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Using OrbiTouch Keyless Keyboard and other AT together: A User’s Guide

Last week, orbiTouch Keyless Keyboard visited Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC) and the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATiA) conference as well.These conferences were successful on two fronts: One, it is always great to connect with industry experts, and two, experience first hand the new adaptive technology improving the quality of life for persons with special needs.

As we made the rounds talking to several vendors and advocates, a popular question emerged from our conversations: Is orbiTouch a direct competitor with any other forms of assistive technology? Generally, the answer is no.

OrbiTouch Keyless Keyboard specializes as an input system which uses domes instead of keys to type and mouse. Since orbiTouch’s design is vastly different from most keyboards, it doesn’t directly compete with or replace other assistive tech methods. It’s quite the opposite in fact–orbiTouch can be used to enhance them. Here’s a couple of examples of adaptive technology and where orbiTouch fits in.

iPad and Touch Screens

Steve Jobs had a stroke of his ever-flowing genius when he invented the iPad. Not only is iPad one of the best selling gadgets on the market today, but its intuitive design has made impressive strides to help children and adults with special needs.

The iPad, and touch screen technology in general, is ideal for individuals with disabilities because it takes no training to gain proficiency. Tap, slide, and scroll your way to productivity. It’s as easy as playing Angry Birds (the lower levels at least).

OrbiTouch can be used in conjunction with tablets easily. Since orbiTouch uses a standard USB connection, computers and tablets understand it as a normal keyboard. Just plug and play.

One of the best things about tablets is their lighter weight and capability to be mobile. If you wanted to mount an iPad onto a wheelchair, for instance, you could also mount a wireless orbiTouch so the user could comfortably rest their hands while they type and mouse. The benefit of this is that the screen can be placed at the user’s eye level so they wouldn’t have to look down constantly or reach to touch the iPad.

Obviously, iPad is one of the most popular and ubiquitous devices today loved both by able-bodied and special needs individuals, and its applications are many, both for entertainment and productivity.

Voice recognition

Voice recognition or speech to text is great hands-free way to operate a computer. Software, such as Dragon Naturally Speaking, works by converting spoken words into text. It’s cutting edge technology that has a lot of potential, and one day may eliminate the need for input devices entirely.

One aspect that can be challenging for voice recognition users, however, is the ability to edit the text the speech has converted. With orbiTouch, the user can go back through the document and edit the text as needed precisely where work needs to be done. Also, you could alternate between voice recognition software and orbiTouch depending on the noise level of your environment, using orbiTouch in quiet setting where speaking would inconvenience others, or the opposite, a loud environment that could interfere with the software’s ability to interpret speech.

Word prediction software

Word prediction or completion software, such as Prototype, can improve your typing speed with orbiTouch tremendously. Here’s how word prediction software works: As the user types, the software makes word suggestions without the user having to enter all of the characters.

This is great to use in conjunction with orbiTouch, particularly for a new user who is getting acquainted with the product. The average speed for a proficient orbiTouch user is about 38 words per minute, which isn’t bad, but the orbiTouch wasn’t really built for speed. It was built for comfort. Word prediction software can fill in the gaps if the user desires to type faster.

Conclusion

If there’s anything I learned from FETC and ATiA conferences, it’s this: There’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to assistive technology. Everyone has to determine a plan that will work for them whether it is a single device or a combination. For more information on orbiTouch Keyless Keyboard, find us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/orbitouch

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

For those with disabilities, a new entrepreneurial spirit

The following excerpt is from an Orlando Sentinel article written by Kate Santich published on November 12, 2011. The article explores initiatives by various Central Florida organizations to promote entrepreneurism among persons with special needs.

Toward that end, the Department of Veterans Affairs also is pushing an agenda of self-employment for its disabled veterans. The National Science Foundation recently awarded a three-year, $100,000 grant to Maitland-based Blue Orb Inc., parent company of the keyless-computer-keyboard maker orbiTouch. The device allows those without fine-motor dexterity in their hands to easily navigate a desktop computer.

Partnering with the VA, orbiTouch is enlisting veterans and others with disabilities to foster their entry into the world of entrepreneurship.

For the entirety of this article, please continue reading at Orlando Sentinel website.

OrbiTouch Review: International Test and Evaluation Association

Up, down, left, right and into the corners. These are simple yet powerful words that are part of the context of a central Florida company located in the city of Maitland called Blue Orb, Inc. The words are associated with their uniquely U.S. designed, patented and manufactured technology tool called the orbiTouch®. It is an innovative, ergonomically honed keyboard that does not require the use of fingers or handwrist agility needed for a QWERTY keyboard and mouse.

A first look at the orbiTouch® keyboard causes you to wonder how any manner of typing is accomplished. However, it is as real and functional as a standard keyboard and mouse. The convincing moment comes when you actually try it out. There is one thing in particular that the orbiTouch® can do you wouldn’t normally think possible from a technology tool.

Hearing about or observing the transformation that takes place for adults and children who use the orbiTouch® keyboard can be a heartfelt experience, not only for the user but for amazed family and friends.

The driving force that creates such an experience stems from a passion to push the envelope for Internet accessibility and computer use. Envelope pushing that builds community, learning and independence for people who have disabilities such as cerebral palsy, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, prosthetic hands, or other types of limiting physical conditions. Individuals who are visually impaired, blind, have autism or traumatic brain injury have benefited from the orbiTouch® keyboard. It also enables people with no disabilities or non limiting conditions to find greater comfort by learning a new way of typing that can help avoid injuries or developing painful conditions associated with traditional keyboard typing.

For the entire article written by Elizabeth Hood of the Central Florida Chapter of ITEA, please visit www.facetpm.com/uploads/orbiTouch_article.pdf

OrbiTouch Review: Ergonomic Info.com

OrbiTouch Keyless Keyboard has a strong focus on helping to improve the lives of those with disabilities.  People with cerebral palsy, for instance, usually possess ordinary or even above-average intelligence, but have difficulty communicating because of their handicap.  They have trouble not only talking and writing, but also using that basic accessory of the information age, the computer keyboard.  By removing this frustrating obstacle, the orbiTouch allows people with various debilitating conditions to communicate effectively, and even to have gainful employment which would otherwise be beyond their reach.

I was particularly glad to hear that orbiTouch units are getting into the hands of disabled American veterans.  There is no other two-handed input device I can think of that would allow someone to type and mouse using a prosthetic arm or hand, and there are surely many veterans doing just that thanks to Blue Orb.

For this article in its entirety, please visit ergonomicinfo.com/reviews/orbitouch-review/