Wednesday, February 6, 2013

ATIA: a gathering of "helpers"

I recently attended the assistive technology industry conference in Orlando, Florida called ATIA. This is the 5th time I've been to this conference and each time I participate, whether as a vendor or participant, I am floored by the warmth and openness of the folks who attend. I know, it's a given; most of the folks who work in the A.T. field are there because they enjoy helping others, especially those with special needs. But the reality is, even if you don't have special needs, even if you are a perfect stranger, most folks involved with A.T. will go above and beyond in order to help. What's more, there are no strings attached - no assumptions, no preconceived notions and no condescension. We are all there to share, discuss, encourage and learn from each other.

 I've often said that ATIA attendees receive a semester's worth of graduate course material in 3 short days (pre-conference sessions, not withstanding.) Although the sessions are excellent and offer a variety of strands and levels of expertise, there's much learning yet to be had in the exhibit hall, the lunch tent, and during dinner. Folks from the QIAT listserv enjoyed the opportunity to see each other face to face and the #ATCHAT (twitter) group even met over drinks one night to tweet and chat in person.

 So, you ask, what were the highlights? What new products were showcased or, did you get any ideas for strategies to be used in the classroom? A few come to mind:
  • As usual, the app smackdown was a huge hit - especially for those of us who oversee the use of iPads in our schools. Two of my favorites: MyScript Calculator app which allows you to hand write an equation on your tablet and the app calculator solves the equation (free) and the VoiceDream Reader app which offers text to speech of e-pub, pdf, Word and text files, copied into the app. It allows for integration with Dropbox, Instapaper, Gutenberg and Bookshare and students can adjust the masking of text, make annotations and choose from multiple languages and voices. 
  • There were multiple sessions that touched on the issues many schools are facing surrounding BYOT and a student's need for A.T. 
  • The folks at AssistiveWare offered booth sessions to help those of us needing to become better experts at Proloquo2Go and Pictello.  In the new Proloquo2Go, I particularly like the feature that allows for primary and secondary vocabulary in folders as well as the placing vocabulary words to be added later, in a hidden storage tray.
  • There was quite a bit of buzz about a new AAC app called AutisMate that allows for scene-based communication using personal photos and programmable hotspots.
  • The folks at Komodo Openlab have done a great job of providing switch access to the iPad through an individual's wheel chair switches using the Tecla Sheild. Their new Tecla Access App provides an on-screen scanning interface for Android devices that is very impressive.
These are just a few highlights that I found to be of interest. Truly, there are too many to share.
...until we meet again ATIA folks. Until then, keep finding solutions to help those with special needs!

1 comment:

  1. This is great - always good to hear the knowledge people bring back from great events like this. Thanks for sharing!