Pre-School

How Stephen Hawking Uses a Computer (Switches and Scanning)

You might wonder how Stephen Hawking can operate his computer and tell it what to say. He uses a single switch activated by the movement of a muscle in his cheek along with some specialized software that presents choices that narrow down to what he wants to say or do. This article discusses the range of switches and related software that allow anyone with a single consistent motion they can control to use a computer.

Switches

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Using Pictures in Mainstream Communication Programs

Adding pictures to standard communication tools such as address books may provide important visual cues for people with learning or other cognitive disabilities -- users can contact people without knowing how to read or write their names. This article contains information on ways that Macintosh and Windows computers and mobile devices support this feature.

Adding Pictures to Email Address Books

Macintosh

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Assistive Technology Software and People with Learning Disabilities

The term "learning disability" is usually defined as involving difficulties with reading, writing, math, memory, or other cognitive functions among people with average or above-average intelligence. Because there is such a wide variation among individual needs and preferences, people with learning disabilities are often best served by software with a variety of customizable features. These features may also be of use to individuals with more temporary needs, such as beginning readers and ESL students. This article talks about some of these tools and the needs they address.

Assistive Technology Strategies for Reading

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Free AAC Software for iPhone/iPodTouch/ iPad Devices

Many free alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) apps are available for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. This article summarizes the capabilities of the most useful of these apps as well as providing links to the products' iTunes pages.

For an introduction to AAC, please see the articles on Alternative and Augmentative Communication--What Is It? and Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) -- What are the options?

Introduction

One benefit of using free apps is that they can be used to explore whether AAC is beneficial to an individual, and what type of AAC is beneficial, without requiring a financial commitment beyond the necessary hardware. They also tend to have simple designs so that they are very intuitive and can be used with little or no training or configuration.

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Cognitive Training Software

Cognitive training can be used to address behavior issues in children, memory loss in elders, and other cognitive skills. This article lists some software that's currently available and provides suggestions for what to look for when selecting cognitive training software.

Cognitive Training Software for Basic Skills

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Assistive Technology for Safety and Security

There are three types of products related to safety and security that may be of interest to people with disabilities:

  • Products that provide redundant alerts for people who are deaf or hard of hearing
  • Products that allow people with various disabilities to signal for help
  • Products that provide assistance to people with cognitive disabilities

This article covers all three.

Redundant Alarms

Most alarm systems use a loud sound. People with hearing loss need a redundant signaling method that uses lights, vibration, or both, or may connect to a lamp that flashes when activated. These features are available on smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, burglar alarms, and baby monitors; many can be found in home improvement stores or big box retailers.

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Touch-Free Devices for Indoor Use

Fixtures and devices that are responsive to motion rather than physical contact are becoming increasingly popular. These benefit not only people with dexterity disabilities, but also people with a fear of germs and people temporarily unable to use their hands because of injury or because they are holding books, groceries, or a baby. Many products are available in touch-free models; in some cases, modifications are available for existing products. Installation of these products is often a good strategy for complying with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations.

Toilets

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Accessible Options for Art, Music, and Other Creative Activities

Creativity software can help users bypass the most difficult physical, sensory, and cognitive aspects of making art, while enabling expression and exploration. While there is not much high-tech hardware or software for making art specifically made for people with disabilities, there are a variety of mainstream options that can be put to this purpose. Many of these are particularly relevant to people with dexterity disabilities that prevent them from holding a paintbrush or strumming a guitar.

This article covers some of those options in:

  • Painting/Drawing
  • Making Music
  • Photography
  • Video and Animation

If you already have a creativity application, examine the interface, documentation, and online resources; you will usually find at least some of these usability and accessibility features:

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Gaming Systems (Wii, etc.)

Gaming systems like Playstation, Wii, and XBox are powerful technologies for education, entertainment, and exercise.  They include a console, a handheld controller, game media, and a connector to a television for display.  Some connect to the Internet as well.

They can be used to play physical games or mental puzzles, chat by voice or text with others, browse the web, and watch videos.

There are specialized input devices for different activities, and some have been created or modified for people with disabilities.  New controllers include object, face, and voice recognition technologies -- exciting options for accessibility.

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Captions on DVDs

Viewers of DVDs and Blu-ray disks usually have the option of viewing captions.

DVDs that have closed captions or subtitles may indicate that on the cover.  To turn captions on, go to the 'menu' on the DVD and look for the 'languages' category.  Either 'closed captions' (CC) or 'subtitles for deaf and hard of hearing' (SDH) will show up.  Select the option and proceed to play the DVD.

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