Monthly Archives: June 2014

Creating Access in the Virtual World: AT for Video Gaming


By MATP Staff Laura Hall

Screen shot of Super Mario Brothers

Growing up in 80’s, many of my days were spent with my sister and friends striving to save the princess in the Super Mario Brothers video games and pretending to be a sharpshooter in Duck Hunt. I hate to brag but I was proud of my ability to defeat the evil Bowser and down those ducks!

Yet, video games and gaming itself have changed since the years of the original Nintendo.  What used to the merely a be a form  of entertainment has now become part of our culture, a way to develop skills, gain physical activity, and develop friends and communities.  My basic controller, simply rectangular with two buttons, a start, select and a cross-pad has been replaced by larger controllers with so many more buttons, triggers, thumb sticks, and bumpers that at times must be all be used in combination to perform a particular movement.  I have neither the fine motor skills nor the reflexes to be able to use these controllers effectively.  As a result, I typically get frustrated while playing easily and usually end up watching my friends.

Playstation 4 controller showing buttons, bumpers, etc.

original nintendo controller

Fortunately, work is being done to create greater accessibility for gamers with disabilities, both in the development of game features and with assistive technology. Learn more by attending our webinar Fun For Everyone: AT for Video Gaming on June 26th from 1:00-3:00pm Eastern Time.  This webinar will feature guest speaker Mark Bartlett from the AbleGamers Foundation who will discuss some assistive technology that can be used to create access for people with mobility disabilities. You will also learn about some access options for hearing, cognitive, and visual disabilities along with tips for which features to look for in video games.  Hurry!  Registration ends Tuesday, June 24th.




New, Chic, and from Nebraska


New Aimee Picture for Bios

By MATP Staff Person Aimee Sterk

Our partners at Nebraksa’s Assistive Technology Program have created a brand new assistive technology (AT) exchange website for us:

ATxchange Screen Shot

We are excited to continue to offer this “craigslist” of used assistive technology to Michigan’s citizens. So far, hundreds of people have used the site to buy, sell, and donate items like walkers, wheelchairs, stair lifts, vans with lifts, and video magnifiers.

The new, improved site is streamlined, easy to navigate, and again is fully accessible to screen reading technology.

Please check out the improved!

As you review the offerings, keep in mind safety tips for online transactions of all sorts. Ask questions about the condition of the items, why the person is selling them, options for safe payment and delivery, and be sure to document and get a receipt. More tips on online safety are available on our website.

Enjoy this new, chic, helpful website to exchange used assistive technology–and thanks to our friends in Nebraska!


Pebble Watch – Useful or Expensive Toy?


By MATP staff member Laura Hall

Several weeks ago, my colleague Kathryn posted a blog article, “Constantly Connected” about her experience with the Pebble Smartwatch  that connected with the Android platform on her phone.  The watch was then passed to me to try with my apple iPhone, for which there appeared to be more apps available for the watch.

The watch is very easy to set up was clear instructions on how to pair it with my iPhone. Once I downloaded the main pebble app it was easy to begin browsing the apps for the watch.  The large buttons on the were easy to push but it took a while to learn how to navigate the menus with them.

I enabled the phone to notify me of calendar events, phone calls, and text  messages.   I found this function on the watch to be extremely useful because there are times where I’m not nearby my phone or when my phone falls out of reach. In fact, one day I was out of my wheelchair and away from the iPhone. I received a text message via the Pebble that said my friend  was on her way up to my apartment. Knowing the door was locked, I was able to send my service dog in advance to unlock the door for her and let her in.

watchface in monochrome showing the time, date and weatherAnother feature that was helpful to me was the alarm system.  The Pebble watch merely vibrated when an alarm went off, serving as a discrete reminder, and a way to wake up without disturbing my partner.  The large variety of watchfaces (that you can customize to your taste) I also found to be a plus.  I chose one with a large display that also showed the date, day of the week, and weather conditions.

The Pebble app store for the iPhone did indeed have many more apps available than android, with categories like “productivity”, “tools”, “games”, etc.  However, in many cases I couldn’t see how the apps would be that useful on the platform of a wristwatch  Sure, the ability to play a game, or read the news on wristwatch a is a novelty, but how practical is that?  In general, most of the apps just didn’t fit the needs I had, but this is not to say it couldn’t be helpful to someone else.

The most disappointing part of the Pebble Smartwatch was the charging cable.  It contained magnets that attached to the side of the watch, but it was very awkward to attach and easily fell off.  I was extremely frustrated by the charging mechanism.Pebble watch and charging cable connected

In my experience overall, the Pebble had some nice qualities especially with regard to phone notifications and alarms that were useful as assistive technology.  I did not find many apps that were particularly useful personally, but there were certainly apps that could be useful to others.  It will be interesting to see the pebble watch develops more potential as assistive technology as apps continue to be developed.

The watch has now been passed to MDRC Executive Director and resident gadgeteer Norm.  Stay turned for Norm’s take on the Pebble watch in the coming weeks






Tremor Cancelling Utensils


New Aimee Picture for BiosBy MATP staff person Aimee Sterk Last week Lift Labs donated two new tremor-cancelling spoons to the Michigan Assistive Technology Program (MATP). Now, Michigan citizens with disabilities will have the opportunity to try out these devices to see if they work for them. I am excited to bring this product to the Parkinson’s Summer Forum in Traverse City on June 5 where over 100 people will get a chance to see and try it. Thank you Lift Labs!



Liftware base stabilizers come with a variety of attachments (spoon, fork, a person's hand holding a liftware spoonkeyholder, and more coming soon) that help some people with tremors–from essential tremor and Parkinson’s–to eat more easily. This is an alternative to weighted utensils and other braces which can be uncomfortable and may not work for many people. More details on this device, and an easy self-test to see if it might work for you or someone you know are available on the Lift Labs website. There are also videos and testimonials.

a picture of the liftware spoon with a see through base that shows the battery, stabilizing technology microchips and points out that other attachments are available. Text on the picture says the battery is ultra-thin rechargeable and lasts for several days on a charge. The text also notes that the stabilizing technology is cutting edge electronics that work to actively detect and stabilize your tremor. Finally it lists multiple attachments including fork, soup spoon, keyholder "and more"

Liftware tremor cancellation device

To schedule a time to try the liftware for yourself, contact your local assistive technology demonstration site.