Talking Technology

May 10, 2024

Recently, I was invited to speak to a group of parents about the importance of future planning. In addition to talking about why it matters so much, especially for families with disabilities, I plan to spend time discussing why it’s so scary. And easy to avoid. If “failing to prepare is preparing to fail,” as Benjamin Franklin once said, why do we put it off? What are we so afraid of?

For many of us, living in the moment is exhausting. Carving out time to plan for the future often seems like a luxury. Furthermore, why start asking questions if we don’t have all the answers? John F. Kennedy is quoted as saying that “the time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.” Perhaps that time is now (or maybe in the coming new year). Perhaps there are baby steps we can take to help us begin to think about the future and plan for our growing children with disabilities — and ourselves.

To that end, today’s issue of Another Normal focuses on assistive technology. Leveraging technology, even in small and inexpensive ways, can help young people help themselves, regardless of disability. Isn’t this what we strive for as parents, caregivers, teachers and service providers? Hopefully, you can leverage something here to help someone in your life. (And maybe enjoy some holiday shopping, too.) I also invite you to share any information you have on this subject through the “leave a comment” buttons. Other readers will be grateful, as will I.

If you want to dip your toe in the “future planning” water in 2022, please contact me. I’d love to talk further and see if I can help. Meanwhile, thanks for being here. And happy December! 

Look closely at the present you are constructing. It should look like the future you are dreaming.

— Alice Walker

Share and share alike.


It’s always made me a little sad that our son can’t enjoy curling up with a good book on the couch. I often wondered if he would ever love to read. Thankfully, Bookshare has changed all that, and we’re forever grateful. This web-based technology provides access to more than 1 million digitized books for individuals with a qualifying disability. Use the platform to customize reading experiences with ebooks, audio, audio + highlighted text, braille, large font, and other formats. Titles are accessible on a wide variety of devices, and it’s free to all U.S. students (and costs less than $1/week for non-students with disabilities). Excellent for school, work, or simply to help foster a love of reading. Learn more here, and maybe you’ll join the fan club, too.

Smarty pants.

People often think a smart home = an expensive home. Our experience couldn’t be farther from the truth. Over the past few years, we’ve experimented with and embraced a number of low cost technologies in an effort to encourage our son’s independence. A smart plug in his bedroom allows him to turn the light on and off with his voice when entering the room and at bedtime. (I also use it when my hands are full!) He uses his Amazon Echo constantly to make voice-activated phone calls, play music and podcasts, create and maintain shopping lists and so much more. Alexa even helps him check the weather before he selects what clothes to wear each day. We’ve also had great success with a fairly simple home monitoring system that enables us to check on him, help his caregivers, and maintain 24/7 access between our home and his apartment. All this through the use of a phone app that even I have mastered. Check out these and other great ideas here. What do you recommend that others might try?

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Worth the wait.

Alexa Together is a new Amazon subscription service that’s expected to launch in early 2022. For as little as $20/month, families can use it to support loved ones more safely from afar. It includes a 24/7 urgent response service, fall detection features, and the ability to communicate with a “circle of support” team, set daily reminders, and much more. The service can be activated on any Amazon Echo model and is free for the first six months.


Look Mom…no hands.

Although safe and affordable self-driving cars are still “down the road” in most places, I find my heart skips a beat when I think of what they might enable people to do. So many promising benefits for people with disabilities, the planet, and everyone else. Here’s an excellent read and video below on the subject. Does this make you excited or terrified?

Game on.

Twenty years ago, our son used his first computerized game. His eyes lit up. His laughter was infectious. His parents were elated. So many great advancements since then — and I’m thrilled to see how accessible video games are becoming. Research shows they help enhance mental, emotional and physical wellness — plus, they’re just fun! Becky explains this much better than I ever could. Take a listen.

Microsoft is really a leader in this area, and I’m really impressed with their Teach Access initiative. This collaboration between tech giants and leading educational institutions also includes disability advocates and seeks to make the fundamentals of digital accessibility, including design principles and best practices, a larger part of undergraduate education. Its mission is to better prepare students when entering the workforce to create technologies that are truly inclusive. Said one enthusiastic gamer, “Not too long ago, I had to just sit and watch my brother play. Now I can play too — and beat him!” What’s not to love?

Microsoft wants to hear from gamers who require things like an adaptive Xbox controller to better understand how they can improve the gaming experience for everybody. Contact the company here. Also check out Everyone Can for additional resources and accessible gaming fun, along with this list of recommended games for users with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Interested in learning more about one-to-one coaching? Contact Kris for information on what this might look like for you, including outcomes, availability, fees and more.

Contact Kris

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