Monthly Archives: January 2014

Singing Twitter’s Tune, With a Twist


By MATP Staff Member M. Catherine McAdama row of blue cartoon birds with one red bird in middle singing

I came kicking and screaming into the world of twitter! As a woman who is blind, I initially ran into many accessibility issues and frankly didn’t get why I should bother with this thing that sounded like a bird song!  As accessibility of the Twitter site improved and MATP moved further into social media, using Facebook and MATP’s Twitter account to update the latest in assistive technology,  I knew it was time conquer the reluctance and find a way to use these tools.  Lucky for me, at the same time, Jonathan Mosen ‘s released his book “Tweeting Blind”. This book helped me to understand the language of the Twitter world, options for accessibility and offered options for using my desktop computer.  It took a while but I finally get it! I’ve connected with multiple disability organizations, news about assistive technology, and experts on web accessibility.  They offer links to many web sites I otherwise had not frequented pointing to specific articles or facts.  I find that I am less overwhelmed by the massiveness of the world wide web as others share items of interest. I must say the main Twitter page is much more accessible than in those early days. I’m using the windows application called the Qube, but Jonathan Mosen explores many options using web base programs, and of course using your  Apple device.

What do you use to access Twitter? Or if you are not tweeting yet, why not? Hope to see you there!


Frostbite or Feedback? Hearing Aids in Winter


weather man in front of map with huge low pressure system over USBurr!! Hardly seems adequate. Schools are closed everywhere. It’s brutally, frigidly, freezing out there! My co-worker Laura gave some tips about AT to Help Survive the Polar Vortex in an earlier post. Have you or someone you know ever tried to keep your ears warm when you wear hearing aids though? Do you know what happens when you cover up the microphone on a hearing aid? “Feedback”, you know, that annoying, whistling hum!

So what are you to do? Stay inside? Nice if you can. But most of us do have to venture out and not hearing outside is not necessarily a desirable or safe option. When I attended a training session presented by a Hearing Technology Resource Specialists from the Hearing Loss Association of Michigan a few years ago, the presenter was excited to have an head band that has zipper pockets for hand warmers. It was designed for people who have hearing aids. Thanks to Ann, I finally located this item a couple places: HARC  and at a man wearing headband with handwarmer shown over his earsite called Papas Warehouse: “Headband plus 4 hand warmers”. This site also had a heated beanie hat.

In search for the head band, I also found some other tips for surviving the arctic air when you wear hearing aids. The first helpful article is “Hot Tips for Cold Ears” (great title!). I learned that hearing aid batteries wear down faster in this cold weather, so it would be a good idea to keep extras with you – in an inside warm pocket! In fact, this article says “If the temperature of the hearing instrument batteries falls below zero degrees Celsius, they can fail completely.” It’s much colder than that out there today!

Water and electronics don’t mix well generally. Moisture in hearing aids is a bad thing. When you go from frigid to warm, condensation happens. Or if you are enjoying outdoor sports or even exercising indoors, moisture from sweat and snow can be a problem. 11 different covers with note "Most models from $25.95In the article: Get Ready for Fun: How to Pair Hearing Aids and Cochlear Implants with Winter Activities, I learned about a company that makes waterproof covers for hearing aids. I love the color and custom choices! A great way to let your disability pride shine! There are a number of hearing aid dehumidifiers available too from different vendors.

Having a problem with your hearing aid and the cold weather? Maybe this document about troubleshooting hearing aid problems will help. It also has some great tips for prevention of problems.

Do you wear hearing aids? What do you do to avoid frostbite and feedback? Thanks for sharing!


Issues of Affordability and Access to Assistive Technology – Part 2


By MATP Staff Member & MDRC Executive Director Norman G. DeLisle, Jr

In part one of this series, I explored the idea that as long as assistive technology remains specialized to the disability community, there will be issues of affordability and access.  Eye gaze is one example of a technology that has historically reflected this trend.

A second example lies in hearing aids. Despite the larger number of people who need these aids, they remain expensive and hard to finance. Modern digital hearing aids run anywhere from $2,000-$6,000 each. The FDA requires that even if an aid is never used, but only sold, it must be broken down and remade from scratch rather than being resold. Although digital aids can be reprogrammed locally, any repairs require that the device be sent back to the factory.

close shot of digital hearing aid worn by a young girl

Imagine sending your Volkswagen to Germany to get it repaired.
Because banks don’t know what to do with your hearing aids if you default on a loan, you will pay the highest interest rate if you can get a loan at all.

It was for these reasons that MDRC and UCP Michigan created a loan fund with lower interest rates and easier terms. But easier access to funds does not reduce the cost of the device. And the cost of the device is mostly all the other things that must be in place in order to market medical devices., rather than the actual components of the device. After all, you can buy a car, a far more complex device than a hearing aid, for $6,000.

The lesson is that as long as support technologies remain focused on a small and specialized need of a very specific community, they will remain expensive and inaccessible to people who can’t get government to pay for them. This is a political, not a technological or economic problem. And, it points us toward a strategy for increasing access and reducing price -make support mainstream. For those support systems that can be tied to smartphones or tablets, they must be to make them usable. For devices that can’t be put on our phones or tablets, the rules for using them need to reflect the critical importance of access and cost.

As funding for health care is reduced in real dollars, and as rules for access become more and more ridiculous, people with a need for these supports will find themselves being forced into segregated programs for want of these obvious and clearly needed devices. Our advocacy can’t just be for more money. It has to always include the demand that cost be reduced and transparent access be expanded.


Reinforce Your New’s Year’s Resolutions with Assistive Technology


By MATP Staff Member Laura Hall

When the countdown ended and the ball dropped to ring in the new year, perhaps you, like 45-50% of the population, set one more more New Year’s resolutions.  Yet, maybe, like 30% of other people – you have broken them after 2 weeks.  Not to worry!  Many people are drawn to making resolutions because of that “clean slate feeling” and the hope of a brighter 2014, but the truth is, there is nothing more powerful about January 1st than any other day, and it’s never too late to make changes.  Whether you’ve kept your resolutions or have slipped and are ready to try again, take heart in this fact: assistive technology (AT) has been shown to help people keep their resolutions.

Did you make a resolution to get healthy this year?  The Fitbit might be for you!  During the Meat cutting rocked knife with curved blade and wooden handleday it measures your steps, distance, calories burned and stairs climbed. At night it measures your sleep quality and helps you learn how to sleep better.

If healthier eating is part of your resolution strategy, chance are you are incorporating more fruits vegetables in to your diet.  If cutting and slicing are difficult tasks, the economy meat cutter with a curved blade can help you cut meats, fruits, and vegetables with one hand using a rocking motion.

Managing stress is another popular resolution.  A vast variety of apps for relaxation and meditation (many free) are available to help you find peace.  Oftentimes, sleep is also an Woman at computer with lightbox to her sideimportant factor to managing stress.  Did you know that lightboxes and lamps can be used to improve sleeping patterns and help with Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Interested in learning more about how AT can help reinforce your New Year’s Resolutions?  Register now for our webinar on January 23rd from 1:00pm-3:00pm EST to learn more about AT for  managing stress, getting healthy, saving money/managing debt, getting organized, and quitting bad habits (hurry, registration ends Friday, January 17!)

Happy 2014!  Are you using AT to make changes this year?