Assistance Needed

At the recent 4-H Institute training for MSU Extension, MonTECH presented some of the assistive devices that are available for people with varying abilities.  These assistive devices have application for us as we teach youth and adults.  We want our programs to be as inclusive and accessible as possible.  We wanted to share some of the resources highlighted as they may be of interest for you or someone you know. Assistive Technology refers to devices and products that allow people to be more productive and independent in daily living activities including communication, self-care, mobility, recreation, learning and employment.

MonTech services include free device and equipment loans, demonstrations, training, re-use/exchange and affordable financial loan programs.  MonTECH allows people to explore tools that may help adapt to a variety of abilities. Their lending library includes vision and hearing equipment, communication devices, switch controls, ergonomic mice and keyboards, mobility equipment, computer access and tools for activities of daily living.  

One of their programs is Wheels Across Montana, which loans adaptive trikes, helmets, stationary stands and bike locks to Montanans living with any disability. One client mentioned they used a trike to help her Dad, who has Parkinson’s, to enjoy taking a bike ride and get a bit of fresh air.  

Another item shared that may be useful for those with tremors is a spoon that automatically levels as it is brought to the mouth, decreasing chances for spilling and continue or potentially return to independent feeding.  Weighted spoons can also help.  MonTECH has these and many more items available from their lending library.  

MonTECH can be reached at 406-243-5751 or at montech.ruralinstitue.umt.edu.  A few of the items they shared were apps that can be purchased or downloaded free for tablets and other devices.  One of the more expensive items is FlipWriter for $24.99.

This app converts speech to large text and allows two people sitting across from each other to converse on the same device.  The keyboard faces one side and the words being typed face the other.  This would allow conversations for people with hearing challenges. There may be other apps that perform similar tasks, but we are including the ones shared in the session.  When I was growing up, my friend’s parents both had deafness and while I learned to communicate through basic sign language, I could see where this app would have been handy, especially when they encountered people who didn’t know any sign language.  They often used the children’s toy pads that consisted of a thin sheet of clear plastic covering a black waxen board and the red plastic “pen” that came with it to write messages.  When the plastic sheet was pulled up, it “erased” the writing and they started again.  The FlipWriter app would be much more sophisticated, but if simple works, there is nothing wrong with it!

For those with low-vision, such as that caused by macular degeneration, there is a free app called Seeing AI.  The app uses the devices camera to see people, scenes and products and describes those items.  The app recognizes currency and colors, reads text on objects and reads handwriting.  The app would allow fore reading labels on food products, identifying people in social settings and reading hand-written correspondence.

AudioNote may help students or people taking seminars.  This app costs $12.99 and is for taking notes on a device while simultaneously recording the audio of the presentation.  The user can then go back to the notes and tap on any note taken and start the audio recording to help “fill in the blanks” of notes missed, etc.  In theory, this app could be used at medical appointments, with care provider’s permission, giving an audio review synced to the notes being taken.

Snaptype is a free app that allows the scanning of worksheet or papers with blanks.  A photo is taken of the worksheet or imported to the app and then the user can type into the worksheets and print or email.  This app is useful for those who have trouble writing.  

A simple app that most people with smartphones or devices have already is a magnifying glass.  On iPhones the magnifier can be set in settings to operate with three taps on the home button.  For those who need reading glasses and occasionally forget them, this is a truly convenient app.  You can set the amount of magnification and even add light through the flash mechanism.  I have shown this app to several people and they are so excited to know that this is an option.  It can be used to read labels, prescription bottles, menus and programs.  I use it for anything that my eyes can no longer bring into focus without assistance, if my reading glasses are not conveniently nearby.  

For more information on assistive technology, contact MonTECH directly 406-243-5751 or at montech.ruralinstitue.umt.edu or the MSU Extension Office in Teton County at 406-466-2492.