Last week a few of our team members here at Accessible Web had the privilege of visiting the Center on Disability & Community Inclusion at the University of Vermont! Our goal at Accessible Web is to not only create accessible websites but to gain a better understanding of the kinds of assistive technology available to people when browsing the web. We want to take a deeper look at what’s available to help people on their day to day, and the tools they might use to perform regular tasks.
The building at the former Trinity Campus in Burlington, Vermont houses an Assistive Technology Tryout Center; this center is one of three set up by the Vermont Assistive Technology Program, the other two are located in Waterbury and Rutland. The program itself gives access to over 2,000 piece of assistive technology that are available for both loan and demonstration purposes. Becoming a member is free and, once a member, you too can have access to all this amazing technology.
Leslie Ermolovich, who helps run the center and is an Accessible Technology (AT) Access Specialist, was kind enough to show us around the space and walk through practical uses of each tool. Upon entering the room we saw that Leslie set it up much like a tiny home, this way tools can be seen within their intended context. She created an office area, kitchen area, living room, dining, and spaces for toys and technologies used in outdoor activities.
First stop on our tour was the office area covered in ZoomText Keyboards, keyboard featuring Keyguards, CapTel Caption Telephones, and several variations of the computer mouse.
The kitchen set up featured a number of awesome tools that make cooking less of a daunting task. In Leslie’s kitchen you’ll find special cutting boards, knives, electric jar openers and “reachers” to both help extend ones “grabbing” range, and to prevent burns from the stove and oven.
The Living Area:
This station is used to test out more keyboards and switch boards that turn on and off the technology being used by tapping or a simple touch. Leslie attaches these switches to a number of objects including computers, televisions, phones and even toys. These switches prove helpful for those who struggle with motor function issues who may not have the ability to answer their cell phone or turn on their favorite device.
The Play Area:
Last but not least are the toys! Leslie has a large collection that spans from old school board games to the latest gaming systems and technologies. Many of these items Leslie has adapted herself, including several she customized with cut pool noodles to provide a larger surface area for gripping, switches plugged into gaming systems, or colored labels on instruments and music books.
Choosing the right piece of accessible technology can be a daunting task, especially with the time and cost associated with some pieces. In this way the AT Tryout Center at the CDCI is an invaluable resource for the community. Those interested can try technology at the center, bring home to test, and potentially find a piece of technology that could help enrich their life. If you’re in the Vermont area and are interested in exploring assistive technology, or know someone who might, please visit the Vermont State Assistive Technology Program website or the University of Vermont CDCI office.