Assistive Technology for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Early childhoodAs part of Maine CITE’s presentations at recent conferences, we have created a new resource for assistive technology (AT) for people affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The resource will now be updated regularly as we become aware of new AT devices and services. If you know of anything you think should be added to this page, please contact John Brandt at jbrandt@mainecite.org .

Use this link to visit AT for people with ASD.

 

New White House Report Documents Emerging Tech for Seniors

From the White House, March 5, 2019:

Senior with assistantEvery day, new innovations help make life a little easier for older Americans, whether it’s video chatting with family or monitoring their heart rate with a smart watch. Cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence, autonomous transportation systems, the internet of things, and next-generation wireless networks hold significant promise for enhancing independence, safety, overall mental and physical well-being, and health of older generations. The number of Americans over the age of 65 is growing rapidly and may reach nearly a quarter of the population in the next forty years. With an aging population, the Nation must proactively develop strategies, tools, and recommendations to enable older adults to live healthy, independent lives for as long as possible. Accordingly, the Trump Administration has made finding and assessing potential solutions for an aging population a research and development (R&D) priority.

Today, the Trump Administration released a new report, Emerging Technologies to Support an Aging Population, identifying innovations that have the potential to improve quality of life for all Americans, particularly those who live with physical or cognitive burdens due to aging or disability. Importantly, the report also identifies the R&D needed to bring these innovations to fruition.

Drafted by experts convened from across the Federal Government by the National Science and Technology Council, the report highlights six key ways technology has the potential to help Americans live longer, healthier, and more independent lives. These include:

  1. Key Activities of Daily Living. Technology could help older Americans perform many of the activities that comprise independent living, such as eating well, maintaining good hygiene, and managing medications. The report recommends key R&D to advance smart home technology and innovations that promote faster healing and safer, more accurate medication delivery.
  2. Cognitive Skills. Cognitive changes are common during aging and can eventually affect one’s ability to live independently and safely. Further R&D holds the promise of advancing technology to help older adults monitor changes in their cognition, provide mental training to reduce the impact of these changes, and create systems that help individuals and families maintain financial security.
  3. Communication and Social Connectivity. Older adults may face communication challenges as a result of hearing loss, social isolation, and loneliness, especially in economically distressed and rural areas. Technology has the potential to improve hearing abilities, and strengthen connections to family, loved ones, and communities.
  4. Personal Mobility. To live independently, older Americans must be able to move around their homes and throughout the larger community with comfort and ease. Technology could help older adults stay mobile and safely continue to perform key activities necessary for day-to-day life.
  5. Access to Transportation. True independence requires mobility outside of one’s home and immediate neighborhood. Transportation needs and limitations vary depending on how a person’s physical and cognitive abilities change with age. For examplesome older adults may be able to drive but require vehicle modification and/or advanced technologies to assist them. New technology could also help older adults more safely and easily use public transportation. Additional R&D into assistive systems that help keep drivers safe and technologies that support easy access to public transportation will allow older Americans to remain connected to social, health, and business facilities.
  6. Access to Healthcare. Routine access to healthcare plays a critical role in helping older adults stay active and independent as they age. The report highlights the need for enhanced R&D into technology that could help align and coordinate care, and to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of healthcare services.

In addition to the six primary areas listed above, the report recommends cross-cutting themes that are critical to the widespread adoption of new technologies among older Americans, including intuitive, user-friendly designs as well as addressing privacy and security considerations.

Getting these cutting-edge innovations into homes and communities will require R&D across a wide range of disciplines, spanning the public, private, and philanthropic sectors. But the potential is profound; Resilient, cost-effective materials could keep surfaces free of bacteria, innovative sensor and actuator systems could keep people comfortable during long periods in bed, new household robots could assist with food preparation, and much more. The Emerging Technologies to Support an Aging Population report not only identifies areas of technology that can significantly impact Americans’ quality of life as they age, but also recommends areas of R&D where public and private sector efforts can help bring those innovations to life.

Our Nation stands on the verge of truly transformational breakthroughs in technology that will shape all aspects of our daily lives for years to come. President Donald J. Trump has led his Cabinet in the expansion of rural broadband so older Americans in all parts of our Nation can benefit from these technologies. The Trump Administration understands that targeted R&D combined with the removal of regulatory barriers can lead to untold innovation and discovery. This report serves as a guide to the public and private sector to ensure aging Americans reap all the benefits of emerging technologies on the horizon. The rising tide of 21st century innovation should lift up Americans of all generations and all walks of life.

Use this link to download the entire 30-page report Emerging Technologies to Support an Aging Population– PDF

New Xbox Adaptive Controller – Try it out!

Owen and friend play with XboxIf you are a New England Patriots fan you watched a wonderful Super Bowl win a few weeks ago and, no doubt, enjoyed the many special Super Bowl ads which have become almost as popular as the game itself. So, you probably saw the special advertisement featuring a group of children extolling the virtues of the newly released Microsoft Xbox Adaptive Controller (if you missed the ad, we’ve provided a link below). As they say, the video “went viral” but not just because of the product, but the impact of the product on the lives of children with disabilities.

“What I like about the Adaptive Controller is that now everyone can play…”

About the new device

Microsoft Xbox Adaptive ControllerAs reported in the AT3 Center’s Blog, the Microsoft Xbox Adaptive Controller was released last September and is the first of its kind video game controller designed specifically for people with disabilities.

Ben Jacobs, Accommodations Specialist at GA Tools for Life, and a gamer since childhood, doesn’t mince words about the significance of this release, “For a first-party company to acknowledge there’s a demographic they were missing and create a controller is amazing. Also, I can’t think of how to make this controller any better than it is.” In a recent article in the AT3 Center’s Monthly Blog, Jacobs goes on to explain: “The Xbox Adaptive Controller (XAC) falls into the category of gorgeous AT. While its branding fits with other Xbox controllers, it is distinguished by two large responsive black buttons set in an elegant bone console. Jacobs stresses, however, that the central achievement of the XAC is how it works as a hub to allow for all kinds of customization.”

And, according to the touching video ad which shows a half dozen children using the Xbox Adaptive Controller, apparently it is a hit with kids. As one boy in the video says, “I love video games, my friends, my family and again video games…” The boy’s father, moved to tears, is later seen in the ad saying, “It’s his way if interacting with his friends when he can’t physically otherwise do it…”

For the AT techs and gamers, Jacobs notes the Controller houses 19 3.5 mm input jacks and two USB ports for switch accessibility to every function, a testament to Microsoft’s commitment to building a device that works within the existing AT ecosystem. He adds, “for gamers with motor disabilities, this is profound. The Xbox Adaptive Controller’s built-in buttons will work for some users (and the console is ready for mounting with three threaded holes), but the unit’s interoperability with third-party switches means individuals with an existing method of gaming on a PC can get quickly comfortable on the Xbox.”

“Whether it’s a head array or switches for use with a knee, however a gamer uses switches, they can use the Xbox controller,” Jacobs says.

Try Before You Buy

AT4Maine - Assistive Technology of All Maine PeopleWhile the Xbox Adaptive Controller is reasonably priced at around $100 it is always great when you can “try it before you buy it” just to make sure a product is right for you or your family member. Fortunately, Kevin Good, Special Education faculty at the University of Maine Farmington and coordinator of the Center for Assistive Technology’s Collection of Assistive Technology (AT) at UMF anticipated this need and added TWO of the Xbox Adaptive Controller to the university’s AT collection. Supported by Maine CITE, Maine’s Assistive Technology Act program, the Adaptive Controllers are part of a statewide collection of AT that is available to all citizens of Maine. Information about these devices, and over 1,200 other assistive technology devices that are available to borrow on a short-term loan, may be found at AT4Maine.org the online repository for the UMF collection, as well as three other AT equipment loan centers in Maine.

We’ve included the video of the Xbox Adaptive Controller ad below on the chance that you haven’t seen it. We’re sure you’ll enjoy it.

As Owen, the boy in the video says, “What I like about the Adaptive Controller is that now everyone can play…”

Special thanks to AT3 Center’s Eliza Anderson for the article See Xbox for All featuring the interview with Ben Jacobs.

Tech4Good Awards 2018

From E-Access Bulletin, July 2018…

From smartwatch wayfinders to robot farmers…

Tablet showing the definition of the word "access"Earlier in July, the AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards took place in London, showcasing everything from tiny farming robots to an innovative new way of contacting emergency services.

Now in its eighth year, the event was created by technology access charity AbilityNet to celebrate digital technology projects designed to improve people’s lives and benefit society. Entries can be new or existing ideas, and can come from anyone, such as a charity, business or individual.

In 2016, for example, nine-year-old Arnav Sharma won the Tech4Good People’s Award for his asthma-managing digital device, the AsthmaPi, while in this year’s event, projects from Microsoft and Facebook both made the finals.

Awards are split into nine categories, each highlighting a different strand of digital innovation: accessibility; connected society; young pioneer; ‘Tech4Good for Africa’; community impact; digital health; digital skills; digital volunteer of the year, and; community impact.

A panel of 23 judges from across the technology and charity sectors selected 28 finalists chosen from over 250 entries, while the final category – the People’s Award – was chosen by the public.

Here’s a rundown of this year’s winners.

The AbilityNet Accessibility Award was won by Be My Eyes, a free app for iOS and Android designed to help people with sight loss live more independently by assisting them in completing everyday tasks.

The app works by connecting visually impaired users to sighted volunteers via video link. The volunteers then answer questions from the user, who might want to know, for example, whether the date on a food expiry label has passed, or what a nearby road sign says.

An additional feature is ‘Specialized Help’, which lets companies use Be My Eyes to provide tailored customer service to users with a visual impairment. Users can contact the Microsoft Disability Desk directly through the app to ask for help with Microsoft products.

As reported in e-Access Bulletin earlier this year, Be My Eyes has announced a partnership with transportation app Moovit, to help people with sight loss use public transport around cities.

The winner of the Digital Health Award was TapSOS, a non-verbal method of contacting emergency services through an app. Designed primarily for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, speech impaired, or in a situation where it’s difficult to speak, TapSOS lets users set up a profile with their medical history, which gets shared with emergency services when the user contacts them. GPS provides a caller’s exact location to emergency services, making it easier to send out a response vehicle.

Small Robot Company won the Connected Society Award for their miniature farm robots, designed to automate elements of the planting, feeding, watering and weeding process on a farm in a lightweight, environmentally friendly and cost-effective way.

The Water Watcher was the winner of the BT Young Pioneer Award. The device fits on to a tap and uses an alarm and timer system to alert users if the tap has been left on too long. Powered by a simple BBC Micro:bit computer (a winner in the 2016 Tech4Good Awards), the Water Watcher is particularly useful for people with dementia or dyslexia.

The Unlocking Talent Through Technology scheme, which provides solar-powered tablet computers and literacy apps for schools in Malawi, won the Comic Relief Tech4Good for Africa Award. Led by international development organisation VSO, the Unlocking Talent programme has reached 90,000 schoolchildren so far, and has been integrated into Malawi’s National Education Policy framework.

The Community Impact Award was won by MOMO (Mind of My Own), an app to help keep children and young people safe. MOMO encourages users to record thoughts, feelings and observations, which can help them communicate about difficult or dangerous situations which they might not feel able to discuss elsewhere.

A ‘wayfinding’ app for people with learning impairments was voted for by the public to win the Tech4Good People’s Award. WaytoB helps guide users who may not be able to fully operate other navigation or mapping systems. The app works through a smartwatch, giving users clear directions on a specified journey, and letting them know when to cross a road or which bus to catch, for example.

Crucially, WaytoB is used in harmony by a ‘navigator’ and ‘partner’, such as a family member or friend. Journeys are pre-programmed by the ‘partner’, who can track where the navigator is through the app.

The Digital Skills Award was won by Generation Code, a national scheme to help develop coding skills in young people around the UK. People aged 16-25 who already have coding knowledge are trained to become ‘Code Champions’, who then provide coding activities to people aged 11-19 in their local area.

The importance of coding was also recognised in the Digital Volunteer of the Year Award, presented to Anna Holland Smith. Anna is involved with a number of inclusive coding initiatives, including Manchester’s Codebar, which provides programming opportunities for underrepresented groups.

Read more about all of this year’s winners and other projects at the Tech4Good Awards website…


How To Receive E-Access Bulletin

To subscribe or unsubscribe to this free monthly bulletin, visit our sign-up page.

Photo Credit: Image licensed through Creative Commons by The Blue Diamond

AFARI Mobility Device featured in exhibit

AFARI deviceNews from the University of Maine’s Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies (CCIDS)…

The AFARI Mobility Device, co-invented by CCIDS professors Elizabeth DePoy and Stephen Gilson, is part of the current Access+Ability exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City.

Here are links to some recent articles about the exhibit and/or AFARI:

AT4Maine – A New Service for Mainers who Need Assistive Technology

AT4Maine - Assistive Technology of All Maine PeopleThe AT4Maine website is a new service being offered by Maine CITE and four statewide Assistive Technology (AT) providers. On AT4Maine, consumers will find a wide range of AT devices and products available for a demonstration or short-term loan. AT is any device, piece of equipment or product that makes it easier for someone with a disability to live more independently and safely, work at a job, learn in school, get about their community or pursue play and leisure.

The AT4Maine inventory has hundreds of AT items available to people with disabilities of all ages. It includes communication devices, devices to aid daily living, devices to accommodate vision and hearing, tablets, mobility devices, adaptive computer switches, specialized software and apps.

The four AT providers are CARES, Inc., Pine Tree Society, Spurwink ALLTECH and, the University of Maine Farmington.

AT4Maine.org will enable individuals, families and caregivers to ‘try before they buy’…” says, Kathy Adams, the Maine CITE Program Director. “In the past year, over 600 Mainers were able to borrow AT and with this new website we hope to inform and serve more consumers”

The Maine Department of Education’s Maine CITE Program’s mission is to make assistive technology more available to Maine children, adults and seniors who need them. The program is funded by the federal Administration for Community Living.

Visit AT4Maine…

Google Maps calls on millions of users to boost access info

From E-Access Bulletin Live…

Google logoThe Google Maps team has requested its extensive user community help improve its accessibility listings.

As reported in previous issues of e-Access Bulletin, Google has taken various steps to increase its accessibility offerings in maps during previous months (see e-Access Bulletin December 2016). Now, however, the Google Maps team have explicitly asked that its ‘Local Guides’ – a community of millions of users who voluntarily collect data – proactively add in wheelchair-accessible location information to maps.

As the Local Guides system works primarily by users answering questions (these questions help gather new data sets that help improve maps), the following calculation is made on a Google blog post announcing the call-out:

“If each of our tens of millions of Local Guides answers three of these questions [about wheelchair-accessible locations] every day for two weeks, we can gather nearly two billion answers to help people who rely on this information every day.”

The blog post was written by Sasha Blair-Goldensohn, a software engineer for the Google Maps, Content and Community team, who also uses a wheelchair. Read the Google blog post in full at the following link…

As Blair-Goldensohn points out in the post: “Because anyone can identify and label wheelchair-friendly locations directly on [a Google Map], it’s easy to share this knowledge around the world. But not everyone knows this tool exists.”

The post then lets readers know how to add in this information: “First, make sure your Google Maps Location History is turned on. Then visit ‘Your contributions’ in the upper-left menu, tap ‘Answer questions about a place,’ and indicate whether businesses you’ve visited are wheelchair-friendly.”

Those using devices on the Android operating system can also search for nearby areas around them that don’t have this accessibility info, so that it can be added.

2-1-1 Maine Adds Text Messaging

Referrals Now Available by Text Message

211 Maine logo2-1-1 Maine is a free resource providing an easy, confidential way to connect people to information about thousands of health and human services around Maine.

Every day Information Specialists help people find assistance for complex issues such as financial problems, substance use disorders, and support needs for older adults, and for simpler issues such as finding volunteer opportunities and donation options.

Mainers can now text their zip code to 898-211 and automatically connect with a friendly, Maine-based Information Specialist. The Specialist will ask the person texting what services they are looking for and provide them referrals via text to resources in their area.

Information Specialists are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week by texting a zip code to 898-211.

Mainers can also continue to use:

 

South Portland Housing Authority Offers Home Repair Program for Seniors

From the South Portland Housing Authority:

Smart HomeSouth Portland, ME, MARCH 7, 2017 – The South Portland Housing Authority (SPHA) today announced the new and exciting Home Modification for Seniors and Disabled (HMS) program. The Authority hopes to demonstrate that small investments in home safety help extend the time seniors and disabled persons can remain in their own home, reducing health care expenses and improving quality of life in their homes.

“Essentially, homeowners contact us for a simple assessment of their property, and we use the results to focus on high quality safety enhancement,” SPHA Executive Director Michael Hulsey noted. “We are looking for South Portland homeowners to work with at our expense, for simple safety issues.” Hulsey added, “Most work would get done in one -day or-less; more-complicated work would get contracted out when needed. A Grant from MaineHousing pays for the program expenses.”

Melanie Cahill, Coordinator of the Program, explained, “When a homeowner contacts us, we schedule an appointment to discuss their concerns, and take a good look at what needs to be done for the homeowner to stay safely in their home. We have experience selecting and installing equipment and can offer suggestions.” Experienced maintenance staff’s typical installations include grab-bars, hand-held showerheads, transfer benches, raised toilet seats, handrails, and lever-style doorknobs. “We also make smaller home repairs,” added Ms. Cahill. “These repairs, such as securing flooring, motion lights, electrical upgrades (like GFI outlets near water sources) adjusting exterior doors, and stair tread repairs, can make daily living safer. Input from homeowners is crucial for us to be successful.”

South Portland Housing Authority is excited to connect housing and healthcare in innovative ways through this Home Modification Program. The very small per home investment helps to ultimately improve health outcomes and can defer or decrease medical costs. Homeowners themselves drive the process and work closely with the team to make sure that their needs are addressed.

Qualifications for the program include:

  • 60 years of age or more, or have a disability;
  • Own your own home, or live in a home owned by someone in your family;
  • Live in South Portland;
  • Have annual income under $43,050 for a single person; under $49,205 for a two-person family; or under $55,350 for a 3-person family.
  • Less than $50,000.00 in liquid assets

For more information about this program, and how we can help you, please call Melanie Cahill, Program Coordinator, at 207-773-4140

Punch-In: Service for youth with disabilities seeking employment

This news comes from the Great Lakes ADA Center – AT Bulletin of Jan-Feb 2017

Punch-In logoPunch-In is a free resource for young adults with disabilities preparing for and seeking employment. One of the many offerings on the site is a free, online course to develop the skills and strategies necessary to be successful in career endeavors. Teachers and other professionals can set up a self-paced course to administered as group or individuals may take the course independently. The course includes over 100 high quality videos for instruction and advice. There is also a moderator for every course to assist and encourage students.

There are five content modules:

  • Discover Yourself (Module 1) – This module is designed for students who are beginning to prepare for a job search. It offers tools to examine strengths in any potential job and explore careers options.
  • Get Prepared (Module 2) – This module offers the foundational steps to develop your work readiness skills and jump into the critical steps of writing a good resume and cover letter.
  • Find A Job (Module 3)- The Find A Job module helps set a job search in motion. A job search includes the way you find out, apply, and interview for employment. The module also has a special section on networking skills using social media to locate employment opportunities.
  • Know Your Rights (Module 4) – Understanding one’s rights and responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is critical in the employment process. This module is an introduction to the ADA and other disability laws.
  • Use Technology (Module 5) – This module is an introduction to Assistive Technology (AT). AT may be a critical component for a successful career.

If you are interested in administering or taking the newly updated course join the Punch-in network at success-network.punch-in.org. You may also contact Janet Peters with any questions.