Top 10 Posts of 2012

Here are the top 10 posts on the Assistive Technology Blog as rated by number of views. Thanks to everyone who read the blog. Please check back in the new year for more cool posts.
  1. iOS 5 Tips: Use Assistive Touch to Replace a Broken Home Button, Lock Button or Volume Button
  2. What is Assistive Touch?
  3. What does iPhone 5 and iOS 5 Mean for Assistive Technology?
  4. Read PDF Files Aloud with vBooks PDF Voice Reader
  5. iPhone 4S Accessibility Features
  6. iOS 5 Tip: Look Up Any Word
  7. Android Becomes More Accessible With 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
  8. Assistive Touch Improvements in iOS 6
  9. The Kindle Fire Is Not Accessible
  10. Prizmo: Fast, Accurate, Full Featured OCR App for iPhone Review
What was your favorite post of 2012 let us know in the comments.

Favorite Assistive Technology Apps & Products of 2012

As 2012 comes to a close I decided to make a run down of my favorite assistive technology apps and products that I have been using this year. This list is in no particular order.

Click read more view the list.

The Sky WiFi Smartpen is easy to use and seamless. It has a built in recorder and camera that, when used with specialized paper, syncs audio and written notes in the cloud. To read the Sky WiFi Smartpen review click here.

iPad mini is a great tablet because of its size, app selection, and accessibility. The lower price point makes it even more compelling. Most of all iPad mini runs all the apps that the full size iPad does and has accessibility features second to none. Click here to read more about the iPad mini.

While iOS 6 many have been short on mainstream features it has several useful accessibility features including Guided Access, highlighting with Speak Selection, Siri improvements, and VoiceOver improvements. Click here to learn more about iOS 6.

This update included great new voice search feature that I found to be better and faster than Siri. Click here to learn more about the Google Search App for iOS.

This app has a really nice interface and good scan quality which made it my favorite scanning app of 2012. Click here to learn more.

Prizmo is hands down the best OCR app for iPhone that I have used. Just take a picture of a document and it will read it to you in a matter of seconds. Click here to download or learn more about Prizmo.

A great reader of Bookshare books that allows you to read your books portably without a computer. Bookshare is an online accessible library avalible to qualified people. Click here to download or learn more about Read2Go.

Kurzweil isn't new to 2012 but it is a program I use everday. It helps me tremendously and it deserves a spot on this list. Click here to learn more about Kurzweil 3000.

Good app for listening to Learning Ally Audio books. The free app is available for all iOS devices. I would like to see the app include new features such as background audio in 2013. Click here to learn more.

PaperPort Notes App Adds OCR Functionality

Nuance's PaperPort Notes app for iPad received a major update. The highlight of the update is the ability to take a picture of text to add the text to your notes. The Optical Charactor Recongition (OCR) feature is slower than other competing apps but is accurate. The improved cameras on the newest iPads allow OCR to work well. To learn about the other features of the free PaperPort Notes app click here. Click here to download the app.

Click read more below to view screenshots of PaperPort Notes.

Google Play Books Adds Read Aloud Feature

Google Play Books is the Google's ebookstore and companion reader apps. The Android reader app was recently updated to include a text-to-speech read aloud feature. Click here to download the free app for Android. The text-to-speech voice is a little above average but gets the job done. The read aloud feature works with most books in the Google Play store. If you have an Android device be sure to check this app out.

Click read more below to view screenshots of Google Play Books.

Non-chew chicken recipe for a person w/ ALS

The Slick Chick

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 can cream of chicken soup

½ cup milk

½ tsp. onion powder

4 cups rice, cooked

3 cups chicken, finely chopped in blender

1 cup cheddar cheese, grated

2 tablespoons pimento, finely chopped

Combine soups and milk in large saucepan,

mixing well, while heating and stirring

constantly. When heated add all

remaining ingredients and heat. Pour

into a lightly greased 2 quart casserole.

Bake at 375° for 30 minutes. Makes 6

servings.  Enjoy!             

Toilet Hygiene and the Use of Bidets for ppl w/ ALS/MND

ALS is a debilitating disease that can cause weakness throughout the body, impairing function with all day to day tasks.  In my seven years of working at the ALS clinic as an Occupational Therapist, most people with ALS (PALS) are more than willing to discuss difficulties they are having with dressing, walking, opening containers, opening doors, hand writing and a host of other daily activities. 

The activity of going to the bathroom is rarely discussed, as most of us were taught from a young age that this is a basic human function that should be kept private.  PALS rarely (unless prompted) discuss activities involved with going to the bathroom especially in terms of being able to manage their clothing and being able to perform toileting hygiene and cleaning.   In most cases this is probably an accurate and acceptable social norm; however what do you do if your hand and arm strength is greatly diminished?  An activity that was once a basic human function performed on a daily basis can turn into an extremely difficult task.  The consequences of this task not being performed effectively and correctly can lead to embarrassment and needlessly exaggerate functional deficits associated with ALS.  Even if a PALS has help with toileting hygiene, he or she may feel uncomfortable with this loss of independence. 

The bidet is a good solution for those PALS with loss of hand and arm function, who need assistance with toilet hygiene.  Bidets come in many different forms and at many different price points.  I have not heard any patient regret their decision to use a bidet at home to increase independence with toileting.    Some patients have been extremely happy with regaining a level of independence with such a private activity of daily living. 

Most bidets are sold as part of a toilet seat.  This bidet/toilet seat will be installed in place of your current toilet seat.  Bidets usually cannot be used in conjunction with a 3 in 1 commode or raised toilet seat.  If you are having difficulty standing up from the toilet, you may want to install a new ADA compliant toilet.  The ADA (Americans with Disability Act) height recommendation for toilets is 17 to 19 inches (floor to seat).  Depending on your ability to use your arms, you may also want to install a grab bar along one or both sides of the toilet at 33 to 36 inches high.  This can help most PALS with sit to stand toilet transfers and prolong independence with toileting.  Doing this can be helpful even if you need assistance from a caregiver with getting onto and up from a toilet. 


Most of the bidets I recommend do not come from a medical supply store and are not necessarily marketed exclusively to people who have disabilities.  For instance, the brand Toto is a Japanese manufacturer of toilets that are marketed as luxury items.  I believe that products made by these types of companies have a higher level of quality and are actually less expensive than products exclusively made for people with disabilities.

Bidets also have different functions that can be beneficial.    One of the major functions I would look for when purchasing a bidet is hands free use.  If you already have limited hand function, you don’t want to have to operate buttons or a remote control to use your bidet.  This defeats the purpose of hands free toilet hygiene.  There are many bidet options that come with sensors that activate the bidet system through shifting your weight on the toilet seat.  This ensures hands free hygiene and makes it so the bidet system cannot accidently be activated otherwise. 

Another function I would look for when purchasing a bidet is a drying mechanism that is also operated in a hands free function.  A bidet uses sprayed water to clean a person so you are going to need to be dried after using it.  Many bidets come with a blow dryer function to meet this need. 

There are other functions that you may or may not find helpful.  There are automatic toilet lid openers, self cleaning nozzles, heated seats, and massage functions.  Outside of the automatic seat, the other functions may or may not be needed. 

After reading this article, if you have any questions you can contact me at  I hope you found this article helpful.  I’ve attached some links to company websites that sell types of bidet systems discussed in this article.

Authors: Scott Rushanan, MS, OTR/L and Michelle Lewis, DPT, PT

New Video Depicts How Existing Technologies Can Facilitate Coordinated Care and Aging in Place


(Washington)—A new video from the LeadingAge Center for Aging Services Technologies (CAST) depicts how affordable technologies that are currently available can be integrated to allow seniors and people with disabilities to receive better-coordinated health care and to remain independent longer. The video will be premiered at the Institute of Medicine’s Assistive Technologies, Aging, and Disability workshop on December 19, 2012.


The story follows a character named Alma from home to hospital to rehabilitation and back home again. Throughout her experience of having and recovering from a stroke, Alma and her caregivers use a personal health tablet, medication dispenser, electronic health records, home monitoring, telehealth, engagement technologies and assistive technologies, in addition to a personal emergency response system with automatic fall detection, to plan her care, communicate with each other and allow her to remain safely at home with support.


“Our 2005 video painted a picture of what technology might do if created in service of aging, long-term care and post-acute care,” said LeadingAge president & CEO Larry Minnix. “This video portrays a vision we could implement today with the commitment of providers, payers and consumers.”


All of the technologies portrayed in the video are currently available for purchase and deployment. However, there are few communities or care networks that deploy these technologies in a coordinated way across care settings.


“Our goal with this video is to engage long-term care organizations in leading their communities to create integrated care networks that leverage technology to create efficiencies and improve quality of care and quality of life,” said Majd Alwan, PhD, LeadingAge senior vice president for technology and executive director of CAST. “We hope that hospitals, physicians, insurance companies, long-term post acute care organizations and consumers will see this vision and realize it is well within their ability to achieve it.”


CAST’s previous vision video about technology and aging, “Imagine – The Future of Aging” was sent to more than 60,000 health care providers and has been used by technology companies and long-term care organizations to catalyze technology development and pilot testing.


The new video is available through the following options:

·         The full version is available for viewing and embedding at:

·         A 2-minute condensed version of the video is available for viewing and embedding at:

·         When the embargo is lifted on December 19th, the video will be available for viewing, embedding and downloading at:

·         The video may be used without permission, but users should credit LeadingAge CAST and provide viewers with a link to the CAST website,  


The video was filmed on-location at Asbury Methodist Village in Gaithersburg, MD.


About CAST


The LeadingAge Center for Aging Services Technologies (CAST) is leading the charge to expedite the development, evaluation and adoption of emerging technologies that can improve the aging experience. CAST has become an international coalition of more than 400 technology companies, aging services organizations, research universities, and government representatives.



Emily Wilson | Communications Associate | LeadingAge | 2519 Connecticut Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20008 | P 202-508-9492 |      

Robotic Arm: First-ever Thought Controlled and Bone Mounted

Thought-controlled Robotic Limbs to Reach First Patients in Early 2013

From: Robotics Trends - 11/29/2012


The robotic device's electrodes are fused directly to the bones and nerves of amputees


A postdoctoral student has developed a technique for implanting thought-controlled robotic arms and their electrodes directly to the bones and nerves of amputees, a move which he is calling "the future of artificial limbs". The first volunteers will receive their new limbs early in 2013.


Read the entire article at:





  Controlling an arm on a computer screen (2:00)

  Artificial hand mimics living hand (2:00)

  Controlling fingers (2:00)

  Training with video games (2:00)


Max Ortiz Catalan


Man to climb skyscraper using thought-controlled bionic leg





From: Robotics Business - 11/30/2012


A postdoctoral student has developed a technique for implanting thought-controlled robotic arms and their electrodes directly to the bones and nerves of amputees, a move which he is calling "the future of artificial limbs". The first volunteers will receive their new limbs early in 2013.


Read the entire article at:



The Remote Control in Your Mind

From: Scientific American - 12/2012 - page 32

By: David Pogue 

Forget voice control or gesture recognition. Gadgets may soon link directly to our brain


Okay, great: we can control our phones with speech recognition and our television sets with gesture recognition. But those technologies don't work in all situations for all people. So I say, forget about those crude beginnings; what we really want is thought recognition.


As I found out during research for a recent NOVA episode, it mostly appears that brain-computer interface (BCI) technology has not advanced very far just yet. For example, I tried to make a toy helicopter fly by thinking "up" as I wore a $300 commercial EEG headset. It barely worked.


Read the entire article at:




NOVA Science Now - What Will the Future Be Like? (video 52:37)

Mobile Learning in ELT: Survey 2013

In 2010, after buying my first iPad I decided to do some research into how teachers were using mobile devices in their classrooms and their teaching. At this stage ‘smart’ phones were already starting to make an impact and tablet devices were just coming onto the market.  The research results from this first survey were published in the Guardian Online under the title ‘English language teachers connect to mobile learning’ and the complete results and report can be downloaded from:

I followed this research up in 2011 using the same survey questions in an attempt to see how things had advanced with the intervening period and the results from that survey were  published in May 2011 on the DELTA Publishing blog under the title ‘mLearing and ELT: Are We Mobile Ready?

One of the main observations from this survey was that many teachers were in fact ready and willing to embrace mobile learning and mobile devices, but that publishers seemed to be more reluctantly lagging behind.

Over the last 18 months since publishing the 2011 survey results, mobile learning seems to have made its way into the main stream of discourse surround the implementation of educational technology in our schools and universities, so I have decided once again, thanks to the support of the Bell Educational Services Teacher Training department,  to launch a more extensive survey building on the original one to try to discover the extent to which the ‘talk’ about mobile learning has had any genuine impact and realisation in our schools and classrooms over the past three to four years.

Whether you use technology, mobile learning or avoid it please find time to answer these 20 questions and share your ideas, opinions and reflections and I will once again publish the results for all to share.
Many thanks for your help and participation.

Related links:


Nik Peachey

Green Technology Careers for Veterans

Being part of something great is what sets us apart from the rest of the people. To be able to serve one's country is the most satisfying thing a person can experience. It is hard to be able to go back to the society after going through such an experience. Veterans find this transition difficult because they are used to giving service to the community. Are you one of this people? Have you given all you can to your country and now fell that you cannot integrate back to it? We help you learn the skills involved with of green technology that will help you feel wanted and useful.

The topic of climate change is the most talked about these days. The rate at which emissions of carbon and other greenhouse gases is destroying the ozone is of major concern. Veterans are used to dealing with guns, tanks and bombs. They use this equipment's to protect their countries in times of danger. We help these soldiers relate to such events by showing them the comparison between green technology and war. The rate at which people are producing harmful gases is similar to war. The veterans learn that they are at war with climate change and need to save the world from this greater danger. This makes them feel like they are part of something great.

We equip our military veterans with the skills associated with green technology. We believe that this will help them to easily settle back to the society. Green technology activities give you the chance to feel that you can still be able to give back to the society. This will help curb the high rate of unemployment that faces many veterans. The works of green technology equip the soldiers with the skills to help change the environmental decay problem.

The green careers involve various activities that help create a cleaner environment for the society. We give veterans the chance to assist in curbing problems that are associated with climate change and modification. Green technology is a science that comes up with creative energy options. This energy options give better alternatives to energy sources that release harmful toxins in the environment.

We equip veterans with the skills required to deal with green technology. We enrich them with skills of solar energy use, recycling of waste materials and we also involve them in projects such as planting of trees. This type of careers we believe make the veterans feel at home and involved.

We respect and appreciate the sacrifices that our soldiers have given to us. It is only our humble duty to help you find something fulfilling to do after your service. Our goal is to reduce the rate of unemployment in our veterans. Heating, ventilation and Air conditioning equipment are some of the things used at home that consume a lot of energy. We train you to deal with problems of repair and management of such equipment. Green technology careers give veterans the chance to socialize with the society. This is a fulfilling and enjoyable ways to assist you slowly learn to reintegrate in the society.

Green Technologies

New inventions on green technologies have been emerging in recent times. This new inventions are aimed at promoting distribution and implementation of sources of renewable energy. To avoid human activity when carrying out the process of installation of this technology of installing solar panels, robots were introduced. They are expected to help in the construction of solar farms. Green technology saves power costs and it is aimed at conserving the world. They are known for providing environmentally friendly products. It is said to focus on waste, clothing, cleaning products, energy sources and inventions.

They play an important role in changing waste and production patterns. It is aimed at eradicating the methods of waste and production that causes environmental harm. They do so by creating ways for producing the same result but in a way that it is beneficial to the environment. Green technology is all about innovation. It is all about coming up with a technology that does not have a harmful effect on the environment and the people surrounding it. It is about coming up with friendly sources of energy such as solar power. Green nanotechnology is the most innovative section and it means the use of green engineering and green chemistry in perfecting the notion of embracing green.

Green technology was also introduced to cut down the emission of carbon into the atmosphere. The use of it makes environmental sense. They use the same functionality like the traditional technology the only difference being the fact that they guarantee a safer environment. When they are not in use, green technology switches are said to automatically shut down. They do the same work as traditional technology, they cost less and they last longer. The energy that is offered by green technology is clean.

The use of green technology is based on the following principle. First instead of cleaning up waste it is best to prevent it. It is based on the proverb "prevention is better than cure." Secondly, to maximize incorporation of materials in processing the final product there should be a design on the synthetic method. There should be a design of the synthetic methodologies so as to generate substances which do not possess toxicity or have little toxicity to the health of human beings or to the environment.

Humans have been harnessing solar energy for a long time. Solar energy alongside hydroelectricity, biomass and wind are some of the available renewable energy. Solar energy has been grouped into active solar and passive solar. There are clamps for holding solar collectors on roof. The clamp has a pedestal. The pedestal are said to have two parts which an interconnecting wall interconnects them. The clamp top and the clamp base is the space that defines the solar collector's head. At the clamp base's bottom part there are many feet in a barrel tile application. Before installing a solar panel it is important that one should have a basic understanding as to how they are done.

Animation Technology

Animation is an optical illusion. It is a technique of visualization of motion by the rapid sequence of images of 2D or 3-D artwork or model position in order to create an illusion of movement. Each sequence of image contains a little change. It involves the appearance of motion caused by displaying still images one by one. By rapid viewing of the images human eyes fill the gaps and optical illusion movement is complete. The optical illusion is due to the phenomenon of persistence of vision and can be created in a number of ways.

In addition to its use for entertainment, animation is considered as a form of art. Animation picture is often displayed at film festivals throughout the world. Animation has its place in learning and education also. The animated cartoon made first its appearance in the early part of the 20th century.

Most of the animation made for television and film are produced by professional studios because it is not only time consuming but also costly to produce. However there are many resources such as lower cost programs and distribution network that have made the work of the animator much easier.

Frames can be produced by using computers or photographs of images. Frames can also be generated by altering a model unit in small ways and using a special camera to take pictures of the results. Irrespective of method, the animated film or movie fool the eye with the help of continuous movement.

The eyes are fooled by continuity of vision that is not really happens. In fact, brain and eyes together store a mere fraction of a second. The minor interruptions are automatically smoothed out by the inherent power of the brain. Movements are seen uninterrupted as the animation frames are shot in very fast pace.

The incorporation of animation into your own application depends largely on the type of interface your application provides. The applications that create their own user interface, such as educational software, have much freedom in determining how much animation is necessary for their users. When used rightly in your application's user interface animation can enhance the viewers' experience by providing a dynamic look and feel. With the combination of creating new custom controls with special visual effects can produce a cinematic computing experience for the viewers.

Each animation has its target object or a visual element. This target object is displayed to the users. This target object starts and stops the animation. Duration, pacing, and the repeating behavior determine the overall timing of it.

When adding animation to your application you should follow some important things to choose the appropriate technology. Use Cocoa views for the portion of your user interface which only require static, non-rotated, Aqua controls. Use animator proxy support provided by Cocoa views and windows for the portion of your users that require simple animation. Consider using layer baked Cocoa for the portion of user interface.

A number of studies have confirmed encouraging impact of animations when one face the need to understand conceptual processes"." Animation is a technique of visualization"." It is a replicated motion picture depicting movement of drawn objects"." Together with other techniques elaborated as a result of rapidly developing information and communication technologies"." Use of animations has been strongly encouraged as an innovative,constructive and students-centred alternative to the long-established learning approaches in various countries across the world.