Just-in-Time Training Module: Assistive Technology in the Workplace

Just-in-Time Training Module: Assistive Technology in the Workplace

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Hello everyone and welcome to “Assistive  Technology in the Workplace,” a training   module that will give you a brief look into  what assistive technology is and how it can   benefit employees with disabilities. So let’s get started. What exactly is   Assistive Technology or AT for short?  Well, AT can mean a device or service   that can be used as a tool by a person with  a disability to achieve or maintain function.  AT can be either a device or a service. According to the Technology-related Assistance   to Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988,  an AT device is any item, piece of equipment,   or product system whether acquired commercially  off the shelf, modified or customized, that is   used to increase, maintain, or improve functional  capabilities of individuals with disabilities." 

An AT service is any service that directly  assists an individual with a disability   in the selection, acquisition, or use  of an assistive technology device.  When we think of AT we might automatically  think of high tech, futuristic devices rather   than simple modifications. In this slide we have  a picture of a woman communicating with a coworker   through a robotic device, which is a newer  technology that could be useful for someone   who works from home. Other higher tech options  could include alternative input devices,   software, or alternative and augmentative  communication devices-also called AAC devices. 

But often, AT is low tech and  can be implemented fairly easily.   Workspace modifications can be made at little to  no cost and there are all kinds of inexpensive   devices, such as the gripping aid pictured on  this slide. AT might also be a custom designed   or modified product and customization doesn’t  always translate into high cost. Removing the legs   of a computer desk can be a very low cost custom  modification for an individual of short stature.  Before AT devices are purchased it is  often necessary for an AT service provider   to work with an individual. Rehabilitation  professionals and Assistive Technology Specialists  

can perform assessments to identify the  individual’s needs, strengths and abilities,   environmental considerations, tasks that are  problematic, and the tools necessary for success.  In addition to assessments AT services  can include orientation and mobility   training. This type of training teaches  individuals who are experiencing vision loss   techniques to navigate their home,  community, and workplace independently.  Driver rehabilitation might be necessary  for someone who needs to use hand controls   or specialized equipment in  order to operate a vehicle.  And a job coach is a person that works on-site  with an employee to help them learn how to perform   a job, work efficiently and safely, and may also  help the employee adjust to the work environment.  Now that we have an idea of what AT is, how  do we know who might need AT accommodations?  Well, employees with all types of impairments may  be able to benefit from using AT in the workplace.  

Those with motor impairments might  have trouble inputting information   or using workplace equipment, individuals with  vision impairments might have trouble accessing   information or navigating the workplace, those who  are Deaf, Hard of Hearing or with speech-language   impairments may benefit from AT that helps with  communication, and individuals with cognitive   or neurological impairments may need AT to  assist them with tasks like reading and writing.  Just as employees with all types of  impairments might benefit from using AT,   devices and services can be used in all  types of industries and occupations.   This can include, but is not limited  to, health care, educational settings,   financial institutions, manufacturing  environments, and transportation providers.  When we think of an AT device we are  often referring to products that help   individuals access or input information in  an alternative way. Alternative input devices  

are hardware or software solutions that allow  users with a variety of impairments to access a   computer in a different way. Generally, we access  a computer using a standard keyboard and mouse but   alternative input devices allow the user to access  a computer in whatever way works best for them.  We are going to take some time now to discuss  the different types of alternative input devices   that are available and how they work. Accessibility features that are built  

into computers and tablet devices have come a  long way over a fairly short amount of time.   Examples of built-in features include Sticky keys  and shortcuts, which can reduce the amount of   keystrokes a user makes. On-screen keyboards and  voice recognition can be useful for an employee   who is not able to input information using a  keyboard. Basic text-to-speech can be useful  

for someone with vision loss or for someone with  a learning disability. Computers and devices also   allow the user to modify how information is viewed  on a computer screen. Images can be magnified,   font can be increased, and color and contrast  can be changed to suit the employee’s needs   just by adjusting the devices internal settings. We will often suggest that an employee  

try to modify internal settings first  before considering other types of AT.  Here on slide 10 we have a few accessibility  resources that might be useful to review.   The Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive  Technology Society of North America,   or RESNA for short, has a new national  resource to facilitate and promote the   use of accessible technology called the  Accessible Technology Action Center or ATAC.   The first link on this slide is  to information on this resource.  

We also have the links to both Microsoft  and Apple’s accessibility pages.  The first alternative input device that I want  to spend some time discussing today is the   keyboard. Most of us should be familiar with the  traditional, Qwerty keyboard that comes standard   with computers. If the traditional keyboard  is difficult to use, there is a wide variety   of alternative options that someone can consider.  Keyboards come in a variety of sizes and layouts,  

can be adjustable, can require little to no  pressure to engage keys, and come in different   colors and contrasts. In the next couple of slides  we will talk about the different options that   someone can choose from, depending on their needs.  On this slide we have a split keyboard pictured,   which is just one way a keyboard can be  adjusted to suit an employee’s needs.  For some individuals, the size of a traditional  keyboard might be a problem. Keyboards come in  

all shapes and sizes so if an employee  needs to have the keys closer together,   a miniature keyboard might be just the product  they are looking for. Some individuals may need   to have keys that are a little bigger or  that are spread farther apart. The big keys   keyboards can be very useful for an employee with  a physical disability that impacts dexterity. 

One handed keyboards are available to assist  individuals who must enter data into a computer   but have limited use of one hand. With something  like carpal tunnel where someone has restrictions   with their dominant hand, a one handed keyboard  that they can use with their other hand   would allow them to be able to access a  computer. One handed keyboards usually have   a different key placement so it may take some  time to learn how to type in a different way. 

On this slide we have a couple of examples of  alternative keyboards including a miniature   keyboard, the Intellikeys keyboard, and two  one-handed keyboards. One is called a Bat keyboard   and the other is a Maltron. One-handed keyboards  can be either for the right or left hand.  On this next slide we have a keyless  keyboard called the OrbiTouch,   which requires no finger or wrist motion to  operate. The keys have been replaced with   domes that can be rotated to input information. The touch free keyboard requires no pressure to   type and the user can type with  a bendy-straw or with one hand.  In the bottom right corner of this slide there are  a couple of large print keyboards with alternative   colors and contrasts. These keyboards might  be useful for someone with low vision. There  

are also large print keyboard labels that can be  placed over the keys on a traditional keyboard.  What if keyboarding isn’t an issue but  using a mouse is? For some individuals,   such as those with fine motor limitations, using a  mouse might be difficult. Just like the keyboards,   there are a lot of variations of the traditional  mouse. Alternative mice come in all kinds of sizes   and offer a variety of movement controls. On  this slide, we have a trackball mouse pictured   and let’s move onto the next slide to see  what other types of mice are available.  In addition to the trackball, which reduces  movement necessary to navigate the cursor,   some individuals might benefit from  using a mouse that looks like a joystick.  

Joystick mice, like the Optimax  joystick pictured on the bottom left,   respond to a light touch and the user can  control the cursor with minimal hand movement.  A touchpad allows the user to control the cursor  with their fingers or a stylus and can be mounted   on any surface. Some individuals might even  prefer to hold a touchpad in the palm of their   hand when performing mouse functions. The rollermouse sits directly in front   of your keyboard and you move the cursor by  touching the rollerbar with your fingertips.   This eliminates the back and forth movement  of the hands to and from the mouse. 

On this slide we have a foot controlled  mouse pictured and just like the name,   the user controls this type of mouse with their  feet. Mice can also be switch adapted and we   will get into what that means on the next slide.  And finally, if an individual is not able to use   any type of hand or foot operated  mouse, a head tracking device   might be a good alternative. With this option, the  user controls the computer by moving their head.   A camera that is mounted on the computer, such  as the Tracker pro pictured on this slide,   tracks a small dot that can be placed anywhere  on the users head-even on glasses or a hat.  Some of you might be familiar with switches  but for those of you who aren’t we wanted   to give a brief overview of what they are and  how they can help an employee in the workplace.  

A switch is basically a button that  is connected to an external device,   such as a computer or tablet, and when activated  the user is able to access the device with a click   of the switch. Switches can be activated  by any part of the body and most are   activated by pressure. However, some switches  require little to no pressure to be activated   and some are even activated by gesturing. Switches  come in all sizes, shapes, and colors, can be   mounted anywhere, and can be interfaced so that  an individual can have access to multiple devices.  For individuals that have physical limitations  that impact fine and/or gross motor movement,   such as those who are quadriplegic, accessing a  computer can be possible in a number of different   ways. On this slide we have provided a picture  of a man using a product called the Integramouse,  

which is a mouse that is controlled by the  user’s breath and mouth. The user controls   the mouthpiece or mouse stick with the movement of  their lips and engages the mouse clicks by sipping   and puffing through the mouthpiece, similar  to what someone would do when using a straw.  Eyegaze technology is another option for someone  with physical limitations. This type of AT enables   an individual to access a device by using only  their eyes. Video cameras are used to detect and  

observe eye movement. Some systems do not even  require the user to wear anything on their head.   The individual can navigate a computer  screen or operate some other device   by looking at keys on a control screen. The  keys are activated when the user has looked   at the key for a specified amount of time.  This technology can allow an individual   to operate devices independently, which  can be very beneficial in the workplace. 

Voice or Speech recognition is becoming  increasingly popular and readily available. As I   mentioned before, many newer computers have speech  recognition built into the operating system.   For those who need a more advanced  option, speech recognition software   might be a better fit than what their computer  offers as a built-in accessibility feature. 

Speech recognition allows the  user to access the computer   by using their voice. It can be very useful for  those with motor impairments who cannot type   or for those with cognitive impairments that  have difficulty with writing and documentation.   The software available ranges from basic  dictation to occupation specific products,   such as speech recognition that has been  developed for use by healthcare professionals.  Individuals who need both speech  recognition and screen reading software   can be using both through a product called J-say.  And for those who need to talk on the phone while   inputting information at the same time, which  is common for customer service representatives,   it might be possible to integrate  speech recognition with their telephone. 

JAN has more in-depth information about speech  recognition in the Accommodation and Compliance   Series: Speech Recognition: Options to consider  located on our website. And of course, if you have   questions about speech recognition, you can always  contact JAN and speak with a consultant directly.  Touch screen technology has actually been around  for a while and much like speech recognition, is   becoming more of a standard feature in the devices  we use on a daily basis, even desktop computers.   Even if an existing computer  or device is not touch screen,   there are products that can turn the  computer monitor into a touch screen.   Basically, this type of AT allows the user to  control the computer with direct pen-on-screen   input. If an individual cannot use a keyboard  or mouse but is able to use a stylus or their  

finger to input information, converting  a monitor might be an option to consider.  We couldn’t have a module on AT and alternative  input without discussing tablet devices.   Many of the features we have discussed in  this presentation are available on tablets   right out of the box, they  just have to be turned on.  

Text-to-speech is just one example of a  built-in accessibility feature that some   tablet devices offer. Accessories are available  that offer keyguards for the onscreen keyboard,   external large print or color contrast keyboards  are available, and devices can be configured to   be switch accessible. Many individuals use  tablet devices as their primary AAC device   while others may be able to use AAC apps just  to communicate in the workplace. Of course,  

the use of tablets might not be for everyone.  However, if there is a place for this technology   employers and employees may benefit from using  the different types of devices available,   either as a supplement to an existing  accommodation or a stand-alone accommodation.  On this next slide we wanted to provide an  overview of software options that are available   for individuals with various impairments. Employees with a vision impairment   may benefit from screen magnification or screen  reading software so that they can have access   to information on a computer screen. Optical  Character Recognition software scans or takes   a picture of a printed document and converts it to  an electronic version or reads the text out loud. 

Employees who are Deaf or  Hard of Hearing may benefit   from using portable text communication  devices, Text Telephone or TTY software   or Voice Mail Transcription to communicate  with others face-to-face and over the phone.  Employees with a cognitive  impairment or learning disability   may benefit from using software that  offers reading and writing support,   support for performing mathematical equations,  or software that assists with organization.  As we wind down this training module, we wanted  to highlight again that not all AT has to be   high tech. Examples of low tech AT can include  writing, gripping, or typing aids, checklists,  

timers and watches, line guides to assist with  writing, calendars to keep track of tasks,   meetings, or events, locator dots which  help someone to identify an object by touch,   color-coded items, and basic picture boards  to assist someone with communication.  There are a number of resources available  to assist an employer, employee, individual   or family member with assistive technology.  Each state has an Assistive Technology project   and these projects can provide technical  assistance on assistive technology,   consultation, product demonstrations,  equipment borrowing, and low-interest   loans for individuals with disabilities. As I mentioned earlier, RESNA is a great   resource for locating information  on AT or finding an AT professional.  Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies  assist individuals with disabilities   who are pursuing meaningful careers  with training, education, and funding.  An Assistive Technology Professional can assess  the needs of an individual with a disability,   assist in the selection of appropriate  AT and provide training on the use of AT. 

Centers for independent living  are community-based organizations   that provide services and advocacy by and  for persons with all types of disabilities.  And last but certainly not least, JAN  can provide information on products,   organizational referrals, and information  on vendors of a wide variety of AT.  And that’s the end of our presentation  on assistive technology in the workplace.   We hope you find it helpful and if you need  more information on workplace accommodations,   feel free to contact us at JAN.

You can reach us toll free at (800)526-7234   for voice or (877)781-9403 for TTY  or visit us on the Web at AskJAN.org.   You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook,  LinkedIn, and other social networks.   We hope to talk to you soon and again, thank you  for making JAN a part of your training program.

2022-02-09 11:04

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