Archive for August, 2011

Veteran Corps purchases 15 orbiTouches for donation to wounded veterans

ORLANDO, FLORIDA–If you are a service-disabled veteran who’s always wanted to try orbiTouch Keyless Keyboard, this may be your chance.  Veteran Corps of America, a diversified technology and services provider for the U.S. Government, has recently bought 15 brand new, in the box orbiTouch units to donate to wounded veterans.

“We could not be more excited about this new initiative,” says Elizabeth Rissman, Director of Social Media for orbiTouch. “Veteran Corps and orbiTouch working together to help service-disabled veterans regain independence through computer use is a match made in heaven.”

Veteran Corps, located out of O’Fallon, Illinois, seems to be on a roll.  Vet Corps has enjoyed a three-year growth rate of a staggering 726%, gaining recognition from such publications as Inc. Magazine who bestowed a highly coveted spot on their fastest growing companies list for the second consecutive year.

Additionally, Veteran Corps scored a double win by capturing two spots on the GSA Stars II roster, a highly prestigious honor that makes it easier to sell IT to federal programs helping wounded veterans.

OrbiTouch, an American-made typing solution for persons with low finger and hand dexterity due to injury or disability, seems to fit into Veteran Corps agenda perfectly.  According to the Veteran Corps website, Veteran Corps “is a premier provider of high quality Information Technology, Homeland Security, and Office-Related services” that can be used to support service disabled veterans in the workplace or home to be more productive.

If you are a service-disabled veteran who is interested in being a part of this initiative, please email elizabeth@orbiTouch.com.  You will receive a free orbiTouch unit, normally a $399 value, and training for free.  All that we ask in return is feedback and perhaps a testimonial.  Also, make sure to check out our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/orbitouch

OrbiTouch: Get back to work

This might be a gross generalization, but let me say it anyway: We all, at one time or another, have complained about work. The themes are largely the same: An overbearing boss, piles of papers, inundated email inboxes, to-do lists that seem to never end. If you’ve ever been to the point where you’re pulling your hair out in frustration, you know what I’m talking about.

But what if you couldn’t work due to injury or disability? In the midst of a frenetic 9 to 5 buzz, we tend to take for granted the satisfaction we gain from an honest day’s work. The sense of pride from making your own money and feeling fulfilled in your life’s purpose. It’s the self-esteem that comes from being an active participant in the creation of your own life’s course.

That’s where assistive technology like orbiTouch comes in.  Assistive technology, such as alternative keyboards, hearing aids, touch pads, and speech generators, help bridge the productivity gap.

In a blog article posted earlier this year, John M. Williams discusses the transformation that takes place when you take a motivated individual with autism combined with the empowerment that comes with using a keyboard like orbiTouch.

Twenty-year-old Catherine Grace Zeh is a high functioning individual with autism. A graduate of Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA, in June 2000, Zeh loves working with computers. In fact, she just loves working. She dreams of returning to work in an office where she can utilize her computer skills and general administrative skills.

“I have the ability to work and want very much to work full time,” says Zeh who is determined to succeed. One of her immediate goals is to work fulltime so she can travel to Europe soon with family or friends. Her burning desire is to visit Italy where she can see all the wonderful sights of Rome and ride on the canals of Venice. Working sporadically, Zeh feels as though her abilities are being wasted. She is looking for a full time job. After dozens of interviews without success, she is optimistic she will find one. She is certain the orbiTouch will play an important role in her career.

John M. Williams wrote another article on the orbiTouch, this time recounting his experience when Sean Grassley, a man with cerebral palsy living in Michigan, tries orbiTouch for the first time.

For the first time in his life, without assistance from anyone, 35-year-old Shawn had typed his name. For the fist time in his life, [Shawn] Grassley said, “I feel empowered. I want to continue.”

Grassley is intelligent. He knows what he wants and says what he wants. He told me, “I want to use this keyboard so I can access the Internet. I want to write e-mails. I want to write letters.”

 More importantly, he wants to work. He wants to be independent. He says, “I want to earn my own money and be my own man.”

Assistive technology like orbiTouch helps open an entire world of information for a population that regularly feels isolated from technology and society as a whole.  Writing emails, instant messaging, and posting on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are not only crucial in social interaction, but necessary for business interaction as well.  Ability to operate a keyboard makes this interaction possible.

While many of us fantasize of the day we can retire, we can see through these testimonials many individuals with disabilities dream of the day they are able to work and earn money. In fact, it is remarkable how many individuals with disabilities want to work–and could work–given the right tools.

OrbiTouch: Shawn Grassley Discovers A New World Through Assistive Technology

You had to be there to capture the moment. It was more than a Kodak moment for Shawn Grassley. It was a moment of joy beyond description. It was an exhilarating moment of liberation when Grassley looked up and saw he had spelled his name using the orbiTouch keyless keyboard.

I was attending the Helping Hands 20th Annual Telethon in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, on April 26. Hundreds of people were in the studio. Telephones were ringing. Voices were everywhere. Hundreds of eyes were focused on the master of ceremonies, who was making an impassioned plea for donations. In the center of all of this exuberance however, one set of eyes was focused on two domes. Shawn was sitting in his wheelchair, his head bent over the domes. His hands moved the domes forward and backward, left and right, and in other directions. His focus was like a laser beam. He eyes moved left and right and up and down as he moved the domes one at a time. First the letter S appeared. Then H. After two tries A was on the screen. Then two tries later W and finally N. Grassley moved his eyes upward and his head was rigid as he saw his name. Then came the look of triumphant victory. There was the smile. There was the shouting, “I did it. I am not a dummy.”

Very few moments have ever affected me like this one.

For the first time in his life, without assistance from anyone, 35-year-old Shawn had typed his name. For the fist time in his life, Grassley said, “I feel empowered. I want to continue.”

Continue he did. Slowly Grassley typed G. Then R, A, S S L E Y. Nothing Grassley did before in his life prepared him for this time as he read GRASSLEY. He had triumphed again. He was a man with renewed confidence. For the second time in less than five minutes he said, “I can write. I can write. I can speak. I am not a dummy.” Grassley created a keystroke by sliding the two domes into one of their eight respective positions.

When I asked his jubilant mother, Sandy, “Why does he say, ‘I am not a dummy?’” She said with bitterness, “His caseworkers and some of his former school teachers called him a dummy because of his cerebral palsy, and because he could not use a regular keyboard. He is not a dummy!”

Grassley is intelligent. He knows what he wants and says what he wants. He told me, “I want to use this keyboard so I can access the Internet. I want to write e-mails. I want to write letters.”

More importantly, he wants to work. He wants to be independent. He says, “I want to earn my own money and be my own man.” Grassley’s jubilance was shared by others. John Seamon, the executive director of Helping Hands, could not believe what he had just seen. A person he had known for more than 20 years, had in Seamon’s words, “surprised me beyond my expectations.”

Seamon wanted the orbiTouch keyboard. He has been looking for a device to help Grassley communicate, and now he grabbed it, saying with a tear, “I can not describe what I am feeling. I am speechless. This tool is the embodiment of what assistive technology was designed to accomplish for users.” Grassley’s story does not end there. He learned to use the keyboard in minutes, and kept it for some time. He smiled, laughed, and delighted in his new-found power of expression. He said triumphantly, “I can write.”

Grassley is getting an orbiTouch of his own. He knows it will change his life. He knows he has discovered the great equalizer for him. Thanks to technology, he is ready to move forward with his life.

– John M. Williams, Assistive Technology Writer 

What is assistive technology, anyway?

When people ask me about orbiTouch, I immediately tell them it’s an assistive technology keyboard for people with special needs.  And, almost immediately, they give me a blank stare.

For people inside the assistive technology industry, we live and breathe everything assistive technology.  There is no reason anyone with a disability should feel they are excluded from living a fulfilling life, because there are literally thousands of people who use AT to overcome physical and cognitive challenges everyday.

But when you mention the term assistive technology, many people outside the industry have no idea what you’re talking about.  In a 2010 article in Ability Magazine, Suzanne Robitaille, a noted AT writer and consultant, comments, “ Many people in my field don’t like the term ‘assistive technology.’ It’s medical sounding, doesn’t trip off the tongue, and, quite frankly, seems boring.”

Even more ponderous, the legal definition of “assistive technology” as defined by the Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1998 is as follows:

“Assistive technology is any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially or off the shelf, modified or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a person with a disability.”

Wow.  No wonder people give me a blank stare when I use the term “assistive technology.”  Chances are, unless you have someone directly affected by a disability, it’s never even come up.

In real talk?  Assistive technology is any device that helps one bridge the gap between inclusion and exclusion.  It’s equipment that helps people adapt to their environment so they can experience and enjoy life the way they want to.

Examples of assistive technology are:

  • Alternative keyboards and mice, like orbiTouch
  • Hearing aids
  • Wheelchairs
  • Speech generators
  • Touch pads

Seem a little more tangible?  My list is shortened for reading purposes.  There are multiple places online where you can find and buy assistive tech, but one of the best sites is Enablemart because of the breadth and depth of their inventory.  OrbiTouch is available through this website and Amazon.

Now that we have defined assistive technology and its uses, what does it all mean? In the aforementioned Suzanne Robitaille article, she discusses the positive ramifications of assistive technology:

“Assistive technology is a life-changer. It can help people with disabilities increase their independence, build their self confidence and self-improve their quality of life, and break down barriers to education and employment.”

Assistive technology not only helps advance individuals with disabilities, but society as a whole.  When people have the ability to think and do for themselves, they can contribute to an ongoing dialogue that challenges the status quo, which is essential for us to progress as society.

People with special needs offer a perspective that is indispensable to understanding our past, present, and future.  How can we use assistive technology to empower them?