Intellectual Disabilities

Chapman University has announced plans to create a new institute for the research of Disability and Autism thanks to a $3 million donation for the William S. and Nancy E. Thompson Foundation. The goal is to both educate policy and decision makers and improve the lives of people with disabilities and their families.

The Thompson Policy Institute’s headquarters will be in Reeves Hall on Chapman University’s campus in Orange. The initial staff will consist of four people along with several select expert consultants.

The institute has already scheduled and event to discuss the state of disability in Orange County. It is open to the public and will be held on May 3, 2016 in Chapman University’s new Marybelle and Sebastian P. Musco Center for the Arts.  

For more information check the TPI website

ASCmel.T. is a free mobile app available on Android and iOS that involves people with autism in the development of new technologies that aid people with autism. The app enables people with Autism Spectrum Conditions, their families, teachers, professional, and anyone who supports them to share ideas on the kinds of technology that could help individuals with autism.

The app enables users to upload a one minute video explaining their idea to researchers so that new technology development efforts will support the needs of users with autism.

Read more about ASCmel.T. and its development. 

Mente is a portable EEG device which helps relax the minds of children with autism.  It has been designed by Malta-based AAT research and launched at a convention, which took place in Rome this month.

AAT research founder, CEO and scientist Adrian Attard Trevisan conceived of this device, which uses neuro-feedback technology too sooth children with autism, enabling them to obtain better focus and engage positively with the world.  It is designed for safe home use.

Read the Malta Independent article

The BBC has reported that the tech giant Microsoft wants to hire more people with autism to fill some of its full time positions. To accomplish this Microsoft will work with a specialized recruitment firm, Specialisterne. The announcement was made in the Microsoft on the Issues blog where senior executive Mary Ellen Smith wrote, “People with Autism bring strengths that we need at Microsoft.”

GoodReader, the world's top-selling PDF reader and file management app for iPhone and iPad, has added VoiceOver compatibility in its just-released version. VoiceOver is part of Apple's accessibility features, a gesture-based way to have an iPhone or iPad speak what is written on the screen. Combined with GoodReader's recently released "Text-to-Speech" feature, GoodReader now better enables iPhone and iPad users with visual or reading disabilities to access PDFs and other documents.

With VoiceOver support and GoodReader's new "Speak" text-to-speech feature, any PDF or TXT document on an iPhone or iPad can be read audibly for busy professionals or those unable to read small text on their iOS devices. GoodReader users may now listen to full documents or sections of documents in their preferred language, and with absolute control over the speed of how fast the text is read aloud and the language it's read in.

The difference between VoiceOver and the "Speak" option in GoodReader is a text-to-speech feature simply reads out highlighted text, while VoiceOver is specifically designed for visually impaired users and reads aloud anything they need, including window names and menu details. With VoiceOver, a user can move their finger across the screen and the app will audibly read what is supposed to be seen there - the names of the buttons, the items in the menus, and the names of the files and folders. Using "Speak," users press on a blank section of a document and are presented with options for reading the document to them - including volume, language and speed controls.

"We are excited to be able to provide better access to documents on iPads and iPhones to those with visual or reading disabilities," said Yuri Selukoff, president of Good.iWare. "Our aim is for GoodReader to be the best reader for all iPad and iPhone users, including those with difficulty reading documents on the screens of their devices. We want to help as many people as possible to take advantage of our advanced product, which is why we are improving accessibility for those who have trouble reading small text or seeing small button icons on an iPhone or iPad screen."

Download Good Reader from iTunes.

Cambridge, Massachusetts startup, Brain Power, is developing a suit of Google Glass Apps for Children with Autism called Empowered Brain Suite for Autism. The apps encourage kids to interact with their parents and make eye contact through games. The Google Glass Apps take the mobile and PC based apps, which are designed to help kids learn social skills, a step further taking advantage of Google Glass to help children connect with their families in the real world.

Read more about Google Glass Apps for Children with Autism.

The launch of the newest version of Kurzweil 3000 firefly, an award-winning literacy software, was announced by Kurzweil Education, inc.

Major new features include:

  • High-quality Acapela text-to-speech voices
  • Support for the OpenDyslexic font
  • An updated Optical Character Reader
  • Improved scanning capabilities
  • Ability to read EPUB files, images, and locked files providing a superior reading experience
  • Updates to built-in American Heritage dictionaries
  • Addition of 12,000 new Widgit images in the picture dictionary
  • Vocabulary study guides
  • Translation to over 70 languages to enhance comprehension
  • New and updated writing tools, including updates to word prediction and study guides
  • New academic word lists
  • New writing templates such as Analyzing Informational Text and Determining Important Details
  • Enhancements to the Kurzweil 3000–firefly cloud-based Universal Library that provides educators with a centralized, flexible user-management system and usage reporting
  • New teacher templates, including a UDL Lesson with Kurzweil 3000–firefly and a Common Core State Standards Lesson Plan

Kurzweil 3000-firefly helps all students, including those with learning disabilities like dyslexia and English Language learners (ELL and ESL) learn from the same materials as their peers.

Read about other assistive technologies for people with cognitive disabilities

Google donated five pairs of Google Glasses to Newcastle University so that researches could test how they may be used to support people with long-term conditions. A team based at the University’s Digital Interaction group, part of the School of Computing Science, has focused on the acceptability of Glass in their initial studies.

The next stage of the project is focusing on using Glass to deliver discreet prompts linked to key behaviors typical of Parkinson’s. The behaviors included reminding the individual to speak up or to swallow preventing drooling. Glass can also be used for reminders such as taking medication and appointments.

Ghotit Real Write & Reader has helped many people with dyslexia, dysgraphia and other cognitive disabilities when using their personal computers. Now the software, which provides reading and writing assistance for people with these learning disabilities, has been released for Windows Tablets.

This new product for the tablets has the following advanced functionality:

  • An intelligent context-sensitive and phonetic spell checker.
  • An advanced grammar checker.
  • A grammar and phonetics aware word prediction writing assistant.
  • A built-in proofreader.
  • A reader that reads aloud any document or web page.

Dr. Robert Iakobashvili, Ghotit’s CTO and co-founder said in regards to Ghotit Real Write & Reader’s release on the Windows Tablets, “Smartphones and tablets have become an integral part of our daily lives. We take them everywhere, even sometimes to bed. And Windows tablets, being compatible with a standard enterprise and educational IT, are becoming the predominant tablet platform for work.”

Ofer Chermesh, co-founder and lifelong dyslexic added, “The tablet revolution has affected the way people consume information and communicate. More and more people are adopting tablets and smartphones as the preferable means to communicate with each other. This is influencing the writing assistant tools developed for dyslexics. With the Windows tablet release of Ghotit Real Writer & Reader, people with dyslexia will be able to read, write and correct their text by using a standard tablet touch screen practices.”

Interactive Accessibility published an extensive article on the founding of Ghotit and the functionality of the Ghotit Real Write & Reader product and a comprehensive video review in December of 2013 when the product was only available for the PC.

Children with severe, nonverbal autism may benefit from a technology developed by Purdue University and advanced by SPEAK MODalities LLC. SPEAKall! And SPEAKmore! are iPad apps developed for the company through research by Oliver Wendt, a Purdue assistant professor of speech, language and hearing sciences and educational studies. Wendt has worked with children diagnosed with autism for more than 20 years.

  • SPEAKall! uses photos and symbols that represent what a child wishes to say and helps them construct sentences using those images.
  • SPEAKmore! expands on SPEAKall!’s vocabulary for children who have advanced beyond the capability of SPEAKall!

The free version of SPEAKall! can handle up to 20 symbols, two activity sheets and one learner profile. The premium versions of the app enable enhanced features:

  • Access to different synthetic voices.
  • Unlimited symbols and activity sheet. Two learner profiles.
  • Unlimited symbols and activity sheets. Unlimited learner profiles.

Read Oliver Wendit's profile for more information.


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