I hope everyone is doing well in their neck of the woods. I am sitting in sunny cool Florida enjoying ATIA. I had the pleasure of sitting in a few sessions and going into the exhibit hall. First let me say that I am an ATIA newbie. I cut my AT teeth at Closing the Gap. But I have to admit, ATIA may have won me over. When I walked into the exhibit hall, I had that feeling that I have been missing at Closing the Gap, the child in the toy store feeling. When I entered into the exhibit hall, I entered into my amusement park. Which way to go? What do I want to see? So I did the let's go this way and just random pleasure of seeing what was new and exciting.
Hands down the winners for today are:
Switch access for the KINDLE. Yes, you did read that correctly. It will be sold by Origin Instruments (http://www.orin.com/). They are expecting it to hit the market in about a month. With the switch access you will be able to turn the pages forward and back. It will come with a mount that can be secured to a person's wheelchair or other location (table or desk). The cost is will in the $300-$350 (price subject to change).
Software called Point and Chat (www.simtalk.com/PnR )for AAC users – it allows AAC users to Instant message and text messaging using their device. The message is typed in using the symbol communication from Saltillo Corp and converts into text. The piece that most will be frustrated with is that the message to the AAC user is in text also not symbol based. Don't be too sad because the software has text to speech. After sitting through Caroline Musslewhite's workshop in literacy, I have to say it not coming in symbols rocked my world. Often text messages and IM's are using high frequency words or easily decodable words. For students and young adults this gives them an additional opportunity to practice literacy without symbol support but they have the text to speech there if needed as support.
ComLink ST3G (www.frs-solutions.com )is a device that I have not seen before. However, I have to say I really like their hardware. The device usesThe Grid 2 Communication software with symbol Stix Symbols from Tobbi Communicator. The device is durable. It comes with a nice rubber bumper on the covers the edges of the device. It is made of durable material without the extra weight. The flexible stand and handle are great. HANDS down the BEST Speech from a device that I have heard yet. I know other devices use the same speech engine as this device but for some reason it was clear even in a loud (very loud) vending hall without additional speakers. They also have an eye gaze system. It uses similar technology as other AAC devices (add on eye tracker).
Awww … another tool that I was excited about ….. The PenFriend. No it is not the software from Crick. This is an actual pen that you use to create "hot spots". It was originally designed for individuals with visual impairments or who are blind so they can read labels once tagged with the special self-adhesive label. Now that doesn't sound very exciting however let's think outside the box of labels. This tool can be used for students in the school building, during reading activities (definitions) or as an AAC tool. There is no limit to the length of each message that the label can hold. The pen records 70 hours of recording. You can do whole books or take a snapshot of a video or their favorite artist and they can listen to an MP3 of their favorite song. It comes with 127 labels in a mix of sizes and shapes. The price tag again is a tad steep but for a tool that can do so much, I am thinking I am going to put one in my tool kit.
More to come in a few – I have to get to the GYM.