CSUN and Assistive Technology

CSUN/Tseng College LogoAssistive Technology (AT) is experiencing amazing growth. An increasing aging population is creating new needs to address. Specialists are needed to identify user needs and connect them to the right AT. Assistive Technology used to focus on hearing, sight, or movement issues. Newer technologies are helping the way we learn and process information. These include:

  • Cognitive aids that help people with challenges in thinking skills
  • Computer software/hardware: voice recognition, screen readers, closed captions
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Machine Learning
  • Neuroscience

Recently, I learned about Assistive Technology programs at Tseng College. Tseng College is a part of California State University, Northridge (CSUN). Located in Los Angeles. One area that it specializes in is programs for mid-career adults. These programs are mostly online. This gives working people the ability to learn new skills on their own time. Instructors, classmates, and field experts create a supportive group environment.

Master of Science, Assistive Technology Engineering
This program is taught by working engineers. Students have hands-on experience in addition to the online course. The program provides:

  • Design experience to create new assistive technology
  • Project and team management skills
  • New technical abilities
  • Ability to define new uses for existing technologies
  • A working portfolio to share work with potential employers

Master of Science, Assistive Technology Studies and Human Services (ATHS)
This program is the first of its kind in Southern California. It creates skilled AT specialists who can:

  • See the connection between human and technology factors
  • Assess AT users’ needs and identify solutions
  • Explain and train the solution to the AT user
  • Translate the legal and political history of AT

New Beginnings with Vision-Aid (Part 4)

Vision-Aid Academy LogoVision-Aid’s overall mission is to enable, educate, and empower people with vision impairment. Part of that commitment includes connecting their community to the expanding possibilities of the digital world. Vision-Aid has built a wide variety of training for its students. Classes are available both in-person and online through Vision-Aid Academy.

Basic

  • introduction to computers;
  • computer applications; and
  • assistive technologies for people with vision impairment.

Intermediate

  • Microsoft Office (including advanced Excel training);
  • Internet;
  • specialized software applications; and
  • mobile technologies.

Advanced

Students can participate regardless of financial circumstances. Willing students have access to equipment and expert volunteers. Advanced students can develop their skills through additional projects. Real-world experience is available through Vision-Aid’s new Digital Accessibility Testing and Training Center.

The confidence gained from this experience has led to industry jobs. Vision-Aid’s hope is to continue building students’ confidence through more projects. I sincerely hope for Vision-Aid’s continued success. You can read more about Vision-Aid’s programs via its new brochure, “Vision-Aid at a Glance” or via the Vision-Aid Website.

New Beginnings with Vision-Aid (Part 3)

Vision-Aid 16 part Service ModelIn 2004, Ramakrishna (Ram) Raju, his wife, Co-Founder, and Vice President, Ravathy Ramakrishna, and a team of energetic volunteers created Vision-Aid. Their initial goal was to identify and address the many needs of people with vision impairment. But their larger mission was to provide a path for people in India with vision impairment to gain personal and professional independence.

Vision-Aid’s research and efforts produced a holistic, 16-element program. This program helps people with vision impairment through every stage of independence development. Vision-Aid’s offerings begin with assessment and training to navigate the challenges of everyday living:

  • orientation and mobility training
  • life-skills training
  • assistive aid and device training (includes braille readers for learning how to read Braille)

Vision-Aid continues to provide educational opportunities through online learning programs accessible through Vision-Aid Academy. They include:

  • basic computer skills (Microsoft Office, Internet, assistive technologies for people with vision impairment)
  • complex computer skills (Python, Digital Accessibility);
  • learning English; and
  • professional skills.

(The new Digital Accessibility Testing and Training Center also gives students the chance to do professional-level projects with supervision)

Vision-Aid’s Professional Development and Employment Assistance services help students connect their skills with industry jobs. This completes their path to independence. Services include:

  • soft skills training;
  • resume writing;
  • coaching/mentoring; and
  • placement assistance.

In addition, Vision-Aid has programs that help educate the public and create new prospects for their community. It has 12 centers across India helping underserved communities. With that broad picture of what Vision-Aid does, my next blog post will focus on how Vision-Aid connects people with vision impairment to the digital world.

New Beginnings with Vision-Aid (Part 2)

Ram and his team investigated building a Web accessibility program within Vision-Aid. It’s initial request for participants quickly produced 30 trainees. Then Vision-Aid turned to Deque University, a leader in digital accessibility training. Deque provides Scholarships for People with Disabilities. Vision-Aid trainees had free access to Deque University’s online program provided by Glenda Sims, Deque’s Team A11Y Lead. Over the next 4.5 months, trainees worked through Deque’s program with a team of expert volunteers. Graduates from the program received Deque University Certificates. The program was so successful that Vision-Aid trained a second round of students. In October 2020, Vision-Aid officially launched its Digital Accessibility Testing and Training Center.

Leading up to the launch, Ram, his team, and I spoke about a pilot program. The pilot would give Vision-Aid graduates the opportunity to work on their first paid project. During the program, 6 of Vision-Aid’s testers reviewed a Website for accessibility issues. Their performance was exceptional. They identified all accessibility issues and proposed real solutions. Ram and his team shared that this pilot was a huge confidence booster for Vision-Aid’s students. Testers were proud of doing productive work comparable to for-profit companies. Due to this experience, several testers proceeded to get industry jobs. Vision-Aid has a wonderful video of the students expressing their gratitude. It made me cry with happiness.

Building an independent life with a visual impairment can be challenging without support. Vision-Aid has created a path with support in all the right places. I am so happy to have been a part of this journey. In my next post, I will share more about Vision-Aid’s work.

New Beginnings with Vision-Aid (Part 1)

Vision-Aid Logo

Last Fall, I took part in a pilot program that meant the world to me. My team at UMass Medical School partnered with Vision-Aid, which helps people with visual impairment in India. India has the highest level of visual impairment in the world. Yet, many of them lack the resources they need to be productive members of society.

Created in 2004, Vision-Aid helps everyone from childhood to adulthood. Its mission is to help people with visual impairment gain independence and pride. The program is volunteer-run and funded by donors and project work. Most of Vision-Aid’s finances go to the communities of visually impaired that it serves. My team pilot-tested Vision-Aid’s new Digital Accessibility Testing and Training Center. The center is led by Vision-Aid Founder and Executive Director, Ramakrishna (Ram) Raju.

I had known Ram through our work with the Boston Accessibility Group. Three years ago, he started a Vision-Aid training program for HTML and CSS in partnership with Our Space Our Place and its Executive Director, Cheryl Cumings. I introduced the students to Web accessibility for people with cognitive disabilities.

MassCONNECT PI for EasyText.AI

I was accepted to a while ago to the MassCONNECT PI Startup Accelerator Program for my EasyText.AI startup (training AI to simplify web text for people with cognitive disabilities).

MassBio logo

MassCONNECT PI is a program of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio). It matches Principle Investigators with subject matter experts and key opinion-leaders from the MassCONNECT network.

The MassCONNECT PI Program helps me:

  • translate my academic research to the market; and
  • expedite the spin-out of that research.

Brian Mullen

Brian Mullen, my MassCONNECT PI Startup Accelerator Advisor, has been providing me with wonderful advice. I love learning from him. I could not ask for a better advisor.

 

 

Appreciation

  • Lucie Rochard, Former Liaison for Scientific & Entrepreneurial Initiatives | Senior Director of Innovation Services, Massachusetts Biotechnology Council.
  • Steven Munevar, Former Senior Business Development Manager for Biomedical Research, University of Massachusetts Medical School.

W3C & OGC Web Maps for Cognitive Accessibility

Maps for the Web LogoOn September 28, 2020, I presented at Maps for the Web. This was a workshop series created and hosted by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC).

Workshops’ Overall Goals

Bring together experts in:

  • geographic standards and Web map data services,
  • Web mapping client tools and applications, and
  • Web platform standards and browser development

to explore the potential of maps for the Web.

Major Areas of Focus

  • improving the usability and accessibility of maps
  • encouraging the design of map-based experiences, and
  • building easier ways for researchers to share content.

I served as a panelist with fellow W3C Accessibility Guidelines Working Group members David Fazio, and John Kirkwood. Our workshop was Web Maps for Cognitive Accessibility (COGA).

Web Maps for COGA Background Info

Notes

W3C Logo

MassVX for EasyText.AI

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I was accepted to a while ago to the MassVX Program for my EasyText.AI startup (training AI to simplify web text for people with cognitive disabilities).

MassVX is a program of the Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center (MTTC). It matches Academic Innovators with Entrepreneurial Champions.

The MassVX Program is helping me:

  • translate my academic research to the market; and
  • expedite the spin-out of that research.

John Ripple, my MassVX Entrepreneurial Champion, has been working with me every week for months. His industry knowledge and sage advice are integral to the successful launch of EasyText.AI. I could not have asked for a better mentor than John.

Appreciation

Suffolk U. for EasyText.AI

Suffolk University BostonThis is a message of appreciation for a Suffolk University team that has been helping me with my startup, EasyText.AI. It’s members include two smart, passionate, resourceful graduate students.

Barbara LaurentJackson Place
""""

The team also includes their wise professors with extensive startup knowledge and experience:

Ken MooneySteve Munevar
""""

The team has been helping me with research, pitch decks, business model canvases, market opportunities, and connections to potential investors.

I cannot thank this team enough!