Monthly Archives: February 2016

Assistive Technology for Infertility


By Aimee Sterk, LMSW, MATP Program Staff

My husband and I have been on an infertility journey for 8 years. Part of that time in the middle we gave up for awhile and told everyone we didn’t want kids and loved our life as it was. Then, when speaking to an OB/GYN about options for a hysterectomy to treat a condition I have, the OB/GYN said, “If you go through with this hysterectomy, which is warranted in your case, you give up permanently on trying to have children yourself.” That’s when I burst into tears and realized that I had been telling everyone that I didn’t want to have kids because of past failure and fear and trying to put away what is and was a deep desire.

There have been many steps on our fertility journey. There are many causes for infertility—physical, physiological, and for me also emotional/trauma related. I have friends who are also on this journey and their path has been different. I’d like to share a couple items of AT and support to consider if you, too are on this journey.

One of my disabilities is polycystic ovarian syndrome. For me, this means that I sometimes don’t ovulate and when I do ovulate, its at a time different than what most charts or doctors would predict for someone without PCOS. A piece of AT for me is lutenizing hormone testing strips I buy in bulk from I also used the books Taking Charge of Your Fertility and the conception section of Expecting Better to understand how to look for signs and symptoms of ovulation including using the test strips. I wish someone had told me about these resources 8 years ago—you have to have intercourse at the right time to even have a possibility of conception and we were doing it wrong. Do yourself a favor and figure these things out for yourself. Also, once you are using the signs of ovulation and the testing strips, get an app like Kindara and track your cycle so you can start to map best bets for timing intercourse for conception.

Another of my disabilities has resulted in a blocked fallopian tube and an “arcuate” uterus. There’s really no AT to help with fertility for these conditions, but the fertility center I go to does monthly ultrasounds to see which side I’m ovulating on so I know not to get my hopes up if it is the blocked side.

I have had two quite traumatic miscarriages in the last two years. One of them I’m pretty sure could have been prevented with access to a good OB/GYN—no one wants to see you until you are 12 weeks along but I had bad infection that made me very sick starting with week 5 and started hemorrhaging in week 6. I really believe earlier intervention with the infection and better support would have prevented the miscarriage. The baby continued to grow and the heartbeat was very strong for weeks. Until it wasn’t. There isn’t any AT to help with this but there is a hint I’d like to share—establish a relationship with an OB now, before you’re pregnant, so immediately upon becoming pregnant, they’ll see you.

I have PTSD in part because of the trauma of the miscarriages, but they really were the end of a series of traumas involving the medical community that started with sexual abuse by my pediatrician. The PTSD app and calming, meditative, mindfulness apps and other practices I’ve developed are absolutely necessary in my fertility journey. Even without the history of trauma; infertility, they say, is as stressful on a couple as a cancer diagnosis and dramatically increases divorce rates (as does miscarriage). So, find practices, apps, and people that help you cope with stress.

Also not AT, but if you have a history of trauma, check with your local domestic violence and sexual assault center to see if they have OB/GYNs they recommend. The OB/GYN I have now was recommended by a local YWCA sexual abuse counselor. This OB/GYN has been way more supportive than the OBs I managed to see with my first miscarriage. I also have it written on my chart at my OB/GYNs that I do not see male practitioners. While previous offices said, in emergencies, I had to see whoever was on call (and it was always a male practitioner when I had emergencies and I was unable to let him touch me), my new office has assured me that they will find a way for a female practitioner to treat me whenever I need it. I was not joking when I told them I would rather see a female podiatrist for an obstetric or gynecological emergency than a male OB/GYN—and they listened.

Because of trauma, fatigue, or physical disability, the physical act of intercourse can sometimes just not work. The added stress of knowing you are ovulating can also impact the you or your partner’s ability to have conventional intercourse. There are other options and I would consider them AT. Google at-home insemination and inform yourself about these options. Sterile syringes, the Instead cup, even sterile, disposable speculums are available on Be sure to do your homework though. Before I knew better, I assumed we could figure out a way to do an intrauterine insemination at home and save ourselves the money for that procedure at the fertility clinic (that ran us about $700 including meds). You can do yourself great harm if you are trying to put anything into or through your cervix. Consult a doctor, read up, and be careful. I’ll repeat this again, at home insemination yourself should only ever include getting sperm near your cervix, not in or through it.

Because of my history of abuse by my male pediatrician, I did not seek help at our local fertility center until they hired a woman fertility specialist. That left us trying our own with minimal support from general OB/GYNs for a long time that we could have had more advanced support. So, FYI, until you get to IVF, female nurses in the practice are the only people touching you. There was no initial physical exam because I had already seen my regular OB/GYN for that part and she did my HSG test which showed my blocked tube. For our tries at insemination in the office, nurses that I chose performed the procedure. Also, now that we are heading into IVF, I have the option of being completely sedated for the egg retrieval procedure so even if a male doctor performs the surgery, I will not be awake/aware of it. I am scheduling with the female fertility doctor for the embryo transfer. So—this part is not really AT, but know that there are options if you prefer a female provider. Also, I’m pretty stressed out about this whole process so yoga, meditation apps, and my PTSD app are coming in handy. I am developing a written plan for my care during the IVF procedure that includes who can be in the room and what they need to wait to do until I am fully sedated.

It looks like a lot of people participate in online support communities for fertility. I haven’t gotten into them as there often seems to be a lot of misinformation, but a friend found them to be very helpful during her IVF process so that is something to consider as well.

So, do some reading (I also recommend  the book Making Babies), get informed, and access AT if you, too are on a fertility journey.


Have you struggled with infertility too? What things helped you? What things didn’t?


Point Louder – Audio Description


by Kathryn Wyeth, Program Manager, MATP

hand with finger pointing to the rightWhile presenting and facilitating a training session with a group, I was told to “point louder”, a humorous way to let me my pointing was not effective communication, since some members of the group were blind.

Audio description is the auditory narration of visual representations such as television programs, films and live performances. During gaps in dialogue, it describes visual elements such as scenes, settings, actions and costumes. Audio description is also called “video description” and “descriptive narration”. It is particularly beneficial to people who are blind and vision impaired and can help people with other print, learning and physical disabilities.

Here’s an example of a video with audio description on YouTube: The Hunger Games with audio description Katniss hunting, from Media Access Australia.

Ideally, audio description would be a separate audio track, which can be accessed by assistive devices and/or toggled on or off as needed. On YouTube now, you can turn on and off closed captions, but you can’t turn audio description on and off. If you want to provide an accessible video on YouTube, you’d have to produce two versions, one with audio description and one without.

There are video players available with the ability to toggle on and off audio description, for example:The letters A and D used as an icon for Audio Description

  • JWPlayer
  • Ccplayer
  • The WorkShop Media Player

I’ve always wondered why YouTube doesn’t offer an audio description toggle button, since it seems it’s possible to offer this! There is a tool called YouDescribe, that enables volunteer sighted describers to take a YouTube video and create an audio description soundtrack.

Audio description is a bit of an art. I’ve attempted it. It is difficult to determine what descriptions will be adequate for understanding, yet still flow smoothly in the gaps in dialogue in a video.

Finding described television shows is now much easier. As part of the Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, several of the most popular television networks have made certain prime-time and children’s programs accessible to viewers with vision loss by adding audio description (see resources below).

Both in video and in person, it’s important to remember to point louder to achieve effective communication!


  • All About Audio Description A wealth of information on everything to what audio description is, to why to use it and how to promote it’s use!
  • Listen to a 9-minute audio on Video Description for Television,
    or listen to the full 24-minute podcast on Audio Description:  Where and How?
  • Described TV Listings page from American Federation for the Blind (AFB)
  • Audio Descriptions for Netflix Movies and TV Shows
  • DVDs and Blu-ray Discs With Audio Description in 2016
  • How to find audio-described content in the iTunes store
  • Guidelines for Audio Describing Meetings and Presentations (PDF)
This entry was posted in Accessible Formats, Blind/Low Vision, Web Accessibility and tagged Access, Accommodations, ADA, audio description, job accommodation, Print Disability, video on by .

The Wisdom of Stevie Wonder


Stevie Wonder holding the grammy winner announcement and smilingIn case you missed it last night at the Grammy’s, Stevie Wonder made a powerful statement related to the civil rights of people with disabilities.  After opening the envelope and joking that they could not see the winner, printed in Braille, he remarked  “I just want to say before I announce the winner, that we need to make every single thing accessible to every single person with a disability!”  The crowd exploded in applause.  Most people would agree that it is a worthy but lofty goal, but when it comes down to it, do we really put our money (or effort) where our mouth is?  Absolutely not.

One of the areas where accessibility is often forgotten is in documents.  People do not know how to make documents accessible, think it will take too much time or money, or that not enough people will ask for accessible documents for the effort they put in.

Did you know Print Disabilities apply to many types of disabilities and there are things we can do to which will help?

  • Vision Related, Blind, Low Vision, Color Blind, Perceptual
  • Physical: Difficulty lifting, positioning, or holding books and paper and turning pages, navigating a document with fine motor issues
  • Learning Disability/Dyslexia/Processing Issues
  • Cognitive: Unable to read or to gain meaning from standard print materials

Microsoft Word has some great tools built-in to help make your documents accessible to people with all types of disabilities.   Once you take some first steps, a lot of accessibility elements in documents will happen all the time automatically, requiring much less work the long run.

Stevie is right, everything should be accessible to everyone with any disability, particularly the basic right to effective communication as outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act.  It’s the law!

Want to learn how?  Check out the Association of Tech Act Programs’ (ATAP) webinar on Document Accessibility in Microsoft Word.  The Michigan Assistive Technology Program (MATP) also has an archived webinar and handouts on “How to Make PowerPoint Presentations Accessible for All”.


This entry was posted in Accessible Formats, Blind/Low Vision, Cognitive and tagged Accessible Documents, effective communication, PowerPoint, Stevie Wonder, Word on by .

Blocking the Blue Light


By Aimee Sterk, LMSW, MATP Staff Member

I’ve been seeing lots of articles lately warning that the blue light from electronics including smart phones, tablets, computers, and televisions, negatively impact sleep. I’ve blogged before about my on-going quest for better sleep including use of weighted blankets, my cpap experience, and how I use a pillow headphone and the Stitcher App to help me turn off my brain.  Insomnia has always been a part of my life, but with these tools and techniques, it is less a problem than ever.

But part of my solution is also adding to the problem—I use my cell phone to play podcasts, music, and meditation recordings to help me sleep. When I wake up in the middle of the night, I get on my smart phone and select something to listen to that helps me fall back asleep—blasting my eyes with blue light in the process.

I was concerned reading the articles that I was helping and hurting myself at the same time, but I also knew my sleep was better than it had been in years, so I just kept up with what I was doing—ignoring my doctor’s warning about “sleep hygiene” and screens but following the other advice.

Noir Blugard glasses with black plastic rims and orange lenses

Finally, I starting noticing articles on some solutions that could work—things that block blue light. There are apps for Android devices that block blue light (Apple doesn’t allow app developers to access the display in this way), programs to use on your computer screen,  blue-light-blocking glasses, and blue-light-blocking screen shields for smartphones and tablets.

I’m definitely going to give these a try so my AT for sleep doesn’t help and hurt me at the same time. My smartphone retina screen is on order.

Have you tried any of the blue-light blocking technology?
Has it helped?