Wednesday, March 20, 2013

How to Choose Appropriate Adapted Technology

TURNkey IT is happy to be continuing its segments on showcasing technologies that help individuals with disabilities.  Part 2 of this 5 Part Series focuses on how business choose appropriate adapted technology for their employees.

People with disabilities can use adapted technology (AT) to gain new skills, keep old ones and live more independently. An appropriate technology solution will hopefully dramatically decrease a person's need for help or eliminate it all together. However, choosing the right technology is often a difficult task. This and the following articles offer strategies and tips to use when considering a technology solution.

Be actively involved in making the decision

When the end user is central to making the decisions about technology, the more likely it will effectively promote independence. Funding sources want to ensure any device purchased is needed, appropriate and will be used. Ultimately, the responsibility for success falls on the end user. The wrong decision can mean your job or at least be costly. It's better to actively participate in the process and ask lots of basic questions than try to fix a mess later. Just think about your closets. Is there something there that you do not use? Why aren't you using it? The wrong size? Not your style? Uncomfortable to use? Ugly? It's too fancy and you're a jeans and sweatshirt kind of person? More than likely the reason will be "It's just not who I am!" Consider who bought it and if you did, consider why you did. Like most things we use, adapted technology must fit who we are: physically, emotionally, culturally and personally. The decision is more than just buying a product.

Get others involved

If you are considering getting some adapted technology, seek out feedback from others. Even when you are choosing a very simple, low-tech piece of equipment, talking it over with other users, or a person who knows you well, will offer another perspective. They may see pitfalls that weren't obvious to you. This can be especially true when considering technology for children. Parents and others can provide the reinforcement, maintenance, training and other aspects of supporting the technology that will be used. But if a child needs a computer and the only mouse the parents know is Mickey, everyone needs to be aware of that fact and deal with it. If parents or other people in the support network are not comfortable with the technology solution, then the end user with a disability is not likely to see any benefit.

The team approach

Traditionally, the user, a family member or significant other, teacher, immediate supervisor, technology consultant, and rehabilitation specialists are often members of the team. If the technology is being purchased by an agency, a school, or an employer, the end user will likely go through an assessment team or accommodations committee. Try adding nontraditional team members if you think it will improve the group's problem solving skills. Another end user, computer instructor, local computer guy, or someone good at crafts, or even a classmate will look at the issues differently and often have valuable insights. Be outspoken, and don't be afraid to be a courageous problem solver. It will make for a much more elegant solution. Remember the group is there to solve a problem and decide if technology is the best approach. It's not a computer buying club. That is why it is best to avoid a team where the end user and technology dealer are the two main parties of a team. It can become a feeding frenzy between the two. Remember the adapted technology dealer has a mortgage to pay and groceries to buy, and you, the end user, are a means to that economic end.

Focus on function
Often, disabilities distract people, making them unable to see any potential or ability. By focusing attention on functional skills, we move away from looking at someone in a clinical way and more toward a functional assessment. A good question to ask when you want to focus on function is, "What does this person want or need to do that he or she currently cannot do?" From there the team can begin to look for ways to alter the environment to enable the person to function more independently.

Thinking in general terms

Generalize about the use of the device. Where will you use it? Could it be helpful in other settings? Are there other people at the office or in the family who could use the device? By thinking in general terms about the device, you can get more use or increase the effectiveness of the device. Sometimes parents consider purchasing a computer for their child so she can do homework. When they consider the purchase, they need to look at the computer needs of the entire family. Could an older sister use it to write reports? If it came with a modem, can mom fax or E-mail work from home? A computer with a CD ROM drive or modem provides paperless access to a wealth of information. Generalizing about the who, when, where, why and how aspects of the product can help the user find a product that meets many, rather than just a specific need. However, remember that if several family members use a device, it will limit access to third party funds.

Strive for simplicity

The best technology solution is a no-technology solution. However, adapted technology users only need what will help in accomplishing the task, in the simplest, most efficient way. For example, a reacher is very simple technology. It allows a person to grab an object they could not otherwise reach. It's uncomplicated, and not very costly. A good solution? Not necessarily. It may be a better solution to move the out-of- reach items within reach so the user doesn't need any technology at all. Keeping solutions simple also reduces maintenance and repair costs. Simple solutions are often easier to use and therefore will be used. Generally they are cheaper solutions, so a funding source (whether it is the user or a third party source) is more likely to fund it.

The next step

Choosing the right adapted technology specialist, vendor, dealer, and training are as if not more important than selecting the best product. Using adapted technology requires a package of both product and service. In the next article, I will list and discuss a series of tough, challenging questions to ask yourself and any adapted technology specialist or dealer.

Please share with us, any other tips have regarding adaptive technologies!!

Friday, March 1, 2013

8 Fitness Apps to Keep You Motivated!

Everyone knows that a balanced diet and regular exercise is the key to leading a healty and robust lifestyle, but getting there is not easy.  I've felt bored, burnt out and busy to pound the pavement or hit the gym, and falling off the wagon is really easy when accountability is non-existent.

With the right technology tools and input, you can turn your smartphone into your very own trainer, nutritionist and commited keeper for less than a training session-and boost your chances of success while doing it.  here are eight apps that can give you the edge in your workout routines, deisgned to help see results and track your progress with ease.

1. Runkeeper

One of the hardest things about running is finding a good run -- when you’re bogged down in setting up logistics for how long, how fast and how much you’re hitting the streets, it’s difficult to actually enjoy it and keep it going. Runkeeper, easily one of the most popular fitness tools online today, can help you with all of it by using your smartphone’s GPS to gather helpful information about your daily run.

You can also take advantage of Runkeeper’s dashboard to see how your runs improve over time, run with a specified program (like their popular 5k trainer), and allow friends to send you encouraging messages while you run.

2. MyFitnessPal

A great exercise routine can only do so much of the work -- it’s also about what you put in your body that counts. MyFitnessPal is a straightforward, simple calorie counter that helps track food intake daily, setting caloric goals and factoring in exercise to give an accurate readout of how your diet shapes up every day.

Setting up a system is relatively easy, and it rewards you for staying on track by offering badges and challenges to loyal users. The app has a robust and fairly accurate pre-established database of foods -- even broken down to brands and menu items at popular restaurants. Comprehensive and simple, MyFitnessPal is a great way to get an idea of what your diet looks like and how you can change it over time.

3. Nike Training Club

Ladies: you’re in luck. It’s a challenge to find out a great workout for women, and Nike Training Club has fixed that with Nike Training Club, a big database filled with bodyweight exercise routines to get you moving quickly.

Users can select workouts based on their desired goals (sculpting, toning, strength and quick workouts that focus on different areas of the body) and relative fitness capabilities. This means that there is something for beginners and also fitness junkies looking to switch up their routines. You can also sync your own music to the workout, providing a seamless session that lets you get your sweat on.

4. Google Now

If you’re all about making small lifestyle changes to help you lose extra pounds -- like climbing the stairs instead of taking the elevator or walking to lunch instead of driving -- then you’ll be pleased to know that you can track it all without springing for a pedometer. Google Now quietly introduced a fitness tracking feature to its list of helpful information, so its simple to see how many steps or miles you’ve done in your day.

There’s no extra features beyond a simple number, but sometimes that’s all you need to get motivated.

5. FitRadio

Workout mixes are vital to pushing you further, whether it’s reaching the top of the next hill or turning up the speed on the treadmill. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a lackluster or stale mix can keep you from really getting into it, and you’ll spend your workout cycling through your endless music library instead of pushing through a workout.

FitRadio is a good option to cure bad music blues, offering a series of flowing mix playlists specifically designed to keep your heart rate up and in the groove. The app offers a selection based on genres, and plenty of different professional DJ mixes to ensure that your playlist options are varied. You can save your favorites and go back to them anytime.

6. Zombies, Run!

Maybe great music isn’t enough for you to push yourself and keep at the exercise habit. Would zombies change your mind?

Zombies, Run! is an interactive running app that casts the user as Runner 5, an important equipment handler and gatherer for the upstart post-apocalyptic survivor town, Abel Township. As you run, zombies are hot on your tail, and the app will cut into your music to tell you that they’re gaining fast. You also “collect equipment” along the way to help service Abel Township and make it stronger against the oncoming hordes. There are 23 missions to play through, as well as a 20k mission challenge, so there’s plenty zombie goodness to keep you running for a while.

7. Pocket Yoga

If your idea of fitness is less treadmill and more Trikonasana, then you also know that a yoga habit (especially in a big city) can be a pricey and rigid one. The best benefits come to those who practice yoga faithfully every day, but not many people have the time or money to make that a reality.

Pocket Yoga is a very simple way to workaround the constraints of practicing yoga by bringing full yoga workouts to your smartphone. Simply roll out your mat and follow along with the poses on your phone. For beginners, there’s a handy pose dictionary that describes each movement in detail, and there are plenty of advanced poses available for experts.

8. Instant Heart Rate

The whole point of exercise is to keep an active heart rate, but actually checking a pulse during a workout can be a pain. Exercise watches with built-in heart monitors can be expensive, and more traditional chest monitors can feel bulky and awkward in a fitness setting.

Enter Instant Heart Rate, an app that takes accurate pulse measurements by utilizing a smartphone’s camera to measure color changes in the tip of a pointer finger. Just click the “Measure” icon, cover your camera lens with your finger, and the app will track the rate of your heartbeat as well as produce a PPG readout of every single beat. The whole process takes less than 30 seconds total, and it keeps a detailed log of every heart rate test so you can see differences over time.