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!