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Accessible Times: The UATP Podcast
25 minutes | Mar 25, 2021
Accessibility in Salt Lake City
I first interviewed Sarah Benj months ago. We talked about the accessibility features of places that people could not visit under lockdown. But that was all right because we thought the restrictions would be over soon. Then, as the pandemic wore on, I recorded some pandemic-specific episodes and Sarah’s interview waited to get the attention it deserved.This month I interviewed Everette Bacon, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Utah, and he brought us up to date about some of the accessibility features you can find in Salt Lake City.These interviews discuss improvements made to 300 West, making it more accessible to people of all abilities.We also talk about the trailers used by Salt Lake City to transport the wheelchairs of people with disabilities who need emergency transport. Finally we learn about the AIRA app, helping the Blind navigate in crowded, busy places. It's available for free in the Washington Square area of SLC. This app has a free version with limited minutes, but users in Washington Square and the SLC Airport can use it for free for as long as it is needed.As the pandemic winds down, it's good to know there are accessible public places for us to return to!
40 minutes | Feb 3, 2021
Interview with Sachin Pavithran, US Access Board Director.
Sachin Pavithran is the new executive director of the US Access Board. But before that, he was the UATP director. Before he left, we sat down with him to talk about his own very personal experience with accessibility, assistive technology and advocacy—and where it all goes from here.He had a lot to say about accessibility and assistive technology, but the part that really stood out to me was his own evolution from shy employee to national leader. It all started, he said, when he met other leaders."I didn't really know what a successful blind person could do," he said. "But when I went to a meeting that I was invited to go to in Washington DC, the speakers at that event, were, you know, blind people who held high positions in organizations, whether it's nonprofit, and government in the public sector, or it could be people leading different roles in different companies, attorneys, people working in White House, people who were successful. And I had no idea there were blind people who were that successful, like absolutely no clue. And it changed my perspective on what I've been doing so far, and what I could do, and also running into hundreds of blind people just doing things and saying, hey, let's go to dinner, we'll just go, it's just three blocks down the street over there. "And just how do you do that without someone helping you get to that? You know, it was just as foreign. It was so out of my comfort zone. And I just tagged along with these people, and I started telling myself, I need this, I need to be able to do this. And that's where it all started for me."Enjoy the conversation!
33 minutes | Jan 7, 2021
Winter Recreation for For People with Disabilities
Whether you aspire to be a competitive Paralympian or just want to take that first step out the door in the winter, this episode will help you know the best way to get some exercise and enjoy nature in the cold.Join us for tips on staying warm, finding the equipment that's right for you, and most important, having fun!Enjoy interviews with Aaron Cox, an expert mono skier, and Alex Ristorcelli of Logan's Common Ground Outdoor Adventures.RESOURCES:In addition to Common Ground Outdoor Adventures in Northern Utah, Utahns can choose from several organizations that offer recreation opportunities for people with disabilities. Here they are:National Ability Center (Park City)Wasatch Adaptive Sports (Snowbird)TRAILS: Technology Recreation Access Independence Lifestyle Sports (University of Utah)National Ability Center Moab Outpost (active in the summer)
29 minutes | Dec 2, 2020
Hearing tech for life... and for surviving the holidays in 2020
This episode is for the family members, service providers and friends who have wondered if it is possible to have a multi-person conversation that includes someone who is hard of hearing. Five of us talked via Google Meet about communication platforms and other assistive technology that helps them survive life, the holidays and the perils of navigating a mask-wearing world. Four of the participants were hard of hearing. And it was delightful.With many thanks to our friends from Utah's Division of Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing for lending us their expertise! For more information on services, classes and events for Utahns who are having a hard time hearing, contact a specialist near you.Here are some highlights::29 - Services and classes for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Utah moved online due to the pandemic--and they are reaching more people than ever before.3:47 - Four participants talk about how hearing technology has changed their lives.9:56 - Specialist Susan Ordonez talks about the challenges of moving online as a reluctant adapter--and how successful the move has been.11:35 - Mask-wearing has affected many who rely on lip-reading. Here are some AT suggestions (Google Live Transcribe and Otter, for example).13:41 - Online classes have reached rural Utahns, overcoming the barriers of distance and accessibility.16:00 - Tips for surviving the holidays--including having realistic expectations...18:30 - Taking hearing breaks...20:14 - Appreciating the smaller gatherings of 2020 and a good, focused Zoom conversation....21:29 - Playing cards online while chatting over Google Meet.22:47 - Have hearing tech users seen evidence that the things they discuss while using their technology are then marketed more heavily to them online?24:21 - Hearing tech in general is less creepy than Facebook. However, some users are still careful about what they share in a conversation.25:38 - Using new technology is scary, but it helps the user to take that first step and try something new for a better experience. And it is important to spread the word about the services that are available. So share this podcast with someone who could use it!Photo by Matilda Wormwood from Pexels
31 minutes | Nov 5, 2020
Fighting isolation among Utah's seniors and caregivers
As the pandemic drags on, it seems its toll on mental health keeps growing, especially among seniors and caregivers who feel cut off from their loved ones.“We're seeing an increase in isolation,” says Dennis Wildman, a social worker and the Alliance Director at Sunshine Terrace, in this podcast interview. "We're seeing the increase in infections, we're seeing an increase in stress, we're seeing a decrease in support, and all those things cause more risk factors ... As a clinician, I probably see 33 percent more mental health issues now than we ever have before in 30 years."Technology can help, with high-tech solutions like video communications and with low-tech ones like personal protective equipment. But while the Utah Assistive Technology Program is usually all about technology, our conversation with Dennis Wildman of the Sunshine Terrace Foundation pointed out some low-tech ways to connect. He talks about “curbside counseling” and having face-to-face conversations, properly distanced, while using an important piece of low-tech assistive technology: a mask. “I'm going to tell something that will be a little shocking to people, but PPE works,” Wildman said. “Bottom line is, our personal protection equipment that we put on, we know works.” To hear the whole conversation, click on the player.
29 minutes | Oct 12, 2020
AT for special education at home in the age of COVID
This month's interview is with Kent Remund of the Utah Center for Assistive Technology and Austin Oseguera of Utah Assistive Technology Teams. They are both experts on assistive technology for education--and how it can help parents who are teaching their children at home. 1:50 - Kent and Austin are both still going into homes to help with assistive technology, depending on the comfort level of the individual, using protective gear. They are also doing evaluations remotely when it's practical.3:00 - Austin offers strategies to help parents teach their children at home, including creating a consistent routine and using technology.5:50 - Austin and Kent offer a brief overview of free assistive technology, built into phones and computer software. 11:40 - Austin explains the difference between Dragon and free dictation programs.12:35 - Kent encourages people to check with their schools to see what technology they are using. He describes some built-in tools being used in Utah.14:00 - Kent describes "universal design for learning," a concept to make the classroom to be accessible to all students, whether they have been diagnosed with a disability or not.15:45 - Barriers to education and learning are being revealed by remote learning.16:25 - Kent describes ways that different learning styles can be accommodated by parents/teachers.18:30 - Is it cheating to listen to a book rather than read it? Austin responds. "We need to be able to test for comprehension."19:50 - Anxiety is an issue for students learning from home. Austin suggests some ways to address it, especially in helping students to connect with their peers even from home or take a break.22:40 - Kent discusses AT solutions, encouraging people to work with the schools to keep up with their plans to make sure they get the support they need.25:10 - Austin discusses the bright side of distance learning, which has forced schools and businesses to take virtual learning and jobs seriously. The pandemic has meant people have more opportunities, more creativity, more services to rural areas through remote delivery. For more information, visit the Utah Center for Assistive Technology and the Utah Assistive Technology Teams.
34 minutes | Sep 2, 2020
Tactile learning part 2: Touch as a learning tool is very underutilized. Here's why.
In this second episode dedicated to tactile learning, Dr. Sheri Wells-Jensen of Bowling Green State University points out the advantages of tactile exploration, not just for the Blind but for everyone. She also discusses the cultural barriers that get between the Blind and their right to explore their world. Finally, she finishes up with a book recommendation--because apparently several writers have tried to create a "blind alien," but not all of them have done it well.Photo credit for Sheri's portrait: Kate Kamphuis1:00 – Sheri reveals that one of her interests is understanding cognition, intelligence and language. She also wonders, if we met another species, what would their thinking and language be like?2:00 – There is a level of public misunderstanding about what blind people do and do not know about the world. For example, they would understand that a cathedral is large and impressive, but a 3D model could help them distinguish one cathedral from another.5:45 – Looking at objects does have disadvantages, compared to feeling them. For example, it doesn’t work well in low light. 9:00 – Tactile exploration can help people understand more—not just for the Blind but for everyone. However, more and more learning is shifting to digital, which does not translate to tactile information well.10:50 – Geerat Vermeij at UC Davis is a blind scientist who has expanded the world’s understanding of mollusks through his own tactile exploration.11:30 – Sighted children are shown how to explore visually from the beginning, but too often blind children are told, “Don’t touch." 13:30 – 3D models can help communicate what a constellation is like, much more quickly than a description.15:48 – Models can help you recall what an object is like, even if you have seen it before but haven’t seen it in a while 16:50 – Sheri takes on the story of the blind men and the elephant. It’s a terrible story that shows the blind men were not allowed to fully explore an elephant. But in her experience, it is very exciting to explore a live elephant—so much so that it’s hard to remember any data after the exploration is done. Models can help with that.19:00 – Statues and kids’ toys often misrepresent the object they depict.19:45 – One of the challenges of making a 3D model is deciding what is prototypical.21:39 – Should a 3D model communicate color differences on a penguin that is otherwise tactilely uniform? 23:30 – A cat’s fur can vary a lot over its body. This can be tricky to represent in a model.24:35 – Our cultural idea of touching something has limits; often the sighted person’s hand directs a child’s hands when they are touching an object.26:00 – Does a blind child have the permission to touch an object with the same freedom that a sighted child is allowed to look at it?28:00 – 3D models don’t just allow a detailed exploration, they also allow privacy. They let the explorer look at something for as long as they’d like, without worrying that other people are waiting.29:30 – The idea that touch is destructive is another barrier to learning.30:00 – A 3D printed object will have its own texture, not necessarily the texture of the thing it represents.31:12 – So far, model technology doesn’t usually give us a 100 percent accurate picture of an item. But Sheri argues that it’s not a question of whether we can produce the models, but whether we will. 32:00 – Sheri leaves us will a book recommendation for a well-written, “blind alien” book: The Darkling Sea by James Cambias.
27 minutes | Aug 2, 2020
Tactile learning part 1: See3D
In this episode, we meet Caroline Karbowski, founder of See3D, an organization that manages the printing and distribution of 3D models for the Blind. 1:00 - Caroline Karbowski tells how she started See3D, which began as a way to create models from unused 3D printer filament. It is now a 501C3 nonprofit.4:40 - Caroline talks about the number of models she has printed (more than 800 at the time of this recording).5:12 - Ohio Braille Challenge, a braille reading contest, is a big requester of models. The latest one was space-themed, with a lot of constellations.5:45 - Caroline describes who does the printing, including her, her friends, educators and volunteers. 7:18 - She is hoping to expand her network. Files are being shared on Thingiverse.11:25 - Heiley Thurston talks about her experience with tactile learning. She used one to better understand a fly.12:09 - Bugs are popular requests.12:33 -Lindsay Yazzolino, a tactile designer from the Boston area, talks about making hand-catching experiences--including a giant model of the human brain.14:36 - Rachel Hage, a certified assistive technology instruction specialist, used a 3D printed model of an eye to help her in her studies16:25 - 3D models are a serious way to learn.18:20 - 3D models of mummies allow people to explore a mummy without damaging it.19:00 - Rachel used a 3D printed iPhone to help students understand how to use one.24:55 - Caroline would love to connect with more people and inspire more creators. Maybe people who have to do a model for homework can do an assignment that would help people better understand the things around them.26:05 - Lindsay argues against the notion that being blind means being deprived of sensory experience. Tactile models can help people experience those things.27:05 - The next episode will explore the concept of tactile learning in more depth, featuring an interview with Sheri Wells-Jensen. Watch for it on September 2!
31 minutes | Jul 1, 2020
AT#1: Microsoft's accessible technology. Don't forget the packaging!
In this episode, we sat down with Solomon Romney, project manager for the Inclusive Tech Lab at Microsoft, and Valeria Rodriguez, community development specialist for the City Creek Microsoft Store in Salt Lake City.Together, they discuss the "why" of accessible technology. 0:30 - Game controllers used to be designed with certain assumptions. (Strength to hold it, motor skill to use it, ten fingers.)4:00 - It's about reducing barriers, and they run the gamut. Low or no vision, low or no hearing, it runs across the spectrum.5:20 - It's not just about work, it's about entertainment.6:40 - Examples of what you can do now that you couldn't do before.8:00 - Learning tools for education that allows students to learn at their own pace, while teachers can customize to individual needs.8:55 - Live captioning in PowerPoint allows everyone to be included, easily. "If it's hard, it's really not accessible," says Valeria.14:00 - Solomon starts cataloging all the accessible features available at Microsoft. 18:00 - What problems are people trying to solve with assistive technology? "What I tell teachers is, you don't know. You don't know who's going to walk into your classroom on that first day of school," Valeria said. "That's why it's important to keep it broadly accessible.21:20 - The harder conversation is the culture shift toward a design that includes everybody.22:40 - Microsoft's Hackathon has produced some game-changing innovation in the accessibility field. "We get to work on whatever we want. ... You get to pull from people from all over the world to work on whatever matters to you," Solomon said.25:31 - Solomon tells the story of Microsoft's packaging for its accessible Xbox adaptive controller. "I said, 'If I can't open this package with my left hand (which has no fingers)... then we have failed.'"
2 minutes | Jun 23, 2020
UATP Accessible Times Promo
An introduction to the podcast and its first three episodes.
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