More Talking Books, Please! — Low Vision Tech

Having difficulty getting electronic books due to the COVID Pandemic? 

The Low Vision Tech blogger shares instructions regarding downloading books using the BARD service. Check out the Low Vision Tech’s post to help you out.

“I’m out of books, what am I going to do now?” This was the short version of a call I received from a former client a couple weeks ago, when businesses and rehab agencies sent staff home to reduce public exposure to COVID-19. She’d heard a rumor that the Talking Books she looks forward to…

via More Talking Books, Please! — Low Vision Tech

H/T to Low Vision Tech for taking the time to share information on accessing Bard services.

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Tips, Tricks & Tech to Reduce Digital Eye Strain

Current Stay at Home mandates due to COVID 19 have resulted in a lot of stress including visual stress from extended use of digital tools used for communication, education, entertainment, shopping and completing business tasks. Our connection to many of our daily activities due to COVID Stay at Home orders relies on interacting with digital technology and extending the screentime needed to connect with the outside world.  Digital eye strain is more prevalent than ever during social distancing during this pandemic.

What Causes Eye Strain or Computer Vision Syndrome?

WebMD explains digital screens cause eyestrain due to lack of blinking when viewing an electronic screen. Matter of fact research indicates individuals blink less than half as often when working on a digital device (smartphone, tablet, computer monitor, gaming device) resulting in our eyes getting dry and irritated (WebMD). Other factors which can increase visual stress when viewing an electronic screen include reduced contrast, glare, lighting, size of the print or screen size and flickering of the screens. Certain diagnoses and even medications can contribute to visual strain such as uncorrected vision problems, aging eyes (presbyopia), bifocals or conditions which cause discomfort glare.  Even small visual challenges can contribute to developing or increased visual discomfort when using your vision for close tasks for prolonged periods of time (American Optometry Association).

Tips, Tricks and Tech to Reduce Computer Vision Syndrome or Digital Eye Strain

Solutions to digital eye strain vary and should start with a recent exam by an eye specialist to ensure the correct glasses are prescribed. Other suggestions include positioning, taking eye breaks, controlling monitors, tasks or device light levels and glare. The following image provides an appropriate example of ergonomic positioning a computer monitor:

1512.m10.i308.n040.P.c20.315153779 Correct sitting posture. Vect

Recommendations from the American Optometry Association include:

  • Check the positioning of your device screen for appropriate positioning
  • Bring the monitor up to your eye level. Ergonomic specialists recommend the top of the screen is at eye level, with your eyes looking downward at approximately 15-20˚.
  • Laptop computers and tablets used for long periods of time should be positioned on a stand that follows the above guidelines.
  • Sit up straight

What Stands or Positioning Devices are Available for Electronic Devices?

Stands for Positioning for Laptops:

While many types of stands are available, the following low tech and adjustable stands are my favorite options:

  • Use of a 4” binder as a stand for a laptop computer. Combine two binders together (duct tape together!) is another option to create an incline or stand to raise your monitor. Non-skid material under the computer can aid in keeping it on the slant surface.Image of binder used as a laptop stand with nonskid material to reduce sliding.
  • The 3M Easy Adjust Laptop Stand https://amzn.to/2SNBzIo (approximately $40 on Amazon.com) can be used with 12-15” laptop computers to provide appropriate ergonomic positioning of the monitor.

Image of laptop computer stand

Stands for Tablets 10” or Less or Smartphones:

  • The Nulaxy Tablet Stand is fully foldable and will manage an iPad Air, iPad mini, iPhone or 7-9″Android tablet. The stand has dual hinges that allow adjustability of height and angle and completely folds for easy storage and portability.  Sells for about $16 on Amazon.com. I use this to position my iPad or smart phone. The charging port remains available to charge the device while being used.

Foldable stand for 9-10 inch lightweight tablets or smart phones

  • MAGIPEA tablet stand holder is a clamp-on, adjustable stand for tablets or smartphone. It provides a flexible stand for a tablet or phone which can also be used for taking pictures, as a document scanner or for positioning for video conferencing.  It easily clamps to a desktop surface flexible with ergonomic positioning.  Costs under $25. (available from Amazon.com)

.Flexable clamp on tablet or smartphone holder

Additional Recommendations to Reduce Computer Vision Syndrome or Digital Eye Strain:

  • Limit the amount of time spent on electronic devices. Break up time spent on devices with distance viewing tasks.
  • To reduce developing dry eyes, make an effort to blink frequently to keep your eyes moist.
  • Take eye rest breaks. One rule to remember is the 20-20-20 rule. Look away at 20 feet for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. This “stretches” or moves eye muscles which can reduce eye strain.
  • Another method of relaxing your eye is using the technique “palming” your eyes. Slightly cup your hands and place them over your eyes so there is no pressure on your eyeballs. Rest your elbows on the surface to aid relaxation. Maintain your eyes closed and position your so no light is allowed in.  Palming can be done for short or longer periods with the goal of relaxing eye muscles. More information on palming can be found at Seeing.org.
  • Use matte finish monitors to reduce glare from light sources. Windows, lighting, mirrors and other reflective surfaces reflect light causing glare. If you don’t have a matte’ monitor and discomfort glare is problematic,  anti-glare screens can be purchased for specific models of monitors or laptop screens.
  • Adjust the brightness of the screen to a comfortable level. The amount and type of lighting is often a personal preference and can be controlled on computers using keyboard functions on a Windows computer using the Fn key + F11/F12 ( Windows support link), MacBook brightness controls are available at Apple Support , iPad/iPhone control settings described at Apple Support  and Android tablet/phone brightness settings described at Android Central .
  • If you prefer a warmer light, try out the Night light setting on all electronics which reduces the blue spectrum lighting and offers a warm, yellow hue to the light level of your screen. Although this is typically used during night hours,  it can be turned on for most of the day by setting the start and end times through day hours (e.g. 12:01 AM to 11:59 PM).
  • For some individuals, using colored filters can also reduce stress caused by certain light levels or light sensitivities. The iOS settings offers customized colored filters on for you screen which might decrease visual stress.
  • Comfortable ambient and/or task lighting also reduces eye strain. Light levels as aforementioned are a personal preference, however consider the placement of the monitors and lighting to reduce glare:
    • Position monitors away from windows, lighting allowing light to reflect on the screen, a cause of glare. Glare is stressful to the eyes with some people finding it more distressing than others or even disabling. As we age, glare becomes more of a problem due to changes in our eyes.
    • Move task lighting to where it is not shining on the monitor  or directly in our eyes. Task lights with flexible positioning offer the ability to direct the light away from the screen of your device. Many task lights now have dimmable lighting such as the Taotronics dimmable, adjustable light (available at Amazon for about $40).
    • If overhead lighting creates glare on your monitor, try turning off the lighting and turning the monitor away from the light. Fluorescent lighting tends to cause more glare than LED or full spectrum lighting. Explore the types or brightness of the light bulbs to find a more comfortable light or brightness.
    • Tilting the screen downward a bit can also reduce light bouncing off the monitor causing glare.

In summary, take a break away from your computer or electronic device. Give it and your eyes a break.  Engage in a task that does not require near vision task with a lot of detail to rest and relax your eyes. Our body does not handle doing the same thing for long periods of time and that also applies to use of our eyes. For individuals 40 years and older, our eyes do not adjust as quickly as when we were twenty years old. Taking visual breaks periodically can help relax our eyes and reduce visual fatigue.

What techniques or tools do you use to give your eyes a break?

Try enjoying the outdoors as it gets warmer and give your eyes, body and mind a fresh break!

Stay Safe!

Carol – OT’s with Apps and Technology

References:

Computer Vision Syndrome retrieved on 5/8/2020 from: https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/protecting-your-vision/computer-vision-syndrome

Palming retrieved on 5/8/2020 from: https://seeing.org/techniques/palming.html

Prevent Eyestrain from Digital Devices retrieved on 5/8/2020 from https://www.webmd.com/eye-health/prevent-digital-eyestrain

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Voice Dream Reader and Voice Dream Scanner Apps – At Home Special Bundle Price!

image of Voice Dream Reader and Voice Dream Scanner app

Voice Dream At Home Bundle Sale

Voice Dream Reader app (iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad; Android) has been a long-standing favorite reading app offering text to speech and many customization settings to support individuals with a disability. As a mobile reading app, its advanced and customized settings make it a versatile e-learning tool, managing a variety of document formats, high quality text to speech voices and customization of the size, color, font and spacing of the print. The developer, Winston Chen has continually upgraded Voice Dream Reader to support the needs of individuals with reading challenges for individuals with print disabilities.

Voice Dream Reader app features, text to speech, library, study and focus.

The companion app, Voice Dream Scanner  (Android), developed just a year or so ago, provides OCR scanning capabilities for documents and instant access with text to speech or direct sharing OCR documents directly to Voice Dream Reader app. Recent upgrades to Voice Dream Scanner app allow quick processing of text and reading text automatically. Voice Dream Scanner app also includes features such as language detection, a “ScanTone” tool with AI technology, auditory feedback of recognizable text, angles, and document edges when using the camera. Other scanning features include auto and batch scanning, turning light lighting on/off, selecting and editing the scanned text.  Used as a self-standing app or companion to Voice Dream Reader, this app provides access to print for struggling and typical readers. I use Voice Dream Reader to listen to articles while traveling often due to the long (boring) hours spent in the car.

Voice dream scanner, OCR, Text to speech, batch scanning and export features

Bonus Special Price During COVID

Currently, the Voice Dream Read At Home bundle is offered in the Apple App Store for 9.99, with Voice Dream Reader and Voice Dream Scanner app bundled together (origninally 15.98) during the COVID Pandemic. A great deal if you are considering buying both apps.  The Voice Dream Reader and Scanner Android apps do not appear to be offered in a discounted bundle at this time.

Voice Dream Reader app is a highly recommended app that can benefit anyone. I recommend this app for individuals with learning disabilities, low vision and as aforementioned, as a typical reader, I use this app to listen or read documents when traveling, running or working around the house.

For more information or tutorials on features of the app, visit Voice Dream Reader.com for more information on these apps.

Stay at home and stay safe!

Carol- OT’s with Apps and Technology

Posted in Accessibility, Adults with LD, Android, Apple Watch, Apps for Special Needs, Assistive Technology, COVID 19, Customizable app, Dyslexia, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Learning Disability, OCR, Reading, Scanning, Text to Speech, Universal Design | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Cleaning Your Assistive Technology Devices — Assistive Technology at Easter Seals Crossroads

cleaning supplies

Sanitizing Options for AT Devices

The folks at Easterseals Crossroads provide additional recommendations for sanitizing frequently used AT devices for individuals with disabilities. Great cleaning suggestions including devices are provided in the following blog post.

Cleaning is more important now than ever before as we continue to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Although many people are keeping quarantined at home, it’s virtually impossible to avoid having to run errands — unless you have some kind of fallout shelter stocked up with food and supplies! 25 more words

via Cleaning Your Assistive Technology Devices — Assistive Technology at Easter Seals Crossroads

For basic recommendations on cleaning mobile devices, check out the March 2020 post “Disinfecting Your Devices” on OT’s with Apps for other sanitizing suggestions.

Thank you to Easterseals Crossroads for their weekly gems of all things AT!

Carol – OT’s with Apps and Technology

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The Simplest Video Call Ever-No Touchscreen for COVID-19! — ND Assistive

A huge kudos to Jeanne Krull of North Dakota Assistive Technology for sharing the Amazon Show as a hands free, touch free tool for video conferencing. Innovative methods of setting the devices up are also included to comply with social distancing. Check out the full post on the ND AT blog.

With COVID-19, you may have heard stories lately of seniors, people with disabilities, and those with health issues only being able to have “face-to-face” conversations with their loved ones through a window. 26 more words

via The Simplest Video Call Ever-No Touchscreen for COVID-19! — ND Assistive

The Amazon Show is an excellent choice for video conferencing with partnered devices.

Thanks to Jeanne at ND Assistive for the post.

 

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Connection in the Time of Social Distancing Part 2: Video Calling Apps for Smartphones and Tablets — ND Assistive

Video Calling Apps for Smartphones and Tablets Part 2 – from ND Assistive Technology

According to statista.com 59% and 49% of adults age 65-69 and 70-74 respectively own a smartphone. As the ownership of smartphones in older adults above age 65 increases, communication apps and services is another option for this Covid 19 high risk group  as isolation becomes a concern. is a The North Dakota Assistive Technology Blog shares video communication options for smartphone owners in this part 2 of communication options during Covid Pandemic.

As the country settles in for the long-haul social distancing necessitated by the rapid spread of COVID-19, we must find solutions to maintain the most human of all our needs, personal connection. We are social beings, yes, even the introverts. In Part 2 of our Connection in the Time of Social Distancing, we’ll introduce you […]

via Connection in the Time of Social Distancing Part 2: Video Calling Apps for Smartphones and Tablets — ND Assistive

Thank you ND AT for sharing the smartphone apps and services!

Carol

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Connection in the Time of Social Distancing Part 1: Phone Calls — ND Assistive

Although you might not be eligible to access this loan system, it provides great examples of what assistive technology for communication is available to individuals with sensory impairments. Check out the ND Assistive Technology Blog for their ideas.

Want to find out what AT devices might be available in your state?

Check out the AT3 Center and search by AT Program and state to find local AT programs that can demonstrate, loan or assist with assistive technology resources: https://www.at3center.net/stateprogram

Maintaining connection to our loved ones is crucial to combating the feelings of loneliness, isolation, depression, and anxiety that have arrived hand-in-hand with the COVID-19 pandemic. 32 more words

via Connection in the Time of Social Distancing Part 1: Phone Calls — ND Assistive

Thank you to the ND Assistive Technology team for their continual curation of all things AT!

Carol

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Time Timer Apps – Gone Free

Time Timer logo

Are you in need of a tool to structure your student’s time? 

Many special education classrooms, staff and students are familiar with the TimeTimer clock and app used to visually display time. The developers of the TimeTimer app and TimeTimer devices are supporting home instruction by offering the apps for free and their devices for a reduced cost to help families during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The TimeTimer tools are offered as an app for both iOS and Android operating systems and physical timer clocks in a variety of sizes and features. Each offers a visual countdown clock showing the passage of time with alarms that can be turned on/off.

How does this work and what is so special about TimeTimer? Awareness of analog time provides an understanding of time passage. Digital clocks present one point in time, rather than passage of time. Using a analog clock that visually displays time elapsing provides a concrete visual support for how much time is left. Using this method also creates a temporal understanding of time, an abstract concept which can be difficult for many individuals. Here is an image of how the TimeTimer works: 

Time timer use image

TimeTimer clocks and apps have been around for many years and are a staple in most special education classrooms.  The TimeTimer app provides teachers and students a mobile visual timer in different environments and is now extended to families for home use. 

TimeTimer Apps:

The TimeTimer apps   are available for iOS and Android and Google Chrome operating systems during the Covid-19 pandemic. Features of the apps include setting multiple timers and customization features of the timer with different colored clock faces and turning alarms on/off.  The links below connect you to the free TimeTimer apps: 

TimeTimer app for iPhone/iPod and iPad – Free 

Time timer iPhone

TimeTimer app iPad Edition (free): 

images of iPad Edition app features

TimeTimer app for Android and Google Chromebook 

Time timer Android pic 

TimeTimer Clocks 

If a physical and portable clock is needed, a variety of TimeTimer devices with different features and sizes are also available.  TimeTimer devices also have been reduced in price during the Covide-19 Pandemic.  If using a tablet or phone is a distraction to the student, the portable clocks offer a good visual timer alternative.  

TimeTimer PLUS 120 – Offers up to 120 minutes and comes with a notepad. This TimeTimer device also comes in a 5, 20, 30, 60 and 120 model. This notepad edition supports time management ideas of the book, “Make Time” and philosophy of Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky , focusing on making time for things that matter.  The cost is approximately $ 37.00 on Amazon.  

Time Timer Plus 120 device

The TimeTimer clock original comes in an 8 and 12” model with a 60 minute timer. The cost is currently $32.50 for the 8” model on Amazon.  

Time Timer original 8"

The TimeTimer PLUS 60 (without the notepad) is available in different colors and available in a 5, 20, 30, 60, and 120 minute model. The cost is approximately $26-$29 on Amazon.  

Time Timer basic clock

TimeTimer Watch is also available in small and large sizes, offering the same countdown visual watch face and alarm as a wearable for the user. The cost is approximately $85.00 on Amazon.  

Time Timer watch image

TimeTimer apps and devices have been a staple for structured learning and focused task time for many students offering an accommodation to understand the concept of time and anticipating task completion. Information on research and articles pertaining to the application of TimeTimers is available on the TimeTimer website.

Thank you to the developers of TimeTimer devices and apps for generously offering free apps and devices at a reduced cost for students and families during the Covid-19 stay at home quarantine period.

More for your OT eTool Kit!

Carol – OT’s with Apps and Technology

Posted in Accessories, Activities of Daily Living, Adaptive Devices, Android, App Reviews, Apps for Special Needs, Assistive Technology, Developmental Delay, Early Childhood, Elementary School, Executive Function, Focused attention, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Visual Communication, Visual Supports | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

T-Pull Door Closer Makes Opening & Closing Doors Easy For People With Disabilities — Assistive Technology Blog

T-Pull Door Closer Makes Opening & Closing Doors Easy For People With Disabilities For able bodied people, opening and closing a door is something that is never considered a chore. It’s easily done every time without putting much thought to it – grab the door knob/handle and push or pull it. Simple! However, for people…

via T-Pull Door Closer Makes Opening & Closing Doors Easy For People With Disabilities — Assistive Technology Blog

What a great and simple tool!

Thank you AT Blog for sharing!

Carol

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My Experience with AI-powered Digital Writing Assistants: An Illustrated Autoethnographic Study — Peace & Quiet

Grammarly

As an assistive technology practitioner, concerns regarding spelling and grammar are frequent. Of the many grammar editing services, Grammarly is typically recommended to clients for the extended editing tools offered. While MS Office’s spelling and grammar checkers have improved, they do not provide the indepth editing Grammarly Premium offers.

This repost of a teacher’s experience using Grammarly to edit student work was insightful. His post also supports what I have found when using Grammarly, offering additional assistance for my grammar errors when writing. With repetition, it also is teaching me a few grammar rules I should have learned many years ago!

Here is a first draft of my Research Proposal. I still need to develop the Literature Review. I look forward to your feedback. Thank you! Introduction: Although online grammar checkers have gained popularity in recent years, there has been limited research conducted on the impact of AI-powered assisted digital writers on students’ revising and editing […]

via My Experience with AI-powered Digital Writing Assistants: An Illustrated Autoethnographic Study — Peace & Quiet

H/T to Peace and Quiet for sharing their experience and insights regarding Grammarly.

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OrCam Read – A Handheld Scan and Read Device with Amazing Accuracy!

image of OrCam Read device

OrCam Read

Artificial intelligence is providing a whole new set of remarkable assistive technology tools. One new device is the OrCam Read device. With similar reading functions as the OrCam MyEye  glasses mounted scan and read device, the OrCam Read device is a small, discrete, handheld device that instantly reads scanned text with incredible accuracy.

OrCam Read device image

The OrCam Read device measures 5” in length by 1” height and ½” width, just the right size to hold in your hand, carry in a pocket or attach to a lanyard. Lightweight and easy to handle, control buttons are easy to access with point and shoot operation to scan  desired test.  The OrCam Read device uses a laser light beam to capture what text you are scanning. Two different red laser beams are used, one showing a frame capture and the second a laser pointer capture. The frame capture scans a whole page on text information, whereas the laser pointer option identifies reading from a specific point in the text.

OrCam laser capture

The point and shoot feature is easy to start, pause and stop with the button controls resulting in instant text to speech once print is captured. The + and – buttons allow the user to navigate within the text by moving up/down a line. Both navigation and point and shoot features are fast and immediately responsive without any lag experienced.

Testing the OrCam Read with several different hard print sources found the accuracy of the text read to be extremely high. Trialed with a magazine article, a business letter, textbook and post card print information resulted in OrCam Read text to speech accuracy on targeted text to be at 99%. An error when reading an abbreviation of APR, recognized as April was found when used with a business letter.  Using trials, the device accurately read text as small as 6-8 point to large titles and headings on hard copy print. The Orcam Read will tell you when the text is unable to be read, or in the case of word art graphics or handwriting, it does not process it.

Having trialled and texted many devices and apps with text to speech capabilities to support client needs, the OrCam Read device using standard typed text is the best I have experienced.  Its speed of processing was fast, accurate with a point and shoot type of control. Practice with the point and shoot was needed to understand the parameters of where and what it will read as would be expected.

Other features of the OrCam Read include Bluetooth capabilities to connect wireless speakers and headphones. A standard jack headphone jack is also available. Using Wi-Fi, updates can be downloaded to the device when available. The device menu is accessed by pressing the power and volume buttons simultaneously to control volume settings.  Menu and prompts for operation of the OrCam Read are provided by spoken voice to guide the user in its functions. The OrCam can operate for 4 continuous hours, however it has a suspended mode after a few minutes of non-use which will automatically power down after another short period.

Initial trials of the OrCam Read device found it easy to use, small, discrete and highly accurate in reading standard hard copy print through its scan and read processing.  For individuals with low vision and dyslexia, this device will provide an exceptional on demand tool to access print in work, education and community settings.

Here is an overview video of the OrCam Read device:

For more information, check out the information and tutorials on the OrCam Read website or contact Adaptive Technology Resources for trials, demonstrations or pricing in the Midwest.

More for your OT eTool kit.

Carol – OT’s with Apps and Technology

Posted in Accessibility, Activities of Daily Living, Adaptive Devices, Adults with LD, Artificial Intelligence, Assistive Technology, Dyslexia, Reading, Vocation | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment