Tuesday, February 26, 2013

FREE Android Apps for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

by Rosemarie Punzalan

Technology plays an important role in helping the deaf and hard of hearing (DHOH) community interact as well as communicate.  Below are some FREE Android-based apps that allow the DHOH to get the most out of their devices:

  • Google Voice: Google Voice is a multifunction voice mail application that makes it possible to make free calls using your mobile phone as well as live Instant Messaging (IM) chats from either a WiFi connection or a 3G. You can also make cheap international phone calls with your Google number and send free text messages. You can listen to voicemail and read transcripts if you are not able to understand the voice mail - this is extremely useful for deaf/hard of hearing consumers.

  • Speak It: This application talks for you. You basically write the text (whatever you want) and click on the play button. The program has a TTS engine that will generate voice from the text that you write. With this app you also have the ability to create your own ringtone and alarm, all you have to do is write the text and set it as your ringtone. Lastly, there's a Home Screen widget that gives deaf people more functionality by saving a urgent message/warning on the home screen and then all they have to do is take out their phone and press the button for it to play their message.

  • TED Air: TED is a small nonprofit devoted to 'Ideas Worth Spreading'. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment and Design.  You can watch TED talks with subtitles in other languages, watch the TED talks that are considered the 'Best of the Web', and you can search using both English and/or many other languages. This app also gives you the ability to download TED talks and watch them later without WiFi connection. www.ted.com

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Donate, Borrow, and Reuse AT in California

Assistive technology (AT) can be costly and, as most of you know, is not often covered in full or even partially by insurances.  Furthermore, it can be frustrating to spend a lot of money on a device that one believes will work for them or a loved one, only to find out that it is not the right fit. That is why the AT Network is dedicated to connecting consumers to our AT Reuse Programs, Device Lending Libraries, and our AT Advocates and other services throughout the state.

California Assistive Technology Reuse Coalition
Do you have any AT (assistive technology) devices that you no longer need? Examples of AT include communication devices, reachers, talking alarm clocks, dressing aids, scooters, screen magnification software and digital organizers. Also included at many sites are durable medical equipment donations (DME). DME encompasses a wide range of items and includes wheelchairs, shower chairs, walkers, hospital beds, nebulizers and portable ramps.

Did you know that there are dozens of places in California that accept gently used AT items to redistribute to those in need?  

To learn more about the California Assistive Technology Reuse Coalition (CATRC) or to get involved in your local center, visit:  http://californiareuse.org/

Device Lending Libraries
The AT Network also operates a Device Lending Library program throughout California. The following agencies contract with the AT Network to provide short term loans of assistive devices and gadgets that can help you live independently. Whether your need is temporary or you would just like to try out some devices before you buy them, the AT Network’s Device Lending Libraries can help by providing free short-term loans for up to 30 days.  Devices that are available for loan include computers and software, ACC devices, magnifiers, walkers, ramps and much more. 

AT Advocates and AT Services Directory
Do you have questions about an AT device or need some further guidance before making decisions about AT?  Our AT advocates can help show you what different types of AT and/or funding for AT that is available, or refer you to other agencies that assist with AT assessments and advice.

Do you want to check out service providers and vendors that are available in your area?  Visit our AT Services Directory by clicking here.  All you have to do is type in your zip code and select an AT category (examples include home modification, vehicle modification, blind and low vision, mobility aids) to see what organizations are available in your area.

To see a complete list of items available from the AT Network throughout California, visit the AT Exchange

Also, if you have any AT questions or AT resources to share, please contact us and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

AT (Assistive Technology) That We LOVE

Valentine's Day is this week and we can think of no better time to express our love for some of the amazing assistive technology (AT) devices that have changed our lives for the better.  Members of the AT staff had the following to say about some choice AT devices that they LOVE...
Christina's handy-dandy wheelchair cup holder

Christina Mills:  I’ve used a wheelchair for as long as I can remember. Of course it’s my AT necessity and I take good care of it because it gets me where I need to go and it isn’t easy to get a new one. However, when it comes to AT I love the most I have to say it’s the cup holder on my wheelchair that I can’t imagine living without. I spotted it at the Abilities Expo back in 2004 and have been in love ever since. I’ve only had to replace it once! I never take it off my chair and with all the traveling I do it’s pretty amazing that the first one lasted me 5 years. By the way, it’s not just a cup holder anymore…it holds bottles and hair clips too! 

Kevin Hansen: The AT device that I love and - literally - cannot live without is my CPAP machine. Without it I do not sleep well, if at all. With it, I sleep soundly and know that I will not die during the night. Unless, of course, my wife gets mad at me!  Read more about Kevin's CPAP machine here
Allan Friedman:  The iPad is revolutionizing the whole field of AT and is one of the few devices that incorporates the principles of Universal Design and access.

Many people have described the various iDevices as life-changing AT
Samantha Garcia: I wanted to mention my glasses, touch screen devices, voice recorders, captioning and speech to text so i decided to choose my iPhone, since it has the ability to serve in some capacity as all of the above!
Kirk Aranda:  An AT device that I love is my iPhone but, more specifically, the application Google Maps that was recently released and has made traveling and navigating a whole lot easier.  With the old “Maps” feature on the iPhone and I believe the current version that is being used by Apple, it would give me accurate directions of course,but I would always have to click on the next step to see what I needed to do next, which is not safe to do while driving - let alone then having to look at the screen to see what is next adds to this very unsafe situation.  With Google Maps though, I can drive and navigate a whole lot easier and safer because it gives turn by turn directions that are spoken aloud so you can hear what is next instead of having to look down at the phone.  It also doesn’t require you to click for the next step as it dings to let you know once you have completed that step in the directions and then continues on by telling you what to do next as well as giving you advanced notice so you can be prepared for your next move.

It also works really well if you have your phone plugged into your car’s stereo as it will give the directions through the stereo.  Even if music is playing, it will stop the music to give you the directions and then go back to the music after it’s done.  Also if you’re using a blue tooth headset for your phone, Google Maps will give you the step by step directions right through your ear piece!

There are many features within such a small application, yet it has made a big impact on me and helps me greatly!

Teresa Favuzzi:  On the weekends my partner and I like to take Magpie, our cattle dog, for off-leash adventures. I LOVE my trusty walking stick to help me navigate uneven trails, mud zones, and rocky terrain... 
Teresa hiking with her trusty walking stick
Ergonomic Chair
Rosemarie Punzalan:  My favorite AT is my ergonomic chair.  I sit in front of a computer nearly every day for work which caused me to have lower back pain and well as worsen my back and neck problems.  As my back and neck were sore from sitting so much, i had a tendency to slouch over in my chair, which exacerbated  the problem even more.  Not using an ergonomic chair for about seven years or so increased stress on my back, neck, shoulders, arms and legs.  Finally, i couldn't take the pain anymore and purchased an ergonomic chair which, so far, has helped.

Word Prediction Software
Rachel Anderson:   At the moment, one of the AT
devices that I really love and that makes my life easier is the  keyboard filter word prediction. It greatly reduces the amount of typing one has to do, therefore helping if you have repetitive wrist strain.  It also assists individuals in inadvertently selecting keys they didn’t want to select.  Thirdly, it makes me laugh a lot when it guesses wrong. It is hilarious when the computer predicts you wanted to say 'peeps' instead of 'peers'.

Do you have a favorite AT device that you LOVE?  Please share it with us using the comment box below.

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