All posts tagged Keyboard

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

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?

OrbiTouch: Social Media and the Next Generation of Advocacy

It’s no secret: Here at orbiTouch, we are huge advocates for providing communication technology to individuals with special needs.  We try to do our part by raising awareness through our business, but getting involved with a worthy cause—whether it is disability related or not—is easier than ever.

In the past, there was no other option besides picking up a sign and picketing the front lines if you wanted to be heard.  Nowadays, in the advent of social media ubiquity, it’s as easy as clicking the “Like” button.

Social media advocacy campaigns are often criticized because of the little effort they require.  Naysayers claim participating in social media to promote a cause is an extension of Gen Y’s ambivalence towards charity work.  In fact, the term “slacktivism” has been recently popularized, describing the tendency to half-heartedly interact with a cause online rather than actually volunteering or donating.

However, the slacktivism argument, in my opinion, is a short sighted.  Social media is a great way to engage people on a non-invasive level.  It’s the first rung on the ladder of engagement.  First, you get people’s attention through social media.  Then, you compel them to take the next step, whether it is signing a petition, volunteering, or donating.

In a recent article on Mashable.com, Ben Rattray, the founder of Change.org (i.e. the organization responsible for the successful viral Internet campaign for President Barack Obama), says, “The goal here is social change, it’s not to make things difficult. It may be really difficult to go protest in person, but it might be more effective to mobilize a hundred other people using the web to simultaneously send letters to a single target.”

As I said, orbiTouch’s main focus is providing means of communication for people with disabilities, and social media has been a great way for us to reach out to new groups.  A couple of months ago when I started doing social media on behalf of orbiTouch, I found the Warrior Transition Battalion in Ft. Bliss, Texas, a center that teaches disabled veterans computer skills, through a Facebook group interested in helping wounded soldiers.  I thought their program was a great fit for our company, and after exchanging Facebook posts and emails, our company ended up donating an orbiTouch Keyless Keyboard for them to try out.  I have since learned that there is a sizable population of wounded veterans stationed in Ft.Bliss who now have access to this technology and are already having success with using our keyboard.  If we hadn’t been able to start the conversation through a mutual interest Facebook group, we probably would never have crossed paths.

So, how do you get involved?  That’s up to you.  If you are interested in working with special needs or wounded veteran groups, please visit our Facebook page,http://www.facebook.com/orbitouch, for information on accessing a variety of worthy causes.