Monthly Archives: February 2015

So many apps!


many icons for apps with ? in centerLooking for ideas for apps for that new tablet or phone? There are so many apps and so little time. Where do you start? Here are some ideas, though certainly not everything that could help. I hope it will get you started at least.

What is you are trying to do?

Begin with the end in mind. For example:

  • Are you looking for a way to communicate? If so what? To whom?
  • Do you want to remember something? Do you need a reminder only in certain locations? Do you need pictures or photos or will text be enough?

Also consider if you need audio such as Voiceover or TalkBack options. Do you use switches? Would a stylus help? You’ll need to find apps that work with the way you use your tablet or other device.

Built-in Access Features

First, ask if you are using the built-in access features of your device. These are there, free and can really be helpful!

  •  Apple iDevices Accessibility
  •  New Accessibility Features in iOS 8
  •  Android accessibility help center

Some ideas for alternative access:head with head pointer stylus attached

  • Variety of Stylus (steady, hand strap, mouth stick) on Etsy
  •  Make Your Own Stylus instructions one of many on the web!
  •  iOS: Switch Control helps you navigate your iOS device

How Much Can You Spend?

In an ideal world, this wouldn’t matter, but we all have limits. Either you have some funding or need to find some. Check MATP’s AT Funding Strategy for ideas on funding more expensive apps. Also look for apps that let you try them before plunging in. Make sure you know if an app requires in-app purchases to be fully functional or if it requires yearly subscriptions.

Where Can I Research Apps?

  •  Bridging Apps
  •  One Place for Special Needs Apps This guide breaks down apps by skill set so you can easily find and buy apps that most benefit your child. Included are apps for iPad, iPhone, iPod touch and some Android apps.
  •  Quixey This web site offers a search engine to search for apps by category.
  •  Apps for Children with Special Needs produces videos that demonstrate how products designed to educate children and build their life skills really work from a user perspective.
  •  Apps from the National Center for Telehealth & Technology (T2) – a component center of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.
  •  Friendship Circle Blog: The Special Needs iPad & App Series
Learning Disability
  • Dyslexia Help
  •  Assistive Technology and Educational Apps for Persons with Learning Disabilities
  • Applevis: For Apple OS users – Accessible apps, guides & discussion for blind and vision-impaired users from a community-powered website for blind and vision-impaired users of Apple devices. Lists apps reviewed by low vision blind users, and notes if voice over can be used to support apps.
  • Android Apps from Eyes Free Project
  • AAC TechConnectAAC TechConnect logo
  • Apps Assistant
  • Jane Farrall Apps list

In addition, some of MATP’s Demonstration sites have some devices and apps available for demonstration. You can arrange a demonstration by contacting the site directly.

I am sure there are many other considerations, directories, adaptions and tips. I hope this helps you in your search! We would love to hear your thoughts on this! How do you find apps.


3 Things I Wish I Had Done Before I Had an Emergency


By MATP Staff Laura Hall

A few weeks ago, I was resting peacefully in my apartment when the fire alarm went off around 6:30pm. At first I didn’t think much of it, as people (including myself) occasionally leave the stove on and the alarm sounds. Yet, that night the alarm persisted, within a few minutes I began hearing sirens, and a few minutes later water began pouring into my apartment in every room from the ceiling. It turns out the fire was directly two floors above, it was serious, and turned out to be deadly for one of my neighbors.

In those frantic few minutes when the water was pouring in, my partner and I were trying to unplug and move as many electronics as we could.  While this certainly was helpful, in retrospect, I now know we could have been better prepared and perhaps used the little time before evacuation more efficiently.  Here are 3 things I wish I had done before I had an emergency.

1.  Understand the evacuation planGreen and white exit sign with arrow pointing right and stick figure walking

As a powerchair user living on the 4th floor, I wasn’t sure how to evacuate.  The elevators automatically shut down, and to my knowledge I was simply supposed to wait for the fire department.  By the time they arrived the ceiling was already collapsing.  If a fire were happen again, I would want to know exactly what I was supposed to do, and be assured that the fire department knew where I lived, that I had mobility equipment and that I couldn’t evacuate via the stairs independently.  For people who are blind or have low vision, wayfinding apps such as Sendero GPS Lookaround or the Seeing Eye may help with navigation.

2. Have a “Grab and Go” bag.  It’s been said before, but few of us actually do it.  I had to evacuate so quickly that I didn’t have time to grab anything, even a coat.  I now have a bag packed with extra clothing, medication, dog food for my service animal and even a few snacks.  I have also included extra charging cables, particularly for my cell phone.  News of the fire spread quickly, and I didn’t anticipate the number of calls and texts I would receive from people concerned about my welfare.  As a result, my battery died quickly, and I was stuck with no way to communicate with family or make arrangements for where I was going to sleep that night.  I wish I had purchased a backup cell phone charger, and looking back, I’m realizing that I could have used apps such as Life360 or Social Alert to communicate with everyone at once.  Check out this article on 50 Emergency Apps and FEMA’s Family Supply List.

3.  Insure your Assistive Technology.  In my situation, I feel as though I made a major mistake in not having renter’s insurance.  I’m not making the same mistake again.  I recently discovered (simply by asking) if my powerchair could be covered under the same policy, and it can!  Insurance companies can add on specific items, much like a “rider” with health insurance.  This time, I made it out with my powerchair, but if I had to abandon it during evacuation or if it had become damaged by water and unusable, it is unlikely my health insurance would have paid for an entire new chair before I am eligible for one (typically every five years).  This certainly adds to the cost of my renters insurance but my mobility is so much more important.

Emergencies happen and we are often not prepared.  Life is settling down now since the fire, I have been temporarily relocated until my apartment is fixed but have also learned a lot about my ability to handle change, the strength of the support in my community, and of course, how to be better prepared.


MI Health Link may increase access to AT


MI Health Link is a new 3-year demonstration project integrating healthcare Michigan Health Link Logointo a streamlined system for people over 21 who are on both Medicare and Medicaid. The goal is to increase access to high-quality care while decreasing costs.

MI Health Link is offered through the State of Michigan and the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Three areas of Michigan are taking part in this demonstration program: the Upper Peninsula, Southwest Michigan (Barry, Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo, Van Buren & St Joseph Counties), and Southeast Michigan (Wayne and Macomb Counties).

If you live in one of these areas, are over 21 and have both Medicare and Medicaid without a spend down, you will be enrolled in MI Health Link unless you meet one of these conditions:

  • Participate in MI Choice or a PACE (Program for All-Inclusive Care of the Elderly) programs
  • Have insurance through an employer retirement
  • Are Native American

People on Medicare and Medicaid are twice as likely as people with just Medicare to have more than 5 chronic conditions. So, the state has designed MI Health Link to meet these more extensive needs by linking primary care, home care, urgent and emergency care with on-going supports and access to behavioral health.

Covered services include: doctors visits, emergency room and urgent care visits, medications, equipment, supplies, vision care, dental care, transportation, and home care/chore services.

There are no co-pays or deductibles with MI Health Link.

A care coordinator will work with participants in MI Health Link to help access services in a person-centered way. There may be improved access to home care and AT/medical equipment through MI Health Link because of this person-centered approach with no co-pays.

For example, many people have found that getting equipment with Medicare and Medicaid is difficult with each program having different rules for items like adjustable beds and wheelchair parts. The care coordinator could work with participants to determine the needs and then authorize payment for equipment without the back and forth of responsibility. Or, if a network provider is resisting a device or service and thinks they won’t get paid, the care coordinator can call the provider and fix the problem, verify the need, and assure authorization of payment.

More information on the benefits of this program can be found on the Michigan Department of Community Health website.

Are you in the demonstration area for this program? Do you want to get involved in its implementation? Michigan Disability Rights Coalition (MDRC) is helping raise awareness about MI Health Link, what it offers, and how to sign up, or wait, or opt-out. We are also working to help recruit people who participate in the program to serve on advisory councils at the state and local level. We are working as part of a coalition called Michigan Voices for Better Care (MVBC). MVBC includes MDRC as well as our partners Michigan Consumers for Healthcare, and Michigan Elder Justice Initiative. We are a project working to ensure strong and meaningful real persons’ voices and presence in MI Health Link implementation and MI Health Link policies and practices to support inclusion, choice and quality. We want your voice to be heard and are working now to meet with people interested in serving on advisory panels. If you have an interest, please contact us at [email protected] .

  • What do you think about this new option that could streamline access to service and supports?
  • Would you or someone you know benefit from it?
  • Do you want to get involved in shaping the implementation?

Saying Be My Valentine with AT


I’ve been thinking about the importance of including children with disabilities inpink heart shaped clock with bed shaker Valentine‘s day! Yes, this it clearly a commercial free for all, but nonetheless it seems to be here to stay, and so how do we share the love?

Well, I have to give Maxi Aids credit for trying; they showed up on a Google search to highlight 10 valentine gifts across disabilities. Searching for accessible valentine gifts seemed to bring up options for blind low vision users first, and I will list some of those options, but of course we know love is for all, and accessibility must therefore be a bit more inclusive, for both those of us with visible or non-visible disabilities!

  •  There was a store, papyrus online, that actively promoted accessibility in their advertisement in more detail than I’m used to seeing.
  • If you need something unscented try The Guide to Living Life Unscented.
  • What if you can’t verbally say “I love You”? Try some simple low cost single message communication devices; one example is Attainment Company’s single message communication devices.
  • For children’s gifts, here’s a source for toys for kids who have disabilities.
  • A site specific for parents of blind children gives many ideas that may also be valuable if looking for some sensory or tactile delights is family connect ,
  • Here’s a very specific site for sensory fun ultimate gift list for sensory-seekers.

The real message is love is for all and it is important to get creative and be sure children with disabilities are included, and I’ve been pleased to see the National Braille Press promote this with their yearly campaign for valentines for classmates adding an educational twist mentioning Louis Braille.
3 Braille Valantines Cards

The Chicago Light House goes one step further. Their cards “celebrate the unique beauty and compelling nature of Braille as both a language and art form”

I was thinking to an early gift I received as a child. It was a jeweler’s magnifying glass, which made it possible for me, when I had two percent vision in one eye, to “see” photos. I remember this as an amazingly thoughtful gift. To my dad it was simply a way to include me in sharing family love and memories.

What are your unique Valentine AT Gift memories? Thanks for sharing!