Check out the newly renovated center (and bring your popcorn)
MassMATCH and its partner, Easterseals MA, unveiled their renovated and re-imagined Boston Assistive Technology Regional Center (ATRC) on October 30th, complete with a new layout and some exciting new technology. In line with its mission to encourage anyone with a need to learn about and try out AT free of charge, Easterseals MA has re-visioned the Boston ATRC to be more engaging and hands-on.
“Here we can showcase technology and easily demonstrate what before had been put away in drawers and cabinets,” says Eric Oddleifson, Assistant VP of Assistive Technology and Community Support Services for Easterseals MA. “The new space has open shelving, more like the ATRC we operate in Worcester.” (Find your closest ATRC.)
Also similar to Worcester, Boston now boasts television monitors mounted to the wall connected to broadband internet. Different from Worcester, these units have a full cable TV package for browsing by visitors.
What on earth might 250+ channels have to do with AT?
It turns out, everything.
A Showcase for the Xfinity Accessible TV Remote App
Comcast is partnering with the AT Regional Center to help announce their breakthrough in TV accessibility: a web-based remote control. The ATRC grand re-opening was the perfect venue.
At the unveiling, Adriana Mallozzi, a longtime client and now board member of Easterseals MA, arrived to demonstrate. Mallozzi uses a unique, wireless, mouth-controlled joystick to operate her smartphone and computer. At the ATRC re-opening, Mallozzi used her joystick for something entirely new: complete control of a cable television box.
“Before this Comcast innovation, similar AT control of a television would require upwards of $6,000 in specialized equipment,” Oddleifson says. “We’re delighted to showcase it and in exchange, Comcast is providing our new center with broadband internet and cable TV.”
At the event, Mallozzi used her mouth and chin to navigate a wall-mounted television using her device and the Xfinity remote app. The app launched a set of virtual keypads to a laptop computer.
The remote works with all AT input devices, whatever method of computer access a user has. This includes switch scanning and eye gaze devices. It also includes Mallozzi’s Puffin joystick which she designed herself and is now raising funds to bring to the marketplace.
At the opening, attendees were dazzled to see Mallozzi channel surf with her AT that, theoretically, is not quite ready for prime time.
“Our unveiling featured a lot of cutting edge technology,” Catherine Bly, longtime ATRC Boston coordinator, says. “And what better way to demonstrate the flexibility of the new Comcast accessible remote than to also demonstrate Adriana’s innovation?”
Mallozzi appreciated the opportunity and was eager to promote not only Puffin Innovations but also the services of the AT Regional Center. “I’ve been coming to the Boston ATRC for years and years, she says, and it’s a great way to learn about and play with AT. Unless you actually try it, you don’t know if it’s going to work for you.”
Asked about her experience channel surfing with Comcast, Mallozzi was equally enthusiastic. “It’s a huge improvement over their conventional mobile app. It has everything on one screen, everything a physical remote has as well as access to all accessibility controls. The conventional mobile app requires gestures to access some functions. Now I can do everything.”
Among the additional attendees were Ann Shor, Director of Assistive Technology and Independent Living at MRC and Paul Medeiros, President and CEO of Easterseals MA who cut the ribbon on the new center. NBC10 Boston also covered the event and created a public service announcement about the ATRC (coming soon to the MassMATCH website!)
“It was a wonderful day for MassMATCH,” remarked Shor. “We learned about and celebrated not only new accessible technologies but more broadly the vital role programs like ours can have to empower and inspire a new generation to innovate.”