I had the pleasure of attending a pre-conference session at the 2013 Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) Conference. I have been visiting the exhibit hall at this conference for many years now. Every year, the ATIA provides a free pass, registration required, to visit the exhibit hall floor on Friday and Saturday. It is a chance to interact with vendors and learn about the latest advances in assistive technology. I would strongly recommend parents take advantage of the reduced or free admission to visit the exhibit hall, often available at technology conferences. It gives you a hands-on feel for specific assistive technology (AT) products. Most years, my daughter attends with me. Together, we are able to test drive the latest and greatest AT currently available or coming to market soon.
Getting Personal With Your Favorite AT in the Exhibition Hall
The exhibition hall also gives you the opportunity to speak with people who have intimate knowledge of how to best utilize and implement accessibility features. You can go up to a vendor and say, “Show me what you’ve got and teach me some tips and tricks that might be under-appreciated or unknown about your product.” There were more apps represented on the exhibit hall floor than seen in previous years, giving users the ability to use mobile devices to accomplish multiple tasks.
When you meet representatives of AT companies at the exhibit hall, you also have the opportunity to to address specific issues you may have encountered with a specific device or software program. You also can make recommendations for product enhancements. Several years ago, we were having trouble using the fill-in-the-blank feature on Kurzweil 3000 (K3000). Kurzweil Education Systems had a booth at the exhibit hall staffed with persons knowledgeable in the use of Kurzweil. We spoke with them about the issue we were having. After a few moments, the helpful representative had a solution and was able to explain that for the fill-in-the-blank feature to work properly, the document needed to be a black and white document, rather than in full color. This type of interaction with vendors is invaluable, critical, and largely beneficial to the use of many AT products, not just K3000.
Learning About New AT: How to Make Your iPad Even Better
The pre-conference seminar this year was equally informative. I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce you to the Ms. MacGyver of Apple accessories for your iPad mini, iPad, iPod, and iPhone, Dr. Therese Willkomm of the University of New Hampshire Institute on Disability. She also happens to have a learning disability. Her presentation at the 2013 ATIA conference was called “iPad Boot Camp”. She shared a multitude of app resources and intrigued the audience with her infectious, approachable personality and introduced low-cost, budget-minded Apple accessories that anyone can create. Her outside-of-the-box thinking was refreshing and surprising. Here is just one of the creations that she shared with attendees. It is a portable stand made using a piece of corrugated plastic that can lay flat when not in use and can easily transform, when needed, into a handy stand. She calls it the “Mini-Leen” (TM).
>Here is a Youtube video, where Dr. Willkomm demonstrates how to make a version of her “Traveling Eileen” (TM):
Dr. Willkomm was just one of the exciting presenters at ATIA 2013. If you want to dig in to the world of assistive technology, I would highly recommend checking out the ATIA conference or another assistive technology conference near you.