Monthly Archives: September 2014

Looping for Inclusion


Presenter in front of a projection screenSometimes we never really know the full impact of presenting a training session on assistive technology.  A few years ago, through MATP’s contract with the Hearing Loss Association of Michigan’s Hearing Technology Resources Specialist Program, a training session on Hearing Assistive Technology was held in a really small town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, as far north as you can go without swimming to Canada.

It was a great presentation with a lot of hands on opportunities with the various devices and time for individual questions. We had some concerns about doing a training session in such a small, remote area, but turn-out was great. People had really good questions and really gave great feedback. Since I just happen to know the town and people well, I had the opportunity to get feedback well after the session.

Several people scheduled audiology appointments after attending the training. Because they were such well-informed consumers, they now knew to ask about T-Coils so additional technology beyond hearing aids could be used. (See Diagnosing Hearing Loss and Consumer Checklist for Purchasing a Hearing Aid – PDF )

People still tell me, years later, how much the training session helped them. More than one couple told me that the training had “saved their marriage” with the reduction of stress from miscommunication.

Image of ear with "Hearing Loop Installed Switch hearing aid to T-coil"Another spin off from the session and the “buzz” it generated was a decision by people in town to earmark that year’s fundraiser, a bake sale during a large event in town, for the purchase of technology to install a hearing loop the township hall. Several citizens were having trouble participating in events such as the township meetings due to difficulty hearing. The township offices now have a hearing loop. Not only can people hear at meetings now, they can drop in and ask questions or chat with the township staff.

So we don’t always hear about the full impact of the training sessions on assistive technology, but can hope our efforts do have impact improving people’s lives and increasing inclusion our communities!

Do you use hearing assistive technology? Have you been in an area that was looped? Let us know!

This entry was posted in Hearing and tagged community, hearing assistive tech, Looping on by .

Do you Hear What I See? The Art of Descriptive Audio


The DVD cover art for The Amazing Spiderman 2, showing Spiderman looking down in front of an electrified background

By MATP Staff Member Laura Hall

Last weekend, I decided to have a movie night and rented the films Divergent and the Amazing Spider Man 2.  Although I don’t have a disability that affects my hearing, I turned on closed captions (as I always do) because it enables me to better follow the movie.  Under the same menu I also noticed that both movies has the option for descriptive audio.  Descriptive audio is a separate narrative track that describes what is happening on the screen during the natural pauses in the presentation, generally for people who are blind or have low vision.  Always excited about greater access, I turned this option on as well, not knowing whether, as a sighted person, I would find it helpful or distracting.

The audio description symbol - capital letters A and D followed by three parens to indicate audio

The audio description symbol

I was first struck by the fact that everything, even the production logo (i.e. the MGM roaring lion) was described.  Secondly, I found myself completely captured by what an art form descriptive audio is.  Descriptions must be informative and specific, yet succinct and perfectly timed with the natural pauses in the movie,  At first, the descriptive audio was distracting me from the movie as I kept thinking about how I would describe the visual elements, never being able to come up the words that were “just right” – not too little information and not too much.  Eventually, I was able to settle in and allow the descriptive audio to become part of my viewing experience.  After a while, it seemed to blend in with all the other input and I, in a way, forgot the narrator’s voice was there.  With two high action movies, the descriptive audio helped me keep up with the fast pace and notice details I probably would not have seen if I had just been relying on my sight.

The American Council for the Blind’s Audio Description Project provides a wealth or information on audio description and video description (the term used for audio-described television).  Resources include a database of videos, television shows and other productions that are audio described, standards for audio description, samples and how-to’s.

In an effort to create more audio described material, projects like YouDescribe allow anyone to add descriptions to YouTube videos.  Even after attending a training on how to do this, I don’t yet feel I have the knack.  My hat goes off to those people who create access to  visual material in such a beautiful and seamless way.

In the United States, affiliates in the top 25 markets and the top five-rated cable network are required to provide 50 hours of video-described programming per quarter under the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010.  I can’t wait to see this area expand.

Have you ever used descriptive audio services?  What are your thoughts?





Cooking Made Easier


BY Aimee Sterk, LLMSW, MATP Staff

I am a foodie and love to cook. I also have frequent insomnia and listen to podcasts at night to help me fall asleep. One of my favorites is America’s Test Kitchen. I love their geeky approach to food. They are like the Consumer Reports of recipes and cooking utensils. A couple weeks ago they actually had a review of a low-tech jar opener and I knew I had to try it.

Amco Jar OpenerThe Amco Swing-A-Way Jar Opener got rave reviews for the testers at America’s Test Kitchen. Since opening jars is a frequent problem for me and I’m always looking for a better solution, I decided to give it a try. I found it on Amazon for around $7 and two days later it arrived at my door. I, too, am pretty impressed, while you still need a pretty good grip to get jars open, the grip you need is one I can make with my hands instead of trying to wrap them around giantOne Touch Jar Opener lids. For people who don’t have good hand strength, another new-to-me item I have tried recently and really like is the One Touch Jar Opener. Other companies make similar-looking electric jar openers but having tried them myself, they don’t work nearly as well.

What kitchen tools are your favorites? Any special assistive technology devices you use in your kitchen?

Yours in happy cooking and eating!


Narrowing the Gap: A Community-wide Conference on Assistive Technology


MATTherese WillkommP is pleased to help sponsor, through the Disability Network of Southwest Michigan this Assistive Technology Conference in Kalamazoo on Monday, October 20 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.  The conference is featuring Dr. Therese Willkomm who is the director of ATinNH, the New Hampshire state wide assistive technology program with the Institute on Disability and is an assistant professor in the department of occupational therapy at the University of New Hampshire. The event will take place at the Fetzer Center, Western Michigan University from 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM. You can register online. The conference fee is $35 andCover of AT in Minutes Book CEU’s are available for an additional fee.

Objective: The purpose of the conference is to introduce individuals to assistive technology. This one day conference will provide attendees with two valuable sessions, including:

  • There’s an App for that! Mobile Applications to increase independence. (Bring your iPads)
  • Foundations in Transition

We’ve mentioned some of Therese’s work on this blog before in the following posts:

We all hope to see you on October 20th!