(For those new to the column, Forward Migration is our term for companies moving from Wintel machines to Macs — or at least adding or increasing the number of Macs they use. A Forward Migration Kit is an overview of Mac OS products for a particular occupation, such as photography, optometry, etc.)
This is the second part of our special, multi-part series about software and hardware products that aid in the education and/or assistive living of the disabled and elderly. The
first installment looked at some organizations and individuals that use the Mac. This week we’re looking at some specific Mac products for the disabled and handicapped — and the companies that make them, as recommended by our readers.
MacPopUp LAN from the Kanex Group is a help to those with hearing or speech impairments as they now have a new communication tool that can easily replace the phone, according to Paul Pen, vice president of sales & marketing. One of their customers, Dave Weller, has used MacPopUp in the Matheny School and Hospital for hearing and speech disabled. Matheny has 100 live-in students K-12, four group homes and a staff of 300.
“I gave demonstrations at four different handicapped facilities recently,” Weller said. “I found out that the deaf disabled could use MacPopUp for communicating in a classroom, home or just on a network.”
Weller gave a presentation with two iBooks with wireless installed Airport cards using the MacPopUp software at the United Cerebral Palsy Center in Trenton, NJ. Weller also demoed the software in the April Ability Conference for the disabled, also in New Jersey.
ALVA Access Group specializes in computer accessibility for the visually impaired. They produce and develop ALVA Braille displays, outSPOKEN screen reader software and inLARGE screen magnifier software for the Mac.
outSPOKEN for Macintosh, the recipient of the Smithsonian award, allows blind and visually impaired people to use Macs. Its talking interface announces virtually everything on the screen. It’s compatible with Mac OS 8.x and 9.x, and works with just about every Mac except the Cube. Riverdeep
Riverdeep Interactive Learning offers a variety of specialized applications, including: TouchWindow, a touch screen that can replace your mouse. It’s now available in a 17-inch size with a USB connection. TouchFree Switch. “This is the coolest thing I’ve seen in a while,” Wyatt Webb, Riverdeep’s director of engineering, said. “Most severely disabled kids need to interact with a single-switch mechanism (either a blow switch, head switch or some such). Those all require being wired or connected to the computer in someway. TFS uses a digital camera to watch a particular area (like a foot or thumb) and will react when that area changes enough. Commonly, a child would be able to activate the switch simply by wiggling a thumb or foot or moving the head to one side. This product will actually enable some kids to use computers that never could before.” Edmark Reading Program. “This was designed as a print product several years ago,” Webb said. “It’s really aimed at those kids who simply couldn’t learn how to read any other way (i.e. phonics and whole language just wasn’t cutting it). We finally updated this to a CD product both for Mac and Windows this last year. It’s commonly used for remedial readers, learning disabled readers or even adults learning how to read late in life.” Scanning and Single Switch Input. “This isn’t a product so much as a common feature in most of Edmark’s titles,” Webb said. “The idea is that when scanning is turned on, a large arrow cursor will move from item to item in the product at a predictable rate. The user then simply has to give a single ‘click’ to activate the item the cursor is on at the time. This is a common method of interacting with software for physically disabled kids. We have gone out of our way to include this technology in every place it will work in our product line.” RJ Cooper
RJ Cooper sells assistive software and hardware for both the Mac and Windows. President RJ Cooper says the company has specialized in Mac software and hardware for the disabled since 1988. Company products include: Biggy, which provides BIG cursors for both the disabled and elderly’s convenience. CrossScanner, a way to completely operate a Mac, via a switch, controlled by anything from blinking an eye to wiggling a toe. OnScreen, an on-the-screen keyboard for those that need to “type” using a pointing device, like a joystick, or by CrossScanner. SmartClick, a way to “click” automatically, by just hovering over something long enough.
RJ Cooper also makes special hardware adaptations to certain Mac peripherals, including: SAM-Trackball, a modified two-inch trackball that has jacks for plugging in switches to click via external switches, or which acts as a switch interface for CrossScanner. SAM-Joystick, a modified joystick, with a straight stick, instead of the popular flight-control type of sticks. This device is also switch-modified for external clicking.
“We also make a full line of instructional software that is tailored to the needs of those with very special and ‘early’ needs,” Cooper says. “This software starts way before where commercial software starts.”
Slater Software produces software adapted for special needs of various kinds. Low cognitive levels, motor limitations, autism and others are addressed in appropriate ways, President/CEO James Slater told MacCentral.
“Our marketing efforts are directed at the special needs community,” he said. “We attend about two dozen conferences as exhibitors and presenters each year, in addition to yearly catalog mailings of 150,000. We work closely with Apple as a member of their ADC, and are featured on their Web site as a provider of disability solutions.”
Slater’s PixWriter is a child’s tool for beginning writing. Picture It is a teacher tool for making picture-adapted documents. PixReader “plays” Picture It files, including pictures, words and highlighting in time with speech. Slater Software also makes T.A.L.K. Take Along Language Kits (ready to print speech homework Acrobat files), Alphabet Fun for Language and Literacy (more ready to print Acrobat files), interactive books and adapted plays for children with special needs.
“I use Pix Writer and Picture It with my 3-5 grade special needs students,” Kathy Scott, a resource room teacher in Londonderry, NH, said. “Picture It allows me to rewrite stories in pictures for my students who read by icons. Words are matched with the pictures. Pix Writer allows my students to write by choosing pictures from an array I set up. These programs are great for my students as well as beginning readers.”
Next week: part III.