Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Think of it as the Ultimate Mobility Accessory

New Yorker Jillian Mercado edits the “Who Am I?” column for celebrity photographer Patrick McMullen’s PMc Magazine.  When she was a student at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, Mercado completed an internship for Allure Magazine.

Online, you can find her offering lipstick recommendations on the Poshly website or commenting on what’s coming down the runway on Manufactured 1987, her fashion blog. I particularly enjoyed this article of hers on the Beautylish site.

Mercado is well on her way to making a name for herself in the fashion world.  Ms. Mercado getting a lot of attention thanks to a recent article in the DailyBeast – unfortunately, the headline refers to this stylish young woman as “wheelchair-bound” and the article notes in the first paragraph she’s been bound to her chair since the age of 12.  

Yes, Jillian’s chair is an important tool in her life. But I am pretty sure her talent and determination will take her farther.

Monday, February 11, 2013

ATIA 2013 Takeaways

I’ve been home a little over a week now from ATIA, and am still on an AT high. I remember feeling this way coming home from summer camp when I was a teenager—happy, inspired, and ready to spread the news of everything I learned. It’s always great to learn about the actual tools, but my biggest takeaway was more about collaboration.
I think it is easy to feel very isolated as an AT Specialist. For most of us, we aren’t sitting eating lunch with the other AT Specialists or chatting as we walk to our cars at the end of the day. We have to actually work a little harder to collaborate with others in our field. We are fortunate though that there are tons of awesome people in the Assistive Technology world who like to share their knowledge. At ATIA, I was lucky enough to chat with some of the QIAT leadership team, who are leaders in our field. Although I recognized their names from the QIAT listserv, I had never met them in person. It felt like I was meeting the president! Talk about an inspirational group! From that conversation and others at ATIA, I have come to my biggest takeaway—Take advantage of the resources that are out there in the AT field. I will make time to read all those QIAT listserv emails, read blogs of others in the AT field, and learn from my co-workers, as well as try to be a resource for others. It is give and take. For anyone not already on the QIAT list, it has been a huge support for me and is an easy place to access really knowledgeable people. Although you will get lots of emails each day, it is an invaluable (and free) resource.

Okay, on to the tools. A couple of things from the exhibit hall and sessions that caught my eye:

  1. I was very impressed with the Clicker apps--Clicker Docs and Clicker Sentences. They are very similar to Clicker 6—clean interface, simple to use. Clicker Docs is a talking word process with word prediction and word banks. Clicker Sentences helps emerging writers using Clicker grids. Bonus: These apps work with Clicker 6, so activities you created in Clicker 6 will run on the apps, and vice versa.
  2.  I have been on a quest to beef up my evaluation skills in the area of reading. I was very happy to learn about PAR (Protocol for Accommodations in Reading) created by Denise DeCoste and Linda Bastiani Wilson in conjunction with Don Johnston. This is an assessment tool that helps an evaluator determine the most appropriate reading accommodations for students, based on data. Bonus: Free download from their website. I’ll definitely be reading through this over the next week or so. 
  3. I also learned a little more about, a website I had heard about but never really explored. is a social bookmarking tool that allows users to collect info on the Internet. You can bookmark web pages, highlight text on a webpage, and create sticky notes, etc. This could be a super useful tool for teachers to find web sites for their students on a specific topic to narrow down the vast information found on the internet. Bonus: It is all on the cloud, so you can access anywhere. 
What a great conference!

ATIA 2013 Conference

Several of our staff members recently returned from the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) conference in Orlando, FL ( . Over the next couple weeks, we will all be sharing our impressions on exciting tools / strategies we learned about. 

Today - Erica Kaufmann, Assistive Technology Specialist, shares her top two takeaways from the conference. 

Integrating AAC, Computer Access and Powered Chairs
Presenter: Karen Kangas
Session Description: Integrating the use of an AAC device, computer access and driving a powered chair for ease of use of each of these devices is critical for real independence by the user in managing themselves within their environments. Too often, an individual has all this equipment yet, requires another adult to give them access to each part. The current programmable electronics available on powered chairs allows integration to occur, which put simply, allows the individual to manage all their equipment independently. However, how the chair is programmed and what interfaces are needed are not always considered or obtained for the user. This session will focus on the equipment needed, the programmability needed and provide case study examples of how to create integration within the individual's own assistive technology. Using alternative access, as well as joystick access will be shared. Teaching and managing the integration will also be shared.

Erica reports: 
Karen Kangas talked about dual switch access.  She said that two switches are always better than one when using switches to control a powered wheelchair and communication device because having one switch causes a delay in access.  She also talked about how no one should stop at doing cause and effect.  There is always another step.

E-Readers in the Classroom
Presenter: Mike Marotta (Thanks Erica - flattery will get you everywhere!)
Session Description: With BYOD, we are seeing more e-reader devices show up in the classroom. Everything from a Kindle to a Nook to an iPad. But how can we use these devices to support instruction? This session will focus on e-readers and how we can use these tools to ignite a passion for learning. We will discuss how to find reading materials to support classroom learning and how to modify existing materials to work on these various devices. Resources will be shared via an interactive web presence.
Erica reports:
Something you talked about was readability.  I felt that this was so great for people who are blind or visually impaired because it gets rid of the "junk" on the page and allows someone who is using a screen reader, like JAWS, to navigate the page with the arrow keys or other reading commands more easily.

To learn more about Readability visit their website - 

Stay tuned for future posts related to our experiences at ATIA!

Wish you had attended the conference? Check out the ATIA Conference Recording Options

According to the ATIA website:
Selected Suite of Conference Sessions Available As Recorded Sessions - $300 Single with 5 and 10 Pack Options --- inclusive of CEUs
Recognizing the need to provide quality, affordable group training without travel and lodging costs, ATIA is offering archived, on demand access to 10 hours of conference proceedings post-event. This suite of the "TOP TEN" sessions* highlighting the breadth of educational content offered during the conference program provides affordable training for a group of educators from your school/agency or a district-wide team purchase, which might include teachers, SLPs, OTs and PTs.  

Thursday, February 07, 2013

AT for Employment Support Professionals

When employment support professionals work with people with significant physical disabilities, they often look for work that the person can do without accommodation. This tendency comes from a lack of training and experience in developing and implementing accommodations and assistive technology.

With funding from the Kessler Foundation, Advancing Opportunities is working to remove that barrier and is offering a fast-paced, two-day certificate program for professionals working in employment, that shows them how to develop and implement job accommodations and assistive technology supports.

The next available two-day training will be held on Monday, March 4, 2013 and Monday, March 18, 2013. This program will be held at JVS of MetroWest, 111 Prospect Street, East Orange, NJ 07017. 

At the end of this training program, participants will:

  • Be able to identify consumers who can benefit from assistive technology.
  • Understand the consideration process and use of assistive technology in the vocational rehabilitation process.
  • Consider a wide range of jobs for the consumers they work with.
  • Become familiar with a wide range of assistive technology tools to meet the specific needs of consumers with various disabilities.
  • Understand the process of implementing assistive technology to ensure consumer success.
  • Access a variety of resources that will facilitate the best match between consumer needs and possible technology solutions.

Training topics include:

  • AT consideration process
  • Overview of computer access
  • Overview of Supports for writing, reading and organization
  • Overview of Ergonomics
  • Everyday Tech as AT
    • Mobile Tech
    • iPads, iPods, tablets, ereaders, smartphones 
 Participants will also trial an an iPod Touch with specialized apps -- with the possibility of keeping the technology! Participants will be required to complete a certificate project. On completion and/or approval of that project, participants will be able to keep the iPod Touch for use with consumers (note: the iPod Touch will be given to the entity that paid the registration fee).

Learn more or sign up here.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Life Just Got Easier

Have you ever wondered how many minutes of your life have been wasted fumbling to try and get a projector to recognize your laptop or computer?  Mitsubishi has introduced the WD390U-ESTExtremeShort Throw Projector, a projector that will let us skip that step by connecting directly to the Cloud. 

David Nagel, executive producer for 1105 Media's online K-12 and higher education publications and electronic newsletters, tells us more in this article.