All posts tagged Cerebral Palsy

ATiA Orlando 2012

Assistive Technology Industry Association’s semi-annual conference is coming to Orlando next week, and we here at orbiTouch couldn’t be more excited. ATiA Conferences are like the Superbowl in the assistive technology industry, except they happen twice a year, once in Orlando and once in Chicago. We heard great things about the ATiA Chicago conference back in November, and we can’t wait to see what they bring to Orlando.

With over 100 exhibitors and a jam packed schedule of presenters, we know this year’s conference brings great things. With so many respected industry professionals speaking, it’s difficult to plan your day, so we picked two of the sessions we are most looking forward to. Unfortunately, they are both at the same time–Thursday, January 26 from 8:00-9:00 AM, but make sure you send representatives to each.

“AT year in review: 2011’s Hits/Misses Cliffs Notes Style” 

Michele Paley, Enablemart

With so many emerging AT products, it’s difficult to know which ones really help and which ones are just fads. Michele Paley, Product Manager for Enablemart, a leading reseller of assistive technology (including orbiTouch), knows first hand. Ms.Paley will address how to determine the efficacy of new technologies on a user by user basis. We know she will do an incredible job and look forward to hearing about her product experiences.

“Accommodating Individuals with Limited Dexterity: Common Workplace Situations and Solutions”

Elizabeth Simpson and Teresa Goddard, Job Accommodation Network

Multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, prosthesis, hand and wrist injuries, carpal tunnel: All of these conditions produce limited dexterity and pose multiple challenges is at work. While employers initially balk at outfitting workspaces for persons with special needs because they think it will be too expensive, top leadership of multi-national companies such as Marriott tell us otherwise.

Elisabeth Simpson and Teresa Goddard of Job Accomodation Network (JAN),  the prevailing experts on disability employment, will illuminate the issues individuals with limited dexterity encounter in the workplace. Ms. Simpson and Ms. Goddard will show us actual workplace accommodations JAN has used to improve special needs employability.  We at orbiTouch are knowledgable about the ramifications limited dexterity has on typing and computer interface, but we are eager to learn about other issues individuals who have limited use of their hands face in the workplace and how to use assistive tech to overcome these challenges.

Interested? Check out the ATiA Orlando 2012 Official Website and download Conference Schedule for more information. If you are attending the conference and would like to meet up, give us a shoutout on Twitter or Facebook. Hope to see you there!

OrbiTouch Review: Ergonomic

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

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 

Transformations: Using technology to unlock the special needs user

Earlier this week, I came across a video that told the story of Carly Fleishmann, a non-verbal autistic teen. Despite intensive therapy with her parents and therapists, it was obvious that Carly was lost in her own world, unable to communicate with those around her even with hang signals because she was prone to flailing and tantrums. But those closest to her never abandoned the belief “there was something else there.”

“When you look in Carly’s eyes, you see an innate intelligence. So we never gave up,” says her father, Arthur Fleishmann.

In the course of one day, Carly’s life changed forever. Carly, age 11 at the time, ran to the family laptop in desperation and typed H-E-L-P. Her family and therapists were astonished. Carly had never directly communicated with anyone before, and they had never thought to use a computer. Several months later, she was using the computer to communicate with others.

“She started to realize that by communicating, she had power over her environment,” says one of her therapists.

Carly used the computer to communicate her wants and needs, but also to illuminate causes of high autistic behavior. For example, enigmatic behaviors such as head banging are prevalent because, as Carly explains, “If I don’t do them, I feel like I might explode. I create output to block out input.”

Carly, though still non-verbal, now blogs and uses social media services such as Twitter to tell her story. She is now happier, calmer, and more independent. The transformation, in the eyes of her parents, has been nothing short of profound.

This video, in its essence, has broader applications to the disability community–the importance of technology. That transformational “Aha” moment when communication becomes fluid and attainable. The impact is enormous.

When you have a condition that limits communication, it is physically dangerous to the disabled individual because they cannot express distress. It is also very emotionally isolating. Misconceptions of disabled people normally arise because they cannot correct their critics.

Sean Grassley, a man living with cerebral palsy, knew this feeling all too well. Sean Grassley typed his name for the first time at 35 years old with help from orbiTouch Keyless Keyboard. Before hand, ignorant case workers had referred to Sean as a “dummy” because his cerebral palsy made it difficult to communicate his thoughts and feelings. He later used orbiTouch to type, “I did it. I am not a dummy.”

Often, there is a disconnect between the person and their disability. The disability is an aspect of their life, but it’s not who they are. As we see with Carly and Sean, their mental capacity mismatches their physical capacity. Their minds are completely in tact–it’s their body that doesn’t cooperate.

Persons with disabilities often describe their disability as being “trapped inside their own body.” We are finding that technology, however, is a way to free oneself from a lifetime of silence. The key to unlocking mysteries that have baffled scientists and caregivers alike lies with the devices and gadgets created today. The human mind and body are infinitely complex, but with the right tools, we can help alleviate the weight that silence brings.