Empowerment with Assistive Technology

Wandean Rivers, Assistive Technology Specialist
The word for today is empowerment!  “Empowerment is not giving people power, people already have plenty of power, in the wealth of their knowledge and motivation, to do their jobs magnificently. We define empowerment as letting this power out.” (Blanchard, Kenneth H., John P. Carlos, and Alan Randolph. Empowerment Takes More than a Minute).
Many times we become frustrated trying to learn something new, especially learning to use the latest technological devices. This is especially true when people have issues with eyesight, mobility or memory but still desire to use technology independently. Manhattan Public Library’s Assistive Technology Center offers free, one-on-one, individualized training in basic computer use and adaptive technology for people with such challenges, which in turn empowers them and enriches their quality of life. Assistive technology keeps people connected.
In the Assistive Technology Center, I work individually with people with physical challenges to teach them how to use technology in their daily lives. This can include improving the visibility of their computer screen, downloading digital books, and improving keyboarding skills.  I also train caregivers who work with people with disabilities.  The goal of the ATC is to give patrons with disabilities the skills they need to access and use technology to improve their lives.
Appointments are generally once a week for an hour.  During your first appointment, we will discuss your challenges and look for possible solutions. Together we will set goals, devise steps to achieve your target goals and research technology that might be helpful.  In the Assistive Technology Center, I try to help clients by “talking out” their concerns.  I find it very fulfilling to help clients resolve issues that concern them and I would be happy to work with you, too.
Here are the top three technologies that I have found to be most helpful to Assistive Technology users.
1.  ZoomText for Windows and ZoomText for Mac
ZoomText for Windows and ZoomText for Mac are designed for people with visual impairments like macular degeneration and glaucoma. ZoomText is a powerful screen magnifier and screen reader that makes your computer easier to see, hear, and use. It allows the user to see and hear everything on the computer screen while also magnifying up to 36 times and maintaining the clarity of the text. It also reads aloud what is on the screen – documents, email and the internet.
2.   JAWS (Job Access with Speech)
JAWS  is a screen reader software navigated solely by keystrokes. It was developed for computer users whose vision loss prevents them from seeing screen content.  It reads aloud what is on the computer screen and gives navigational tools and hints which helps the patron to access the web, software applications and email. JAWS will provide Braille output instead of or in addition to speech.
3. Victor Stream Player
The Victor Stream is a handheld media player for the blind and visually impaired. It plays DAISY books, MP3, MP4, and EPUB files. Built-in text-to-speech software reads text documents, and the Victor Stream has a built-in microphone that can be used to record notes. Music and podcasts can be downloaded to a removable SD card.  Patrons love the versatility and portability of this device.
The Assistive Technology Center is located in the Technology Center of the Manhattan Public Library.  If you would like more information about the services offered, or you would like to schedule an individual appointment, call 785-776-4741, extension 202.  The Assistive Technology Center is open twenty hours a week: 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, and Wednesdays from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Also, be sure to note that the fall series of Tech Tuesdays at Manhattan Public Library is gearing up. Twice a month, from September through December, we will hold two-hour long workshops on Tuesday afternoons at 2:00 p.m. These free workshops will cover popular topics, such as downloading eBooks, using iPads, and more. For dates, topics of workshops or to register, call the library at 785-776-4741 Extension 173, stop by the first floor information desk, or visit our website at www.mhklibrary.org. Registration is encouraged!

Posted in: For Adults, For Kids, For Teens, Mercury Column

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