Tamara is part of the JEVS Supported Independent Living program which provides customized supports to help her maintain her independence. As part of the services provided, Tamara received an Assistive Technology assessment to determine possible assistive technology solutions that could help her meet her goals.
Assistive Technology (AT) allows individuals to work around their challenges and perform functions that might otherwise be difficult or impossible. Along with specific devices, software or equipment, Assistive Technology also includes direct training and instruction to the user. AT often means increased independence, safety, and autonomy.
JEVS Assistive Technology Professional Madeline Laquer determined Tamara could benefit from AT in several ways. “Her goals included improving her literacy skills and also to access smart home technology for routines and medication reminders,” said Laquer.
Laquer conducted an assessment, and determined Tamara would benefit from an iPad, which she was able to trial for two months through TechOWL, Pennsylvania’s designated Assistive Technology Act Program.
Next the two went to a library and got Tamara a library card. “One of her goals was to learn how to read, so she could read a book to her kids,” said Laquer. “So I thought she could start with books and add them to an App on the iPad call Speechify.”
Speechify was originally created for people with dyslexia who struggle to read. It allows a user to transpose written text to a digital file, which it renders with audio. “So Tamara has actually been able to take snapshots from her library books, which then get transferred to a digital file,” explained Laquer. “Once the file is in her Speechify app she can open it and follow along while the app reads it to her. She can customize the voice and rate of speech, and another nice feature is the text is highlighted as it is being read aloud. Plus, it’s free!”
After the two month trial, the benefits were obvious, so JEVS supplied Tamara with her own iPad through a grant.
“When I got that new tablet, I was so happy!” said Tamara.
Another goal of Tamara’s was to learn how to access smart home technology, so JEVS provided her with an Amazon Echo. “Alexa on Echo tells me the SEPTA bus schedule, and sets alarms,” said Tamara.
“What’s really neat is that the Amazon Echo is also supporting her literacy development,” said Laquer. “Since the device has an auditory component, Tamara actually sees the words on the screen and it is reinforced by what Alexa reads aloud to her. This makes a huge difference.”
Laquer reports that Tamara has blossomed since she started using Assistive Technology. “I’m really proud of Tamara. She is so much more confident now, and so positive about it. She’s worked really hard.”
“I’m learning little by little,” said Tamara. “It’s really fun!”