Good service requires creativity and the pandemic provided new opportunities for creativity. Assistive Technology for Kansans (ATK) staff routinely provide consumer directed demonstrations of devices that could help an individual with a disability independently complete tasks relevant to school, work, home and the community.
Kansas Rehabilitation Services (KRS) vocational rehabilitation counselors and students with disabilities frequently turn to ATK staff for assistance in identifying AT solutions in preparation for post-secondary education. Last month, Mikel McCary, an AT Specialist from the Northeast AT Site in Topeka, received a request from a VR counselor and a student with learning disabilities and some vision loss. Mikel scheduled a secure Zoom meeting to highlight voice dictation software, screen magnification software, and a smart pen to help the student take notes and read electronic text independently. To demonstrate the 3 solutions in one 60-minute meeting, Mikel set up and logged in on 4 different personal computing devices.
- Dragon Dictate Naturally Speaking Pro was demonstrated on a Surface Pro tablet using a headset and screen sharing. Mikel turned off the audio settings in Windows 10 so he could use the headset to operate Dragon and provided audio communication with the student through his mobile phone secured in a desktop stand.
- An iPad Pro was used to demonstrate use of the LiveScribe 3.0 pen that sends written notes and the accompanying audio file to the cloud – notes can convert to text font if you print carefully!
- ZoomText magnifying software was demonstrated through screen sharing on his Dell laptop.
The student was excited about the variety of solutions and borrowed two of them to try. KRS will purchase the ones that prove to be most effective. The student, his mother – who was working in the background off screen, and Mikel agreed the Zoom demonstration was an effective method even with Mikel’s cat walking through the shot a few times.
The recommended equipment and software will be in place for the fall term. Mikel will provide training through Zoom and other contactless methods. Good preparation for the fall 2020 term as he enters the University as a freshman!
The Southeast AT Site in Parsons and North Central AT Site in Salina capitalized on the increased demand for virtual services. When a farmer with multiple knee surgeries and a shoulder with a limited range of motion requested help figuring out how to adapt her tractor for easier access to the clutch and a way to reduce the need to get in and out of the tractor as she moved from field to field, Southeast staff reached out to Cassie Ramon, a colleague in Salina with expertise in this area. Cassie used satellite images to virtually walk the farm site in advance of the onsite visit. The farmer agreed to allow a staff person wearing PPE to come to her farm with technology to start a Zoom assessment that included measurements of the tractor, review of outbuildings, and field access issues. The farmer, her husband (also a farmer), and one other family member participated in the assessment with the onsite staff while respecting social distancing requirements. Still photos and video from the Zoom were shared with staff at both AT Sites and an assessment report with recommendations for modifications will be submitted to the local VR counselor and other private funding organizations.
ATK’s purchase of PPE included masks, disposable gloves, face shields, and vast quantities of hand sanitizer and sterile wipes. These items allowed Brook Plummer, AT Specialist from the Western AT Site in Oakley, to set up and deliver an iPad Pro and a laptop with ZoomText Magnifier to an older woman with hearing and vision loss. Brook wore a mask, face shield and gloves and worked at the other end of the table or over the consumer’s shoulder but at least six feet away. She provided verbal instructions to the consumer on how to navigate the iPad. Instruction was made easier since the iPad was set up to use built-in accessibility magnification of icons and the number of icons on each screen was reduced to ease cognitive demand.
Brook will continue future training sessions via Zoom which will reinforce the woman’s technology skills. Screen sharing will support teaching use of Zoom as Brook shows basic operational functions then has the consumer practice while she coaches. Brook can also use an app that allows her to remotely manage the laptop to resolve problems that might arise as the woman learns how to operate her system and accidentally creates unexpected issues.
Sometimes unexpected events create opportunities for staff to learn and hone their skills. ATK’s goal is to provide the technology needed for people with disabilities to continue to meet their educational, employment and independent living skills…even if it means finding new ways to help them accomplish it.
Contributed by Sheila Simmons, Assistive Technology for Kansans, ATK Program Coordinator. For more information about ATK services visit the website at www.atk.ku.edu or call 1-800-526-3648 and ask to talk with an AT Specialist.