Ablenet’s New Blue2 Bluetooth Switch Offers Access to Many Apps and Programs

Ablenet Blue2 Bluetooth Switch

The Ablenet Blue2 Bluetooth switch offers easy wireless access to iOS, IOX, Windows, and Android apps and programs.

The Blue2 offers either single- or dual-switch access to Apple devices running iOS 7, as well as the company’s desktop or laptop computers running OS X Mavericks. Blue2 also provides access to apps and programs running on the Windows and Android operating systems. Connection to one’s favorite device via Bluetooth is easy and quick to set up.

Find out about the Ablenet Blue2 Bluetooth switch. It’s this week’s #AssistiveTechTuesday feature, described on our website blog. Not sure if you want to make the investment? New Jersey residents can try it out free at our Technology Lending Center!


Global Accessibility Awareness Day: Making Assistive Technology Smart and Accessible

Screen reader assistive augmentative communication for blind and dyslexic dyslexia users

Giovanni Canobbio (left), Integration Technologies Group demonstrates a CCTV reader for low vision users to Todd Birkenruth (right), USDA, AMS, Disabled Employees Program Manager at the United States Department of Agriculture, Departmental Management Target Center 20th Anniversary at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, DC, Thursday, Sept 13, 2012. Since 1992, the USDA TARGET Center has provided Assistive Technology to employees with disabilities. By providing this technology the TARGET Center’s has assisted thousands of individuals with disabilities to further contribute to the mission of USDA. The Target Center has partnered with the Department of Defense Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP). USDA photo by Bob Nichols

Most designers create websites that are compatible with both traditional desktop computers and mobile devices. However, how many website designers have browsed their creation through a screen reader, a device that makes content accessible to users who are blind, vision impaired, dyslexic, or otherwise unable to quickly read text? Back in 2011, a programmer named Joe Devon asked himself that question and proposed a Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Jennison Ascuncion, an accessibility professional from Toronto read the proposal and joined forces with Joe. So today, the third Thursday of May, is the sixth Global Accessibility Awareness Day. The purpose of GAAD is “to get everyone talking, thinking, and learning about digital (web, software, mobile) access/inclusion and people with different disabilities.”


This issue has gained additional importance in the context of recent issues concerning net neutrality and Internet privacy. In addition to increased independence for people with a disability, the dream and objective of the Internet being a democratic forum, a place where everyone can and should participate with equality is very much at play here.


So, again, what is Global Accessibility Awareness Day, why should you care, and how can you get involved? Jonathan Hassell interviews its co-creator, Jennison Asuncion, at the 28th Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference (CSUN 2013) to get the low-down on this annual growing event. Here’s an informative interview with Jennison Asuncion from GAAD 2014:



Please go to the GAAD website to learn more.


Finally, the organization particularly recommends a recent article in PC Magazine,
“Augmented Ability: Assistive Tech Gets Smart.”

The Genius of Braille: A Real Eye-Opener

Louis Braille was a disability advocate for the blind.

Louis Braille (1809-1852)

In 1809, on January 4, Louis Braille was born.  At age 5, the curious boy was blinded in an accident with one of his father’s tools.  However, Louis refused to let his disability stop him from getting the most of life.  As a teen at the Royal Institute for Blind Youth in Paris, he self-advocated by developing the system of writing that, to this day, bears his name.  In his honor, the 4th of January has been declared World Braille Day.

Braille’s alphabet consists of a series cells containing, in a 2 x 3 grid, as a raised dot or a blank space. Though there are only six dots or spaces, they can be combined in 64 different ways, allowing for other characters, including letters from the alphabets of other languages.  In other words, braille is not a language, but a code for transcribing many other languages.  Nowadays, there are two main types of braille: Grade 1 and Grade 2.  Grade 1 is a functional letter-by-letter transcription of text.  Grade 2 uses combinations of letters in a single braille character, allowing for much shorter documents; it is the most widely accepted form of braille.


 Br The basic braille alphabet consists of cells of six dots, raised in a variety of combinations and permutations. There are also symbols for punctuation and letter combinations.

Braille provides access to written communication for blind people, in other words, accessibility beyond physical means such as access ramps.  In other words, braille is a form of inclusion, allowing everyone to participate in an important aspect of society, regardless of their disability.  In creating the braille system for reading and writing for the blind, Louis Braille was advocate and self-advocate for people with disabilities par excellence.  And for his part in developing the braille writer, Louis Braille was also one of the great assistive technology specialists of all time.




The braille writer creates the raised dots for braille text rather than printing individual letters or characters. As with the typewriter, the basic layout of the braille writer has been incorporated in modern assistive technology braille input devices.

“Access to communication … is access to knowledge, and that is vitally important for us if we [the blind] are not to go on being despised or patronized by condescending sighted people. We do not need pity, nor do we need to be reminded we are vulnerable. We must be treated as equals—and communication is the way this can be brought about.”

—Louis Braille




Looking Back: 2016 Was a Good Year for International Disability Sports Competition

This summer, we had the Rio Summer Olympics.  Then, there were the Rio Paralympics.  And in October, the best of championship athletics for people with disabilities and the latest in assistive technology are combining forces in what is known as the Cybathlon. Among the technologies used were robotic prostheses, brain-computer interfaces, all-terrain powered wheelchairs, and powered exoskeletons.

The first international competition of its kind, Cybathlon was conceived and organized by the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule, ETH Zürich.  Founded in 1855, it counts Albert Einstein among its alumni and professors.  Cybathlon was a competition in six disciplines:

  • Powered exoskeleton race
  • Powered arm prosthesis race
  • Powered leg prosthesis race
  • Brain-controlled computer game
  • Powered wheelchair race
  • Muscle-stimulated bike race

The top moments can be seen and relived in a series of videos on the Cybathlon YouTube channel.  In the future, according to a PBS report, robotic arms and other limbs can be life-changing for our wounded veterans.



As to be expected, coverage was widespread:

  • Scientific American and the BBC brought the complex technology to the interested lay reader.
  • Swissinfo and Endgaget covered the events before, during, and after the Cybathlon, “combining innovation and competition.
  • Techradar hailed the Cybathlon as an important force that will influence the Olympic games in the future.

In short, the Cybathlon will be a critical element in promoting assistive technology for people with physical disabilities in all walks of life.







Library Equal Access Program: Providing Visually Impaired Patrons Full Access to New Jersey Libraries


A new effort in New Jersey, the Library Equal Access Program (LEAP), offers speech and magnification assistive technology training to blind and visually impaired consumers 55 and older.  Libraries throughout the Garden State are offering classes in basic and intermediate computers. Advancing Opportunities is collaborating with the NJ State Library Talking Book and Braille Center and the NJ Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired to provide training.  Fred Tchang, Director of Assistive Technology Services said, “There are many people who need assistance learning how to use an iPad and who need help browsing the Internet because their vision is changing. This unique partnership gives older clients with vision impairments the support they need to succeed in learning new technology.”

October Is Dyslexia Awareness Month: Appreciating Extraordinary Creativity

Brian, who has dyslexia, benefited from assistive technology from Advancing Opportunities

With a positive attitude and the help of the proper assistive technology, people with dyslexia can succeed in school and go to college. Brian Meersma, featured here as a high school student on Advancing Opportunities Assisitve Technology Center YouTube Channel, went on to graduate college with honors and become an expert AT advocate and respected blogger.


Two brothers from Ohio were the first to escape the surly bonds of Earth with a powered, controllable airplane.  The creator of Britain’s most successful independent airline by far, Virgin Atlantic, is seeking to soar higher than the rest, planning commercial flights into lower Earth orbit.  What do Orville and Wilbur Wright and Sir Richard Branson have in common?  They have dyslexia.  So did Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Alva Edison, Albert Einstein, and Steve Jobs, not to mention “our own” Bruce Springsteen.  What these individuals also share is an extraordinary creativity that has enabled them to meet the challenges of their disability and put their ingenuity to use in ways that have literally changed the world.

Dyslexia is neurological condition in which one has difficulty recognizing words, which may make understanding written text or learning a foreign language very difficult.  In addition to reading, writing, spelling, and speaking can be challenging.  Dyslexia affects 17 percent, or one in six school children.

Large-print books and audio recordings, very helpful to people with dyslexia, have been available for a while.  More recently, however, such assistive technology has become increasingly sophisticated.  One notable Advancing Opportunities success story is a young man named Brian Meersma.  Back in middle school, Brian struggled to read.    His language arts teacher thought he was simply not making the effort.  “It was just so frustrating, because I was trying my best, but she didn’t realize it,” he said.    Brian’s parents learned about the Assistive Technology Center at Advancing Opportunities.  His specialist introduced him to several tools.  Learning Ally and Bookshare are services that allow him to download books that are either pre-recorded or, through special software, convert written words to speech.  Kurzweil 3000 is a downloadable app that provides text-to-speech in seven languages, “reading” any digital text aloud, from textbooks to the Internet.  Kurzweil 3000 comes with virtual sticky notes, graphic organizers, writing templates, and spell-checking dictionaries.  For Brian, “assistive technology has been a lifeline,” says his mom.  Brian was not only accepted to an Ivy League college, he graduated with honors and is a well-known and highly respected blogger.

To recognize the talents so many people with dyslexia have and to spread awareness of tools and accommodations available to this population, the International Dyslexia Association in 2002 declared October National Dyslexia Awareness Month.  In 2015, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution to this effect, in addition to expanding the definition of dyslexia and the types of services these students are entitled to not only succeed, but also soar.

With Assistive Technology, Donna Is Able to Manage Important Everyday Tasks


Ever since a serious accident, Donna has had trouble with remembering things.  The single mother of three was referred to the Advancing Opportunities Assistive Technology Center through the New Jersey Traumatic Brain Injury Fund.  Assistive Technology Specialist Kristen Russell worked with Donna to assess her needs and goals and find the most suitable AT tools.  Donna needed assistance to support her memory and organization skills, help her manage her daily schedule (e.g., pick up her children, when to take her medications, what to cook for dinner).  She already had much of the hardware: a smartphone and a laptop.  The smartphone already had several tools that could help someone like Donna with memory and organization.   Most notable was the reminders app, a place to keep to-do lists and items and alert the user to do those things.

Advancing Opportunities has given me given me hope, learning to live with a traumatic brain injury and learning how to manage everyday stuff like shopping and taking medicine and paying bills, and just even leaving on time for a doctor appointment.  All that becomes extremely overwhelming,” said Donna.  “The technology and training that Kristen has provided for the technology makes some of these things more manageable….”

Added Kristen, “For most of us, using smartphones and tablets and computers makes our lives easier, but for people with traumatic brain injury it makes things possible.”