Disability

Memo Touch

Introducing Memo Touch, a tablet designed for elders with short-term memory loss

While the implementation may not be the best, this is a killer good idea and it allows family members to log into the account and set up reminders.

Of course, someone might write an app like this for iOS and then one could have all the benefits of an iPad plus a custom reminder system.

The problem with any idea like this is it has to be made fully accessible to people who can’t see, hear, or use the tablet’s UI well.

I think this is a job for my friend David Niemeijer at AssistiveWare.

AssistiveTouch

Apple’s AssistiveTouch Helps the Disabled Use a Smartphone

David Pogue is pretty worked up over AssistiveTouch and I can see why. After reading his piece I just played around with it and it’s quite fantastic. Settings/General/Accessibility/AssistiveTouch.

Try it (iOS 5), it’s quite interesting.

I’m most interested to see if it might make the iPad more accessible to my 96 year old mother. I don’t think so but it would be great if Apple worked on making iOS devices more accessible to the elderly.

Frankenkindle

Great stuff. Glen creates hacked Kindle for his sister who has cerebral palsy.

This reminds me so much of the early days of what is now called assistive technology: Hacked Apple IIs, HyperCard running X10 controllers, big switches, and the Closing the Gap conference where we all shared this stuff. This was my life for close to twenty years.

For a more elegant solution for iPad, see Assistiveware.

[via Endgadget]

Tinnitus and other ear problems

Tinnitus: Why Won’t My Ears Stop Ringing?

NPR’s Nancy Shute describes tinnitus and the current state of work on getting rid of it.

For the past eight months I’ve had ear problems that are similar although more vexing because various doctors can’t figure out what it is.

One morning I woke up with an allergy-caused runny nose. It went away quickly but my ears felt clogged like I had some water in them from a shower. That clogged feeling changed in small ways, one ear feeling more clogged than the other but it never went away. This problem makes it quite difficult to know where a sound is coming from because my stereo hearing is now un-calibrated. It also makes hearing a phone conversation tougher because high end noise is breaking up, like distortion from a cheap speaker.

I eventually went to our doctor because I had to fly and I was scared I’d rupture an ear drum. We tried a steroid to kill what might have been a sinus infection fast for the flight but the ear problems remained and I cancelled the flight. Went to an ENT (ear, nose and throat doctor) and had my hearing tested and my ears examined further. No recommendation except time. Two months passed and no change and it was really driving me nuts and I decided to go to another ENT who happens to be an old friend of ours. This ENT told me authoritatively that I could fly because the problem wasn’t causing my eustachian tubes to close. I did fly and had no problem except the plane’s engine noise was more annoying than usual and I used noise canceling headphones to drown it out.

My doctor ordered a CAT scan of my sinus which showed nothing wrong. The second ENT thinks it might be a problem with my cochlea but he’s not sure. So, three doctors visits and an expensive CAT scan later the only thing I’ve learned is that I can fly, but the problem persists.

Since then I’ve flown numerous times and the pressurization has never bothered my ears. The problem remains and at times it drives me crazy. While this probably isn’t tinnitus (I don’t hear ringing) I have empathy for anyone suffering from that problem. The part of this NPR piece that piques my interest is the idea that an initial problem can leave an imprint on a brain and even though the problem is gone one might continue to suffer with it because the brain attempts to adapt to it. Whether this is true in my case or not my guess is that this happens with many physiological problems.

Current state of the art of disabilities and technology

Miles O’Brien of the PBS NewsHour did an outstanding job of putting together one of the best overviews I’ve seen yet of how technology is being used to help people with various kinds of disabilities. We saw this on air last night and it blew my mind and I’ve been involved in this area for many years. Very well produced and a spectacular collection of ideas in various stages of development.

Here’s the overview at the NewHour site: Minds, Machines Merge to Offer New Hope for Overcoming Impairments.

iZettle, moving towards a cashless economy

Following on the heels of Square we have iZettle.

These are different from near field communication which is no doubt coming to mobile phones as well (payment by waving phone in the air).

Then there’s Mobil Speedpass, EZ Pass and no doubt many more systems like these.

Lots of ways to move money around without handling cash. Reminds me of an article some friends and I wrote about these things in 2002: Digital Independence. It’s dated now but many of the things we talked about almost ten years ago are taken for granted now.

Tips and Advice for Students, Teachers, and Parents

Note: This list was compiled in 1990 by me and originally posted in 1995 on LD Resources. The ideas still make good sense and may be even more useful in our TV and smartphone obsessed world. With thanks to the now defunct Whole Earth Catalog, CoEvolution Quarterly, and The Whole Earth Review.

Students

Pull everything out of your teacher; pull everything out of your fellow students. Pull everything out of yourself. Work hard. Then work harder.

Success isn’t how far you got, but the distance you traveled from where you started.

Learn by trial and error, and don’t avoid the errors. Consider everything an experiment.

Learning doesn’t happen in class, it happens when you get home and look at the wall. Don’t forget to make time for looking at walls.

Be self-disciplined.

Be a self-advocate.

Learn from your mistakes. There is no win and no fail, there’s only honest effort.

Assume that others are always doing their best.

Work. If you work it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things. Worrying about work doesn’t get it done, it only makes getting started harder.

Get good at something other than school-related work (like skateboarding or cooking).

Don’t try to create and analyze at the same time. They’re different processes. Continue reading

For Once in my Life

Film overview: For Once in my Life
Watch For Once in my Life

Jim Bigham and Mark Moorman document a few months in the lives of a group of disabled adults who work at Goodwill Industries of South Florida. Under the direction of Javier Pena, the Goodwill Band gets ready to Perform their biggest show yet.

The 29 members of the band live with everything from autism and Down syndrome, to blindness and other physical, mental, and developmental challenges. By day they work and socialize with one another at the Goodwill Industries of South Florida. That’s also where they rehearse their music with an eye toward playing sophisticated venues and garnering mainstream respect and accomplishment. As their music becomes tighter and more harmonious, so too do their lives — a testament to the healing and empowering power of music, participation, cooperation, and friendship.

You can watch the entire film online at the link above or purchase the film on iTunes or direct from Goodwill Industries on DVD.

We used to watch Independent Lens every week on PBS and then channel 13 changed the day and time it was on and we lost track of it. This show, along with POV is the place to see the work of outstanding independent filmmakers. My friend Sheryl Kennedy pointed me to this film and I’m glad she did. Thanks a lot Sheryl, I cried for nearly an hour.