2004 Conference Proceedings

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COMPUTER ACCESS AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONTROLS - KEEPING PACE WITH SOCIETY

Presenters
Rick Hohn
AAC Consultant
DynaVox Systems, LLC
1125 Cottontail Road.
Vista, CA 92083
Phone: 760-598-8336
Website: http://www.spiritwheelsministry.com
E-Mail: rick.hohn@adelphia.net

We live in a fast-paced society, and people with disabilities are no exception to the rest of the population. Studies have shown that augmentative communication with environmental control increase independence. "Assistive technology programs offering services in augmentative communication/environmental control may be helpful to these individuals. The Alan J. Brown Center at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) identifies technology that will increase individuals' independence by increasing their ability to communicate and control their environment at home, school and work." 1 This technology includes everything from sending infrared signals to a computer for writing purposes to playing with remote toy vehicles by using a communication device.

Sandra Mecca, M.S., CCC-SLP, AAC Specialist wrote, "AAC increases independence and self-worth, especially with adult users who have had little opportunity for successful interaction in their day-to-day experiences." 2

The capability of an AAC device with an environmental control unit is an important method of promoting independence for people with disabilities. Aside from the obvious environmental control that computer emulation provides, an augmented communicator can enjoy independent access to e-mail and the Internet. Without dependence on others, he or she can use the Internet for shopping, banking, setting up appointments and arranging transportation to those activities. In addition, the AAC user can create text documents, such as letters, e-mails or homework assignments without having to be at the computer. These files can be saved on the communication device and sent to the computer later - especially helpful in schools or other facilities where a computer is shared between several people -- (Contine, 2002). 3

Computer access using a communication device with infrared capabilities saves time and energy compared to typing on a conventional keyboard. This is accomplished through sending text to the computer by infrared by the use of the DynaBeam. Instead of typing every character on a conventional keyboard, users can write on their devices and save huge amounts of time by using word prediction. Time is as precious as gold to AAC users as well as achieving independence. Typing first on the device allows access to personalized pages and settings, and once a paragraph is ready to download the text to a computer.

Using a communication device to enter text and transfer files to and from a computer opens a completely new world for users. Strategies will be given for using word processing cut-and-paste features to receive information from the Internet. This information can be transferred to the device in seconds. Similarly, if a scanner is available, books and magazines can be read with the ability to speak specific paragraphs and control the speech rate. Thus, a person with a reading disability can have access to any material.

Highlighted strategies will also include file transfers from the DynaBeam that can read to others the things that users wish to share. The value of this process extends beyond the obvious technology; it allows AAC users to be on the giving end and increases their self-worth. Device users can tell a joke to a friend, a story to share in class, or relevant information that would be beneficial to share with an employer.

Using environmental controls with a communication device shows how independence is increased for people with disabilities. Instead of device users relying on assistance, using basic appliances, televisions, VCR's, phone, lights and doors can be opened through infrared capabilities from their devices.

There is also X - 10 technology that provides access to appliances and is especially appropriate for controlling electrical devices that do not have the built-in capabilities for infrared access, for example a lamp or fan. The differences between infrared and radio frequency signals will be discussed with respect to programming each on a communication device.

The presenter, a proficient DynaVox user, will show a videotape of how he uses his AAC device's infrared and X -10 capabilities to control his environment, with demonstrations ranging from how to operate televisions and VCRs, to writing an email on his computer.

This demonstration will support the idea that a person relying on a communication device shows increases his or her independence with computer access and environmental controls.

References

  1. http://www.vistacentre.com/chicagoinstitute/Augmentative.html
  2. http://www.fgse.nova.edu/slp/clinictyler/meetus.htm
  3. Cantina, R. (2002). Promoting Independence through Environmental Control. Pittsburgh, PA: DynaVox Systems LLC.

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