Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Tutorial Eight: Assistive Technology

Assistive Technology, what is it? Cook and Hussey (1995, p.5) define an assistive technology device as "any item, piece of equipment or product system whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized that is used to increase or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities". 

What is that in simpler terms? An assistive technology device is an item used to assist somebody in a task and make it easier for them to carry out. 

What does the first definition cover? According to Cook and Hussey (1995, p.6) it firstly includes "commercial, modified, and customized devices". Second, it emphasizes the "functional capabilities of individual with disabilities. Finally by looking at the individual it focuses on the importance of "treating each application of technology as a unique circumstance".

In other words it focuses on the device and the individual working together, and does not refer to individuals with disabilities by what they cannot do but focuses on improving what they can do.

Recently I was privileged to attend an assistive technology workshop for class, held by a representative from the wonderful Star Mobility (http://www.starmobility.co.nz/). Within this session we were presented with a number of marvelous assistive devices and were informed of their many practical uses. Even though I was interested by all of the items, I must exercise some restraint, and only speak about one of them in this post.

Today dear readers, I'm going to take you on a journey into the wonderful world of "TALKING TINS". That is right, you heard correctly, talking tins. No I am not in some magical Disney movie where kitchen appliances and food items can talk, this is real life. Hard to believe, I know, but by the end of this post, you shall be a believer.

These.....are talking tins.

This picture is from a very useful site http://www.talkingproducts.co.uk/talk_pod.htm

Talking tins are voice recording devices and can sit on cans via the magnet that is inserted inside. Individuals with a visual impairment can benefit most from these devices as at it can help them identify objects of a similar shape, by re-recording on the talking tin what food item it is. This can help them to remain more independent in the kitchen. Adapters are available to purchase that will enable these talking tins to be used on other house hold items such as cleaning bottles and containers. 

The price for the talking tins pictured above is approximately $35 each, but are usually sold in packs of three. A pack of three talking tins and associated accessories can be bought from Star Educational (http://www.star-educational.co.nz/view_details.php?detail=true&cat=21&subcat=&id=46) for $106. These featured talking tins are able to record up to 30 seconds of  multiple messages, that can be played back sequentially through the two record buttons and the play button. These talking tins are re-recordable, reusable and the batteries are easy to replace. The size of these talking tins is 77mm x 22mm and should be able to fit any standard store bought tin. They are also designed in a way that still enables the tins to be stacked on top of each other for storage purposes.
So as previously mentioned it can help people with visual deficits identify food and other household items, but it has also been suggested that this particular talking tin would be useful for someone with a short term memory deficit because of the sequential message playback, to help remind them of the things they need to do.
The following are some helpful links about talking tins.

This is a link to a PDF that outlines the use and features of a talking tin and instructions on how to record and change the batteries: http://www.talkingproducts.co.uk/pdf/talking_tins.pdf
Here is another helpful link from the same company (located in the UK): http://www.talkingproducts.co.uk/talking_tins_visual_impairment.htm
Here is a blog that is around the use of adaptive switches used for gaming; talking tins are mentioned at the bottom of the this blog: http://switchgaming.blogspot.com/2008_07_01_archive.html

This is a link to a company that has developed an activity book to allow users to get the most out of talking tins: http://www.sitech.co.nz/product_details/c/280/p/203

This website is extremely interesting. It discusses the possible applications of talking tins within a school environment and the benefits that can come from it: http://www.taglearning.com/taglearning/talking-tins-40-second-digital-clip-recording.html

This is a link to the only video I could find of talking tins being used on YouTube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUt0KBq0yP4


Cook, A. M., & Hussey, S. M. (1996). Assistive technologies: Principles and practice. USA: Mosby.

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