Spring 2013, Your Passion-Driven Work  
AT Program News serves the state Assistive Technology Act Programs, the Alternative Financing Programs, and their community partners
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The theme of this edition is "Your Passion-Driven Work." Thanks to all who sent in their news, ideas, and general enthusiasm!

A Shark Tank without the Sharks?


Peter McAlindon's fast track for aspiring entrepreneurs (with disabilities)

Photo head shot of Peter McAlindon, Ph.D.

If you've seen Shark Tank on ABC you know it's an opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs to gain an audience with billionaire business people, pitch their products, ask for investors, and potentially gain mentorship opportunities (or be completely exploited for their product ideas). The Sharks present themselves as one part nurturing and one part ruthless, lobbing advice and connections, cutting deals or squelching dreams. Small time business people are made and broken; products pitched go nowhere or show up in your local department or convenience store.

At the ATIA conference in January, ATPN had the opportunity to attend "Entrepreneurship for Persons with Disabilities" presented by Peter McAlindon, Ph.D . McAlindon is not a ruthless Shark, but a community-minded assistive technology (AT) entrepreneur  (of orbiTouch keyboard-fame) who is passionate about growing a business sector led by persons with disabilities. Like the Sharks he has a passion for mentoring and for mining his own connections, experiences, and business acumen to help those with strong business ideas succeed. Unlike the Sharks, he is targeting highly motivated individuals with disabilities only. He knows you are out there; he wants to find you; indeed, he's getting ready to train you up!

Why entrepreneurs with disabilities?

McAlindon believes that the sea change needed to improve employment for persons with disabilities won't happen until more businesses are created, developed, and led from within the disability community itself. Entrepreneurs--by their very nature--tend to help each other out; so he reasons, the more persons with disabilities who succeed, the more will be available to lend a hand, grow the community, and ultimately impact the hiring and retention practices of a broader swath of corporate culture. While success as an entrepreneur is challenging for anyone, entrepreneurs with disabilities often face greater isolation and have access to fewer resources. McAlindon suspects there's an untapped ocean of potential talent out there.

McAlindon is, himself, a serial entrepreneur, and founder of Blue Orb, Inc. He has a doctorate in Industrial Engineering with a focus on ergonomics, and teaches entrepreneurship at Rollins College Crummer Graduate School of Business. He supports and works with the Central Florida Disability Chamber: a first-in-the-nation Chamber of Commerce devoted to providing business mentorship and resources to individuals with disabilities as well as fostering youth entrepreneurship.  Woven into every entrepreneur's DNA, he asserts, is the urge to advise others, network, and connect.  His latest project intends to exploit that gene trait for the greater good, while seeking to replicate it within a fast-track accessible ecosystem of his own creation.

McAlindon's vision: accessible, step-by-step, one-to-one mentorship

Blue Orb, Inc. has a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation to create an accessible online program that matches entrepreneurs with mentors  and generates curricula targeted to the needs of each mentee. The vision is for an online portal to reach mentees anywhere, but at the heart of the project are actual people--currently a network of 150+ mentors who range from serial entrepreneurs to legal and marketing experts. The mentors are gleaned from McAlindon's own business network (think LinkedIn), and they are eager to help. McAlindon reports that beta testers are currently seeing a six-day turn around with their applications. 

Motivating McAlindon is his own experience creating the orbiTouch keyboard and his belief that the tools and connectivity of the digital age can shave years off the traditional entrepreneurial process. "What took me 20 years to accomplish can now be completed in just three," he told the room at ATIA. Every entrepreneur, he notes, has a different experience and process based on many variables. Common to all, however, is the need to access the information and skill sets  necessary to move business ideas forward (since no one person can know everything).

Mentees accepted into the program receive two kinds of mentors. The first is a "global mentor," a single individual charged with guiding a mentee's education, activities, and action steps from concept development to distribution and beyond. The second is step-specific, mentors who are assigned along the way based on individual mentee needs. Assistance with the patent process, for example, may be provided by a lawyer with this particular area of expertise. 

Helpful to the mentors is the rigor of the program's application process. The application mines product and marketing ideas for their potential and flaws, and quickly reveals how well applicants have thought through their ideas. Sample questions include:

  1. Describe your business in 140 characters or less.
  2. What's new, interesting, or different about what your company will do?
  3. Do you have a website or prototype? What is your website URL?
  4. Explain how your company will make money.
  5. Provide information and URLs on current or likely competitors.
  6. Why should we work with you and your company?

Successful applicants are next provided with no-fail tests to help match their team building and learning styles, etc. to appropriate global mentors (who take the same tests). Applicants who are not ready to be mentored are provided feedback for how to further develop their ideas.

The rigor of the program is also reflected in the curriculum expectations McAlindon describes. Appropriate books and online courses are recommended tailored to the  learning and business needs of each mentee. Participants may be referred to particular offerings at udemy and HubSpot, to the blogs of marketing gurus (Brad Feld, Seth Godin, Mark Suster, etc), and to entrepreneurial support organizations such as the Kauffman Foundation, Do-It, and TechStars. Evaluations by both mentee and mentor are completed for each program step to help gauge their level of commitment, accountability, and to further improve the system.

McAlindon stresses that program information will be available in many formats through the mobile device of the user's choosing (Android and Apple platforms), and Skype is deployed for face-to-face connecting. Prior to initiating the application process, participants are queried about their AT preferences and referred for further AT exploration as needed.

McAlindon does not specify if his target audience is a business person with a disability or a person with a disability who'd like to get into business. And while his application seems to suggest the former, he is quick to assure that mentors are available to help any motivated individual with a disability complete an application and develop their concept. He also intends to market the project through the VA to veterans with disabilities, the network of Centers for Independent Living, and other disability services organizations (among other entities).

Are you passionate about a business idea? Interested in playing in Blue Orb's shark-free tank? Blue Orb is looking for beta testers! Help Peter McAlindon retool from a serial to a social entrepreneur. Contact pete@blueorb.com.

Learn more:



Pererro: New, Powerful, Switch Access for Your iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch!


Photo of an iPad connected to a switch using a Pererro interface (plug).
 
In a recent Scoop.it!, Diana Petschauer, ATP shouted out the Pererro switch interface device by RSLSteeper that was recently unveiled in the US. The Pererro plugs into iOS devices (except iPad Mini) and provides plug and play universal switch access (with a 3.5 mm mono jack socket). Best of all, Pererro works with almost any VoiceOver-enabled app!

"I was able to try this switch with my own iPad and apps at ATIA, and it is phenomenal!" writes Petschauer. "It works with several apps that my students and clients use, including VoiceDream and AAC! It not only offers access to the iPad through scanning and switch selection, but also to far more apps than any Bluetooth switch!" 
 
Additional features include direct input (so no Bluetooth battery drain), and the ability to charge your device while Pererro is connected. Learn more at this RSLSteeper Web page. And thanks for broadcasting your insights Diana!

Reminder: AT Program News makes no endorsement, representation, or warranty expressed or implied for any product, device, or information set forth in this newsletter or on its Web site. AT Program News has not examined, reviewed, or tested any product or device referred to in this newsletter or at www.atprogramnews.com.

Our Favorite Apps!


Logo for Tools for Life: Georgia's Assistive Technology Act Program
 

Georgia’s Tools for Life cuts through the chaos with a database of tested apps

 
By Carolyn Phillips and Martha Rust
 
With over 275 apps released every day, researching and locating new and reliable apps is an overwhelming task! In an effort to help you choose (and improve accessibility), Tools for Life has created a searchable database of our favorite apps for living, working, and playing-- the TFL AppFinder!
 
At the Tools for Life AppFinder Web page, you can search apps by category, price range, and device type. Another helpful feature allows you to search by disability, including sub-categories of a specific disability. What’s unique about our app finder is that all apps in the database have been tested or are currently being used by members of our Tools for Life team and our peers in the assistive technology (AT) community across the country.
 
Apps are continually being added to this database. We encourage you to view each app's ratings as well as rate the apps yourself. We are always interested in adding new apps and encourage you to add your own favorite apps to the TFL AppFinder.
 
In the TFL AppFinder’s “Helpful Links” section  you can connect to how-to videos, app reviews, and possible funding resources for mobile devices. On our start page you may connect to a list of additional Web sites (Other Favorite Apps Databases) with app recommendations for particular disabilities.
 
Please visit the Tools for Life AppFinder and let us know how we can assist you with your app-finding needs!
 
Carolyn Phillips is the Tools for Life program director. Martha Rust is TLF’s AT specialist.

Design Success in Utah!


New patent on car trunk wheelchair lift to benefit UATP


Photo of a man demonstrating the car trunk wheelchair lift, using one hand to guide a folded wheelchair into the back of a sedan.
USU engineering student James Somers demonstrates the car trunk wheelchair lift

By Storee Powell

The Utah Assistive Technology Program (UATP) partners with the Utah State University (USU) College of Engineering to help guide senior capstone projects that focus on assistive technology (AT). USU has a grant from the National Science Foundation to invent new and improved AT devices for the benefit of the aging population. While students have been making great things, the second part of the grant is more challenging: marketing the devices so they ultimately get manufactured and sold to consumers. Recently, however, we've had success!

The car trunk wheelchair lift has now been patented under Utah State University. This is a device that hooks onto most cars and hoists a manual wheelchair into the trunk so that very little exertion is required. Currently, USU and UATP are negotiating with a local company to see the device licensed and manufactured. Not only will this device serve consumers at an affordable cost, but some proceeds will benefit the AT program, and the students get a taste of the disability and AT world. A win-win-win!

Storee Powell is the marketing/public relations specialist for UATP


Nationwide, AT Reuse is Taking Off! 
 

PIOC logo with recycling arrows.

by Liz Persaud and Carolyn Phillips of the Pass It On Center

In response to ongoing continuous requests for help establishing or expanding assistive technology (AT) and durable medical equipment (DME) reuse programs, the Pass It On Center hosted a national conference this past December 11th-13th. The conference served Centers for Independent Living, non-profits, and faith-based organizations and took place at the Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center in Atlanta. It provided an opportunity for leaders  throughout the US and territories in the field of independent living and AT/DME Reuse to come together and collectively focus on real solutions for individuals who can benefit from access to gently used affordable equipment.
 
Close to 100 participants came from over 27 states! The event  showcased successful practices and quality programs that work within or in collaboration with Centers for Independent Living. For the preconference session, participants toured Friends of Disabled Adults and Children (FODAC) in Stone Mountain, GA--one of the oldest and largest reuse programs in the U.S.--to see reuse activities and best practices in action. Conference general sessions and workshops highlighted lessons learned on issues such as equipment collection, sanitization methods, refurbishment checklists, marketing, inventory tracking, equipment matching, program sustainability, and much more.
 
PIOC preconference attendees touring FODAC
FODAC Executive Director Chris Brand gives a tour to representatives from the Tennessee Technology Access Program, Project MEND in Texas, Access 2 Independence in Columbus, GA, MassMATCH in Boston, and WisLoan, Wisconsin's AFP.
 
Attendees were successful recognizing their own accomplishments and that of partner programs, and many identified points for collaboration and for building national networks for reuse service delivery. To learn more about this national conference, and for access to the general and concurrent session presentations and handouts, please visit www.passitoncenter.org.

Liz Persaud is the PIOC's training, outreach and development coordinator. Carolyn Phillips is PIOC's director.


The Sky Wi-Fi Smart Pen... Should You Upgrade?


It's clear to ATPN that many technology developers work where there is limitless and dependable broadband (hence the continued emergence of cloud-based everything). However, much of America lives a very different reality. Thanks to North Dakota's IPAT for sending in this review of the latest pen from Livescribe, and alerting our readership to the very helpful tech reviews of Jeannie Krull...


Photo head shot of Jeannie Krull. The old

We have been using the LiveScribe Smartpens at IPAT since they came out approximately 5 years ago.  I have to say that they are a game changer for many people who have difficulties with auditory comprehension, reading, writing, attention, memory loss, and more.  Tying recorded audio to written notes, shapes, or random marks on a page and syncing it with your computer to playback later and to share is just brilliant.  I can also understand why the Pen is a mainstream product and sold at Best Buy and Target.  It is because they are THAT good and helpful for anyone who has difficulty taking notes in school or at a meeting. I certainly wish I would’ve had one when I went to school!
 
The new
 
Despite my “love” for the earlier versions, I am not having the same experience with the latest LiveScribe product, the Sky Wi-Fi Smartpen.  This new Pen works in the same way as the current Echo SmartPen, as it syncs your written notes to the recorded audio, and you can play those recordings back by touching the words with the pen in the notebook.  However, this is where the similarity ends.  To start:
  • Broadband Wi-Fi is required to sync the Pen, and the Wi-Fi cannot require a browser sign-in such as in some hotels or restaurants;
  • You can no longer use LiveScribe Desktop Software to sync your notes via USB; you have to sync with Evernote over Wi-Fi, which is a mainstream software product and app that allows for note taking and archiving on many platforms to include Mac, PC, Android and iOS;
  • The playback of this pen’s recordings while interacting with the notes on any device besides the pen requires Broadband, no 3G or 4G; however, you can listen to the audio-only recording with 3G or 4G; and
  • Playback of the recordings on a computer will only work with Chrome or Safari, not Internet Explorer.
Therefore, if you are not a fan of Evernote, you just have to have Explorer, or your Wi-Fi is a little sketchy, you should stop here and continue with the Echo.  If you already use and love Evernote or you are game for something new, read on.
 
Once you have completed a recording, the Sky pen syncs it to your Evernote account whenever you are in Wi-Fi range, which was very easy to do with the Wi-Fi in our Center and really cool.  Where I had trouble was with the playback of the recordings.
 
I had a different experience with each of the 6 devices I tried.  The only devices I used that allowed for proper playback were a PC with Windows 7 with a Chrome browser and a Samsung Galaxy Note Phone, with Android Ice Cream Sandwich and the default browser.  An iPad 3, an iPad Mini, a Motorola Droid X, and an Asus Transformer TF300 either worked partially or not at all with their current operating systems. However, the iPad 3 did work perfectly until I upgraded it to the latest version of Evernote. I will spare you the details and chalk it up to a frustrating experience. Livescribe tech support is currently trying to figure out the issues.
 
Conclusion
 
Once they have worked out the kinks with the mobile devices, the Sky Wi-Fi SmartPen could be very useful for some people.  If you lost your pen, notebook,  or forgot your device at home, you could always log in on another compatible device and still get your notes.  However, if you are not keen on having to use Broadband for playback or Wi-Fi for syncing, or the fact that you have to use Evernote, then the Echo Smartpen is probably your best choice.

Jeannie Krull, ATP, MS/CCC-SLP, is AT coordinator with North Dakota IPAT (Interagency Program for Assistive Technology)


Next Up....


Graphic of an old-fashioned camping tent staked to the ground. AT Program News is considering a summer edition focused on innovative camp programs for kids or adults who use or could benefit by assistive technology (AT). Know of, run, or subcontract for a great summer program with an AT spin? I'd love to hear about it. Share your strategies and lessons learned. AT Program News creates original content by collaborating with its readership. Submissions are provided with editing support, and all articles are available for reproduction (with proper attribution) in your own program newsletters.  Email ideas to atprogramnews@gmail.com. The next edition is due out in June. Thanks, in advance, to all who participate.

Eliza Anderson, ATPN editor
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