Tuesday, December 31, 2013

AT Can Help You With Your New Year's Resolutions!

picture of calendar with january 1 and an apple and a measuring tapeThis is the time of year when many of us strive to be better - better in our mental and physical health, with our relationships, with our finances, etc.  

Have you already made some New Year's resolutions?  Are you worried about breaking them?  Let AT help you achieve your goals and stay on track for the whole year!

1. Remember to take your medicine or vitamins/supplements!  Consider getting one of these pill organizers with an alarm: 
Reizen 7-Day Pill Organizer with LCD Clock-Alarm-Timer  
7 Day x 4 Large Capacity Pill Box with Alarm Timer . Weekly Pill Box Organizer System for Medications, Supplements, and Vitamins.MedCenter System Deluxe 2-31 Day Organizers and 4 Alarm Reminder Clock
2. Lose Weight!  These devices measure movement including arm activity and are a good option for wheelchair users.

Polar USA  
Body Media  
Nike+ FuelBand SE
3. Manage your budget! These apps help you set a budget, track your financical goals and give you visual graphs.

Dollarbird - Personal Finance with a Calendar

4. Quit Smoking! Try these apps and websites for great ways to finally break this unhealthy addiction.

My Quit Coach
Smoker Reducer

5. Volunteer More!  Many people want to give back to their communities and the start of a new year is a great time to get involved in meaningful volunteer work.  Check out these sites for opportunities in your community.

California Volunteers
Volunteer Match

lights saying 2014 happy new year


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

People of All Ages Benefit from AT

by Christina Mills, CFILC's Deputy Director

baby Bumbo seat with wheels and tie-dyed foot platform
Homemade ZipZac
Thank goodness there is handy, easy-to-use assistive technology available for people of all ages. The best part is that it’s gotten better looking and more portable over time. It may sound ridiculous to some who came before me, but I when I think about my first wheelchair and how clunky and easy to tip over it was, I think about how many less fractures I might have had if my chair would have been lightweight and more aerodynamic. Then again, who am I’m fooling…I was a daredevil and was constantly testing my limits in that little metal E&J chair. I was about five or six-years-old when I got that chair. Nowadays kids with mobility disabilities have all sorts of cool wheelchair options and even toddlers have mobility devices like ZipZacs. In fact, a friend of mine who has a child with a mobility disability made a homemade ZipZac that is very similar to the real thing and works the same way.
3 Photos: 1. textured balls; 2. High-contrast peg board. 3. toddler using wedge
Toddler AT for learning, development and play

Assistive technology doesn’t only come in handy for kids who use mobility devices. My daughter, who has multiple disabilities, has benefited from a variety of AT tools since she was born. If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that as a parent with a disability I have used a variety of low- and high-tech AT too.

My daughter has been enrolled in Early Intervention and Physical Therapy since she was five-months-old. She uses a variety of AT when she’s at therapy, but also gets the added benefit of using it at home because our Early Intervention program allows us to check-it-out for as long as it’s needed or until another child needs it. We used this wedge for a few months to help Olivia gain upper body strength and eventually be able to crawl on all fours.

We learned early on that it was easier for Olivia to see and play with high-contrast toys and so we worked with another local agency that specialized in low-vision toys. This high-contrast peg board is one of Olivia’s favorite toys, but she also loves her textured balls that come in all different sizes. The big ball is smooth, the middle size ball has hair made out of rubber and the smallest ball is rough with lumps. I should also mention that the hairy ball lights up when you shake or bounce it.

Child standing on top of two sliding drawer stairs built bathroom sink cabinet.
Sliding drawer stairs
My favorite kind of AT is homemade, like the crib we made for Olivia when she was born. In my experience, it’s typically more affordable and is more likely to fulfill a specific purpose. Another one of my parent friends has a daughter who is short stature and was having trouble using her bathroom sink to wash her hands, brush her teeth, etc. A stool sort of solved the problem, but it also took up a lot of space and still didn’t make it terribly easy to use the entire sink area. To solve the problem the family converted the storage space under the sink into two different height built-in slide and lock steps, which gives their daughter the independence she needs.

AT serves all kinds of purposes and is helpful for people of all ages. It’s also for everybody. Whether you have a disability or not, AT comes in handy for all of us. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Accessible Sports - Winter Addition

by Kirk Aranada, YO! Disabled and Proud Youth Advocate
skiier in a sit ski with poles going fast in the snow
Cross country skiing

Greetings folks! It's time for another installment of accessible sports. With the cold hitting us early this year -and to gear up for the Paralympics- we will be highlighting three competitive sports of the Paralympics: cross country skiing, sled hockey and biathlon.  All three have become extremely popular over the years and will be on full display in March for the Paralympics.  Interested in learning more about these sports or other  sports and more?  Click on this link Disabled Sports USA to find out more!

Cross country skiing has been impacted greatly by assistive technology (AT) to make it one of the premier winter sports.  The AT used is called the sit-ski which lets those that use wheelchairs enjoy this recreational and competitive sport. The sit-ski is a seat that is on a frame with two cross country skis attached at the bottom about 12 inches apart from each other, thus allowing an individual to sit with their legs extended. The skiiers use wax on the bottom of their skis to help them glide super fast. But never fear, at rental shops they do offer waxless skis for beginners.

USA sled hockey team player and a Canadian sled hockey player both go after the puck on the ice rink.
Sled Hockey

Another adaptive sport that has become hugely popular is sled hockey. Particularly in the USA, there are lots of folks following our team. The U.S. Sled Hockey team showed its dominance in the 2010 Paralympics Winter Games by winning the gold. Their goalie, Steve Cash, won an ESPN ESPY award for Best Male Athlete with a Disability!  The AT equipment that is a part of sled hockey is  similar to the sit ski. There is a frame that is attached to two skating blades and supports for being seated. However, instead of using just one hockey stick, athletes use two sticks which have multiple purposes. The athletes  have metal picks at the end of their sticks so that they can propel themselves forwards and backwards, as well as using their sticks for passing and shooting the puck. 

Last but not least is the Biathlon, which is a combination of cross country skiing and shooting, where athletes can really show their endurance.  The event has a 2.0-2.5 km course that is skied three or five times but twice within the event athletes come across two points where they must stop and shoot at two targets that are a distance of 10m away.  The AT that is used for cross country skiing was covered earlier,
2 Biathlon atheltes with their guns taking shots laying down in the snow wearing their skis
and   the AT used for shooting is also amazing.  For athletes with low vision or no vision, they are assisted with acoustic signals which helps the athlete know when they are on target.  The rifle that they are shooting with is an electronical rifle that enables the signals when aiming.  So the closer you get to the center of the target, the higher the tone will be! 

Assistive technology has paved the way for these sports to evolve and progress into the incredible competitive sports that they are today and enjoyed by many people around the world.  With still a few months to go until the Paralympics, the competitors continue to train, and excitement is building with each passing month. For some of us, the event can’t get here soon enough!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Mobile Medical Alert Devices: AT for People on the Go

By Kim Cantrell, CFILC’s Program Director

“Kim, I’ve been stuck against the closet for nearly 3 hours. I think, I think I dislocated my hip…yeah, I think so…. And I just called an ambulance and they are coming. I’ve been yelling for hours….wait, they are here…gotta go…”

picture of author's mom smiling wearing a small pendent around her neck - the mobile medical alert device
Mom wearing mobile medical alert device
And then she hung up. It was my mom. She had dislocated her hip. And questions started forming in my mind. Why was she stuck for THREE hours? What hospital was she going to? Where was my grandpa?

Later I met my mom at the hospital and learned that she completely dislocated her brand new hip that was less than three weeks old.

And no, she didn’t trip or fall. She simply turned and leaned over into her hall closet. It happened that fast, and she was stuck in an upright position.

The Decision

My mom lives with my grandfather, and we believed that if something happened to her that he would bring her a phone or would alert a family member. He is very hard of hearing and refuses to wear hearing aids or any other hearing amplification device. My mom yelled for help for hours. Grandpa couldn’t hear her. She had no other way to get his attention. Only when Grandpa decided to go to his bedroom did he find her in the hallway. That is when he brought her a phone. It was Grandpa who saved the day. (Hooray Grandpa!) But it took a long time. If she had been living alone, it would have been much longer.

Afterward, Mom decided that she needed a medical alert device. She wanted to maintain her independence and feel secure that she could call for help in an emergency.

Most medical alert systems work by having the user wear an emergency button around their neck or wrist. The base unit is plugged into the home's wired telephone line, ideally in a central location. When there is an emergency, the user pushes the button and within seconds an operator’s voice sounds loudly on the base unit and you are able to have a two-way conversation. If the operator doesn’t hear you, they immediately dispatch emergency personnel.

Why a Mobile Medical Alert Device?

picture of a base with a device similar to the size of a small wireless home phone
Mobile Medical Alert Base with GPS unit
picture of a small purse and inside of it is the unit that you carry around with you that detached from the base - about the size of a cell phone
GPS unit in purse
When I began my research into medical alert devices, I ran into a problem. My mom doesn’t have a traditional landline phone through the local phone company. Her home phone uses a technology called Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP). Most Medical Alert systems only connect to traditional landlines. I quickly learned to ask the various medical alert companies whether they connect to VOIP systems and they all said no.

Finally, after much research, we found the best option for my mom. We purchased a device that works on a cell network and has a GPS tracking unit.

Here is how it works: The unit comes with one main base. You install the base permanently in your home and there is a smaller piece that sits in the base while you are at home. This smaller piece is the GPS tracker. When you leave, you remove it from the base and carry it with you. My mom keeps it in her purse so it is always by her side. 

She wears a pendant around her neck with the emergency button. If she has an emergency far from home, she can push the button and the service triangulates the position of her purse, knowing that she is close by. She can talk to the operator through the GPS device. The only time the GPS will not work is if she is deep inside a building or parking garage that blocks reception.

We like the mobile alerts because she can call for assistance outside of her home, which traditional medical alert services don’t offer. She likes the service because she is always on the go. Her service costs about $30 a month, and the equipment was leased for free with a 6-month contract.

Close up of small pendent worn around the neck to push in case of emergency
Pendant worn around the neck
How well does it work? She has tested it multiple times both at home and around town, both accidentally and on purpose. So far an operator has answered every time both quickly and professionally. She hasn’t used the device in an actual emergency (and hopes she never has to).

My mom purchased her service in August 2012. In just one year many other companies have jumped into the mobile medical alert game and now offer systems similar to the one described above.

If you or someone you love doesn’t have a traditional landline phone or is always on the go, they may find a mobile medical alert system that will make them feel secure so they can continue their activities of daily living inside and outside of the home.

Do Your Homework!

Please research several companies and read multiple user reviews of their services. Many companies have sales people that work on commission. Please do not feel pressured to sign up when you are calling for information regardless of the “today only” discounts they offer. Make sure the service is right for you before signing up. When my mom eventually enrolled in a service, the company honored their “today only” discount over a week later.

The following is a sampling of companies that provide mobile medical alert systems:
·        Connect America   
·        eCare
·        Medical Alert
·        Mobile Help

As mentioned above, do your homework. The AT Network does not endorse or recommend any of these companies.

Have you used a medical alert device before? Please tell us about your experience in the comments box below.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Free iPad Apps

By Nubyaan Scott, Program Coordinator

1. BARD Mobile

icon for BARD symbols
The BARD Mobile app offers access to Braille and audio books from the National Library Service (NLS) Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD). BARD includes almost 50,000 books, magazines, and music scores in audio and Braille formats; and new choices are added daily. If you connect your device to a refreshable Braille display through Bluetooth, you can read the available Braille materials. You’ll have to register with a Braille and talking-book library in the NLS network of cooperating libraries before you can use the BARD Mobile app.

2. BigBrowser

BigBrowser is an internet browsing app intended to help users with low vision navigate the web more easily on their iPads. It has an extra-large keyboard and controls, expanded pinch zooming, and various color themes, which should make content easier to read. There are two downsides that I noticed: some web pages do not allow pinch zooming and if you need to type within a text field on a webpage you will have to use the iPad’s normal on-screen keyboard, along with its zoom accessibility function.

3. AbleRoad

icon that has mobility, hearing, vison, and developmental disability signs and a star AbleRoad allows you to locate, rate, and review accessible places. You can give your own access ratings in these categories: mobility, hearing, sight, and cognitive. Ratings and reviews appear in the
app and on the ableroad.com website for the AbleRoad community in your area to use. The app and the ableroad.com website were designed to be accessible by users who are blind or have low vision.

4. openWeb – Dyslexia friendly web browser

openWeb is a internet browsing app that was built to make web browsing and reading less difficult. It can be especially useful to people with Dyslexia, because its default font is “OpenDyslexic,” which was specifically designed to be easily read. Another helpful feature of the browser, is its “Reading Mode,” which formats each page to the screen’s size, in order to decrease distractions. And, in case you were wondering, the App is ad-free.

5. Alexicom AAC

icon says AT Alexicom AAC allows you to use your iPad as an Augmentative and Alternative Communication Device. There are over 2,500 pre-made pages, and over 25,000 images to choose from. The pages that you create can be accessed from any device with a web browser. This allows pages to be shared between and edited by parents and Speech Language Pathologists, while the user gets to keep their device. Pages can also be published to multiple devices, printed, or used on interactive white boards.

Please share your experiences with these apps or share others that you have found useful by writing about them in the comment box below.