Archive for December, 2011

Project Mercury Overview

Project Mercury is an initiative started by Blue Orb, parent company of orbiTouch Keyless Keyboard, and the Central Florida Disability Chamber of Commerce. It is funded by a multi-year grant from National Science Foundation and designed to help persons with special needs and wounded veterans become entrepreneurs.

The goal of Project Mercury is to eradicate many of the opportunity barriers experienced by persons with disabilities by plugging them into a network of seasoned professionals who can guide and mentor as they bring their idea to fruition through a custom-made curriculum.

Persons with disabilities tend to be underrepresented in the workforce despite the fact they are often incredible problem solvers. However, in our experience, persons with special needs have ideas for products that can help both disabled and abled-bodied consumers. It’s time to bring these great ideas to market.

Look for Project Mercury applications in January 2012.

Overview:

We have named this endeavor Project Mercury after Mercury, the Roman God of overcoming barriers.

  • The first goal of Project Mercury is to develop a curriculum to teach persons with disabilities to participate more fully in the process of being and becoming an entrepreneur. Service-disabled veterans fall within the scope of this project. Blue Orb, together with other organizations, will provide training, orientation, and an orbiTouch Keyless Keyboard as needed at no cost to the participating special needs individual.
  • The second goal is to provide a research environment in which hypotheses on the cognitive and interpersonal communications of entrepreneurship on persons with disabilities will be tested.

Structure:

Blue Orb has assembled a group of prestigious local and national organizations for Project Mercury whose goal will be to provide collaborative support for the project.

Some organizations already engaged and their roles:

  • The National Science Foundation has awarded Blue Orb a grant spanning three years to help disabled persons become entrepreneurs. This will help to fund the training and research portion of the project.
  • The Central Florida Disability Chamber of Commerce will help participants grow their business by incorporating them into a thriving network of  organizations specifically designed for the needs of persons with disabilities and facillitate the establishment of relationships in the community.
  • The Orlando VA Medical Center will provide participants and promote the program internally and externally to help grow project interest and give the program a viable structure.
  • Graduate students from Rollins College will help develop and research Project Mercury, with particular focus on entrepreneurship.
  • Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation and Veteran Corps have donated 50 units collectively that will be used for the program and permanent usage for the recipient.  This initial donation has helped to get the program started.

Again, thank you so much for your interest as we develop this exciting new program. Please spread the word to your friends and family.For a little more on Blue Orb and Central Florida Disability Chamber of Commerce’s partnership with National Science Foundation, please read the press release.

Also, don’t forget to “Like” our Page on Facebook and “Follow” us on Twitter.

Project Mercury FAQ

As many of you know, Blue Orb, parent company of orbiTouch Keyless Keyboard, in partner with Central Florida Disability Chamber of Commerce, was awarded a National Science Foundation Small Business Research grant designated to help persons with special needs become entrepreneurs. There has been a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for this program, and with that, come questions about eligibility requirements and program parameters. Here is a quick program overview and answers to frequently asked questions.

Quick Overview

  • The first goal of Project Mercury is to develop a curriculum to teach persons with disabilities to participate more fully in the process of being and becoming an entrepreneur. Service-disabled veterans fall within the scope of this project. Blue Orb, together with other organizations, will provide training, orientation, and an orbiTouch Keyless Keyboard as needed at no cost to the participating special needs individual.
  • The second goal is to provide a research environment in which hypotheses on the cognitive and interpersonal communications of entrepreneurship on persons with disabilities will be tested.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have to be an American citizen? 

Yes

Do you have to be over 18? 

Yes

Are all disability types included? 

Yes, all disability types identified by Americans with Disabilities Act are welcome to apply.

Do service-disabled veterans qualify? 

Absolutely. We invite all service-disabled veterans qualified by the Department of Veterans Affairs to apply.

Where is program going to be held?

The majority of the program will be online. Participants in the local area will have the option to utilize Orlando VA Medical Center and Blue Orb’s Headquarters in Maitland, Florida, until the program can be scaled.

What does the curriculum look like? 

Each participant will receive a custom syllabus created according to their strengths, interests, and needs. Besides providing information in an online classroom setting, the program is designed to plug disabled entrepreneurs into a network. Each participant will be assigned to a mentor who will guide them and introduce them to other mentors and contacts. One such group will be the Rollins College Venture Program, a group consisting of 44 available mentors.

When is the program going to start? 

The applicant review process has already commenced, but the mentorship portion of this program is scheduled to begin first quarter of 2012.

What is the length of the program?

The research grant is based over a three year timespan, but the mentorship aspect will be ongoing as the participant requires.

Is this program solely educational, or is financial help offered as well?

The goal of this program is educational, but there is some financial compensation as well. Each applicant will receive assistive technology, such as orbiTouch, iPad, or iPod Touch, as determined by the program coordinators to aid them in their entrepreneurial ventures, as well as a small cash sum for expenses.

Will online tools be available in closed captioning?

We are currently working on including closed captioning to optimize user experience for participants who are deaf or hard of hearing.

How do I apply?

We are currently designing an application. In the meantime, all interested persons can email elizabeth@orbiTouch.com for more information.

Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation donates 35 orbiTouch units to Orlando VA Medical Center

Units will be used for multi-year initiative to help wounded veterans become entrepreneurs.

WINTER PARK, FLORIDA–Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation of Winter Park, Florida, has donated 35 orbiTouch Keyless Keyboards toward a program helping wounded veterans become entrepreneurs. The program is based in a three year Small Business Innovation Research grant awarded to Blue Orb, Inc., parent company of orbiTouch, by National Science Foundation in a partnership with Central Florida Disability Chamber of Commerce.

This initiative, named Project Mercury, has already attracted other partnerships in the Central Florida area including Orlando VA Medical Center, who will be the recipient of the 35 orbiTouch devices. Orlando VA Medical Center will in turn recommend service-disabled participants for the program and provide space for training and orientation on the donated orbiTouch Keyless Keyboards.

Project Mercury gives persons with disabilities tools to become more independent and pursue their business passions. One of these tools will be 35 orbiTouch Keyless Keyboards generously donated by Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation. This donation is a welcome addition to15 units donated earlier this year by Veteran Corps of America.

Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation has an extensive history of combining philanthropy, tradition, and compassion for worthy and charitable causes. According to the foundation’s website, the mission of EBCF is to “create innovative civic solutions helping people help themselves.”

The fulfillment of this mission is evident in the orbiTouch donation. Lack of opportunity is a common reason for underrepresentation of service-disabled veterans in today’s workforce. By providing tools and education for service-disabled veterans, organizations like Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation continue to fight the good fight against veteran and disabled unemployment. Such issues were examined by an Orlando Sentinel article featuring orbiTouch, which can be accessed here.

Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation, Orlando VA Medical Center, and orbiTouch invite wounded veterans to participate in this exciting program. If you or a friend or family member could benefit from this initiative, please contact elizabeth@orbiTouch.com 

Committed to Access: HP innovation lowers barriers to technology use

 Accessibility is a vital concern for all levels of government as technology becomes a fundamental tool for streamlining internal operations and delivering services to citizens.

When a Canadian assistive technology company developed a revolutionary computerized travel guide for the blind, it chose HP’s versatile iPAQ Pocket PC handheld as the platform for its solution.

VisuAide’s Trekker GPS-based system combines GPS information, talking digital maps and talking menus to give users real time information about their location and surroundings. Operating on an HP iPAQ, the compact Trekker system is worn over the user’s shoulder, and announces street names, intersections, stores, restaurants and other attractions as the user approaches them.

Montreal-based VisuAide is one of many assistive technology providers partnering with HP through the company’s Accessibility Program Office and the HP Developer & Solution Partner Program (DSPP). The program helps independent software vendors, developers and system integrators create unique accessibility solutions based on HP platforms and operating systems.

“We’re committed to ensuring that HP’s products, programs, services and information are accessible to people with disabilities,” said Michael Takemura, director of the company’s Accessibility Program Office. “That’s consistent with our company’s DNA, creating products that improve the lives of our customers and allow them to use information technology in a very useful way.”

The DSPP is part of HP’s global effort to connect people with technology. And it results in solutions that dramatically lower barriers to the use of high-tech tools and information.

For instance, HP worked with another accessibility partner, Keybowl Inc., to make an innovative keyless key­board completely interoperable with HP products without special programs or drivers.

Keybowl developed the orbiTouch Keyless Keyboard to support users with limited or no motion in their fingers and victims of carpal tunnel syndrome or repetitive stress injury. Linked to an HP desktop or notebook, the product allows citizens who can’t use traditional keyboards to access computer technology at home and in the workplace.

The orbiTouch features a pair of ergonomically sculpted  domes that move to enable “typing” of characters with the same precision as pressing a key. Each dome can be positioned in the eight major directions of the compass, providing the ability to type 128 characters.

For the article in its entirety written by Hewlett-Packard, please visit http://www.hp.com/hpinfo/abouthp/accessibility/5982-5752enaccessible.pdf

OrbiTouch Keyless Keyboard: Breaking Barriers

The following is an excerpt from an guest blog post featured on the special education technology blog Teaching All Students that follows the orbiTouch experience of a young man and his mother. A big thanks to Patrick Black, blog creator, for featuring us!

Devin Spangler was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome when he was 7 years old. When you sit down with Devin, now 13, it is evident he is an articulate and bright young man. In fact, he speaks more clearly and cogently than many adults. However, according to his mother Allie, self-expression hasn’t always been easy. 

Only years earlier, completing school work was a daily battle. Devin became increasingly reluctant to handwrite school assignments because his hands would fatigue quickly. Standard keyboards didn’t go over much better–their QWERTY layout seemingly had no order, something individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder crave. OrbiTouch helped him break through communication barriers. This is Allie and Devin Spangler’s orbiTouch story. 

Questions For Devin:

Which features about orbiTouch did you like best? For example, alphabetical order, corresponding colors with characters, comfortable design, etc.?

Well, personally my favorites, or my top three favorites, are alphabetical order, comfortable design, and I love the mouse. The fact that it has a mouse in it. It just makes it less cluttered. You have a desk and an orbiTouch. It makes it easier to have it all there.

Did using orbiTouch make typing more comfortable?

I think using the orbiTouch actually led me into typing more. Now, I’m writing five paragraph essays and the whole nine yards.

Before orbiTouch, when you would sit down at a computer, what kind of feelings did you experience? After using orbiTouch?

Well, before the orbiTouch, I would experience the feeling of discomfort, unhappiness. It was very tedious, like math. After the orbiTouch, it was better. I felt a little more comfortable approaching a keyboard, because I knew how it really worked, the basics of typing. The keyless keyboard led me into typing.

Questions For Allie: 

Did you see Devin change the way he viewed computer use after using orbiTouch? What kind of emotions, as a parent, did you experience?

Absolutely, I did. I immediately saw that spark and that love of learning come back. Because we were getting to the point where he was losing that zest for learning because it was becoming so tedious, having to sit there and type on a keyboard. Physically writing is very difficult for him. It still is til this day.

He has low muscle tone in his fingers so when he writes, everything gets tired. And it’s painful. It gets up all the way up into his shoulders. So we had to find an alternative. His first grade teacher was fantastic. She was open to allowing him to use different forms of technology in the classroom.

For the entirety of this article, please visit http://teachingall.blogspot.com/2011/12/guest-post-orbitouch-keyless-keyboard.html