New Video! AT Regional Center Public Service Announcement

Many thanks to Ally Donnelly of NBC 10 Boston for covering the Grand Re-opening of the AT Regional Center in Boston which is managed by Easterseals Massachusetts. NBC 10 created a wonderful public service announcement that has been airing to promote MassMATCH and Easterseals MA. The video is now captioned and available for sharing.

Check it out! You can also read about the re-opening of the center.

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Apps for Accessible Handouts and Worksheets

A child works on a worksheet with colored pencils.

Students with print disabilities often need to hear a handout or worksheet read aloud. Some students may also need a way to markup that worksheet using a keyboard or another digital means or tool.

Looking for a single app that can both read a worksheet aloud (on the fly) and allow a student to add or highlight text?

Two apps were recommended on the QIAT listserv (our favorite source for AT Tips for Education)

One: Snap and Read ($3.99/mo.)

Even a photo image of a handout can be read aloud with the OCR (optical character recognition) provided by Snap and Read. Text-to-speech includes synchronized text highlighting and words may be translated into other languages. Markup options include highlighting and adding text. Files may be saved to Google Drive, One Drive or downloaded. The app works with iOS devices and the Chrome browser for use with websites and Google Docs.

Two: Claro PDF Pro ($9.99 iOS only)

Claro PDF Pro also converts image files to readable text (OCR). Purchase of the app provides 5,000 page credits for the Claro Cloud conversion service (more credits may be purchased). Files may be converted from multiple apps such as Notes, Safari, Photos. The app’s text-to-speech uses a human-quality voice and four voices are available to choose from for reading in different languages. There is also a free non-Pro version to consider which may work for some classrooms (iOS only, the Android version does not include markup).

A third option to consider for making your worksheet accessible involves two apps: Voice Dream Scanner ($5.99 iOS only) for OCR and then the Apple’s Notes app for markup guided by Apple’s native screen reader. Likely the Notes app will soon provide OCR across iOS devices, and a separate scanning app won’t be necessary (Notes does this already with some Apple hardware). Currently, on most hardware, Notes will create a PDF, but as an image only. Read more about Notes.

To avoid the need to convert a hardcopy handout to an accessible digital file, consider Creating Accessible Digital Worksheets and Quizzes with Google Forms.

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8 Great Sources for Free E-Books

Illustration of three black children and the caption,

Screenshot from the Storyline Online production of To Be a Drum, by Evelyn Coleman. Illustrated by Aminah Robinson.

Do you have a student who needs access to e-books (perhaps to both hear and see text), but does not qualify for Learning Ally or Bookshare?

The question was raised on a popular listserv for educators and Assistive Technology (AT) Specialists. Below are 8 sources to know about. Enjoy! And thank you to the AT and Reading Specialists who generously share their knowledge and expertise through QIAT.

Farfaria

Get a free picture book every day with the FarFaria App (iOS or Android). FarFaria provides stories read aloud by professionals. Text highlighting is an option. Kindergarten to grade 3.  Also a subscription service.

TumbleBookLibrary

Ask if your school or public library subscribes to TumbleBook. If they do, you have access to hundreds of animated talking picture books, narrated chapter books and graphic novels, as well as videos from National Geographic. Books are streamed from a web browser or on the Tumblebook app.

Storyline Online

This is not exactly a source for e-books, yet an incredible free resource for high-quality narrated stories. Made possible by the Screen Actors Guild Foundation, Storyline Online provides captioned videos of famous actors reading aloud picture books accompanied by music and animated illustrations (yes, the original illustrations!)  Check out Betty White reading Harry the Dirty Dog or James Earl Jones reading To Be a Drum (and disclosing he didn’t read aloud until age 14 because of stuttering and dyslexia). Lots of inspiration for young readers and pre-readers, here. There’s a Vimeo player option for an ad-free experience too.

Rivet

Over 3,500 free leveled picture books are available via Google’s new free app for learning to read. Created by engineers interested in applying machine learning to literacy software, Rivet does more than offer text to speech with synchronized text highlighting. It will listen to students practice reading, coach on the pronunciation of words, and provide points and badges for encouragement, tracking progress. Significantly, the app also translates and defines words for more than 24 languages. Available for Android and iOS devices, Chromebooks, and even Kindle Fire.

Digital Book Index

This is a comprehensive source for free, downloadable and web-based e-books with support for iPad, Kindle and Nook. Over 165,000 full-text digital books from commercial and non-commercial publishers, universities and more. 85% of the content is free. Some files may be compatible with apps such as Voice Dream Reader for a text-to-speech experience. This is a source for classic and contemporary fiction and non-fiction for adults as well as children.

Bookshare

Bookshare is a comprehensive ebook subscription service (free to users with qualifying disabilities), but it allows anyone to read public domain books using their Bookshare web reader.

Tar Heel Reader

TarHeelReader.org is a place to find and write easy-to-read accessible books on a range of topics. All content is read from the Tar Heel Reader website and may be speech enabled and accessed with a range of assistive devices (including switches). Tar Heel Reader is celebrated as a book source for adult emerging readers who too frequently must learn to read with content made for children.

Open eBooks

Thousands of popular books are available free to qualifying communities through Open eBooks. Students do not have to prove a print disability. Teachers and librarians who work with low-income students, students from military families or students in special education can join Open eBooks and provide access codes. The Open eBooks app may be downloaded for use with iOS and Android devices and texts may be read aloud using their built-in text-to-speech features.

Happy reading!

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Welcome Elano – AT Specialist in Western Massachusetts

Introducing Elano Dallmeyer, new AT Specialist for the AT Regional Center (ATRC) of Western Massachusetts!

Elano was hired this past summer by UCP of Western Massachusetts which operates the MassMATCH ATRC.

He couldn’t be happier.

Smiling headshot of a man from his webcam

Elano Dallmeyer

“This is a dream job. I get to apply what I love to working with people for a better quality of life. It’s incredible.”

Last week, MassMATCH had a chance to catch up with Elano and learn what brings him to UCP and what excites him about his new position. His enthusiasm was contagious.

“When I heard about the job, I thought, ‘Oh, here’s my job. That’s what I’m supposed to do!'”

Elano explained he has a background in IT but as a technologist, he’d discovered the work wasn’t enough. “I tried the corporate thing, but it wasn’t for me,” he reflects.

He’s a people person.

Before joining UCP, Elano had been working at a residential school for girls who’d experienced trauma. There he’d developed and coordinated activities and provided direct care, including for students with developmental disabilities. Eventually, he’d moved into a teaching assistant position and enjoyed instructing computer classes. “I’ve developed a lot of patience,” he says.

Now, at UCP, Elano is exploring and demonstrating equipment and traveling to homes to set up smart home technology and other solutions for improved independence.

He says he’s delighted by the collision of mainstream technology with assistive technology–the “unintended consequences” of tech developed for everyone that’s proving to be life-transforming for some.

“Installing a Ring Doorbell means people with disabilities have security they’ve not had before,” he emphasizes. “They can let in their PCAs [personal care attendants] and not just leave the door unlocked all the time.”

It’s clear, talking to Elano, that here is a gregarious nerd, as well as someone who brings a light approach to their work.

In a blink, he’s talking about gaming.

“I’m a career gamer,” he confesses and then explains how this is foundational to his perspective on technology and the work at hand. “Gaming teaches problem-solving and motor skills. So much tech innovation is coming from gaming. VR [Virtual Reality], especially. It’s transforming how we tell stories.”

Already he’s bringing this mindset to the ATRC. UCP recently acquired an Oculus Rift S VR headset to explore opportunities for UCP clients. Elano is excited about VR’s potential. “Sensory therapy, social-emotional learning, life skills. Virtual travel! This is on the forefront technology and we’re tracking it here at UCP.”

Is it all about the high tech for Elano? We wondered, and asked…

“Oh no. Some of my favorite devices? Adaptive grip turners! They make such a difference and are so satisfying for users.”

Welcome to your dream job, Elano. We’re delighted to have you.

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Accessible Xfinity TV Now At The Boston ATRC

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.)

Equipment is displayed on open shelving and see-through drawers on two walls along with a wall-mounted TV.

A view of the new Boston ATRC space.

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.

A woman seated in a powerchair with mounted joysticks gazes at a laptop on a counter. A TV is mounted on the wall above. A man and a woman stand to one side smiling surrounded by shelved equipment.

Adriana using the accessible remote with her own AT

“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.

a set of three virtual keypads

The Xfinity virtual remote display

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!)

Joyous ribbon cutting ceremony with balloons and smiles.

Paul Medeiros cuts the ribbon on the Boston ATRC October 30th, 2019. Ann Shor, Catherine Bly, and Adriana Mallozzi look on.

“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.”

Find the MassMATCH ATRC closest to you.

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Ramping Up to 100 in Hanover

A man seated in a wheelchair surrounded by a kneeling man and two women behind. They are in a livingroom.

Henry Oliveira with his son and daughters in Hanover, MA.

What could a set of portable ramps make possible for your family?

When Kristi Peak-Oliveira’s father-in-law, Henry Oliveira, turned 100 this past summer, he was ready to party. But only if the gathering took place at Kristi and Jeff’s house in Hanover.

The thought of it filled Kristi with dread.

While Henry is in great health, his mind sharp, and he doesn’t look a day over 80, he’d nearly fallen the last time he’d come to visit her, just entering the house with his walker.

“It was very scary,” she says, “and it’s only two steps up from the garage!”

Kristi suggested the party happen at Henry’s assisted living residence, instead, where it is fully accessible for his walker and wheelchair. But Henry didn’t like the idea. Then he said didn’t want the party at all.

“He went back and forth about it,” she says, “until  finally he decided he did want the party,  but only if it were at our house.” That’s when she saw how important it was to him.

“So I told the family, Ok, if it’s happening here, then I’m calling for ramps. I’m definitely calling for ramps.”

A house with portable ramps leading from the lawn to the front doorway.The ramps, she knew, would come from the MassMATCH short-term device loan program: wheelchair-accessible ramps that are portable and temporary and which anyone can borrow–at no charge–for 4 weeks at a time.

Kristi works for Easterseals MA and has a long history of borrowing equipment from the MassMATCH device loan program for use with clients. As a speech-language pathologist, Kristi has often borrowed devices in the category of augmentative alternative communication (AAC), but the loan program includes a wide range of assistive technology including equipment for wheelchair users such as pressure mapping technology, portable scales, and portable ramps.

“A lot of people don’t know you can get ramps this way,” she acknowledges. “Or they don’t think of it. But it was seamless and easy and Henry was right. Our house was the best place for his party.”

To borrow the equipment, Kristi went to the MassMATCH online inventory webpage and requested two ramps she thought she’d need: a ramp for the stairs leading to her front door and a threshold ramp to help Henry enter.

Once her request was made, Kristi heard from her colleague Catherine Bly in the Boston AT Regional Center. Easterseals operates this center for MassMATCH as well as an ATRC in Worcester.

Catherine confirmed with Kristi that the ramps she’d ordered were appropriate for the number of steps and their rise and for Henry’s wheelchair. (The ramp length needed depends on a formula and the formula is different if the user has a power wheelchair or a manual chair.)

About a week before Henry’s party, Ebert, a longtime employee of Easterseals brought the ramps to Kristi and Jeff’s home. “Ebert provides a great service,” she says. “He sets up the ramps and takes them down after the loaner period. He also problem-solves your location. In our case, he studied our doors and entryways and confirmed where we should put them.”

On the day of the party, Henry was impressed as he rolled into the house with ease, but it was everyone else’s reaction that most struck Kristi. “Everyone was so appreciative. And they couldn’t believe how simple it was to arrange for the ramps through MassMATCH.” She says it’s why she wanted to do this story and why she posted about it on Facebook. “More people need to know how easy it is to borrow ramps!”

As for the party, she acknowledges, their house was the best place to have it. Henry had been right. “He was so happy to be there with everyone, and it was easy to show home movies and videos. We looked at parties from the 80s and called out when we recognized friends and family. We had a really good time.”

A man seated in a wheelchair and woman with her arm around his shoulders, smile for the camera.

Henry Oliveira and Kristi Peak-Oliveira

In the future, Kristi says this is definitely a service she will use again. “We love having Henry here and it is a huge relief to know we can get him in and out of the house safely.” She’ll just plan ahead with MassMATCH.

What could a set of portable ramps make happen for your family? Call your AT Regional Center and discuss the possibilities or any other equipment that might make the upcoming holidays more inclusive and enjoyable for all.

 

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Pressure Mapping and Adaptive Scales Demonstration September 18th

A man suspended seated in a sling lift beside another man seated in a wheelchair holding a remote control.

Eric Oddleifson (sling lift) and Robert Billotta (with remote control).

Learn about scales for wheelchair users and digital pressure mapping technology available to borrow at no cost.

When?

Thursday, September 18th
10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Where?

The MassMATCH AT Regional Center at Easterseals Massachusetts
484 Main Street, 6th floor
Worcester, MA

RSVP by Sept. 10th

Or just learn more. Contact:
Robbert Billota, ATRC Coordinator Worcester
508-751-6495
rbillotta@eastersealsma.org

The Weight and Seating Independence Project (WSIP) provides scales for wheelchair users and digital pressure mapping technology (PMT). MassMATCH is making this essential equipment available to individuals with disabilities, family members, caregivers, and other professionals. Participants will learn how to use pressure mapping technology and adaptive scales. All equipment is available to borrow for up to 30 days through the short-term device loan program.

Learn to prevent pressure injuries and take control of your health!

 

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Registration Now Open! Free ICT Accessibility Training Opportunity

Two full days of training to introduce and get you started with accessible information and communication technology (ICT).

Training

When and Where is this Event?

September 23rd and/or 24th, 2019, at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Boston Waltham.
One and two-day registration options are available.

What will be Taught?

Learn about web accessibility and how to make accessible Microsoft Word docs, PowerPoints, and Adobe PDF files. Learn about the laws and standards that help ensure information is readable and usable by a wide audience, including seniors and individuals with disabilities.

Who Should Attend?

The trainings are appropriate for a range of participants including web content managers and designers, policy and legal staff, and anyone who uses MS Word, PowerPoint or who needs to create accessible PDF files. 

What’s the Cost?

There is no registration fee for this event. Only 50 tickets will be issued for each day of training. Your ticket is your commitment to attend. Meals are provided at no charge both days. A block of rooms has been reserved for those needing lodging at a rate of $179/night.

What More Do I Need to Know?

Certificates of Completion will be awarded to attendees who complete training sessions and corresponding evaluations (at the conclusion of either or both days of training).

Participants of Day 2 will have the best experience if they come with Microsoft Office 2013 (or newer) for Windows, and Adobe Acrobat Pro DC installed on their computers.

Learn More and Register

About the Trainers

Rob Carr

Rob is the ICT Accessibility Program Manager for Oklahoma ABLE Tech, Oklahoma’s Assistive Technology Act Program housed at Oklahoma State University. Rob helps organizations to embrace inclusion through technology. He trains and guides state agencies, higher education institutions and the occasional private sector partner to make accessibility efforts into sustainable programs. From high-level topics like accessibility in procurement and building accessibility initiatives to the nuts and bolts of PDF and web accessibility, Rob makes accessibility something that organizations can fit into their existing operations. Rob works closely with peer Assistive Technology Act Programs around the country to provide training and technical assistance around technology accessibility. Rob also speaks at local and national conferences on various accessibility-related topics and organizes Oklahoma’s statewide accessibility conference, TechAccessOK. Rob is an IAAP Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies and an ACTCP Certified ADA Coordinator.

Lyssa Prince

Lyssa is an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Accessibility Coordinator with Oklahoma ABLE Tech. She graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a Masters of Library and Information Studies degree in 2015 and applies the user-centered approaches from the information world to accessibility. Lyssa enjoys digging into websites and applications to test how accessible they are for all users, and she finds it especially exciting when this testing leads to providing targeted feedback for organizations. In addition to accessibility testing, she provides training and technical assistance on accessibility topics such as Adobe PDF, Microsoft Office, and accessibility testing to various groups across the state of Oklahoma.

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Coming Soon: ICT Accessibility Training Opportunity

""Save the Date: September 23rd and 24th, 2019.

MassMATCH is hosting two full days of training to introduce and get you started with creating accessible information and communication technology (ICT). This event is free!

Learn about web accessibility and how to make accessible Word Docs, PowerPoints and Adobe PDF files. Learn about the laws and standards that help ensure information is readable and usable by a wide audience, including seniors and individuals with disabilities.

Our lead presenter will be Rob Carr, ICT Accessibility Program Manager with Oklahoma ABLE Tech. Rob is an IAAP Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies and an ACTCP Certified ADA Coordinator.

The trainings are appropriate for a range of participants including web content managers and designers, policy and legal staff, anyone who uses MS Word, PowerPoint or who needs to create accessible PDF files. A one or two-day option will be available at registration. The event will take place at the Embassy Suites by Hilton in Waltham, Massachusetts.

More details and registration information is coming soon!

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Use a Power Wheelchair? Pilot the Loro Robot!

Pilot Program Seeks Wheelchair Users to Trial Robotic Assistive Device

Loro Co. is a start-up developing a unique robotic device mountable to a power wheelchair or bedside. The robot is a rotating orb with a camera, speaker, and an app for a tablet computer. Loro may be controlled with eye-gaze or another input so that users can see 360 degrees (with pan and tilt and a flashlight), speak more fluidly, gesture with a laser and control their environment (with smart home integration).

The start-up is based in Boston at the Harvard innovation lab and in D.C. at the Halcyon incubator. The inventors recently met with Catherine Bly at the AT Regional Center in Boston and she was impressed with their enthusiasm and commitment to their mission!

If you or someone you know would be interested in piloting this cutting-edge assistive device, sign up at the Loro website. The site identifies individuals with ALS, Multiple Sclerosis, Spinal Cord Injury, Muscular Dystrophy and others as appropriate pilot participants.

See Loro in action
Sign up for Loro

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