Fiechtl presents at CEC panel discussion

October 30, 2013 by Sue Reeves

Image of student sitting at a computer.

A special education student prepares to begin a Virtual Home Visit as part of her student teaching program.

Barb Fiechtl, clinical instructor in special education and co-ordinator of the Virtual Home Visit project at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities, recently participated in a panel discussion at a Council for Exceptional Children conference.

“The panel presentation was on what is being done in virtual intervention,” Fiechtl said. “Everybody does it a little differently.”

For example, she said,  USU students majoring in special education are now being trained to do virtual home visits during the student teaching portion of their program.

Diane Behl, of USU’s National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management, talked about the use of technology in speech therapy in the home for children with cochlear implants.

The third panel participant, a colleague from Nevada, talked about the use of iPads for virtual intervention. In that program, the speech therapist logs in, but the early intervention person is in the home.

About 1,000 people attended the international conference for the CEC birth to age 8 division in San Francisco Oct. 16-18.

Up to 3 families attend Halloweenie Roast

October 28, 2013 by Sue Reeves

Image of Halloween village

The Halloweenie Roast features a kid-sized play village.

For the second year in a row, families  who participate in the Up to 3 Early Intervention Program at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities gathered at a farm in Paradise to ride the M&M train, play in the Halloween village and roast weenies and marshmallows.

Last Wednesday, Up to 3 participants gathered at the Tams Family Farm at 7815 South Hwy. 165 in Paradise for the Halloweenie Roast.

“We sent 80 kids and family members,” said Up to 3 staff assistant Karen Cox. “That’s a huge turnout for a community event.”

According to Cox, members of the Tams family decorate their five-acre farm with Halloween spookiness and invite the community to come and enjoy it.  Kids can play in a village of houses sized just for them, listen to spooky stories during a hay-wagon ride or ride the M&M train pulled by an antique tractor. This year’s event featured Cruella DeVille’s limousine, pirate skeletons and a witch’s knobby-knee contest.

“It’s cheesy hilarious,” Cox said. “It’s a small town, hometown thing—cheap, simple fun.”

The Halloweenie Roast is open from 5:30-8:30 p.m. in the days leading up to Halloween. There is no cost and donations are not accepted.

WAVE tool continues lead in web accessibility

October 25, 2013 by Sue Reeves

Image of WAVE5 sidebar.

An example of a WAVE5 sidebar.

To help web developers and designers create content that’s available to everyone, Web Accessibility In Mind, (WebAIM) a program of Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities, offers a free web site evaluation tool called WAVE5.  Users simply type in a URL, upload a file or paste in a piece of HTML code, and WAVE processes the code and looks for access or compliance issues. Users can also download a free toolbar within the Firefox web browser.

WebAIM took over development of the first version of the tool in 2001 after the death of the original developer, Len Kasday, from Temple University. The toolbar was first released in 2008.

“WAVE provides an easy-to-use presentation that is great for facilitating human accessibility evaluation,” said WebAIM associate director Jared Smith. “It can teach you about web accessibility as you use it. We’ve developed WAVE to focus on true end user accessibility, not merely compliance with a set of guidelines, although WAVE can help you make your site compliant.”

WAVE can only check one page at a time, Smith said, and some people would like to use it to check an entire web site automatically. A stand-alone API platform was recently released that allows large entities to install the WAVE analysis engine on their own systems for wide-scale evaluation and data collection.

The online version of WAVE evaluated more than a million pages last year, Smith said.

“Due to the private and secure nature of WAVE toolbar evaluations, we can’t know how often it is used,” Smith said, “but we suspect the usage is perhaps 10 times higher than the online version.”

Previous versions of WAVE, as well as other web evaluation tools, generate reports, but they are often difficult to decipher. WAVE5 offers a new sidebar containing a color-coded, icon-laden summary of errors and alerts. With just a few mouse clicks, users can see the details of each error and alert, as well as a documentation box that lists the error, what it means, why it matters and how to fix it. Users can learn more about web accessibility as they are using the WAVE tool.

WebAIM is currently working on releasing Chrome and Firefox toolbars that provide the improved functionality and interface of the WAVE5 online version.

“Rather than focusing on new version, our focus for the foreseeable future is on small feature improvements, speed enhancements, and in providing access to the current WAVE functionality in multiple ways,” Smith said.

Follow the yellow brick road at the Pumpkin Walk

October 23, 2013 by Sue Reeves

Image of pumpkin walk display with Wizard of Oz theme.

Karen Cox and Miriam Williams set up the Up to 3 Early Intervention Program’s Wizard of Oz-inspired Pumpkin Walk display.

If you go to the North Logan Pumpkin Walk this weekend, follow the yellow brick road to the Up to 3 Early Intervention Program’s display.

Up to 3, a program of the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University, first participated in the Pumpkin Walk last year and deemed it a success.

“It’s more of a branding thing,” said Up to 3 staff assistant Karen Cox, who has coordinated both displays. “It gets our name out. We heard from so many people who said, ‘Oh, I saw you guys at the Pumpkin Walk.’”

The Pumpkin Walk, a Cache Valley tradition for 30 years, can be found at North Logan’s Elk Ridge Park, 1100 E. 2500 N. It will be open Thursday through Saturday, Oct. 24-26, and Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 28-29. Admission is free.

Parking is available at Elk Ridge Park between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. After 6 p.m., 2500 N. will be closed between 800 East and 1250 East (the road that runs past the park, and free parking will be available at Greenville Elementary (2450 N. 400 E.) and Cache Valley Specialty Hospital (2380 N. 400 E.), with free shuttle service between the school and the park.

UATP presents free online training

October 21, 2013 by Sue Reeves

Head shot of Henningsen.

Amy Henningsen

The Utah Assistive Technology Program will present a free online interactive training, “Assistive Technology for Seniors,” on Wednesday, Oct. 30, from 3–4:30 p.m. MST.

This free training will be presented by Amy Henningsen, occupational therapist and assistive technology specialist for the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University. Henningsen will present a variety of assistive technology device that are available to seniors that can help them maintain their independence. Simple, low-tech products as well as high-tech products will be demonstrated in areas such as mobility, bathing, dressing, eating, meal preparation, household chores, etc.

Henningsen is a registered occupational therapist, and is a 1974 graduate of Eastern Michigan University. She is certified in Neurodevelopmental Treatment in Pediatrics and as an Assistive Technology Practitioner. She has more than 30 years of experience working with developmental disabilities in a variety of settings and currently provides direct and consultative services for the Up to 3 Early Intervention Program.

Participants will need a computer with high-speed Internet access. RSVP by Monday, Oct. 28, to Storee Powell via e-mail storee.powell@usu.edu, or call 435-797-7412. Instructions will be e-mailed to participants.

Screen reader users should contact Sachin Pavithran at 435-797-6572 or sachin.pavithran@usu.edu, no later than Friday, Oct. 25, to make arrangements to participate via phone. Participants who may need any other accommodations should also contact Pavithran by this date.