Thursday, December 05, 2013

Sign up today! Edcamp Access NJ

When: Saturday, March 8, 2014

Where: The College of Saint Elizabeth in Morristown NJ

Time: 8:30 am – 3:00 pm

Cost: FREE!

Eventbrite - EdcampAccess NJ

Carrying on the tradition started by edcamp Access in Boston, EdCampAccess NJ is an unconference devoted to K -12 special education issues and ideas with a focus on reaching all struggling learners. It is not limited to special educators.

Follow on Twitter @EdcampAccessNJ 

or visit the edcamp wiki 

What is an Edcamp?
Do you want to take control of your own learning? Why not try an Edcamp? Started by the Edcamp Foundation with the vision of “ Promoting organic, participant-driven professional development for K-12 educators worldwide.” To achieve that vision, Edcamps follow these basic principles.
According to the Edcamp foundation website, an Edcamp is:
·         free
·         non-commercial and conducted with a vendor-free presence
·         hosted by any organization interested in furthering the edcamp mission
·         made up of sessions that are determined on the day of the event
·         events where anyone who attends can be a presenter
·         reliant on the “law of two feet” that encourages participants to find a session that meets their needs
Want to learn more about the Edcamp experience? Check out this video:

Visit our WIKI page to learn more about the day, our sponsors and add your session ideas onto the Idea Board!

Edcamp Access NJ WIKI

NJCART ( The New Jersey Coalition for the Advancement of Rehabilitation and Assistive Technology) is sponsoring Edcamp Access NJ to promote learning and sharing about Assistive Technology supports for students with disabilities!
We hope you will join us for the day. Better yet – why not share your expertise with everyone else!
NJCART Immediate Past President

Friday, October 25, 2013

Frustrated with Spelling?  Enhanced Dictation Comes to the Mac

Many of the students we have worked with have significant difficulty with spelling, to the point that they avoid writing, or write using just the words they know how to spell.  Sound familiar?  

Dictation is one way to use your voice to write, allowing for  a more fluid writing experience.  With the new Mac operating system, Mac OS X Mavericks (a free upgrade), Enhanced Dictation is now available.  On a Mac, find your Dictation preferences and click “Use Enhanced Dictation”.  After downloading a very large file (about 800Mb), your Mac will have the power of Siri-style dictation ready for you to use offline anytime. Tap fn twice, and there’s a new Dictation cursor that will type out what you are saying seconds after you say it. And you can keep talking, using voice commands like “new paragraph” and punctuation names to fill out your text and keep going. Try it out for yourself!  

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Still Time to Register for the NJCIE’s Summer Inclusion Conference

NJCIE will be holding its 11th Summer Inclusion Conference on June 26 and 27, 2013 at The College of New Jersey’s Brower Student Center in Ewing, NJ. This year’s conference, Do Now! Engaging All Students in the Inclusive Classroom, will focus on strategies and tools to help general and special educators increase student engagement and success. Featured presenters include Dr. Kevin Feldman and Dr. Anita Archer. Dr. Feldman is an internationally known speaker and educator on practical approaches to accelerate academic literacy and engagement with a focus on adolescents. Dr. Archer is a nationally known presenter who is the recipient of 10 Outstanding Educator Awards. The conference also includes the following workshops by members of Advancing Opportunities’ Assistive Technology Services team. Jeannette Van Houten will present Pixels of Learning k-12; Mike Marotta will present App Attack! K-1; and Mike Marotta and Vanessa Lombardo will present Implementing Mobile Devices – District Level for Administrators and Classroom Level for Teachers K-12. The Assistive Technology Services team will be also be presenting hands-on demonstrations during both days. For full workshop descriptions and updates, visit Visit the registration page here. The last day to register is Friday, June 21, 2013 at noon.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Bookshare needs your help!

Bookshare has been a powerful support for people with print disabilities. I don't think a week goes by that I don't recommend it to a consumer as a solution for reading difficulties. I have recommended this service to everyone from 1st grade to college. So many people benefit from Bookshare. Well, this free service needs the community's help so I wanted to pass along this recent email I received. Please consider giving your support to this worthy cause. Thanks!

Dear Mike,

It’s not typical for us to send you an email like this, but we felt this situation was so important it was necessary.

You may already be aware, but for years negotiations have been moving forward on what many have come to call the "Treaty for the Blind." The goal of the international treaty is to make it possible for people who are blind, or have other print disabilities such as dyslexia, to get access to the books they need for education, employment and inclusion in society—no matter where they live. It's something we already do, with great success, in the United States through Bookshare.

However, private interests are trying to alter the treaty in such a way that it would become useless—even harmful. For example, they’re trying to get language adopted that basically says: “if you can buy it, you can’t borrow it.” This is not only an attack on people around the world with print disabilities—it’s also an attack on libraries, like Bookshare, and could have a drastic effect on the number of books you have access to.

Our biggest worry is this becoming a treaty that could stop Bookshare from serving our users in the United States the way we do today.  We need our government negotiating for a treaty that supports a library like Bookshare.

That’s why we’re working with a coalition of disability and library groups, including the National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind, to fight back against the proposed changes by these private interests. We’ll do everything we can to secure a treaty that both protects the access we have now and that will benefit people with print disabilities around the world—but we need your help.

We’re asking you to take a moment to sign a petition on the White House’s website that urges the President to step up his support: If we can get to 100,000 signatures, the White House is required to respond to the petition and will, hopefully, take positive action. With your help we know we can reach that number.  We also recommend the petition at the National Federation of the Blind’s site, which is particularly accessible.

Thank you for your time and support. Together, we believe that our collective voice can make a real impact.

If you’re interested in more background on the treaty, here are some articles and resources you can review:

Jim Fruchterman & Betsy Beaumon, Bookshare

P.S. Please post the link to the White House petition on your social media to help spread the word and get your friends involved! Again, here is the link:

Note: this advocacy effort by Benetech, the nonprofit organization that operates Bookshare, has not been supported or endorsed by Bookshare funders, including the U.S. Department of Education.   

Friday, April 26, 2013

Computer Access Success Story

Recently, I have had the opportunity to work with a wonderful man, Dan, who has reminded me why I love my job.  Dan, who was referred by  New Jersey's Division of Vocational Rehabilitation program, works as an Avon consultant, which entails quite a bit of computer work.  Because of his physical disability, he had difficulty being able to complete his work in a timely fashion and without a great deal of fatigue.  When I met Dan, he already had a wheelchair accessible desk and a large key keyboard (Big Keys).  He identified several issues with his computer access—he had difficulty seeing his mouse cursor, seeing smaller fonts on the monitor, and switching between his mouse and keyboard.  He also became very fatigued when typing on his keyboard. 

After observation, discussion, and consideration of many different options, specific tools were identified for a trial period.  To address his visual concerns, he trialed Zoomtext Express, which provides some basic Zoomtext features, including the ability to have an enlarged and colored mouse cursor and screen magnification.  Dan found this tool to meet his needs visually. 

He also trialed an Intellikeys keyboard with the Qwerty USB Overlay and a keyguard, which provides mouse and keyboard access on the same overlay.  This allowed him to use the mouse without having to switch between the keyboard and the mouse.  Even though he was pretty certain he would not like to use a keyguard (based on past experience), he agreed to give it one more consideration.  After tweaking the Intellikeys settings in the Intellikeys USB Control Panel, he found that there were several advantages to the keyguard, one of which was preventing the cat from messing up his documents when walking across the keyboard, many, and I mean many, times per day :).  The Intellikeys with the keyguard was very successful at minimizing his fatigue, while providing him with access to keys that were not available on the Big Keys Keyboard. 

Lastly, he trialed Word Q word prediction software.  He found that although this software did not speed his typing up significantly, it did allow him to type with less fatigue.  We were able to add in some Avon terminology to this software, which helped him type some words/phrases with many fewer keystrokes.  He has found the text-to-speech feedback from this software to be extremely helpful.  This allows him to hear each letter that he presses, and helps him to rely less on his vision, which has helped to decrease his fatigue. 

After receiving his assistive technology, Dan found he was having difficulty keeping the Intellikeys keyboard in the position he found least fatiguing to work in.  After some troubleshooting to find the optimal position, we discussed how we were going to keep the keyboard in that position.  Enter my fabulous co-worker, Doug Reid, Rehabilitation Technician at Advancing Opportunities, who fabricates custom solutions in a big truck he drives around the state.  He was able to create a desk mount for the Intellikeys that keeps the keyboard in the optimal position.  Dan is able to pull his wheelchair directly up to the keyboard, therefore eliminating the need for him to reach for and position the keyboard himself.  Doug set this up as a temporary solution using Velcro until Dan had enough time to make sure the keyboard was in the exact position he wanted.  Turns out it was, and Doug has since returned to make the desk mount more permanently attached to Dan’s desk. 

With these tools, Dan has found that he can use the computer for longer periods of time with less fatigue.  Because he is using the computer so much more, he began to have cramping in his hand, caused by isolating his index finger for a prolonged period of time.  Dan was provided a typing aide to determine if this helped him type, as he would not have to keep his index finger isolated.  This typing aide was also altered by Doug to better fit his hand.  It was cut shorter so that it was a more natural extension of his hand, and the hand strap was stretched slightly to allow him to get the typing aide on and off independently. 

This was truly a team effort, with time spent on small details that add up to faster, more efficient computer access. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

FREE Webinar - App Smackdown!

Do you want to learn about apps to assist people with disabilities? Sign up for the ISTE SET-SiG webinar this Tuesday, 4/16/13 @ 7PM.

The webinar is FREE - registration is required. I will be presenting along with:

Hope to see you there! Don't forget to follow me @mmatp

Monday, April 08, 2013

The week in Tweets!

Welcome to this week's installment of "The Week in Tweets"! 

I hope you find something useful here.

 Remember - follow me @mmatp