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!

The True Meaning of Memorial Day

Summer is just around the corner, which means people will be dusting off their grills and preparing their Memorial Day picnics.  As time passes, it seems the true meaning of Memorial Day has started to fade.  While many older generations understand the purpose for the holiday, newer generations sometimes either don’t understand or misinterpret its true meaning.  As we prepare for the upcoming holiday weekend, we thought it would be a respectful gesture to highlight some often overlooked facts about Memorial Day:

  1. Memorial Day was originally known as Declaration Day.
  1. It was founded in the post-Civil War era.
  1. Memorial Day officially became a federal holiday in 1971.
  1. Often confused with Veteran’s Day which honors all who have served in the U.S. armed forces, Memorial Day commemorates all those who have died in service to the United States.
  1. A National Moment of Remembrance is observed at 3:00pm local time each and every Memorial Day. During this time, American’s are asked to pause for one full minute to honor those who have died serving the United States.

ASI honors all of the brave individuals who have died defending the United States.  This Memorial Day, as we take time off to spend the day with our own families, we will also be observing a moment of silence and remembering the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the freedoms we all know and enjoy today.

photo credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Graves_at_Arlington_on_Memorial_Day.JPG

Veterans Administration Launches “Access and Quality in VA Healthcare” Website

If you or someone you love is a veteran, the Veterans Administration (VA) has recently launched a new website you will definitely want to check out:

When you land on the website home page, you will find four areas:

  1. How Quickly Can My VA Facility See Me?

Click on this area to determine how quickly you can be seen at a particular VA clinic and to explore same-day services and other healthcare options. You can then access a map which allows you to input your address/location, radius you are able to travel for care, clinic type (i.e. primary care, women’s health, etc.) and visit type.  You can then conduct a search to see appointment wait times at facilities within your search radius. If you have an urgent need, you can use the Same Day Health Services map to explore options.

  1. How Satisfied Are Veterans with Their Care in My Facility?

This function allows you to search VA facilities within a certain radius to see what other veterans are saying about access to care.

  1. How Does Care in My VA Facility Compare to Other Hospital in the Area?

This section allows you to compare VA facilities with hospitals located within the same general geographical area.

  1. How is the VA System Doing with Access Nationally?

Review the latest statistics on how timely care is within the VA system and how quickly a patient can be seen by a specialist in the VA system.

Accessibility Services, Inc. is proud to work with the VA to provide qualifying veteran’s – both at home and in VA spinal cord injury units – with the autonoME environmental control unit/speech generating device. Robert Oxford is just one of the hundreds of veterans who have benefited from receiving the autonoME through the VA. Watch his story.

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!

Look to Learn – The Quickest, Easiest Way to Learn Eye Gaze

The autonoME is equipped with the ability to use various input methods for operation.  One very popular input method is eye gaze.  Since the autonoME is both an environmental control unit (ECU) and speech generating device (SGD), eye gaze can be used for communication and tasks such as turning on lights, controlling the bed, calling a nurse/caregiver, surfing the web, etc. The eye gaze does take some getting used to, and one of the best (and fun) ways to get proficient in using it is by installing Look to Learn.  This software – created specifically for eye gaze – features 40 activities to help you get started:

Sensory

Teaches cause and effect and includes the following activities: “Custard Pies”, “Magic Mouse”, “Egg”, “Cannon”, “Reveal Shapes”, “Reveal Blocks”, “Farmyard” and “Music Squares”.

Explore

Helps with learning how to engage the entire screen and includes the following activities: “Bottles”, “Magic Squares”, “Graffiti”, “Fart Clouds”, “Face Splat”, “Scratch Card”, “Park Life” and “Classroom, “Video wall x2, x4 and x6”, “Fruit Punch” and “Snowflake”.

Target

Improves the accuracy of eye gaze and includes the following activities: “Hose”, “Bubbles” and “Shoot”.

Choose

Helps develop and enhance choice making skills and includes the following activities: “Dinnertime”, “Javelin”, “Snowman”, “Tyres”, “Drummer”, “Opinions”, “Monster Factory” and “Paper, Scissors, Stone”.

Control

Helps fine tune eye gaze access and drag and drop skills and includes the following activities:

“Darts”, “Wizard’s Potion”, “Penalty”, “Jungle”, “Dinosaurs”, “Bugs”, “Underwater” and “Woodland”.

Contact us for more information, or, if you would like to get started right now with Look to Learn, download it from our website.

Employment Opportunities for Quadriplegics

Getting back into the job market after a debilitating injury or disease can be challenging, but it is certainly not impossible.  Accessibility Service, Inc. specializes in helping quadriplegics achieve independence in their everyday lives.  The autonoME is an environmental control unit (ECU) and speech generating device (SGD) all in one package.  Its accessibility options feature different inputs including sip and puff, eye gaze and the head tracker.  Virtually anyone with any type of disability can achieve a comfortable level of independence with the autonoME.  Let’s take a look at some career options a quadriplegic might consider:

Teacher/Instructor

The autonoME is an augmentative and assistive communications (AAC) device, allowing the user to effectively communicate.  Many quadriplegics who are teachers and/or instructors have learned how to adapt to their trade using assistive technology.

Greeter

Retail establishments, municipal office buildings and model home centers are just a few of the many establishments that hire friendly faces to greet their customers.

Professional Writer

Former Orlando, Florida action reporter Ellen MacFarlane was struck with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in the prime of her life.  Although she had a progressive form of the disease, she did not let it stop her from writing books about her life and illness.  In fact, MacFarlane, who lost all movement from the neck down, wrote the majority of her books with the help of an early assistive technology device.  Today, the autonoME offers writers the ability to compose books, blogs, short stories, scripts and anything else they choose to write.

Motivational Speaker

Actor Christopher Reeve is one of the most well-known quadriplegics who used his story to motivate others.  However, you don’t have to be as famous as Christopher Reeve to make an impact.  Companies, organizations, and associations are always looking for interesting and motivating stories.  These types of gigs allow you to travel, meet people and have fun…all while getting paid.

There is a whole world of exciting opportunities available for quadriplegics. You may remember Manny Galan, the young man who plans to use his autonoME to attend college and eventually become a nuclear engineer. He has a bright future ahead of him!

Contact us today to find out how we can customize the autonoME to help you meet your career goals and objectives.

Maintaining Your autonoME

It is highly recommended that you conduct regular maintenance on your autonoME and its accessories.  The beauty of your environmental control unit (ECU) / speech generating device (SGD) is that it is fairly simple to clean and maintain.  The microphone, microphone widescreen, sip and puff filter and straw should be cleaned and/or replaced as needed or at a minimum of every three months:

  1. Remove the microphone sponge windscreen and clean the microphone tip with alcohol.
    Note: When used in a hospital or long term care setting, a new windscreen should be attached each time a new person uses the microphone.
  1. Replace the sip and puff filter and straw.
    Note: When used in a hospital or long term care setting, the sip and puff filter and straw must be replaced with each new patient or per hospital infection control policy.

Note: When used in a hospital or long term care setting, the sip and puff filter and straw must be replaced with each new patient or per hospital infection control policy.

Maintaining Your autonoMEWhile you may wipe down your autonoME and accessories with a cloth moistened with any hospital grade disinfectant, please be sure to not submerge or spray the tablet computer, wall mounted box, PDI articulating arm and flexible bed mounted microphone or sip and puff arm with any liquid. The autonoME tablet comes equipped with a protective screen cover to shield the unit from harsh chemicals and scratches. If the protective screen cover is removed, only isopropyl alcohol should be used to clean the screen.

If you have any questions on how to maintain your autonoME, please do not hesitate to contact us.  Your safety and health is one of our top priorities!