All posts tagged disabled

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!

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

OrbiTouch: The Importance of Technology and Accessibility

There is revolution all around us. Time Magazine has named The Protestor as its Person of the Year. As we watch the Middle East churn with regime change, we cannot deny the role social media and smart phones have played to galvanize and organize a population recently introduced to technology.

Meanwhile, there is another revolution going on here in America and all over the world. It’s quieter, more gradual, and non-violent, but it is a movement nonetheless that demands better access to many of the daily tech tools often taken for granted.

Welcome to the Adaptive Technology Movement. Persons with disabilities, much like groups in the Middle East, have had limited access to technology, not because of lack of IT infrastructure, but because of the various hardware and software accessibility limitations presented by standard computers.

We meet a lot of people in our line of work who see orbiTouch and think, Wow, that’s a really neat device, but the ramifications extend infinitely beyond the product’s novelty appeal. The end game is the democratization of information and the ability to be your own person. The empowerment that comes with not having to rely on anyone else, such as a spouse or a caregiver, to communicate.

The importance of technology and accessibility is one of inclusivity. When we have more people with online access, we have more people participating in global conversation. Benefits go both ways. Persons with special needs are able to make connections, improving their quality of life and meanwhile sharing experiences and knowledge, enlightening others and enriching communities both online and off.

When individuals can learn, think, and engage for themselves, the sky is the limit. If you want to work out of your home or in an office, you can. If you want to connect with people in different parts of the world, you can. Technology has a way of eliminating stigmas, and it is the ultimate mechanism to focus on ability.

Everything in the human body is on a spectrum, and a part of living with a disability is determining which tools are right for you. OrbiTouch is of course an alternative, but so is voice recognition software, tablets such as iPad, and eye-gaze technology. These alternatives can be used either separately or in combination to form a tool set for success.

The global dialogue among persons with disabilities is one that is growing and ongoing. If you are here in the local Orlando area and you want to participate in the technology and accessibility conversation, join us at 6:25 PM at Urban ReThink! on January 12 for Tech Thursday. OrbiTouch will be there to give a live demo and co-present on issues facing the adaptive technology industry. Hope to see you there!

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

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 salutes our veterans by fighting unemployment

They fought for America. Now we can make America a country worth coming home to through jobs.

“As it says on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., “Freedom is Not Free.”  Our wounded warriors serve as a constant reminder of the real cost of war.  Brave Americans sacrifice their bodies—and sometimes even their lives—so we can live in a free country.  It is the ultimate sacrifice and something we will never be able to fully repay.”

–OrbiTouch blog, May 2011

While celebrations like Veteran’s Day are crucial in expressing our appreciation for those who have served, what we need to do is to continue making America a country worth fighting for. One way to do that is to fight veteran unemployment. Showing appreciation is a start. Helping our heros live a productive and fulfilling life post-Military should be the real end game.

According to The Washington Post, the unemployment rate of post-9/11 veterans hovers around 12.4 percent, higher than the national average of 9.1 percent. To reverse this dismaying situation, President Obama and the Small Business Administration are in the process of establishing a task force to help returning veterans start their own businesses.

In a similar fashion, orbiTouch is partnering with organizations such as Veteran Corps of America to help service disabled veterans become entrepreneurs. This program is anchored in a multi-year grant awarded to Blue Orb, Inc., orbiTouch’s parent company, by National Science Foundation. Blue Orb invites people with special needs to participate in this exciting program. If you or a friend or family member could benefit from this initiative, please contact elizabeth@orbiTouch.com

For most of us, war is an intangible occurrence happening thousands of miles away in countries we will never visit against an enemy we will never meet. But for our veterans, war is incredibly real, the fall out of which they will have to deal with for the rest of their lives.

While we can never fully repay the debt our men and women in the Armed Forces have taken on for our country, what we can do is make military to civilian transition easier by ensuring our soldiers can provide for themselves and their families. Helping veterans lead better lives back home is the ultimate act of patriotism.

Join orbiTouch in saluting our veterans this Friday at the Winter Park Veterans Day Celebration. Organizations such as the Department of Veterans AffairsOrlando VA Medical Center, and Disabled American Veterans will also be in attendence. Hope to see you there!

Blue Orb awarded National Science Foundation Grant

Multi-year award will help provide online entrepreneurial opportunities to persons with disabilities.

MAITLAND, FLORIDA–Blue Orb, Inc., parent company of the assistive technology keyboard orbiTouch, was awarded a three year Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Science Foundation in partnership with Central Florida Disability Chamber of Commerce. This grant focuses on providing persons with disabilities an opportunity to independently develop their own ideas as entrepreneurs. Service-disabled veterans also fall into the scope of this project.

The goal of the most recent NSF grant is to develop an online environment that allows persons with disabilities to participate more fully in the process of becoming and being an entrepreneur.

In addition to providing individuals with disabilities a tool set to improve and enhance entrepreneurship among them, the proposed collaborative environment will be a very powerful research tool to test hypotheses about the cognitive, affective, and inter-personal constructs and mechanisms involved in entrepreneurship and among persons with disabilities.

This is the second grant awarded to Blue Orb. In 2008, Blue Orb received a grant dedicated to studying communication constructs of children with autism and developing a program using assistive technology to compliment lesson plans and help children with autism achieve higher in school. This initiative, called Project Blue Skies, proved successful in helping autistic children communicate their thoughts more clearly, leading to better student-teacher understanding and higher grades.

Director of Social Media Elizabeth Rissman commented, “This endeavor will promote learning and independence among persons with special needs who want to start their own businesses. Individuals with disabilities are highly underrepresented in the national workforce, and programs like these will hopefully alleviate some of the challenges they regularly encounter.”

Blue Orb invites people with special needs to participate in this exciting program. If you or a friend or family member could benefit from this initiative, please contact elizabeth@orbiTouch.com