Thursday, February 27, 2014

AT for College Students

You’ve done it! You’re done with high school and on to the next step in your educational career… college! 

College can be a big leap from high school and sometimes there is a transitional period for students to adjust. From getting accustomed to your new schedule and campus to learning good study methods, assistive technology can often help students succeed in their pursuit of a degree.

When it comes to
assistive technology (AT) in college, students don't always know what AT is available that can help them with studying or learning in the classroom. AT can come in many forms. Some popular examples include: the Livescribe Smartpen, JAWS Screen Reading Software, and Dragon Dictation.

picture of pen, ipad and notes and a women using them to study.  Written out on the page it says notes and audio
Livescribe Sky Wifi Smartpen
The Livescribe Sky Wifi Smartpen has become extremely useful AT that helps students in various ways. When you use this pen combined with the Livescribe’s Dot Paper, not only is the audio of the lecture captured, but the strokes and movements of your pen are recorded too and both the audio and writing are synced up together.  So, for instance, if you were to go back in your lecture notes and press down with the pen on something you wrote down earlier, it will play the audio from that point on that was recorded. This is a great way to catch everything that you may have missed while taking notes in a lecture! 

Another really cool feature is that if you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network, your notes and audio recordings will automatically be uploaded to your very own free online Evernote account with a “Sync Now” button. So with only one push of a button, all of your notes will be uploaded online!The Livescribe pen ranges in price from $149.95 for a 2GB of memory which holds 200 hours of audio, $199.95 for a 4GB version that holds 400 hours of audio and a 8GB version that holds 800 hours of audio for $249.95.

As colleges become more and more technologically advanced, they are starting to support online syllabuses, projects and assignments, and more teachers are starting to utilize online classroom resources. With tasks like these, software like JAWS Screen Reading can make the online experience of classes easier. JAWS was developed for people with low vision but can be used by many individuals with a variety of different disabilits. When you receive emails
picture of a young man in front of a computer with JAWs program on it typing
JAWS screen reading program
or homework assignments that are posted online, JAWS will read aloud word for word what is on your screen. JAWS also provides tools for navigating and accessing web pages as well as ways to look up definitions or terms. Or, if you’re taking a break from studying, you can even check out the score of your local sports team's game! Prices for JAWS very. If you were to get the professional JAWS program it will be about $1,095 but this allows you to use JAWS with almost all operating systems such as Windows XP, 95, 98, 2000, ME, and more. The standard JAWS program is $895 and allows you to work with Windows 9x and Windows XP home addition.

The last bit of AT that I want to mention is Dragon Naturally Speaking which is the best voice command and dictation out there. If you need any assistance with typing, Dragon may be the program for you! It translates your voice to text very accurately and with incredible speed. Furthermore, the more that you use the program the smarter it will become as it learns your personal words and can predict their context. Dragon comes with a tutorial that helps you learn the
picture of a young woman with a headset on and a laptop on her lap
Student using Dragon -
program right after installing it. Are you expecting emails from your professor, too? You can also use Dragon to navigate and type out emails in Gmail and Hotmail, so that way you can stay in constant contact with your professors, your family and friends. The prices of Dragon Naturally Speaking range from $75.00 - $150 for a home package all the way up to $800 for the professional version.   

These are just a few examples of some AT that can be available to help ease students into their academic life at college. In the comments section below we’d love to hear what AT you use in school or what has assisted you in succeeding in your classes. Good luck with spring semester everyone - it will fly by!

Friday, February 14, 2014

AT We LOVE - Happy Valentine's Day!

For Valentine's Day, we asked our colleagues and partners throughout California to share the different types of Assistive Technology (AT) that they adore. 

image of a heart made out of different colored tape and it says Happy Valentine's Day on the bottom.
We then compiled this list of practical, fun, time-saving and even life-saving AT to inspire our readers to try out some new AT that can improve their lives. Many of these items are available for loan or for free to Californians through our Device Lending Libraries and the AT Exchange. Enjoy!

Joe Escalante, San Jose: 
The AT that I love is my voice dictation on my iPhone.  It allows me to speak just about each and every word I mean to use.  This saves me so much time from having to type every letter out on a regular keyboard. And it accepts some of the same commands that are used with Dragon on the computer.

Karen Marshall, Hayward:
The AT Device I love is the Williams Sound Ultra Pocketalker. Over the years I have seen
picture of a pocketalker - a grey box about the size of a deck of cards with a small mic and an earpiece
Williams Sounds Pocketalker
it make dramatic changes to people’s lives. It has saved marriages and improved family relationships. The tone adjusting feature enables many people to hear when hearing aids did not work. It has brought people out of isolation. One time I introduced the pocketalker to a gentleman and he could hear his wife and daughter talking about how well the pocketalker
was working for him. He suddenly broke out laughing. His wife and daughter were shocked, as that was the first time he had laughed in more than 6 months! This why I love the pocketalker.

Blair Webb, Manhattan Beach:
I love my Intellikeys keyboard, which is an alternative keyboard with larger buttons. This board helps me do work for college, communicate with friends via Facebook, and access the internet like anyone else my own age. I also know that this board will be quite useful when it's my time to search for jobs. 

Rosemarie Punzalan, Los Angeles:
The AT that I love is my Pebble E-Paper watch that is connected to my Android phone via Bluetooth. I love wearing my Pebble wrist watch because it alerts me with a silent vibration for a variety of information such as alarms, emails, phone calls, text messages, and timers. The silent vibration notifications are helpful for someone with a hearing loss (Deaf or Hard of Hearing) like myself. Below are a few introduction videos of the Pebble E-Paper watch:  
DeafTechNews (YouTube - ASL only)

Rosie McDonnell, Oceanside:
I love my Colours wheelchair! It helps me be independent and get from point A to point B. It's also a great accessory to my wardrobe (purple, lights in my front wheels and a zebra printed back). My chair also supports me and encompasses my identity as a person with a disability.

Jeff Samco, Grass Valley:
The AT I love is my Plextalk Pocket audio player. It typically has hundreds of hours of podcasts and reference materials I can listen to anytime and anywhere.

Priyanka Nookala, Davis:
One of the AT devices I love to use is my Livescribe smartpen. The pen  makes note taking so much easier because I can keep up and listen rather than thinking about copying things down.

picture of a livescribe smartpen and its features including microphone, built in speaker, memory storage and led display
Livescribe Smartpen
Amy Liu, Berkeley: 
An app on my iPhone I use all the time is called Smart Ride.  It tells me when the next bus or train is coming and where the nearby bus or train stops are as well.  Having the app allows me to plan my day based on knowing if I have missed my bus already and to  take an alternative route instead. Not being able to see the prediction at the bus stops like everyone else can be frustrating but this app allows me to gain the independence and take control of my time like everyone else.

Kevin Hansen, Sacramento:
My favorite AT device is my CPAP machine. I use it every night to keep myself alive. The two reasons I love this machine is that it keeps me alive and when I wake in the morning I feel rested and do not feel exhausted.

Justin, Grass Valley:
Picture of Justin, young blond man smiling and wearing sunglasses and a scarf and holding his white can at his side standing in front of a rocky beach with the coastline in the background
Justin on the beach in Colonia, Uruguay
I love my white cane. It does not matter how good my vision is, whether I am traveling at night or in the day, in the fog or in the clear, walking to work or walking along the beach in Uruguay, my cane allows me to be independent every day, and to live life to the fullest.

Nicona, Santa Cruz: 
The one and only iPhone; more specifically Siri! I really commend Apple for creating a device as multifunctional and accessible as the iPhone.
Ricardo Mansur, Garden Grove: 
I believe the AT device I am most passionate about and eager to see expand in service is one that most don’t often think of as an Assistive Device…Smartphones.  Smartphones offer tremendous flexibility in user interface, ease of access, communication, information, and augmentation. To be perfectly candid, I find myself rather at a loss as to why there hasn’t been greater expansion of smartphone utility. Should the technology become possible, I don’t see why a singular device could not act in lieu of OCR, AAC, and with recent advancements in touch screen technology, even Braille Displays may become a thing of the past.

Shannon Coe, Davis:
The AT I love is my modified vehicle.  It enables me to go to places quicker and put my daughter in the van safely.  I do not have to take my manual wheelchair apart and lift it over to the passenger side, which is tiring to do, especially when it is windy or rainy. I can also take my power wheelchair in the van so when I arrive at places, I have more energy to focus on more important things. 

Rachel Stewart, Sacramento: 
My grabber - handy dandy for picking stuff off the floor. 

Valerie Booth, Fremont:
The AT service I adore is captioning when I need to watch TV. Captioning gives me the ability to listen to what's being said and then viewing the context of what was being said, allowing me to process information better. This helps me greatly since I have trouble hearing, and it is a relief to be able to see text while someone is speaking so that I can understand what's happening better.

picture of a logitech trackball mouse with a large rolling ball on the top of the large mouse
Logitech Trackball Mouse
Jose Guerrero, Sacramento: 
I love the Logitech trackball mouse. This mouse limits the motion of my arm and wrists to where it allows me to be more productive with less discomfort. It has also allowed me to continue pursuing a post military career in the graphic and web design industry.

Kim Cantrell, Sacramento: 
The Pocketalker is one of my favorite pieces of AT because it was the only way I could communicate with my Grandfather. He wore the over-the-ear headphones and we were able to increase the sound volume and adjust the tone so he could hear us when we spoke into the microphone. It made all the difference.

Reyes Sandoval, Fresno:
The AT that I love is my glasses (now with bifocals) because they allow me to see the world and to read more clearly.

picture of a keyboard and on the key next to enter is a heart with an arrow through it
What assistive technology do you love? Share with us in the comment box below the AT that means a lot to you and why.  And have a happy Valentine's Day!