Trying something new…

I’m happily back home to Susan from cold and rainy Orlando. The ATIA conference took a week of my life and gave me some very exciting ideas about using assistive technology. Today the two of us implemented the second of these. Ironically, I should have thought of this myself a long time ago…

At the conference, a dynamic Deaf high-school junior named Dante explained how he’s leveraged his iPhone as a communication tool using FaceTime (for sign language), messaging to talk with friends and family, and the BuzzCards app by Sorensen for communicating short messages to hearing people who can’t sign. He was justifiably proud of his success, keeping in stride academically in ASL and English while competing as a student athlete.

I have a very dear Bible student who has been deaf his entire life, is not fluent in sign language, and his only other form of communication is home sign. I’d hoped he’d follow the crowd and get himself an iPad (Project Endeavor was an opportunity while it lasted) but his only technology is a digital camera (which he loves) and a portable DVD player (far less lovable). I hadn’t faced the fact that his further progress depends on his comfort level with expensive technology that’s been completely out of reach for him. In that regard, I haven’t been much help at all.

Like Dante, my student has a Sorensen videophone, but unlike Dante he doesn’t do very well with it (for one thing, he never answers; for another, he doesn’t really seem to enjoy communicating through an interpreter). When I am with him and use FaceTime he loves it, but that’s gotten him no closer to getting an iPad or iPhone. I myself use an iPhone for communication constantly and an iPad regularly (JW Library Sign Language!) My friend, on the other hand, is hemmed in by daunting barriers including the high cost of iOS devices, no transportation, no Internet access, no credit, no employment… how could I have been so unreasonable in my expectations for so long?

At the conference, one topic taken up was cost vs. benefit: how is assistive technology (like the iPad) to be distributed so that nothing is wasted? Trucking in crates of iPads and dealing them out like cards seems not to be the answer; too often they end up in a drawer, batteries dead and unjustly blamed for their own uselessness. A better method put forward is to start from a small lending library of tech; identify a person who could potentially benefit, and establish criteria as to what success would look like. After a timed trial (say, three months) if the data shows improvement, then (and only then) effort is put into buying/selling/obtaining personal tech for the user. On the other hand, if there’s no data supporting improvement, the tech goes back to the lending library and we try something else.

As I listened to the discussion in our workshop, I realized that my friend is never going to get what he needs on his own (I shouldn’t have needed a week at a conference to figure this out, but that’s what happened). Today, Susan and I came up with a plan. A used iPad 2, a shockproof case I saw disturbingly demonstrated at the trade show this week, a second-hand wireless router and optimism are all we need to start our lending library. Either my friend will respond to training by learning to make and accept FaceTime calls and using the JW Library app and will agree to pay for the hardware on an installment plan… or I just got myself a new (previously loved) iPad with a clunky orange case. We are very excited…

3 thoughts on “Trying something new…”

  1. Wow! It’s amazing you are doing all this for your student! The joy of helping someone learn the truth is amazing, even with its difficulties! I will pray so that Jehovah blesses your arduous efforts! 🙂

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