Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Switch Access Continues to Improve!

Hey Tek-Ninjas! I've been wrestling with switch access lately. It is often a source of frustration for me. The promises are big, the reality is often less than!

Of the many switch interfaces I've played with, the one I keep returning to for the most success is the
 Swifty, made by Origin. Swifty uses standard USB Human Interface Device (HID) drivers and works with Windows, Macintosh and Linux computers and many AAC devices.  The Swifty retails for $79.95.

For accessing iPads, Origin has answers as well. They provide the Tapio for newer iPads using a Lightening charging port. With Tapio and an adaptive switch, a single switch user can have complete access to an iPad, an iPhone or an iPod touch, using Apple's Switch Control. The Tapio
retails for $99.95. If you have a 2nd or 3rd generation iPad, Origin still has an answer for you. Purchase the Tapio with Apple 30-pin Dock to USB Camera Adapter and a USB Extender Cable. This bundle sells for $109.95.

Just a Few Switch Choices
Using the Swifty or the Tapio allows you to then also use a myriad of switches depending on your
user's needs. You may decide to go with a jelly bean switch, toggle, or any of the other dozens of switches, mounting them wherever your user has the best consistent volitional movement. I recommend involving your Occupational Therapist or Physical Therapist in determining these locations if possible.

The other bit of switch access that has me excited is the iPad's use of the camera and/or the screen. Using a Tapio in conjunction with the camera, we can set up step scanning, and using a head turn, or tapping the screen (anywhere) of the iPad to select. When you are in accessibility, and choosing your switch, after having chosen "External" for the Tapio, try "Screen" or "Camera". One of those options may prove helpful in unlocking a student's potential.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Increasing Your Switch Access Activities a Thousand Fold!

Hey Tek-Ninjas! I am really excited to share with you some new finds (new for me anyway).

The folks at UNC are busy writing code, creating easy, free switch accessible, online software.

For example, they have a terrific site called Accessible Youtube. Accessible Youtube does require that someone can type the initial search.  Once the search is typed in, navigating the controls is relatively intuitive

When I stumbled on Accessible Youtube, it was exciting, but not quite what I was searching for.  I was looking for the ability to embed Youtube videos into some "magical" interface that would work like the old latch timer, so a student would hit the switch, get some video, and then it would stop, thereby motivating the student to hit the switch again. Yes, we are working on early "Cause & Effect" switch access.

So, I emailed the help link on Accessible Youtube, and very quickly got a response from Gary Bishop.  Gary is a Professor of Computer Science here at UNC-Chapel HIll.  Gary and his students create software to enable folks with disabilities participate fully in education, literacy, and play. He and his students may be my new heroes.

Gary sent me a link to that "magical" interface I'd been seeking: Tar Heel Gameplay (THG) It was as though the programmer made a project just for me! 

Customizable Switch Prompt
On the surface THG seems simple, which is evidence of good design. But there is so much going on here. The teacher/therapist/parent can make a one-off activity, grading the amount of support dependent on what the user will benefit from; single switch, cause & effect, to multiple choice responses with many different outcomes (play, start over, rewind, etc). In addition, if the caregiver wants to utilize the service more than once, they can create an account (free) and save their "games".

Please take a look at this site, and be sure to share with your friends!


Thursday, March 24, 2016

A New Blogger in Town!

Hey Tek-Ninjas! Back on the 8th of March my colleague Tamika wrote a guest blog for me. It was a great article, and evidently may have helped serve as a catalyst, because Tamika has since then launched her own blog.

Tamika will be blogging about being an Occupational Therapist, a single mom, and a Woman of God. Her blog is called TherapymomMe, and I encourage you to take a look at it.


Monday, March 14, 2016

Shameless Self Promotion!

Hey Tek-Ninjas! Today  I have made a few changes to my blog site.

For a while now I have experimented with advertising. You may have noticed on the right side of the blog, a selection of ads. I've decided that the advertisements detract more than add benefit.

So. No more ads.

In addition, I am embarking in a little shameless self promotion. If you note at the top of my blog at the menu bar I have a new link: Jim's Art. Please take a moment to explore some of my digital as well as oil creations.

As always thanks for looking!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

PSA for you and your young adult

Hey Tek-Ninjas! Good morning. I just got back from doing my civil duty. I voted.

Do you remember the first time you voted? I remember not really being sure how to do it. It ain't rocket science, but it felt intimidating.

I would like to encourage you parents of 18-19 year olds to offer to take them to the polls. Explain what the process will be like. Even if you don't think they will vote "your way".

Bring them, teach them, then get out of the way!


Friday, March 11, 2016

A Clear Vision: Affordable Camera for VI Students

Hey Tek-Ninjas! Recently I went to a local conference called NCTIES here in Raleigh, NC. This is not the type of conference I typically attend, but I may add it to my roster from here out. NCTIES is primarily geared for our gen-ed students, and I typically attend the special ed oriented conferences. Turns out, I have been missing a lot of terrific opportunities.

As I was walking through the vendor area I stumbled upon the Ipevo booth.

Let me backtrack for a moment. One of the great frustrations I, and others experience in the world of Special Needs, is how expensive things can be. There is always a argument (possibly legitimate) about the small volume of production or the R & D driving up costs. Regardless, equipment is often really pricey. For example, I have some portable "video magnifiers" which cost over $2,000 which we use with a few of our students with significant vision issues. I chafe at the cost every time I look at the device.

So. Back to Ipevo. They sell a range of document cameras, along with other technologies. They DO NOT bill themselves as selling products for visually impaired students. But, nonetheless, I was curious to compare. Their products are a fraction of the price. My question was, would they do the job?

After sharing my thought process with the very knowledgable and friendly sales rep, Alex, he sent me away with a couple of cameras and an interactive whiteboard system to test.

So far I've been very impressed. As was our Visual Impairment Teacher (VI). She was quite frankly astonished. Refer to Fig. 2 for a side-by-side comparison
Figure 2

For enlarging work at a student's desk, we found the Ipevo camera did a good job (refer to Fig. 3 for 12x magnification). Where it struggled some, was magnifying work from the whiteboard (not what it is designed for), which the un-named camera did a great job.

Figure 3
There is also a question of durability over a few years. Middle and high school students will take their camera out of a backpack, set it up, break it down, and stuff it back into their pack easily 5+ times a day. The Ipevo camera is metal, with a high grade plastic neck and three hinges. It seems durable, but the more expensive competition is all metal with no hinges. But lets be honest, if the Ipevo product needed to be replaced every few years, it's still a pittance of the cost, and then you get the newest upgrades!

I am getting ready to assign the Ipevo camera to a student with visual impairment. He's an elementary student, so there is no issue of changing classes. Our VI teacher has given me the go ahead with regards to the magnification being sufficient. We will monitor the student's success with the device, and report back. 

I'm also interested in the iZiggi-HD Document camera by Ipevo, as it works wirelessly with iPads. I may have to try one of those next! Also, I ordered a magnifying lens for $19, which screws onto the bottom of any of Ipevo's document cameras, adding an additional 2X magnification. I'll report on that, when it arrives. 


Thursday, March 10, 2016

I Will Not Fight The Future!

This appeared on my Facebook feed tonight, and I thought it was terrific, and apropos. I'm unclear whose Tumblr site I got it from, but it came from here.