Carol Leynse Harpold, MS, AdEd, OTR/L, ATP with more than 30 years of Occupational Therapy experience in early intervention, school based therapy, acute care, long term care, home health and adult rehabilitation.
Great list of suggested devices for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. Reviewing the list there are also other individuals with or without a disability who might benefit also from some of these devices!
Thank you to AT3 Center for sharing their expertise!
Thanks to Assistive Technology at Easter Seals Crossroads for sharing information on Morphic in their regular blog posts. Morphic is a universal design for access in development for 10 year and is now coming to fruition! Truly a universal design technology tool offering accessibility tools and language translation capabilities for every computer. To learn more, visit AT at Easter Seals Crossroads for more information about this exciting universal design tool or see the video and links to Morphic below.
Your weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs. Show Notes: Dr. Gregg Vanderheiden PhD – Director of the Trace R&D Center at the University of Maryland College Park More on Morphic: https://morphic.world——————————If you have an…
Many individuals with reading challenges are faced with difficulty reading the information in their environment. Whether text in a technical manual at work, written directions and a handout provided in a class or meeting that may be difficult to read. While computer-based scan and read software have been around for a long time, mobile devices now become a scan and read tool for “on demand” access to print for struggling readers whether for school or work.
On-demand access to print is a topic often addressed with students with significant reading challenges during the assessment of their AT needs. While these apps have been around for a while, new apps, upgrades continue to offer additional options for struggling readers.
For students who benefit from test to speech and seeing the document in its original format, the following apps are solid apps for adults and students with a learning disability and mild intellectual disability:
Claro Scan Pen app(iOS and Android; smartphone/tablets; $9.99 for iOS) – While this has been around for several years, it remains my favorite of the quick access scan and read apps for its stability, accuracy, and access. Claro Scan Pen allows the user to scan (OCR, optical character recognition) a worksheet, menu, form or document, provides a replica of the document scanned and allows selecting any text read aloud. A variety of voices are available, options to change speed, and the color of the selected text read. For individuals with significant reading challenges, the visual representation of material scanned is critical to navigating within a document. Loss of formatting for individuals with vision can create difficulty orienting to the contents of a form or worksheet. Claro Scan Pen can batch scan, offering several scanning pages of a document or worksheet. Images from the camera or Photos can be used to and processed with OCR. Additional features allow sharing the document with other apps and services as well as copying to the clipboard.
Prizmo Go(iOS app for iPad and iPhone; free, in-app purchases) – Prizmo Scanning app with text to speech has been around for years. However, the Prizmo Go app offering quick scan and text to speech options, is a newer app producing “quick capture” scan and read using OCR. The app offers options of taking a picture with the camera or importing an existing image from the Photos library using OCR. Single page scanning and batch scan of multiple pages are options available in the app. Prizmo Go offers the ability to crop an image after importing, selecting the text and listening using text to speech, highlighted text when read as well as navigation using the play and forward/back buttons. The OCR’d text can be translated, shared and copied. The app is compatible with Voiceover.
Handwriting recognition is also present, however trials were marginally accurate. Other features include speech output to assist with orienting the device when scanning. Prizmo offers two views of the scanned text, one showing the original document layout (pictured above in below image) with a second dialog box showing text only and controls for reading, sharing and settings. Prizmo Go offers a more features than Claro Scan Pen app which might be confusing for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
Voice Dream Scanner app (iOS; iPhone/iPad 3.99 sale limited time) – The developer of Voice Dream Reader app recently debuted the Voice Dream Scanning app, offering quick scan and reading of documents with a mobile device. The OCR scanning was very accurate, detecting print labels in documents with images. Voice Dream Scanning app allows instant access of documents scanned with text to speech, the option of text-only document view, options of a variety of voices and the ability to share the scanned information to Voice Dream Reader, as a text or PDF document or copy the text. Batch scanning is an option as well as cropping the initial image before performing OCR to select specific text in the scanned document. Images from the camera or from Photos can be used to process the document using OCR. Navigation within the text and playing text to speech is accessed using the play or forward/backward button.
Comments: Accuracy of the OCR when used with the same document were all good but not perfect. Voice Dream Scanner app was the most accurate when compared with the Claro Scan Pen and Prizmo Go. Although less features, I find the Claro Scan Pen preferred for clients with intellectual disability to instantly process, simplified tools and easy access to any text desired to be read. When accessing forms or worksheets, Claro Scan Pen allows the user to view and access the line of print exactly as the original copy. Although the apps work on iPhones, when scanned text is small, selecting the text to be read aloud can be a bit tricky and requires good vision and dexterity. Using the scanning apps due to the detail, is easiest generally when on an iPad Mini tablet or larger in my experience.
As always however, accuracy of the text to speech is dependent on the quality of the document scanned, steadiness of taking a picture and higher quality camera used. The free Prizmo Go app is a bargain however the other apps are well worth the cost, depending on the needs of the user.
As device capabilities and apps improve, accessing text on demand for struggling readers becomes more and more possible!
What are your favorite apps for quick access to print “on-demand”?
EyeMine software offer individuals with mobility impairment access to Minecraft hands free. Read Venkat’s review on this new access method for playing Minecraft!
There are many young people and children who love to play Minecraft. However, some, because of their disabilities, are unable to do so, especially if they cannot move their arms or fingers to control the mouse. To make Minecraft accessible to people with disabilities, SpecialEffect, a charity organization based in the UK, has developed EyeMine…
I couldn’t resist reviewing “Assistive Technology in Special Education, 3rd Edition”, as soon as I received the book. While AT lists for apps and technology have come and go over the years, Joan’s 3rd edition of her book offers a valuable “resource to support literacy, communication and learning differences” for individuals in special education. She provides an amazing accumulation of AT resources and strategies for special needs learners that remains timely despite the rapid, ever-changing (assistive) technology industry. Reading and reviewing the contents she provides familiar, tried and true AT apps, software and devices as well as new and unfamiliar AT tools and resources. I look forward to using this book as a go to resource for AT solutions for clients serviced. If not specifically provided in the book, she offers resource lists in topic chapters for more information, (e.g. Enable Mart, CHADD, CTD ). As an AT Practitioner evaluating clients with a wide variety of challenges, this book offers a helpful guide in topics less frequently used. It also offers tools and strategies in a wide variety of needs faced by students we service.
As a speech and language pathologist, Joan Green’s book focuses on AT to support special education. Contents of her book addresses the following 15 topics (chapters):
1. Getting Started with Assistive Technology
2. The Benefits of AT
3. Lifting the Barriers, Technology and Access
4. Technology and Strategies to Improve Verbal Expression
5. Alternative and Augmentative Communication
6. Technology and Strategies to Improve Auditory Comprehension and Receptive Language
7. Technology and Strategies to Improve Reading Comprehension
8. Drill and Practice Technology to Improve Reading Skills
9. Technology and Strategies to Improve Written Expression
10. Drill and Practice Technology to Improve Writing Skills
11. Technology and Strategies to Improve Attention, Cognition and Executive Function
12. Technology and Strategies to Learn New Information
13. Online Organization and Collaboration
14. Interactive Programs to Practice Cognitive Skills
15. Final Thoughts: Keeping Students Safe and Preparing for the Future
I am impressed with the content of Joan Green’s book and will use it as a resource for identifying solutions for client serviced. Having some experience with blogging and training in AT apps and technology, maintaining up to date information with AT is a huge challenge. Hats off to Joan for compiling a valuable hard copy resource of AT for special education that maintains relevance for today.
An earlier post Technology for Sound Sensitivity dated February 2, 2019 shared a case study of a student with auditory overload when in noisy environments. A variety of noise reduction options were researched and presented. While the Vibes noise cancelling ear plugs were implemented initially with the student, there continued to be occasions that noise levels caused the student to seek the quiet of the resource room to each his lunch. While the Vibes worked the majority of the time, the student reported whistling and noise levels that were not tolerable. A better solution was needed.
As researched and presented in the Technology for Sound Sensitivity post, additional high frequency noise cancellation ear plugs are available. Further research found flanged ear plugs recommended – (what’s that??), which look like this:
Those flanges, which you have all seen on inexpensive ear plugs, provided a better seal in the ear. The LiveMusic HearSafe earplugs which are flanged ( triple flanged!), were trialed with the student. The LiveMusic HF ear plugs come in sets of two, one set with 29 db NRR (noise rating reduction) and other 23 db NRR. With application of the 29 db NRR the ear plugs were found to be comfortable and resulted in the student able to consistently stay in the lunch without being challenged by the noise or whistling sounds. With these HF noise cancellation earplugs, you are able to hear conversations with peers and teachers blocking only the loud, high frequency noises. For this student it worked like a charm!
The only challenge encountered was the student had difficulty getting the earplugs out of the tiny, narrow container provided. A different container was provided and all was good! The student now is ready for high school using inconspicuous ear plugs, able to hear conversations while tolerating the inclusive lunch or other noisy environment. Fortunately, this student was very organized and has been able to maintain the ear plugs without misplacing the tiny things! What a win!
Thanks to Jacqui at Ask a Tech Teacher for sharing a new AI proof writing tool! I am pretty excited about AI, much less a tool to help individuals with written production. Second to solutions for reading, writing solutions are needed when completing AT evaluations or for students with learning disabilities at the middle school, high school or college levels. AT solutions for employment in the area of writing are frequent needs. New tools and options to support struggling writers are always welcomed!
A inquiry from a blog reader requested suggestions for a stylus that would help with challenges with dexterity causing problems grasping writing tools. While standard grippers are currently available, additional research was needed to check current options of styluses. My search reminded me of the different options of styluses available for mobile devices:
Passive Styluses – these are standard, non-electronic styluses and can be capacitive (iOS) or pressure sensitive (Android)
Active Styluses require connection and charging linking the device and the pen for additional electronic functions to write on the surface of a tablet (e.g. Apple Pencil, other active pens). Requiring charging with use.
Passive Stylus Suggestions
For simplicity, passive styluses were researched to identify possible solutions for an individual with dexterity challenges. In the advent of the many active styluses now available, the “The Best Styluses for 2019” from The toptenselect.com website was one of a few that offered a current review of passive styluses. It was interesting to find a few of my favorite standard styluses previously reviewed still listed among the top 10:
Cosmonaut Stylus – this is a chunky stylus with a large rubber tip. It has a large shaft and is quite sensitive. Sells for 24.99 on Amazon. This can be used with an iOS or Android touch screen.
TruGlide Stylus by Lynktec – this has a standard pen-like shaft with a mesh tip. I have a strong preference for styluses with mesh tips which I find have better connectivity and consistency with drawing/writing lines (connection) from different angles on a tablet. Sells for $9.99 on Amazon. Adding a gripper to this stylus is possible for ease of grasp. See gripper suggestions below. This can be used with an iOS or Android tablet and may offer replaceable tips.
Adonit Mini Stylus – this stylus uses a disc tip for precise contact with a touch screen. Sells for $12.92 on Amazon. For a precise input method, this mini stylus is a great price and writing control on a tablet.
Other options not listed in the Top 10 Select Review, but which I have used which may aid gripping a stylus are listed below:
Elago stylus – this stylus has a slightly larger, triangular shaft for better gripping. The tip on the Elago stylus is rubber, which is replaceable if damaged. Sells for $13.99 on Amazon.
The Pencil Grip Ergo Stylus – This stylus offers an integrated, large ergonomic grasp. The stylus has a rubber tip although is not replaceable. Although comfortable to grasp, this stylus is a bit heavier than most styluses. Sells for $14.01 plus shipping on Amazon.
Other Stylus/Active Stylus Options:
The Apple Pencil, while an electronic pencil and compatible with iOS only, is also an option as an exceptional writing tool. It is unmatched in its precision and responsiveness in my opinion and significantly more expensive. It’s shaft is narrow and may be difficult to grasp if strength and finger dexterity is a challenge. It is however for individuals who use their iDevice for handwriting, drawing and precise selection highly recommended. The Apple Pencil now comes in two versions, Apple Pencil (1st generation) for iPad Pro, 9.7, 11.5 and 12.9 (1st, 2nd generation) and Apple Pencil (2nd generation) for iPad Pro 11 and 12.9 (3rd generation). While expensive (94.88 and 129.00 for 2nd generation), for individuals who write extensive notes on their iDevice(s), draw or prefer a precision tip to select on a iOS tablet, it is highly recommended.
Grasps are also available for the Apple Pencil improving the comfort of holding and manipulating or writing with it (see below). Grippers are available only for Apple Pencil pending whether it is a 1st or 2nd generation:
Finite Silicone Grip Holder – offers two different ergonomic grippers for the Apple Pencil ( Apple Pencil 1st generation). Sells for $7.99 for 2-pieces.
Other standard grippers can also be used on styluses. I trialed these options on most of the passive styluses above and they do not interfere with the capacitive connection when applied. Here are some typical pencil or tool grippers offered in a variety of sizes and shapes that might be considered for use with standard styluses:
Egg Pencil Grip – While very big, clients with arthritis find these grippers helpful on pens, pencils or styluses. They foam and very light weight. Cost is under $10-20 for pack of 3-6.
The Pencil Grip Assortment Pack – A variety of styles of grippers for pencils/pens can also be used on some styluses depending on the size of the shaft. This pack of grippers is low cost and offers a variety of sized grasps. These grippers can also be purchased in small quantities in each style. Cost is under $10.00 on Amazon.
Foam tubing (grips) – foam tubing is a standard for building grasps of handles of tools or implements for individuals with strength or dexterity challenges. The foam tubing comes with different sized diameters pending the tool shaft and can easily be cut to any length. Cost is under $10.00 for a pack of 6 on Amazon. Tubing can be found in a variety of different sizes.
A variety of stylus options and grippers are available for individuals with dexterity challenges. Along with the choice of the stylus and gripper, it is important when using a stylus to make sure it is compatible with the type of electronic device you are using. Generic grippers for tools and writing implements can be applied to many styluses to improve grasp and comfort. If you have more questions, consult with an OT for suggestions.
What has been your experience, do you have any other recommendations for styluses for individuals with dexterity challenges?
The Assistive Technology at Easter Seals Crossroads in their weekly AT reviews offers another interesting tool, the AutoBrush for Kids. As an occupational therapist, tools for self cares are always helpful and learning about new oral hygiene tools always seems to be timely when servicing kids with special needs, whether young or older.
The AutoBrush for Kids is an electric toothbrush that comes in two sizes, one for 3-7 year olds and another for 8 years and up. Brushes lining the inside the mouth piece brush are on both sides which clean the teeth. The mouth piece is placed in mouth and cleans both upper and lower teeth at the same time. Here’s a quick video on the AutoBrush for Kids:
How-To: Use AutoBrush for Kids! - YouTube
With the purchase of the base unit, replacement mouth brushes can be purchased and both sizes will work with the sam base unit. You have a choice of four animals to choose from. The base charger comes with the AutoBrush for Kids with cost at approximately $89.00 on Amazon. Although the price is a bit steep, it might be worth it for some children when toothbrushing is a challenge due to sensory or motor skills.
This gyroscope mouse has a variety of ways it can be mounted or accessed (headband, eyeglass clip, eye wear, on a cap among others. A variety of access methods are also options available to include sip and puff, buttons, virtual keyboard among others. Light weight and easy to connect with plug and play tools.
Check out Easter Seals Crossroads review below, or check out The Quha Zona mouse and access options at Quha.com.
If you or a loved one cannot use a traditional mouse, check out the Quha Zono. The “Quha Zono is the original gyroscopic mouse designed for special needs.” This gyroscopic mouse makes it possible for you to use a computer when you’re unable to use an ordinary mouse with your hands. It translates natural head…
A recent evaluation seeking tools for repetitive stress injury allowed me to check this device out. It was easy to use and connect with its plug and play features. Other tools such as dwell software and management of mouse speed and control were needed with the basic set up.
H/T to Assistive Technology at Easter Seals Crossroads for keeping us updated with their weekly AT curations!