Sunday, February 19, 2012

Assistive Technology

Because I am the system wide float for the facility I work for, I get the opportunity to be trained in many different areas. Sometimes it's difficult for me to always be switching from one focus or facility to another, but the training I am receiving is well worth it!

This week I did some training with a Dynavox rep, as I will be working with clients who have ALS and need to know a lot more about assistive technology. It's so incredible to see what technology can do to help others access their environment. I will be getting more training from a Tobii rep in a couple weeks, but know that the devices have similar features.

For those of you who know people struggling with ALS, I would recommend checking in with their state's ALS chapter as they will usually have a lot of resources available. The one here is incredible and they make it very helpful for those diagnosed to have access to things more easily with less financial restraints.

I was able to train with the EyeMax and calibrate the machine to my eyes in order to control my choices. You can access text messaging, the internet, turn your TV channels, communicate with others, etc. By using your eyes, you can either choose a blink setting or a dwell setting. It's actually pretty tiring but your eyes need some 'training time' to get used to it. You can also access it via switch or by the touch screen if you have that capability.  It's a device that's access option can be changed as the disease progresses. Start by using the touch screen, and then advance to switch or eye gaze. There are so many incredible options with these items that are so helpful for many people.

Not only does the program use devices like the one above, but there are a lot of low tech options available to make things more accessible too. Things like different remote controls, special speakerphones, speech to text software (mostly Dragon Naturally Speaking), visual aides for staff or friends to help make sure daily routines are more consistent or to explain the nature of the illness, voice banking phrases so the client will be able to use their voice to communicate rather than the device, switches to allow visitors into secure entries, etc. Total independence isn't usually an option eventually, but it's so nice to empower people with as much control of their surroundings that they can manage.

Here is a video of Augie Nieto using the device to communicate. Check it out, and enjoy the rest of your Sunday!

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