Learn the Valuable Impact of Assistive Technology

In today’s technological age, we get to do so many things. We can drive, we can access the internet at the tip of our fingers – we can even talk to our phones and computers and have them talk back! We take the ability to drive, to pick up a phone, to type an email, and a variety of other things as granted.  But for some people they aren’t.  There are those of us who for any reason cannot see, cannot hear, cannot walk, cannot talk, or may even be unable to move their limbs.  Before, these people were often left without the ability to do certain things on their own. They relied on others for so many things that we take for granted every day! We don’t realize just how much Technology can help people. Here a few ways to see just how useful it is!

  1. Orally Controlled objects.

This is a really amazing new piece of technology that is meant for quadriplegics. This technology allows a quadriplegic to control things by using their mouths and any head movement they have.  For example, if someone unable to use their hands or feet wanted to surf the internet – previously, they would have needed to get help for this task to click buttons, etc. Now, with an orally controlled mouse, they are able to do this independently. Similar technology allows them to drive their own wheelchair, or dial a phone. It gives them some of their independence back!

assistive technology

  1. Vocal and Auditory cues.

This is probably one of my favorites.  For those who cannot see, or cannot move limbs – this is also amazingly helpful.  We take voice dial for granted on our phones.  However, with the glass screens of modern phones, a blind person may not be able to use a phone like that if not for voice commands and Spoken responses. With this, you can know who is calling, tell a phone who you want to call, look something up, etc.   It’s even great when people need to make a call on the road! In addition, this same principal can be applied to a computer as well.  It may take a program download or some settings changes, but once it is set up, these people are good to go!

  1. Light aids.

For those who cannot hear, life can be difficult.  This isn’t because deafness is a debilitating disability.  In many ways, it is one of the most easily functional disabilities.  People with hearing loss are still able to cook by themselves, still able to drive, still able to participate in class.  Instead, it has different hardships – social isolation because of lack of hearing, possibly scary incidences when trying to follow directions in a busy place, not being able to hear things and being made fun of – deafness is not an easy disability to live with either and requires help too.  They have technology to allow house lights to flash at the sound of a doorbell.  Conversations can be converted into text on a phone, or video calling is a perfect option. Signs at crosswalks letting pedestrians know to walk – any type of assistive technology not only makes our lives easier, but can make a world of difference to those who use them every day.



Note to Fellow Soccer Moms…the Coolest Blackberry / Iphone App…ever!

Let me start my saying that I am a complete computer geek.  I love technology.  I would not be able to survive without my laptop.  I shop, schedule playdates, plan my meals, search for.....(well...everything), work, & teach my kids with the help of my simple & somewhat vintage (two year old) Toshiba laptop.

I took a step forward in the technology department today by purchasing my very first Blackberry (or "crackberry") cell phone.  Within moments of ripping open the box I started searching for applications (shopping lists, calendars, to-do lists) etc.

Carrying around a cute little phone (mine is cherry red) cvlingoertainly beats lugging around a 17 inch dinosaur laptop.

One of the first "apps" I downloaded (thanks to a variety of positive online reviews) was "Vlingo" which allows you to add tasks, send e-mails, & search the web using voice prompts.

Okay...where do I start with the coolness?  A moment ago (when I was feeling sarcastic) I held the side key of my Blackberry and said, "note to self...get it together".  Later, I held the key and said, "tasks".  Whaddya know....my list of "to-do's" popped up.

(get it together)  (tee hee...) 😉

(send a retirement card to mom)

(send invites to Jenna's birthday party)

....you can also search the web using simple voice prompts like....

(coffee shops in Billings Montana) and "wa-la" a list (via Google or Yahoo) of coffee shops.  Seriously...how cool is that?

Oh..and if you are a facebooker...or twitter'er - you can update your status by pushing a button and telling people what you are doing...in my case "rambling via blog".  🙂

....anyway - needed to share since my blog is all about "simplicity" and I probably saved 30 minutes of tap-tap-tapping texts, searches, etc...using the application vs. my teeny-weeny phone keyboard (and fat fingers). 🙂

My Morning Cup of Sanity Just Got Simpler: Senseo Coffee Maker Review

I can't live without my morning cup of coffee. Here was my routine before I purchased a Senseo coffee maker by Phillips.

  1. Stumble to the kitchen while rubbing my eyes and yawning.
  2. Crack open my huge plastic tub of generic coffee.
  3. Scoop (and spill) the grounds on the counter as I fumble with the flimsy filter.
  4. Wipe up the mess.
  5. Spill water as I try to pour the huge pitcher into the tiny hole on the back of my coffee pot.
  6. Wipe up mess again.
  7. Pull the used filter out of coffee pot. Hold hand under filter to prevent drips as I scurried to the waste basket across the room.
  8. Wash coffee soaked hands and wipe the drips off of the floor (with my socks).

Yesterday, I excitedly went to the door to retrieve my brand new Senseo coffee pot from my UPS man. I was so excited I almost hugged him. I had been wanting one for months and I finally broke down and ordered it.
Here's my new routine.

  1. Stumble to my kitchen.
  2. Place coffee pod into Senseo coffee maker.
  3. Place cup under maker.
  4. Push button.

Wa-la! That's it...(and the coffee is much tastier...and foamy to boot!) The coffee maker holds also 12 cups of coffee in a reserve that you simply have to fill once a day or so (unless you drink as much coffee as me, then you'll be filling it up every few hours. Regardless, it certainly beats going through my old routine every time I wanted a cup. (My socks are cleaner too).
The only reason I didn't get the Senseo maker a few months ago was that they were fairly new and I was afraid that the cost of the coffee pods (coupled with my coffee addiction) would break me. When I saw how inexpensive the pods were becoming at retailers like Costco, Target and Walmart, I gave in. While I am not much of a domestic goddess, I am a coffee goddess.

Just the other day, I drove past my favorite little coffee shop that (used to) have the best coffee in town. My husband was stunned. While I'll occasionally stop in the shop to visit with friends or write, I don't do it because they have better coffee than I do at home. Now, I have my favorite little "shop" right in my home-office.

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Save, Share, Organize and Protect Your Photos for Free with Google’s Picasa Software

Organize your digital photo album with the free Google Pack.

I had a mini-meltdown yesterday.  It was a quiet, rainy afternoon so I decided it would be a great time to organize my photos.  I had piles of photos, CD's, mini-discs and film in a large basket.

On my computer, I placed some of my photos in folders titled "need to be burned to CD", other folders said..."need to upload to web".

I had three separate folders with photos sent to me by relatives.  Did I burn those?  Did I upload those?  EEEEEkkkkkk! 

I also had random pictures on my desktop that I'd used for my blogs.   "Did I print that one yet?" "Did I burn that one?"  "Can I delete it?"  ARGHHhhhhhh!

I wanted to curl up in a ball and cry.

I spent the evening looking for photo organization software.  I am pretty picky and had several criteria that needed to be met:

  • Need to offer easy uploads.
  • Need to offer large amounts of storage.
  • Need to be able to print photos (cheaply).
  • Need to be able to create scrapbooks and journals.
  • Need to be able to share photos easily.
  • Need to be able to easily burn CD's for offline printing.
  • Need to be able to store photos online (in case of fire).
  • Need to be able to organize photos on my desktop.

I read numerous reviews and the software that kept getting rave reviews was Google's Picasa software.  It was free - so I was naturally skeptical.  I decided to make my Mother in Law the guinea pig and I spent the morning at her home organizing photos for her.  I was also stealing them so my motives weren't exactly pure.

Her so-called "system" was almost as bad as mine. Some of her folders were labeled with dates, some were labeled by events and some were random photos family members had emailed her. 

I downloaded Picasa and went to work.  The software immediately pulled every photo file from her computer into a sidebar with the actual photos displayed in the middle of the screen. From there, I was able to create new "albums" where I simply drug the photos into new categories.  It took me less than an hour to organize well over 500 photos! 

I created photo folders for our family, each individual child, all of the grandchildren together, family vacations, holidays and events and birthdays.  I was able to add the same photograph to two or more categories too.

Then I simply clicked, "create a gift CD" and burned CD's for each individual album I'd created for her to keep them safe from any computer meltdowns.

I proceeded to create an online album (that allows me to store 4000+ pictures online *for free*) and I uploaded the photos that I was stealing from her into my personal album where I will be making a photo journal for my daughters 5th birthday and Holiday calendars for the grandparents.

I was stunned at how easy and efficient the whole process was.  I was so impressed that I am going to spend another day scanning in all of our old "pre-digital" childhood photos.

Click the link below to download the software and let me know what you think of it (and my review of it) in the comments section.

Organize your digital photo album with the free Google Pack.

PS:  I've managed to fry three laptops in one year...so photo organization and storage is VERY important to me! 

Trust me, you'll want to back up...and burn yours ASAP! 

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No More Fighting for “The Edge”

Is there anything better than the gooey, chewy edge of a brownie?  The middle part isn't too shabby either, but I've always been a big "edge" fan. 

I've always wished there was a way to make the entire brownie pan taste just like the edge parts but the center pieces (at least when I make brownies) usually have the texture of wheat bread.

I was doing a little "stumbling" tonight and saw a photo of this curious little s-shaped pan that creates a batch of oowie, gooey, chewie edge brownies...for everyone!

Now...if only they could create a muffin pan that made the entire muffin taste like the top! 

Edge Brownie Pan - Baker's Edge

Edge Brownie Pan - Baker's Edge

Fantastic Find of the Day: Hide the Vegetables Kit – Deceptively Delicious

I love this!  I planned to buy the book Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food (after hearing some friends rave about it) but I was worried that I didn't have all of the cooking tools and supplies....steamer, food processor, storage.... etc.

Anyway - I was just searching Amazon.com for the book (and to read the reviews) and I found this "Hide the Vegetables Kit".  Love it!  It contains everything you need to sneak healthy veggies into your kids meals. 

I am going to try a mini-OAMC session this weekend and will be doing a few sneaky tricks with squash and broccoli.  =)

Now...I'll just need to figure out how to keep from giggling and smirking during dinner.  I love being sneaky.  Mu ha ha ha ha ha !

Hide the Vegetables Kit- Deceptively Delicious

Declutter Your Computer With Speed Dial


My computer fried two weeks ago.  Quite honestly, I wasn't thrilled that I lost all of my settings, but I was looking forward to starting off with a clean slate of sorts. 

My computer was starting to look like the catch-all basket I have sitting by my door.  Whenever I have magazines, articles, or other paperwork I want to read later...I toss it in the basket.

I decided to spend a few hours decluttering it.  I tossed files I wasn't using and I streamlined my bookmarks.  One of my absolute favorite finds in my decluttering campaign was the Speed Dial program offered as a Firefox browser add-on

I try to consistently check 8 websites both for my home business and for personal use.   I simply entered the URL's into the program and "wa-la" I have clickable, numbered thumbnails of my favorite places. 

The site also allows you to simply click "Control #" and the assigned site will load automatically.

It is absolutely brilliant!  I don't even use my bookmarks anymore.