Accessing Potential Through Assistive Technology

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Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology

Find out more about the RE&AT program through ADRS that manages APTAT.

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A list of funding sources that may be able to help you finance assistive technology.

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Learn more about the Assistive Technology Act and the technology assistance programs across the nation.

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Accessing Potential Through Assistive Technology

Services are provided at no cost to Alabama citizens with disabilities through the federal Assistive Technology Act grant.

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AT Training Blog

Visit out AT Training blog to learn more about assistive technology products, services, solutions, and resources.

Gifting Guide Day 25: Switch Adapted Toys

Playing is an essential part of child growth and development. Learning to activate a toy teaches a child cause/effect and choice making…two essential skills for communication. For children with disabilities who cannot activate the buttons and controls on toys through typical means, we recommend a switch adapted toy. When a toy is switch adapted that means that the internal switches are modified with an external connection to an ability button. Ability buttons can come in a variety of sizes, colors, and means of activation to suit the child’s needs. The buttons can be positioned such that the child can activate it with a hand, foot, elbow, head, etc….whatever the child can use to best target!

Check out the resources below to learn more about switch adapted toys!

variety of switch adapted toys

There are several assistive technology vendors that sell toys that are already modified with a switch jack for an ability button. Vendors like Enabling Devices. Adaptive Tech Solutions, or Ablenet Inc are reliable sources for toys that have already been modified.

Switch adapted toys can be costly, and families with disabled children are already overwhelmed with expenses. Guardians may only be able to purchase one or two switch adapted toys for the child which is why it makes a great gift!

a variety of ability buttons from Ablenet

Don’t forget the ability buttons! In order to utilize a switch adapted toy you also need the ability buttons (external switches). These can also be costly depending on the type but the good news is they are interchangeable with the toy. Depending on the child they may need 2 to 4 switches to start with. Consult with local AT specialists like a speech language pathologist, occupational or physical therapist, or a rehab engineer to determine the right type of button for the child. Vendors like Enabling Devices or Ablenet Inc are reliable sources for ability buttons though there are many options online.

Teddy bear being switch modified

Unfortunately since the vendors who sell pre modified toys are incurring the cost of the toy, the cost of supplies, and charging for the labor and redistribution…the cost of a toy that is modified can be 3-4 times the cost of the original toy.

Thankfully, with less than $10 and some basic electrical and soldering skills you can learn to modify your own toys and save a lot of cash!

Do your research though! Make sure you understand what types of toys can be modified easily and how to complete the process before jumping in. There is no shortage of instruction guides online and soon we’ll have more posted here on StarTraining.org! Until then take a look at AT Makers website as well as an older Adapting Toys blog post from StarTraining.org that provides step by step instructions on switch adapting a toy.

Gifting Guide Day 24: Kitchen Gadgets

Holiday meals are one of the star features when getting together with friends and family. However, some tasks may be difficult for some. Whether it’s during prepping, cooking, eating, or cleaning, we could all use some help. You may be a seasoned chef in need of large-print tools, someone having difficulty with opening jars, someone with an upper extremity amputation or injury, or you just want to make some tasks less of a hassle. Here are some kitchen gadgets for you to consider as a gift to yourself or someone else!

The items listed below are not limited to one specific vendor. Do an online search for similar items. Many are even available on Amazon, online assistive technology stores, or your local pharmacies or big box store!

Image of measuring spoons with large print measurements

Measuring cups and spoons with large print would be great for someone with low vision.

Table top magnifying glass

A magnifying glass stand could also be helpful when reading labels or recipes.

An electric can opener could help save time and eliminate the frustration and physical pain of operating a manual can opener.

Image of automatic pump inserts for beverage jugs

These automatic drink dispenser pumps eliminate having to twist open a cap and picking up and tilting a heavy gallon of milk, juice, or beverage when pouring yourself a drink.

cutting board with a variety of holders for safe cutting

A one-handed cutting board could be useful for someone with an upper extremity amputation, weakness, loss of function or even a recent injury. He or she could prep ingredients independently using this specialized cutting board.

Image of a pickle jar in a wedge gripper for opening jars

This solo-grip non-slip jar opener could also be useful when you only have one hand available.

Clip on silicone strainer attached to a pot

A clip-on strainer is easy to apply to a pot or pan and allows you to grab the handle with one or two hands when straining your food.  

Two suction cup brushes attached in sink

These suction cup brushes are helpful when trying to wash a cup or small dish single handedly.  Perhaps the sink is not wheelchair accessible and reaching over to the side prevents you from easily using both hands to wash a dish.

Yellow scoop plate with user scooping peas and carrots

Scooping plates are great for anyone needing a little extra help when scooping up food on their plate. When used in combination with angled, weighted, or other adapted utensils if needed, these plates allow the user to be more successfully independent during meals.

Image of kitchen with anti fatigue mats in front of counters

Lastly, an anti-fatigue kitchen mat would help reduce any leg or back pain or discomfort that usually comes with having to stand long hours while preparing a holiday meal.

Gifting Guide Day 23: Accessibility in Video Games

For many years the answer to accessibility in the video game world revolved around providing controller access for players with varying abilities. This often meant several days 3D printing, soldering, fiddling with interfaces, and general frustration. The industry turned upside down with Microsoft’s introduction of the Adaptive Controller. Gamers could finally interact with just about any game in a plug-and-play manner. If you had buttons and/or a joystick positioned in a comfortable position, the Adaptive controller could accept the input and allow you to be transported into the endless worlds of gaming…

…As long as you could actually play the game. While many individuals could now manipulate controls, game developers were still treating accessibility features on the software side as an afterthought. Hopefully gamers wouldn’t need subtitles in large, easy to read font to catch important lore information. In a similar vein, why would they need to adjust the UI settings? It’s not like you would ever be playing on something other than a large TV or monitor or at a distance farther than a few feet away. Gamers are also known for their love of mountain dew resulting in quick reaction times and the ability to play for hours at a time. No need for aim assist or reasonably spaced save points. Thankfully this mindset is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

In the past year alone, we have gotten games with the ability to not only have subtitles but fully customize their font, color, background opacity, and more. Similar features exist to customize menu buttons. Need help visualizing who the bad guys are? One developer introduced a filter that would highlight them with a high-contrast color of your choice, the same for the good guys and scenery. Remember when you had to choose between easy, normal, and hard? Some developers now let you customize specific elements down to how fast animations play, characters move, damage is dealt, and a variety of other options. Motion control required for solving puzzles or performing tricky actions? Many games now allow you to turn the feature off or make it button controlled. Speaking of which, custom button/keyboard mapping has entered a new galaxy. Gone are the days of having to twist your fingers or use your third hand to be able to pull off various moves. Want to have one input act as a sequence of presses, there’s a game that will allow it. Don’t want to fiddle between holding, tapping, and pressing a button which would result in different results, you can probably reconfigure it.

While not all games and developers can accommodate all the mentioned features, or the hundreds not covered in this post, it is quickly becoming the case where accessibility is the standard. Game designers are producing games built around accessibility features rather than tacking them on at the end. The video game world is embracing that gamers come in all forms and living up to Microsoft’s mantra, Gaming for Everyone. Post inspired by Game Maker’s Toolkit, please watch their video on the subject.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-IhQl1CBj9U

Find out more: https://news.xbox.com/en-us/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/Xbox-Adaptive-Controller-201.png

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