Special needs chairs

Persons with disabilities require proper seating to help make a difference in terms of day-to-day activities.  The following chairs are just some examples of chairs that accommodate special needs.

Classroom seat

Leckey Pal Classroom Seat

Leckey Pal Classroom seat provides Pelvic Stability with a combination of a two-point lab belt and side pads for lateral stability.

Corner chair

Corner chair

Kay Corner Chairs are made for users who need support of the head, trunk, and pelvis in order to help develop an upright sitting posture and align the head and trunk.

Lifting seat assist

Lifting Seat Assist

This Uplift Power Seat Assist helps a person who has trouble sitting down or standing up from any armchair or sofa.

Bath Chair

A Special Needs Bath Chair is shown on the left.

Stair Climber chair

Stair climber chair

Stair climber offers a solution for transporting an individual with their own wheelchair or a model that has a built-in seat to climb up or down stairs.


Stair Climbing Wheelchairs

Stair Climbing Wheelchairs

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 wearable seat

Lex Wearable seat

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.

Posted in Assistive Technology, AT_Device, Elderly, Employment, Mobility, Robots, Transition, Transportation for wheelchair users, Transportations, Wearable Computing | Leave a comment

Robot-assisted feeding (RAF) Systems

Eating and drinking independently are difficult for persons with disabilities because of a range of issues such as weakened grip, loss of arm functions, tremor, etc. Low tech options lightweight thick handled cutlery for reduced strength or heavier handle utensils for persons with a tremor (i.e. ‘Liftware – Self-Stabilizing Eating Utensils’ posted on November 30, 2017). In addition to these low-tech utensils, many researchers have been developing and testing Robotic feeding aids: one is commercially available to public and other options may be still in research/development stage. I selected two among them in this blog.

Obi, which is available to public, offers a trial period and a lease with options to buy. You can use switches to operate and can program to adjust the feeding controls (Max Food Delivery Height 15.3” above mounting surface, Lowest Food Delivery Height – 2 “ below mounting surface and Reach up to 16” Food delivery reach. It weigh approx. 7.7 lbs. so it is possible to take it with you.

How to use Obi


ADA, the Assistive Dextrous Arm, is a Kinova JACO robotic arm, which is a robot-assisted feeding (RAF) arm for people with upper-extremity impairments. It is mounted on a powered ROVI Mobility wheelchair with a wrist-mounted camera which holds a folk.

Autonomous Robot Feeding with Assistive Dexterous Arm (ADA)

Robot assisted feeding systems have some challenges to solve. The following information was referenced from a technical paper, ‘Community-Centered Design Framework for Robot-Assisted Feeding Systems’, by the researchers of the University of Washington. For example, if a care-recipient cannot sit in a normal position, robot assisted feeding system will need to program and configure to adjust how foods can be delivered perfectly to the person’s mouth. Some users prefer smaller, compact size, sleek design and quiet. Robot needs to identify type of foods (i.e. soft banana vs apple) so that the spoon or fork can pick up the food. Food-intake safety criteria needs to be addressed such as detecting to avoid an accident of bouncing the utensil to the user or sending a notification to someone in case of an emergency (i.e. choking food). Some may prefer social interaction with their care-giver feeding meals vs. a robot feeding system. However, their research shows that the assisted feeding system helped independence among the tested group.

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ReadEasy Evolve

ReadEasy Evolve from Irie AT Inc is a Reading device for persons with low vision or blindness. It is a portable, stand-alone device. Scan and read documents, books, recipes, bank statements, product packaging, etc. up to 11”x17” in size with its 5K resolution camera. This is one of the attractive features because you are not limited to read only letter size documents. ReadEasy Evolve has built-in tactile controls such as selections of switching between a letter size and a larger size document and allows the user to capture, play, pause, read with variable speeds, and navigate the documents easily. It reads the materials within seconds after pressing a single Button. You can scan multiple pages, which is guided by a voice prompt when you turn a page and press a button to scan each page.

ReadEasy offers variety of natural sounding voices based on your preferences including children, adult, female, male, UK/American English, and Spanish. ReadEasy Evolve can automatically detect and read different languages, even switching automatically between languages in the same document. Once you connect to a monitor, you can magnify the text or see highlighting during reading on the screen and export scanned documents to you PC. It also supports a touch-screen computer. Additional options are available by using Feature Pack. Find more information from the following YouTube video and the Irie-AT Inc website at this URL.

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Accessible Musical Instrument

Music helps the person with special needs to motivate themselves to work on challenging tasks and provides them with a multi-sensory experience. For example, it is known that playing instrument helps children with ADHD or learning disabilities. However, a person with physical disabilities may not be able to access most of the musical instruments.

The United Kingdom (UK) has been very active inventing musical instruments for persons with disabilities. For example, an accessible musical instrument called ‘Clarion’ makes it possible for the disabled to play music. It is a piece of software that contains a near-infinite number of instruments. It is possible to play the Clarion with your fingers, any other part of the body, head, feet or eyes movements. It looks like Clarion can be modified to accommodate a wide variety of any Musicians’ needs. For example, Clarion can be positioned and moved anywhere on a surface allowing the prospective musician easy access. There are different colors, sizes, angles, and rotations to represent notes. Additionally it looks like notes include the variations of expressions by the speed of travel and your position within each shape.

CLARION Software running on tobii-eye-mobile-on-stand

Here is one musician with his Open Musical Instruments.

The National Open Youth Orchestra (NOYO) is made up with UK’s disabled and non-disabled musicians aged 11 to 25, which is launched in September 2018. Their first performance is planned for Spring, 2020. https://vimeo.com/thenoyo

Open Orchestras: https://www.openorchestras.org/

Posted in Accessibility Features, Assistive Technology, AT_Apps, AT_Device, AT_Software, Blind, Elderly, Mobility, Sensors, Technology in Education, Transition | Tagged , | Leave a comment

TV Accessibility features

It is not easy to engage in digital content for persons with disabilities such as finding out what is on TV or navigating the TV. Some TV broadcasting companies are trying to offer accessibility features so that these individuals can enjoy watching TV independently.

For example, Spectrum Broadcasting offers accessibility options such as an audible TV guide and downloadable video app for customers with visual impairments. A Spectrum Receiver with Spectrum Guide Narration includes full text-to-speech support of the Spectrum Guide so that persons with visual impairment can explore many TV shows and movies. Spectrum also offers closed captioning options which include Text Color, Text Size, Text Transparency, Font, Background color, etc. for the deaf.

Optimum Broadcasting offers services in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Long Island. Optimum offers accessibility features such as closed captioning, chat, caller ID, visual voicemail, Text/Email Alerts for Deaf and voice guidance, talking guide, and voice commands for persons with limited mobility (more info).

Persons with limited mobility or physical disabilities may have additional challenges such as speech impediment. As a result, they are not able to change channels, navigate the X1 programming guide, and set up recordings by voice. Comcast is planning to include eye gaze control to its X1 cable platform in addition to existing accessibility features (i.e. voice control). The eye control feature will help individuals with physical disabilities navigate TV channels independently. It looks like it will support most eye gaze hardware and software on the market such as Tobii. Hopefully more TV broadcasting companies will include and expand accessibility features to accommodate persons with disabilities.

Meet Jimmy | See How Our Technology Is Enabling Him to Be More Independent
(Youtube video by Comcast June 2019)





Posted in Accessibility Features, Assistive Technology, AT_Apps, AT_Software, Blind, Elderly, Hearing, Home Automation, Mobility, Services, Smart Home, Transition | Tagged | Leave a comment

Microsoft Translator

Microsoft Translator is a translator app that you can run on your mobile devices or on your computer. You can exchange conversations one-on-one or work with large group interactions and perform real-time translations. To include other participant(s) you share the code assigned to the conversation so that they can also participate in the conversation. This app can translate more than 60 languages via text or voice so you can include anyone regardless of the language they speak.

Where to get Microsoft Translator app

How to Use Microsoft Translator (YouTube)

How to Use Microsoft Translator
(Posted by Richard Byrne, 2018)

You can use this app not only for translation to another language, but you can also use this app to interact with d/Deaf and hard of hearing persons. For example, the speech to text feature allows d/Deaf and hard of hearing persons to read what you said on their mobile device. So it is useful in a real-time daily conversation. Additionally you can install Presentation Translator in the MS Power Point and use it in the classroom/lectures setting to accommodate these individuals with special needs. I hope that more teachers use technology like this app/software and devices to increase inclusion of d/Deaf and hard of hearing students or ESL students into general education classroom.

Get Started with Presentation Translator for Power Point (YouTube)

Get Started with Presentation Translator for Power Point
Microsoft Research (Published – 2017)

Presentation Translator in Action (YouTube)

Presentation Translator in Action
Microsoft Research (Published – 2017)
Posted in Accessibility Features, Android, Assistive Technology, AT_Apps, AT_Software, Hearing, iOS app, Wearable Computing | Leave a comment

Tap (one-handed keyboard)

Tap is an alternative one-handed wearable keyboard, which allows you to control your smartphone and other Bluetooth devices by tapping your fingers on any surface including your own body. You may find this alternative one-handed keyboard suitable for individuals with low vision or limited mobility. Tap supports Apple’s VoiceOver capabilities so that VoiceOver users may find this useful when they need to text, navigate, and control their mobile phones and computers. OS Compatibility: IOS 9+, ANDROID 5+, OS X YOSEMITE+, WINDOWS 8.1+, LINUX UBUNTU.

Learning to Tap with TapGenius Learning System
(YouTube video – published by Tap 2018)

Tap can also be used with iOS’ built in Switch Control so that users with limited mobility can navigate and control apps easier by mapping any switch control to any simple finger tap. You can customized and personalize any input, hotkey and combination of keys into single finger taps.

Using Switch Control to Navigate your iPhone or iPad with the Tap Strap
(YouTube video – published by Tap 2019)

Additionally, by using Web-based utility called TapMapper allows you to create custom layouts to play games and Garageband (music creation studio for macOS and iOS devices).

TapMapping for Garage Band (YouTube video -Published by Tap 2018)

According to the company, you can lean the Tap Alphabet™ in one to two hours by using their training game. It may be difficult for users who have tremor or learning disabilities. However, some individual may find Tap as an alternative keyboard allowing them access tablets or phone in a more comfortable way (i.e. any position such as laying on a bed or a wheelchair without holding a keyboard).
The price of Tap costs $199 which is more than most other keyboards on the market. Hopefully the price will be more affordable in the future for anyone who needs this special one-handed keyboard.

Posted in Accessibility Features, Assistive Technology, AT_Device, Blind, Employment, Games, Mobility, Technology in Education, Transition, Wearable Computing, Wearable devices, Windows | Leave a comment

Smart Home devices/Hubs with Amazon Alexa or Google Home

Home Automation allows you to program and schedule events for the devices in your home. By using a home automation hub or smart devices, you can control lights, appliances, security, monitor and control energy usage, etc. When I posted a blog about Insteon and SmartThings smart home options in 2015, I was hoping that technology companies would develop devices or systems with voice command to control devices that would benefit everyone, especially persons with limited mobility.

Amazon Alexa and Google Home have become popular and offer smart home products on the market. Voice command features on Alexa Echo and Google Home have expanded the smart home environment. Today many companies are trying to develop products to integrate their products with Amazon Alexa and/or Google Home.

You may already have a home automation hub or are considering to purchase a hub or smart devices that work with Alexa or Google Home. If so, you may find the following articles helpful.

Everything that works with Amazon Echo and Alexa: https://www.reviewed.com/smarthome/features/everything-that-works-with-amazon-echo-alexa#hubs


Samsung SmartThings and Alexa Working Together
posted by Automate Your Life 2018 (YouTube video)

The best Google Home-compatible smart home devices: https://www.techhive.com/article/3259826/best-smart-home-devices-for-google-home.html


Google Home Hub Setup & Home View Walkthrough
posted by Tech With Brett 2018 (YouTube video)


How to use Amazon Alexa and Google Home together at home


Ultimate Home Automation System with Google Home & Alexa. Smart Home Tour Setup Ideas Devices
posted by Rick Buck 2018 (YouTube video)

It looks like some devices have limitation to integrate with Alexa or Google Home. Especially front door lock may not be integrated because of security reasons. It is recommended that you make sure to check the compatibility. Local hardware stores have started carrying some smart home products so we will be seeing more smart devices and expanded features near future.

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Closed Captioning / Transcription Tool

Videos are entertaining and very effective in helping visual learners if they have difficulty understanding in a traditional learning environment. In addition, many students can engage in active learning by using videos, which makes learning more fun and interactive.  

However, video/Audio without captions are difficult for the deaf or hard of hearing persons to understand. Adding captions to video contents helps creators to deliver the message better to many audiences.

It is not easy to create transcriptions, however, if you want to help deaf or hard of hearing persons and include them in learning and social environments, it is recommended that you use a closed captioning (transcription) tool or service to provide text when you use videos or audio materials. Here are a few of examples you may want to try. Some software provide transcription only (speech to text) and others offer additional features (i.e. sync text to a video).

Temi (Transcription tool)
https://www.temi.com/

One transcript trial is free. Then 10 cents per min. No subscriptions. No minimum.
Turn around: Transcripts back in minutes /shorter files delivered faster.

Voice Typing in Google Docs
https://www.smore.com/91m4v-voice-typing-in-google-docs

This is a Voice Typing (Speech to text) tool and it will not sync to your video, but it allows you to create your own transcription.

Amara (Closed captioning – online)
https://amara.org/en/


Amara Subtitles Online Subtitle tool
Published on Oct 10, 2014

Aegisubs (Download required)
http://www.aegisub.org/


UscreenPublished on Feb 28, 2018 (AEGISUB How to add Subtitles using AFQISUB)

Free.  Download the software.

You can create and modifying subtitles on your computer.
More flexible to place the captions in the video.
a built-in real-time video preview.

Youtube – Add your own subtitles and closed captions
https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/2734796?hl=en

Free

VisualSubSync (Download required)
https://sourceforge.net/projects/visualsubsync/

Free
Create and place a caption with a certain timestamp position.

Jubler Subtitle Editor (Download required)
http://www.jubler.org/

Free
Offer OS version for Mac

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Kitchen Robotic

Home automation for the elderly and disabled focuses on helping them to become more independent and be more comfortable at home. You may already know of some home automation/robotics products that perform or help in household chores such as a robot which can vacuum floors, or another that controls lights and temperature remotely.

Cooking is difficult for many disabled or elderly. A company called Moley Robotics (http://www.moley.com/) introduced an intelligent cooking robot a few years ago and is planning to start selling in 2019. However, the price will be very high and the product is not easy to purchase for those on a middle-income. Developing Kitchen Robotic face challenges such as making available with low cost to all disabled persons, making the system user-friendly so that they can operate easily, and customizing to each individual’s needs, capabilities, and their environments.

Kitchen Robotic

YouTube Video: Moley Robotic

An automated kitchen idea is adapted not only for disabled persons, but also it may also help to serve meals faster and more reasonable. Spyce Kitchen (https://spyce.com/) founded by MIT mechanical engineering graduates in Boston opened a restaurant where meals are prepared in a fully automated, robotic-powered kitchen. Each meal can be cooked in 3 minutes and costs only $7.50. We hope that Kitchen Robotics developed for home will be offered to public like this at an affordable price in the future so that elderly and disabled persons can enjoy meals at home.

Spyce

YouTube video: Spyce Kitchen

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