Monthly Archives: July 2014

Made in MI AT for Daily Living


New Aimee Picture for BiosBy Aimee Sterk, MATP Staff

Many people invent things out of a necessity they have themselves. This was the case for Deborah Tacoma. After an accident where she broke her back, Deborah found she could not twist and reach to wipe and take care of her personal hygiene needs in the bathroom. She found various items, but didn’t find one that fit her body size, arm length, and reduced finger strength—so she invented one, the FreedomWand ®.

 FreedomWand shown empty, with razor attached and with shower puff along with carrying case

In promoting her product, Deborah has talked to many people with many types of disabilities that have trouble wiping and taking care of all their bathroom needs but are ashamed to talk about it with their doctors or others that might have helped them find AT that meets their need—people are ashamed and suffer for that shame risking skin breakdown, pain, and infections.

The FreedomWand® is an easy-to-use multipurpose, portable toilet tissue aid that can also be used to hold a razor, loofah, or ointment applicator. It has extendable reach of up to 25 inches or as few as 9 and can be taken apart and stored in the carrying bag that comes with it. The bag and wand can fit in a backpack or large purse.  Instead of a push-button release which can be difficult for some people, it has a slide button.

Our Small Changes Big Diffferences kits have FreedomWands® for you to see in-person and decide if they might work for you. The kits also have dozens of other devices to help people with disabilities live in the community. Find the kit nearest you and give them a call to set up a demonstration. Deborah also has a video showing how the product works.


Talking to My Computer or Mobile Device


By MATP Staff Cathy McAdam

Back view of a woman using speech to text softwareYes, it can be done with practice, patience, and consistency. It’s not always as easy as “out of the box” so, here are a few tips.
Dragon NaturallySpeaking, the best known of the speech to text options offers an amazing array of functions that are particularly well used by people with disabilities who truly need an only voice option. Many people who use Dragon primarily for dictation never take the time to learn, or, many not even realize that Dragon can do a whole host of other things like help navigate your screen, surf the web and open and close programs.

The less costly version, Windows built in speech to text, is a good possibility if you can physically interact with your computer when needed. The more costly full range choices may require some training if you cannot revert to a mouse or key board option. All users must correct their mistakes or the computer/device learns your mistakes (it’s a bit like using a spell checker that doesn’t find a problem because the word is correctly spelled, but out of context, so proofing is important)If using Dragon, you can ask it to say back what you’ve dictated. Here are many other helpful commands to try from Dragon’s cheat sheet.

If you have an Apple or Android device, Dragon Dictation allows for basic email and dictation of notes but not for computer functions. For Android, Dragon Mobile Assistant is the equivalent.

There are good options for people with learning processing issues that combine word prediction and speech recognition for example Word Q /Speak Q or WYNN.(Many people with learning disabilities find the built in predictive features on mobile devices handy, but they are not necessarily speech enabled.)

The Siri logo - a glowing microphone buttonAnd of course there is Apple’s Siri, which many people are familiar with. Yet if you’re not, check out this resource on how to use Siri. For Android phones, there is now the “Siri-like” option of Google Now

I’m often asked if people who are blind or have low vision could use speech recognition. Again part of this depends on consistency with dictation, the ability to proof what’s dictated and compatible software.

There are at least two full system options for people who are blind or have low vision.
• Dolphin Guide
• and a companion software for JAWS, JaySay

Watch for a more detailed blog on Dragon dictation coming soon!
What has been your experience with voice recognition?


Get the 5-Star Accessibility Treatment


Here are some resources as a follow-up to Laura’s post about her Washington D.C. hotel experience.

First, Happy ADA Day July 26th! I hope everyone has a great celebratibowls of red and blue fruit, american flags and sparklers on a tableon!  And you can begin your commemoration of  next year’s 25th anniversary of the ADA by visiting and signing an online pledge to further the goals of the ADA.

Taken from

The ADA (i.e., Title III) requires all hotels and motels in the U.S. to make their facilities equally accessible to people with disabilities. There are two types of accessible guest rooms: those with “mobility” features and others with “communication” features. For guests with mobility impairments, roll-in showers and grab bars, lower counters and closet bars are a few of the structural features that should be offered. For guests who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, hotels and motels are required to provide rooms equipped with visual notification devices, telephone amplifiers and TDDs (Telecommunication Devices for the Deaf).

According to the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, accessible guest rooms must be dispersed among different classes of guest rooms and provide choices in the type of guest rooms, number of beds and other amenities comparable to those offered to other guests.

A fact sheet from the Northwest ADA Center, “Accessibility for People with Disabilities at Hotels and Places of Lodging,” gives an overview of the different elements accessible hotels should include. For more tips on finding an accessible hotel room, read the post, “Disability Travel…a Dream or a Reality?,” on Disability.Blog.


The ADA: Adequate Progress After 24 Years?


By MATP Staff Member Laura Hall

Last week I visited Washington, D.C. to attend a 3-day meeting of state assistive technology programs and to educate our legislators about our work here in Michigan.  My trip was full of ups and down in terms of access, giving me much to reflect upon as the 24th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act  approaches.

On one hand, I was able to get around the city via the Metro, (which is accessible), and enjoyed the many curb cuts and talking crosswalk signs. I had a barrier-free hotel room with a roll in shower, and was able to take my service dog everywhere I went.

Yet, during the week I also experienced a series of frustrating access problems .  After the conference, I changed hotels as I was spending a personal day in DC to see the sights.  The other hotel did not have the accessible room that I reserved weeks in advance, their complimentary shuttle to the Metro station was not lift equipped, and both of the pool lifts (for the pool and the hot tub) had mysteriously broken down on the same day.  Although the hotel did find appropriate ways to accommodate me (like paying for a cab in lieu of the shuttle), and managed to fix their pool lifts, I still felt frustrated that I had to spend my vacation day educating and advocating as I do every other day in my life.

Long hallway with legislative offices on both sides

Perhaps most poignant, however, is the struggle I had getting into my legislator’s offices whose doors were always closed, heavy and narrow.  Our nation’s capitol, where the ADA was signed, should be the model of progress under this legislation.

Thus, while I appreciate the ADA and respect and admire those who fought for it’s passage; in my opinion, no! We have not seen enough progress in 24 years.  To me this seems to be largely because of miseducation and lack of enforcement.

So, when I celebrate the ADA this weekend, I will be celebrating the progress and doing my part to address the shortcomings – perhaps by sending standards of accessibility for hotels and lodging  information to a certain Holiday Inn…

How will you celebrate?   Do you think enough progress has been made?