Category Archives: Accessible Technology

Tablets are so Easy!

Technology is easier to use than ever before… touch screens can be used by anyone, including older adults living with dementia, mobility and dexterity issues, and other common disabilities, like vision impairments. Everybody – with guidance, support, and a willingness to learn – can find great value in touch technologies and the Internet.

Tablets are the easiest device for beginners. Older adults without previous computer experience can begin by playing online games, asking Google to find information using a “voice search” command, or zooming in on their home town map – in only a few minutes.

To read ETAG’s full article posted on www.retirementhomes.com, click HERE.

Shortcuts save time

Keyboard Shortcuts

Did you ever look at your computer keyboard and wonder about the function of the various “non-typing” keys? Hopefully, this article will take away a bit of the mystery associated with at least a few of these keys.

There are often multiple ways to accomplish the same thing/task using the keyboard and/or mouse on a computer. It might be interesting for you to know that Microsoft Windows comes with a huge set of keyboard “shortcuts”.

NOTE: Although this blog entry is specific to Windows users, the MAC users have similar functionality as well. Check out a list of MAC shortcuts here 🙂

A “shortcut” is usually taken by pressing (and holding) a key (such as Ctrl, Alt, or the Windows Logo Key), and then pressing another key simultaneously to direct the computer to perform a desired action (in lieu of using the computer mouse). You might want to learn just a handful of them to make your computer experience a much more pleasurable task.

Here are a few shortcuts that I find quite useful in my daily computer interaction:

Ctrl+c – Copy the selected item

Ctrl+v – Paste the selected item

Ctrl+a – Select all items in a document or window (usually followed by Ctrl+c)

Ctrl+z – Undo an action

Alt+F4 – Close the active window

Alt+Tab – Switch between open windows

Windows Logo Key+d – Display the desktop

Windows Logo Key+e – Open Windows Explorer (to find files on my computer)

Please note that some shortcuts may be program specific, while others are simply generic in nature, and work the same way for all programs.

When you have some time to spare, please peruse Microsoft’s complete list  to see if there are any shortcuts that are more pertinent to you and how you interact with your computer. If you memorize just a few of these shortcuts, I am confident that you will not only save time, but also save some wear and tear on your computer mouse, hand, and wrist 🙂

– David Spearns (ETAG Volunteer Technology Tutor)

Prolong independence!

Taking advantage of assistive technologies can help people living with dementia maintain their independence longer!

Dementia is an illness that involves the loss of brain function relating to memory, language, thinking, judgement, and can lead to severe cognitive impairment. This illness is out of line with the normal ageing process, but has become common throughout North America. The problem with dementia is that the social assumptions surrounding  it are quite negative.

Often, people don’t understand how dementia works, and with this misunderstanding, make decisions that may not fall in line with the ideas of the person with dementia. When a caregiver misunderstands dementia and applies these negative assumptions to their beliefs, it can result in a loss of independence and quality of life for the loved one they are caring for. The combination of social stigma and physiological changes creates an environment that leads the senior to have fewer opportunities to participate in their own lives and the community.

Using assistive technologies, such as computers, tablets, smart phones, GPS, and other seemingly common technology tools, can greatly improve the lifestyle of a person with dementia, helping them age in place more easily and comfortably.

According to the Alzheimer’s Society of the United Kingdom (2012), assistive technology can:

  • Promote independence and autonomy, both for the person with dementia and those around them
  • Help manage potential risks in and around the home
  • Reduce early entry into care homes and hospitals
  • Facilitate memory and recall
  • Reduce the stress on carers, improving their quality of life, and that of the person with dementia.

Fortunately, there are many assistive technologies available that can aid in the day-to-day living for everyone, including those with dementia. Often it’s assumed that technology is a controlled machine, like a car, or a fun gadget, like a laptop computer, but technology tools currently available can range from a wander-prevention pressure mats to multi-care detection (i.e. heart monitoring, blood pressure, etc.) devices. There are fascinating arrays of technologies that can improve the quality of living for adults living with dementia and their caregivers.

There are a number of research projects and current technologies in use throughout the United Kingdom, but there is far less being discussed in Ontario. Though there is less discussion, there is interest, and one can find more information through the University of Toronto’s Intelligent Assistive Technology and Systems Lab. They aim to develop technologies to help users participate fully in their daily lives!

For more specific information on products, one can find out from AT Dementia, a UK-based organization. If you are interested in assistive technologies, contacting your local Alzheimer’s Society advocacy group, or other senior-related social assistance groups, will provide you leads of where you need to look to find the right tools for you or your family member!

Links:

UofT’s Intelligent Assistive Technology and Systems Lab – http://www.ot.utoronto.ca/iatsl/

AT Dementia – http://www.atdementia.org.uk/

Alzheimer’s Society of Canada – http://www.alzheimer.ca/en/on/

– Aarthy Rajah (ETAG Lead Volunteer)

No Keyboard. Dictate!

Using a keyboard to type on a computer or tablet might soon be a thing of the past. With the help of the Dragon Naturally Speaking software and the Dragon Dictation app, you are able to communicate directly to your technology without needing a keyboard at all!

Dragon Naturally Speaking is a voice-dictation tool that allows users to speak into a microphone and have their words recorded in writing on their technology device. For those with dexterity limitations and other physical barriers, this software enables users to complete common daily tasks like: managing emails, updating Facebook accounts, launching computer applications, typing in MS Word and even commanding your computer though voice dictation.

Those who use Dragon Naturally Speaking, sometime criticize the program for the first few days… It takes a little getting used to. For instance, when speaking to the program, you must speak a certain way; slowly, clearly, and with no emotion, because the program doesn’t understand emotions anyway.  With a little perseverance, users get accustomed to how the program functions and how to operate it. It’s easy, if you stick with it!

– Ashia Arshad (ETAG Lead Volunteer)