Dr. Charles Krauthammer was a respected physician, columnist and news contributor who was paralyzed from the waist down as a result of a diving accident during his first year of medical school.  Despite his paralysis, he went on to finish medical school and become a psychiatrist.  He later moved to Washington D.C. and directed planning in psychiatric research for the Carter administration.

He eventually decided to focus his attention on writing, becoming a speech writer for Vice President Walter Mondale and a contributor for several newspapers and publications.  In 1985, he began writing a column for The Washington Post which won him a Pulitzer Prize in 1987.  His later life was spent as a respected columnist, contributor and political analyst.

Krauthammer passed away on June 21st at the age of 68 after a long batter with cancer.  He was married to his wife of 44 years and had one son.  Many people never even knew he was paralyzed until just before he passed away.  He never let his disability define him or get in the way of his dreams.  He is a shining example that we can truly do anything we put our minds to, even when faced with a disability.  Rest in peace, Dr. Krauthammer.

We have been highlighting various types of jobs for quadriplegics. This month, we will take a look at customer service careers.

Customer services jobs provide excellent employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. In fact, quadriplegic assistive technologies including environmental control unit (ECU) devices and a speech generating device have made it possible for persons with quadriplegia to do more than ever before! The autonoME is an integrated, custom environmental unit and speech generating device that can be personalized to each individual.

On-Site Customer Service Jobs for Quadriplegics
ECU devices have made it possible for persons with quadriplegia to become gainfully employed as on-site customer service representatives. In cases where speech is a challenge, a speech generated device can be added for augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). Some businesses have a customer service desk where employees answer questions and resolve issues. Others have customer service representatives on the “floor” who can be called upon to answer questions at any time.

Telephone/Virtual Customer Services Jobs for Quadriplegics
ECU devices and/or a speech generating device can help persons with quadriplegia perform the duties of a telephone and/or virtual customer service representative. There are many of these jobs available that can be performed in the comfort of your own home with a telephone line, computer and Internet connection. Quadriplegic assistive technologies including a custom environmental control unit and speech generated device can be implemented to make using a telephone and computer possible.

While the requirements vary for different businesses, the basic requirements for customer service jobs include a general knowledge about the company’s products and/or services, ability to communicate with customers, willingness to resolve customer complaints and a positive, welcoming attitude. Equipped with ECU devices and/or a speech generating device, persons with quadriplegia can excel in customer service careers!

What Can an ECU Do for YouEnvironmental control units (ECU), including hospital ECU devices, are designed to give individuals with disabilities, including quadriplegics, freedom to control their surroundings. Custom environmental control units are specially designed to meet the needs of each individual. Both hospital ECU devices and residential ECU devices provide a plethora of benefits for both users and caregivers alike.  Let’s take a closer look at some of the features of residential and hospital ECU devices:

  • Nurse / caregiver call button
  • Room control – lights, television, bed, etc.
  • Basic telephone functions
  • Windows-based computer access
  • Internet access
  • Entertainment, including online books and games
  • Photos and selfies

If speech generation is also needed, the autonoME is an integrated environmental control unit and speech generating device for augmentative and alternative communication (AAC).  It can be customized with input devices to accommodate different levels of disability:

  • Voice – a directional microphone for flexibility and convenience
  • Touch – Capacitive touch screen and stylus pen
  • Switch Scanning – Single and dual switch sip and puff; ability to move down and across screen
  • Eye Tracking – move curser by staring into the camera and using your eyes
  • Head Tracking – move curser by moving your head up, down, left or right

Accessibility Services, Inc. (ASI) understands everyone’s needs are different, which is why we customize our residential and hospital ECU devices and autonoME packages to accommodate specific needs. In fact, the autonoME is becoming one of the most popular speech generating and hospital ECU devices on the market today.  We have installed units in several Veteran’s Administration hospital and private hospitals throughout the country, including a children’s specialty hospital.

Contact ASI to learn more about how our ECU devices and autonoME package can help you or a loved one become more independent.

Grid 3 Software UpdateThere is a new Grid 3 software update as well as some updated versions of Text Talker and Super Core.

Grid version 3.0.34 is available in Early Access with the following features:

  • All Acapela, CereProc and Nuance voices that are available in Grid 3 and Grid for iPad are now included
  • PCS symbols are now available in Grid 3 and Grid for iPad, allowing access to the standard symbol libraries from Widgit, SymbolStix and PCS
  • A new “Find word” feature to assist with finding words within grid sets. Also allows user to hide and reveal words from vocabulary.
  • Ability to turn on “Fast typing” for a quicker dwell speed on the keyboard when using eye gaze or a pointer. Fast typing also won’t affect the other cells in the grid set, helping to avoid accidental selections.
  • “Fast typing on cell” command to add a short dwell to other cells.
  • New “pause” for eye gaze or a head pointer with dwell users when jumping to a new grid. This short delay is designed to give users time to familiarize themselves with the new grid before dwell starts to kick in, while minimizing accidental selections
  • New, simpler eye gaze settings make it easier to find and adjust Activation, Calibration, Camera and Computer control settings
  • Symbols were sometimes not saved when editing a Write cell – this has been resolved.
  • Alea eye gaze cameras would remain active, even when it couldn’t see your eyes – this has been resolved.
  • Videos no longer play in the incorrect orientation
  • The Copy command is now fully functional in the Grid 3 web browser
  • Grid for iPad could not always connect to the App Store when renewing subscriptions – this has been resolved
  • Remote editing is now possible during the 30-day Grid for iPad free trial

In addition, there are new, updated versions of some grid sets.  Be sure to re-add these grid sets to access the latest features.
Text Talker

  • Text Talker now lets users choose between QWERTY and ABC keyboards from the settings screen within the grid set
  • Users can turn Fast typing on and off directly from the Settings grid
  • The new Message banking options enable users to record messages straight into Text Talker

Super Core

  • Super Core is now available in PCS (UK English), SymbolStix (US) and Widgit (UK and US English)]
  • The new Find word feature has now been built-in to Super Core. When you go to the keyboard grid and type your word, Super Core will then show you where to find the word

We have been featuring different jobs for quadriplegics each month. This month, our featured jobs are bookkeeper and accountant.

Adaptive equipment for quadriplegics, such as a speech generating device or custom environmental control unit, have made it easier for persons with quadriplegia to enter and/or remain in the work place. A speech generating device for augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) promotes clear and easy communication among co-workers, while environmental control units for disabled individuals can be customized and equipped with adaptive inputs such as voice, touch, sip and puff, switch scanning, head tracking and eye tracking. The autonoME, for instance, is both a speech generating device and custom environmental control unit with full computing capabilities. This allows persons with quadriplegia the ability and independence to work in both individual and team environments.

Accountant jobs generally require additional schooling and/or a Bachelor’s degree. Bookkeeping jobs generally require a minimum of a high school education and good math skills. Both career paths have opportunities for work on-site and at home. Accounting jobs can range from auditing and tax accounting to overseeing the finances of a department or company. Bookkeepers often report to an accountant in large firms and are often in charge of accounts payable and receivable. The bookkeeper may be the primary person who oversees the finances in smaller companies. Accounting firms also hire bookkeepers to handle the books for their individual and business clients.

If you’ve got a knack for math, then a bookkeeper or accountant position may be the perfect fit for you. Whatever your career path, Accessibility Services, Inc. stands ready to assist. We can find the perfect environmental control unit and/or speech generating device to help you excel in your career!

Grid 3 Software UpdateIf you haven’t already done so, you can now update your Grid 3 software to version 3.0.33.  Check it out:

Added Features and Fixes:

  • “Export grid set” option allows users to share grid sets while in Edit mode, making sharing easier and more convenient
  • New “Set home grid” command for creating cells that change the home grid (ideal for grid designers and users who desire the ability to switch between different versions)
  • New “Improve calibration” command for EyeTech eye gaze cameras
  • Grid 3 will now show an alert if the EyeTech eye gaze camera needs updating and will automatically update it
  • New option for computer control that moves the pointer ‘live’ as you look at the screen, then dwells to click
  • Access options have been renamed to better explain their function
  • New option to remove users
  • Updated Grid for iPad menu making it easy to find and explore options
  • Ability to share grid sets to Online Grids using Grid for iPad
  • The Hebrew grid sets Hakol Kalul, Efshar Lomar and Siman Kriaa (excluding PCS symbols) are now available in Grid for iPad with an in-app purchase
  • Blank word list cells no longer fill with a repeated phrase
  • Audio feedback now consistently speaks the correct words on write cells with the grammar set to verb
  • Changes now consistently save saved when removing multiple cell symbols in and leaving editing mode
  • Grid set now always shows all symbols for a given library
  • Commands to change computer control dwell click time have been improved
  • Fixed Grid for iPad voices that stuttered and stopped speaking
  • Improved backing up a user function on Grid for iPad.

When it comes to adaptive equipment for quadriplegics, gaming controllers are generally not in the mix – until now.  Microsoft has just introduced a new adaptive Xbox controller and its features and capabilities are amazing!

Lack of adaptive equipment for quadriplegics in the gaming world has made it difficult for individuals with spinal cord injuries and debilitating diseases to enjoy a full gaming experience.  While a custom environmental control unit can be equipped to play certain games, most controllers for serious gaming require two-hand operation and dexterous fingers.  This, of course, poses a challenge for many individuals with physical disabilities, particularly quadriplegics.

Now, the game has changed…literally!  Inspired by the Xbox Elite, a controller that was introduced in 2015 and considered somewhat accessible, the new adaptive Xbox controller is customizable to accommodate the specific needs and desires of each individual.  It’s has some impressive features and add-ons, including:

  • Assistive switches
  • Joysticks
  • Ability to attach to different mounting systems
  • Ability to remap buttons
  • Pair with a second controller
  • …and more

Accessibility Services, Inc. is excited about this new option for gamers.  This is especially good news for individuals with progressive diseases. Instead of giving up gaming as their disease progresses, they now have ability to customize and add features and options as the need arises. Our guess is that this revolutionary technology is just the tip of the iceberg.  We look forward to seeing what new features are added as technology continues to advance.

Have you tried the new adaptive Xbox gaming controller?  If so, let us know what you think.

Watch this video to learn more.

Grid for iPad offers complete Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) including symbol and text communication.  It includes content for a variety of ages, literacy levels and conditions. The beauty of Grid for iPad is its ability to auto-sync content so it can be used in conjunction with Grid 3 software.  In fact, all of the content you create and changes you make are stored in the cloud and updated on both platforms.  And, cloud backup means no worries if you lose or break your iPad.

Grid for iPad operates on iPad devices using iOS 11 and above:

  • 9‑inch iPad Pro 2nd generation
  • 9‑inch iPad Pro 1st generation
  • 5‑inch iPad Pro
  • 7‑inch iPad Pro
  • iPad Air 2
  • iPad Air
  • iPad 5th generation
  • iPad mini 4
  • iPad mini 3
  • iPad mini 2

Contact ASI today to learn more about how Grid for iPad can be used for AAC.

We have been taking time to highlight various jobs for quadriplegics. This months featured job is teacher/instructor. Probably one of the most famous instructors who was a quadriplegic was Stephen Hawking. Diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) at the age of 21, Hawking never let ALS define him. Not only did he become an esteemed and prolific professor, but his scientific research opened doors to new horizons. As his ALS progressed, he used a speech generating device to communicate. Advances in adaptive equipment for quadriplegics helped him continue to write, lecture and teach until his death earlier this year.

Customized environmental control units for disabled individuals are crucial for independence. They allow individuals with disabilities to perform tasks such as turning on the lights, controlling the television, using a computer and accessing the Internet. Advances in environmental control units have afforded quadriplegics the opportunity to enjoy independence and work in the teaching field. And, like Stephen Hawking, even when speech is affected, a speech generating device can be introduced for communication. The automoME, for example, is an integrated speech generating device/environmental control unit for disabled individuals who desire both features in one convenient package.

Teaching is one of those jobs for quadriplegics that can take on many forms, including primary, secondary and collegiate education. Some people even develop curriculums in their area(s) of expertise and offer instructional classes and seminars online or in conjunction with organizations in the community. If teaching is your passion, the sky’s the limit!

Are you a teacher or instructor living with a spinal cord injury or debilitating disease? If so, we would love to hear your story!

Grid 3 Software UpdateGrid 3.0.32 Available in Early Access

The latest Grid 3 software update is available in Early Access and will be available soon to everyone.

New features include:

  • “Forward” command for SMS users
  • Significant improvements to Gewa Environment Control
  • Improved corner access as zoom to click now zooms in off the edges of the screen
  • New switch allows you to choose to accept your switch on press rather than release.
  • “Accept on switch press” features a more natural feel and is now the default setting for new switch users
  • “Show only when available” – this command hides a cell if not configured or available on your device. For example, if you do not use eye gaze, you can choose to hide eye gaze cells.
  • Online Grids features the ability to add grid sets created in The Grid 2 to Grid for iPad
  • Grid for iPad settings feature new back-up and restore settings
  • Ability to import grid sets into Grid for iPad from other apps such as Dropbox or email.
  • Language support for Arabic

Fixes include:

  • Scanning does not continue after releasing switch
  • Alea eye gaze software no longer sometimes interferes with touch screen in Grid 3
  • Word list items now always save when using the “Add to word list” command
  • Grid sets no longer temporarily lose their thumbnails
  • Grid for iPad won’t crash when removing a word list items using the search filter
  • Able to add new pronunciations

Content updates include:

  • PCS symbols are now available in Super Core
  • Grammar for vocabulary improvement in People, Jobs, Family, Friends and School grids
  • Widget symbol for “go” has been updated

Note: If you are using Super Core, you will need to re-add the grid set to get the latest Super Core features (version 1.3) once you update your Grid 3 software.