Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What Has 5 Wheelchairs, A Clown, Three AAC Devices, An iPad, A Can of Tomatoes and A Duffle Bag Full Of Cash?

Why, the AT Network's 'Show Off Your AT Video Contest', of Course!

Our thanks go out to all the wonderful people who sent in some really great videos for our contest.  Difficult as it was, we've picked five finalists for the public to vote for beginning on Wednesday, February 6th, 2013.  It might be a day or two after our goal date, but that will only add to the suspense, right?

Right now the videos are in post-production; that is, we're adding captions and audio descriptions so that everyone may enjoy these fun and creative videos and vote for their favorite one.  And, in case you forgot, there are cash prizes and awards for the top three videos with the most votes.

Once the videos are accessible, we'll post them to the contest page (http://atnet.org/video-contest/).  Visitors can vote once per day for their favorite video during the voting period that begins 8:00 AM (PST) Wednesday, February 6, 2013 and ends at 11:59PM (PST), Thursday, February 28, 2013.

Prizes will be awarded no later than Friday, March 8th, 2013.

So prepare to be amused, enlightened and inspired by the five creative video finalists and visit ATnet.org!   

Come early and vote often.  And don't forget to tell your friends and family to vote too!  The winner is up to you.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Communication AT Success Story

Damary Bustos, YO! Volunteer
Hi! My name is Damary Bustos and I am from Hayward, California. I just turned 21 years old last month. I was born with Cerebral Palsy which affects my walking and it’s hard to control my hands movements sometimes. I also have a speech disability which makes it really hard for others to understand me. But I'm thankful that last month I finally got a device to communicate with others!

When I was in elementary school I had a keyboard to communicate with others. Two years after I got it, it acted up and was very slow so I decided to not use it anymore. I'm naturally very talkative but because of my speech disability I was a little shy to talk to others. I started going to a speech therapist when I was in 4th grade so I would be able to improve my speech. 

I was excited every session that I had until, one day, the speech therapist said to me, "Look at your legs, you will never walk! And you will never talk!" Those were some really strong words for a 4th grade girl. As the days passed by, my mom noticed that something was happening to me because I looked sad and wasn't talking like before, so I told her what had happened and we had an I.E.P. (Individualized Educational Plan) meeting with my teachers.

I stopped going to that speech therapist after that, and I decided to just give up and not see other speech therapists. I was talkative with only my friends; during elementary school kids would make fun of my speech disability and I felt so bad.  I would tell on them but that doesn't take away the bad feelings that I felt when they were making fun of me and, as time passed by, I decided to just ignore them. 

When I entered high school, I was very quiet and even a loner. I hated that because I wanted to have friends to hang out with and say stuff without them having trouble understanding me. I think I would have friends to hang out with if I didn't have my speech disability. My sophomore year I was again offered a chance to see a speech therapist. I overcame my fears of what had happened to me in elementary school and decided to see him. He told me that there wasn't much to do about my situation but he said it in a nice way. I still didn't expect that answer but said to myself, "Oh well." I would communicate with others by writing on a piece of paper, typing it as text, or someone else would translate for me.

When I joined DANY (Disability Action Network for Youth) I was happy to be around other youth that have speech disabilities. I finally felt like I wasn't the only one. About a year ago, the DANY coordinator told me about this presentation at the Ed Roberts Campus for people with speech disabilities. So I went and checked it out. They introduced me to an app on the iPad called Verbally which I felt was really useful to me but I didn't have money at the time to buy it. Later in that year my dad bought the iPad 2 but I still never used it.

During Disability History Week I was doing a presentation at a high school and someone was going to translate for me. A day before the Disability History Week presentation the person told me that she couldn't make it. I was worried on how I was going to present with my speech disability. So I asked my dad to let me borrow his iPad 2 and I downloaded the app Verbally and I wrote out my slides for the presentation.  Then, during the presentation I  just copied and pasted my slides from the notes app into the Verbally program and just clicked on the "Speak" icon and it spoke aloud everything that I had written.The students thought that that my presentation and the way I presented to them was so coo.

I used my dad's iPad 2 for like a month for DANY stuff and then I was approved to be a YO! Volunteer with YO! Disabled & Proud.  I realized that I would really need an iPad now that I'm a volunteer because I'll be going to lots of events and I also just made the decision to try out college, too. So I earned enough money to buy my own iPad. Last month I bought the iPad Mini and downloaded Verbally. I take my iPad Mini with me everywhere I go. I'm very happy now that I don't have trouble communicating with others! It’s very easy to say what I want to say and everyone can understand me.
screeshot of Verbally app

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

New Xbox Video Controller for Individuals With Limited Hand Mobility

by Rachel Anderson, Program Coordinator

Luis had always loved playing video games. However, in 2007, he was in an accident and became a quadriplegic.

Speaking in regards to video games, Luis felt passionate that being able to play video games again was an important part of his independence that he strongly desired.

"I need to learn how to play this, get back to playing this..I needed some interaction," Luis told Steve Krafft, of FOX 10 News.

Luis became determined to figure out a way that he could play video games again - and that he did!  He invented a more accessible Xbox video game controller and started his own company so that others could game as well. His controller can be used by people with limited mobility in their hand and/or arms.

"The RT which are the trigger buttons are right here," explained Peña  as he demonstrates the newly designed controller.  "...The bumper buttons are in the center so all the buttons that remote has for the Xbox are right here and then, in my chin stick."

The buttons are very sensitive and only need to be lightly touched to work.  The controller includes an oversize joystick and a chin stick for up and down movements.   Luis can now play video games with his new device just like he used to, and, it is an impressive controller that can work for many different people.  Check out his demonstration and gaming in this video:

Luis's company is called LP Accessible Technologies and although to date they have only sold about twenty of these controllers so far,  Luis says he's not in this for the money.

"I am not after the dollar signs.  I am about helping other guys."
The LP pad costs $399.  Luis hopes as he manufactures more of them, he can bring the price down.

Check out Luis's company's website for more information.

Do you have an idea for adapting a device for a person with a disability? Do you currently use any Assistive Technology devices?  Enter our AT video contest and win $400!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Emergency Preparedness for People Who Use Assistive Technology

by Jorge Ruiz, Assitive Technology Coordinator at Central Coast Center for Independent Living

Living in California, the possibility of a high magnitude earthquake hitting and affecting our lives is very likely! In fact this past fall in October there was a small 5.3 magnitude earthquake that originated in San Benito County and was felt in many parts of California. 

Coincidentally, also in October, I participated with the Local Office of Emergency Services at their Emergency Operation Center for the Shakeout!  Shortly after everyone had ducked and covered, we held a three hour long exercise responding to an imaginary 7.3 magnitude earthquake and its aftershock. 

My job as the “Operator” was to take calls from emergency workers and connect them to the resources in our area. Imagine providing information and referral under heavy stress! This experience made me wonder if people with disabilities who use assistive technology (AT) are prepared for a disaster like an earthquake.

The following helpful advice was adapted from publications by the Disability Law and AdvocacyCenter of Tennessee and the Georgia Emergency Preparedness Coalition for Individuals with Disabilities and Older Adults

What Can You Do in Your Home?
Plan for the possible need to evacuate your home and do an assessment of the assistive technology (AT) you use in your home. In addition, make sure you have what you need to shelter in place. Compile a list of the AT critical to support your physical well-being and ability to communicate during an emergency. Have an appropriate back-up power supply and know how long the power supply lasts. The following questions will assist you in developing a list of AT used in your daily life.

Do you use Assistive Technology:
• To assist you with mobility?
• To help with your personal care?
• To help you during meal time?
• For communication?
• For transfers?
• For transportation?

Accessible Routes
► If you live in an apartment complex ask
about evacuation plans and routes. Check
the routes for accessibility and make sure
that designated areas of shelter are clearly

► Gather information about how first responders
will be directed to residents with disability
related needs.

In the Workplace

► Evaluate your assistive technology (AT) needs in
a workplace evacuation. Do you have personal AT
that needs to be evacuated with you? Make sure
you have what you need to shelter in place. Do you
need AT to alert you to a disaster and the need to
evacuate the building?

► Become familiar with the evacuation procedures of
your workplace and consider how a disaster may
impact your ability to leave the building safely.

► Elevators may not be available for evacuation. If the
elevators are not working, learn the evacuation plan
if you cannot use the stairs.

► If you have a mobility impairment, know what AT can
assist with evacuation. If there is AT available, where
is it located and is it easily accessible? Is someone
trained to use it? If AT is not available, ask if your
employer can purchase it.

► If you are asked to go to a designated place to wait
for help, confirm how the first responders will be
notified where you are located.

► If you have a hearing and/or visual impairment make
sure there is a working alert system in place.

► Be responsible for your own safety. Develop
your own evacuation plan. Do not depend
on just one person to assist you.
Create a support network to
ensure assistance will be

General Things to Consider

► Let your local fire department and/or utility company know about your special needs.

► If you have a power wheelchair, consider having a
manual chair as a backup. If you use a custom wheelchair
for medical support (e.g. ventilator or oxygen), attach
information to it for the first responders.
► Store backup equipment at another location.

► Teach others in your support system how to use your AT
and attach laminated instructions.

► Keep critical AT charged and have backup batteries.

► Make plans for someone to notify you of an emergency ifyou are deaf, hard of hearing or have vision impairment.

► Have a corded land line phone that does not use
electricity. A land line phone or cell phone can be used
during a power outage.

► Plan for taking AT with you. Remember to take chargers
and other components with you!

► Label or tag your AT with your contact information.

► Register your AT with the manufacturer.

► Take a photograph of yourself using your AT. This helps
clearly identify the AT belongs to you!

► Keep photographs and a record of all AT serial numbers in a safe location (safe deposit box).

► Think about how you might go about obtaining a short-term and/or long-term replacement for your AT, if needed.

► Since homeowner’s/renter’s insurance does not cover
damage by ground water, flood insurance may be needed
to replace AT lost or damaged in a disaster. Factor in the
cost of home or vehicle modifications when determining
the replacement value of your home or vehicle.

Also extremely helpful and interesting is the following video, "Prepare to Prosper," by the San Fransisco Department of Emergency Management.

Do you have a plan for disaster preparedness for your home/work/school? Share your ideas with us by using the comment button below.