Monthly Archives: October 2014

Is There a Digital Divide in App Land?


By MATP Staff Member M. Catherine McAdam

If you do a Google search you’ll find several commentaries on how the smart phone is bridging the digital divide, and then a few questioning the reality of this generalized statement.

Pew research and disability continues to show a significant divide.

  • Pew Internet Video
  • Pew Internet and Disability

It still holds true that there are income, racial, age, rural, and disability barriers. An excellent blog article on using apps for memory brought this issue to mind, as it discussed options for using apps without being online.  The program also had a rental program for unlocked “old” phones that still allow for use of apps that don’t require an online connection.

  • Apps that do not need Wi-Fi

I strongly believe that we owe it to all to show the possibility of technology even if they currently don’t have an online option. The Pew research points out a primary reason for this.  Many who are not currently online at home or via a cell connection are not because they don’t see the relevance and/or know they will need help to learn to use the technology.  Our demonstration programs show the possibility, hope and relevance of technology.

So, we want to keep in mind what can be used without WIFI while opening the door for the future! There are good examples of apps that do not require Wi-Fi, one most recent for blind/ visually impaired, or those with learning disabilities, is the KNFB Mobile APP. Although priced at $100, even with the cost of an iPod or iPhone it is not as costly as computer based software or standalone scanning machines and is worth exploring.

Dictation apps, some free, have also proven quite useful, and although they may require Wi-Fi, they may prove to be a valuable option. And remember libraries, schools, coffee shops friends and families, often have Wi-Fi,  and now you may choose to bring your own device with apps along – if you have one.

Certainly the new world of “App Land” is helpful for people who have disabilities. These two  Success stories from our demonstration projects show how apps can help:

  • Age 91+ iPad = Independence
  • A whole new world

Can you suggest an app that doesn’t require Wi-Fi for consideration?

What do you think of having a smartphone rental program available for people with disabilities?


Lilacs with Red Berries


“Look at the lovely red berries all over that lilac bush!”

My mom was siting on the couch and we could tell by her grin that she knew the lilac bush didn’t have red berries, but that was what she was seeing. Luckily she already had an appointment with her ophthalmologist, as we were very concerned. She’d been seeing some interesting things and knew that what she was seeing wasn’t really there.

The appointment turned into an emergency when the doctor found she was hemorrhaging into her eye and needed an emergency appointment with a retina specialist – a three hour drive away. It was Macular Degeneration. The strange things she was seeing are not that uncommon. There’s a name for it actually, Charles Bonnet syndrome. While the diagnosis certainly is not good news, it is always a bit of a relief to know and to begin treatment.

She has access to some magnifiers from a relative who died a few years ago and these are helpful. We’ve also arranged for a device demonstration from MATP. Several sites around the site have low vision assistive technology.  Sometimes the adaptations can be simple, like they were for Kathleen, who received a demonstration recently from MATP. You can read her story on our web page “The Simple Things“.

As we begin this journey with mom, dealing with loss and adapting to new ways of doing things, it’s good to have access to information and tools which can help.

What vision-related AT have you found helpful for yourself/people you know?


Trick or Treat and AT Fun!


By MATP Staff Member Laura Hall

Kids have already been preparing for weeks.  Advertising for caramel apple and pumpkin spice everything indicate that Halloween is coming.  Choosing a costume can be a little more difficult if working around a mobility device but, increasingly, kids (and likely some inventive parents) are incorporating assistive technology right into the costume!

Cardboard and paint can work wonders to turn a wheelchair into amazingly creative trucks, cars, pirate ships, even the Batmobile!  Walkers can also be decorated and covered as part of the costume.  In one example, a young boy in a reverse walker added a jet back and rockets to the back of his walker, becoming one cool astronaut.  For more examples of costumes that incorporate assistive technology check out the article and pictures on fireflyfriends.

Halloween trach pads  are also available on Etsy.  Why not program a communication device to speak the obligatory “trick or treat!?  There are lots of ways to incorporate assistive technology into the Halloween fun while also “Letting Your AT Pride Shine“!

At the same time, children who use mobility equipment may have more difficulty approaching a homeowner’s door.  While it would be great if every neighbor would come down the stairs to be fully inclusive, I can speak from experience that this doesn’t always happen.  When I was a kid, my sister would often have to choose the candy for me (and older sisters can be mean and pick your least favorite).  As an alternative, many communities churches and organizations, hold “trunk or treats” in parking lots where goodies are kept in the trunk of a vehicles, making it much more accessible for people with disabilities.  One example happening in Lansing is the Creepy Crawly Chiller Meet and Greet Halloween Thriller event being sponsored by our partners, the Capital Area Center for Independent Living.

No matter what you decide to do, we hope you have a safe and wonderful Halloween!  Got costume ideas?  Share them with us!


AT for Emergencies


By Aimee Sterk, LLMSW, MATP Staff

There are many great guides on preparing for an emergency with a disability—having safe exit routes planned, stocking up on supplies, making plans for who to call/where to go should you need to evacuate. There are even suggestions for plans for people with disabilities who use assistive technology—how to access AT on the go, how to protect your AT, and back-up plans. How about a few AT devices to have on hand for dealing with the actual emergency?

The NOAA Weather Alert All Hazard Public Alert Certified Radio has all 7 NOAA channels, a 90 decibel emergency siren and voice message for people who are blind/low vision/doing things in other rooms and a visual flashing LED readout for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing. Its information comes from the national weather service, is programmed for your area (using SAME technology—Specific Area Message Encoding), and gives details on what type of emergency is headed your way—tornado, thunderstorm, civil emergency, or other hazards.  It has battery back-up and is trilingual (English, Spanish, French). This AT for emergencies could be used to give you as much notice as possible that severe weather or some other disaster is headed your way so that you can make plans accordingly. This is especially helpful for people with mobility disabilities who may need more time to move to a safer location. Pretty handy and useful for around $25.

Other handy AT for emergencies:

  • Communication boards that don’t need batteries or electricity as back up if you use augmentative communication devices.
  • Or, a pad of paper and writing utensil or whiteboard and markers to help you communicate if you are Deaf or have a communication/speech disability.
  • Back up medication organizers in sealed containers, sorted and ready.
  • A back up manual chair in case your powerchair can’t be charged or breaks.
  • Battery/USB chargers to charge your device through a car or alternate power source if your power goes out.
  • A corded, landline phone that is accessible to you in case cell phones or cordless phones do not work during a storm.
  • A cart or other carrier for oxygen and other needed supplies should you need to evacuate—preferably one that is water resistant to protect your items.
  • Lightweight canisters that you can roll or easily carry for 3-7 days of food for your service animal if you have one.
  • An emergency survival backpack  that includes emergency food and water supplies, first aid kit, flashlights/light sticks, masks, gloves, whistle, rain gear, medical supplies, survival blankets, duct tape, premoistened towlettes,  radio, cell phone charger, multi-tool and army knife.

This list is in no way comprehensive. Do you have ideas for other things to add to it? Do you have an emergency plan for yourself and/or your family?