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Last month was Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month, so we thought we'd bring you some free tools that might be useful to kids (or adults) who have cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is a neurological disability and affects thousands of people, children and adults, worldwide. Not everyone has cerebral palsy in the same way, there are similarities. Muscle movement and coordination are affected in different ways in many people.

Featured here are some free apps that are available to help those affected by cerebral palsy and other injuries or disabilities improve their movement.

 

 

 

 

Get in Touch with an Expert at Northwest Ergonomics & Assistive Technology

Northwest Ergonomics and Assistive Technology is here to help with your assistive technology needs. Our trained  experts will consult with you to understand your specific needs and provide solutions that really work. We help people of all ages who have experienced any kind of disability.

It is important to our caring specialists that you really get the benefit of these wonderful advancements in technology. For that reason we specialize in training and follow-up to make sure that everything is working as effectively as possible for you.

To contact us, use the form on our contact page, or call 206-707-8830

The world of assistive technology has been an exciting place for those of us with disabilities.  There are certain companies, like Microsoft, Apple, and Nuance (Dragon) that lead the way, bringing accessibility tools  to the masses.

There are also the unsung heroes who are on the cutting edge, pushing  the envelope of what is capable with these tools. Lunis Orcutt of KnowBrainer is one such person.

What is KnowBrainer Software?

KnowBrainer is a "command software"  for the Windows OS that interacts with Dragon dictation software to allow users more flexibility in how they control their computers using their voice.

KnowBrainer software  currently costs $199 for a lifetime license (free 30 day trial, see their product page here), and it is "open source" in the sense that users can configure it and share their commands.  This capability has led a vibrant community of dictation software users and programmers to develop on the KnowBrainer bulletin board.

KnowBrainer Speech Forums

Another great thing about KnowBrainer software is the community has sprung up around it that can share tips allowing users to benefit from each other's experience and share their developing commands using KnowBrainer software.  KnowBrainer hosts this user community message board here.

Lunis - The Brain Behind KnowBrainer

KnowBrainer is the creation of Lunis Orcutt, who is based in Tennessee. On the KnowBrainer user community message board there are numerous threads thanking him for his contribution to assistive technology. The KnowBrainer software and user hub has done a lot to improve the lives of those with disabilities and injuries. Says one user in a recent post:

I just wanted to post an open letter to you to say how much I have appreciated your generosity over the years of making KnowBrainer freely available to me and other disabled users of Dragon NaturallySpeaking.

From my personal experience, I have reached a point where I could probably write a lot of the commands that you have in your package. However, it is not practical and would in fact be reinventing the wheel.

I just know that I have come to depend on the software throughout the day and whenever I do not have it loaded, my productivity is greatly diminished. Needless to say, I load the software as quickly as I can and move forward.

So, I just want to say thank you once again for your kindness and the big-hearted gesture that you have extended to so many in this user group. It is something that you did not have to do, but chose to do and for that, we certainly appreciate it and will be forever grateful!

Lunis Orcutt responds to this message later in that thread and discusses his personal journey into the world of speech software programming here.

Contact the Dragon Experts at Northwest Ergonomics

The team at Northwest Ergonomics is here to help with Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Our highly trained assistive technology experts will consult with you to understand your specific needs and provide solutions that really work. We help people of all ages including adults in the workplace who have experienced an injury or other disability.

It is important to our caring specialists that you really get the benefit of these wonderful advancements in technology. For that reason we specialize in training and follow-up to make sure that everything is working as effectively as possible for you.

To contact us, use the form on our contact page, or call 206-707-8830.

Pictured to the Right: The USB 6-in-1 TableMike (with silver plate).

The SpeechWare USB 6-in-1 TableMike is the "gold standard" in USB microphones and the preferred device installed by Northwest Ergonomics' technicians. 

The praises about the USB 6-in-1 TableMike are well sung to this article in MacWorld online:

When the microphone is in the appropriate position, and the volume is adjusted correctly, the 6-in-1 TableMike offers the best speech recognition quality of all the models I’ve tested. In addition, the level of comfort available with this type of microphone is exceptional. You don’t have to wear anything on your head, and you have no wires tethering you to your computer. And since this microphone offers excellent recognition at a foot or more from your mouth, you can lean back in your chair, move the microphone base to the edge of your desk, and dictate in a relaxed position.

More Specs on the SpeechWare USB 6-in-1 TableMike

Read more about the specs and see schematics for the USB 6-in-1 TableMike on SpeechWare's site here.

More about SpeechWare

SpeechWare is a Belgian company, headquartered in Brussels (the "heart of Europe") and from their website:

SpeechWare was created ten years ago, with the mission to contribute to the long-promised speech recognition revolution for the average business and public service computer user.

Find out more about them on their website here.

Contact the Dragon Dictation and Assistive Technology Experts at Northwest Ergonomics

The team at Northwest Ergonomics is here to help with Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Our highly trained assistive technology experts will consult with you to understand your specific needs and provide solutions that really work. We help people of all ages including adults in the workplace who have experienced an injury or other disability.

It is important to our caring specialists that you really get the benefit of these wonderful advancements in technology. For that reason we specialize in training and follow-up to make sure that everything is working as effectively as possible for you.

To contact us, use the form on our contact page, or call 206-707-8830.

Wearable VR Goggles Aid the Visually Impaired Navigate Around

“It seems like there is something new for our community every year,” says Alexander Pooler, director of assistive technology at the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB). He is pictured wearing the VR-type goggle device that his organization is hoping to bring to the masses. The goggles were used by a blind runner who completed the New York City marathon unassisted.

Optical Character Recognition (OCR)

For the blind and visually impaired, optical character recognition (OCR) and text-to-voice devices have been notable advancements. OCR sees words and with text to voice, says aloud what is printed.

Dyslexic and other Learning Disordered Children also Benefit from OCR

Optical character recognition (“OCR”) has provided huge benefits for dyslexic and other learning disordered children. With the help of OCR, they can process make use of classroom materials that would otherwise be difficult to process. Not all learning materials in schools are distributed digitally, so tools like the above that can convert the text on a piece of paper into electronic text, provide great benefits.

Get in Touch with an Expert at Northwest Ergonomics & Assistive Technology

Northwest Ergonomics and Assistive Technology is here to help with your assistive technology needs. Our trained  experts will consult with you to understand your specific needs and provide solutions that really work. We help people of all ages who have experienced any kind of disability.

It is important to our caring specialists that you really get the benefit of these wonderful advancements in technology. For that reason we specialize in training and follow-up to make sure that everything is working as effectively as possible for you.

To contact us, use the form on our contact page, or call 206-707-8830

 

 

As we prepare for Christmas, our thoughts are always with children especially those with disabilities and how we can make their lives better. Some advances in brain computer interface (BCI) technology are happening north of the border in Canada and have recently shown glimpses of a powerful new device that can allow kids (and adults) to interact with the world using their thoughts.

Brain-Computer interfaces (BCI)  allow human brainwaves to be captured and converted into signals that can be processed and interpreted by computers. The technology is especially beneficial to people who have been handicapped by, for example, the loss of vision, speech, or movement.

The Think2Switch

Imagine children with severe mobility issues being able to move their wheelchairs with their minds. That’s the idea behind a new brain-computer interface called the Think2Switch that is being developed by researchers at the Universities of Alberta and Calgary. The Think2Switch is a headset that is designed to be a simple and nearly universal bridge connecting brain signals to switch-enabled devices such as a wheelchair, light or electric toy. It’s still in the early stages of development but early tests have been promising.

Blackrock Neurotech's MoveAgain BCI

BCI developer Blackrock Neurotech has announced that its MoveAgain BCI has received "breakthrough device" designation from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). MoveAgain is a system that is designed to grant users the ability to control a mobile device or tablet, mouse cursor, keyboard wheelchair or prosthetic by using their thoughts. Blackrock is targeting commercialization of the system in 2022.

Get in Touch with an Expert at Northwest Ergonomics & Assistive Technology

Northwest Ergonomics and Assistive Technology is here to help with your assistive technology needs. Our trained  experts will consult with you to understand your specific needs and provide solutions that really work. We help people of all ages who have experienced an injury or other disability.

It is important to our caring specialists that you really get the benefit of these wonderful advancements in technology. For that reason we specialize in training and follow-up to make sure that everything is working as effectively as possible for you.

To contact us, use the form on our contact page, or call 206-707-8830

Windows 11 is the most inclusively designed version of Windows so far, with more accessibility and assistive technology features than ever.

Changing Contrast and Color of Text

People with light sensitivity and people working for extended periods of time can enjoy beautiful color themes, including new Dark themes and reimagined High Contrast Themes.The new Contrast Themes include aesthetically pleasing, customizable color combinations that make apps and content easier to see.

For people with vision issues, including photophobia, the feature that allows users to adjust contrast and the color of text has been most welcome. One of our clients has made everything in the background black, and changed the color to mid-green, and he has said it makes a great difference and improved the comfort and quality of his computing experience.

More Popular Assistive Technologies

Some often used assistive features are still included, and it's nice that these are included 'out-of-the-box,' so you don't need to purchase, add-on, or worry about updates and conflicts with these features.

Get in Touch with Assistive Technology Experts at Northwest Ergonomics & Assistive Technology

Northwest Ergonomics and Assistive Technology is here to help with your ergonomic needs. Our trained  experts will consult with you to understand your specific needs and provide solutions that really work. We help people of all ages who have experienced an injury or other disability.

It is important to our caring specialists that you really get the benefit of these wonderful advancements in technology. For that reason we specialize in training and follow-up to make sure that everything is working as effectively as possible for you.

To contact us, use the form on our contact page, or call 206-707-8830

 

Computer users have to work with some kind of mouse and keyboard.  Often, the use of these tools over long periods of time leads to repetitive motion injury.
Fortunately, there are more ergonomic variations available than ever before. The products in this article are very popular with those without an injury or movement challenge.  However, their ergonomic nature and customizability has led us to utilize these products for a wide variety of users in our ongoing mission to provide assistive technology to the injured and disabled.

Kinesis Freestyle2 Keyboard

The Kinesis Freestyle2 is an award-winning split keyboard designed to address the ergonomic risk factors related to typing.

You will notice from the picture that the two halves of the keyboard are split.  This allows a lot of flexibility with regards to where you place your hands.

The traditional placement of the keyboard (especially on a laptop) is not ideal for the human wrist and fingers over long periods of time. This design allows you to keep your hands at a more neutral angle as you type.

The Kinesis Freestyle2 features a familiar Windows layout and convenient hotkeys. There is a variety of variations available for Mac, Windows, and bluetooth connectivity.

Kinesis Advantage2 Mechanical Keyboard

When you look at the picture of the Kinesis Advantage2 Keyboard (to the right), you may be surprised at the layout.  This contoured keyboard is designed in a way to provide maximum comfort and productivity.
Some highlights:
  • Concave keywells are scooped into a bowl shape to reduce hand and finger extension and relax muscles.
  • Separating the keywells positions the arms at shoulder-width to keep wrists straight and perpendicular to the home row to reduce abduction and ulnar deviation.
  • The keys are arranged in vertical columns (rather than staggered) to better reflect the natural motion of your fingers.
  • The two keywells are “tented” at an optimal 20 degree angle moderately raising the thumb side of the hand.
  • The integrated palm supports reduce stressful bending of the wrists and provide a convenient place to rest your hands when you are not actively typing.
  • The thumb clusters include frequently-used keys such as Enter, Space, Backspace, and Delete to redistribute the workload away from your relatively weaker and overused little fingers to stronger thumbs.
What's more, this keyboard is a mechanical keyboard.
Are mechanical keyboards actually better? Most gamers prefer mechanical keyboards because they're quicker, sturdier, and more tactile. Tactility is the feedback that you get from pressing the key. This feedback is given through the clicking sound and the visual you see when your fingers press the keys, and they spring back and raise the keycap.
To the average end user, the significance of a mechanical keyboard might not be that obvious.  Mechanical keyboards have specialized mechanisms under each key, that is like a spring, rather than a rubber membrane.  For a very detailed description on the different types of keyboards, visit this post on the Kinesis website.

Evoluent Vertical Mouse

While you may think most of the computing action happens on the keyboard, it is frequently the mouse that is the real cause of injury for repetitive motion sufferers.

Many computer users who have suffered through injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome have adopted this ergonomic mouse by Evoluent.

Avoids Forearm Twisting For Comfort

You may notice that it's 'vertical', which means your hand will remain in a 'handshake type' position as opposed to twisting downward to rest on top of the traditional mouse design.

Beyond the ergonomic design, the real benefit is when you get into the Evoluent interface and program the buttons to customize actions, strings of keystrokes, key combos, and much more.

Logitech MX Master Ergonomic Mouse

The MX Master 3 mouse is "designed for creatives and engineered for coders."  With this mouse, you can work comfortably with a silhouette perfectly crafted for the shape of your palm.

Create, make, and do more intuitively with ideally-placed front/back, and gesture buttons – and a convenient additional thumb wheel.

Work Faster With App-Specific Customizations 

The Logitech MX Master 3 is fully customizable in nearly every app you use – and you’ll work faster with predefined customizations optimized for your favorite apps, such as:

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Adobe Premiere Pro
  • Final Cut Pro
  •  Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge
  • Safari
  • Zoom
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Word
  • Excel
  • PowerPoint

The included software allows for the buttons to be customized to trigger actions, strings of keystrokes, key combos, and much more.

Get in Touch with Ergonomics Experts at Northwest

Northwest Ergonomics and Assistive Technology is here to help with your ergonomic needs. Our trained  experts will consult with you to understand your specific needs and provide solutions that really work. We help people of all ages who have experienced an injury or other disability.

It is important to our caring specialists that you really get the benefit of these wonderful advancements in technology. For that reason we specialize in training and follow-up to make sure that everything is working as effectively as possible for you.

To contact us, use the form on our contact page, or call 206-707-8830

The CDC estimates that 61 million adults in the United States live with disabilities, which has pushed Google and rivals Apple and Microsoft to make products and services more accessible to them.

Google’s latest features bring quick actions and navigation to people whose expressions are their primary means of interacting with their smartphones.

Advances in the Android operating system allow machine learning and front-facing cameras on to detect face and eye movements in order to trigger commands and actions. Users can scan their phone screen and select a task by:

Project Activate App and Camera Switches Functionality

Several  of the facial recognition features can be accessed by using the Project Activate App, and other facial recognition controls are built into the OS as a feature called Camera Switches, which records commands and assigns them to predetermined functions.   Note that both of these applications can't be used simultaneously, as they use the front-facing camera, which can only be used by one application at a time.

With your facial expressions, you can:

• Play a text-to-speech phrase
• Play audio to express yourself or control a smart speaker
• Send a text message
• Make a phone call

The new features rely on the smartphone’s front-facing camera, which can watch the user’s face in real time for one of six expressions: a smile, raised eyebrows, opened mouth and looking left, right or up.

All three of the tech giants: Apple, Google, and Microsoft, have consistently rolled out innovations that make  technology more accessible to people with disabilities or who find that age has made some tasks, such as reading, more difficult.  This competition is great for users.

Get in Touch with an Expert at Northwest Ergonomics & Assistive Technology

Northwest Ergonomics and Assistive Technology is here to help with your assistive technology needs. Our trained  experts will consult with you to understand your specific needs and provide solutions that really work. We help people of all ages who have experienced any kind of disability.

It is important to our caring specialists that you really get the benefit of these wonderful advancements in technology. For that reason we specialize in training and follow-up to make sure that everything is working as effectively as possible for you.

To contact us, use the form on our contact page, or call 206-707-8830

August 21st is National Senior Citizens Day.  Along with the disabled, seniors are the group reaping tons of benefits of assistive technology in recent years.

As we age, we will inevitably experience the negative effects like loss of sight and mobility. These symptoms of aging can reduce someone's quality of life, especially if they are unable to work or if they live away from close friends and family members.

The good news is that there is a growing arsenal of assistive devices and technologies that can make a huge difference for older people. 'Assistive technology' is a large category that include everything from hearing aids and grab bars to wheelchair lifts and dictation software.  Due to improved safety and monitoring option, these devices are allowing seniors to stay at home and live independently much longer than they used to.

Here are some exciting recent developments:

Fall Detection

The Walabot HOME device (pictured) can be mounted on the wall of the bathroom (where 80% of falls take place) and can detect if someone falls, and the user doesn't have to wear any device. Once detected, the Walabot automatically alerts the emergency contact through the two-way voice, text message. The alarm can be disabled simply by standing up.

Medication Help and Safety

Simple devices like the Med-E-Lert Premium Locking Automatic Pill Dispenser will start flashing and make an audio alert when it is time to take your medication. Additionally, it will lock future doses to prevent overdosing.

More Elaborate devices like the MedMinder Medication Dispenser (pictured, right) will not only notify the patient when to take their meds, it will also also notify caretakers if the regimen is not being followed.  The device can connect directly to the caretaker or emergency contact so they can communicate with the user.

Mobile Apps to Monitor Health

The Kardia Mobile app (pictured, by AliveCor) allows anyone who has it to put their fingers on a sensor and within 30 seconds get a hospital quality EKG at any time.  The device is very automatic once installed, saves the results and can share with caretakers and/or medical team. It can help detect symptoms like atrial fibrillation, bradycardia, tachycardia or abnormal heart rhythm

The Omron Evolve Blood Pressure Monitor can keep on top of the users blood pressure in order to prevent heart attacks. The user need only slide their arm into the arm cuffand press a button and their blood pressure will be measured, the results stored, and the caretaker or medical team can be alerted as well.

Magnifiers for Reading and More

There are tons of devices to help those with limited vision enjoy a better quality of life.RUBY 7 HD (pictured, from Freedom Scientific) magnifies written materials to help with reading.It can also help with writing, distance viewing, and even a mirror-image self-view.

Contact Us for Help

Contact Northwest Ergonomics & Wellness if you are experiencing a loss of movement, hearing, sight, or any other disability that technology may be able to assuage. You won't know what is possible until you contact the experts. We have a dedicated team of assistive technology specialists who really care about our clients and go the extra mile to find them solutions to keep them productive and happy. You can fill out a form on the contact page, or call us at 206-707-8380.

 

Technology has afforded us so many advantages, and those with disabilities have received many upgrades in quality of life as a result. The visually impaired  have been the recipients of some great improvements in their ability to compute and function more independently.

Amazon Echo Frames

Amazon Echo Frames

Assistive Technology for the Visually Impaired via Augmented Reality (AR) Glasses

Visual impairments are very common, and there also side effects of many injuries and diseases. We have written about screen readers and ‘on screen text’ magnifiers in the past.  There are also special monitors to help those with light sensitivity (or photophobia) use a computer.

Now, for all users, including the visually impaired, there are more sophisticated tools being released that will augment their ability to navigate daily life. For instance, the Amazon Echo Frames Glasses, which are 'smart glasses.' These glasses will communicate with an Amazon Echo Dot and allow the wearer to ask questions about where they are and what they are looking at.  When away from home, the Amazon Echo Frames Glasses will be able to communicate with the Echo Dot via Bluetooth in the wearer's Android or iPhone device.  For more about the Amazon Echo Dot, see our article about smart home devices here.

The recently released Envision Glasses are also great for the visually impaired, as they audibly read back text that is in the wearer's line of sight. There is a great website called Everyday Sight that is a wonderful resource about technologies and products that the sight-impaired can utilize, along with great software designed just for this audience.

Apple AR Glasses

Apple has been developing augmented reality (AR) Glasses that will synchronize with the user's iPhone to bring info like texts and emails in to the wearer's field of vision.  With Apple's strong history of accessibility features, there is little doubt that these will also benefit those who are visually impaired, and the elderly as well.

Brain Power "Empowered Brain" Glasses System for Autism

Brain Power Glasses

Brain Power Glasses

Brain Power has developed a form of  glasses and software that helps students with autism, ADHD, and other social-emotional challenges learn the life skills crucial for happy self-sufficiency.  Their Empowered Brain™ is designed to teach 'social-emotional learning (SEL),' and help wearers achieve new levels of independence.

Windows Eye Control Integration

We have written about the benefits of "eye trackers", which allow you to control your mouse and computer with your eyes.  These are great for those with movement disabilities.  There is a new development in that Windows computers are increasingly compatible with these devices. The feature is in a beta/testing phase in Windows 10 and will be more fully realized in Windows 11. You can visit the Microsoft website to read about this integration.

WOW Computers  For the Elderly

WOW Computers for the Elderly

My WOW Computers for the Elderly

Assistive technology for the elderly is an area that is going to explode with new developments in the coming years. One such product is the My WOW Computer - designed for the elderly.

Not only does the My WOW Computer have a large screen that is easy to see, it also has touch capabilities so that seniors who are suffering with arthritis and might have a difficulty using a mouse or keyboard can easily select options that are on the screen and browse the web, send emails, etc.

Get in Touch with an Expert at Northwest Ergonomics & Assistive Technology

Northwest Ergonomics and Assistive Technology is here to help with your assistive technology needs. Our trained  experts will consult with you to understand your specific needs and provide solutions that really work. We help people of all ages who have experienced an injury or other disability.

It is important to our caring specialists that you really get the benefit of these wonderful advancements in technology. For that reason we specialize in training and follow-up to make sure that everything is working as effectively as possible for you.

To contact us, use the form on our contact page, or call 206-707-8830

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