Why is an Environmental Control Unit So Important?

Imagine suddenly not being able to walk, talk, type on a keyboard, open your window shades, turn on a fan or tune your television to your favorite television show.  For thousands of quadriplegics and individuals with a spinal cord injury or debilitating disease, this nightmare has become a harsh reality.  Dealing with the physical aspects of a disability is difficult enough.  Discovering you no longer have the ability to do simple things – things we all take for granted –

Is one of the most devastating aspects of a spinal cord injury or debilitating disease.  Often, especially in the case of quadriplegics, depression and despair quickly takes over.  However, there is hope.  Accessibility Services, Inc. (ASI) provides custom environmental control units to quadriplegics and individuals facing debilitating diseases.

What is an Environmental Control Unit?

Environmental control units allow users to control items such as their lights, phone, bed, television, doors, thermostat, ceiling fans and computer.  An environmental control unit is a special type of computerized device which allows individuals to control their surroundings.

What is a Custom Environmental Control Unit?

A spinal cord injury, disability or disease affect each person in a different way.  Some may retain some movement in their fingers, while others may only have the ability to move their eyes. A custom environmental control unit is one with features designed to accommodate the needs of each specific individual. ASI’s autonoME takes this one step further in that it is a custom environmental control unit with augmentative and alternative communications (AAC) capabilities.  So, not only can an individual control their environment, the autonoME’s AAC features allow them to communicate as well.

Restoring independence is probably one of the most – if not the most – important part of helping quadriplegics come to terms with their spinal cord injury or disease. A custom environmental control unit not only helps the individual, but also gives their caregiver(s) a sense of peace as well.

Our next article will discuss the various input methods that can be incorporated into a custom environmental control unit.

 

ASI’s Brice Green Selected to Present at the 2018 Assistive Technology Industry Conference (ATIA)

Our own Brice Green has been selected to present at the ATIA 2018 conference in Orlando, Florida held January 21st – February 3rd, 2018.  Green will be presenting a session titled, Combining Environmental Control with Speech Generation to Achieve Maximum Independence.  According to Green:

“Effectively combining environmental control with speech generation can be challenging, especially when the patient is required to use multiple devices, platforms and software. The autonoME, developed by Accessibility Services, Inc. (ASI), is unique in that it combines both an environmental control unit (ECU) and speech generating device (SGD) into one complete package. This allows once mobile and verbal individuals now faced with losing their independence the ability to control their environment and generate speech using one single interface. The autonoME’s advanced augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) offers versatility and features which can be customized to meet the specific needs of each patient.  Most importantly, it is powered by the easy to learn and user friendly Grid 3 software. The efficacy of the autonoME has been quite impressive in both residential and hospital settings.”

We are excited to have the opportunity to discuss in-depth how this technology can benefit quadriplegics, and individuals with debilitating diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and progress forms of multiple sclerosis (MS). Special thank you to Smartbox who invited us to apply to speak at this conference.  Neil Hanson, Commercial Director of Smartbox, will be flying in from the UK to join us for the presentation.

If you are planning to attend ATIA 2018, please let us know.  We will be happy to schedule a personalized live demonstration of the autonoME for you!

Parachuting, Anyone?

As you probably already know, everyone here at ASI are huge advocates of independence. We’ve built our business on and dedicated our lives to helping quadriplegics achieve independence in their lives. Perhaps this is why stories like the one below touch our hearts:

Check this out:

Talk about independence – whoa!!!  This group of paraplegics and quadriplegics had the opportunity to go indoor skydiving thanks to the Determined2Heal Foundation.  From the looks of things, everyone had a blast! How many of you are brave enough to try it?

Seeing individuals who are quadriplegics due to spinal cord injury or debilitating diseases such as MS and ALS enjoy the freedom of flying is truly incredible. We, too, work every day to improve the lives of quadriplegics.  There is nothing more gratifying than walking into the home of a quadriplegic and installing a custom environmental control unit designed to give them the freedom to control their surroundings.  Or, knowing that our signature autonoME environmental control unit/speech generating device is being used in hospitals and Veteran’s Administration Spinal Cord Injury Units across the United States to help quadriplegics become more independent.

Do you or a loved one have an inspiring story of independence to share?  If so, send us a quick e-mail or give us a call.  We would love to feature you on our website and even possibly write a press release or story about your adventure!

WordPower 60 – Proven Success with AAC

If you are looking for a proven alternative augmentative communication (AAC) grid set for your automoME (environmental control unit/speech generating device) or Grid Pad, look no further! WordPower 60 is now available and it is absolutely awesome.  WordPower 60 was created as a result of the incredible response to last year’s release of WordPower 100.  While both are ideal AAC models, WordPower 60 is designed to be more accessible for people requiring larger or fewer cells.  It also includes many accessible apps allowing users to send e-mails, browse the Internet, send SMS messages, listen to music, participate in chats and more.

Let’s take a look at some of WordPower 60’s most attractive features:

  1. Most used core vocabulary is displayed at the top of the page
  2. Core verb displays dynamic links to category
  3. Word prediction
  4. Category grids incorporate core vocabulary
  5. Apps galore
  6. Grids for environmental control

WordPower 60 uses an evidence-based core vocabulary designed to make developing sentences quick and easy.  WordPower 60 is ideal for quadriplegics and individuals with spinal cord injuries because its larger cells better accommodate motor and visual difficulties. It is also popular with children and those at earlier stages of language development.

The regular addition of innovative grid sets like WordPower 60 is yet another reason why ASI products are powered by Grid 3 software. It is easy to add WordPower 60 to your autonoME or Grid Pad.  Simply update your Grid 3 software to version 3.0.24 (or later) and navigate to the “Add Grid Set” menu. WordPower 60 is found under symbol communication.

Have you tried either WordPower 100 or WordPower 60 specifically for AAC?  If so, drop us a quick line and let us know what you think!

ASI’s autonoME Makes History at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare

Accessibility Services, Inc. (ASI) had the opportunity to install our autonoME environmental control units/speech generating devices in three specialty rooms at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare. KSTP TV- 5 in St. Paul, Minnesota covered the story, as it is the only pediatric hospital in the state outfitted with this type of technology.  The young man featured in the news story below uses the autonoME outfitted with sip ‘n puff to lower the shade in his room and operates his television with voice control.  Check it out:

Watch KSTP-TV 5 News Story:

ASI was proud to be part of this project designed to help improve the quality of life and promote the independence of quadriplegics at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare.   We look forward to installing autonoME’s in even more hospitals throughout the country!

Augmentative and Assistive Communication (AAC) – Why is Switch Scanning So Important?

No two spinal cord injuries or diseases are alike.  One quadriplegic paralyzed from a car accident can be left with completely different abilities than another. A person with a debilitating disease such as ALS or MS may lose certain abilities as their disease progresses.  Switch scanning is so important because it allows the user to customize how they control their environmental control unit (ECU) /speech generating device (SGD).  The autonoME – powered by Grid 3 software – has two switch input ports, allowing individuals to customize how they control the tablet.  Users can choose from a number of switch options, which vary by sensitivity, size and type of body movement. A few popular input method options for AAC include:

  • Sip and puff – Control the ECU and AAC features by sipping and puffing
  • Micro switches and finger buttons – Allows users to control the ECU and AAC features using a light finger touch
  • Foot switches – Tapping the switch with a foot controls ECU and AAC features
  • Head switches – Individuals press a flat switch with their head to control the ECU and AAC features
  • Grasp switches – control the ECU and AAC features by hand grasping movements

Switch scanning is easy to set up.  The tablet is simply placed in the position desired by the user and the switch is plugged into one of the two input ports.

When it comes to scanning, the autonoME powered by Grid 3 software allows for a variety of options, including row column scanning and two-way elimination. Speed can be easily be increased or decreased.  Cancel, reverse, and pre-programmed words are also possible.  And, the autonoME’s multiple switch ports allow the user to better customize scanning.

Contact ASI today for a complimentary consultation to learn more about the autonoME and its switch scanning options.

Environmental Control Units and Speech Generating Devices – AdaptABILITY is key

Whether someone is a quadriplegic because of a spinal cord injury or debilitating disease such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or multiple sclerosis (MS), the key to independence is found in the adaptability of their environmental control unit (ECU) or speech generating device (SGD).  The autonoME is a combined ECU and SGD with full augmentative and assistive communication (AAC) capabilities.  Powered by the easy to learn and very popular Grid 3 software, the autonoME can be controlled using various input methods.  Let’s take a closer look:

Touch

Individuals with use of their hands may prefer to operate the autonoME using its capacitive touch screen. The autonoME comes with a stylus, and the screen responds to both finger touch and the stylus, depending on the user’s preference.

Voice

The autonoME features a microphone so it can be controlled with vocal commands.

Sip and Puff

The sip and puff switch features a straw which allows users to activate the ECU / SGD switch by sipping and puffing to move across and down the screen.

Eye Tracking

Equipped with Eye Gaze, the autonoME’s commands can be activated by the user’s eyes.  A camera tracks the pupils to move the cursor up, down, left and right.

Head Tracking

This feature works much like Eye Gaze, tracking the movements of the users head to control the curser.

Switch Scanning

The autonoME is equipped with two switch input ports that allow for multiple switch options designed to accommodate different body movements. This enables the user to control the autonoME using one or more input methods such as sip and puff, grasp switches, micro switches and finger buttons and foot switches, among others. We will discuss scanning methods in a future blog

ASI understands that no two quadriplegics have the same needs, so we customize our ECUs -including the autonoME – to fit each client.  We work with quadriplegics in hospitals, long-term care facilities and residential settings.  And, we choose Grid 3 software because it is quick to learn, easy to use and updated on a regular basis.

Below is an article featuring a brave gentleman who battled ALS for 17 years.  He lived in a long-term facility, and used eye tracking to connect with people, control his environment and even earn a college degree.

Grid 3 Software Update

Grid 3.0.24 is now available in Early Access. 

In addition to its easy to learn interface, ASI chooses Grid 3 software because we can count on regular updates.  This, in turn, helps us ensure our clients have the latest and most advanced speech generating device / augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) capabilities.  Let’s take a look at the new features and fixes in the latest Grid 3 software update:
Have You Updated Your Grid 3 Software?
Latest Features and Capabilities:

  • Control the master volume for default audio devices using new Windows volume commands.
  • Tablet devices feature a mouse cursor for pointer control commands
  • Additional options to change voice speed and pitch
  • Improved grammar support for Dutch
  • Grid 3 now supports Austrian language

Advances:

  • Self-closing grids will no longer close with rest cells
  • Sleep screen opening has been adjusted to better accommodate users
  • Improved support for Remote Editing
  • Web search image results improved when using slower Internet connections
  • Read cell commands no longer stop before all text had been read

Quadriplegics and individuals with debilitating diseases count on ASI and Grid 3 to communicate and connect them to the outside world.  Do you have a success story you would like to share?  If so, let us know!

The Latest Grid 3 Update

Grid 3.0.23 Now Available for Early Access

GRID 3You can count on continual updates to your Grid 3 software. These updates are designed to ensure users have access to all of the latest and greatest features and capabilities. If you are an Early Access client, you can download the update now. Let’s take a look at some of the new features and big fixes:

New Features

  • You are now able to apply backgrounds to all grids
  • The grid set analysis includes a new Grid Player compatibility score
  • Improved User Experience (UX) now allows you to choose the way verbs are displayed by using a toggle to display the modified verb in the cell. This is especially helpful for users who use symbols
  • Symbolized verb suggestion is now supported in Italian.

Bug Fixes

  • The tails of letters like ‘g’ and ‘y’ are now displaying properly in the comic sans font
  • The voice test sentence was previously only spoken in English
  • Hebrew Symbol Communication subcategories have been fixed for English users
  • The narrow column which sometimes displayed on YouTube and Facebook pages was corrected
  • The delay when trying to start a second calibration with Alea has been fixed
  • The Web browser now works even when Visual C++ Runtime is not installed
  • Configure printer now works for shared printers

It is a good practice to keep your Grid 3 software up to date.  If you need assistance, contact ASI’s tech support.  We are here to help!

Grid 3 Updates

GRID 3Version 3.0.21 Now Available

Version 3.0.22 Available on Early Access

Ongoing updates, features and bug fixes all contribute to making Grid 3 software the industry gold standard.  Just like with a standard computer, tablet or smartphone, we encourage you to update your software on a regular basis to ensure you are able to take advantage of the latest and greatest feature.  It is also important to update for security purposes and bug fixes.

Version 3.0.21 is now available, while Version 3.0.22 is available on Early Access.  Here are some features of both:

New Features in Version 3.0.21 Include:

  • The “Speak While Typing” setting allows you to speak characters, words and sentences as you type them into other programs
  • Enjoy enhanced grammar capability – phrases will now auto-correct when asked as a question – for example, “do he” will become “does he”
  • Alea eye gaze calibrations support
  • Activation order commands support dimming after selection
  • Cursor thickness for use in Grid 3 can now be set in Windows
  • Pointer control visuals are much smoother and extend further

Bug Fixes in Version 3.0.21 Include:

  • Automatic font scaling has been adjusted to no longer affect how quickly cells appear
  • Tools in the word list window are no longer hidden behind the OK/Accept button when resizing the window
  • You can now access inaccessible word list cells imported from The Grid 2.
  • Netflix videos are now recognized as links
  • Speech highlighting problems have been corrected

New Features in Version 3.0.22 Include:

  • Create Smartbox accounts for all users (previously you could just do so for the primary user)
  • Improve calibration option for Alea cameras
  • When browsing for Sounds, m4a audio files are supported
  • Grid set file size is now displayed in the Grid set analysis and now displays the Grid set file size

Bug Fixes in Version 3.0.22 Include:

  • Battery cell now appears on Tobii I-Series devices
  • Alea eye gaze calibration with Intelligaze software (prior to version 4) has been resolved
  • A warning now appears and offers to cancel or delete the orphaned grid when pasting over and deleting the last jump to a grid
  • The cursor in the Document Editor cell no longer moves to the beginning of the first line after entering / exiting editing mode
  • When plugging in an audio device, available devices now refresh
  • The color picker no longer always chooses ‘black’

Whether you are using the autonoME (speech generating device/environmental control unit), Grid Pad Go, Grid Pad Eye, or Grid Pad Pro, updating to the new Grid 3 version will enhance your performance.  As always, ASI has technicians ready to assist if you need technical support. Enjoy!