Monthly Archives: November 2013

Assistive Technology to Help with Your Holiday Feast


By MATP Staff Member Laura Hall

Thanksgiving plate with turkey, stuffing, and greens

Typically, when I spent Thanksgiving with family, I am asked to bring either rolls or a pre-made dessert. I love my family, but I think this is their polite way of saying, “thanks, but no thanks” to anything I might actually attempt to cook. Although I have been experimenting more with cooking lately (see my previous blog “Now I’m Cookin’!”) I’m still nervous about contributing anything self-prepared to a big family meal. This year, for a variety of reasons, rather than getting together with family, I will be having a quiet Thanksgiving at home with my boyfriend. We thought this might be the perfect opportunity for us to both try cooking a turkey for the first time with other holiday fixings.

The idea of cooking a smaller Thanksgiving meal hasn’t really lessened my anxiety, (after all, I still could poison my boyfriend) but I am determined to approach this challenge with a plan (and a backup plan…pizza). I have been gathering ideas for assistive technology I can use to prepare the meal from a webinar that the Michigan Assistive Technology Program (MATP) held called Tools for Independence: Holiday Cooking.  The webinar, facilitated by Joanne Feutz and Renee Thompson of Disability Advocates of Kent County, features AT for all aspects of holiday cooking, from preparing the meal to serving it.  They give invaluable tips for thinking about your kitchen layout, energy conservation, and devices you can use to make the job easier.

Boning knife with blade at a 90 degree angle to the yellow handle

For example, I learned that it is much easier to peel potatoes after they are cooked, and that tools, like a right angle knife, already exist to relieve stress on your muscles and joints.  If you’re a person with a disability, someone who is looking to create better access for a family member at the dinner table, or even just curious about ways to lighten your load this Thanksgiving, I encourage you to check it out.

I’m not sure how my holiday meal will turn out, but I’m glad to know that there is AT out there to help.  What assistive technology do you use for holiday cooking?  Have any tips?  Please share!  Most importantly, have a great Thanksgiving and a wonderful holiday season.


Have you had MRSA? Your CPAP might have it too!


Microscopic picture of MRSA which looks like small yellow sphereBy MATP Staff Member Aimee Sterk

Since having MRSA four times this summer, I’ve learned a lot more about the bug and cleaning than I ever knew I needed to know. An urgent care doc informed me that 5 years ago, about 5% of abscesses they saw were positive for MRSA, now it is more like 70%. In asking around and talking to friends, I found 3 other friends had recently battled it themselves or their kids had it. Working in the disability field, and having several disabilities myself, I wanted to mount a serious battle against this bacteria, so I asked for a referral to an infectious disease doc after my second round of MRSA.

The infectious disease doc recommended I bathe in a bleach bath twice weekly or take a hibiclens shower twice weekly and also told me to wipe down high touch areas in the bathroom with Clorox wipes. He said I should wash my sheets weekly and wash towels twice weekly in hot water. I did all these things and still got MRSA again. I had to go on some powerful antibiotics for a month.

I  learned from the infectious disease doc that MRSA likes warm, moist environments. Then, while visiting local medical establishments at several locations, I noticed that they had filled in all of the fountains at with dirt and potted plants. I asked one of the hospital staff members if that was because of MRSA—it was.

This got me thinking. MRSA colonizes on the skin and in your nose. I had completed a round of nasal antibiotics, but every night I used a cpap that has—warm, moist air. I called the Respironics Cpaprespiratory therapist who helped me pick out my CPAP and asked if the hibiclens I was using to clean my body and CPAP was enough. He did a little research and informed me that MRSA forms a biofilm on items and needs a cleaning method with scrubbing action or a formula specifically designed to clean it. He had worked in home care and knew Control III   fit the bill. Since then, I have been cleaning my CPAP weekly with Control III and haven’t had another a no sign over a picture of MRSA and the word MRSAoutbreak.

Control III is kind of expensive, so if you cannot afford it, check with your doctor or respiratory therapist about bleach solutions and scrubbing options.

Here’s to battling the superbug MRSA together!


“Hearing” Pride and Power: Captions


A coworker came to me with a problem the other day. She’d created a short video about disability pride called “Pride and Power” as part of a project for Digital Storytelling a few years ago. In the “Many Faces, One Voice” digital storytelling project, we taught people to use free software to produce a 3- 5 minute video to tell their story and we also made sure the videos had captions.the symbol for closed captioning a box with CC in it.

My coworker wants to show the video as part of a program she’s doing. We have a YouTube channel with some of the stories we created in the classes. Unfortunately, she can’t be connected to the internet during the presentation. This is a problem because though she knew how to show the video from her laptop, she wasn’t able to have the captions show if she wasn’t on YouTube. (Tip: how to turn the captions on and off in YouTube.) We’d actually solved this problem with some free software a few years ago, but like many other free programs, it stopped working.

So I did some quick research and came up with a fairly easy solution. We decided to use Microsoft Media Player, since we have Windows computers. She already had a caption file created but it wasn’t the right format for Media Player (it was a .srt format). So we just needed to save this caption file in the right format, then give it the same name as the video and make sure they were in the same folder. We did this using a free program called “Subtitle Workshop”. Here are the instructions I gave her, to use after downloading and installing Subtitle Workshop:

  • Open Subtitle Workshop > File > Open Subtitles
  • Browse for your SRT caption file. Then File > Save As and choose SAMI Captioning (SAMI: Synchronized Accessible Media Interchange, the file extension is file extension is .SMI or .SAMI)
  • Save the SAMI file with the same name of the movie file in the same folder.

She then opened Windows Media Player and made sure the captions were turned on: How to turn on Captions in Windows Media Player. Once this was done, she just had to open the movie file in Windows Media Player and the captions show!

Do you caption your videos? Would like information on how to do this? Let us know!

This entry was posted in Accessible Formats and tagged Captions on by .

A Little AT History


By MATP Staff Member Laura Hall

Last week, I presented at a conference for vocational rehabilitation counselors on the topic of disability history, culture, and pride. Part of the session involved a disability history timeline activity intended to make the participants reflect upon their feelings about acts of oppression and resistance against and among people of disabilities throughout the years. While conducting the activity, I realize that several of the dates on the timeline were related to the development or advancement of the assistive technology (AT). For example, the one timeline entry reads: “Rig-Veda, an ancient sacred poem of India, is said to be the first written record of a prosthesis. Written in Sanskrit between 3500 and 1800 BC, it recounts the story of a warrior, Queen Vishpla, who lost her leg in battle, was fitted with an iron prosthesis, and returned to battle”.

Seven prosthetic legs standing a row from a very basic wooden model to a modern prosthetic leg used today

An example of changing technology in prosthetics

Learning about disability history has helped me reckon with my emotions in understanding that I am part of a community that has been systematically discriminated against and oppressed throughout history. Reading about acts such forced sterilization, institutionalization and extermination in Nazi Germany brings up feelings of outrage and sadness. However, also reading about acts of resistance and protest fills me with a sense of pride, of connection with my community, and overall, I am left with a call toward action to continue the work of those who have come before me.

In an earlier blog article, “Let your AT Pride Shine!”, I discussed my own thoughts and feelings about the need for individuals to develop pride in the assistive technology they use, and the lack of attention that has been given to this issue among those of us in the AT field. I wondered since understanding history has been an important component of my personal journey toward gaining disability pride, if similar work had been done to capture the history of assistive technology. After engaging in some research, I found that there is little specific information on the use and development of AT prior to the 20th century but that there has been some effort to capture AT history in the modern era. Two great examples include the University of Connecticut’s Assistive Technology Oral History Project and the History of Assistive Technology on TimeToast.

There are several interesting things related to AT history that become apparent when you take the time to review events across a timeline. One is the sheer speed at which AT has developed in the modern era. New devices and technologies are being developed almost daily, and the technology that is currently on the brink sends my imagination reeling with the exciting possibilities for the future. Given the rate at which AT is changing and growing, it seems even more important that we capture history and reflect upon the implications. What do you know about the history of AT development? Are you aware of other resources on this topic? Let us know!