All posts tagged Service Disabled Veteran

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!

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 

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

3 Reasons to Hire Persons with Special Needs

People with disabilities are veteran problem solvers.  

If you are one of the millions of Americans looking for a job, you will know that companies want to hire candidates who demonstrate “creative problem solving.”  Why not then hire individuals who out of necessity must creatively problem solve in their daily lives?  Because people with disabilities find innovative ways to maintain their independence, they are used to analyzing challenging situations and coming up with a viable game plan.  It is conceivable that this behavior would beneficially transfer to a business setting.

Hiring persons with disabilities sets an example for your company culture. 

If you’ve ever gone through orientation at a large corporation, there normally is a segment in the orientation curriculum about Company X’s “commitment to diversity.”  Yet people of protected classes are still underrepresented in the majority of American companies.

Last week when orbiTouch attended the Agency for Persons with Disabilities’ Employment Conference, we learned that company culture at organizations who hire those with special needs becomes stronger because the company is figuratively and literally “putting their money where their mouth is.”  Companies experience higher retention rates and increased company morale because those in charge followed through with the company’s commitment to diversity.  In an age characterized by layoffs and broken promises, follow through speaks volumes about credibility as a company.

People with disabilities offer a unique perspective. 

Say you’re planning the biggest event of the year for your company.  By holding this event, you’re hoping to strengthen relationships with existing clients and gain exposure to develop relationships with new ones.

But have you considered the following:  Is your event venue wheelchair accessible?  Do you plan to incorporate media into your presentation?  If so, did it occur to you to use closed captioning for dialogue so individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing can fully understand the presentation?

These are details may not seem that important–until you lose business when a potential client who has a special need was not accommodated. Businesses who fail to accommodate those with special needs are often seen as backwards and non-progressive.  By ignoring the needs of a sizable population, in this case persons with disabilities, you are narrowing the potential impact and success of your company.  Employing persons with disabilities and having them play a active role in company policymaking prevents the likelihood of a public relations faux-pax, like the hypothetical example above, because people with disabilities bring a unique life perspective to the table.  Because of their incredible problem solving skills, persons with disabilities are able to anticipate problems that would be overlooked by the non-disabled.

Veteran Corps purchases 15 orbiTouches for donation to wounded veterans

ORLANDO, FLORIDA–If you are a service-disabled veteran who’s always wanted to try orbiTouch Keyless Keyboard, this may be your chance.  Veteran Corps of America, a diversified technology and services provider for the U.S. Government, has recently bought 15 brand new, in the box orbiTouch units to donate to wounded veterans.

“We could not be more excited about this new initiative,” says Elizabeth Rissman, Director of Social Media for orbiTouch. “Veteran Corps and orbiTouch working together to help service-disabled veterans regain independence through computer use is a match made in heaven.”

Veteran Corps, located out of O’Fallon, Illinois, seems to be on a roll.  Vet Corps has enjoyed a three-year growth rate of a staggering 726%, gaining recognition from such publications as Inc. Magazine who bestowed a highly coveted spot on their fastest growing companies list for the second consecutive year.

Additionally, Veteran Corps scored a double win by capturing two spots on the GSA Stars II roster, a highly prestigious honor that makes it easier to sell IT to federal programs helping wounded veterans.

OrbiTouch, an American-made typing solution for persons with low finger and hand dexterity due to injury or disability, seems to fit into Veteran Corps agenda perfectly.  According to the Veteran Corps website, Veteran Corps “is a premier provider of high quality Information Technology, Homeland Security, and Office-Related services” that can be used to support service disabled veterans in the workplace or home to be more productive.

If you are a service-disabled veteran who is interested in being a part of this initiative, please email elizabeth@orbiTouch.com.  You will receive a free orbiTouch unit, normally a $399 value, and training for free.  All that we ask in return is feedback and perhaps a testimonial.  Also, make sure to check out our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/orbitouch

OrbiTouch and Wounded Veterans

The induction of Medal of Honor recipient Sergeant First Class Leroy Petry on Wednesday got me thinking about orbiTouch’s involvement with the military. SFC Petry knows the true meaning of sacrifice–he lost his hand in Pakyta, Afghanistan, after saving two fellow Army Rangers from a live enemy grenade.  While Petry’s actions are nothing short of heroic, his life will be irrevocably changed as he learns to assimilate to life using a prosthesis.

SFC Petry, along with thousands of other military veterans who now use a prosthesis, must learn how to acclimate to a new life where keyboard use is intrinsically different. Products like orbiTouch aim to address this difference.

A couple of months ago, we sent one of our orbiTouch units to Ft. Bliss, Texas, so the staff operating the Warrior Transition Unit could evaluate our product.  Here’s what SSG Roy Havens, Squad Leader to assist Wounded Warriors, had to say:

“Given the nature of our Wounded Warriors transitioning through the Warrior Transition Battalion here in Fort Bliss Texas, the OrbiTouch is a useful asset to Soldiers with debilitative arm and hand injuries and motor functions.”

We were thrilled by this early positive feedback.

Because in a digital age, the inability to use a computer is synonymous with losing your voice. orbiTouch is a tool that can open up immense possibilities for those transitioning to post-military life.

Just think about job search, for instance. Writing resumes, researching prospective employers, composing emails, and networking through Facebook and LinkedIn are all things that can be done using orbiTouch.  If using a standard keyboard is difficult for you because you have limited hand mobility, orbiTouch may be the answer for you.

The kind of feedback we received from Ft. Bliss is crucial to making this product the best it can be. IIf you are a military veteran or organization, and would like to try orbiTouch for free, please email elizabeth@orbiTouch.com or find us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/orbitouch

The troops are coming home. But what waits for them?

In his address to the nation Wednesday night, President Obama announced 10,000 U.S. troops will return home before the beginning of 2012 and all 30,000 surge troops will come home by the end of next year.  For families and friends with loved ones abroad, this announcement is nothing short of a God send.  But what waits for our troops when they return home?

Last week, a colleague of mine and I made the trip over to the Orlando VA Medical Center to take a tour and drop off  funds we raised through an event benefitting wounded veterans.  We sat with the director of donations and volunteer programs as we discussed how to best allocate our contribution.

The director suggested the money go towards buying work boots for homeless veterans who are looking for jobs.  I was shocked to hear of the veterans who are able to work, many have to pass up opportunities because they don’t have the proper shoes.  This certainly doesn’t help the already abysmal veteran unemployment rate, which is an upward of twenty percent in some states according to Bureau of Labor statistics via CBS.com.

As we toured the facility, the most striking feature was simply how busy it was. Veterans, family members, volunteers, and staff filled the hallways.  Many of the waiting areas teamed with activity as veterans waited patiently to receive treatment.  Additionally, we were told the program that houses homeless veterans in dorm-style living at Orlando VA is also at capacity.

For wounded veterans, It is no secret that their personal struggle will only be beginning when they return home from war.  Even though the VA is opening an additional hospital in the Orlando area, a promising facility in Lake Nona, it is evident our resources to rehabilitate wounded veterans, both physically and mentally, are already under serious strain.  What happens when 30,000 troops come home looking for jobs and medical care?  If veterans continue to inundate the already maxed out federal programs, the future is uncertain at best.

The solution comes from being proactive and promoting awareness. On our side, we will continue to do what we can to keep this issue in the forefront of people’s minds. But there’s something you can do as well. Veterans need our support now more than ever. If you are interested in supporting your local VA, please visit http://www.orlando.va.gov/ for information on voluteerism and donations.