Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Web 2.0 Wednesday! Prezi

This week we will look at another web based presentation tool.

Prezi -

What is it? It is a little tough to explain but Tech Crunch described it best this way:

"It’s an entirely Flash-based app that lets you break away from the slide-by-slide approach of most presentations. Instead, it allows you to create non-linear presentations where you can zoom in and out of a visual map containing words, links, images, videos, etc."

Want to read the whole article? Click here.

Check out this demonstration to get a better understanding of this tool.

Pretty cool tool! Check it out and you may find a better way to share your information while breaking free of PowerPoint!

As always, we love to hear from you. Leave a comment below.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Switch Adapted Music Players

Portable music players are everywhere today. I know that we can't go for any ride in the car anymore without my kids plugging in their iPODS! While these devices offer us the ability to listen to what we want - for children with disabilities these devices may be impossible to control.

RJ Cooper & Associates, Inc. has addressed this issue by offering an array of accommodations for portable music players. Check out a couple of these examples below:

Switch Adapted mp3 player:

This device consists of a USB mp3 player that has been modified to accept several single switches to enable the person to control the functions of the device independently.

But...what if you already own an iPOD and want to control it with switches? Check out the Big Button iPOD remote.

This device will enable you to control the functions of your iPOD wirelessly!

Do you know of another solution for access to portable music players? Leave a comment below and share your resources.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Web 2.0 Wednesday! Author Point Lite

Have you created a PowerPoint presentation but need to share it with students or co-workers? Afraid everyone doesn't have PowerPoint on their computer?

No worries - try Author Point Lite from authorGEN Technologies.

This free download allows you to upload your PowerPoint presentations and convert them to Flash. Once converted, the file can be embedded into a blog, website, etc.

The Flash file retains all your timing, narration,etc.

Check out this example from the company website

Now anyone can view your presentation over the Internet, regardless of the software on their home computer.

But what if you want to create video files to play on an iPOD? Simply upload the file (5 minutes of video or under) to their website and the company will convert it for free to an mp4 format.

Do you have another website you use to convert PowerPoint files? Let us know by leaving a comment.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Stretches to Prevent Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI)

Many consumers I have worked with have a Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), causing pain in their shoulders, forearms, wrists, palms, and/or fingers. Often, this injury has been caused by overuse of a computer, in addition to poor positioning while using the computer. Along with suggestions for how to improve their computer set-up to become more ergonomic, I always try to educate my consumers on things they can do to help prevent/minimize RSI.

I recently found a great resource online that allows you to obtain a (free) one page PDF document of some stretching exercises. This resources comes from a book, "Stretching in the Office", by Bob Anderson.

Check out the website here.

Print it out, tape it on the wall next to your monitor, and remember to treat your body well while spending long hours on the computer (and as is with anything related to exercise, check with your doctor!)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Computer Macros

We recently received a question via our website ( regarding computer macros.

Hello -

I work at Matheny's Hillsborough Adult Learning Center as a technical instructor and am in the process of trying to find/implement ways for our students to be able to more quickly/independently use the computer (for example, getting into email). I have been researching macros and was wondering if anyone there could recommend a software for macros. It looks like there are so many out there. We downloaded one free version (iMacro iOpus) but the user interface does not seem very friendly (user needs to select the macro from a list of macros and hit play to execute it). We'd have approval to purchase some software for macros but with so many out there it's hard to narrow down what would work best for our population. Any information you might be able to provide would be greatly appreciated.


Sue A.

Sue mentioned a software program called iOpus, which allows you to set up a macro to simplify multiple step computer processes. Other free software titles that perform similar functions to iOpus are Phrase Express and Auto Hot Key. These free tools allow you to program a series of events on the computer into a simple, easy to remember macro. If someone is simply trying to complete a series of mouse clicks, try Ghost Mouse. This free program records mouse clicks and allows the person to easily replicate the string of actions.

While all the solutions described above are software based, don't forget about possible computer hardware solutions. X-Keys sells a variety of keypads with programmable keys, anywhere from 16 keys to 58 keys! The picture below highlights the X-Keys Key Stick, which has 16 programmable keys and could be placed directly on the keyboard above the Function Keys.

Hope this helps, Sue. Keep us updated on your successes.

Have you used a similar tool to address this need? Leave a comment and tell us about it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Web 2.0 Wednesday! WallWisher

Do you write sticky note reminders to yourself all day? What happens to those notes? Do they get lost? Go through the laundry?

What if you want to share these notes with someone else? You don't give up your sticky, do you?

Try this website - Wall Wisher.

This is an on line Notice Board. You can share your space with anyone and collaborate on any task. Simply click in the open space and start typing. It's that easy!

Any posted messages can be moved, re-arranged, etc.

Not only can you post text - you can also post audio, video and web pages.

In training sessions, I have used the "parking lot" idea and asked people to post questions onto a wall (using REAL sticky notes) and then we have answered the questions when there is time.

Now, with this tool - participants could post these questions / comments directly to this board and we can review them either in person or remotely.

Start a board today and try it! Used it before? Tell us about it by leaving a comment below.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Apple iPAD - Accessible e-reader?

Apple's iPAD is coming soon. So what does that mean for the e-book market? Of course, if you have been listening to the media stories - the iPAD will be much more than an e-book reader. Over 150,00 Apps, large color touch screen and more.

But will this device make e-books more mainstream?

As we get closer to the launch date (April 3rd), more details are emerging that may hint at the power of this device for people with disabilities. Most notably, the iPAD will read aloud to users - using the Voice Over feature that has been a part of the Mac Accessibility features for years.

What is the difference between voice over and the text to speech ability of the Kindle? Well, first the Kindle's speech output is limited to simply reading the book. And have you heard the text to speech on the Kindle?? The voice quality is not up to the level of other text to speech tools. Also, publishers have the right to disable this speech feature for their books. (Will the same hold true for the iPAD - we'll have to wait and see)

Voice Over is more of an actual screen reader. This will provide auditory support throughout the device - not just in the e-book. This has the potential to provide a much better reading experience for audio users.

Want to learn more about Voice Over in Mac OS X? Check the Apple Voice Over web page here.

Want to learn about Voice Over for the iPhone? Check the iPhone Voice Over web page here.

According to the website, the other accessibility features of the iPAD will be:

  • Support for playback of closed-captioned content
  • VoiceOver screen reader
  • Full-screen zoom magnification
  • White on black display
  • Mono audio
We will post more details about the iPAD as they come in.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Word Sift

Do you ever get stuck in using the same words for descriptions or explanations? Do your students experience this too? Have you encouraged them to use a variety of words in their writing, but they tend to fall back on the few adjectives they already use (i.e. good, fun, nice)? Enter Word Sift. This is a website that will analyze your text (you cut and paste it from your word processor into a box on their website) and it will highlight the words used most frequently. You can click on a highlighted word and it will give you a word map of that word with all kinds of synonyms.

This is a very useful *free* writing tool for students.

Check it out!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Do You Have Questions About Dragon Naturally Speaking?

When I first started learning how to use Dragon Naturally Speaking, a powerful voice recognition program, I found it exciting, yet overwhelming. I got myself in lots of sticky situations and wasn’t really sure how to get out of them. For example, typing my email address, microphone problems (Why won’t my microphone work…oh, the mute button…), etc. Through reading (and re-reading, and re-reading) the manual, perusing various websites and listservs, asking lots of questions of my co-workers, and most of all tinkering around, I’ve come to understand and love using this tool.

I recently revisited the website, and was very happily surprised at the wealth of information I found, and wished I had it when I was learning this program. I was on this website for hours. Here’s some of what I found under the “For Customers” link:

  • There are a whole slew of instructional videos that are easy to use. If you don’t have someone to help you learn Dragon, videos are the next best thing.
  • I found some PDF “cheat sheets” that would be helpful if you are learning Dragon or teaching it to others.
  • You can read stories from Dragon users, including students, professionals, and home users.
  • You can view their blog, which has lots of news about Dragon’s acquisition of MacSpeech and Dragon apps for the iPhone.
  • Dragon has a monthly newsletter that you can sign up to receive. This is where I spent most of my time. There is some really helpful, practical information here.
  • Second to the newsletter, I loved the Tips and Tricks sections, which gives some of the lesser known tricks that can make a big difference in one’s success with this tool.

Having this information readily available online has helped my consumers be more independent in their training process. Check it out!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Web 2.0 Wednesday! Photo Peach

Are you looking for a way to have your students create presentations but you don't want to be limited to PowerPoint?

Try Photo Peach -

Once you create a user account, simply upload the pictures you want to use. These uploads can happen directly from your computer or from Facebook or Flicker.

Arrange them in the order you like - add some music and enjoy! After your show is created, the show can be viewed on the Photo Peach website, enbedded into Facbook or even your blog.

If you want to download the file, you will be charged $2.00 - unless you are a premium member for $3 per month.

This is a simple, fun way for students to express themselves.

You should try it - I did! Check it out. I compiled a bunch of photos I took while driving thru NJ going to appointments.

Welcome to NJ! on PhotoPeach

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Boost Brain Function with Online Games

Since it is Traumatic Brain Injury Month, we’d like to introduce an online brain training resource. Lumosity features many games and courses to help boost brain function. Tracks include games for improving memory, promoting faster thinking, increasing problem solving ability and ensuring peak performance.
Registering with the website, which bills itself as the web’s number one destination for cognitive training, is free and provides limited access to the site's services. There is also a premium level of membership for a fee. Lumosity also has a downloadable app for the iPhone.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month

March is Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month. Throughout the month, we will have helpful hints, tips/tricks and resources that may help an individual that has a TBI or other disability. If you have a loved one with a TBI and you have something that you find helpful for them, PLEASE share. Something you share may change a person’s life.

What is a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)? According to the CDC a TBI is caused by a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain. Not all blows or jolts to the head result in a TBI. The severity of a TBI may range from “mild,” i.e., a brief change in mental status or consciousness to “severe,” i.e., an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury.

Some individuals with a TBI have difficulty with memory. It is hard to remember things from the past such as telephone numbers, important dates such as birthdays or anniversaries or remember when the last time they ate. It can also be difficult to remember things that will happen in the future such as when to take medications, appointments or their favorite show. It is a very frustrating not remembering how to do activities and routines; done effortless and mindless at one time.

Everyone forgets things but individuals with memory difficulties from a TBI, stroke or other disorder that affects memory forget thing more frequently. Typically, long-term memory is not affected it is the short-term memory.

Long-term memory is the ability to recall events, experiences, information, or skills that occurred or was acquired in the distant past. So childhood memories are typically not affected.

Short – term memory is brief retention of information that is currently being processed in a person's mind.

Ways to improve memory

Set up a memory place: Choose a permanent spot such as a drawer, basket or table for things such as glasses, pocketbook, keys, and lists.

2) Write things down in a
journal that you carry with you in your purse or pocket. You can do this in a spiral notebook, your phone or voice recorder.

Photo Album is a great way to give visual reminders of things to do, sequence of refresh a memory.

Checklist of things to do or for an activity. If this is something you need to reuse you can laminate it so you can wipe it off.

5) Use
labels to show you where objects are located or go.

6) Use a
pill organizer to organize your medications for the week, part of the day or month. If you have medications, you need to take during the day, carry a small pill carrier in your pocketbook or lunch bag.

7) If you have a difficult time remembering when to take medications or getting out the door on time, you can use your cell phone, kitchen
timer or watch to remind you.

8) If you have access to a
cell phone, email or have an answering machine, send yourself a message especially if it is something you have to do later when you get home. For example, “remember to give the dog his heart pill”.

9) Use a
calendar to keep track of events and things you have to do. Color-coding things often helps. Red for doctors, Blue for work, Yellow for Fun activities.

Sticky Notes: keep them handy. You can jot a note and post it on the steering wheel, on your car keys or the bathroom mirror.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Do you want to control your environment?

AbleNet recently announced a partnership with Possum Limited, a British company specializing in Environmental Control Units (ECUs).

The Primo! is an dynamic display ECU that can provide access to a host of devices within the person's environment. The system can be tailored to meet the individual needs of each person. The Primo! can be controlled by direct selection on the touch screen or with an external switch.

The device will be able to provide control over the following devices within the environment (some devices will require additional accessories):

Remote Control Of:
TV, DVD, Digital, Satellite, and cable set top boxes
Intercom and Doors
Emergency contact - via phone, pager, alarm
Bed, Riser/Recliner Chair
Communication Aids

Another exciting feature of this tool is its ability to extend the operation of your PC by enabling access to the Internet, email, and desktop applications.

The Primo! has a list price of $2700.00 and is should be available in Spring 2010.

Visit the home page for the Primo!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Math - When you need help or pre-teach

So often, when my niece and nephew come home with math homework they will ask for help when they are stuck. Do they have their textbook with them so you can look back and see examples? Of course not. It is then off to the internet to find example to help them figure out the problem. OK I admit it; the math today is often beyond my ability to remember.

One of the websites that I love to visit is Math Live.It was designed by a group of staff from Alberta Education and Edmonton Catholic Schools with support from consultants and contractors.

All the lessons are designed like TV cartoons. It uses common everyday life examples that make math make sense. So often, you hear students ask, “When are we going to use this in real life?” Now they can see real life applications. The reason that I like this website is that you can move at your own pace, you can repeat the lesson as many times as your student needs. They also have teacher notes, parent notes and assessments. The assessment sheets are activities that expand on what was taught in the episode. This is a great website for pre-teaching a concept.

I have caught my niece and nephew going to this site for “fun”. When I see that I know I found a site that is worth sharing with others.

Web 2.0 Wednesday! Bubbl

Wouldn't it be nice to be able to collaborate on line about some upcoming project? Well, now you can with Bubbl

Go to the website at

This free on line brainstorming tool allows you to collaboratively document brainstorming sessions - even when you are not in the same place!

Features include:

* Create colorful mind maps online
* Share and work with friends
* Embed your mind map in your blog or website
* Email and print your mind map
* Save your mind map as an image

Visit the website and give it a try! Once you are done, leave a comment below and tell us about it

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Our own unique voice

First let me start by saying I am not a speech language pathologist. Now that is out of the way, let me say that the most powerful tool that we own and that is unique to each individual is our voice. For years, Augmentative and Alternative Communication has been about giving individuals who had limited use, lost or never had a voice the power of a voice. The downfall was that most AAC users that had similar devices also had similar voices. Over the years, the voice choices quantity and quality have improved immensely. Now technology has given one well known individual the power – the uniqueness of his voice back. Roger Ebert best known for as a Movie Critic on At the Movies lost the power of his voice because of complications from thyroid cancer surgery in 2006.

As many of us have done on a daily basis, Ebert was web surfing when he came upon a A Scottish firm called CereProc that was using text to speech to re-create famous voices. Life is always about chance meetings and possibility. Ebert came upon a possible solution for his desire to be back broadcasting and the possibility of his loved ones and fans to hear his unique voice once again.

Ebert appeared on the Opera show to demonstrate his “new” old voice. The most powerful image you can witness is his wife crying because it was the first time she has heard her love's voice since 2006.

For me, it gave me hope. It reminded me of a friend that had a rare genetic disorder that as it progressed would rob him of his voice. A voice that for so many years have given us chills, smiles and tears as we sat and listened to him sing. He once said, “One day technology will catch up to me and I will have me I was and the me I hope to be back.” My friend did not live to see the reality of his words come true.

For me, I hope the technology becomes a possible tool for the future AAC users. For now, I will continue to believe in the possibility that technology will allow individuals the power of knowing that a voice is a powerful tool. That maybe in the future if disease, rare disorders or accidents threaten to take the power of ones voice, we will have something in our tool kits to help individuals retain their unique identity the sound of their voice.

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

I saw this quote and I thought I would share on what would have been Theodor Geisel's 106th birthday!

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."

And...while we're at it....I might as well share my favorite story. Take a minute and enjoy!

Monday, March 01, 2010

E-Reader Pilot Project - University Results

Princeton University recently released the results of a semester long pilot project on the use of the Amazon Kindle DX as a tool to assist students.

The six college and universities that participated in the study were: Princeton University, Arizona State University, Case Western Reserve University, Reed College and Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia.

Check out the article here.

Highlights of the study include:

What they liked best about the devices was:

* the battery life, the wireless connection and the portability of the e-reader;
* the fact that all the course reading was on one device;
* the ability to search for content; and
* the legibility of the screen, including the fact it could be read in full sunlight.

The top five suggestions students had for improving e-readers were:

1. improving the ability to highlight and annotate PDF files;
2. improving the annotation tools;
3. providing a folder structure to keep similar readings together;
4. improving the highlighting function; and
5. improving the navigation within and between documents on the reader (including having more than one document open at the same time for comparison).

For the full results of the study, check out the pilot program website here.