Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Part 2 Aug-Comm Eval + Independent non-chain restaurants in Rego Park, Queens

Independent non-chain restaurants in Rego Park, Queens

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As for the second part of my  augmentative communication [aug-comm] device evaluation, at Rusk Institute,  this time I met with Hollie Cohen who does the actual evaluation for the machine.  First we looked at my iPad, and she saw I had Verbally downloaded as a free app.  This is a program developed by two Indian brothers for their mom,  who had lost her speech due to ALS.  This program is even better than my Mercury.  Verbally has word prediction like the Mercury, which means that, when I start typing a word, the machine comes up with possibilities of words that it thinks I want.  But Verbally goes one better:  when I type a word, it comes up with options which predict the NEXT WORD.  Example: I type "I" and it gives a word choice "am", Or I type "supposed" and it gives me "to" and "that"..... really amazing.

There was one big problem with "Verbally" and that was the voices.  There were very few choices, and it was so soft and low that you could hardly hear what the machine was saying.  So I have been using it and people have been reading my messages.  Not the best way to use a speaking device,  but I love the portability of the iPad, and of course, when I am out on the road and on Access-a-Ride, I can read my email, play games, and otherwise amuse myself.

So when I met with Hollie, I expressed my frustration at this shortcoming with Verbally, and she showed me her version [on her iPad], which had been upgraded for $100, and it had different voices, which had a higher volume we could hear, and the capacity to program phrases which could be saved.  She also showed me other apps which were cheaper, and better than the free version of Verbally, but not as good as the upgraded Verbally.

On another subject,  I often say that nobody knows or cares about accessibility until someone close to them becomes disabled, or someone like me fights for accessibility, as I did in my co-op.  Before 1990, businesses and public places were not obligated to provide accessible entrances, restrooms, etc.  And I can recall being at travel agent functions after 1990, and listening to travel agency owners whine and moan about the expense of putting in a ramp, or making other accommodations to make their businesses accessible.  My friend Louise learned through knowing me, how important accessibility is, and became concerned about the lack of a ramp at her church -- St. Luke's -- in Forest Hills, Queens, so she set the wheels rolling a few years ago to build a ramp.  They had to pass through the local organization which governs the historic area where the church is located,  and of course draw up plans with a contractor who was familiar with accessibility.  Luckily they didn't have to raise the funds because someone had left money to the church after her death.  So this week, they began to build the ramp, and Louise is relieved.  They don't have to wait until someone sues the church.  They know the worshipers are not getting any younger.  My point: if you own or are involved with any kind of establishment, make it accessible.  It's the right thing to do.  And people with disabilities should be independent, and not rely on someone else doing everything for them.  People with disabilities are out of the house and in the community, and should be able to patronize every kind of establishment.

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