Mobile technology: is it hype or a revolution?

August 5, 2011 by JoLynne Lyon

Over the past few months, e-newsletters and RSS feeds have run over with stories about mobile technology and its implications for both education and special education. Every day there’s a new story about a tablet as a teaching tool.

Educational apps can resemble games, with built-in repetition and rewards for students who are trying to master a new concept. This is great not only for students, but also for special education students who can work on their own, at their own pace. Craig Boogaard, a technology support specialist for the Utah Center for Assistive Technology, said the app market is booming for devices of all brands.

The revolution may go beyond the school. Mobile technology may encourage some people to go online who have not done so before. People with disabilities have typically been slower than their peers to use the Internet. A Pew Research Center study found that among adults with a disability, 54 percent were Internet users, compared to 81 percent of those who did not report a disability.

Why the difference? Accessibility may be a complication, since using a computer without assistive technology may be so frustrating for some people with disabilities that it turns them off. Cost may be a big barrier: not only the price of the desktop, but also the price of the assistive technology required to make it work. Age may also play into it, since people with disabilities tend to be older that their peers, and thus they are less likely to be comfortable with new technology. (That’s a generalization, of course.)

Mobile technology may address some of these barriers. A tablet or smart phone is less expensive than a desktop. Some devices have accessibility features built-in. (The iPad, iPhone and iPod appear to be ahead when it comes to accessibility.)

In addition to features that make the device easier to use for people with disabilities, apps are available that transform a device into a mobile piece of assistive technology; one that can magnify print, scans labels in a grocery store, reads the dollar value of paper money or speaks for someone unable to talk. You can read a list of iPad 2 assistive technology apps on the Utah Assistive Technology Program blog–and more have probably become available since it was compiled.

This is all fine in theory, but how does it work in practice? If you are an educator, or a person with a disability who uses a device, or if you know someone who does, please leave a comment. It would be nice to know how mobile technology is working for real people in the real world.

Finally, there’s more information about mobile technology on our website.

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Free Accessible Online Webinar: A Business Planning Course for Microentrepreneurs

April 8, 2011 by admin

Are you an entrepreneur with a disability who needs a business loan for your small business?  Need help writing your business plan? Then sign up for RESNA’S free Accessible Web-based meeting!

Session #1: Introduction and Business Planning Basics – What do you need to consider in order to start or expand a small business?

Kathy Gilman of the Washington Access Fund will be presenting webinar for budding entrepreneurs from around the country so that they can learn about entrepreneurship and the basics of business planning.  Kathy has 15+ years of microenterprise development and microlending experience.

Date:  April 27, 2011
Time:  12:00 pm – 2:00 pm
To Register: Contact Lois Summers. To make arrangements by phone, call 1- 800-524-5152.



NBC’s Today Weekend show will feature the car that can be driven by the blind

March 4, 2011 by JoLynne Lyon

The car developed through the National Federation of the Blind’s Blind Driver challenge will appear on NBC’s Today Weekend show on Sunday, March 6. According to KSL’s local listings, the news program will begin at 7 a.m.

The CPD’s Sachin Pavithran also serves on the NFB research and development committee–which made him one of a team of people who gave input on the car’s design. They helped a team of students from Virginia Tech to know which elements of design would and would not work in a car driven by a blind person.

Sachin is the CPD’s assistive technology specialist and law and policy coordinator.

We have written about the car on our blog and in our newsletter–now it will be covered on national news. Tune in if you can!


A car that the blind can drive prompts thank yous and worries

March 1, 2011 by JoLynne Lyon

Sachin Pavithran is Assistive Technology Specialist and the Disability Law and Policy Coordinator for the Center for Persons with Disabilities. He gave input into the design of the prototype through the National Federation of the Blind's research and development committee.

What responses do you get when you help create a car that a person who is blind can drive?

Dr. Dennis Hong mostly received thank yous from all over the world. The director of the Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory at Virginia Tech led a team of 12 undergraduate and 2 graduate students to created a car that could be driven with no vision at all. But in addition to the thank yous he also read some alarmed emails, worrying that the new technology would mean new hazards on the road.

“This is not going to be a real product until it is proven as safe as or safer than a car for sighted people,” he said. In the meantime Hong expects spin-off technologies to improve cars driven by sighted drivers; sensors that detect objects in heavy fog, for example.

In the future the technology that allows people who are blind to drive may be as well-developed and accepted as the auto-pilot feature commonly used on planes today–but that day won’t come right away.

The Blind Driver Challenge was initiated by the National Federation of the Blind, which wanted a car that could allow a person with visual impairment to drive and make his own decisions. The Virginia Tech team took the challenge and created a car that feeds information to the driver through non-visual interfaces. The CPD’s Sachin Pavithran, who in addition to working here also serves on the NFB research and development committee, was one of a team that gave valuable feedback to the researchers. They helped the students understand what would and would not work, and why.

The result made a successful run  in late January, during a pre-race demonstration in Daytona.

“This is another breakthrough in the field of assistive technology for the blind. It indicates that blindness could be overcome if the right tools and skills have been obtained,” Pavithran said.

You can find more information about the prototype car in the CPD’s February Newsletter.


Attention, screen reader users: WebAIM wants your input.

December 2, 2010 by JoLynne Lyon

WebAIM, a project at the Center for Persons with Disabilities, has launched another screen reader user survey. Everybody who uses one–whether by necessity or because it’s part of their job–is invited to respond. It will remain open through January 10, 2011.

WebAIM trains web developers on the best practices for web accessiblity. In their training sessions, WebAIM team members teach how to make  a web page’s compatabile with screen reading technology, which reads the content of a page to the user. WebAIM’s  screen reader surveys help ensure their recommendations match up with users’ experience and preferences.

The survey page also provides links to the results of past studies.

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