Monday, October 12, 2020
Wednesday, September 2, 2020
Touch as a learning tool is very underutilized. Here's why.
photo credit: Kate Kamphius
In this second episode dedicated to tactile learning, Dr. Sheri Wells-Jensen of Bowling Green State University points out the advantages of tactile exploration, not just for the Blind but for everyone. She also discusses the cultural barriers that get between the Blind and their right to explore their world. Finally, she finishes up with a book recommendation--because apparently several writers have tried to create a "blind alien," but not all of them have done it well.
You can find Accessible Times: The UATP Podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcast, Stitcher and BuzzSprout.
1:00 – Sheri reveals that one of her interests is understanding cognition, intelligence and language. She also wonders, if we met another species, what would their thinking and language be like?
2:00 – There is a level of public misunderstanding about what blind people do and do not know about the world. For example, they would understand that a cathedral is large and impressive, but a 3D model could help them distinguish one cathedral from another.
5:45 – Looking at objects does have disadvantages, compared to feeling them. For example, it doesn’t work well in low light.
9:00 – Tactile exploration can help people understand more—not just for the Blind but for everyone. However, more and more learning is shifting to digital, which does not translate to tactile information well.
10:50 – Geerat Vermeij at UC Davis is a blind scientist who has expanded the world’s understanding of mollusks through his own tactile exploration.
11:30 – Sighted children are shown how to explore visually from the beginning, but too often blind children are told, “Don’t touch."
13:30 – 3D models can help communicate what a constellation is like, much more quickly than a description.
15:48 – Models can help you recall what an object is like, even if you have seen it before but haven’t seen it in a while
16:50 – Sheri takes on the story of the blind men and the elephant. It’s a terrible story that shows the blind men were not allowed to fully explore an elephant. But in her experience, it is very exciting to explore a live elephant—so much so that it’s hard to remember any data after the exploration is done. Models can help with that.
19:00 – Statues and kids’ toys often misrepresent the object they depict.
19:45 – One of the challenges of making a 3D model is deciding what is prototypical.
21:39 – Should a 3D model communicate color differences on a penguin that is otherwise tactilely uniform?
23:30 – A cat’s fur can vary a lot over its body. This can be tricky to represent in a model.
24:35 – Our cultural idea of touching something has limits; often the sighted person’s hand directs a child’s hands when they are touching an object.
26:00 – Does a blind child have the permission to touch an object with the same freedom that a sighted child is allowed to look at it?
28:00 – 3D models don’t just allow a detailed exploration, they also allow privacy. They let the explorer look at something for as long as they’d like, without worrying that other people are waiting.
29:30 – The idea that touch is destructive is another barrier to learning.
30:00 – A 3D printed object will have its own texture, not necessarily the texture of the thing it represents.
31:12 – So far, model technology doesn’t usually give us a 100 percent accurate picture of an item. But Sheri argues that it’s not a question of whether we can produce the models, but whether we will.
32:00 – Sheri leaves us will a book recommendation for a well-written, “blind alien” book: The Darkling Sea by James Cambias.
Monday, August 17, 2020
|Jennifer, David and the iPad|
Last month, David Kojorski received an iPad with a protective case, through a small grant from the Utah Assistive Technology Program. Since then, his mother, Jennifer, has noticed some changes in her son, who is Autistic.
"He seems happier that he has another way that he can get what he wants," she said. "When he got it, he definitely got this, 'I'm so fly' attitude."
The communication program on the iPad has pictures of things he wants: juice, chicken nuggets, his favorite Buzz Lightyear toy. He touches the pictures to let his family know what he wants, and the iPad--now a communication device--says the words.
"At first he didn't repeat what it says, but now he does," said Jennifer. "With this, he'll be able to perfect the sounds and grow his vocabulary. ... The sounds are coming out."
The family wouldn't have been able to receive the iPad without the small grant, Jennifer said. "Not now. Not with COVID destroying everything."
The Utah Assistive Technology Program offers small grants of up to $400 for people who need a device. Some income restrictions apply. UATP also offers reduced-interest loans to help people purchase the devices they need. For more information, visit the UATP financing page.
Tuesday, August 11, 2020
|Tom Boman, rear left, had an organizing party at UATP in Salt Lake City, then invited friends and volunteers to join in a celebration lunch back in 2019. Pictured here with Ken Reid (front), Thomas Williams, Michael Luecke and Ed Patillo.|
By JoLynne Lyon
Tom Boman has left the Utah Assistive Technology Program in Salt Lake City. We wish him the best, and we are not alone. He helped many hundreds of Utahns get rolling.
“It’s quite common for some of the mobility devices we transfer to almost become an extension of people’s bodies,” he said in an earlier interview. He has a great sense of humor, but he took the job of giving, improving and restoring clients' mobility seriously.
In the four years I’ve been with the Utah Assistive Technology Program, I’ve talked to a steady stream of people who needed mobility equipment, and found it with Tom’s help. Some didn’t have insurance. Some had insurance, but their provider’s requirements would not allow them to get a new chair when it was needed. Typically insurance pays for a new chair every 5 years, but children grow, chairs break, warranties expire and needs change. Sometimes, even when insurance provides a chair, it’s only after months of waiting. Tom and UATP helped to bridge those gaps for people who still needed to move.
“What a godsend,” said Steven Bryggman of Salt Lake City in an earlier interview. “I have a chair that’s reliable. I still have my independence.”
“Tom’s a lifesaver,” said Shelly Lund of Ability 1st in Provo, who turned to Tom to help fill the needs of her clients. “If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t be able to help as many people throughout the year.”
“I’m so independent in [my chair], I feel like a movie star,” said Karen Duckworth of Magna.
If you needed a piece of mobility equipment, Tom would find you one, and the fee was almost always lower than an insurance deductible.
He did it all by receiving and refurbishing donated wheelchairs, taking some apart so that their parts could be used on others, and—here is the hard part—keeping track of it all. He pulled in volunteers and worked alongside them, fueled by classic rock and Red Vines licorice.
“When he came to us from Deseret Industries on their work exchange program, I had only worked with him for a week and realized that he would be perfect for UATP in Salt Lake City,” said Clay Christensen, a former UATP coordinator. “His organizational skills were absolutely amazing. His ability to collaborate and work with anyone in the community was so essential to the growth and development of that program. To that end he did a wonderful job.
“I will always cherish the time that I got to work alongside Tom. It was a great run.”
UATP is searching for its next SLC coordinator. To find out more, go to Utah State University’s Jobs Page, click “Join Us!” and look for job #2020-2804.
In the interim, Logan coordinator Dan O’Crowley will go to Salt Lake City on Tuesdays and Thursdays to work with clients and volunteers. New clients and equipment donations to the Salt Lake City facility are accepted by appointment only. To make an appointment, call UATP in Salt Lake City at 801-887-9390 or email Carolyn Lynch.
Wednesday, August 5, 2020
|Caroline Karbowski, founder, See3D|
In this episode, we meet Caroline Karbowski, founder of See3D, an organization that manages the printing and distribution of 3D models for the Blind. She's a student at Ohio State University who is building a network of volunteer printers.
We also meet several people who have used the service, who raise some fascinating questions about tactile learning. Lindsay Yazzolino, a Boston-area tactile designer, challenges the notion that "blind" means "sensory-impoverished." Tactile learning is a rich experience, she said.
We will explore tactile learning more in September's episode, in an interview with Sheri Wells-Jensen of Bowling Green State University.
1:00 - Caroline Karbowski tells how she started See3D, which began as a way to create models from unused 3D printer filament. It is now an official nonprofit.
4:40 - Caroline talks about the number of models the network has printed (more than 800 at the time of this recording).
5:12 - The Ohio Braille Challenge, a braille reading contest, is a big requester of models. The latest one was space-themed, with a lot of constellations.
5:45 - Caroline describes who does the printing, including her, her friends, educators and volunteers.
7:18 - She is hoping to expand her network. Files are being shared on Thingiverse.
11:25 - Heiley Thurston talks about her experience with tactile learning. She used a model to better understand a fly.
12:09 - Bugs are popular requests.
12:33 -Lindsay Yazzolino, a tactile designer from the Boston area, talks about making hand-catching experiences--including a giant model of the human brain (done through a project outside of See3D).
14:36 - Rachel Hage, a certified assistive technology instruction specialist, used a 3D printed model of an eye to help her in her studies
16:25 - 3D models are a serious way to learn.
18:20 - 3D models of mummies allow people to explore a mummy without damaging it.
19:00 - Rachel used a 3D printed iPhone to help students understand how to use one.
24:55 - Caroline would love to connect with more people and inspire more creators. Maybe people who have to do a model for homework can do an assignment that would help people better understand the things around them.
26:05 - Lindsay argues against the notion that being blind means being deprived of sensory experience.
27:05 - The next episode will explore the concept of tactile learning in more depth, featuring an interview with Sheri Wells-Jensen. Watch for it on September 2!
Monday, July 6, 2020
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 allow 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
|Photo by from|
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
|The face shield can be modified to be shorter |
or narrower, depending on what works
for the wearer.
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.”
|Diana wears her mask|
Tuesday, June 16, 2020
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
|Here's a screen shot from a Skype|
conversation with captioning.
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
|The White family poses with a PVC trike made from the plans|
that are now available on Instructables.
A therapeutic trike can cost thousands of dollars. For those families who are not able to use insurance to purchase one,
The PVC trikes are rated for children up to 50 pounds, and they can be built for around $400.
Interested in building a therapeutic trike? Here are your options.
Outside of Utah:
You can download the instructions. If 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.
Thursday, April 9, 2020
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
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
Online meeting accessibility
Captioning online meetingsSkype 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
For people with print disabilities
On making accessible materials
Sunday, April 5, 2020
The university and community members have teamed up to produce and distribute more than 1650 face shields to health care workers and first responders, some of whom are in very rural areas where supplies were low and the need was great.
We thank our volunteer Mike Stokes for his coordination of this effort. If you want to be added to the list of people who can help us produce the shields should the need arise again, please email him at mvstokes[at]gmail.com.
And thanks also to the many partners who have helped produce face shields!
Some history for this project
The Utah Assistive Technology Program at Utah State University coordinated with the College of Engineering in an effort to produce face shields that can be used by health care workers as personal protective equipment, after receiving requests for at least 1650 of these face shields for health care workers and first responders. The design fits over eyeglasses or safety goggles.
Mike Stokes and his son Jonathan remixed an open source design for face shields to ensure that it would fit over glasses or goggles and it could be sanitized. It consists of a headband and earpieces that can be 3D printed, laser cut or made on a CNC (computer numerical control) router. The face shield portion is made from overhead projector transparency sheets.
Files are available for the following:
- 3D printers
- CNC Router
- Laser Cutter
For more information on other UATP projects, learn about affordable, therapeutic PVC trikes.
Wednesday, April 1, 2020
|2020 has thrown us a few surprises, but the 2020 Census is still on. Be counted for your community! |
Photo by Lukas Kloeppel from Pexels.
We support census activities because Utahns with disabilities matter! Be counted, complete your census survey early. It only happens every 10 years, and it has a powerful impact on our lives.