Many iPhone users, who are blind, have become accustomed to use voice over or Siri when they make or receive calls. However, these features may be difficult for children, seniors or those who have cognitive challenges. Braille phones are now available from a company called, OwnFone (https://www.myownfone.com), in UK. It costs about £40 to £70 ($70 to $110 in US dollars). Users can use either word or image buttons. The 3D-printed hardware provides raised text or braille. This phone is not a smartphone, but you can store phone numbers in the Cloud for future changes and adaptability. The phone can be useful for simple emergencies for cognitive or visually challenged users. I hope that 3-D printing technology will bring the manufacturing costs down further so that it will become more affordable to anyone that has a need for this type of phone when it becomes available internationally.
Web link: UK Inventor of OwnFone on the world’s first customizable mobile
Braille Phone – OwnFone
I often use Siri to locate some restaurants nearby when I visit different locations. However, I was always wondering if there is a better app for VoiceOver users.
The app called All Access offers the information about not only Food & Drink but also different categories such as Health & Services, Auto & Travel, Shopping, Scan codes, and more. So I tried this app using the VoiceOver. It is very easy to navigate. For example, from the Food/Drink button, when you select restaurants’ types (i.e. Asian, American, All Types, etc.) and select your choice of a restaurant, you can access the information from separate buttons such as the restaurant’s Menu, Maps, phone, specials, and hours, all of which can be read aloud. This is helpful for everyone because you sometimes cannot read the Menu easily from their website.
An example of using the Food & Drink selection (AllAccess App)
I also liked the organized design, which means that the app covers your different needs so it provides a quick access to what you need without looking for other apps on your phone. For example, the app came in handy when I needed to find a dentist list or using the scan code app while shopping. I may be using this app more often without bothering Siri on my iPhone. However, if you live in a remote area with limited cell phone or no Wi-Fi coverage, you will experience poor performance. It is free from Apple App store. Web link: AllAccess
HIMS (www.hims-inc.com) will start shipping E-bot and E-bot ADV this June 2014.
What is E-bot? E-bot and E-bot ADV are portable read, write, and various distance video magnifiers with OCR (ADV model exclusive). The E-bot supports iPad or Android tablet, PC or Mac. The device makes use of familiar touch-screen gesture controls on your tablet so you can connect your iPad or Android Tablet via dedicated wireless access point. You can also connect with Mac with USB 3.0 or PC via USB 2.0/3.0. It has automatic light adjustments and voice guides (i.e. adjustable Zoom levels by voice).
I have used a few OCR apps on iPad, but it is not always easy to hold the device steady while capturing an image. So I like the design allowing you to place a document on a desk to stabilize it and wirelessly connect to view or OCR the image.
I can imagine that teachers and students would like the features such as capturing the image on the screen, then listen to it read aloud or seeing what is on blackboards to help their classroom activities.
image: capturing an image through e-bot and viewing from an iPad
The product information on the HIMS website: E-bot / E-bot ADV HD
PATINS TV: March 18th, 2014: Episode_38
Jody Ranck (GIGAOM Research, July 2012) reported that advances in materials science, battery power, augmented reality and chip evaluation have made the possibilities for wearables grow rapidly. These “Wearables” are commuting devices that are always on, always accessible and easily worn on the body. The wearable computing devices generally offer features such as real-time information access, data input, local storages, and communication.
I posted articles about Google Glass and the Smart watch last year. Wearable computing (or wearables) has continued to evolve into a consumer technology. While searching for what is coming next, I came across a device called “Earclip-type Wearable PC”. The prototype devices are tested by researchers at the Hiroshima City University in Japan. It is a small computer (weighing in at 17 grams) that can be worn around the ear and can be controlled by facial expressions such as the blink of an eye, a raised eyebrow, a stuck-out tongue, a wiggle of the nose or by clenching your teeth. The user does not need to use either hand so this device can serve as “a third hand”, a real benefit for people with disabilities. This wireless device has Bluetooth capability to connect to your smartphone, GPS, compass, gyro-sensor, battery, barometer, speaker and microphone. It can be used as a hearing aid. A second version of the device may include a tracking feature to watch after an elderly family member. We may be able to see this device on the market later next year around Christmas 2015.
The special issue (3D Printer Buyer’s Guide) in the Make: magazine reported that the first patent for 3D printing was obtained by Charles Hull in 1986. The essence of 3D printing is that software can “slice” a 3D image into a stack of 2D layers, and this forms the basis of a 3D printer that builds an object by printing one layer on top of another.
With a price range for a decent 3D printers starting at $1500 with capabilities that come close to commercial / industrials systems, 3D printing is ready for the masses. 3D printers are still expensive (good ones cost over $2000), but using one may be just around the corner. And I mean literally, we may be able to try out a 3D printer at Fedex/Kinko’s, a 3D Design salon, or even being available for rent near future. Most importantly, 3D printing can provide variety of solutions for people with disabilities.
For example, Global Accessibility News (Feb 3, 2014) reported that a 3D printer can help people who are blind or low vision feel the world around them.
A video shows constructing four puzzle blocks with letters F, I, S, H on them imprinted in braille. This way a person with vision disabilities can put all the letters together, read the word ‘fish’, and feel the shape of the fish that the blocks form. (Article)
The University of Warwick in UK is helping its students with physical disabilities become their own product designers so they can 3D-print customized objects that help them in their daily living. (Article)
In the future, 3D printing could be used to build homes. 3D printer can build a house in 20 hours: Click here
Many studies have been done to allow patients to control prosthetics and other devices using computers by interfacing signals captured from nerves, muscles, or the brain. One example in an article posted in September 2010 in MIT Technology Review, the researchers introduced a robotic wheelchair that combined brain control with artificial intelligence to help people maneuver their wheelchairs using only their thoughts. Then an article posted in April 2013 talked about the researchers who are working on how people can control their thoughts to launch an application such as selecting a contact or a song from a playlist or control the power on a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1. It is exciting to see the Brain-Computer interface technologies develop, and Assistive Technology groups have opportunities to expand possibilities for people with disabilities.
I recently purchased a scientific touchscreen calculator for my husband’s birthday. Without knowing too much about this calculator, I have become very interested in some of its features. This HP Prime calculator has an interactive, 3.5 inch multi-touch color display screen with the familiar HP keypad. You can change the font size and set for a custom color theme. While the calculator has 3 Font sizes to select from, I would like to see an even larger font size for persons with low vision. The calculator offers both Algebraic (typical calculator keystroke entry) and RPN (Reverse Polish Notation) mode for entry. It is easily switched between symbolic, graphical, and numerical table views. This calculator can help you learn math concepts with Dynamic Geometry, CAS (Computer Algebra System), Advanced Graphing, and spreadsheet applications. CAS is a software program that facilitates symbolic mathematics (i.e. it can solve the algebra or calculus for the student). However, the feature can be disabled for testing purposes. Additionally their HP Solve feature provides customization by storing equations and solving for variables. The calculator can have wireless connectivity by purchasing a wireless dongle connected to a PC’s USB port and Internet access. If you are a college student or professional who is not restricted to TI (Texas Instrument calculator), you may want to consider this calculator. I would like to see the HP developer will add speech output on this calculator.
YouTube video: HP Prime: Color Graphing Calculator
Do you have plans for emergency situations? Many resources, helpful suggestions, and check lists are available on the internet, but we often neglect taking the time to plan how we can act for emergency situations such as Fire, Earthquake, Storms, etc. If you are or have an individual with special needs in your family, it is recommended that you have your own plans as well as discuss these plans with your family and others.
Here are some resources to get you started:
INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES OR ACCESS & FUNCTIONAL NEEDS
For people with children, children may enjoy playing the following games while they are learning. Click the following: Disaster Master Game or copy the following address to your browser. http://www.ready.gov/kids/games/data/dm-english/index.html
Disaster Master Game
The image shows the Game selections from Level 1 through 8. Level 1-Wildfire, Level 2-Tornado, Level 3, Hurricane/Blackout, Level 4-Home Fire, Level 5: Winter Storm/Extreme Cold, Level 6: Tsunami/Earthquake, Level 7: Thunderstorm/Lightning, and Level 8: The Hot Seat.
Penina Rybak, MA/CCC-SLP, TSHH, the designer of the “Socially Speaking” app, posted an article in the Closing Gap magazine about IPad use for children diagnosed Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). In the article, she reported that many special education teachers recognize the importance of visual supports for Autism. Many teachers have used therapeutic techniques and reputable programs such as PECS, TEACH, Social Stories, and Visual Strategies. However, there is a growing interest in finding evidence about how to work with ASD students using technology, particularly iOS apps. Some examples of apps that can be integrated into the classrooms are photo apps, flashcard apps, drawing apps, and social story apps, AAC apps, problem-solving apps, and multimedia apps. However, Ms. Rybak states that it is more beneficial to use of an IPad by customization to meet each child’s needs. The app, “Socially Speaking”, designed by Ms. Ryback is an assessment protocol containing two assessment checklists: social skills development and a lesson plan template. This app can be used to determine the children’s IEP goals among team members and the lesson plans both for school/therapy and at home. (For more information, click here.)
Many people use their smartphones to check time instead of wearing a wrist watch. However, you may start hearing about smartwatch. Some of the smartwatches can accept calls, check e-mail, take pictures, calendars, and run some other apps. For example, Samsung Galaxy Gear will be sold from T-Mobile starting October 2. The Gear links to your phone over Bluetooth and is acting more as an external display so you do not need to get your phone out every time it rings. The size seems to be a little bit bulky. I am sure that we will see more design improvement near future. I would especially like to see some built-in accessibility features to navigate the watch though. If you want to do some comparisons, you can visit the following websites:If you want to do some comparisons, you can visit the following websites:
Samsung Galaxy Gear vs Sony Smartwatch 2
Qualcomm Toq vs Samsung Galaxy Gear
The Smartwatch Review