CSUN Attendees Predict Brighter Future for People with Disabilities
By John M. Williams
San Diego, CA -- Between March 19-23 CSUN celebrated its 33rd CSUN (California State University at Northridge) Assistive Technology Conference in a big way. To begin with the number of attendees set a record. More than 5,000 participants from the US and 35 foreign countries shared their experiences. More than 100 exhibitors displayed their products and services. The attendees were parents of children with disabilities, special education teachers, government officials, human resource personnel, representatives from non-profit agencies, people from independent living centers and rehabilitation centers, advocates for people with disabilities and people with disabilities.
“What I like about this conference is it explore new ways assistive technology can assist people with disabilities see a brighter future for themselves. These technologies do way with traditional barriers that have prevented disabled people from achieving their potential ” said Thomas Merton, the father of an 11-year old son with multiple disabilities.
For most of the attendees the attractions to the conference are the range of assistive technologies.
The products shown benefited people with vision challenges, intellectual disability, deaf or hard of hearing, mobility challenges, mobility challenges speech challenges and other disabilities.
Michael Petscavage has five children ranging in age from 6-t-18years old. His second and third children are identical twins. They are 7-years-old and they are autistic. He believes various modes of assistive technology designed as augmentative communication systems), can be used for children with autism to increase or improve their overall understanding of their environment, expressive communication skills, social interaction skills, attention skills, motivation skills, organization skills, academic skills Self help skills and overall independent daily functioning skills.
A psychologist, Petscavage says, “Children with autism process visual information easier than auditory information. Any time we use assistive technology devices with these children, we're giving them information through their strongest processing area (visual).” He believes various types of technology from "low" tech to "high" tech, should be incorporated into every aspect of daily living in order to improve the functional capabilities of children with autism. He sees many of these technologies at the CSUN conference.
Jimmy Caruso works with blind and visually-impaired children and adults .He visited all the exhibitors whose products benefitted blind and visually-impaired people. He liked the products by Adaptive Technology Services. He was even more impressed when he saw RightHear demonstrated.
RightHear is an advanced accessibility solution that allows its users to acquire better orientation indoors. The free app allows its users to hear where they are, what is there, and even what’s around them just by pointing with their smartphone in different directions. . It designed especially for the blind and visually impaired and is available for free on iOS and Android devices.
Speech Language Pathologist Janice Martin spent 8 hours on Thursday visiting one exhibit after another. Martin woks with deaf and hard of hearing students in Dallas, TX. She was fascinated by Alternative Communication Services, LLC. The company provides communication text and interpreting solutions for students who are deaf or hard of hearing in education. It also provides technical support, training and education to everyone involved in the process.
“Our schools need to have more of these technologies and services available to our deaf and hard-of-hearing students and even adults with hearing problems,” Martin emphasized.
Martin was impressed by Caption Call, a captioned telephone service. She grabbed about 30 brochures on Caption Call that she will distribute to her students.
Sam Sinclair works for a private consulting company in Boaston, MA.. This is his sixth time at the CSUN conference. He loves networking and for Sinclair this is the place to network. “I stay on top of the advances in these products. I have a good database on them. I come for the networking. There is no better place to network than CSUN. I have collected more 150 business cards. The Café is a great place to network.”
Sally Williams is legally blind. She has difficulty walking. She was looking for navigational device to keep her on the straight path. She had heard about The BuzzClip and wanted to find out how true the information is. The Buzz Clip a small & discreet. It is wearable for people living with blindness or partial sight. The device uses ultrasound to detect obstacles that may lie directly in one's path. It then notifies the user of these obstacles through intuitive vibrations, allowing the user to safely navigate around any objects that they may encounter.
“I will try The Buzz Clip,” Williams said. She is optimistic that it will meet her needs. There is a little pessimism that it won’t.
Ireland born, Michael Shay O’Hara came to the United States when he5-years-old because they believed he would have a better chance to b educated and employed. O’Hara has Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy. He can’t control his body movements. The disorder causes involuntary, abnormal movements in the arms, legs, and hands. O’Hara is 20-years-old. In August he starts his second year at Sacramento City College. This is his first visit to CSUN’s conference. Using his text-to-speech computer, O’Hara types, “I am happy to be here because I see a brighter future with all this technology.
What has he seen? He had seen software that makes a web site accessible; Google’s Android phones and tablets; a variety of independent living aids for daily living; voice recognition programs; mobility aids; and telecommunication devices.
Everything I see, I can use,” O’Hara says. His parents can afford to purchase two items at the conference. O’Hara is the one who has to pick them.
Seymour Goldberg is an Occupational Therapist. He works for a hospital in Northern Virginia. And he has a private practice. He praises Microsoft for its commitment to create technology that empowers all people. He attended a Microsoft presentation on inclusive hiring and another one on accessibility innovations in gaming.
“Microsoft’s pioneering policy to empower all the people through technology is the way for this country to go. Empowering everyone is a sound business strategy,” Goldberg says.
Legendary Attorney Daniel Goldstein, a 35-year veteran in the field of disability was the Keynote Speaker. Beginning in 2000, he reached agreements on their behalf with AOL, Amazon, Target, eBay, Ticketmaster, Travelocity, H&R Block, and Scribd to make their websites accessible. He obtained an order directing the Secretary of State of Ohio to make sure that state's election website was accessible. Goldstein has secured court judgments requiring accessible voting machines and accessible online absentee-ballot marking tools, as well as agreements requiring accessible health care kiosks, ATMS and automated ordering devices at restaurants.
Strache Leadership Award
Professor Emeritus Richard Ladner, Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington received the Fred Strache Leadership Award. He is working on developing an accessible block-based programming language for touch screen tablet computers so that blind children can have early access to computer programming.
The Strache Leadership Award was established and first presented in 1988 to Dr. Fred Strache. The award acknowledges that the recipient continues to educate, to work with students as an educator and as a mentor, while remaining a leader in their respective field through publications, presentations and research.
The Dr. Arthur I. Karshmer Award
The Dr. Arthur I. Karshmer Award for Assistive Technology Research Was awarded to Samuel Sennott, Alisha Chavez, Hannah Goldberg, Jess Theobald for their paper, "SETT Framework, MODELER, and PODD AAC Intervention in Elementary Grades."
The Dr. Arthur I. Karshmer Award for Assistive Technology Research is awarded annually to the author(s) of the best submission to the Science/Research Journal Track of the CSUN Assistive Technology Conference. Award winners are recognized for their exemplary submission and excellence in research and the advancement of assistive technology.
John M. Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His web site is www.atechnews.com.