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Calling all disabled job seekers, including veterans. Join in on a free teleseminar on Thursday, Sept. 16 on the new role of assistive technology in the workplace. Sponsored by The Sierra Group’s One More Way collaborative, this teleseminar is free to job hunters with disabilities. (The Sierra Group also has a great job board.) Abledbody is an affiliate sponsor of this terrific event, where Janet Fiore, CEO of The Sierra Group, will talk about how employers can use assistive technology to hire and support qualified candidates with disabilities. Job seekers and employers will learn the four elements that support and allow for creative accommodation solutions, as well as current trends in accommodation solutions utilizing state-of-the-art technologies. Fiore will also bring up the need to broaden the reach of current workplace technologies to assist people with disabilities, such as with the iPad or smart phone. She’ll be joined by guest experts, ... keep reading »
My favorite gadgets at this year’s Assistive Technology Industry Association conference, which featured more than 100 vendors, include two communications products and a new PDA for the blind. I also note some worthy mentions – gadgets that I liked because of their design or originality. Here’s the list. ECO2 This eye-gaze system brings the latest in alternative input. For people who cannot use their limbs, nor speak (perhaps someone with ALS — Lou Gehrig’s Disease – or a person who has had a stroke), Prentke-Romich’s ECO2 is a great innovation. To calibrate ECO2, I followed a bouncing ball on screen while it recorded my eye movements – this takes all of 30 seconds. The program, a combination of words, phrases and pictures, can be operated using just the eyes, allowing someone to express their thoughts (and their gratitude for this program.) ($7,795) Proloquo2go An iPhone/iTouch app for people who have trouble communicating, Assistive ... keep reading »

Book Event in NYC!

January 19, 2010 | by

My publisher, Demos, is hosting an event at a New York Public Library on February 9 to promote my new book. In “High Tech to No Tech – Assistive Technology for the Disabled Goes Mainstream,” Demos will announce the release of The Illustrated Guide to Assistive Technology to media and the publishing industry. I’ll speak about the different devices and gadgets for people with vision, hearing, mobility, cognitive and communications disabilities. EVENT DETAILS Location: Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library 40 West 20th Street (Between 5th and 6th Aves.) New York, NY 10011 When: Tuesday, February 9, 5:30PM to 6:30PM Phone: 212.683.0072 Map to library Suzanne Robitaille, author of “The Illustrated Guide to Assistive Technology and Devices” will demonstrate some new cool technologies for those working and living with disabilities at the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library. The library, which features barrier-free architecture and houses browsing collections of braille, recorded, and large-print ... keep reading »
Today marks the formal release of my first title, The Illustrated Guide to Assistive Technology & Devices (Demos Medical Publishing, December 2009, 232 pages). To celebrate, I’ll do a Twitter giveaway for an autographed copy of the book to two readers who help promote my book via Twitter. Here’s what you have to do to enter: 1. Follow me on Twitter @suzrobitaille 2. Retweet this message: Win a signed copy of @suzrobitaille new assistive tech book! (For those unfamiliar with re-tweeting: Cut and paste this message: RT @suzrobitaille: Win a signed copy of @suzrobitaille new assistive tech book! into the “what are you doing” box on the homepage of your twitter account. Winners will be notified by 12 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2009. If you don’t have a Twitter account, sign up here. My book is an illustrated guide to assistive technologies and devices used by individuals with disabilities to perform functions that ... keep reading »
On a panel with social media innovators and educators, Andy Carvin (@acarvin) moderated a discussion on the different social media channels available to students and others. Carvin is a social media strategist for NPR and the author of EdWeb: Exploring Technology & School Reform. Other panelists included Steve Hargadon, founder of the Classroom 2.0 social network; Lee Rainie (@lrainie), director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, a think tank that studies the social impact of the Internet; and Michael Levine, executive director, Joan Ganz Cooney Center, which supports research and investments in media technology for young children. The panel began with an excellent slideshow on how teens use technology today. Some examples: 14% of online kids blog; 54% read blogs; 55% use wikipedia; and 73% use social networks. You can view it here. (Thanks, @lrainie!) As brilliant as all these guys are, there was, unfortunately, not much discussion on assistive ... keep reading »
I wonder if Intel feels sheepish right now. Here they are, thinking they’ve just launched a great new product for the blind, a mobile device that reads text aloud. Intel partnered with assistive tech pioneer HumanWare and reached out to the blind community to get their input, too. But the Intel Reader, announced yesterday, has pretty much bombed in the marketplace. At $1,500, the Reader is overpriced and doesn’t have any more bells and whistles than other devices already out there. Intel should have known this would happen — or perhaps they don’t really care. After all, if they can get schools to pay for it under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, then they’ll make money. But making products that don’t represent the needs and wants of consumers — blind or not — is anathema to what technology companies should be doing. They should be innovating along a universal design ... keep reading »
At the upcoming 2009 NCTI Technology Innovators Conference, it’s no surprise that the agenda hinges on new and emerging technology trends. The National Center for Technology Innovation (NCTI), which hosts the conference each year, was smart to include the much-anticipated topic of social media, and those attending will hear from experts such as Steve Hargadon, founder of the Classroom 2.0 social network, and Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, a nonprofit think tank hat studies the social impact of the Internet. The conference will be held at The Madison Hotel in Washington, D.C. Nov. 16-17, and the first day is packed with panels. After a lunch keynote by Kareem Dale, President Obama’s Special Assistant on Disability Policy — the highest ranked spot ever created by a President on disability issues — guests will have to make a tough choice about which breakout sessions to attend. Among ... keep reading »
The article in The New York Times about insurers refusing to pay for speech-generating devices has hit a sore point among the disability community. Today’s newspaper reserves a section for comments from people who use these devices, including Roger Ebert, the film critic for The Chicago Sun-Times. Says Ebert: I am one of those you write about who uses a computer voice after losing the power of speech as a result of cancer surgery. After trying an $8,000 custom device with little computing power and a small, dim screen, I tried the built-in speech software on my MacBook and found it much more practical … Anyone who uses a computer and has lost the power of speech knows that e-mail becomes invaluable. It’s stupid of insurance companies to insist on an inferior device costing 10 times as much. Augie Nieto, a former fitness champion who has ALS and is well known ... keep reading »
The New York Times has an excellent, if not disturbing, piece on insurance companies that refuse to reimburse people with speech disabilities for devices that help them speak. This isn’t a new topic: Insurers argue that many of today’s speech-generating devices, which cost upwards of $5,000, can perform other non-speech functions like Web browsing and e-mail — making it more of a “fun and games” device but not a “dedicated” piece of equipment that they normally cover for reimbursement. This principle has led scores of people with speech disabilities, including those with autism or neuromuscular diseases, to try to find cheaper products on the mainstream market. Many have had success with Apple’s $300 iPhone 3G, which has a downloadable app called Proloqu2go that performs text-to-speech functions. Others choose to buy the specialty speech device with all the “fun and games” removed, which meets the insurers’ requirements for reimbursement. But is it ... keep reading »
The Assistive Technology Industry Association has launched a series of web seminars aimed at increasing awareness of new and innovative assistive technologies and services for use by people with disabilities. The new web series complements ATIA’s conferences — held twice a year — and leadership forums that bring together high-profile assistive technology professionals to share ideas and best practices. The next conference will be held in Chicago in October. The goal of the ATIA Webinar Series is to increase awareness of assistive technology and train everyone — from teachers to employers — to understand and assess the thousands of assistive technology products on the market for people with disabilities. These products span the assistive technology spectrum, from augmentative and alternative communication; blind/low vision; computer access; Web accessibility; K-12 and higher education technology; and deaf and hard-of-hearing. “With the addition of webinars we can reach a much wider audience and can do ... keep reading »