iBeacon (Beacon) Technology

The term iBeacon and Beacon are often used interchangeably. iBeacon is the name for Apple’s technology standard, which allows Mobile Apps (running on both iOS and Android devices) to listen for signals from beacons in the physical world and react accordingly. (The information is taken from www.ibeacon.com)

iBeacon is broadcasting a signal to a cellphone.

Near Field Communication (NFC) operates within 20 cm; however, Beacon technology has a far greater range of 50 m. Beacons, which is a low-cost piece of hardware, can be attached to a wall or countertop. Then the Beacon hardware devices broadcast their identities to nearby electronic devices such as a smartphone or tablet. According to Wikipedia, Beacons is a device which has a 1-way transmitter for sending a signal to smartphone or receiving device. Bluetooth beacons uses Bluetooth low energy proximity sensing to transmit a universally unique identifier picked up by a compatible app or operating system.  What is iBeacon: Animated Guide

Beacon technology allows publishers, retailers, and branding companies to market their products and connect with consumers, but Beacon technology can be used for helping persons with disabilities. For example, Beacon technology works just like the Global Positioning System (GPS) and can be used as an indoor positioning system to determine someone’s approximate location. A specific app may need to be installed on your smartphone to interact with Beacon devices for a specific location (i.e. ClickAndgo). As the Beacon hardware is implemented more widely in cities, schools, and public transportation systems, it will help all travelers learn their surroundings without needing to ask a stranger for directions and assist persons with disabilities to travel independently.

ClickAndGo iBeacons Wayfinding 

In addition, Beacon technology can be used to monitor the conditions and the safety of persons with disabilities or the elderly. Here are a few examples.

Beacon Technology Demo (by CLO Kansas)

Posted in Assistive Technology, AT_Apps, AT_Device, AT_Software, Elderly, Employment, Home Automation, House Automation, Sensors, Services, Smart Home, Technology in Education, Transportations, Wearable Computing, Wearable devices | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Tap

Tap™ is an eyes-free one-handed wearable device allowing you to send data into Bluetooth devices by taping your fingers on ANY surface. Tap works by associating taps with letters as well as allowing users to perform standard VoiceOver gestures on any surface.  This means that you can send text without looking at the screen of your phone or play games by tapping.

YouTube; This is Tap

The following instructions on how to put on the device are taken from their Website.

  • Put on your Tap on your hand. You can tap with your right or left hand. Make sure that the strap is at the top of your finger, near your knuckles.
  • Turn your Tap ON by tapping your thumb on a flat surface three times. Pair the Tap with your phone, tablet or computer.
  • Start Tapping
  • You can now open any application you want to type in (messenger, email, etc..). Each time you tap your fingers, you will type a character on your device. You can tap letters, punctuation, numbers and special characters.How to put on the Tap deviceHow to wear the Tap device

    Note: The best way to get familiar with tapping is to open the TapGenius app and play the game to get up to speed as fast as possible.

It is also noted that you can learn the Tap Alphabet™ in about one hour. The product will be available on the market Q2 2017 from their website. http://www.tapwithus.com.


Posted in Assistive Technology, Wearable Computing, Wearable devices | Leave a comment

BLITAB – a Tactile tablet

BLITAB is the world’s first tactile tablet for blind and visually impaired people (http://blitab.com).  The Austrian innovation team demonstrated the BLITAB at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas on January 5 – 8, 2017.  In addition, the BLITAB was one of the 12 finalists at TechCrunch Hardware Battlefield. 

BLITAB produces small physical bubbles in an area above its touchscreen which provides refresh double lines of refreshable Braille display. In another word, the device creates tactile Braille and graphics in real-time by using small physical bubbles instead of a screen display. The tablet can convert any text file online or upload read large text files (i.e. books) with USB sticks or memory cards. It has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

BLITAB - Tactile tablet

Even now, most braille readers and braille note taker devices are expensive ($3000 and up). In addition, maintaining the devices’ hardware and software may be challenging. Some note taker devices can pair with tablets, phones or computers. However, users often have difficulties interfacing between their devices and their PCs over the years. This is because their devices may become incompatible with the frequent updates of the operating systems on the PCs. As a result, users may give up operating their old braille readers and note taker devices.

BLITAB tablet with built-in refreshable braille display can operate by itself without paring to a computer and is less expensive than other braille readers or braille note taker devices. They are scheduled to be priced around $500 and are to become available on the market in 6 months.  The company is now offering pre-order online (http://blitab.com/#contact). Soon we may be able to see BLITAB tablets in school or work to help the blind and people who suffer from impaired vision.

BLITAB First Tactile Tablet for Blind People (YouTube)

Additional information: A Tablet for the Blind at CES 2017 (YouTube)


Posted in Accessibility Features, Assistive Technology, AT_Device, Elderly, Employment, Technology in Education, Transition | Tagged | Leave a comment

Encouragement and Success

Today is the last day of 2016 so instead of talking about technology, I would like to express my appreciation to the educators, rehabilitation counselors, practitioners, caregivers, parents, and their family members who are helping individuals with disabilities. I encourage everyone to acknowledge the many supporters who are working together every day for these individuals with special needs.

At the same time, as a word to these supporters, please remember that these individuals may be very thankful for your support, but they may not have the ability to express their appreciation, so please continue to be a part of their team to help their future.

You may be supporting adults or children with disabilities who are visually impaired, hard of hearing or deaf, amputees, suffer from spinal cord injuries, afflicted by multiple sclerosis, head injury, cerebral palsy, autism or other related intellectual disabilities.  I would like you to see the following YouTube video about Dillan to demonstrate how technology is helping to bridge communication gaps and how a person with autism like Dillan can achieve and maintain successful, active lifestyles.

(Dillan’s Path – Taken from YouTube Science & Technology 2016)

Happy New Year!

Posted in Assistive Technology, AT_AAC, AT_Apps, Services, Technology in Education, Transition | Leave a comment

Lifetone Fire Alarm Clock

The Lifetone HL™ (HLAC151) Bedside Fire Alarm clock with low-frequency sounder and a bed shaker alarm (optional equipment) offers multisensory alerts (audible, visual, tactile). This alarm clock placed by a bed may help alarming children, seniors, and persons with hearing loss while they are sleeping.

Lifetone Fire Alarm Clock - How it works

Lifetone Fire Alarm Clock

According to a few YouTube postings, it looks like this Bedside Fire Alarm Clock has been available to public for the last 5 years.

Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office (with an ASL  interpreter)
YouTube video by rockridenhour (2011)

Most residential building codes require compliant T3 smoke alarms since 1999. According to the manufacture, Lifetone, this bedside fire alarm and clock can detect the T3 pattern from a fire detector alarm and activates a loud, low (520 Hz) multiple frequency alarm for 10 minutes or until it is turned off. In addition to the alarm, the word “FIRE” will appear and flash on the screen. An optional tactile Bed Shaker may be helpful to alert deaf individuals in their beds.

A few helpful maintenance and troubleshooting tips are:  if the optional Lifetone Bed Shaker is used and becomes unplugged, this alarm clock offers a few warning indications. You will see the word “bedS” and a flashing bed shaker icon on the screen and will hear a low-frequency chirp will sound every 5 seconds.  When the batteries are installed or not charged for 24 hours of battery operation, you will see the word “BATT” on the screen and will hear a “chirp” sound. You will feel the bed shaker “twitch” at one minute intervals when a bed shaker is used.

For more information:

Lifetone Fire Safety Company Website: http://lifetonesafety.com/

Additional installation information (video): Lifetone Fire Alarm Clock

Posted in Assistive Technology, AT_Device, Hearing, Home Automation, Smart Home | Tagged | Leave a comment

Smart light bulb

Smart light bulb may be a product you should consider not only for making your daily routines easier for turning on and off light switches in the house, but also as an option for persons who have difficulty reaching a standard height light switch. In most cases, home automation systems require a hub or a controller, but some smart bulbs do not even require a main hub or a controller to operate.  By using Smart bulbs with wi-fi and a free app, you can control your lights from anywhere in the world with your Smartphone or tablet. If you do not have wi-fi at home, but your smartphone has Bluetooth, you may be interested in the bulbs that work with Bluetooth like HomeBrite Bluetooth Smart LED Light Bulb  and sell for $14.97. This particular one only works within the Bluetooth though range.

TikTeck LED  (http://www.tikteck.com/products) looks like one of the most affordable smart bulbs on the market. Their $9.99 for white bulb and $11.99 for colors gets you a color-changing bulb you can control with a smartphone or tablet without the need for a hub.  Instead, their free “Tikteck Wifi Control” app offers features to control a single bulb or a group of bulbs to control them remotely. Unfortunately, it looks like it is in high demand so you need to pre-order the smart light bulb.

Tickteck Smart Bulbs

TickTeck Smart bulbs (White, colors, and speaker lights)


TickTeck Smart Light – YouTube posted by  Zachary Anderson

More smart bulbs from different companies can be found here. By clicking each product, you can determine if the bulb you selected needs a hub or not.

Posted in Accessibility Features, Assistive Technology, Home Automation | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Ease of Access (Narrator in Windows 10)

If you use assistive technologies, you may still have a chance to upgrade your computer to free Windows 10. I am not sure how long this free Windows 10 for assistive technology users will be available, and also it will depend on the minimum system requirements for Windows 10. In addition, you want to be aware that you may require some adjustments after the upgrade. In my case, after installing Windows 10, I needed to make changes on the display driver to get the brightness control working by installing the Microsoft basic adaptor instead of the original driver installed on my laptop.

Here is the link: Windows 10 free upgrade for customers who use assistive technologies.

As far as assistive technology features on Windows 10, those who are familiar with Ease of Access Center in the previous Windows, you may immediately notice a slightly different screen (see the picture below) when you access the Ease of Access by using the shortcut keys (Windows key on your keyboard and U) or from the Windows setting link.

Ease of Access in Windows 10 when you access by shortcut keys (or from Windows settings link) – screenshot


Of course, you can still get to the Ease of Access Center screen that you are already familiar in Windows 7 or 8 through the Control panel (Right click Windows icon on the task bar/Control panel/Ease of Access/Ease of Access Center).

Ease of Access Center Windows 7, 8, and 10 – screenshot

Ease Of Access Center Windows 7, 8 & 10

For this blog, I only focused in the Narrator features in Windows 10.  There are a few ways to open the Narrator in Windows 10.  You can access Narrator from the Ease of Access center, but one of the easiest ways to start, press Windows key (on your keyboard) and Enter. To stop, press Caps key and  Esc.

I think the Narrator in Windows 10 is easier to use and read texts on-screen than the previous Windows 7 or 8. Narrator in Windows 10 offers a better narrator voice and provides faster text to speech speeds. Some other features I liked are: when you start entering a search word in a search box, you may get suggestions based on what you are searching, and with Narrator you will hear a verbal hint with an audio indication when these suggestions are available. Scan feature is also nice for persons with low vision. You can access the Scan mode by pressing Caps and Space keys. For example, you can find each header in the browser with H key to find the next header and shift + H to find the previous header in the browser. Scan mode will turn off by pressing Caps and space key again.

Narrator Keyboarding Updates from MSFT Enable

To find out additional shortcut keys, press Caps + F1 (Note: A laptop user may require to use a function key (Fn) when you press F1)  The partial screenshot of the shortcut keys is below. and more details about Narrator keyboard command and touch gestures can be found at this link shortcut keys info.

Screenshot of shortcut keys

We certainly hope that Microsoft will provide more documentation and video based user references for caregivers and educators to assist persons with special accommodations.


Posted in Accessibility Features, Assistive Technology, Windows | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Smartglasses for the visually impaired

A few years ago when a smart eyeglass product called Google Glass, a wearable computer with a head-mounted display, was introduced, many users liked the features such as taking clear high definition pictures and videos with their free hand, sending messages, getting directions and much more. However, persons who are legally blind or visually impaired have found great difficulty in using these glasses. It is a real challenge for researchers and developers to create a device that can provide an experience of sight for people who are blind or visually impaired.

Microsoft Cognitive Services has been developing Intelligence Application Program Interface (API) which runs on a wearable Pivothead smartglass. The smartglass product is not available to the public yet. One of Microsofts’ engineers is legally blind and working on this project (The video link is below).  The smartglass will analyze and translate the image in front of the person and speak when the user swipes the touch panel on the glass to take a photo. It is exciting when the device translates not only the image to speech but also describes what the person is doing, what they are wearing, their gender, age, and especially what emotions they are expressing at that moment.

Microsoft Cognitive Services: Introducing the Seeing AI project

Another wearable glasses for the visually impaired are OrCam (http://www.orcam.com/). The company will soon launch OrCam MyMe, a wearable personal assistant. The price may be quite expensive for general consumer.

OrCam: See for yourself


Posted in AT_Apps, Elderly, Sensors, Transition, Wearable Computing, Wearable devices | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Voice typing using Google Docs

Voice recognition can help people with their writing. Google Docs offers Built-in Voice typing and Google Chrome is available on various systems (Windows, Mac, Chromebook). There is no voice training required like other speech recognition software. This allows you to talk directly to your computer without even needing a microphone headset.  Of course it is recommended that you use it without too much background noise and speak directly to your computer’s built in microphone.  You can also use voice commands (i.e. Insert header) to edit documents.

If you have not used Google Docs, it is recommended to install Chrome browser (download link: https://www.google.com/chrome/browser/desktop/index.html) and follow the next steps to access Google Docs.

How to use Voice-Typing in Chrome

Sign in Google Docs from Chrome https://www.google.com/docs/about/  and login to your e-mail account.

Or you are already logged in your e-mail account from Chrome browser.
You will find the Google Docs link by navigating from the upper right corner.


Select a new document or any document you already have.

Click Tools and select Voice Typing
Google Docs Voice Typing

Then click speak icon.
Google Docs Voice Typing Speak icon

Speak button

Click the button, “Allow”.
Allow Google to Access a microphone

Microphone configurations

If you would rather use an external microphone, you will probably need to configure your microphone on your computer. You can access the microphone configuration settings either from the Accessibility feature menu or Control Panel.

How to set up your microphone from Accessibility Feature.

Press Windows key  windows-key    +  U.
Select the computer without a mouse or keyboard.
Accessibility-Use a computer without a mouse.

Then select “Use Speech Recognition.”
Accessibility Speak into a microphone

Select your microphone and go through “Microphone setup wizard”.
Microphone settings

Adjust a microphone

Another way to set up a microphone from the Control Panel

Go to the Control Panel on your computer, and elect Manage audio devices under the Sound.Manage audio sound

Select Recording tab, highlight your microphone, and click the Configure button.
Recording configurations

Then select “Set up microphone” and  the type of your microphone, and follow through the same way as the previous example.
Microphone settings

Adjust a microphone

A few disadvantages of using Google Docs, you will need to use it online by logging in from your e-mail account. It is not an accessible tool for those who cannot afford to have an Internet service at home or have intermittent service (i.e. a weak signal area). Once you log out of your e-mail account, you will not be able to use Google Docs and will get the message shown below.

Sign out error when you are not in Google account.

Of course, this online tool (Google Docs) offers various advantages for persons who are always online (i.e. Cloud/ Social Media users) or need to access documents from multiple locations where wireless service is available. It is an economical tool for persons who struggle in writing.  Many of today’s students can formulate their thoughts by using their voice and then submit their homework using these innovative digital learning methods.

Here is a link of how to use the Voice Typing features in Google Docs (link: https://support.google.com/docs/answer/4492226?hl=en)

Posted in Accessibility Features, Assistive Technology, AT_Software, Employment | Tagged | Leave a comment

3D printing for disabled

Since I posted a blog about 3D printing in 2014, technology using 3D printing has continued to benefit disabled persons in increasing their independence and daily activities. One of the benefits of 3D printing for people with disabilities is that the tools or parts can be quickly produced and customized for individual needs. Some designers find that it is less expensive than purchasing assistive technology devices.

Don Fredette, an adaptive equipment specialist, uses a 3D printer to make items such as customized wheelchair joysticks, control knobs, and cup holders at the Boston Home, a residence for Care of adults with advanced neurological diseases. In addition, he has also made the following 3D printed items.

  • Cradles for voice-controlled television remotes
  • Chin switches for calling aids
  • Holders for communication devices like phones and tablets
  • Cell phones

Another example of 3D printer beneficiary is Christopher Hills of Australia. This nineteen-year-old owns his business called Switched-On Video Editing. He uses Final Cut Pro software and edits films with customized 3D printed switches that he controls by moving his head.

In addition, 3D printing is helping to create more advanced products. Scientists, engineers, and physicians have been developing and building 3D-printable prosthetics and the next generation of bionic limbs that can be fully customized.

Open Bionics made a custom fit a 3D printed robotic arm with hand for Daniel, who was born without a right arm.  They scanned his arm using a 3D sensor, created a 3D mesh of it, and printed a custom-fitted socket and robotic hand. The robotic prosthetics arm gave Daniel the ability to write, pick up things, and shake hands – abilities to do these tasks which most of us take for granted.

3D Printed Prosthetic Costs Way Less Than Alternatives – BTF
(published 2015)

The MIT Media Lab’s Bio mechatronics group led by Hugh Herr has been developing wearable robotic systems that serve to augment and enhance human physical capability. Hugh Herr himself lost both legs to frostbite when he was younger. Here is a YouTube video where Hugh Herr talks about the next generation of bionic limbs, and robotic prosthetics.

New Bionics Let Us Run, Climb and Dance | Hugh Herr | TED Talks
(published 2014)

Today scientists are proving the feasibility of ‘printing’ replacement tissues (February 15, 2016 ScienceDaily), and high-tech companies have teamed up to test a 3D bio-printer to print cardio and vascular structures in zero gravity (June, 2016). 3D printers are helping all of us grasp tomorrow’s technology today.

B-Roll: First Heart Structure 3D Printed in Zero Gravity With Adult Human Stem Cells (published 2016)

Posted in 3-D technology, Assistive Technology, AT_Device, Robots, Sensors, Wearable Computing, Wearable devices | Tagged , | Leave a comment