Monday, July 6, 2020

UATP'S "Accessible Times" podcast launches now!

Accessible tech from Microsoft: Don't forget the packaging!

Solomon Romney and Valeria Rodriguez of Microsoft

The first episode of Accessible Times: The UATP Podcast is now live! You can listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher—and it’s coming soon to many more services. You can also listen from the podcast website.

In this episode, we sat down with Solomon Romney, project manager for the Inclusive Tech Lab at Microsoft,  and Valeria Rodriguez, community development specialist for the City Creek Microsoft Store in Salt Lake City.

Together, they discuss the "why" of accessible technology. 

Resources from Solomon:

Microsoft Accessibility Features: "The single largest, most comprehensive list of Microsoft's accessibility features in the world. It has a step-by-step how-to guides, instructional videos, and download links organized by need group. It is updated regularly by our Disability Answer Desk Team."

Disability Answer Desk:(Microsoft) "This is a dedicated support team to assist people with using accessible technology. Many of them are people with disabilities who use the products they support, so their help is more knowledgable and empathetic than what you would find in a general support line."

Show notes:

0:30 - Game controllers used to be designed with certain assumptions. (Strength to hold it, motor skill to use it, ten fingers.)

4:00 - It's about reducing barriers, and they run the gamut. Low or no vision, low or no hearing, it runs across the spectrum. 

5:20 - It's not just about work, it's about entertainment.

6:40 - Examples of what you can do now that you couldn't do before.

8:00 - Learning tools for education that allows students to learn at their own pace, while teachers can customize to individual needs.

8:55 - Live captioning in PowerPoint allows everyone to be included, easily. "If it's hard, it's really not accessible," says Valeria.

14:00 - Solomon starts cataloging all the accessible features available at Microsoft.

18:00 - What problems are people trying to solve with assistive technology? "What I tell teachers is, you don't know. You don't know who's going to walk into your classroom on that first day of school," Valeria said. "That's why it's important to keep it broadly accessible.

21:20 - The harder conversation is the culture shift toward a design that includes everybody.

22:40 - Microsoft's Hackathon has produced some game-changing innovation in the accessibility field. "We get to work on whatever we want. ... You get to pull from people from all over the world to work on whatever matters to you," Solomon said.

25:31 - Solomon tells the story of Microsoft's packaging for its accessible Xbox adaptive controller. "I said, 'If I can't open this package with my left hand (which has no fingers)... then we have failed.'" 



Thursday, July 2, 2020

UATP, area agencies on aging and independent living centers team up to fight isolation

an older man uses an iPad
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

In the wake of the pandemic, Area Agencies on Aging and two Centers for Independent Living in Utah will renew their focus on technology that fights isolation. They are bringing in more devices and collaborating with the Utah Assistive Technology Program to loan them to those who need it. 


It’s part of a federal program to ease isolation and address the need for food and transportation that arose due to COVID-19. The pandemic closed many senior centers and required staff members to offer services from home. Not surprisingly, one of the most-felt needs is for technology to help seniors and people with disabilities to connect virtually with friends, family, and medical providers. The CARES act has made funds available to the Utah Aging & Disability Resource Center (ADRC) to support Area Agencies on Aging, senior centers, two Centers for Independent Living and UATP to help alleviate all those needs.


UATP’s loan bank—and the loan banks of Roads to Independence and Ability 1st independent living centers—will include iPads, stocked with communications apps that can help seniors connect. 


“As people are spending more time at home and less time with caregivers or other people, we are wanting them to turn to us to live that more independent life,” said Logan UATP coordinator Dan O’Crowley. 


Whether he’s working with an individual, a family or a professional looking to help a senior borrow a device, his advice is the same: Find out what the user’s end goal is. If they are looking to borrow an iPad, how do they need to communicate? Would they benefit from subtitles? UATP has compiled lists of communication apps for at-home use as well as resources for learning and working at home.


Once the needs are identified, O’Crowley said he makes sure the iPad has the needed technology while also ensuring it is as simple to use as possible.

Independence-giving devices include a lot more than iPads, and UATP is ready to connect people with the high- or low-tech items they need, including aids to daily living and mobility devices. Contact Dan O’Crowley in Logan and Cameron Cressall in the Uintah Basin. Due to the pandemic they will provide services by appointment only. Some demonstrations can be offered virtually.


UATP’s Salt Lake City facility is not open to new clients at this time.


In addition, independent living centers and UATP are all finding ways to continue helping their clients while safeguarding their health. Schedules and practices have changed due to the pandemic, so it is important to call before you come. (You can find your local independent living center on the Utah State Independent Living Council website.) 


Utah’s senior centers will also help address food and transportation needs. 


For more information on how the pandemic affects UATP’s services, read this post.


Wednesday, June 17, 2020

UATP joins effort to make face shields for individual needs

Dan points to a snap on the headband of the face shield
The face shield can be modified to be shorter 
or narrower, depending on what works
for the wearer.

Cathie Chansamone's daughter, Diana, needs to wear personal protective equipment. She has developmental delays, has had pneumonia, and is at high risk for complications or death from COVID-19. 

Diana also has sensory issues, she didn’t like wearing a traditional face mask, and she did not keep them on. So Cathie worked with Dan O’Crowley, Logan coordinator of the Utah Assistive Technology Program, to create an alternative that would keep Diana safe.


The result: a visor with a shield that snaps onto the headband. The design keeps the shield farther away from Diana’s face than other designs, and that made the shield easier to tolerate. “She likes it,” Cathie said. “We tried it for the first time today at the doctor’s office, and she wore it.” 


“A face mask can be too claustrophobic,” O’Crowley said. “So a face shield is a good second option.”

Related link: Student creates transparent masks for the Deaf and hard of hearing community.


Diana wears her mask
The design can be modified so that the shield is shorter or narrower, to fit the needs of the individual. It is easy to clean with a bleach solution or disinfectant wipes.

“It’s just life-saving,” Cathie said. “I knew we wouldn’t be able to go out without it.”


Do you have a need for customized personal protection equipment? Contact Dan O'Crowley in Logan and Cameron Cressall in the Uintah Basin.



Tuesday, June 16, 2020

UATP seeks new SLC coordinator

Update: This position has been filled.

a UATP volunteer smiles from his wheelchair at UATP in SLC
The Utah Assistive Technology Program is hiring in Salt Lake City!  
We help people like Isamael receive refurbished,  
affordable mobility equipment.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Ways to see Mom (virtually) on Mother's Day

Woman with this caption: Uh, it's actually been pretty nice lately. It warmed up. We've gotten up to close to high 60s, maybe 70 or 72....
Here's a screen shot from a Skype
conversation with captioning.
By JoLynne Lyon

My family is one of many that is trying to keep the communication lines open during the quarantine. Mom lives in a community for seniors that has closed its doors to visitors, and it doesn't look like the rules will change before Mother's Day.

If you're in the same situation, here are some ways to see your loved one long-distance.

1. Skype. This is available to Microsoft users. Its biggest advantage over other video chat apps is that it provides auto-captioning and you can have up to 50 people on a call. My daughter and I have tested it a couple of times, and while there is a time lag, the captioning is decent. Microsoft account holders can download it to their desktop or find it in their mobile device's App Store.

2. Zoom. (Available via computer desktop or app.) While it's touted as a business meeting app, anybody can create a free account and set up a meeting for up to 100 of your closest friends and relatives. An advantage Zoom has over other group video chat options: you can mute your mic. I've been on Facebook Messenger video chats with background noise that was overwhelming. You'll have to keep the call to under 40 minutes on the free plan, though.

3. Whereby and Cisco Webex. These, like Zoom, have free versions. I have not tried them personally, but Webex has upgraded its free plan to allow up to 100 people to meet as long as they want. Whereby allows up to 4 participants in secure calls with easy to read links.

4. Facebook Messenger. This app is built into Facebook website. The app is free, and you can include up to 50 people on a call.

5. Facetime. The app is free to Apple users, and it allows up to 50 people.

You can find more hints on ways to learn, work and communicate accessibly in this blog post.

I'm sure there are more options out there, so if you have a suggestion, leave us a comment!

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Plans for an affordable, therapeutic PVC trike now available

The White family poses with a PVC trike made from the plans
that are now available on Instructables.
Warmer weather is coming! A bike ride is a great way to pass the quarantine. And this year, UATP volunteer Mike Stokes has found a way help young children who are working on their walking skills to join in the fun.

A therapeutic trike can cost thousands of dollars. For those families who are not able to use insurance to purchase one, 
plans for a PVC therapeutic trike are available on Instructables, an open source website. They include directions for cutting and assembling the PVC, plus links to sites that sell the needed materials. They also include Solidworks files for parts that require fabrication.

The PVC trikes are rated for children up to 50 pounds, and they can be built for around $400.

The trikes help children work on skills like walking and crawling in a way that doesn’t feel like work. Graham White is still working on his walking skills, and he loves to use a trike. “We’re trying to train his brain as well as muscle memory, and the bike is the best way to do that,” said his mother, Brandy.

Interested in building a therapeutic trike? Here are your options.

In Utah:

Purchase the items listed in the Instructibles directions. Feel free to reach out to UATP in Logan (Dan O'Crowley) or the Uintah Basin (Cameron Cressall) for assistance in putting it together.  

Outside of Utah:

You can download the instructionsIf you need help with the parts that are more difficult to fabricate, your state assistive technology program may be able to help. There’s a directory of state AT programs on the AT3 website.

UATP thanks volunteer Mike Stokes for helping develop this project, and the JR Stokes Foundation for supporting its development. 

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Resources for people with disabilities learning/working at home

a man stares at his laptop screen

By JoLynne Lyon

Here is a list of resources to help you get through your quarantine. Check back--we'll keep updating!

Accessibility apps and software features

Apple resources:

iOS Apps for accessibility
Apple's accessibility page

Microsoft resources:

Accessibility tools for windows
Microsoft accessibility

Apps for specific disabilities:

List of apps for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (Utah Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing)

Wifi options for people who do not have internet at home

  • Xfinity offers Internet Essentials, a reduced-rate high-speed internet service, to qualifying customers. If you are eligible for certain public assistance programs, you may qualify. Find out more on their website.
  • Xfinity has made its hotspots open, free, to everyone during the Coronavirus quarantine, whether they are customers or not. Read more about it on their website, and find a map of hot spots in Utah (unfortunately hot spots are mostly in northern and north central Utah).
  • Sprint/T Mobile are allowing unlimited data to those with metered data plans during the Coronavirus crisis. In addition to using the service on your phone, you can use your phone as a hotspot to provide data to a laptop or tablet. You can read more on their website (you'll have to scroll down).
  • AT&T is also offering unlimited data for its customers at its public hotspot locations. AT&T does not offer a map of its hotspots but encourages you to find a hotspot locator in your phone's App Store.
  • Check with your library. The library in my small town has a sign taped on the door, letting patrons know they can use the library's wifi from the parking lot. It even has the password.

Resources for families during school closure

Check with your local school. They may be able to help you with devices and connectivity.
Includes information on using school platforms, tips on navigating distance learning, and resources for dealing with curriculum and content.

Online meeting accessibility

Using the Zoom Video Conferencing Platform with Jaws (Freedom Scientific)

Captioning online meetings

Skype offers live captioning. I've tried this, and while the captions are slow, the captioning was decent and the service was free. You can include up to 50 people on a call, but you may want to slow down the communication if you use it--there is a time lag.

 Google Hangouts Meet includes a speech to text option for meetings of up to 250 people. It requires a G Suite subscription. 

Zoom allows for closed-captioning if the captions are entered by the meeting host or participant. The free version can include up to 100 participants for up to 40 minutes; paid plans allow for up to 500 participants. Some third parties integrate with Zoom to provide captioning (More on that below.)

PowerPoint offers live captioning in presenter mode, which can be used over Zoom with screen sharing.

Microsoft Teams allows you to use live captions in meetings of up to 250 people. It requires a subscription.

Verbit (captioning) has announced new integration with Zoom. This paid service allows clients to have real-time captioning that is AI generated and human-verified and edited. 

You can automatically transcribe cloud-recorded Zoom meetings  (Zoom)

Technology for the Blind

Temporary JAWS, ZoomText and Fusion licenses are available to educators and students who are blind or have low vision. 

Special licenses have been created to assist students and workers who much remain home during the COVID-19 crisis. A free short-term Home Annual License of JAWS, ZoomText, or Fusion (expires June 30, 2020) is available to anyone with a personal email address in the United States and Canada. Find out more on their website


For people with print disabilities

In support of enabling students with print disabilities to access native PDF digital math texts, and InftyReaderGroup are making a lite version of their reader available.

On making accessible materials

Creating accessible documents (MacArthur Foundation)