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Coping with Vision Loss
Vision related Healthcare
Advocacy through Awareness
Orientation and Mobility Training
Job Skills Assesment
Job in Jeapardy Intervention
Basic Job Skills Instruction
Assistive Technology Instruction
Computer Skills Instruction
Braille Instruction

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 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.

White Canes
Many people who are blind or visually impaired use a white cane. Its designed as a mobility tool and as a courtesy to others. There are many different variations. Canes come in long and short forms. There are also canes that are collapsible for easy carrying. Different tips can be placed on a cane to the clients preference. Canes are used in our Orientation and Mobility Training.

Personal Navigation Devices
Personal navigation devices (PND) are hand held GPS units with a speech interface. Typically these units do not have visual interfaces and instead rely on the user verbally stating the address of where they wish to go or by marking locations they currently are at as waypoints so that they can be quickly referenced in the future. PND’s serve as excellent tools which aide in directing one to a specific location. PND’s are used in our Orientation and Mobility Training. We currently use the Kapten Plus and Humanware Trekker Breeze.

MP3 Recorders
MP3 recorders are excellent tools for making notes. They serve well in meetings and classroom environments. Devices with tactile (indented) and simple controls work best. At iChallenged we often use MP3 recorders to provide lesson material in an audible format for our client’s future referent.

Victor Reader
The Victor Reader is a specially designed digital book device. It combines the functionality of a MP3 player, a voice recorder for taking notes and the ability to store books in the DAISY format as well as in text format. The DAISY format allows one to quickly return to a table of contents, move from chapter to chapter and also save and return to bookmarked points of the book. DAISY formatted material is readily available for educational material and is an excellent tool for use in school and college environments. When books are stored in text format, the device has a built-in text to speech ability to play back the book contents in an audible format. iChallenged provided instruction in the use of Victor Readers and assisting clients obtain book material related to their goals.

Screen Reader
A screen reader is a piece of software used to translate what is displayed on a computer display to an audible format. The software includes a set of keyboard commands built in to help navigate the pc interface and use certain software. There are several different screen readers available. Not all screen readers work for all situations. At iChallenged we evaluate the clients goals and assist in helping them decide which tool will best meet their needs. We currently provide instruction on the use of the following screen readers.

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.

Screen Magnifiers
For those clients who still have partial sight, a screen magnifier can go a long way in allowing one to continue to use a visual interface. Screen magnifiers typically come in one of two flavors. First there are versions that are strictly just magnification software. The second are ones that combine magnification and screen reading capabilities to maximize the experience for the user. When used with larger displays, magnifications of up to 8 to 10 times can be achieved and beneficial to those with some vision. At iChallenged we currently provide instruction with the following magnifiers:

  • Freedom Scientific Magic
  • AI Squared ZoomText

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:

  • Traditional Keyboard and Mouse
  • Enlarged Font Keyboards
  • Braille keyboards and tactile braille displays
  • Speech Control (primarily used for those who have lost the use of their hands.)
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