|Assistive Technology Instruction|
Assistive Technology Instruction
Assistive technology (AT) is an umbrella term that includes assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices for people with disabilities. It also includes the process used in selecting, locating, and using them. Assistive technology promotes greater independence by enabling people to perform tasks which previously they were either unable to accomplish, or had great difficulty accomplishing. AT are the tools used to enable the client to accomplish such tasks.
Assistive technology comes in many forms and when applied universally yields great rewards to the typical user as well. Good accessible design is universal design. One example is the "curb cuts" (or dropped curbs) in the sidewalk at street crossings. While these curb cuts enable pedestrians with mobility impairments to cross the street, they also aid parents with carriages and strollers, shoppers with carts, and travelers and workers with pull-type bags.
Assistive technology for those with visual impairments includes all types of devices. We recognize that everyones vision loss, skillset and goals are unique. Assistive technology is not a one-size fits all solution. Every client needs are unique and what may work for one person may not work for another. All recommendations and instruction in the use of AT is designed around the individual and their unique needs. At iChallenged we are primarily focused on technologies that assist with mobility, education, communication and job related skills.
Personal Navigation Devices
JAWS - In the state of Michigan, Freedom Scientific’s JAWS application is recognized as the standard for business environments. JAWS is an excellent tool and works in most situations. JAWS technology is based on what is referred to as screen scraping to interpret the visual display into an audible format. This does present some limitations in regards to successfully navigating some interfaces. Often these limitations can be overcome by using the ability to build scripts and macros around certain functions. For many the high cost of ownership can be a limiting factor to using this tool.
Window-EYES – Is another screen reader based on screen scraping technology. This software is similar in function to JAWS and is used as the preferred screen reader in several different states. Again cost of ownership can be a limitation to using this tool for some clients.
SATOGO – This is not only a screen reader but also a unique web interface. The screen reader portion is built on Microsoft’s Accessibility DLL Library and was built with the internet in mind. Taking this approach allows SATOGO to work in many circumstances when a traditional screen-scraping method will not. The downside is that in order to properly work with certain applications, coding must be added to the application. So its usability with desktop applications is mostly limited to Microsoft Office products. SATOGO also offers a subscription based interface, which provides a very powerful and user friendly experience to access web based material. They have also made available accessible audio versions of hundreds of movies, tv shows and books free for those with visual impairments. The cost of ownership is relatively low.
NVDA – Non-Visual Desktop Access (NVDA) is a free and open source screen reader for the Microsoft Windows operating system. Providing feedback via synthetic speech and Braille, it enables blind or vision impaired people to access computers running Windows for no more cost than a sighted person. Major features include support for over 20 languages and the ability to run entirely from a USB drive with no installation. NVDA is developed by NV Access, with contributions from the community. Past and present sponsors of this system include: Adobe, Mozilla, Yahoo and Microsoft.
Portable and Desktop Digital Magnifiers – Magnifiers, both traditional handhelds and the newer digital models enable those with some residual sight to read printed material. This can be beneficial in many ways such as being able to read bills and prescription labels. We currently provide training in the proper use of magnifiers.
Alternative Input Hardware – Many of our clients are not only experiencing visual impairment but are also impacted by other conditions or factors that may make using traditional computer input method unpractical. For some of our clients this may be the loss of another sense such as hearing, or being paralyzed, or loss or fingers or limbs, or nerve damage impacting the sense of touch. To each person their situation is unique as are the tools that will work best in their situation. As we provide instruction in the use of assistive technologies and computer systems, we also consider the possible benefits of using alternative input methods. These can be as simple as adding stickers to specific keys on a traditional computer keyboard to having a speech only interface for interacting with the PC. We currently provide our training using the following input methods:
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