Tagged with 'Access Angle'

The Importance of Audiobooks and Accessibility

Access Angle: The Importance of Audiobooks and Accessibility 

By: Gabriel Ryan, School Health Blog Writer and Contributor


Audiobooks revolutionize the way we interact with literature. They can be valuable for individuals with learning disabilities, visual impairments, or that have difficulty reading or physically holding printed material.


What are Audiobooks?

Audiobooks, sometimes described as a “talking book,” are audio files or recordings of books and other pieces of literature that are read out loud. A reading of the complete text, word-for-word, is called “unabridged,” while an edited version that is shorter is called “abridged.” The recordings are available on records, cassette tapes, CDs, and most popular in digital formats at the present time. Depending on the format, they can be listened to on CD players, Walkmans, computers, tablets, smart phones, home and car entertainment systems, etc.

Spoken word recordings were invented in the late 1800s by Thomas Alva Edison, but the early 1900s is when audiobooks emerged as a result of the creation of a recording studio that supported this purpose. “In 1931, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) and Library of Congress Books for the Adult Blind Project established the ‘Talking Books Program’ (Books for the Blind), which was intended to provide reading material for veterans injured during World War I and other visually impaired adults,” according to Matthew Rubery, ed. (2011). "Introduction". Audiobooks, Literature, and Sound Studies. Routledge. pp. 1–21. 

You read that right!…Inclusivity and access for people with disabilities was one of the main reasons audiobooks were further established back in the 1900s!

The developments of audiobooks opened the door for Shakespeare’s plays, popular novels, and even the Bible and the Constitution to become available in this audio format many years ago. Audiobooks gained more popularity in the late 1990s and early 2000s when further technology, such as digital media players, became available. By 2017, as technology continued to evolve and expand, consumers were listening more to a digital source rather than physical CDs or audio cassette tapes. Shared by Writer’s Digest in 2022, “…audiobooks are the fastest-growing format in book publishing,” and are, “…predicted to become a $19 billion dollar industry by 2027”.

Originally, audiobooks were read by one narrator and this person was not necessarily the author of the book. It has become popular in more recent times, that Authors narrate their own books or that an entire cast be a part of the recording, instead of just one voice. This has drawn even more people into enjoying and connecting with the material in digital format. Audiobooks provide opportunity and access for people to read more content than ever before since they can read books and “how to” manuals while commuting or multi-tasking.

In education, the use of audio material is invaluable. As an individual with both visual and physical impairments, I was able to take advantage of audio access of printed material back in the late 1990s through early 2000s. I was assigned a cassette player and the books for book reports and class assignments were sent home with me as multiple cassettes. Schools could request to borrow these materials from organizations that support individuals with blindness and visual impairment. At the time, my textbooks were chopped up and scanned into a large digital scanner. There was a program on my assigned laptop that could read the material and highlight the words as they were being spoken. This was certainly a great deal of work for those scanning each page. However, a bit later, the digital copy of the textbooks was available within the teachers’ materials, and we could then use those, instead of having to request the deconstruction of the textbooks. I personally am grateful these materials and access has further developed. I can look up just about anything now on my tablet or smart speaker and listen and learn. I’ve been able to participate in book clubs and discussions about books and related material without having to special order or carry around a cassette or CD player. There are several audiobook platforms that have subscriptions or offer free materials. I am excited to see what the next chapter will unfold in this technology!

Now, with the tap of a screen or the click of a button, a wealth of knowledge and information becomes accessible to all.

Let us know: Did you find this article interesting? Would you like to read more of these types of articles? Do you have a topic you would like to see highlighted? Contact me through email– Gabe Ryan gryan@schoolhealth.com. I’d love to know how you’ve used information from the School Health Access Angle segments.

Supporting Parents of Children and Youth with Disabilities

Access Angle: Supporting Parents of Children and Youth with Disabilities

By: Gabriel Ryan, School Health Blog Writer and Contributor


Parents and guardians of children and young adults with disabilities taking an active role in the special education process and as a member of the Individual Education Program (IEP) is extremely important! Learning about how their child’s disability affects their participation in school and in the community helps parents to be more informed decision makers for their child.

For many families of children with disabilities, finding information, when they need it, related to services and supports can be overwhelming and sometimes difficult.

In this Access Angle segment, I want to spotlight a fantastic resource for parents and families of children with disabilities. Across the nation, parent organizations are available to support families of children with disabilities as well as young adults with disabilities. These parent organizations may operate differently from one another and from state to state. However, there is one consistent purpose, and that is to support and assist parents with resources, information, and training to be the most informed they can be as they effectively participate in their child’s education and development.

According to the Center for Parent Information & Resources website, there are nearly 100 Parent Training and Information Centers (PTIs) and Community Parent Resource Centers (CPRCs) in the US and Territories. You can find the PTI in your state by using their Find Your Parent Center page at https://www.parentcenterhub.org/find-your-center.

In California, there are six PTIs, these centers serve parents of children ages birth to 26 years old. In addition to the PTIs, California also has over 40 Family Resource Centers (FRCs) which are funded to serve ages birth to 3, and 32 Family Empowerment Centers (FECs) funded to serve ages 3 to 22.

I have personal experience with these centers in California as my family has accessed them for supports and services over many years. My mom, Robin, served as a Resource Specialist at one of the FRCs in Sacramento. She worked there for many years before moving on to a California Department of Education state training and technical assistance project, which supports and provides assistance to the FECs and aspects of Family Engagement. The last couple of years have been exciting for California in relation to the Family Empowerment Centers. FECs were originally enacted through legislation in 2001, and by 2006, there were 14 centers serving 27 of California’s 58 counties. There was not enough funding to have a center in all FEC regions of the state. Sixteen years later, additional funding was allocated to expand the establishment of the FECs to the rest of the state. In the last couple of years, 18 new FECs have received funding, which brings the total to 32 centers serving all regions of the state! Learn more about the FECs at the Seeds of Partnership webpage related to Family Empowerment Centers. If you are in California, I encourage you to reach out to a center if you are looking for this type of resource and support. They are mostly staffed by parents of children with disabilities, so they have first-hand experience!

Learn more about the type of supports and services offered in your state by accessing the parent centers. They are a great place to start when seeking resources and support for you, as a family, or families you serve. If you are an educator or a support provider, reach out to explore what collaborative partnerships can be made. I am excited to spread the word about these agencies and the wonderful work they do each day!

Let us know: Did you find this article interesting? Would you like to read more of these types of articles? Do you have a topic you would like to see highlighted? Contact me through email Gabe Ryan gryan@schoolhealth.com. I’d love to know how you’ve used information from the School Health Access Angle segments.

Gift ideas…when the average gift just won’t do.

Gift ideas…when the average gift just won’t do.

Written By: Gabriel Ryan 

The holidays are fast approaching, did you get everything on your holiday list yet for your family member or someone you know with disabilities? If not, don’t worry, because I have various adaptive gift ideas you could consider. I recently came across a few holiday gift guides and lists designed specifically for thinking about products which may be helpful or of interest to people with disabilities. These types of lists can be a great starting point for learning about products you’ve never considered before. It can be tough to find the perfect gift. There’s nothing wrong with a gift card or cash, however, unwrapping an item that can make everyday tasks a bit easier or bring an element of fun into someone’s life is exciting! I want to give a shout out to the Cerebral Palsy Foundation for their Annual Accessible Holiday Gift Guide. This year’s guide is one of the best I’ve ever seen. This guide has ideas for all ages and abilities. I can’t begin to describe how much fun it was to go through each page and point out items I’ve personally tried and have great memories of using. There are several items in the guide I currently have and use every day. I loved reading about ideas and products I’ve never heard of before, that I look forward to exploring further. 


I was inspired to create a short list highlighting a few products found on the School Health website, which may be just the gift you are looking for.

Giraffe Bottle Handsfree Drinking System and Giraffe Bottle Journey Hydration System

Water bottle with flexible straw. This product is great for keeping hydrated. Read more about this item in this Access Angle Product Review: Giraffe Bottle

Theragun Pro Plus

Handheld massage and vibration therapy tool. Relieves pain, helps you recover faster, treats join pain, improves mobility.


GRIP Boards, Activity Pad, GRIP Rolls, and Cat Tongue Grip

Multiple use non-slip texture material that makes almost any surface a no-slip, non-sticky place for your food, books, tablet or other daily items. Read Access Angle review of Cat Tongue Grips.


Inflatable Jump Balls and Hop Balls

Inflatable balls provide bouncing fun and aides in development of muscle strength and balance.


Fold and Go Trampoline

Small portable trampoline for ages 3 and up and holds up to 150lbs.


Color Changing Bubble Tube w/ Beads

Sensory Lamp Bubble Tube helps stimulate your senses.


Tangle Therapy

A twisty and fun way to get hand, joint and muscle therapy and stress relief all in one


Dimpl Digits

Squishy, silicone bubbles captivate fingers in a way that's impossible to put down. 


Pin Art

Board of pins creates impressions of any object with its moldable pins.


Cuddle Ball

Round sensory pillow made with the softest fabrics.


Franklin QB Cornhole

Target toss game fun for all players and brings an interesting, creative twist to your cornhole games.


Bean Bags: Canvas, Nylon, Fleece, Numbered and Franklin Bean Bag Toss Game

Assorted colors of beanbags in various materials and one target frame for a bean bag toss game.


Don’t forget to check out this Access Angle: Travel Friendly Essentials video where Dr. Ray and I discuss a few items from the list above and more great products.

These lists are great for Christmas, as well as throughout the year, for birthdays or other special occasions. The more we share great resources, the more we expand opportunities to find just the right gift!


Wishing you a very happy holiday!

Warm Up With Winter Gear

Winter is near, it’s that time of year… to get out the jackets and rain gear. I will be highlighting some warm winter accessories for you or someone you know that uses a wheelchair, scooter, stroller, or something similar. Finding a way to keep the extremities warm and dry can take some additional planning. The lap blanket from the company Bundle Bean called Adult fleece-lined wheelchair cosy has continued to be such a great find. Its convenient to take along in my backpack, its warm, windproof, and keeps me dry from the rain.

If you or someone you know uses a wheelchair, scooter, stroller, or something similar, you probably also know that finding a way to keep the upper and lower extremities warm and dry can take some additional planning. I have used a wheelchair for a very long time and often found that I’ll be warm and cozy in a flannel shirt or winter jacket, but my legs become very cold. It is difficult sometimes to keep my entire body warm as my temperature fluctuates. If I am participating in an outside activity, I must take along a blanket or wear a few layers of pants. These methods work well, but can be bulky, take extra time to put on, or become too hot.

Several years ago, I was introduced to a couple of great products that I really like. These are worth checking into if you are looking for solutions to this same challenge for your child, student, family member, friend, or yourself.

X-Ability Bodycoats:

A couple of years ago, my Aunt Katherine saw the following news story about these specially designed jackets for people that use wheelchairs: 9&10 News WWTY Parents Invent Coat to Keep Kids, Adults in Wheelchairs Warm and Dry. This coat was designed by a mom for her daughter with Cerebral Palsy that uses a wheelchair. She created a prototype attaching two jackets together, making a full bodycoat. My Aunt surprised me that Christmas and purchased one for me. I was very excited; I have never seen anything like this jacket before. It is like wearing a sleeping bag with arms and a hood! Very warm and the zipper runs the length of the coat so I can have it all zipped up, half, or fully open in the front, without having to completely take the coat off. This bodycoat is great for use year-round for kids or adults as they come in different sizes. I have had the opportunity to use this bodycoat on a sailing trip in San Francisco Bay, it was perfect. I could enjoy my time and not be concerned about feeling uncomfortable due to tight muscles from the cold weather.
Bundle Bean:

I’ve been in search of a lap blanket, but not just any lap blanket. I used to have a waterproof lap cover with elastic sewn into the lower part that fits snug around my feet. It was originally part of a stroller used when I was a toddler. I kept that piece for a few decades, but it was misplaced in a move a few years back. This was one of the best tools for guarding against rain and wind. Earlier this year, I was thrilled to find an adult version of this similar item. The company Bundle Bean has a product called Adult fleece-lined wheelchair cosy. Woo hoo! One of my favorite winter apparel items, but made even better – it’s fleece lined! They offer a variety of patterns and colors for kids and adults. I chose black so it would match whatever jacket I decide to wear. What makes this type of item handy is that it is easily folded up and fits in a backpack. It features an elastic that hugs around the foot area, and elastic and Velcro straps on the reverse side keep it from dragging on the ground or getting caught in wheels. It’s very warm and waterproof. In the summer, I participated in a local 5K race to support Shriners Children’s Hospital. This wheelchair cosy was perfect for the early morning race start temperatures. I wear mine covering just my legs, but I can pull it up higher; mine is long enough to cover my feet all the way up to my chest while seated.

These are a few great options to consider for students waiting for a school bus, participating in recess, outdoor physical education classes, sports, and so much more!

Stay warm out there this fall and winter!

Cosmo by Filisia: Interactive and Multisensory Accessibility Switches

Access Angle: Cosmo by Filisia

Interactive and Multisensory Accessibility Switches

Cosmo devices are a set of interactive and multisensory accessibility switches designed for children and adults with special educational needs or physical disabilities in schools, therapy, and home. The switches work together with Cosmo applications. The switches and applications have been “useful and suitable for people with moderate to severe autism, profound and multiple learning difficulties, cerebral palsy, brain injuries, and other physical, social, and communication difficulties,” according to the Cosmo team. Cosmo has assisted learners in turn-taking, attention, reaction time, memory skills, sequencing skills, waiting skills, hand-eye coordination, balance, proprioception, speed and range of movement, field of vision, vocalization, following of instructions, collaboration, leadership, problem solving, executive function, transitions, and more.

Cosmo ExcelCosmo Excel

I recently had an opportunity to use Cosmo and the Cosmo Training Application activities. It took me a few trials to pair the Cosmoids at first, but once the firmware was updated and I learned how to switch between modes for the training application and the switch set up application, the connection worked great. I was on my way to exploring the games and activities. The application is a free download with access to 18 activities and a trial with the option to purchase several more. My favorite three activities were the ones named; Exercise, Whac-a-mole, and Cosmonaut. I enjoyed the challenge of reaching to touch the appropriate switch with either a physical stretch or trying to beat the clock. The vibrant colors and music helped keep things interesting. The ability to reposition the switches based on the activity, or to create a greater challenge, added to the versatility. I can definitely see this type of set up as being a motivating way to increase hand-eye coordination, response/ reaction time, and speed and range of movement for my upper extremities. There is much more to explore with Cosmo, I have only scratched the surface!


Two ways to use Cosmo:

  • Cosmo Training Application (iPad only) – play activities and games
  • Accessibility Switch Set Up Application – (iOS & Android to use third party applications and devices)

Key features of Cosmo:

  • The switches are called Cosmoids
    • Shape and size: Round. 5cm radius. 3.5cm high.
    • Color: Semitransparent white and can light up in 9 available colors
    • Switch type: Mechanical
    • Activating force: Adjustable. Min. 50-grams. Max. 17.6 oz/ 500 grams
    • Battery: Lithium Polymer, 800mAh or 600mAh. Rechargeable via micro usb. Approx. 2-4 hours to charge. A full charge will last around 20 hours. When fully charged, the switch will be green.
    • On/off power button/mode button
    • Mounting holes are included on the Cosmoid and each comes with a magnet for mounting.
  • Cosmo Training Application activities were co-designed by therapists and special educators with a focus on learning, play, and therapy. Cosmo offers a growing selection of activities that motivate learners to develop cognitive, communication, and physical skills through play and music. Multi-sensory activities work towards achieving skill-based, functional, and national curriculum-compatible goals.
  • Switch Set Up Application has multiple configurations to customize the function of the Cosmoid, such as touch sensitivity, brightness, color, function, etc. Once configured, it can be paired to Bluetooth compatible devices such as laptops, tablets, phones that run iOS, OS X, Windows, and Android, Linux operating systems.
  • Switching between Cosmo mode and Bluetooth controller HID mode is completed through a sequence of holding down the power button.
  • There are three types of Cosmo Kits; Cosmo Excel, Cosmo Explore, and Cosmo Switch. The main difference in kits is the number of Cosmoids.


Cosmo has produced a few webinars on YouTube specific to inclusion, to learn more visit Inclusive Learning, Therapy, and Play and Technology for Inclusion.

SchoolHealth is a United States Cosmo distribution partner. The Cosmo devices can be purchased through the website at https://www.schoolhealth.com/cosmo-devices or reach out with any questions and the sales team will be happy to work with you.

Candy Corn and Jelly Beans: More Than Just Sweet Treats

Candy Corn and Jelly Beans: More Than Just Sweet Treats

Accessibility Switches Increase Access to Technology and More

There are many switches on the market for people who need alternate ways to access their computers, tablets, communication and mobility devices, toys, games, and other daily living activities. Figuring out which switches are right for your needs can be difficult. Comparison charts can be a helpful way to learn about a variety of switches and their features. These types of charts provide an easy way to review the switch type, activation type, activation force, type of feedback, size, color, and more.

A few switches I really like are the Candy Corn Proximity Switch and the Jelly Bean Switch. Both switches are highly sensitive to touch and activating them is very easy. Here is a bit more information on each.

 AbleNet LITTLE Candy Corn 2 and BIG Candy Corn Switch

These switches use highly sensitive proximity sensor technology for activation. When the user is near or barely touching the activation surface, the switch will activate. When activated, an auditory beep and light appear. This feature can be turned off if it is not needed. A replaceable battery is included.

AbleNet LITTLE Candy Corn 2 Proximity Switch 

AbleNet BIG Candy Corn Proximity Switch

  • Activation surface is nearly two times the size of the LITTLE Candy Corn Switch
  • Product Dimensions: 3.85-in L x 4-in W x 0.58-in H
  • Plug Size: 3.5mm mono (TS) plug

AbleNet Jelly Bean Switch

This AbleNet Jelly Bean Switch activates by pressing the top in any location. The color of the switch can be changed to red, green, blue, or yellow. There is a clear snap cap for symbol use. You can download the AbleNet Symbol Overlay Maker Application for free to create printable symbol overlays with access to thousands of symbols for devices and accessibility switches. The App. requires an iPad with iPadOS 13 or newer.

AbleNet remarkable ideas- using Jelly Bean and Candy Corn Switch is a five-minute video which provides practical and functional ideas on how these switches can be incorporated into the classroom and daily living activities.

I’ve had the experience of connecting these switches to an AbleNet Powerlink 4 Control Unit to control appliances independently, such as; turning on and off lamps, an oscillating fan, and even a handheld mixer (helping mix muffins) which was possible using either switch. They were both easy to operate. Positioning is always an important consideration when deciding on placement and switch access. Mounting or angling the switch might take a few trials to get it right. 

A longtime friend of mine, Justin, also tried out the Candy Corn Proximity Switch. At the time, Justin was using switches mounted to his wheelchair near the sides of his headrest.

His mom explained, “For Justin, turning his head to the right and left is his most reliable and purposeful movement. Justin has a harder time turning far enough to activate a button switch. By positioning the Candy Corn proximity switch within his range of movement, he was able to access his computer games and switch toys without repeated tries.” 

Judy also said that she liked the audio cue of the Candy Corn, which prompted Justin to move his head back to midline. 

There are many benefits to using switches as they help people with limited movement to enjoy greater independence, improved self-esteem, communication with others, access to technology and computers, an increase in inclusion and participation at home, school and in the community.

School Health is an official US Distributor of AbleNet products. Visit the SchoolHealth website to explore these and other switches.

CSUN Assistive Technology Conference Highlights

 CSUN Assistive Technology Conference Highlights                                                                                                                  

California State University, Northridge (CSUN) held its 38th Annual Assistive Technology Conference March 13th through March 17th, 2023 in Anaheim, CA. This conference is focused on cutting-edge practices in the field of accessibility and assistive technology. The attendees typically are practitioners, educators, advocates, family members, individuals with disabilities, exhibitors, etc. This year the conference held hundreds of sessions, an exhibit hall, and many networking opportunities.

School Health was proud to participate in this year’s conference exhibit hall at booth number 104. I had the opportunity to represent the team along with my colleague Jodi Szuter, Specialist - Special Education, and the representatives from AbleCon as they provided real time demonstrations of the AbleCenter Camera System.

Sharing the products at our table such as the GlassOuse PRO and the Cosmo Devices drew attention from many conference attendees. The best part was meeting practitioners and school district staff looking for ideas to better serve their clients and students. We had many engaging conversations with individuals with disabilities who were looking for tools to assist their everyday lives. Their insights were helpful in understanding the variety and complexity of their needs. 

While at the conference, I made my way around the exhibit hall visiting over 90 booths. Many booths provided assistive technology equipment, software, or resources with focuses on two major areas: low/no vision and accessibility of websites and documents. There were some booths with augmentative and alternative communication devices, employment offerings/accommodations, and smart home speakers and cameras. 

One thing that really stood out to me at this conference was the number of attentive and helpful staff available to assist attendees in finding their way around the venue. Wearing their bright red shirts, they were easy to find, and with so many attendees using canes and guide dogs, their individual attention was exemplary. The CSUN 39th Annual Assistive Technology Conference is already scheduled for March 18th-22nd, 2024 at the Marriott - Anaheim, CA. 

 On a personal note, it’s not every day you meet a famous pop-culture icon but look who snapped a photo with us at this year’s CSUN Assistive Technology conference! Stevie Wonder!!!

Tribute to Judy Heumann: A Lifelong Disability Rights Advocate

Gabriel Ryan, School Health Blog Writer and Contributor 


Tribute to Judy Heumann: A Lifelong Disability Rights Advocate 

This segment is a tribute to an internationally recognized leader in the disability rights community. Judy Heumann was a lifelong disability rights advocate and activist. Judy passed away March 4, 2023. Her legacy will live on as she has inspired people in the United States and around the world to use their voice to make change and ensure access and inclusive opportunities for people with disabilities.

 Photo Resource: Website 2020 The Heumann Perspective www.judithheumann.com


I would like to think that most people have heard of Judy Heumann and her legendary and heroic activism for people with disabilities, however some people are not familiar with this icon. I encourage you to learn more about her life and contributions through the publications shared in this segment. There are many articles written about Judy and her impact, but her website describes her early experience best:

“She contracted polio in 1949 in Brooklyn, New York and began to use a wheelchair for her mobility. She was denied the right to attend school because she was considered a "fire hazard" at the age of five. Later in life, Judy was denied her teaching license after passing her oral and written exams, but being failed on her medical exam. Judy sued the Board of Education and went on to become the first wheelchair user to become a teacher in the state of New York. She has been instrumental in the development and implementation of legislation, such as Section 504, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which have been advancing the inclusion of disabled people in the US and around the world and fighting to end discrimination against all those with disabilities.”  -Judith Heumann (www.judithheumann.com)


Judy held senior federal government positions serving under two Presidential Administrations. She was appointed by President Clinton to head the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services and was appointed by President Barack Obama as the first Special Advisor on International Disability Rights for the U.S. State Department.

To learn more about Judy Heumann and her experiences, several publications highlight her life and life’s work:

  • Judy wrote a memoir published in 2020 called Being Heumann, an Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist, which is described through her website highlight in the following way: “a story of fighting to belong in a world that wasn’t built for all of us and of one woman’s activism—from the streets of Brooklyn and San Francisco to inside the halls of Washington—Being Heumann recounts Judy Heumann’s lifelong battle to achieve respect, acceptance, and inclusion in society.” 
  • She also created a young readers edition titled, Rolling Warrior: The Incredible, Sometimes Awkward, True Story of a Rebel Girl on Wheels Who Helped Spark a Revolution.
  • Award-winning documentary, Crip Camp is the story of a summer camp for disabled youth and captures one moment in time, Judy Heumann recounts experiences as a summer counselor at Camp Jened.
  • The Heumann Perspective is a podcast with Judy Heumann, where she highlights conversation with disabled changemakers and their allies around disability culture, art, entertainment, policy and advocacy.

Having the opportunity to listen to Judy on many occasions through conferences and interviews has always been uplifting for me, especially as a person with a disability. Her advocacy for disability rights, accessibility, and inclusion had a direct impact in paving the way for me and many others with disabilities around education, transportation, employment, and essential services. I’m grateful she shared her experience with the world. It’s not always easy to be seen and heard with so many competing priorities for focus, funding, and large-scale change efforts. Access and inclusion are everyone’s responsibility. Challenge yourself to take time to think about the ways you can expand access and inclusion in your work and community!

“Change never happens at the pace we think it should. It happens over years of people joining together, strategizing, sharing, and pulling all the levers they possibly can. Gradually, excruciatingly slowly, things start to happen, and then suddenly, seemingly out of the blue, something will tip.” ― Judith Heumann


Additional Judy Heumann Tributes:

Noise is Everywhere: The Importance of Hearing Protection and Noise Reduction

Gabriel Ryan, School Health Blog Writer and Contributor 


Noise is Everywhere: The Importance of Hearing Protection and Noise Reduction

Noise is everywhere, it is all around us all the time. Learning about hearing protection and noise reduction for those with sensitives to sound is critical.

According to a December 2022, Healthy Hearing, Hearing Loss Statistics at a Glance article, the following statistics were highlighted related to hearing loss. 

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) indicate that about 48 million (or 14%) of Americans report some degree of hearing loss. A similar amount report tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. One of the most common ways people damage their hearing is through excessive noise exposure, leading to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). About one out of every five workers is exposed to hazardous noise in the workplace. Once your hearing is gone, you cannot get it back. The CDC reports these numbers on NIHL:

  • About 40 million US adults aged 20-69 years have noise-induced hearing loss
  • More than 1 in 2 US adults with hearing damage from noise do not have noisy jobs, meaning the exposure is likely recreational
  • About 1 in 4 US adults who report excellent to good hearing already have hearing damage
  • An estimated 12.5% of children and adolescents aged 6–19 years have suffered permanent damage to their hearing from excessive exposure to noise, according to the CDC 
  • Even a mild hearing loss can cause a child to miss significant classroom instruction, according to HLAA”

For individuals with sound sensitivity, common sounds can be uncomfortable or distressing to hear. Those with sound sensitivity hear sounds differently than their peers, often louder. Certain sounds trigger irritation, nervousness, anger, aggression, fear, and anxiety. I have personal experience with sound sensitivity on a regular basis. For me, when this occurs it negatively affects my focus and participation in events and activities.


What can we do to protect our hearing? How can those more sensitive to sound be better prepared?

Learn more about how sounds may be affecting your hearing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has an interactive website called Listen Up! Protect Your Hearing.  This site is designed to help people learn more about protecting hearing. The colorful interactive noise meter describes how loud different sounds are and how to protect your ears when around them.


The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders suggests that the best ways to protect your hearing are to avoid exposure to loud sounds, move away from the noise, or turn down the volume. When these options are not possible, hearing protectors such as earplugs can help. The following list are examples of ear protection:

  • Expandable foam ear plugs– These plugs are made of a formable material like soft foam, designed to expand to the shape of each person’s ear canal.
  • Pre-molded, reusable ear plugs–These plugs are made from silicone, plastic or rubber and are “one-size-fits-most” or are available in several sizes. Using these has the same effect as turning down the volume on a stereo lessening the intensity of sound. One example is, Vibes Hi-Fidelity Earplugs.
  • Canal caps– Canal caps are earplugs on a stiff or flexible plastic or metal band. The earplug tips may be a formable or pre-molded material. May be worn over the head, behind the neck or under the chin. There are several versions available, here is one example, NoiseOff Noise Reduction Headset.
  • Earmuffs or Headphones– Earmuffs and headphones come in many models designed to fit most people and are typically adjustable. They block out noise by completely covering the outer ear. Earmuffs come in various sizes with different levels of noise reduction. Examples- HearingSafe Protective Headphones, Maxwell Noise Cancellation Headphones, Sony Noise Canceling Headphones, Deluxe Active Noise Cancelling Headphones, and Flex-Phones Foam Headphones. While using headphones to reduce or block environmental noise, take caution to ensure a safe volume if you are playing music.

A few tips to cope with noise sensitivity include:

  • Be prepared–Think ahead of time about the places you are going and activities you will be participating in- what are the noise levels? If you are not sure, call ahead and ask. When in doubt, take ear protection!
  • Keep ear protection handy– Having something comfortable to use available in your backpack, on a keychain, in a compartment of a car, or wherever is close that you can easily access it as needed is important!
  • Background noise– Sometimes having a tv/radio on in the background or listening to music through headphones can help reduce the sudden startle of various environmental noises that may occur.

In this video, Dr. Ray reviews an alternative way to use Vibes Hi-Fidelity Earplugs as a way for students with hearing sensitivity to move through transitions without standing out or missing important directions.


Carrying a set of ear plugs is crucial for me, not just for loud events like concerts and monster truck shows, but for everyday activities, like a louder than usual restaurants or noisy waiting rooms. I keep a set on a keychain in my backpack, which is always with me on my wheelchair.


Additional Resources

Many smartphones support use of free sound level meter applications like Decibel X and SPL Meter, which are for both Android and iOS. These can be helpful for monitoring levels of sound in your everyday environments.


Did you know that World Hearing Day is celebrated March 3rd each year? This is an annual global advocacy event for raising awareness regarding hearing loss, promoting ear and hearing care, and calling for action to address hearing loss and related issues. Each year, this event covers a specific theme on which the World Health Organization and its partners carry out activities based on this theme. Visit https://worldhearingday.org to see registered events around the world which may be of interest to you.


Adopt healthy hearing habits for yourself and encourage your family and those you may work with and… don’t forget the hearing protection!

2022 Year in Review Product Highlights

Gabriel Ryan, School Health Blog Writer and Contributor 

2022 Year in Review Product Highlights

As we head into the holiday season and think about gifts for others or products and tools to support your work starting out the new year, what a better time to revisit several products the School Health team has highlighted through social media this year. You may find the perfect gift, spark an idea that will enhance your learning, or encourage the success of students you support. All of the highlighted products are related to students with disabilities or Special Education supports, and can be found on the School Health website under the Special Education category. The Special Education category is broken down into the following nine subcategories: Sensory, Motor Skills, Augmentative & Alternative Communication, Speech Therapy, Switches, Computer & Tablet Access, Learning, Living Aids, and Positioning & Mobility.

You’ll find a category and link below from several of the products highlighted this year. Look for videos from Talkin’ Tech with Dr. Ray and some of my Access Angle blog write ups that relate to the products. I hope you will enjoy revisiting these products, videos, and blogs as much as I did!



Motor Skills

  • Handwriting- find pencil grips, slant boards, and hands on materials
  • Puzzles- letters, numbers, small knobs and jumbo knobs

Augmentative & Alternative Communication

Speech Therapy


  • Speech Therapy assessment and screening materials, fluency, articulation, phonology, workbooks and resources


Computer & Tablet Access

  • Keyboards and Mice- A variety of keyboards and Mice for all types of learners, including individuals with special needs 


Living Aides

Positioning & Mobility

Due to the multiple uses of some products, they may appear under more than one sub-category on the website.

Just a reminder to subscribe to SchoolHealth Special Education emails to stay in the loop on products and resources, here.

Wishing you all a safe, happy, and healthy holiday season!