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Jul 31, 2009

FCTD offers GREAT resources through summer A.T. Institute

The Family Center on Technology and Disability (FCTD) is wrapping up their 2-week A.T. Institute today. The two sessions available this year were:
1. Accessible Instructional Materials (AIMs)
2. Social Media Tools

With its unique format, the A.T. Institute provided a wide range of information in an interactive discussion with professionals of diverse backgrounds. Discussions were led by a team of experts including: Betsy Burgess, Annette Cerreta, Joy Zabala, Chris Bugaj, and Alice Wershing. Attendees particpated by asking questions and/or sharing their knowledge and experience with other participants. The two week course provided the opportunity to discuss pertanent information regarding today's needs for access to Accessible Instructional Materials such as digital text (Books on CD or in MP3 format for example) and eText and Social Media Tools such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and yes... even blogging!

A big THANK YOU to FCTD for providing this opportunity and CEUs all for FREE!!!

If you feel you have missed out, have no fear... FCTD maintains all of the discussion threads on their website at by clicking on the "Online Discussion" link, then the "Archived Discussion" link.

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Feb 6, 2009

Assistive Technology for Learning Disabilities Presentation

On 2/6/09 we will be presenting at the Assistive Technology Institute Conference in Orange County on "Assistive Technology to Support Students with Learning Disabilities".

Our presentation handout can be downloaded or you can contact us to have them emailed to you.

Hope to see you at the conference.

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Jan 16, 2009

Assistive Technology Institute - Los Angeles/Orange County

The 5th Annual Assistive Technolgoy Institute is coming up on Saturday, February 7th 2009 all day at the Orange County Department of Education. With a preconference on February 6th 2009, 8:30 a.m.

This is a low-cost conference offering a wide range of training opportunities on assistive technology and a vendor area to meet many of the vendors local to the Los Angeles and Orange County. Believe Ability will be presenting a session on assitive technology for learning disabilities.

Scholarships are available.

Again here are the details:
Pre-Conference Friday, February 6th, 2009 (8:30 am – 3:00 pm)
Saturday, February 7th, 2009 (8:30 am – 4:00 pm)
Orange County Department of Education
200 Kalmus Drive, Costa Mesa, CA 92628

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Dec 2, 2008

Video Games for People with Disabilities

As part of the work we continue to do with wounded service members in San Diego, CA, we are occasionally asked about video games that these military men and women can play. In a communication I had with CAUSE as part of the digital library they are establishing at a facility in San Diego, I compiled a list of on-line resources for people with disabilities that want to play video games. The resources include adapted game controllers, like joysticks and a foot pedal for Guitar Hero; console games that may be easily accessed; on-line games with easy adaptations; and games with built-in accommodations. Of particular interest are games that can be played by people with one hand.
While not a comprehensive list, hopefully this has some useful resources:

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Nov 26, 2008

2009 Assistive Technology Institute

On February 7, 2009, the Assistive Technology Exchange Center (ATEC), a division of Goodwill of Orange County, the Orange County Department of Education (OCDE), and the Team of Advocates for Special Kids (TASK), will host the 5th Annual Assistive Technology Institute at OCDE in Costa Mesa.

This conference is a nice opportunity for teachers, parents, professionals and caregivers in the Southern California area (Orange County, Los Angeles, etc.) to learn and explore assistive technology.

We will likely be presenting a session again on assistive technology for learning disabilities.

More information about the conference can be found at

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Nov 25, 2008

The Fusion vs. AlphaSmart and Word Prediction

I previously posted about a training with did at a school on the AlphaSmart Neo - Believe Ability Blog: AlphaSmart Neo School Training and included a handout.

Another tool similar to the AlphaSmart Neo is the Fusion by The Writer Learning Systems. One of the obvious differences is the look. The Fusion has a sleek pseudo-iMac style, which some students may find appealing. The Fusion does seem more delicate and heavier than the AlphaSmart Neo. In our experience, the Fusion also has a more limited battery life requiring frequent recharges.

The Fusion does offer two significant features:

  • text to speech - i.e. it will read aloud (through headphones) the text in a synthesized voice
  • flexible/phonetic word prediction - while typing, a list of possible words is displayed - while the AlphaSmart Neo does offer the Co:Writer applet, it does not provide word prediction based on phonetically misspelled words
In our experience, the Fusion's word prediction could handle simple phonetic spelling errors, such as "durt" for "dirt". However it could not correctly predict more complex phonetical spelling errors such as "oshun" for "ocean" or letter order reversals such as "trun" for "turn". Unfortunately, many of the people we see with learning disabilities have these more complex spelling difficulties.

Co:Writer from Don Johnston Inc. is a software program that requires a Mac or Windows PC or notebook and does have the ability to handle these more complex spelling difficulties. Unfortunately, this level of support for significant spelling difficulties does not appear to be available on a light-weight writing device like the AlphaSmart or Fusion. And, as we have discussed previously, a laptop or notebook computer is usually not a good solution in school settings.

If you are interested in more information on assistive technology for writing or our services, please contact us.

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Nov 18, 2008

Member of the Alliance for Technology Access

Believe Ability Inc. is a proud sponsor of the Alliance for Technology Access. This nation-wide organization is one of the first to focus on technology for people with disabilities. Their community-based approach is unique and provides opportunities for people with disabilities and their support team to explore assistive technology. We are happy to be supporting the ATA in the Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego areas.

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Nov 17, 2008

Richard Devylder's use of Assistive Technology for Independent Living

This video of "A Day In the Life: Richard Devylder" is a real life look at someone with no arms and no legs using assistive technology to live their life independently. What is unique about this video is it looks at everyday tasks that Richard is able to do independently with some adaptations. Richard is the former California Department of Rehabilitation Deputy Director. He is now the Special Advisor, Office on Access and Functional Needs, at the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services.

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Nov 4, 2008

AlphaSmart Neo School Training

We recently did a training for a few teachers at a school district on the basic of the AlphaSmart Neo from Renaissance Learning. For those unfamiliar with this device, it is a writing device similar to a computer but more durable, lighter, longer battery life, and focused on just writing. It is an assistive technology device we often recommend for students with learning disabilities or have difficulty with legible handwriting. It is a superior option to a laptop for school environments and most writing difficulties.

Here is the handout we provided as a simple quick reference guide.

We are able to provide in-service trainings or student trainings throughout Los Angeles and Orange County. Contact us for more information.

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Oct 27, 2008

Introduction to AT Resources

Introduction to Assistive Technology Resources
In Karen Janowski's Blog she provides some nice simple resources to understand what assistive technology is, how it relates to education and the implementation process.

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Jul 31, 2008

Troops' brain injuries inspire a new mission -

Troops' brain injuries inspire a new mission -
Here is an article on some of the challenges and work being done with returning service members that have been injured in blasts. The difficulties of traumatic brain injury are complex. The work we are doing at Camp Pendleton and C5 in San Diego is directly supporting these men and women to return to their lives with the support of assistive technology. These service members need several types of support to return to their lives. We hope our work is a piece of the puzzle.

Contact us for more information about the work we are doing with TBI and wounded service members.

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Jun 3, 2008

Increasing Demand of Assistive Technology by Wounded Troops

Wounded Troops Increasingly Demand Assistive Technology
Here's an article posted on America's News Today about the increasing demand for assistive technology by troops with injuries. The director of CAP, Dinah Cohen, speaks to some of the benefits of using AT by these troops.

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Mar 24, 2008

CSUN Presentation and Notes Available

The slides and notes from Heather Bunn's presentation "Assistive Technology (AT) Training Approaches for Individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)" are available here. The slides are in Flash and the notes are PDF.

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Mar 7, 2008

Presenting at CSUN AT conference

Assistive Technology (AT) Training Approaches for Individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Next week at the CSUN AT Conference, Heather Bunn, from Believe Ability, will be presenting on assistive technology training we have done with wounded Marines (service members) with TBI - titled "AT Training Approaches for Individuals with TBI"

3/13 at 4:20-5:20 at the Renaissance - International A

Notes and presentation are available here.

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Feb 18, 2008

Evaluating Educational Software

Often we are asked to evaluate software for a student that is educational software and not assistive technology. The difference is often misunderstood. Educational software is skill building by nature. Assistive technology compensates for a difficulty but is not designed to remediate. This is not always black and white and there are numerous grey areas, however parents, teachers and school administrators have asked how to evaluate educational software.

The most recent (11/07) TAM Technology in Action (PDF file 341 KB) newsletter provides a length narrative and several forms and checklists to evaluate educational software. This is made available by the TAM: Technology and Media Division of the CEC: Council for Exceptional Children

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AT Consideration Quick Wheel

Assistive Technology Consideration Quick Wheel- This is one of the most popular tools with teachers and school administrators to assist in considering AT during the IEP process.

It has been developed by the TAM: Technology and Media Division of the CEC: Council for Exceptional Children


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Feb 5, 2008

CATE - California Assistive Technology Exchange

CATE - Do you know about this new program in California? It provides:

  • AT Device Loan Program (Try Before you Buy)
  • AT Reutilization Program (Want Ad Postings)
  • AT Loan Guarantee Program (Funding Options)

  • Check out this new exciting program. This is a real step forward for California to catch up with many other states that have been doing this for years.