Saturday, September 28, 2013

Symbol Access in the Community

This was shared with me recently. The Philadelphia Zoo has improved accessibility for children.  KidZooU: Hamilton Family Children’s Zoo & Education Center has integrated the ideals of universal design in a wonderfully creative manner.  There are social stories available, picture schedules and quiet spaces. This is certainly a model to look at when improving access in other public and private places.  Here is some additional information on the changes: ABC News.  As parks, museums, zoos etc. are updated, consideration should always be made for these improvements. There really is no reason not to improve accessibility for all. Everyone benefits.


Friday, September 27, 2013

UCP – The Case for Inclusion

This year the United Cerebral Palsy Case for Inclusion report indicates that there have been some improvements in how we serve people with disabilities. Each state is ranked across a number of criteria. One of the most striking pieces of information is that the number of people waiting for services has more than doubled. One of the things we must keep in mind is that for the most part, adult services and supports are not mandated. Many are funded through health insurance and in particular Medicaid. One of the great challenges of the adult world is that we are looking at making sure individuals are able to participate and engage in quality experiences and meaningful work for many decades as opposed to addressing educational needs ages 3-turnning 22. We must continue to look for creative and fiscally sustainable ways to support people with disabilities which also promote full participation and independence (given the correct supports and services).

Take a look at how your state compares. This is a sharp reminder that we must remain engaged in the process which makes decisions around funding while always improving the efficiency and quality of the services we provide. is one resource to take a look at what is already available. The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has a number of projects and resources to look at. Inclusive Education in Action is a comprehensive project which looks at implementing sustainable practices which support inclusive education.  The World Conference on Education will happen in 2014. Making sure we are educating everyone in these issues and including students with disabilities is a priority. Change happens when those who have been the minority develop a strong voice and lead. It is a conversation about the New Voices which emerge, changing the conversation in only a way that can come from those who have been kept in the “needing to be helped” role. Shared leadership, shared voice and shared power must be a part of any sustained change.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

New Eye-Gaze Tablet for Windows 8 Pro

Tobii ATI has just introduced a new eye-gaze system which allows the user to access Windows 8 Pro tablets.  The portability features and lowered costs are a plus (even though this is still over $5,150 when all is said and done). A smaller portable system allows greater contact between the person who is an AAC user and the person they are engaging with. Many times equipment can be just as much of a barrier as the inability to use spoken language. Technology opens the door but it is always the human interaction that is essential. This eye-gaze system works with the tablet as is. As our ability to find and create compatible increasingly universally designed components emerges, we will have more options which allow us to mix and match, become more efficient and effective, while improving upon the quality of the daily lives of those who require varied forms of accessible communication and language.  

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Upcycle….Great Ideas!

We hear a lot about recycling….so what happens when we upcycle?  Upcycle involves reusing materials to create new ones. You repurpose something you might have thrown away into something of use and possibly of even greater value. Thinking green in just a different way….  There are simple to complex projects which students can develop to use as vocational opportunities, to market or as part of a community service project. Great inclusive activities which benefit everyone and allow for unlimited creativity.  Here are some examples and resources.


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Free Assistive Technology Training & Resources

Many times as we have spoken of before, we associate assistive technology with high tech and high cost. Other concerns focus on not knowing how to use or even think about using this technology (all levels).  Below are a number of free and low cost resources to consider when offering trainings, providing resources to parents, and when looking to assess student needs. High quality sometimes does not have to equate with high cost and at times and cost at all. Universal design asks us to look at developing accessible materials, instruction and environments from the ground up. Assistive technology is a piece of this but we have to have the right training and information to make this happen. Retrofitting continues to be the more expensive way of making the world more accessible.

Low Cost Ideas!

A great resource which does cost some money is the University of New Hampshire Assistive Technology Program.   Training opportunities for better long term results.



Wednesday, September 11, 2013

ABLEVOX Jr. & Something Cool

ABLVOX has come out with a new app – Able Jr. AAC - which also offers extensive multi-language support. There are many different built-in languages as well as customizable symbols and boards. With the diversity of our students continuing to expand, we need to make sure we have the right accessible options available for all ages. Access to language early on is critical and can often contribute to additional delays if not provided early on. Many previously held beliefs added to these delays as we were continuously waiting for children to be “ready” for more language and increasingly complex language systems. These preconceived ideas prevented students from having access to the language and language systems they needed to engage across all environments. Core, high frequency and an appropriate balance of content specific vocabulary is an essential component from day one. Any delay impacts the student’s learning and does such a disservice.

It is essential to remember that language and communication occurs within the context of a social interaction. We need to consistently engage with the student we serve, modeling and using their system with them as they engage with their world. Assume competence, assume capacity for great things….anything is possible as long as we make sure full access exists.  We have to be attentive to never making the technology we use an additional barrier. Life is a shared experience.

Below is just a very cool video shared with me by Crystal. It is exactly the direction we need to continue to move in. We can apply this to anything including AAC. Why not have other students have access to boards & symbols to use with their friends who are AAC users? Why not truly make the world a little more naturally accessible?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Invention Kit for Everyone – Another Great Media Lab Idea!

Eric Rosenbaum and the MIT Media Lab developed this wonderful produce which allows you to adapt a variety of interfaces which can provide creative low cost access for students and adults to the internet and all it has to offer. It is very simple and allows for quick individual adaptations including having students design their own interfaces! This is something that can be shared with families and could certainly be used by students in vocational programs and science labs across a variety of grades and ages. Take a look at this very unique product - MaKey MaKey Invention Kit.