Working with clients with visual impairments offers challenges within the field of AAC that are unique and can require imaginative solutions to enable the client access to their device.
After supporting a young child with no functional vision for numerous months, progress in terms of his ability of navigating through the ‘pages’ of his language package on his communication aid was limited. This child was accessing his 45 location Wordpower language package set via a standard key guard and appeared initially to be making good progress in terms of remembering where specific vocab items were located.
As a navigation strategy, the child was supported to place his hand at the top left of his device and then move down the columns and then from left to right across the rows. He was able to press a few cells before his chosen cell and used the auditory feedback to cue him in as to where he was on the page. However after a period of use of this method his progress appeared to have plateaued and his targeting was not getting more accurate.
After discussion with one of our mechanical techniologists a multi sensory keyguide was developed using the department’s new laser cutter. This keyguide was layered – the top layer splits the page into eight sections and then on the bottom layer within each section six shapes (circle, star, square, triangle, diamond, oval) are cut. In this way the child is provided with a sensory code/cue for each cell of the vocabulary package and this should allow himself to orientate himself and more easily learn the use of the system.
Multi sensory keyguide showing layered shapes
Multi sensory Keyguide showing vocabulary
We are looking forward to reviewing this child and seeing if this multi sensory keyguide has supported his ability to learn his AAC language package more effectively.
William Merritt Disabled Living Centre (WMDLC) in Leeds recently participated in GameBlast16, a nationwide gaming event to raise money for Special Effect, a gaming charity that helps people with disabilities access popular home video games. The event ran 24 hours from 1 pm on Friday 26 February. As it wound down, several staff and gamers alike had that glazed look in their eyes that comes with staying up all night, although most participants did the event in shifts.
Maxine McDonnell of WMDLC reports that gaming represents a natural progression for users who have mastered and perhaps become bored with switch-operated toys. Judging from the focused attention of the young gamers in the room, the activity was highly motivating. It is easy to wonder if video gaming is a better medium for some users to develop their access skills when learning to use adapted interfaces.
WMDLC’s support of accessible gaming extends well beyond the annual GameBlast event as the centre holds regular accessible gaming days throughout the year . The knowledgeable and supportive staff have a variety of adaptations to hand to help gamers access popular consoles such as Nintendo WiiU, Sony PlayStation, and Microsoft Xbox. The Maxgear CrossFlight allows an Xbox controller to operate a WiiU console. For example, if a user is proficient with an Xbox controller but not with a WiiU controller, the CrossFlight allows you to use the Xbox controller on the WiiU. The Titan One similarly allows users to swap controllers on numerous consoles, such as using an Xbox controller to operate a PlayStation. It also has an interface called MaxAim DI that supports keyboard and mouse support for accessing gaming consoles. It can also run with OneSwitch Pulse software which is a programmable list of commands that switch users can scan through and send to a gaming console via a computer. The Console Switch Interface Deluxe or C-SID is a switch interface that allows you to break out a button from most console controllers to a switch. WMDLC frequently uses this breakout feature with game adapter cables to form teams of gamers controlling a single avatar. In this setup, members of the team each control specific functions (button presses). McDonnell revealed that many gamers that can play games independently prefer the social camaraderie that comes with working together.
WMDLC’s accessible gaming days are perfect for building up stamina for next year’s GameBlast event. Although the service is drop in, it is helpful if call ahead on 0113 350 8989 or firstname.lastname@example.org so that resources can be allocated.
Yesterday I gave a presentation at Sheffield Hallam University following an invitation from Dr Peter O’Neill, Senior Lecturer and leader on modules including mobile applications and programming for computing. The students were from the BSc Mobile Application Development course and an MSc Group Project.
Considering that the audience could be web and app developers of the future, this was an opportunity to remind of the need to design for accessibility. To set the context I explained the role of our service in assessing for and providing electronic assistive technology such as AAC, EC and computer access and described how some of our clients access this technology. An illustration was given of well established methods such as switch access, alternative keyboards, mice, eye gaze, voice recognition, screen reading software and use of inbuilt accessibility features in Windows, iOS and Android.
This lead to highlighting more recent technology developments which have the potential to be used as Assistive Technology – if developed in the right way:
Leap Motion – non contact gesture input from hand and finger movement.
Google Glass – wearable computer and optical head mounted display.
Google 3D Sensors – Project Tango – phone with motion tracking and depth sensing.
Hopefully we enthused the students with the potential of using these novel technologies for Assistive Technology and in thinking accessibility in everything they did.
There are lots of exciting potential student projects in the area of Assistive Technology and Accessibility. We will continue to develop collaborations between the Barnsley AT Team and University groups such as Sheffield Hallam – hopefully, at some point, building on the Project Possibility model in the UK.
There was a lot of interest in our ‘Introduction to Electronic Assistive Technologies’ course that we ran last week, so we have decided to run the course again on Thursday 12th September 2013.
For more information about what is covered in this course and the other courses in the series, please see our website or download the flyer from our website. Courses are avaliable to professionals working in our service delivery areas (Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster). We may accept requests from other parts of Yorkshire and Humber subject to availability and a nominal charge.
If you would like to book a place, either phone our department or email us at: email@example.com
Looking forward to seeing you there.
Les has been known to the service for years and needs specially adapted joysticks to drive his wheelchair. Les had been using a mushroom shaped joystick but found that his muscle spasms caused his grip to tighten and he couldn’t release it quickly when he needed to. To try and get over this problem, we tried a cone shaped joystick. Les could release this easily but it was harder for him to grasp quickly.
Crossing the road at a pelican crossing was a real problem because you don’t get a green man for long so you need to be able to get going quickly. One of our Clinical Scientists, Zoe, came up with the idea of a bowl shaped joystick which meant Les could get his hand in quickly to start driving but could also remove his hand easily to stop driving. As you can see he still had enough control for accurate manoeuvring.
Michael, our Mechanical Technologist, was able to make and attach this and after a few tweaks, spray painting and altering the position, here is the end result.
The Assistive Technology Team have worked with Susan since 2006. When we first met Susan she was finding computer use with a standard mouse and keyboard very difficult and eventually this became impossible. She was also struggling to control other equipment around her house.
As this video shows, Susan is now able to control her computer, her door, phone, TV and other equipment, all using her head! As with most people, this set up evolved over a period of time, as she tried different options and also as Susan’s condition (Multiple Sclerosis) changed. The rest of this post describes her journey and how the equipment was set up for Susan.