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What is a Smart Home Device?

Smart Home devices are those that can respond to stimulus, like commands given to an Amazon Echo device.  Smart Home devices allow those with movement problems to control their home appliances and do a variety of things with their voice, like:

  • Making phone calls
  • Setting timers
  • Setting alarms
  • Managing lists
  • Listening to music
  • Checking news and the weather
  • Ordering online essentials for the home

Amazon Echo and Alexa

Amazon has led the way in Smart Home connectivity, with their Echo listening device and 'Alexa', their artificial intelligence (AI) powered voice assistant.   The Echo device relays the user's command to the smart home appliances, allowing users to activate appliances, turn on/off lights, and even turn on their computers.

Tecla Enhances Alexa for Quadriplegic Users

Where Amazon's Smart Home functionality includes activating computing devices, the tecla-E  from tecla is a software app that allows the user to  operate software on the computer and on mobile devices.

The tecla-e allows user to use their voice to access their mobile devices, computers, and tablets.  It is designed for easily switching between and controlling the computers, tablets, and mobile phones.

Add-Ons for Speech Impaired Users

With an eye towards serving even more disabled and/or injured people (or when the user wants to stay silent and not disturb someone else), the tecla-e also works with devices that allow simple movements or even blowing air to operate computers and mobile devices, like:

Hive Active Smart Plug

The Hive Smart Plug is an adapter to that goes into a wall socket in order to plug your other devices into, and whatever is plugged into the Hive Smart Plug can be controlled via voice. You do have to invest in a hub that you communicate with to control various Hive smart plugs in your home, but The Hive app is very intuitive to use.

The Hive goes beyond simply turning devices on and off and can also communicates with other assistive technology inventions like "smart" bulbs that can be brightened or dimmed with verbal commands. The Hive can also raise or lower the temperature on the thermostat.

Google Smart Home is Powerful Assistive Technology

While Amazon is still the leader in smart home technology, don't count out Google Home which offers many of the same features and is being embraced by disabled and  injured people. An example is the Google Nest Thermostat, which is a Wi-Fi enabled thermostat that is by far the most popular thermostat being installed for the last few years.

The Google Nest Audio receptor allows people to use their voices to control many of the same appliances that the Amazon Echo and Alexa control.  For instance, a Google Home device can connect to smart  light bulbs, turning them on and off via voice command.

Not surprisingly the Google device also can also allows users to access the Internet to gather useful information when they need it most. You can ask your smart speaker where the nearest wheelchair-accessible pharmacy is, or whether or not your local restaurant is open, and even call the place an order (or do it online).Google's Audio "smart speaker" will help you call for help or contact a loved one when you need assistance urgently, without having to use your smartphone.

Get in Touch with a Specialist to Set Up Smart Home Devices

All of these assistive technologies and many other solutions will work wonders for an injured or disabled person, but it is not recommended that you set them up yourself. An Assistive Technology Specialist can  install the device correctly and optimize it to work with your voice while ensuring you know how to make it work for you.

To speak with one of our team members, contact us by calling the number above or filling out a form to the right.   Our team assists with ergonomics and assistive technology of all kinds to improve people's lives and we look forward to improving yours.

 

Individuals who suffer traumatic brain injury (TBI) will have a unique set of symptoms due to a variety of factors like:

However, impairments in motor functioning, language processing, and cognitive status are quite common for traumatic brain injury survivors.

In many cases, persons with TBI will find themselves unable to perform some of the everyday cognitive functions they used to. Our firm is frequently called upon to provide solutions for those who are struggling with physical or cognitive issues related to a brain injury.

Our solutions are known as 'assistive technology' and Dragon dictation software is very helpful for many of our  clients.

Using Dragon Software to Overcome Movement Difficulties

Motor dysfunction is a common long-term symptom of TBI that causes predictable difficulties in computing, learning, and thus, academic (and professional) progress.  Children and adults with motor dysfunction have benefitted greatly from Dragon's speech-recognition software.

Dragon software allows you to use verbal commands to overcome your movement difficulties. Dragon allows users to:

The results of many studies indicates that students and adults with TBI benefit greatly from Dragon's speech to text technology. There was a research paper written about this by Melissa Ann Noakes of Duquesne University.

One great thing about Dragon is that it is customizable for the person's specific voice and needs. When properly installed and optimized by a professional, the software becomes a partner that helps you compute, read, produce work and surf the web.

The typical process for installing Dragon is that one of our technicians will provide an assessment of your situation and physical capabilities, then propose a solution that includes software and hardware (usually, a high quality microphone - but there are many other assistive tools to help people with movement difficulties).

Then, our technician will install and train you on how to get the most out of the software. They will walk you through the process of opening programs, dictating words, making corrections, and sending your creations.

Having Text Read to You by a Screen Reader

Screen reader software like JAWS can also be helpful by reading out out loud what is on your screen. This is great for those with impaired

vision (as we've written about here), but it's also great for people with TBI, as it can reduce the cognitive load of reading and allows them to hear the words.  This software is also great for those with learning disabilities like dyslexia.

Optical Character Recognition (OCR)

There are services that help your computer 'read' what is contained in documents (like .pdfs) that web browsers and word processing programs can't 'parse.'  A couple examples are SimpleOCR and AbbyFineReader PDF.  This technology is often referred to as "Optical Character Recognition" or OCR.

Microsoft Office Lens Helps You "Read" PDFs and Whiteboards

The Microsoft app called "Lens" facilitates taking pictures of documents and whiteboards, and opening them in your computer. It helps you read and store information from documents like pdfs as well. This app is popular with our team because it's free and easy to use.

CO:Writer Software Helps You Write with Predictive Text

Using a speech recognition system is great, and so is having text read to you. But there are even tools to help you "find the next word you need", to make writing as easy as possible.  CO:Writer is just such a product.  Developed by Don Johnston Human Learning Tools, CO:Writer installs  on your computer or mobile device and uses its Neuron Predictive Engine to suggest the next word or phrase that you are looking for.

This software is great for those recovering from a traumatic brain injury, as it reduces the cognitive load of having to search for just the right word. This software is great for overcoming bad grammar and spelling as well.

Get in Touch with a Specialist to Set Up Dragon and Other Programs

Dragon dictation software and all of these other solutions will work wonders for a TBI recovering person, but it is not recommended that you set them up yourself. A Dragon Specialist can check your hardware to make sure it has adequate resources to support Dragon and then install the software correctly.

Then, they will help you configure your speech devices and most importantly, provide some basic training to get you up to speed with the various commands. Once installed, a Dragon specialist can show you how to "teach" Dragon how to interpret your unique voice more accurately.  The software can be customized to perform basic operations on your computer, and more quickly and easily recognize your frequently used terms, names, and phrases (and emails etc.).

Doug Lear is an Assistive Technology Specialist on our team who specializes in implementing Dragon software for professionals and students in all fields. Doug has a special affinity for helping people with Dragon after he used it himself to overcome a work-related injury.  Read more about Doug and the other members of our team on our staff 'bios' page.

To speak with one of our team members, contact us by calling the number above or filling out a form to the right.   Our team assists with ergonomics and assistive technology of all kinds to improve people's lives and we look forward to improving yours.

 

What is Assistive Technology?

Assistive technology describes any device that helps “assist” people with injuries or disabilities. Most typically, this label is applied to software that enhances one’s ability to use a computer. There are some wonderful tools available so that people who are visually impaired, or even blind, can take advantage of computers and technology.

Assistive Technology for the Blind and Visually Impaired

In the case of blind people and those who have “low vision” (or are visually impaired) it’s very common that they will take advantage of

JAWS® Screen Reader

JAWS® ,developed by Freedom Scientific, is the world’s most popular screen reader. JAWS® stands for Job Access With Speech. This software is voice activated in reads the screen out (on Windows devices) out loud to computer users whose vision loss prevents them from seeing screen content or navigating with a mouse.

JAWS provides speech and Braille output for the most popular computer applications on your PC. You will be able to navigate the Internet, write a document, read an e-mail, and create presentations from your office, remote desktop, or from home.

ZoomText and Fusion Professional

The company called ZoomText has developed its namesake software to magnify ‘on-screen’ text for those who have visual impairment (or “low vision” individuals).

A related product is “Fusion”, named such because it combines both the ZoomText, functionality with the JAWS® product discussed above. So users can get the magnified text as well as the screen reading functionality.

Accessible Feature Mobile Phones for People with Visual Impairments

At the time of this guide's publication, three feature phones stood out for their accessibility.

The Kyocera Kona and Kyocera Verve

Offered by Sprint/T-Mobile, the Kona is flip phone that includes a feature set that helps make it accessible to visually impaired individuals. The Verve is a candy-bar style phone is also available either with or without a contract. The Verve offers a slide out keyboard for those who wish to text frequently with accessibility. Read reviews for both the Verve and the Kona from AFB AccessWorld.

The Odin VI

The Odin VI

The Odin VI from Odin Mobile, a third-party cell provider that specializes in serving those with visual impairments, is a candy-bar style phone with a slide-out keypad. Read a review of the Odin VI in AFB AccessWorld.

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

 

At Northwest Ergonomics & Assistive Technology, we stay on top of the technology that allows those with injuries and disabilities to compute and create. Our specialists are trained to assess the needs of our clients and then properly install and educate them how to take advantage of the latest and greatest technology available. Here are a few devices that are helping our clients become productive and happy.

Eye Tracker - The PCEye from Tobii Dynavox

The PCEye from Tobii Dynavox gives individuals with physical disabilities a flexible way to use a computer with their eyes. PCEye provides an intuitive way to access and navigate the Windows operating environment with eye gaze. The PCEye can enhance the use of a dedicated communication device by fitting all kinds of devices, including tablets, laptops, and computers. PCEye comes allows users to use their eyes to:

The PCEye is frequently combined with other software and hardware to help our clients compute and communicate. Find out more information from the Tobii Dynavox site here.

Motion Controlled "Hands-Free" Tracker Pro 2 Head Mouse from AbleNet

The TrackerPro 2 Head Mouse provides reliable 'hands-free' mouse control for individuals who are unable to use a traditional computer mouse. By installing the Tracker Pro 2 signal-receptor (pictured), an individual can then wear the adhesive reflective dot on a hat, glasses, their forehead, or anywhere else, and control the mouse with slight movements. The software will create a keyboard on screen that can easily be operated using the reflective dot as well.

TrackerPro 2 Head Mouse works with Windows, Mac, and Android operating systems.

Find out more information from the AbleNet site here.

Motion Controlled "Hands Free" Quha Zono Mouse

Some people have injuries or disabilities that make it difficult for them to grasp and operator traditional mouse. Quha Zono is a wireless gyroscopic mouse designed for these individuals with special needs.  It can be placed on the head (or anywhere else) to control a mouse cursor on a computer. The Quha Zono works on Windows, Mac, & Android devices.

There is also an additional mouthpiece that can be attached to allows the user to control the mouse click by blowing a puff of air (pictured).

Find out more information from the GRASP Assistive Technology site here.

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

 

 

Doug Lear, MS, CRC - Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor & Assistive Technology Specialist

Doug Lear brings a lot of personal experience and passion to his role as a Assistive Technology Specialist. One of the reasons is that he has had to rely on Assistive Technology (A.T.) himself.

Recovering from a Carpal Tunnel Injury

Twenty years ago, Doug was diagnosed with bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, and this injury caused him to become reliant on Dragon NaturallySpeaking.

Doug was fortunate enough to have a full recovery, but he realized that he was more productive using the dictation software, and never went back to traditional keyboarding.

Doug then realized he could combine his two passions of helping people and technology. His work as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor and an Assistive Technology Specialist has been very fulfilling as he has been able to enable individuals, with and without disabilities, to be more productive through the use of Assistive Technology.

A Thorough Process for Successful Outcomes

Doug's work with our clients is 'solution focused' to ensure a successful outcome. There is always a thorough "Matching Person to the Technology" (MPT) assessment before solutions are proposed. This evaluation will consider the client's:

This allows Doug to provide specific recommendations to ensure successful implementation of the Assistive Technology.

Then, once the equipment is installed, Doug begins thoroughly training the client so that they will adopt and feel comfortable with the technology. This is the most important part the process and Doug facilitates training in a fun and interactive fashion tailored to the individual's specific goals and learning style. The training and are typically provided remotely using screen sharing programs, but sometimes are done in person as well.

Additionally, training materials are provided to aid the client in becoming proficient with assistive technology.

A Wide Array of Expertise

Training can also be provided for using Livescribe Smart Pens and voice recorders, which can be used to dictate notes, record lectures, and write reports while away from the computer. These recordings can later be transcribed using Dragon NaturallySpeaking.

Doug personally vets audio input devices himself to make the best recommendation possible to the user so they can successfully integrate the best audio device possible based on their needs.

Doug also has experience with the integration of screen readers and other devices for those with visual impairments. Doug is also skilled in training clients to use eye gazer, head-tracking devices, and other alternative pointing devices.

Doug has experience working with individuals with learning disabilities such as:

Doug also has experience training ESL clients to use Dragon NaturallySpeaking as efficiently as native English speakers. Doug has successfully trained users that need to incorporate a telephone/VOIP in conjunction with using Dragon NaturallySpeaking using a technique of "echo dictation."

Furthermore, Doug is skilled in providing recommendations and training for individuals with traumatic brain injuries to offset thecognitive load that may be present when using a computer.

More About Doug's Training and Background

Doug was honorably discharged from the Army in 1993,  and began his studies in Social Work at Pacific Lutheran University (PLU). Upon graduating from PLU in 1996 with a Degree in Social Work, Doug entered the vocational rehabilitation field to provide services to injured workers.

Doug went on to obtain his master's degree in Rehabilitation Counseling in 2005 from San Diego State University, focusing his studies on Assistive Technology. While studying at SDSU, Doug was fortunate enough to study under Marcia J. Scherer, Ph.D., who is a leading expert/researcher in the field of Assistive Technology. Doug maintains contact with Dr. Scherer and utilizes the assessment protocols her group developed in his practice, MPT (matching person to technology), assessment techniques developed by Dr. Schere ensure the technology will fit the user.

Doug is a certified Dragon NaturallySpeaking, KnowBrainer, and Tobii Dynomax trainer.  Additionally, Doug has taken RESNA and other Assistive Technology classes to further his assessment and training skills.  Doug completed the Assistive Technology certificate program at the University of Washington, studying under some of the A.T. field's best professors.  Doug is involved in several social media groups related to Assistive Technology to ensure his skills are up to date, providing resources for others, and staying on top of the latest technology trends.

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

Doug and the entire team at Northwest Ergonomics is here to help with your vocational needs. 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.

 

Dragon NaturallySpeaking, a software product from the Nuance Corporation has been helping people “talk to text” and vocally control their computers  since the 1990s. People with disabilities and accessibility issues have been the primary beneficiaries of the benefits of Dragon, but increasingly, professionals and students are transitioning to voice recognition software to improve their productivity.

Widely considered the industry leader, Dragon is perennially rated the best solution for dictation software, as it was  rated the again by Tech Radar in 2020. This comes as no surprise considering that Nuance’s voice recognition technology powers many applications that you probably already use, including Apple’s “Siri” AI.

There are a couple of specific professions that Dragon has created custom software bundles for: the legal  and the medical professions.

Dragon Legal Edition

According to this article on the American Bar Association Journal, a legal consultant says “Dragon NaturallySpeaking is unquestionably the leader <in 'speech-to text' for lawyers>. Nobody else has comparable algorithms, or has invested as much into the category.”

"Speech software is faster than typing," she adds. "Dragon software is a godsend for mobility and accessibility."

Dragon Legal Edition comes pre-loaded with a robust vocabulary of legal terms.

The consultant also mentions  that the attorneys whom she has helped adopt Dragon software experience and unforeseen benefit of learning how to draft even more well-formed arguments. “The attorneys who have really learned to dictate think before they speak in a way that their oratory skills improve, particularly if they’re litigating.”

Dragon Medical Practice Edition

Doctors are responsible for the well-being of others. Time spent in front of a computer updating medical records is often time taken away from saving lives. According to an article on HealthTech Radar, the Dragon Medical Practice Edition improves doctor's workflow and saves them 30 minutes a day, on average.

Compatible with EMR Records Systems

Dragon Medical Practice Edition comes pre-loaded with an extensive vocabulary of medical terminology and is compatible with most EMRs (electronic medical record software).  Contact our team to have your questions answered about integrating Dragon with your existing electronic medical records (EMR) platform.

'Cloud Based' Integration is Great for Dynamic Applications

Dragon Medical Practice Edition is "Cloud-based." which allows users greater flexibility and mobility in updating records from a variety of locations seamlessly.  Cloud-based solutions require less capital investment, demand fewer IT resources, take up less space, and update automatically, resulting in significant cost savings for clinics without the time and staff to support 'on premise' installation. There is also a Dragon app that doctors can speak into 'on the go' that allows them to conveniently put their thoughts into writing, and all the Dragon products work together to update seamlessly.

Nuance is no stranger to helping medical professionals, as evidenced by their collaboration with Microsoft to provide transcriptions of remote telehealth appointments.

Dragon is Award-Winning Software that has Helped During the Pandemic

Dragon Medical Practice software won 2021 Best in KLAS Quality Management,  and 2021 Best in KLAS Speech Recognition (Front-End EMR) by  KLAS Research in recognition for it's excellent contribution to the medical field's modernization and transition to remote (Telehealth) services.

Dragon Requires a Specialist to Set Up

Dragon software will work wonders for your productivity, but it is not recommended that you set it up yourself. A Dragon Specialist can check your hardware to make sure it has adequate resources to support Dragon and then install the software correctly. Then, they will help you configure your speech devices and most importantly, provide some basic training to get you up to speed with the various commands .

Once installed, a Dragon specialist can show you how to "teach" Dragon how to interpret your unique voice more accurately.  The software can be customized to perform basic operations on your computer, and more quickly and easily recognize your frequently used terms, names, and phrases (and emails etc.).

Doug Lear is an Assistive Technology Specialist on our team who specializes in implementing Dragon software for professionals and students in all fields. Doug has a special affinity for helping people with Dragon after he used it himself to overcome a work related injury.  Read more about Doug and the other members of our team on our staff 'bios' page.

To speak with one of our team members, contact us by calling the number above or filling out a form on our contact us page. You will hear back from someone who can answer your questions about how Dragon can help you in your practice.  Our team assists with ergonomics and assistive technology of all kinds to improve people's lives. We look forward to improving yours!

There has never been more tools at our disposal to help students with special needs related to learning disabilities. In particular, speech recognition software like Dragon  NaturallySpeaking is accessible to more people than ever due to its affordable price. Increasing numbers of educators are using Dragon to enhance their curriculum. The beneficiaries are students with disabilities for whom this technological breakthrough allows:

What is Dragon NaturallySpeaking?

Dragon NaturallySpeaking is speech recognition software that runs on Windows computers and allows users not only dictate easily and effectively, but also control their computer functions with their voice. Another great feature of Dragon is that it will read back any text to the user, which has been very useful for learning disabled students who struggle with dyslexia.

It is usually installed by professional like the ones from Northwest Ergonomics who then train the user on how to operate the software

Who Can Benefit from Speech Recognition Software?

A wide variety of students who need assistance with learning can utilize Dragon, including those with:

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.

 

An excellent article published earlier this month in the Oakland Press newspaper highlights the crucial impact that assistive technology has upon those who are older and feeling the effects of aging.

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.

Identifying the Problem & Getting Help

The gradual nature of many signs of aging causes us to ignore them, or perhaps even not realize they are occurring.  Ignoring or hiding issues doesn’t do any good and may be detrimental to health or quality of life.

The first step is identifying challenges and getting connected to the right people who can help. A company like ours, Northwest Ergonomics and Wellness, can help families and employers find the right resources and training to address their needs. We specialize in assistive solutions to keep people working and happily computing.

Lots of Solutions Available

The majority of workplace solutions that we are called upon to implement have to do with overcoming physical challenges to work on computers. One of our most frequently requested services is the implementation and training of Dragon Naturally Speaking dictation software which can open up new worlds to those who are struggling to use their computer due to movement or sight issues.

There is also a plethora of other devices available that allow feet and your voice to trigger actions that are traditionally done with the hands.

Help for People of All Ages

These technological leaps have benefited people of all ages, not just the elderly. There are people of all ages who struggle with movement due to diagnoses like cerebral palsy and Parkinson's Disease.  Some people have experienced repetitive motion injuries like carpal tunnel problems.

The goal is to make the home and workspace as safe and user-friendly as safe as possible by incorporating devices thoughtfully as needed. This is best achieved when decisions are made as soon as possible and not while in crisis mode.

The Importance of Your Attitude

Change is difficult and accepting that your body is changing can be sad and frustrating.   We have found that our clients who thrive the most are the ones who stay as positive as possible about adopting new tools and processes.  Having a caring consultant like our assistive technology specialists can make a huge difference in the attitude of someone who is adjusting to new routines.

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.

A recent article on the Med-Tech News site highlights some reasons why the need for assistive technology has never been greater.

For one thing, assistive technology allows people to be more functional while remaining social distanced.  As we adopt a new set of protocols around reducing the transmission of COVID-19, assistive technologies allow the elderly, who are the most vulnerable, to function more effectively on their own and therefore provides a great benefit.

During COVID-19 we’ve seen more health and social care providers investing in assistive technology, and improving the link between those at home and third party stakeholders such as clinicians and caregivers.

The COVID-19 crisis has led to a huge investment in technology enabled care (TEC) to both address and support current and future healthcare challenges. Service providers are reaping the obvious safety benefits that telecare and telehealth provide.

The ability of technology to provide 24-hour support and trigger an emergency response is also crucial, and the global health crisis has led to assistive technologies being more widely deployed. Many service providers have invested in TEC to move towards a more person-centered and remote style of care delivery as a result of COVID-19.

 

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