Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Happy Apps: Seven new apps for people with disabilities

Remember when there were no apps? When everything we wanted to know and do wasn’t literally at your fingertips? In today’s world, there’s an app for everything and new ones are being developed all the time. Apps have transformed life for everyone, but perhaps they have improved quality of life for people with disabilities the most. We’ve scoured the Internet to find the newest, most innovative and most useful apps for people with disabilities. Our findings are below. Happy apping!

Created by Matt McCann, an Irishman with cerebral palsy, Access Earth is an app and web platform that uses crowd sourcing to gather information from users on accessible hotels, restaurants, stores and attractions. McCann, a software engineer, decided to start his business after having one too many experiences with sites that called themselves “accessible” though they really were far from it. Though Access Earth is just getting off the ground, McCann hopes that in time, the app will become a “Trip Advisor” for people with disabilities.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Raising Awareness of Rett Syndrome

In last week’s post, we recognized Down Syndrome Awarenness Month by celebrating the accomplishments of people with Down syndrome. Since October is also Rett Syndrome Awareness Month, this week’s post will highlight this relatively unknown neurological disorder that affects approximately one in 10,000-15,000 female births.  

One of the few neurological disorders that is found almost exclusively in girls, until recently, Rett syndrome was considered a form of autism. Like children with autism, girls with Rett appear to grow and develop normally in the early months of life. But between their sixth and eighteenth months, baby girls with Rett syndrome, typically exhibit signs of stagnation or regression.

As described by Rett Syndrome.org, after affected girls reach 6-18 months, “a period of regression then follows when she loses communication skills and purposeful use of her hands. Soon, stereotypical hand movements such as hand washing, gait disturbances, and slowing of the normal rate of head growth become apparent. Other problems may include seizures and disorganized breathing patterns while she is awake, an abnormal side-to-side curvature of the spine (scoliosis), and sleep disturbances. In the early years, there may be a period of isolation or withdrawal when she is irritable and cries inconsolably. Over time, motor problems may increase, but in general, irritability lessens and eye contact and communication improve.”

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Sky’s the Limit for People With Down Syndrome!

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, a time to celebrate people with Down Syndrome and their significant accomplishments and contributions. It’s also the perfect time to advocate for the acceptance, inclusion, and inherent value of people with the condition.

In recognition of Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and the impressive abilities of people with the condition, Enabling Devices has put together this list of awe-inspiring people with Down Syndrome. Read on and be amazed!

Yizhou Hu, orchestral conductor
The son of a professional cellist, Yizhou Hu (ZhouZhou), who was born with Down Syndrome, inherited his father’s musical talent. Despite the fact that he can’t read music, ZhouZhou, has become a successful orchestral conductor.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Five TED Talks to Watch Today

Here at Enabling Devices, we can’t think of a more enjoyable or powerful way to learn, than by watching a really fine TED Talk. For the uninitiated, “TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less).”

There are TED Talks on just about any topic you can imagine including all sorts of topics related to disabilities. TED Talks challenge viewers to reconsider their beliefs and assumptions and to discover new ways of thinking about nearly everything under the sun.

For your viewing pleasure, we’ve taken the liberty of curating a list of the best TED Talks from people living and thriving with disabilities.

At 19 years of age, Joshua Prager was hit by a truck driven by a man with 27 prior moving violations, while riding in a mini-bus in Jerusalem. The accident, left him with quadriplegia, and though he eventually regained the ability to walk, albeit with a limp and using a cane, his life was changed forever. Determined to win an apology from the man who caused his life-long disability, Prager returned to Jerusalem and gained some unexpected insights.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Working Toward a Bully-free World

It’s sad but true. Studies have repeatedly found that children with disabilities are 2-3 times more likely to be bullied than their non-disabled peers. Now that school is back in session, and the 10th anniversary of National Bullying Prevention Month is approaching, it’s incumbent upon teachers, therapists and parents to be on the lookout for signs that their student, son or daughter is being bullied. 

Once viewed as a universal rite of passage, in recent years, the destructive impact of bullying is finally receiving the attention it deserves.  In fact,  according to the Center for Disease Control, “students who are bullied are more likely to experience low self-esteem and isolation, perform poorly in school, have few friends in school, have a negative view of school, experience physical symptoms (such as headaches, stomachaches, or problems sleeping), and to experience mental health issues (such as depression, suicidal thoughts, and anxiety.”

Compounding the effects of bullying, are today’s social media platforms. In past generations, children who were bullied at school for instance, might find refuge in their homes. But the prevalence of cyber-bullying, and the 24 hour nature of digital communication means that victims of bullying may find themselves with no place to hide.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Talking Tech

Imagine knowing what you would like to say, but not being able to say it? Thanks to augmentative and alternative (AAC) devices, many children and adults with communication disorders are finding their voices.

While the earliest examples of AAC devices date back to the middle of the twentieth century with inventions such as the POSM (patient operated selector mechanism), a “sip-and-puff typewriter controller” in 1960 and the “Comhandi, an electronic letter board” a few years later, twenty-first century technology has taken AAC to an entirely new level.  Today, individuals who are non-verbal or unable to speak clearly due to autism, deafness, developmental disabilities, cerebral palsy, strokes, vocal and swallowing disorders have many options for self-expression.

When choosing a communication device, it’s essential to take the user’s individual needs into account. Not every communicator is appropriate for every person. If you’re unsure what kind of device to purchase, consult with a therapist, special educator or reach out to the folks at Enabling Devices. We’ll be happy to point you in the right direction.

Enabling Devices offers a range of communication devices and we are confident that one or more of these communicators will meet the needs of your student or family member. Here is just a sampling of our most popular communicators.

For the beginner
Is basic communication what you’re after? These one and two message communicators are easy to use. Record songs, jokes and greetings. Use them at home, work, to start a conversation, or to order at a restaurant. Learn to activate one or two messages, then move up to three, four or six!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Best Back-to-School Reads

Do we ever outgrow that back-to-school feeling? Somehow, regardless of how old we are or how long it’s been since we actually went to school, once Labor Day weekend is over, the time for lounging at the pool, barbeques in the back yard and indulging in guilty pleasures such as ice cream and trashy beach reads are over. But it’s not all bad. Even for those of us who aren’t students any more, fall can be motivating. We’re feeling rested, restored and ready to focus on more serious pursuits—exciting personal projects, renewed interest in our careers, and catching up on challenging and intellectually rewarding reading.  Since back-to-school season tends to be busy, we’ve saved you some time, by compiling a list of some (relatively) new and noteworthy books in the disabilities field. Whether you’re a teacher, therapist, parent or child, this list offers good reads for everyone.

For teachers and therapists
Today’s teachers and therapists know that assistive technology can do wonders for helping children with disabilities to communicate, learn and play. Many of those assistive technology devices are developed and available through Enabling Devices. But not everyone receives the training necessary to make the best use of the technology that exists. “Assistive Technology for Young Children” will provide professionals with all the information they need to help their students and clients, and to create fully inclusive classrooms.

“Communication Interventions for Individuals with Severe Disabilities,” edited by Rose A. Sevcik, Ph.D., and MaryAnn Romski Ph.D.
This 2016 text includes the latest research and clinical and educational recommendations for helping students and clients with severe disabilities to communicate more effectively. With the contributions of 30 scholars, the book offers evidence-based interventions for populations including young children with intellectual disabilities, deafblind children, children with Down syndrome and autism spectrum disorders.  Check out Enabling Devices’ communication devices!