by Raymond T. Heipp. Ph.D.
We have just returned from ATIA 2020 in Orlando! I have been attending and speaking at this Conference for the better part of a decade now, and I firmly believe that this was one of the best we have seen in many years. There were some consistent themes that ran through the conference and I wanted to share a few highlights with you.
First, thanks to social media and digital methods of communication, we saw a number of sessions occur during lunch breaks and immediately after the final presentations where individuals could gather based on topic, region, or group. ATIA’s sessions book up quickly with excellent presentations and presenters. That means our days get packed with information. What about those topics that were not addressed? These informal sessions add another depth to what we can gain from gathering for ATIA. I also appreciate the fact that groups like the AT Makers and others can find times when they can gather and share ideas. This is a way to have our weekly or monthly chats be taken to another level. It also provides an opportunity to better understand the needs of each of our schools or centers in an effort to relate how various activities might or might not work for us.
I was thrilled by the number of people with whom I spoke regarding adults; both transitioning out of the school and into the workplace and at home. Adults with differing abilities are so often overlooked by the general public; yet they have so much to offer. There are a number of ways to make current workplaces accessible for our adults. We are already seeing a concentrated movement on the part of colleges and universities to better meet the needs of college ready students. Let’s step up that movement into adults. There are a number of both software and hardware products that can easily adapt a workplace or collegiate environment. Software like Read&Write and ClaroRead Pro do a great job of granting better access. Devices like the C-Pen, LiveScribe Pen, and Glassouse create a deeper layer of access and information gathering, while not appearing child-like. Even the specialized placement of TalkingBrix2 can give feedback necessary for doing and completing a job. We MUST NOT forget our adults and widen the understanding of businesses to the talents which they can bring to any company when given a chance.
Closed captioning for those with auditory issues and greater access to reading for those with visual impairments were other hot topics with many at the show. Part of creating access is to remember to have all the bases covered in what access actually means. Those of you designing websites need to remember to add closed captioning to videos you post. I saw some great new embossers which created smooth and complete braille documents; especially the ViewPlus ones.
As for newer products here in the US which impressed me, there were a couple which were of note. Abilia has a neat device called the MEMO Timer which is a personalized timer that can be carried or worn. It uses the idea of vertical timing with colors to provide the user with quick feedback. I also like that it can be used for anyone completing activities, and not just students. It is not yet available in the US, but that is being worked on now! Ablenet also demonstrated some of their newer versions of devices like the SuperTalker FT and the iTalk4. I love the fact that Ablenet is already creating their switches from earth-friendly materials so that they can be recycled. They are definitely ahead of the game there!
The biggest impression on me came from my friends at BJLive! Their sensory experience is amazing. They are redefining the idea of sensory room or sensory space and making it come alive for ALL age levels and locations. They are just beginning to introduce their concepts here into the US, and I will keep everyone posted on that. The applications of this are mind-boggling! They also have a new visual timer called the Resettea - it is pragmatic, researched, and has the high level of quality I have come to expect from them.
In all, this was an exciting conference and a great way to start the new year! I will be sharing other thoughts and insights with you along the way. Now I am off to CEC. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.