On Saturday, May 15, the State University of New York in Orange County (SUNY Orange) hosted its first annual Hudson Valley Assistive Technology Expo. Over 60 exhibits and vendors advertised their services and products. Headlining the expo was a keynote speech by Dr. Nancy Sulla of IDECORP (an expert on Universal Design for Learning), special screenings of the movie “Shooting Beauty,” and our very own Suzanne Robitaille, who signed copies of her book, “The Illustrated Guide to Assistive Technology.”
A walk through SUNY Orange’s exhibit hall yielded some very fascinating products:
1. The WYNN Literacy Software Solution, developed by Freedom Scientific, is designed for students who are learning-disabled, dyslexic, or who otherwise are struggling with reading educational materials. It also serves as a tool for those with vision problems who need easier reading.
WYNN scans pages from books and, using optical recognition software, reads aloud the text, enabling students to “read” the material at their own pace. It also browses the web for content and performs a number of Web-specific features, including highlighting text, extracting text from the Web, and utilizing its patented WebMasking feature to mask the text.
2. The I-Drive, a patent-pending device manufactured by the WhisperGLIDE Swing Company, does not require motors or batteries. Mounted on either side of a wheelchair, it enables wheelchair users to steer and control their movements without the strain of using both arms to move the wheels.
3. This expo was not all about technological products or services. Like anyone else, a person with a disability needs a fashion statement, and usually the clothing that assists with their condition do not always make good basic fashion. Ross Daniel Adaptive Apparel sells colorful socks for prosthetic legs, fashionable clothing bibs, and other clothing apparel for people with disabilities that looks a good deal better than the ugly hospital-grade clothing commonly sold by wholesalers and clothing manufacturers.
4. Having seen people with extremely limited use of their hands and speech communicate with others using eye-tracking communication devices, I was curious about what it is like to do it myself. I tried out Prentke Romich Company’s ECO2 with EcoPoint, an eye-tracking communication device for users with limited speech and motor capabilities. After a bit of practice, it was easier than I expected. With some adjustments in the way I used my eyes to control the way I pointed at the computer screen, I was able to communicate more easily by saying “Hello, my name is Michael,” both by spelling out letters, and using words.
Truly amazing technology.