Monday, March 24, 2014

The elusive keyboarding unicorn...

Raise your hand if you've worked with/know a student with well documented fine motor issues and prescribed/asked for a key-boarding program for that student with all the home-row bells and whistles?

I have.

For years I've followed this protocol.

Sometimes I still will. But, if someone struggles with fine motor activities, does it make sense to ask this person to isolate individual fingers, utilizing all 10 in unison, with timing, precision, and speed, key-boarding from the home-row? Might that itself be a tremendous challenge? A very interesting, short, and understandable study by Niles-Campbell, Tam, Mays, and Skidmore in the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists journal dared utter this phrase:
"Ten finger touch-typing is a gold standard that may not produce gold"
 ZOIKS!!! Heresy!

The authors of this study suggest that for many students developing competence and functionality with a hunt and peck method may be a best outcome. They also go on to state that the "[engagement] in meaningful keyboarding activities is the best way to learn keyboarding", which then suggests NOT keyboarding programs.

Whoa! Meaningful activities?! Darned Occupational Therapists! Perhaps laboring over a keyboarding program for lengthy periods everyday is not ideal.

I still ask students to participate for 10 minutes 3-5 days a week if they do not have a sense of key-location. It should be an iterative process. Starting with a goal for home-row keys, but carefully monitoring and changing those expectations as necessary. If a student can type with a hunt and peck method faster or with dramatically increased legibility over their hand-writing, this is functional, and may be the end goal.

In addition to a keyboarding program, students will best acquire skills engaged in keyboarding activities that have meaning such as tackling homework, chatting online with a friend, writing emails or stories. The more interactive and non-repetitive the task, the more "fun" it's likely to be.

I'd love to hear other's thoughts on this topic.

Happy Therapy!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

AppleVis Exploring Apple's Work

I have always been impressed by both Microsoft and Apple's attention to how folks with Visual Impairments might access their operating systems. Both companies have historically offered tools embedded in their software, at no additional cost. Granted the quality has varied from year to year.  Often, because they are in the business of selling operating systems, and not accessibility equipment, finding information about these features is not as easy as one might like.

Recently, my brillant colleague and VI teacher, here in the schools sent me a link to AppleVis, showing "what's new and changed for blind and low vision users in i0S7.1. AppleVis is a community-based web site that is managed by a small number of volunteers. They are NOT Apple.

I was impressed by the work Apple continues to do, and frankly how big can the market share be for them? This is good work, with minimal financial gain. (okay, I will quit hero-worshipping Apple for a few minutes).

According to AppleVis, there are 6 new Accessibility features in i0S7.1, including 3 contrast settings rather than one, allowing users to choose an option that best supports their vision. One other feature is the ability to enable Bold Text for icons, text on i0S labels, keyboard, and the calculator. For the other four, visit their page, 'cause I don't want to steal all their thunder.

The page also lists the 25 improvements that have been made to pre-existing features including significant changes to VoiceOver functions.

In addition, the site offers up 13 bugs still found in the system. Love that they are willing to share the successes, as well as what still needs to be worked on.  It's comforting to find that an issue your having is not just yours alone.

Finally, I found the comments from other readers to be very edifying, and as useful as the official info. There are some smart users out there!

Intrigued by the wealth of info, I wanted to look a bit closer at who AppleVis is. This is pulled from their site:
A community-powered website for blind and low-vision users of Apple's range of Mac computers, the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.
AppleVis is a rich resource that strives to empower the community by offering multiple pathways to access and share relevant and useful information. As a community, we seek to encourage and support people in exploring the many ways in which these mainstream products and related applications can offer opportunities to the vision-impaired for personal enrichment, independence and empowerment.
AppleVis also offers resources and mechanisms for raising awareness of the accessibility of Apple products and related applications, and for promoting further advancement in accessibility.

Membership is free. They do however welcome donations, as they are volunteer run, with no sponsorship. The site has several pages to explore apps, a forum for users to share ideas, a well maintained blog, Podcasts (tech oriented), Guides, and App Deals are listed, and finally Accessory Reviews. WOW! I am blown away by the thoroughness of their work.

If you or someone you know has visual impairments, this site seems like a necessity!

Happy Therapy!