A.T. Corner

Braille Buzz

Front view of Braille Buzz.

Who knew learning could be so much fun?

With Braille Buzz, very young children, ages 2-5, practice their Braille skills using the dot-cell characters and audio feedback. A Perkins-style keyboard encourages proper hand placement and prepares them to use similar keyboard devices as they get older.

Both sides of the Braille Buzz are textured for easy grip and direct the user to the correct buttons. With three types of letter-and-dot learning modes, there are plenty of ways to learn! The first mode associates letter names and sounds, and then says a word that starts with the sound. For example, when “G” is pressed, the audio says “guh, G is for guitar,” and pairs it with a guitar sound.

The second keyboard mode pairs key combinations with a recorded voice that provides the dot numbers. The letter mode announces the Braille cell dot position of the letter, teaching users to associate reading and writing of each alphabet letter.

Kids will love the cute bumble bee design and high contract of the bright yellow keys on the black surface. Parents will love the screw-reinforced battery compartment and easy-to-follow instructions. Braille Buzz supports alphabet learning and reading readiness, as well as reinforcing braille writing skills that will last a lifetime.

The Braille Buzz retails for $99.00. For more information, visit the American Printing House for the Blind, Inc.

Self-driving Cars

When my cousin was a boy, he was obsessed with eighteen-wheeler transport trucks and wanted a job driving one when he was older. Although his vision is deteriorating now, and driving himself is impossible, he may one day have a car that can drive itself.

Autonomous cars appear to be the new holy grail of the automotive industry. The technology is in its infancy but is promising for people who experience vision loss or other impairments that prevent independent driving.

Several companies such as Google, Uber, and Tesla have developed computer software to make cars responsive to real-time driving situations. Devices on the vehicle such as sensors, sonar systems, and cameras detect surrounding conditions and build a map that informs acceleration, braking, and maneuvering. Some software can even link cars to traffic lights and other vehicles for further automation and smart design.

Comupter view of self-driving car in the car itself.

Despite promising advances, there are some concerns about cyber-security and overall safety. Efforts must be made to protect self-driving software from hacking or manipulation from outside influences. Additionally, vehicle software is equipped with an override function so a human driver can take over if a problem occurs.

Assistive Technology such as self-driving cars may eventually provide a way for people who have disabilities to live and travel independently. As technological advances increase disability will become less of an issue that prevents individuals from having the same quality of life as everyone else. More to the point, driverless technology is one more example of universal design—creating something that everyone can use and benefit from, and promoting equality across all abilities.

For more information, read how self-driving cars work.

Magic Wheelchair

Boy sitting in his fabricated dragon wheelchair cover.

A wheelchair is a stigma of disability that is often difficult to remove. It is an obvious sign of something being “wrong” with a person. For children, this sense of feeling different can last for years, causing loneliness and low self-esteem. What if a child was proud of their wheelchair, and being in one earned them friends instead of scorn?

Enter Magic Wheelchair, a nonprofit organization started in 2008 by Ryan Weimer. Ryan is the father of three children who have varying forms of muscular dystrophy and require wheelchairs for mobility. Inspiration struck when his son, Keaton, wanted to be a pirate for Halloween. Ryan knew that a simple outfit wouldn’t be enough. Instead, he decided to build an entire pirate ship that fit around Keaton’s wheelchair. The project was such a hit that he was asked to build more costumes for kids who use wheelchairs in his community.

Volunteers and donations are used to create each design based on the child’s interests. Each personalized “costume” is elaborate and can cost upwards of $2000, but is completely free for the family of the child.

Magic Wheelchair has captured the imagination of the wider public and has been featured in talk shows, news stories, and several YouTube videos. The added publicity has increased the workload, but the fabricators don’t mind at all.

See more unique creations at the Magic Wheelchair website.

Job Accommodation Network: Ask JAN

Many of my friends are looking forward to a future of independence and becoming members of our varied workforce. Finding the right fit of skills and job accommodations is often daunting, both for future employees and employers. Individuals don’t always know where to find employers or how to begin a conversation about workplace adaptations that may be necessary for them.

Screenshot of Job Accommodation Network (JAN) website home page.

Enter the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), an international group of expert assistive technology and accommodation employment consultants. These consultants work to match employees with disabilities with well-known companies, and vice-versa, who want to create a more dynamic and diverse work force. JAN also emphasizes the ease with which voice recognition, eye-gaze software, and telecommuting can be incorporated into the workplace to increase productivity and overall company success. Did you know that over half of workplace accommodations occur at no cost or are only $500-$600? What’s more, JAN reports that 75% of users find their services helpful. And, their services are confidential and free of charge.

JAN uses a combination of technical assistance, training, publications, and research to make the best suggestions for clients. They also offer guidance involving the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and self-employment options. Free consultations are provided regardless of company size or type, number of employees, or kind of assistance. JAN also provides one-on-one advice to individuals who are looking for jobs as well as those already employed.

A treasure trove of information and resources can also be found on the JAN website, including an A-Z listing of various differences and disabilities, employment-related articles, and current legislative information about employment and ADA compliance.

I invite you all to take a look at this valuable tool for people with disabilities, or anyone, who is seeking employment. Use these professionals to assist you in the search for the right job or the right employee! See you at your dream job!