluetooth and actually has an assessment mode. It’s going to detect changes in how you move and you’re timing, your coordination, and all these things, and actually uses AI to alter parameters of activities.

Josh Anderson:
You can see how this can really be helpful. I mean, if you think of our observation with a human eye or maybe grip tests, things like that, we can kind of tell what a person’s doing. But if this, with other actuators, with other sensors can really understand how people are improving or not improving and what can be done and changed in order to help them out. That artificial intelligence in there is awesome too, because that’s going to, as it says, be able to alter the parameters of activities and really kind of help that person continue to grow, maybe on the things that they are starting to do better, but without sacrificing, the things that they have not improved on and allowing them to continue to help out with those. Next thing, it talks about as a music glove. And this is equipped with finger sensors that work on fine motor control and timing and finger movement.

Josh Anderson:
As the interface actually resembles kind of a guitar hero kind of games, have you think about that? Which makes me think, why not just use the guitars from guitar hero? I mean, that takes some serious coordination to kind of get those things right. But a good way to maybe change coordination, to get some of that finger movement back. Then it also talks about virtual Activities of Daily Living or ADL as we kind of call them around here, most of the time. If you think most of those activities of daily living can really engage an individual, both physically and cognitively, in some of these challenges and can probably help you through some of them without having to actually do them in a real world situation.

Josh Anderson:
So kind of as we said, virtual reality, starting to be used in so many different ways and in so many different kinds of therapy where maybe we can’t actually take the person to that place, but then we can also use artificial intelligence, these smart gloves, these other virtual kind of things in order to make sure that we’re getting all the information we need and being able to help individuals even more. Because we’ll have more information on how they’re doing, how they’re progressing, where they’re falling short and what we need to do in order to get them more help.

Josh Anderson:
We’ll put a link to this story over in our show notes and who knows, maybe we’ll find something more where virtual reality is being used to help individuals with disabilities soon.

Josh Anderson:
For many folks around the world, summertime means Roller Coasters, Water slides and Theme Parks. For individuals with disabilities, these places can be very hard to access and maybe even a little overwhelming from time to time. Well, here in Indiana, we have a great park called Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana. And everyone knows that Santa Claus lives at the North pole, but it turns out he likes to summer in Southwestern Indiana. Now Holiday World has something really cool called Play Day. And Leah Koch, Director of Communications for the park is here to tell us all about it. Leah, Welcome to the show.

Leah Koch:
Thanks. Great to be here.

Josh Anderson:
Excellent. Well, before we get talking about all the fun stuff, can you tell our listeners just a little about yourself?

Leah Koch:
Yeah. My name is Leah cook. I recently took over the role here as Director of Communications at Holiday World. But, before that, I grew up in the park because my family happens to own it. And my great grandfather started the park in 1946.

Josh Anderson:
That sounds like everyone’s dream. I think at one point to be able to grow up in the amusement park.

Leah Koch:
That was a lot of fun.

Josh Anderson:
Oh, I bet I can remember being a little kid and always trying to like, stay until they close. So maybe you just get to stay all night. Not even thinking that the rides probably closed down. But,

Leah Koch:
He tried that one hard.

Josh Anderson:
But it just never works out that way. Live for our listeners that are outside of Indiana. Can you tell us a little bit about holiday world?

Leah Koch:
Sure. How they’re rolled and slash and Safari. We’re an amusement park and waterpark is located in Santa Claus, Indiana, which is so far South in Indiana. It’s almost Kentucky, but we’d have a bunch of different sections, so it’s named Holiday World because we have a 4th of July area. We have Halloween and Thanksgiving, and most importantly in Santa Claus, Indiana, we have the Christmas section. So it’s just, we’ve got four world-class roller coasters, two of the top two waterpark rides in the world. We take fun seriously here.

Josh Anderson:
And for anybody outside of Indiana, I definitely recommend a go in there cause you also get free drinks and free sunscreen, [crosstalk 00:20:22], which is really important, especially at the water park on a hot Indiana day.

Leah Koch:
And free parking as well. We don’t believe people should have to pay for that.

Josh Anderson:
Oh, that’s right. I forgot about that. Well, tell us all about play day.

Leah Koch:
Sure. So Play Day actually started in 1993. My dad went to an event. We have our industry organization, that’s call the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. And he went to the Annual Conference and there was another part that was doing something similar and he came back and he said, we’ve got to do this. So we started partnering with Easter seals that next year and basically what we do is we hand over tickets to Easter seals. They sell the tickets for a nominal costs of maybe $10. And we give kids with disabilities, a chance to play for a day and kind of go at their own pace so, it doesn’t have, we control the number of tickets. So there’s not a thousand other people sitting around waiting on you to get on the ride and get it right. We have all of our trained employees ready to go to help kids, however they need it.

Josh Anderson:
Oh, that’s awesome. Cause I know, yeah. One of the biggest hurdles in an amusement park is just all the people and the lines and everything and you’re right. Some people just aren’t patient enough that his folks are getting on and off rides to really wait for.

Leah Koch:
There’s a lot of pressure sometimes at amusement parks to get on things and get going fast and that’s not what Play Day is about.

Josh Anderson:
Very cool. Very cool. What are some of the accommodations that you utilize during this day and during other days at the park?

Leah Koch:
We have plenty of accommodation. We actually have a kind of accessibility guide available online that helps people understand what they’re going to be comfortable with riding, what they’re not going to be able to ride, whatever, we make it very clear what you’ll need and, what you’ll experience. We encourage people to utilize that we have a ride boarding pass. So those people who can’t wait in line, we’ve got some cues. The park was started in 1946, so we have some old style cues that aren’t wheelchair accessible yet. People can go up through the exit. All of our exits are available by ramp in the dry park and they can go and get a time to return. So when it’s like, they’re waiting in line, but they don’t actually have to wait through the entire line. And we try to be very cognizant of kids who can’t necessarily deal with walking up to the ride and waiting. We try to accommodate them as well.

Leah Koch:
In addition to that even, we have a sensory calling room. It’s got to adjust the lighting, some beanbag chairs, and really, it’s just kind of a space that you can rent out, I believe by the half hour. And it’s in our first state building. So it’s quiet, it’s air conditioned. And it’s a chance for kids to just take a break when they’re getting overwhelmed in a park, because as you know, how an amusement park can become very overwhelming, very fast.

Josh Anderson:
Oh it definitely can. Especially when you add in the heat, the sun, everything else and all the noise and all that, it can definitely happen.

Leah Koch:
Oh, and also, I almost forgot to mention that we have in our accessibility guide. A guide to which toilets flush automatically, which don’t, just in case some children have issues with that.

Josh Anderson:
That’s really cool. Cause I know, I know some kids, even, my stepson’s 10 years old and doesn’t really even have any cognitive impairments, but he flushes the toilet and runs the bathroom as fast as he can just because of the noise. But I know, especially with those that automatically do it every time you lean forward or move slowly, that would be, would be really helpful to not, have that on there. And then did I see you guys also have a special raft for folks to use at your water park?

Leah Koch:
Yes. We’ve been trying out U shaped tubes, I believe this year.

Josh Anderson:
Very nice.

Leah Koch:
Awkwardly get on top of one of those normal donuts style rafts. You can just kind of slide your arms around them.

Josh Anderson:
So that’s a great thing cause yeah, I know a lot of folks, definitely the water park is kind of, I don’t want to say the most inaccessible, but sometimes just the hardest to be able to access for folks with any kind of mobility challenges.

Leah Koch:
Absolutely, yeah. Well a lot of things have stairs and we tried everything we build. Now we try to keep stairs out of as much as we can.

Josh Anderson:
Very cool. And the donations that are received from this are utilized in some special ways, is that right?

Leah Koch:
That’s correct. So, so far we’ve raised over $500,000 through the years with this event and we actually donate got to use that money to build a playground for kids and they named it the Will’s Way Playground in memory of my father.

Josh Anderson:
And you guys just got a big kudos from USA today. What was that about?

Leah Koch:
USA today has a giant vote every year for the number one outdoor waterpark. And we were honored to receive the most sows for that one. So officially we’re USA today is number one, waterpark.

Josh Anderson:
I don’t know why you didn’t lead with that, but I mean, I had to make sure that you at least got it, put that little bit of shameless plug in there.

Leah Koch:
Yes, Of course.

Josh Anderson:
If our listeners would want to find out more about Holiday World, about its accommodation. So kind of the guide to ride that you talked about and Play Day, how would they find out that information?

Leah Koch:
Sure. You can go to our website, www.holidayworld.com. On that you can search accessibility, and the accessibility guide and all the pages related to that will come up. So there’s a downloadable guide, if you’d like to print that out and study it, that’s up to you. But then, also of course we have a form on the website. So if you have any questions, you’re free to call us or send us an email.

Josh Anderson:
Excellent. We’ll make sure to put all that information over in our show notes. Leah Koch. Thank you so much for coming on today and I can’t wait to get down to Holiday World before the summers out and check out all this stuff.

Leah Koch:
Please come, we’re excited to have you.

Josh Anderson:
Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on assistive technology update?

Josh Anderson:
If you do call our listener line at (317) 721-7124. Shoot us a note on Twitter at Indiana project or check us out on Facebook. Are you looking for a transcript or show notes? Head on over to our website at www.eastersealstech.com. Assistive Technology update is a proud member of the Accessibility channel. For more shows like this, plus so much more head over to accessibilitychannel.com.

Josh Anderson:
The views expressed by our guests are not necessarily that, of this host or the end data project. This has been your Assistive Technology update, I’m Josh Anderson with the end data project at Easter seals, crossroads in Indianapolis, Indiana. Thank you so much for listening and we’ll see you next time.