You may find calculators be very useful when you need to work on basic or repetitive mathematical calculations. However, it may be difficult for persons with low vision or learning disability to use calculators independently. If you are looking for a calculator with additional arithmetic features for persons with low vision and learning disability, this Double Check Talking Financial calculator can be helpful.
The features include: calculate percentages, extract square roots, raise a number to a given power or identify the reciprocal calculations. It also offers conversion features and use different preset factors in calculating volumes, length, weight, temperature or currencies.
The Double Check financial calculator has a reminder feature and alarms. It has big and clearly arranged keys with 10-digit-display and clear and natural speech output. The results can be announced by either be as a total number or digit by digit. Earphone jack is available so that you can use a headset. The price ($99) is expensive compared to a basic talking calculator, but it is far less than other advanced calculators.
If you have a student with low vision in classroom and need to have a calculator with scientific, statistical, and trigonometric functions, Low Vision Talking Scientific Calculator and TI Orion TI-34 may be helpful, but these advanced scientific talking calculators cost $459 – $650.
If you do not need special features and only need a talking calculator on basic calculations such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, you can find these basic calculators around $10 – $20.
According to the data from Brain Injury Association of America, every 9 seconds, someone in the US endures a brain injury and one of every 60 people in the U.S. lives with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) -related disability. Additionally, factory workers suffer injuries caused by slip and falls, use of repetitive heavy machinery, falling objects, etc.
Powered exoskeleton may be an option to help patients stand and walk during rehabilitation. Powered exoskeleton also prevent injury from heavy lifting or repetitive use of machinery because it supports human body (i.e. shoulders, legs, hips), reduce errors from fatigue, and assists movement when workers need to lift and hold heavy items.
Exoskeleton (also known as power armor, powered armor, powered suit, etc.) is a wearable mobile machine that is powered by a system of electric motors, pneumatics, levers, hydraulics, or a combination of technologies that allow for limb movement with increased strength and endurance (from Wikipedia).
Most of the challenges in designs are in the areas of weight, power supply, cost, joint actuators, power control, human size variations, and Joint flexibility. Poor design of Mobility aids leads to frequently abandoned or discarded systems due to lack of usability and safety concerns. However, we hope that continue growth and application of engineering development will lead to better designs and affordability.
These exoskeletons can help prevent worker injury (YouTube from the Verge Dec 5, 2017)
School districts have need to provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) to students with disabilities. However, during this Covid-19 pandemic, educators face great challenges to deliver education to their now remote students including those with disabilities.
Some students without reliable internet access and/or technology will struggle to participate in this new digital learning environment. Often Blind students’ learning materials from the digital learning environment are not compatible with screen readers. As a result, these students will have difficulty to navigate course materials or identify images. Most likely there is no feature options to transcribe them to Braille.
Students who have a learning disability (i.e. dyslexic or autism spectrum) require features such as text to speech, voice recognition, or additional writing tools when they participate in the online learning environment.
Students who are deaf have challenges to participate in online discussions or listen to the recorded materials if any supplemental materials or options are not provided. Students with physical disabilities often face computer access challenges. These individuals most likely have limited hand mobility and require a special keyboard and mouse.
Here are some of the resources which you may find helpful (Please note that some information or interactive sites may not be accessible to all).
Text-to-speech technology can help people with vision impairment and learning disabilities. Third-party applications include advanced features such as converting speech into MP3 files or converting text into Braille (Jaws), but if you are not looking for the advanced features, the built-in Narrator feature on Windows computers can read aloud the text and elements on your screen.
For example, converting text into audible words using Narrator can help persons with learning disabilities comprehend words on a computer screen better. Narrator can help them read a paragraph, document or articles in a web browser window. Narrator can also read pop-up windows that contain messages.
How to start Narrator in Windows 10.
Option 1: Press Windows logo key + Ctrl + Enter together to start Narrator. Press these keys again to stop Narrator. If you would like to change the voice of narrator, you can change it from Add more voices. After you start Narrator, you will see the following pop-up Window.
Heads up Narrator keyboard changes. We’ve updated the Narrator keyboard layout so it more closely matches the experience you may have had with other screen readers. If you want Narrator to tell you what commands are associated with the keys you’re pressing, you can turn on input learning by pressing Caps lock + 1. To turn it off, press Caps lock + 1 twice. To learn more, press Ctrl + Windows logo key + N to open your Narrator settings and access the online user guide.
If you do not want to see this pop-up window next time, you can stop this pop-up windows by clicking the check box, “Don’t show again.”
Option 2: Press Windows logo key + Ctrl + N to open Narrator settings, and then turn on the toggle under Use Narrator.
If you would like to turn on Narrator to start before or after sign-in, check the selection boxes, “Start Narrator after sign-in for me” and/or “Start Narrator before sign-in for everyone”.
A Web page, document or file: Move your cursor to the section of text you want Narrator to start reading Press Caps Lock + R keys will start reading. Press Ctrl key to stop.
Narrator + Ctrl + Plus sign (+) or Narrator + Ctrl + Add (numeric keypad) to increase volume Narrator + Ctrl + Minus sign (-) or Narrator + Ctrl + Subtract (numeric keypad) to decrease volume
You may be familiar with using Siri and Google Assistant as your virtual assistant apps. Cortana is Microsoft’s own virtual assistant app. It is similar to Apple’s assistant Siri. In Windows 10, you can use Cortana with voice commands to do many things such as open files, programs, search files, call people, send SMS and email, take notes, etc. You can use Cortana on Android devices and Windows 10 computers. If you have a Windows 10 computer and would like to try it, you can enable Cortana with the following steps.
How to enable Cortana by voice on Windows 10 Right Click Windows logo, select Search on your taskbar, or use the keyboard shortcut Windows + S. Type Cortana in the search box.
Click ‘Cortana Permissions’ setting. Click ‘Talk to Cortana’. Turn the ‘Hey Cortana’ toggle on to select the voice command option. Turn the Keyboard shortcut toggle on.
Cortana can display information based on your interests such as news, sports, shopping etc. After enabling Cortana and checking your microphone’s volume, try the following example.
Press Windows logo + C or say “Hey Cortana” and say, “Weather in New York”. Then the Cortana displays the weather in New York.
You can enable Cortana in the MS Edge browser by enabling Cortana from Advanced settings. However, if you use Chrome/Firefox, it looks like you will need to tweak the setting to use it (here is the additional information:
Microsoft Build: Cortana + Alexa Demo (Youtube 2018 posted by Microsoft)
Of course, not only Cortana, any other virtual assistant apps may bring up privacy issues concerning what information can go to the third party companies that control virtual assistants and how this data may be used. As far as Cortana, you can disable Cortana or clear the search history. You may also check more information about the “Permissions and History” tab because Cortana can access a lot of information about you and your device. If you need more privacy settings information in Cortana, you may go to:
Do you know that you can use the Speech Recognition feature in Windows by using your voice for dictation on your computer without buying any special speech recognition software? Admittedly, you may find the accuracy of voice recognition varies depending on your microphone, environment (i.e. noise), and local dialects (or accents) that you may speak.
It is always best to check your microphone setting on your computer before you start using the Speech Recognition feature. Most new computers come with a built-in microphone, but you may need to use an external microphone if your computer lacks a built-in microphone.
The following instructions describe how to start speech Recognition on Windows 10 and Windows 8 system. If you do not know which operating system you have on your computer, right click Windows symbol on the taskbar (normally at the left corner bottom on the Windows desktop) , select Search, type ‘System’, and you will find the operating system (OS) information in the pop-up Window of your computer. You can also find the information in the File Explore, Right click ‘This PC’ and click Properties. Then you will find the operating system under the Windows edition. Follow the instruction below depending on your OS.
Windows 10 OS: You can enable Speech Recognition feature in two ways. You can use Keyboard shortcuts or go to the Speech section from Settings > Ease of Access > Speech.
By using Keyboard Shortcuts:
Within a word processor or notebook program (i.e. Microsoft Word), type Windows logo key & H
If you see a pop-up window shown below (a microphone icon and Listening),you can start dictation.
Or Turn on Speech Recognition by Windows logo key + Ctrl + S
You can stop or start your dictation by saying ‘Stop listening’ or ‘Start listening’ as long as the speech recognition is running.
You can also turn on Speech Recognition by going to the Ease of Access. To access Speech Recognition, Windows logo key + U, go to Speech under Ease of Access, and click turn on the Speech Recognition.
Windows 10 has additional speech recognition features, you can talk to Cortana and other apps that use Microsoft’s cloud-based speech recognition. Additionally if you turn off online speech recognition, you won’t be able to speak to Cortana or use dictation. We will cover Cortana feature in a different blog next time.
Windows 8 Check to make sure your audio devices aren’t muted or Recording device is correctly selected for dictation. Right-click the Speakers icon on the taskbar, and then select ‘Recording devices’.
Verify the default Microphone is working and click Configure, it will bring up Speech Recognition options in the Ease of Access. Note: you can also get to this screen from Control Panel > Ease of Access > Speech Recognition > Start speech recognition.
Ease of Access / Configure Speech Recognition experience window
From this screen, you can set up microphone, start speech recognition, speech tutorial, train your computer, and open Speech Reference card. Open Speech Reference card will show additional help information and videos on how to use Speech Recognition.
MS Windows 8 and 10 have several ways to use the On-Screen keyboard feature. The following is one method to start the On-Screen keyboard. Using shortcut keys: Windows logo key + Ctrl + O to start the On-Screen keyboard (press all these keys at the same time).
Then you will see a virtual keyboard on your screen. If you have a touchscreen laptop, you can now use your finger. Or use a mouse, headmouse or eyemouse for typing with this Virtual Keyboard.
Once you enable the On-Screen keyboard you can activate the Options key, and select which options you want to use.
Use click sound – You will hear a sound when you press a key.
Show keys to make it easier to move around the screen- You will see the key to light up when you click or hover over on the key.
Turn on numeric keypad – show a numeric keypad
Click on keys – click or tap the On-Screen keys to enter text.
Hover over keys– By using a mouse or joystick to point to a key, the characters you select will be entered automatically when you point or hover over to the selected keys. Note: make sure to check if the setting of “show animations on Windows” is on when the Hover over keys option does no work.
Scan through keys – Select a key from the option, initiate scan mode, and it will highlight areas by using the shortcut key. Using a switch input device, or using a device that simulates a mouse click, you enter the character.
Use Text Prediction -This option will suggest words as you type so you can select the word without typing the complete word.
Another way to start the On-screen keyboard: Press Windows key + I and go to the Ease of Access, under the Keyboard section, turn on the On-Screen keyboard.
Online education has many advantages for students with disabilities by allowing these students access to digital format materials remotely and attending classes at a flexible time. While printed textbooks are still popular, the world of education is becoming more digital every day. When you visit your local library, you will find fewer printed books on the shelves but see more computers so that people can access a larger distribution of digital eBooks or internet information. Additionally most libraries make digital materials available to check out from home.
However, persons with disabilities and elderly face challenges in using computers. So this year I will focus on finding options on how people with disabilities and elderly can use the computer and mobile devices easier.
Today, I will discuss magnification option (one of the Ease of Access features) on Microsoft Windows system (Commercial magnification software is excluded in this blog). There are a few ways to increase magnifications and many instructions are available for Windows, but the following steps can be used as a quick reference on both Windows 10 and Windows 8.1 computers. You may need someone’s help initially. If you still have a Windows XP computer, please let me know and I will find the information.
Magnify, fonts, and File Explore. Windows 10 (Home): Once you log on your Windows 10 computer, Press Windows logo key and U. This will bring up the Ease of Access Windows settings. Under Display, Make text bigger, drag the slider until the sample text is easy to read. To make everything bigger, change the magnification percentage.
Windows 8.1 (Pro): On the desktop, Right click. Then you will see the pop-up shown below. Right click, Screen resolution.
Click ‘Make text and other items larger or smaller’.
This will bring up ‘Display’ option where you can change the magnification level.
If you want to change only the fonts (Text) size, use the ‘Change only the text size’ option. As you see, the menu in the MS Word is enlarged.
Additionally, Microsoft Windows offers a ‘Magnifier’ .
Using Magnifier Windows 10 (Home): Windows key and U brings the Setting of Ease of Access. Click Magnifier. By clicking ‘Turn on Magnifier’ on, the pop-up magnifier.
Then you can use a few keystroke combinations to control the magnification level.
Windows logo key and + (plus key) to enlarge (Zoom in). Windows logo key and – (minus key) to reduce the magnification (Zoom out). Press and hold Ctrl and Alt key and rotate the wheel on your computer mouse to zoom in and out. You can change the increments so that you can control magnifying gradually or you can set once you find out your prefer magnification level.
You can use Magnifier in three different views: full screen, lens, or docked.
Windows 8.1 *(Pro) Press Windows logo key and U, and follow the instructions in the Windows 10.
Google Chrome When you are using Google Chrome browser, you can use the following combinations to adjust the magnification.
Ctrl and + (plus key) to magnify (Zoom in) Ctrl and – (minus key) to Zoom out Ctrl 0 (zero) to reset go back to 100%
Note: If you use Ctrl key and +, it only magnify within Chrome, but Windows key and + will magnify everything on the desktop.
Use a TV screen as a monitor Another option is to use a large screen TV to be used as a computer monitor by using your computer’s HDMI or Displayport. All laptops should be able to hook up an additional monitor, but if you are using a desktop computer, you may need install an additional video card for driving a second monitor.
This month’s blog compares the following three literacy support software packages.
Texthelp Read&Write GOLD, ClaroRead Plus and Kurzweil 3000 for Windows are popular literacy support software programs. You may want to compare the features and identify which literacy support software programs may best meet your students’ needs in the classroom or at home.
Most of these software have features to support reading and writing. Their main features include: read MS Word documents, PDFs , and Web pages with highlighting. This type of software can read anything on the PC screen by selecting with a mouse. They can also save text as speech to an audio file and scan paper documents (OCR) and spellcheck. These types of software can reads multiple languages (i.e. English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and Swedish with the user’s preference of voices and accents). Word prediction support is also available for the student to help with spelling and writing, and phonetic prediction (i.e. knowledge). Another feature is echo and listen back after you have written. Mobile device support is common. Some advanced features include dictation, picture recognitions, and Dragon professional document support (i.e. echo back text recognized by Dragon professional Software). You may find the following literacy support software comparison chart helpful to compare each features. The chart was created by Spectronics. Go to the following URL or click the chart below: http://www.spectronics.com.au/article/literacy-support-software-comparison-chart Please note that most software companies add more features time to time which may not be listed in this chart.
Scientists and university research groups have been working on the proto-types of stair-climbing wheelchairs to improve the mobility and quality of life for people with disabilities. Here is an example of a proto-type stair-climbing wheelchair.
Lex chair may not be for persons with disabilities, but you can carry the wearable chair around your waist and thighs and set up a chair whenever and wherever you need. In addition, this exoskeleton chair actually aligns your spine and maintains your posture as you sit.