Archive for Assistive Technology Articles

Launching A New D.I.Y. Assistive Technology Section

At the start of the new year I am finally going to launch the D.I.Y (Do It Yourself) Assistive Technology section of the website.  This will be an exciting new area where we can all collaborate and find solutions for others that either don’t exist or that might be too costly to purchase.

This sounds easier than it really is.  No one person (especially me) has all the answers so I am calling on all of you to participate.  This is the only way that it is going to work and become successful.

I AM COUNTING ON YOU!

Please drop me an email at skip@skipkimpel.com if you would like to be part of this movement and are interested in partaking in a life change opportunity.  As soon as things get moving I will drop you an email as a reminder to come back and visit.

I look forward to seeing you back here again soon!

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Enabling Devices – Assistive Technology – Products for the Disabled

By · February 25, 2010 · Filed in Assistive Technology Articles, Special Needs Kids · No Comments »

Here is a great website, if you don’t already know about it, that contains assistive technology devices

Enabling Devices is a company dedicated to developing affordable learning and assistive devices to help people of all ages with disabling conditions.

They have a full online catalog and I would highly suggest that you get one of their catalogs as well!

Web Link: Enabling Devices – Assistive Technology – Products for the Disabled.

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Europe’s Biggest Technology Event “Techshare India 2010″ to Promote Assistive Technology for People with Disabilities inaugurated in Delhi

By · February 16, 2010 · Filed in Assistive Technology Articles · No Comments »

Saw this come across the wire this morning….

Techshare is India’s only Pan-Disability Conference and Exhibition

New Delhi, Delhi, February 15, 2010 /India PRwire/ — Techshare India 2010, India’s only technology conference and exhibition to promote assistive technology for people with disabilities was today inaugurated by Shri. Mukul Wasnik, Hon’ble Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment. The 2 day event show cases accessible products and technologies for people with disabilities. Brought to India by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (UK), BarrierBreak Technologies and National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), Techshare is one of Europe’s biggest technology events to promote accessible technology for people with disabilities.

The only activity of its kind in India, Techshare India 2010 highlights the importance of implementing accessibility standards and complying with different accessibilities laws. Techshare India 2010 also exhibits and showcase IT products and services that will allow visitors to browse through the latest in assistive technologies for people with disabilities. The exhibition showcases the role of technology in the lives of people with disabilities. In addition, web accessibility, software accessibility and accessibility on the move for mobiles and PDAs are displayed.

One of the highlights of the event is an experiential lab where visitors can get a first hand feel of what it is to have a disability and the role that assistive technology can play in the life of people with disabilities.

Speaking on the occasion, the Hon’ble Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, Shri Mukul Wasnik shared his perspective on the importance of an event like Techshare India 2010. He stressed upon the importance of making the environment inclusive and accessible to people with disabilities.

Ms. Shilpi Kapoor, Managing Director, BarrierBreak Technologies, said, “Today technology is playing a vital role in the life of people and has become a necessity but unfortunately it is equally not accessible to all – especially to people with disabilities.” “Assistive technology needs to be made available at the formative years which will empower people with disabilities to join the mainstream,” she added.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Kevin Carey, Chair, Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) said, “The key is work together, not throw rocks at each other: Disabled people, governments, industry and commerce, now need to work together to make the promises of the convention real. To find solutions to help industry and commerce design better inclusive Information and Communication Technologies, to find way of getting better adaptive technology into people’s hands, and help people develop the new skills they need.”

Mr. Javed Abidi, Director, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) expressed his sentiments on the subject and said, “It is very well to have conferences and seminars and meetings, where wonderful things are said and promises made. But what is the ground reality? India has been callous in this area. A blind person can’t use an ATM. Nor can he operate a washing machine or a microwave. He cannot watch his favorite show on T.V. with the help of a digital set-top box. It is not that such assistive goods or the technology is not there. The available/ appropriate technology is not applied. As a result, the goods that one needs for day to day life are not accessible or disabled- friendly. Leave alone a policy, India has not even done enough thinking in this regard.”

Dr. P. Anandan, Managing Director – Microsoft Research Lab India, in his keynote address, said, “To ensure inclusive growth in society, it is imperative to integrate people with special abilities into the mainstream. Technology can go a long way in empowering the specially-abled and help them realize their aspirations. A fundamental consideration for us is to fully integrate accessibility options into every stage in the product lifecycle, from product research, planning, design and development, to testing. Microsoft is committed towards continuously innovating to facilitate the next-generation of accessible technology.”

The two day exhibition and conference has witnessed participation from more than 500 delegates from government and non-profit organizations, educational institutes and corporate sectors from across the globe; where more than 50 speakers will address the issues related to accessibility standards and law. The exhibition has more than 40 stalls with a display of almost 100 different IT hardware and software products and services for people with disabilities.

Some of the key speakers at the conference include Mr. Javed Abidi, Honorary Director, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), Mr. Kevin Carey, Chair, Royal National Institute of Blind People (UK), Dr. P. Anandan, Managing Director, Microsoft Research, Mr. Om Deshmukh, Research Scientist, IBM India Pvt Ltd; Ms. Janaki Pillai, Ability Foundation among many others from government, non-profit, education institutes, and corporate from across the globe.

Notes to Editor

About Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB), UK:

RNIB is UK’s leading charity offering information, support and advice to over two million people with sight loss. Their pioneering work helps anyone with a sight problem – not just with braille and Talking Books, but with imaginative and practical solutions to everyday challenges. Their projects such as Talk and Support and Parent’s Place make a difference to people’s lives. They campaign extensively to eliminate avoidable sight loss and support research into the causes and latest treatments of eye disease.

About BarrierBreak Technologies:

BarrierBreak Technologies is an innovative firm that provides solutions in the field of Accessibility for People with Disabilities. BarrierBreak works with corporates, institutions and individuals to provide accessibility training, accessibility testing and accessibility consulting services that would empower people with disabilities to avoid discrimination and enjoy equal rights and opportunities.

About National (NCPEDP):

National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) is a non-profit voluntary organisation working as an interface between Government, Industry, International Agencies and the Voluntary Sector towards promotion of better employment opportunities for persons with disabilities.

To know more about Techshare India 2010 – visit: www.barrierbreak.com

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Global Assistive Technology Encyclopedia

assistivetechWhat an awesome resource I came across this morning…. You HAVE to go check it out if you are involved with any type of assitive technology… link is at the bottom of this blog post….

The Global Assistive Technology Encyclopedia (GATE) is a Wiki, or piece of software that allows users to freely create and edit Web page content using any Web browser. It’s a little bit like Wikipedia, but just concentrating on assistive technology. GATE is very simple to use, with a control panel enabling you to add content and more.

This wiki has been created by AbilityNet, the UK’s largest provider of advice and information on all aspects of Access to technology. The purpose of the wiki is to provide live and up to date information on all aspects of Assistive Technology.

The wiki is moderated and all comments and opinions are those of the individual contributor not necessarily that of AbilityNet.

The wiki is in constant development and we welcome comments, thoughts and contributions.
Anyone who is a registered user can enter information.

via Global Assistive Technology Encyclopedia – Global Assistive Technology Wiki.

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iPhones — New Help for Special Needs Kids

Here is an interesting article I came across while researching iPhones for the kids of the Broward Children’s Center….

iphoneDisclaimer — I do not now nor have I ever worked for Apple, and they haven’t paid me in goods or dollars for this post (although I’m open to negotiation).

Last month, my twins turned 18. I’m still in deep denial over what is clearly a blip in the time-space continuum. I know for a fact that it was just a few days ago when we were huddled around their isolettes in the NICU, watching in awe as their tiny 24-week bodies struggled to survive. And now … well, I just can’t go there yet.
We have been so blessed, so lucky. Their delays, while significant, were just that — delays. They are both fully-functioning, healthy, happy (adult?) human beings, enjoying their senior year in high school and starting to think about the future. My daughter has taken the wheel on her road to life and is well on her way to independence. Her brother, who has had more physical and learning issues, still has a way to go.
For their 18th birthday, we got them each iPhones. During such difficult economic times, it’s reasonable to ask why would we spring for such a hot, trendy, extravagant gift as an iPhone. That, I can tell you in two words — assistive technology.
The lingering issues that continue to affect my son as a result of his extreme prematurity are:
  • low tone/graphomotor issues — he explains it like this: “It’s really hard for me to think and write at the same time.”
  • short-term memory deficit — he would explain it to you, if only he could remember. Seriously, one of his teachers once told me: “He seemed to understand. He repeated it back to me exactly.” He does understand — he understands everything, he just can’t remember once the cue is gone.
  • sequencing disorder — trouble breaking down tasks into reasonable chunks and completing them in the right order in a reasonable amount of time.
I have long believed that my son was lucky to be born when he was — that technology would be his friend. I still believe that, but there have been some bumps along the way: an addiction to video games and losing three (count them, three) cell phones his freshman year. During the few days he managed to hold on to his cell phone, he never remembered to turn it on, so I couldn’t reach him any way.
Then, last year, he used his birthday money to buy himself an iPod Nano. Miracle of miracles, he did not lose it. He kept it turned off during school, but remembered to turn it on after school so he could listen on his way home. About a month ago, we had a meeting with his assistive technology specialist at school. A long-time PC person, she recently got an iPhone and is tremendously excited about the potential it holds for many of her students.
Assistive technology runs the gamut from wheelchairs to customized computers that allow quadriplegics to communicate with eye blinks. The field is exploding, but much of it is hugely expensive. While the initial outlay for the iPhone (about $200 for the middle-range iPhone) isn’t too bad, the $30 monthly bite per phone for the data package adds up fast. We learned, however, that unlike computer programs, iPhone apps are pretty inexpensive (often free), and there are new ones every day. While there are many PDAs out there, the iPhone offered some distinct advantages, first and foremost the fact that it would be my son’s new iPod, so we were pretty sure he would hold on to it.
It’s fairly obvious how the calendar and organizational apps could help someone with short-term memory problems, but the iPhone apps offer much more than simple datebook functionality. For example, there’s an app called VoCal that allows my son to record a voice message on his phone, which then translates into a written calendar reminder.
And it works! Our first iPhone success came after a missed orthodontist appointment one Friday. That night, he added the orthodontist’s phone number to his contacts and entered a voice reminder into his phone. That entry sent him an alert after school on Monday to call the orthodontist for a new appointment. My son gets out of school at 3:35. By the time I called him at 3:45, he had already made the new appointment and entered it onto the calendar, which automatically sent an email to me so I could put it on the family calendar. That may sound like a small thing, but it was one giant leap toward independence for him and peace of mind for me.
That ability to recognize voice commands is a huge advantage for a kid with graphomotor issues. The sensitive microphone allows him to use his voice in a variety of ways, bypassing the need to write (and even draw). For example, there is an app called Omni Note. Say his horticulture teacher draws a picture of a plant cell on the board and tells the class to copy it for a quiz on Monday. This would be extremely difficult for my son to do, and the end result would not look anything like the original.
With the Omni Note app on the iPhone, my son could take a picture of the diagram, draw directly on that picture, add a typed and/or voice message to the picture and send it immediately to his computer at home so he could study it over the weekend. How cool is that?
His teachers are also on board, allowing him to keep his iPhone out and on throughout the day. He doesn’t text and we haven’t given out his phone number, so there is no risk of interruption during class. As part of his sequencing disorder, he has trouble organizing his thoughts into a coherent structure in school papers. One of his English teachers had the brilliant idea of having him research new apps and, as an assignment for class, write out the directions on how to use it (a great sequencing and organizational exercise), and include a paragraph or two about how he, personally, is using the app (a good way to practice his analytical skills).
Right now, our district would have provided him with an iPod Touch, which has some, but not nearly all the functions of the iPhone. The integrated microphone of the iPhone is a big part of the functionality my son needs to make this tool work for him, so we opted to make a family investment.
I understand that this is new technology, which is often scary and expensive for schools to contemplate, but I urge educators to jump on this bandwagon early. The potential of the iPhone for special needs students is vast and untapped, and this generation of students is already immersed in technology. This seems to me to represent the best that technology has to offer — a chance for students to overcome (even bypass) their disabilities and get right to the good stuff — the learning.
How did we justify making the same investment for our daughter? We told her it was because it would be a good tool for her at college next year, and it will be, but really, this is just one of those times when she should be darn grateful for her twin brother.

via Chicago Moms Blog: iPhones — New Help for Special Needs Kids.

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Five key trends in assistive technology

By · December 4, 2009 · Filed in Assistive Technology Articles · 1 Comment »

eSchool News had this great article that came out on Thursday in regards to new trends for assistive technology….

Convergence, portability, and customizability are among the features that will define the next generation of AT devices for students

Once considered a highly specialized field, assistive technology (AT) now increasingly can be found in applications and devices sold to the general public, says a new report that highlights several key trends in AT development.

The Nation Center for Technology Innovation (NCTI) presented the report during its annual conference last month. The issue brief, titled “Unleashing the Power of Innovation for Assistive Technology,” comes at a time of great opportunity for both schools and AT providers, the organization says.

“The confluence of federal stimulus money and guidance from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs … to consider investing in ‘state-of-the-art assistive technology and training’ affords the field a rare opportunity to define and shape what state-of-the-art assistive technology can be,” says the brief.

With that goal in mind, NCTI solicited the opinions of more than 65 people from academia, the education-technology industry, professional associations, and all levels of government.

Based on this feedback and a review of existing literature, NCTI concluded that “applications originally designed for the disabled are increasingly recognized as presenting solutions for the wider consumer market.” As a result, the group said, AT functionality now often is built into mainstream consumer devices.

Here are the five most significant trends in AT development, according to NCTI:

1. Convergence. NCTI defines this as the consolidation of various technological systems into “a single platform to perform multiple tasks”–such as the iPhone and other smart phones or mobile devices.

These devices have the ability to run multiple applications that can support and accompany students with disabilities throughout their daily activities.

For example, the brief mentions that students in Taiwan are engaging in an after-school program with smart phones and the General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) network. With this technology, students and teachers are able to interact to an extent that was not possible before.

In the United States, an iPhone application called iSigns can facilitate communication between deaf students and others who do not sign. Other iPhone apps for students with disabilities include Picture Scheduler, which helps students with autism create and organize personal tasks, and iPrompts, which provides visual prompting tools to help students understand upcoming events and make choices.

Other examples of convergent technologies include e-Book reader devices and online sites that cater to handheld technologies, such as Bookshare.org, which is an online library of digital books underwritten by the Education Department for students with qualifying print disabilities.

2. Customizability and Universal Design for Learning (UDL). According to the brief, customizable AT is designed so that it “can be configured in different ways to meet the needs of individual users.”

UDL simply means customizing software to meet the needs of a diverse group of learners. For example, a UDL curriculum should offer multiple means of representation (that is, it should give learners various ways of acquiring information), multiple means of action and expression (it should give students several alternatives for demonstrating what they know), and multiple means of engagement (it should motivate and challenge different learners appropriately).

While much educational software has included customizability in recent years, NCTI urges developers to include elements of UDL to help all learners succeed.

Gaming, another technology that recently has gained momentum in education, is also an area that needs work, says the brief. “Although game developers have not traditionally focused on accessibility and customizability, there is a growing movement to ensure that developers keep these features in mind as they design games,” it says.

For instance, some organizations, such as Universally Accessible Games and the International Game Developers Association (IDGA) Game Accessibility Special Interest Group, have supported designing games with customizable features that will make them universally accessible.

Some UDL features for gaming include the captioning of dialog, text-to-speech capabilities for on-screen text dialog and instructions, the ability to magnify areas of the screen, the ability to use an adapted controller in place of the standard one, and customizable colors for color-blindness.

Other UDL recommendations include offering variations in the degree of difficulty and additional supports for users, such as guides and features that highlight important points or reward effective strategies.

3. Research- or evidence-based design. With technology changing so rapidly, researchers are beginning to realize that studies of AT’s effectiveness should focus on features, usage, and the user population, rather than individual products, NCTI says.

“As features beneficial to users with and without disabilities become commonplace on everyday electronics, AT researchers have found that to stay current, they need to recognize that state-of-the-art research and evidence may come from other disciplines or from consumer testing and demands,” the brief notes.

Even without formal studies or market research, it says, AT specialists and developers can determine utility, interest, and efficacy simply by reading reviews, determining the number of downloads, and talking or chatting online with users.

Currently, research that provides information on which features are most effective for which populations, under which conditions, and for which tasks is still in the early stages, especially for new technologies, the report says.

Yet initial research in the area of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices has shown that AAC systems with static visual-graphic systems might be more effective for users with autism, whereas other users might benefit more from speech-generating devices.

Also, “the advent of new technologies and multimodal communication abilities in both mainstream commercial communication devices and AAC devices has led to further confirmation of research that multimodal approaches (voice output devices, gesture, sign, facial expression, picture symbols, and computer-based technologies) are most effective in meeting a wide variety of communication needs in a variety of environments,” the brief says.

4. Portability. To help promote independence, portability is critical, says the report. While the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires schools to educate students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment, portable technologies are helping to redefine the mandate of “least restrictive environment” and are boosting independence.

One example of portable AT is a laptop computer, especially a netbook. Many of today’s laptops have a host of accessibility features, and netbooks allow for an even smaller, lighter solution.

Taking the idea of portability one step further, says the brief, is a growing movement toward high-quality, fully portable, open-source AT. Under this model, students can carry AT software on their jump drive and use it whenever appropriate.

CLiCk, Speak is one example of software that can be downloaded onto a jump drive and is described as “the only free, professional-grade screen magnifier that works across remote desktop software.”

5. Interoperability. According to the brief, interoperability can mean many things for AT used in school, home, and community settings. It can refer to a device that can be used on multiple computer platforms, such as Windows or Mac OS X; or it can mean “the ability of two or more systems or components to exchange information and to use the information that has been exchanged.”

NCTI believes that as the technology industry moves toward software as a service (SaaS) and cloud computing, the potential is growing for AT software applications that are not installed on a particular machine, but rather are accessed through the internet from any machine.

“As ubiquitous internet access becomes a reality in schools, this trend may empower users of specific software licenses to use that software on whatever machine they are near, thus eliminating the need for resource rooms or specialized AT labs,” says the brief.

Another example of interoperability is when programs can share and compile data. One example is TeachTown, a software program that provides autism services and coordinates data and communication among parents, teachers, and clinicians. Sharing data facilitates communication, boosts the effectiveness of the clinical intervention, and eliminates the need for teachers or clinicians to transfer data manually into the school’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) records, says the brief.

According to NCTI, these five trends are critical to defining current state-of-the-art AT; however, technology developers must remember that “keeping it simple” is really the key to successful AT tools.

NCTI hears this plea from … parents and caregivers as well. Too often, the sophistication of the features or interface of new devices precludes easy use by direct consumers or their parents, teachers, and friends. With more students being served in general-education classrooms of up to 30 students, devices need to offer as little complexity and facilitate as much independence for the user as possible,” the brief says.

“It’s not just about adding new features to the stuff we already have,” explained Tracy Gray, director of NCTI. “We must ask the question: What do we need to solve, and how can we do that?”

The brief also underscores the importance of state-of-the-art AT training for educators, and it lists possible uses for IDEA-based stimulus funding for schools.

Links:

“Unleashing the Power of Innovation for Assistive Technology” (PDF)

National Center for Technology Innovation

via Technology Management – Five key trends in assistive technology.

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Experience the Future of Assistive Technology at Abilities Expo on November 6-8, 2009 | Reuters

Experience the Future of Assistive Technology at Abilities Expo on November 6-8, 2009 Georgia Tech and Shepherd Center to sponsor new Assistive Technology Pavilion ATLANTA, Oct. 28 /PRNewswire/ — The cutting-edge of assistive technology–including both commercially available and next-generation AT products–will be showcased at the Assistive Technology Pavilion at Abilities Expo www.abilitiesexpo.com/atlanta on November 6-8, 2009 at the Cobb Galleria Convention Center.

Thousands of people with disabilities, their families, caregivers and healthcare professionals are expected to attend this free, three-day expo and conference for a taste of the latest technologies, techniques and tips for improving their physical, technological and social environs.

The following products–many of which are still in development–will impact people of all ages with a wide range of physical, sensory and intellectual disabilities.

— Tongue Drive System TDS: Enables people with high-level spinal cord injuries to maneuver a powered wheelchair or control a mouse-driven computer cursor using simple tongue movements.

— Accessible Wii: Custom-designed Nintendo Wii interface for quadriplegic users. — Cushion Pressure Mapping: Allows for the development of more comfortable and usable wheelchairs by mapping pressure points on seat cushions of various materials.

— Implanted Electrode Technology: Experimental technology which can actually be implanted in the body and, when used with external programmable control units, it can help provide function to paralyzed limbs.

— Auditory Menus and Deaf911 Phone: Exciting demonstrations of experimental technology currently under development for people with visual and manual limitations Auditory Menus and hearing loss Deaf911 Phone.

— Robotics technology: Displays on robots that retrieve and deliver objects using a laser pointer.

— Accessible Bluetooth headset options for people with manual limitations.

— Visit www.abilitiesexpo.com/atlanta/pavillions.html for more.

This unique peek into the future of AT is made possible by the Shepherd Center, NeuroTech Network and Georgia Tech's Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access CATEA, Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Wireless Technology Wireless RERC and Aware Home Research Initiative. “In addition to providing an exciting forum for people with disabilities to gain knowledge and view products and services, we are thrilled to present the Community with the new Assistive Technology Pavilion,” said David Korse, president and CEO of Abilities Expo. “The forward-thinking scientists and professionals at Georgia Tech and the Shepherd Center are revolutionizing accessibility and, at Abilities Expo Atlanta, attendees will find out how!” Registration for Abilities Expo is free. Preregister for priority access at www.abilitiesexpo.com/atlanta SOURCE Abilities Expo

Kevaleen Lara of Abilities Expo, +1-310-210-3138, klara@shomex.com

via Experience the Future of Assistive Technology at Abilities Expo on November 6-8, 2009 | Reuters.

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Tongue-Powered Technology For The Disabled

Technology Assisting the Disabled

Technology Assisting the Disabled

Join us tomorrow, November 19th 2009 from 1:30pm to 3:30pm EST at the Greater Ft. Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce conference room for a FREE presentation on this awesome technology.

Georgia Tech researchers believe a magnetic, tongue-powered system could transform a disabled person’s mouth into a virtual computer, teeth into a keyboard – and tongue into the key that manipulates it all!

Presented by Maysam Ghovanloo of the Georgia Institute of Technology in coordination with ARC Broward, Broward Children’s Center, The Wasie Foundation and the Greater Ft. Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce.

Remember, this event is FREE and open to the public.  If you do plan on attending the event at the Chamber office, please RSVP to mleachman@arcbroward.com or by calling 954-746-9400.

The Ft. Lauderdale Chamber office is located at 512 NE 3rd Ave, Ft. Lauderdale, FL  33301

Hope to see you there or online!

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The World’s First Ultra Accessible Family Fun Park

Anybody living near San Antonio, TX needs to check out this park that will be opening up for kids that have disabilities.  This is the first accessible family fun park!  Here is some more information about this fantastic new opportunity for families.

The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation believes that a real need exists to create a special place for special friends . . . to provide an oasis for those needing a safe place to relax and enjoy the outdoors. Millions of children and adults who suffer from cognitive and physical special needs generally do not have access to facilities specifically established to assist them in enjoying outdoor activities.  Currently, less than 10% of those with special needs participate in daily outdoor recreation. The Morgan’s Wonderland story began with a desire to re-imagine the possibilities of what an inclusive park could be . . . if everyone were free to soar. The creation of this new 25 acre special needs park will serve as a haven not only for those with special needs, but also for their families, caregivers and invited friends.

In 2007, Sports Outdoor And Recreation (SOAR) was created as a 501 (c) (3) non profit organization to A) raise the funds necessary to create the park and B) to insure that the park is professionally managed and maintained.  The SOAR Board of Directors chose to develop this one-of-a-kind park on the former site of the Longhorn Quarry in San Antonio, Texas.  To encourage the idea of inclusive recreation where individuals of all abilities can play side by side, Morgan’s Wonderland will be part of a larger 106 acre sports complex that will feature 14 fully lit, tournament quality soccer fields. In an exciting collaboration with SOAR, the North East Independent School District (NEISD) is also building their new 11,000 seat stadium, baseball complex and track & field facilities directly adjacent to the park. The construction of Morgan’s Wonderland and the soccer complex is underway and will be open for fun, friendship and new experiences in early 2010.

The funding for Morgan’s Wonderland began with an initial $1,000,000 donation from Gordon and Maggie Hartman inspired by the love of their daughter Morgan.  The park’s fundraising campaign has been bolstered by financial commitments from the City of San Antonio ($7,250,000), Bexar County ($5,000,000) and the State of Texas ($5,500,000). That total of $17.75 million, along with up to $10 million of additional funds to be raised from local foundations, corporations and individuals, will be used to complete the development of the park.

Upon completion, Morgan’s Wonderland will be the largest park of its kind in the world specifically designed for the recreation and enjoyment of individuals with special needs. Our vision for Morgan’s Wonderland is to play an instrumental role in helping to establish more Ultra Accessible Family Fun Parks throughout the country, thus establishing San Antonio as a national leader in the promotion of family-oriented outdoor activity and fun for these beloved members of our community.  Thank you again for helping us make this dream a reality and for caring enough to make a difference and change lives . . . one special friend at a time.

The mission of Morgan’s Wonderland is to set a new standard for excellence in providing outdoor recreational opportunities for individuals with disabilities. We believe that there is a real need for a special place for special people, one that provides an oasis for people with disabilities, their families and caregivers who need facilities specifically designed to assist them in enjoying outdoor activities.

via Morgan’s Wonderland – The World’s First Ultra Accessible Family Fun Park.

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Intel Sells Its Own Reader for the Health Care Market

By · November 13, 2009 · Filed in Assistive Technology Articles, Medical Related · No Comments »

Intel’s push into the health care arena has the company going some unusual places.

On Tuesday, the chip maker unveiled the Intel Reader, a handheld device for people who struggle to read standard texts because of conditions like dyslexia and blindness. The Intel Reader can scan books and other printed material, turn the text into a digital form and read it aloud. Intel looks to sell the device through resellers like HumanWare and Howard Technology Solutions that cater to the assistive technology and medical technology markets.

In the mainstream computer market, Intel will sometimes make prototypes that show off the power of its chips. The company, however, has resisted bringing such products to market and always steps aside to let its PC-making customers go directly after end users. But, in the health care market, Intel has opted to sell its own gear.

The device costs about $1,500, which may sound pricey for a fixed-function type of computing device. But, as I pointed out in an article in September, many of the text-to-speech products covered by Medicare and health insurance companies start at $5,000 and run up to $10,000. The high cost of such products, along with their limited functions, has resulted in people with a variety of conditions adding cheap text-to-speech software to iPhones and netbooks to create their own assistive devices.

“The direct sales of products is part of our strategy in the health area,” said Ben Foss, the director of access technology in Intel’s Digital Health Group. “These markets are large and going after them is important. We are trying to get economies of scale.”

For Mr. Foss, the Intel Reader arrives with a personal twist. Mr. Foss has dyslexia and went through special education classes in elementary school. In college, Mr. Foss would fax his assignments home so his mother could read them out loud to him on the phone.

“My speech technology was my mom,” he said.

The Intel Reader has a five-megapixel camera that lets people point the device at reading material and capture the text. Software helps align pages correctly and fix things like shadows or curved pages. In addition, Intel is selling a complementary scanning station product that can digitize text and transfer the information over to the Intel Reader.

At its core, the Intel Reader runs on Intel’s own modified version of Linux called Moblin, although general-purpose computing functions have been limited. For example, the computer lacks wireless support. “We didn’t put it in because we didn’t want students surfing the Internet,” Mr. Foss said.

As things stand today, health insurers decline to cover general-purpose computing systems. Instead, they will cover the $5,000 to $10,000 products that can only perform text-to-speech functions. In some cases, people use their health insurance money to buy such text-to-speech devices and then pay about $50 later to “activate” the products and turn them into full-fledged computers.

“The product definitions the government and insurers use are a bit peculiar,” Mr. Foss said.

Interestingly, Mr. Foss said that Great Britain has a more flexible program in place that gives students a 5000-pound grant to buy whatever assistive technology they need before heading to university.

Intel looks to make a variety of devices for the health care market as it tries to find more uses for its chips. The company has been going after products that make it easier for doctors and nurses to pull up digital records along with talking up home health products that can perform certain tests and link patients remotely with their doctors.

Source: NYTimes

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