ATU277 – Cough Drop AAC

first_imgPodcast: Play in new window | DownloadYour weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.Show Notes:Cough Drop AAC | Brian Whitmer Founder of CoughDrop | www.mycoughdrop.com | [email protected] Sway for iOS updated with Accessibility view support – MSPoweruser http://buff.ly/2cFaV0iIsraeli Researcher Invents Devices Allowing Blind People to “See” Via Vibrations, Sounds http://buff.ly/2cnuQNTDisability Advisory Committee http://buff.ly/2cY7TC2App: Top 5 Education Apps from www.BridgingApps.org——————————If you have an AT question, leave us a voice mail at: 317-721-7124 or email [email protected] out our web site: https://www.eastersealstech.comFollow us on Twitter: @INDATAprojectLike us on Facebook: www.Facebook.com/INDATA——-transcript follows ——BRIAN WHITMER: Hi, I’m Brian Whitmer. I’m the founder of CoughDrop, and this is your assistance technology update.WADE WINGLER: Hi, this is Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals crossroads in Indiana with your Assistive Technology Update, a weekly dose of information that keeps you up-to-date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.Welcome to episode number 277 of Assistive Technology Update. It’s scheduled to be released on September 16, 2016.BRIAN WHITMER: Hi, I’m Brian Whitmer. I’m the founder of CoughDrop, and this is your assistance technology update.WADE WINGLER: Hi, this is Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals crossroads in Indiana with your Assistive Technology Update, a weekly dose of information that keeps you up-to-date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.Welcome to episode number 277 of Assistive Technology Update. It’s scheduled to be released on September 16, 2016.Today I have a conversation with Brian Whitmer who is the founder and CEO of CoughDrop AAC, an interesting augmentative and alternative communication company. Also we learn about what some researchers in Israel are doing allowing people to “see” things via vibrations and sounds. The FCC is looking for new members of its advisory Council on disability, and the folks over at BridgingApps have top five educational apps that they want you to know about.We hope you’ll check out our website at www.eastersealstech.com, send us note on Twitter at INDATA Project, or give us call on our listener line at 317-721-7124.If you are familiar with Microsoft’s way, it is a tool that can be used for presentations or newsletters telling stories, a very visual thing, sort of a competitor or replacement to PowerPoint. If you use that, you might be happy to know that Microsoft is including accessibility in that. In fact, they have an app for iOS that was delayed a little bit so that they could include accessibility. It has an accessibility view that allows for reduced animation, high contrast, and a voice over optimize layout. I haven’t spent a lot of time with sway yet but now maybe I am so wait to do so to check it out to see if something that’s helpful. I’m glad to know they made the iOS version accessible. Check our show notes.[Foreign Language]WADE WINGLER: What you’re hearing there is an audio excerpt from a video that I found at TheTower.org. The headline reads, “Is Really researcher invents devices allowing blind people to “see” via vibrations.” Professor Amir Ahmedi is a world renowned leader in brain and multisensory research at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He’s got a couple of things here that I’m fascinated with. One is called iCane that is shaped like a flashlight allowing people who are blind or visually impaired navigate their environment. This one you just heard about is called iMusic. The idea is that somebody who is blind or visually impaired can listen to these soundscape’s and interpret visually the things that are being represented. What the user and the video appears to be blind is saying that he is being asked questions about what you see, what you recognize, and he says I recognize Nicholas, and I can tell because he has a comb-over and black hair. It’s interesting research being done here where these folks are being presented with audio scapes, all kinds of interesting information, and being taught to interpret the information into a visual representation. A lot going on here in this article, a lot of details about the research and how it’s working and some of the technical stuff, also a couple of interesting YouTube videos that show what seem to be beta research devices being used. I’m going to stick a link in the show notes and encourage you to check out what Professor Ahmedi is doing over there in Israel, along folks who are blind or visually impaired to see things based on the soundscape’s. Check our show notes.The Federal Communications Commission is getting ready to renew its disability advisory committee. This is a group of individuals or organizations who spent some time with the FCC in Washington DC guiding them on disability related issues within their jurisdiction. The deadline for application is October 14, just before midnight, and they are looking for folks who can spend time, three one-day meetings a year, in Washington DC talking with them about these disability issues. It doesn’t look like there’s going to be payment or honoraria for folks who are traveling to DC, although it says they may have some limited funds to partially reimburse travel expenses of members who demonstrate need. I’ll quote from the press release here. It says, “The commission seeks applications from interested consumer organizations, industry and trade associations, corporations, governmental entities, and individuals that wish to be considered for membership on the committee.” If you are interested in and helping the FCC out with their disability accessibility issues, I’m going to pop a link in the show notes over to the public notice we can find the application and all the details. Check our show notes.Each week, one of our partners tells us what’s happening in the action world of apps, so here’s an app worth mentioning.AMY BARRY: This is Amy Barry with BridgingApps, and in the segment I’m sharing our top five educational apps for high school students. All of the apps are free and available for iOS and android devices.The first app, Quizlet: Learn with Flash Cards and Study Tools, is a simple note card app to replace all those paper flashcards. Quizlet can help a range of learners practice skills. This app is great with general education, low literacy, and DLL students as well as students with learning disabilities. You can create your own flashcards within the app or choose from millions created by other users on thousands of subjects. Quizlet is a must-have app for students to study anything, anywhere.The next app is Photomath camera calculator. Photomath is an amazing free resource that can provide an instantaneous math lesson by taking a photo with your mobile device. Yes, this is a super handy app that assists users by solving handwritten and typed math problems. It really is that simple. You just download and begin using. Photomath currently supports basic arithmetic, fractions, decimal numbers, linear equations, and several functions like logarithms. And support for new math is constantly being added in new releases.The next app, Kahn Academy: You Can Learn Anything, is great for typically developing students as well as those with learning disabilities. Kahn Academy really does allow students to learn almost anything for free, and we love Kahn Academy. Learn using videos, interactive exercises, and in-depth articles in math, science, economics, and even the humanities. With playlist on history, civics, finance, and more.The next app is called Remind: Fast, Efficient School Messaging. This app is perhaps the most innovating and must-have app and service for students, teachers, and parents in 2016. Remind is a free service that enables teachers to send out mass emails and texts to students and parents without exposing their private number or the numbers of all of the people being contacted. A feature that appeals to teens is the option to receive reminder messages via text. The combination of customization and the mobile app make Remind indispensable.The last app is a Duolingo: Learn Languages for Free. This is an interactive app that teaches new languages. Users can learn French, Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, and many more on their mobile device. This app is entertaining, super easy to use, and motivating. Duolingo is ideal for ESL, ELL students, world language classes, and anyone who wants to become bilingual.All five of the apps mentioned are free and available at the iTunes and Google Play stores. I more information on this app and others like it, visit BridgingApps.org.WADE WINGLER: Augmentative communication has been around for a while, and in the last few years, I’ve seen several apps come into the marketplace. Even though I’ve seen some similarities and overlap in the features of some of those apps, I’ve been recently introduced to one. It’s called CoughDrop. I think it does some things differently and unique. Pretty clever stuff. I’m thrilled today to have Brian Witmer who is the founder of CoughDrop. He’s going to join us today and talk with us a little bit. Before I go ahead, Brian, are you still on the line?BRIAN WHITMER: Hey, Wade. It is again for inviting me to the podcast.WADE WINGLER: We are excited to have you and I appreciate your time to be here today. Before we start talking technical stuff, I want to know a little bit about you. Tell me about your background and how you became involved in the field of augmentative and alternative communication and CoughDrop.BRIAN WHITMER: My background is in technology. I got a Masters degree in computer science, specifically with an emphasis on human computer interactions, which is a science of how people in technology interface and how to make that easier and less frustrating and approachable and intuitive. Out of school I started a company called Instructure and we built Canvas which is a learning platform that is used in at the educational space by over 15 million users at this point. It was a great project, got really big, and very happy. I learned a lot about universal design for learning, some best practices around accessible technology. As I was going on, about the same time that we started Instructure, we had our first child. My oldest daughter Becca who is now nine years old, she has Rett Syndrome, so she’s nonverbal, in a wheelchair, she has poor motor control. But we sort of always knew that technology was going to be important part of her comedic Asian strategy. As we start looking at the apps and devices and tools that were out there, I felt like there was some potential, a lot of opportunity to move the industry forward, so I started reaching out to speech path’s and OT’s throughout the country and collaborated with about 30 people around the country to build something that could be a little bit different and better for my daughter and also for other struggling communicators.WADE WINGLER: Let’s talk a little bit about CoughDrop. Obviously you did some research into what the industry had, what’s available. Tell me what CoughDrop does. What’s the user expands like? How is it different from some of the other apps in this space?BRIAN WHITMER: When we started reaching out to speech path’s and OT’s and AT specialists throughout the country, because of my background in HCI and reusable systems, I could come to it and say this is what’s always been done in a sea and this is how the technology has always worked. I had to start out asking some pretty basic questions and really get my feet under me which is great because I could ask what you might think I really obvious questions, but when you ask different people you get different answers. I started getting some insights on what were the hot button issues and what were the points that people were trying in the industry and were struggling a little bit. Some of the things that came up at the top with experts around the country was there with her over and over again, look, we love this technology; we love that opens up the convocation opportunity for individuals; but we worry so much about the device that it’s on because if that device breaks or for you to take it away to program buttons, leave it over the weekend so I can add some bonds for you. Or if we are doing some modifications, we actually take the device away and remove that communication. There are a lot of issues that it’s tied to the specific device. Also people would say – so often we hand out a communication tool, and augmentative communication tool, and we don’t know what’s going on with them. We don’t have insights to see if it’s working or not. We don’t know what’s happening in the home or the classroom or even the therapy room. To be fair, the people we are handing it to cut the parents, caregivers, teachers depending on the age level, they don’t necessarily know what they’re supposed to be doing either. So we tried to tackle those two big problems as we build CoughDrop and say how can we free things up so they are not quite tied to the device. That’s why CoughDrop is in the cloud. Everything is automatically backed up to the cloud and you can read it on multiple devices. You can switch device that you need to. Also because of that cloud syncing, we have reports that are built in so you can see how it’s getting used, and the whole team around the communicator has a collaborative space to be able to coordinate and say this is our strategy right now, let’s all work towards the same goal.WADE WINGLER: Then make a ton of sense. Obviously, cloud computing is changing the way the world works, especially when we talk about services for folks with disabilities, but I guess I didn’t understand the whole back and side of that. The system will allow end-users and educators and parents and really the entire AAC support team to sort of do back and work while the device is still being used?BRIAN WHITMER: Exactly. Everything is not living on the device anymore. Because it’s on the cloud, everything is automatically backed up. You as a therapist or caregiver, you can log in on a website, you can install the app on your tablet or phone, and you can do anything from making changes to reports – so if you need to do some tweaking, you don’t have to wait to that person is in bed or not using their device. You can do it on your own timeline. Everything will automatically stay in sync across all of the devices. It also gives visibility to the whole team. Everyone gets their own login. We don’t have to share logins and passwords. But then we connect accounts together, sort of like Facebook friends. Therapists and caregivers and parents and teachers can be connected to all of the individuals they are working with, and they can quickly jump through and see reports of all souls individuals. They can see usage reports if they’ve turned on login. They could see what kind of medication is happening. He really gets a lot more freedom to investigate and also feel empowered to participate in a comedic Asian strategy.WADE WINGLER: I’m fascinated with the data collecting aspect as well so you can see what kind of mitigation is happening. That would let the therapist or parents or educators know where to improve and where to add new language and things like that.BRIAN WHITMER: For example, you could see the words that are being used most often, what are new words that they started to use in the last couple of weeks. You can look at time of day and see when it is getting used or not used. You can say, look, during the school hours it is not getting used, or we are not using it at all on the weekends. How can we better leverage that time? What are some examples. It’s not about spine and everybody, but it’s about being able to coordinate and say let’s have a consistent strategy and work together toward the end goal. Be one that raises another question. Because we’re talking about cloud computing and because we are talking about something as personal as interpersonal, negation, what do you do to ensure privacy and security?BRIAN WHITMER: We take security very seriously at CoughDrop. Locking and all these reports, they are actually off by default, so when you sign up for CoughDrop, you don’t automatically start pushing these things to the cloud. But if you turn it on, it will be there synced up. We use best practices for security. There are great standards that have been set about websites and protecting private information for individuals. We pay a lot of close attention to that and work with our vendors to make sure that we are securing the information so no one has access to it unless you have permission. For example, if you create a bunch of boards, even though they are in the cloud, SLI, one can see them. Only the people you share them with have access to them.WADE WINGLER: That makes sense. The technology and ability to limit users and their support teams to certain areas has been around. I’m assuming with your background in developing LMS, you’ve had a lot of experience with that security as well.BRIAN WHITMER: Exactly. It’s not any different from Google Docs or any other system where you are sharing and things are staying protected.WADE WINGLER: A couple of practical questions about the actual interface and the technology. Is this a picture-based communication system? Literary based communication system? And then what platform does it work on?BRIAN WHITMER: CoughDrop is a great base system. You’re going to have buttons in a grid layout. You could turn on and off the button that you need to. It can be any size. We have templates that are different sizes you can use and you can always build your own. They can be strictly symbols. You can do symbols with words. Or you can use strictly words. There’s also a keyboard that’s built in with completions. So if you have a more advanced communicator or someone who is using some vocabulary that is not going to be represented in a vocabulary set, there’s little flexibility to be able to support whatever their needs are. The one what about platforms? Which operating system is it working on?BRIAN WHITMER: CoughDrop will run on android or iOS. There is also a Windows app. But then it will also work on I will browser. In a system where you can pull up a web browser like chrome or Firefox, you can actually log into CoughDrop, which makes it really nice. If you ever try to manage somebody’s board or make changes on a tablet, it’s really annoying. You have the keyboard sliding up and down, there are pop-ups all over, and it’s kind of hard. We tried to make that easier, but at the end of the day, if you are really working hard, your best bet is to pull up someone who has a dedicated keyboard, something like a laptop, and web-based just raise it up to be able to use whatever system makes the most sense. C1 if you’re running the web, you are almost everywhere at that point. That’s great.BRIAN WHITMER: Even chrome book can install CoughDrop.WADE WINGLER: Let me first of all say the augmentative communication is often known as being expensive and historically has been. How does pressing work? How does CoughDrop impact the cost of a solution for an AugCom user?BRIAN WHITMER: The history of augmentative communication is really expensive. My daughter has an eye tracking system funded by insurance, and it was insanely expensive. You are talking $15,000 for one of the systems. When the iPad came out, it really opened up a lot of opportunities because now all of a sudden we have a cheaper device that we can put some communication tools on. But there is still a lot of opportunity for improvement. When I came here to CoughDrop, I didn’t want to try to build something that was going to price people out of it. We went to build a solution that can work where people are at. CoughDrop as a traditional pricing model. You can pay $200 to buy the app or there’s actually a month-to-month option as well, see can pay six dollars a month and use the system for as long as you need to, which makes it a lot easier for people who are either temporarily using a system or not sure if this is the right one for them. We also provide two months for free, so when you first sign up, you can use it for two months. You can do a long eval and see if it’s going to work for you before you have to fork out any money or any investments. We didn’t want that money to be the deciding factor. We have to run a business so we have to chart something, but having some of this disability has helped open doors for a lot of families and individuals that are looking for a solution.WADE WINGLER: That makes a ton of sense. Our world is moving to software as a service so those price ranges are things that we are pretty accustomed to. Follow up question about that. If you buy the upfront cost cut $200, does the cloud access remain?BRIAN WHITMER: Yes. When you buy $200, you get five years of access. After that there is a discounted price. That’s five years from now so we haven’t decided what that’s going to be yet. Having the flexibility to be able to buy upfront which makes a lot of sense for organizations if there are buying licenses. We have some different prices options for organizations, so school districts and hospitals and programs, where they can buy heads instead of buying for an individual, and then they can distribute those as they need. So if someone leaves, they can take that license and apply to someone else which saves them some additional money as well.WADE WINGLER: That’s great. That makes sense. Talk to me a little bit about how CoughDrop has been received by speech pathologist and educators and parents and some of those professionals who are on the augmentative negation users teams.BRIAN WHITMER: Since we started, but working with speech therapist and communication team members, and really tried at that where we were doing with them. There’s been a lot of excitement from the get-go because those individuals that this is exactly what I need. This is exactly what I don’t have. As we go to conferences and we do presentations, we get a lot of that’s exactly what I want to be, how do I get this, how do I start using this? Or they say I can use is for so-and-so and so-and-so, and I would be so much easier for their parents. And her dad would love to be able to see those reports, and their mom would love to have that information. Or in the hospital setting, I can look at this and see at a glance what’s going on with people that I’m taking care of and I don’t have to walk in each room anymore. There are a lot of value ads that come from the cloud piece and also the coronation piece. There’s been a lot of excitement around that. We have a bunch of users that are actively using CoughDrop. We released it personally about two years ago so we are pretty well established into the development phase. We continue to add things and improve it. It’s very much an established app and we have a lot of excitement around it.WADE WINGLER: So same question but from the user perspective. What are you hearing from users about CoughDrop compared to other AugCom systems?BRIAN WHITMER: A lot of the communicators that start using CoughDrop, some of them have come from other systems. When they do, the thing that they seem to like the most – just from talking to their staff and teams and things – is the fact that we don’t have to take anything away. It becomes a lot easier to be able to personalize the communication where a lot of individuals would say we’re just going to leave it on the template because we don’t really know how to do with it. All of a sudden, it’s easy enough so the team can say we can make those changes, that’s easy to do. So the individual can feel a little more connected to what’s going on it. We also have a lot of individuals who this is their first communication app. There is an individual who is using it on a Windows device with an eye tracker in organ who has had some really good progress just being able to open that communication world and being able to say this is something that wasn’t affordable before, where insurance wasn’t going to be able to help them. You were talking $10,000 to get an eye tracking device or all the software to go with it. But because of the CoughDrop price, they could buy an affordable Windows tablet, an iBar, and then CoughDrop can run on that. All of a sudden it was something that was within their availability. The one as you think about CoughDrop and the future of augmentative communication, what’s in your crystal ball? What kind of things are on the horizon?BRIAN WHITMER: I love the potential that is here with augmentative negation to be able to tie into other systems. I think that there is some really interesting potential around context, adaptive contextual communication pieces. For example, if you go to a movie theater and pull up the movie listings and here’s how I can buy tickets without having to pre-set up all those boards and everything, or you go to a website and can pull up those resources, and those are maintained whether it’s by the actual theater or restaurant or third party. Having that dynamic resources I think can really open up a lot of great opportunities for individuals to have more freedom. I think that there are some additional reports and insights we are working to provide that are going to be really valuable so that we can say here is what we are working for, here is the progress that we are making, here are areas where we are falling short in here or maybe things we can do about it.WADE WINGLER: Your energy is contagious and so is your enthusiasm. I’m sure some folks in my audience are going to want to reach out to you, learn more about CoughDrop and get more information. What would you provide in the way of contact information, website addresses, those kinds of things for folks who do want to reach out and learn more?BRIAN WHITMER: You can always go to the website. There’s a free sign-up. If you go to MyCoughDrop.com, you can sign up for the app and play with it as much as you want to yourself, two months for free. If you want to talk to us, you can reach out to [email protected] That’ll get to me directly. Then we can respond and answer questions. We regularly do trainings and webinars for organizations, so if you are interested in learning more, we would be happy to put something together for your team.WADE WINGLER: Brian Whitmer is the founder of CoughDrop and has been a great guest today. Thank you so much for being with us.BRIAN WHITMER: Thanks again for your time, Wade.WADE WINGLER: Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update? Call our listener line at 317-721-7124, shoot us a note on Twitter @INDATAProject, or check us out on Facebook. Looking for a transcript or show notes from today’s show? Head on over to www.EasterSealstech.com. Assistive Technology Update is a proud member of the Accessibility Channel. Find more shows like this plus much more over at AccessibilityChannel.com. That was your Assistance Technology Update. I’m Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana.***Transcript provided by TJ Cortopassi. For requests and inquiries, contact [email protected]***Today I have a conversation with Brian Whitmer who is the founder and CEO of CoughDrop AAC, an interesting augmentative and alternative communication company. Also we learn about what some researchers in Israel are doing allowing people to “see” things via vibrations and sounds. The FCC is looking for new members of its advisory Council on disability, and the folks over at BridgingApps have top five educational apps that they want you to know about.We hope you’ll check out our website at www.eastersealstech.com, send us note on Twitter at INDATA Project, or give us call on our listener line at 317-721-7124.If you are familiar with Microsoft’s way, it is a tool that can be used for presentations or newsletters telling stories, a very visual thing, sort of a competitor or replacement to PowerPoint. If you use that, you might be happy to know that Microsoft is including accessibility in that. In fact, they have an app for iOS that was delayed a little bit so that they could include accessibility. It has an accessibility view that allows for reduced animation, high contrast, and a voice over optimize layout. I haven’t spent a lot of time with sway yet but now maybe I am so wait to do so to check it out to see if something that’s helpful. I’m glad to know they made the iOS version accessible. Check our show notes.[Foreign Language]WADE WINGLER: What you’re hearing there is an audio excerpt from a video that I found at TheTower.org. The headline reads, “Is Really researcher invents devices allowing blind people to “see” via vibrations.” Professor Amir Ahmedi is a world renowned leader in brain and multisensory research at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He’s got a couple of things here that I’m fascinated with. One is called iCane that is shaped like a flashlight allowing people who are blind or visually impaired navigate their environment. This one you just heard about is called iMusic. The idea is that somebody who is blind or visually impaired can listen to these soundscape’s and interpret visually the things that are being represented. What the user and the video appears to be blind is saying that he is being asked questions about what you see, what you recognize, and he says I recognize Nicholas, and I can tell because he has a comb-over and black hair. It’s interesting research being done here where these folks are being presented with audio scapes, all kinds of interesting information, and being taught to interpret the information into a visual representation. A lot going on here in this article, a lot of details about the research and how it’s working and some of the technical stuff, also a couple of interesting YouTube videos that show what seem to be beta research devices being used. I’m going to stick a link in the show notes and encourage you to check out what Professor Ahmedi is doing over there in Israel, along folks who are blind or visually impaired to see things based on the soundscape’s. Check our show notes.The Federal Communications Commission is getting ready to renew its disability advisory committee. This is a group of individuals or organizations who spent some time with the FCC in Washington DC guiding them on disability related issues within their jurisdiction. The deadline for application is October 14, just before midnight, and they are looking for folks who can spend time, three one-day meetings a year, in Washington DC talking with them about these disability issues. It doesn’t look like there’s going to be payment or honoraria for folks who are traveling to DC, although it says they may have some limited funds to partially reimburse travel expenses of members who demonstrate need. I’ll quote from the press release here. It says, “The commission seeks applications from interested consumer organizations, industry and trade associations, corporations, governmental entities, and individuals that wish to be considered for membership on the committee.” If you are interested in and helping the FCC out with their disability accessibility issues, I’m going to pop a link in the show notes over to the public notice we can find the application and all the details. Check our show notes.Each week, one of our partners tells us what’s happening in the action world of apps, so here’s an app worth mentioning.AMY BARRY: This is Amy Barry with BridgingApps, and in the segment I’m sharing our top five educational apps for high school students. All of the apps are free and available for iOS and android devices.The first app, Quizlet: Learn with Flash Cards and Study Tools, is a simple note card app to replace all those paper flashcards. Quizlet can help a range of learners practice skills. This app is great with general education, low literacy, and DLL students as well as students with learning disabilities. You can create your own flashcards within the app or choose from millions created by other users on thousands of subjects. Quizlet is a must-have app for students to study anything, anywhere.The next app is Photomath camera calculator. Photomath is an amazing free resource that can provide an instantaneous math lesson by taking a photo with your mobile device. Yes, this is a super handy app that assists users by solving handwritten and typed math problems. It really is that simple. You just download and begin using. Photomath currently supports basic arithmetic, fractions, decimal numbers, linear equations, and several functions like logarithms. And support for new math is constantly being added in new releases.The next app, Kahn Academy: You Can Learn Anything, is great for typically developing students as well as those with learning disabilities. Kahn Academy really does allow students to learn almost anything for free, and we love Kahn Academy. Learn using videos, interactive exercises, and in-depth articles in math, science, economics, and even the humanities. With playlist on history, civics, finance, and more.The next app is called Remind: Fast, Efficient School Messaging. This app is perhaps the most innovating and must-have app and service for students, teachers, and parents in 2016. Remind is a free service that enables teachers to send out mass emails and texts to students and parents without exposing their private number or the numbers of all of the people being contacted. A feature that appeals to teens is the option to receive reminder messages via text. The combination of customization and the mobile app make Remind indispensable.The last app is a Duolingo: Learn Languages for Free. This is an interactive app that teaches new languages. Users can learn French, Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, and many more on their mobile device. This app is entertaining, super easy to use, and motivating. Duolingo is ideal for ESL, ELL students, world language classes, and anyone who wants to become bilingual.All five of the apps mentioned are free and available at the iTunes and Google Play stores. I more information on this app and others like it, visit BridgingApps.org.WADE WINGLER: Augmentative communication has been around for a while, and in the last few years, I’ve seen several apps come into the marketplace. Even though I’ve seen some similarities and overlap in the features of some of those apps, I’ve been recently introduced to one. It’s called CoughDrop. I think it does some things differently and unique. Pretty clever stuff. I’m thrilled today to have Brian Witmer who is the founder of CoughDrop. He’s going to join us today and talk with us a little bit. Before I go ahead, Brian, are you still on the line?BRIAN WHITMER: Hey, Wade. It is again for inviting me to the podcast.WADE WINGLER: We are excited to have you and I appreciate your time to be here today. Before we start talking technical stuff, I want to know a little bit about you. Tell me about your background and how you became involved in the field of augmentative and alternative communication and CoughDrop.BRIAN WHITMER: My background is in technology. I got a Masters degree in computer science, specifically with an emphasis on human computer interactions, which is a science of how people in technology interface and how to make that easier and less frustrating and approachable and intuitive. Out of school I started a company called Instructure and we built Canvas which is a learning platform that is used in at the educational space by over 15 million users at this point. It was a great project, got really big, and very happy. I learned a lot about universal design for learning, some best practices around accessible technology. As I was going on, about the same time that we started Instructure, we had our first child. My oldest daughter Becca who is now nine years old, she has Rett Syndrome, so she’s nonverbal, in a wheelchair, she has poor motor control. But we sort of always knew that technology was going to be important part of her comedic Asian strategy. As we start looking at the apps and devices and tools that were out there, I felt like there was some potential, a lot of opportunity to move the industry forward, so I started reaching out to speech path’s and OT’s throughout the country and collaborated with about 30 people around the country to build something that could be a little bit different and better for my daughter and also for other struggling communicators.WADE WINGLER: Let’s talk a little bit about CoughDrop. Obviously you did some research into what the industry had, what’s available. Tell me what CoughDrop does. What’s the user expands like? How is it different from some of the other apps in this space?BRIAN WHITMER: When we started reaching out to speech path’s and OT’s and AT specialists throughout the country, because of my background in HCI and reusable systems, I could come to it and say this is what’s always been done in a sea and this is how the technology has always worked. I had to start out asking some pretty basic questions and really get my feet under me which is great because I could ask what you might think I really obvious questions, but when you ask different people you get different answers. I started getting some insights on what were the hot button issues and what were the points that people were trying in the industry and were struggling a little bit. Some of the things that came up at the top with experts around the country was there with her over and over again, look, we love this technology; we love that opens up the convocation opportunity for individuals; but we worry so much about the device that it’s on because if that device breaks or for you to take it away to program buttons, leave it over the weekend so I can add some bonds for you. Or if we are doing some modifications, we actually take the device away and remove that communication. There are a lot of issues that it’s tied to the specific device. Also people would say – so often we hand out a communication tool, and augmentative communication tool, and we don’t know what’s going on with them. We don’t have insights to see if it’s working or not. We don’t know what’s happening in the home or the classroom or even the therapy room. To be fair, the people we are handing it to cut the parents, caregivers, teachers depending on the age level, they don’t necessarily know what they’re supposed to be doing either. So we tried to tackle those two big problems as we build CoughDrop and say how can we free things up so they are not quite tied to the device. That’s why CoughDrop is in the cloud. Everything is automatically backed up to the cloud and you can read it on multiple devices. You can switch device that you need to. Also because of that cloud syncing, we have reports that are built in so you can see how it’s getting used, and the whole team around the communicator has a collaborative space to be able to coordinate and say this is our strategy right now, let’s all work towards the same goal.WADE WINGLER: Then make a ton of sense. Obviously, cloud computing is changing the way the world works, especially when we talk about services for folks with disabilities, but I guess I didn’t understand the whole back and side of that. The system will allow end-users and educators and parents and really the entire AAC support team to sort of do back and work while the device is still being used?BRIAN WHITMER: Exactly. Everything is not living on the device anymore. Because it’s on the cloud, everything is automatically backed up. You as a therapist or caregiver, you can log in on a website, you can install the app on your tablet or phone, and you can do anything from making changes to reports – so if you need to do some tweaking, you don’t have to wait to that person is in bed or not using their device. You can do it on your own timeline. Everything will automatically stay in sync across all of the devices. It also gives visibility to the whole team. Everyone gets their own login. We don’t have to share logins and passwords. But then we connect accounts together, sort of like Facebook friends. Therapists and caregivers and parents and teachers can be connected to all of the individuals they are working with, and they can quickly jump through and see reports of all souls individuals. They can see usage reports if they’ve turned on login. They could see what kind of medication is happening. He really gets a lot more freedom to investigate and also feel empowered to participate in a comedic Asian strategy.WADE WINGLER: I’m fascinated with the data collecting aspect as well so you can see what kind of mitigation is happening. That would let the therapist or parents or educators know where to improve and where to add new language and things like that.BRIAN WHITMER: For example, you could see the words that are being used most often, what are new words that they started to use in the last couple of weeks. You can look at time of day and see when it is getting used or not used. You can say, look, during the school hours it is not getting used, or we are not using it at all on the weekends. How can we better leverage that time? What are some examples. It’s not about spine and everybody, but it’s about being able to coordinate and say let’s have a consistent strategy and work together toward the end goal. Be one that raises another question. Because we’re talking about cloud computing and because we are talking about something as personal as interpersonal, negation, what do you do to ensure privacy and security?BRIAN WHITMER: We take security very seriously at CoughDrop. Locking and all these reports, they are actually off by default, so when you sign up for CoughDrop, you don’t automatically start pushing these things to the cloud. But if you turn it on, it will be there synced up. We use best practices for security. There are great standards that have been set about websites and protecting private information for individuals. We pay a lot of close attention to that and work with our vendors to make sure that we are securing the information so no one has access to it unless you have permission. For example, if you create a bunch of boards, even though they are in the cloud, SLI, one can see them. Only the people you share them with have access to them.WADE WINGLER: That makes sense. The technology and ability to limit users and their support teams to certain areas has been around. I’m assuming with your background in developing LMS, you’ve had a lot of experience with that security as well.BRIAN WHITMER: Exactly. It’s not any different from Google Docs or any other system where you are sharing and things are staying protected.WADE WINGLER: A couple of practical questions about the actual interface and the technology. Is this a picture-based communication system? Literary based communication system? And then what platform does it work on?BRIAN WHITMER: CoughDrop is a great base system. You’re going to have buttons in a grid layout. You could turn on and off the button that you need to. It can be any size. We have templates that are different sizes you can use and you can always build your own. They can be strictly symbols. You can do symbols with words. Or you can use strictly words. There’s also a keyboard that’s built in with completions. So if you have a more advanced communicator or someone who is using some vocabulary that is not going to be represented in a vocabulary set, there’s little flexibility to be able to support whatever their needs are. The one what about platforms? Which operating system is it working on?BRIAN WHITMER: CoughDrop will run on android or iOS. There is also a Windows app. But then it will also work on I will browser. In a system where you can pull up a web browser like chrome or Firefox, you can actually log into CoughDrop, which makes it really nice. If you ever try to manage somebody’s board or make changes on a tablet, it’s really annoying. You have the keyboard sliding up and down, there are pop-ups all over, and it’s kind of hard. We tried to make that easier, but at the end of the day, if you are really working hard, your best bet is to pull up someone who has a dedicated keyboard, something like a laptop, and web-based just raise it up to be able to use whatever system makes the most sense. C1 if you’re running the web, you are almost everywhere at that point. That’s great.BRIAN WHITMER: Even chrome book can install CoughDrop.WADE WINGLER: Let me first of all say the augmentative communication is often known as being expensive and historically has been. How does pressing work? How does CoughDrop impact the cost of a solution for an AugCom user?BRIAN WHITMER: The history of augmentative communication is really expensive. My daughter has an eye tracking system funded by insurance, and it was insanely expensive. You are talking $15,000 for one of the systems. When the iPad came out, it really opened up a lot of opportunities because now all of a sudden we have a cheaper device that we can put some communication tools on. But there is still a lot of opportunity for improvement. When I came here to CoughDrop, I didn’t want to try to build something that was going to price people out of it. We went to build a solution that can work where people are at. CoughDrop as a traditional pricing model. You can pay $200 to buy the app or there’s actually a month-to-month option as well, see can pay six dollars a month and use the system for as long as you need to, which makes it a lot easier for people who are either temporarily using a system or not sure if this is the right one for them. We also provide two months for free, so when you first sign up, you can use it for two months. You can do a long eval and see if it’s going to work for you before you have to fork out any money or any investments. We didn’t want that money to be the deciding factor. We have to run a business so we have to chart something, but having some of this disability has helped open doors for a lot of families and individuals that are looking for a solution.WADE WINGLER: That makes a ton of sense. Our world is moving to software as a service so those price ranges are things that we are pretty accustomed to. Follow up question about that. If you buy the upfront cost cut $200, does the cloud access remain?BRIAN WHITMER: Yes. When you buy $200, you get five years of access. After that there is a discounted price. That’s five years from now so we haven’t decided what that’s going to be yet. Having the flexibility to be able to buy upfront which makes a lot of sense for organizations if there are buying licenses. We have some different prices options for organizations, so school districts and hospitals and programs, where they can buy heads instead of buying for an individual, and then they can distribute those as they need. So if someone leaves, they can take that license and apply to someone else which saves them some additional money as well.WADE WINGLER: That’s great. That makes sense. Talk to me a little bit about how CoughDrop has been received by speech pathologist and educators and parents and some of those professionals who are on the augmentative negation users teams.BRIAN WHITMER: Since we started, but working with speech therapist and communication team members, and really tried at that where we were doing with them. There’s been a lot of excitement from the get-go because those individuals that this is exactly what I need. This is exactly what I don’t have. As we go to conferences and we do presentations, we get a lot of that’s exactly what I want to be, how do I get this, how do I start using this? Or they say I can use is for so-and-so and so-and-so, and I would be so much easier for their parents. And her dad would love to be able to see those reports, and their mom would love to have that information. Or in the hospital setting, I can look at this and see at a glance what’s going on with people that I’m taking care of and I don’t have to walk in each room anymore. There are a lot of value ads that come from the cloud piece and also the coronation piece. There’s been a lot of excitement around that. We have a bunch of users that are actively using CoughDrop. We released it personally about two years ago so we are pretty well established into the development phase. We continue to add things and improve it. It’s very much an established app and we have a lot of excitement around it.WADE WINGLER: So same question but from the user perspective. What are you hearing from users about CoughDrop compared to other AugCom systems?BRIAN WHITMER: A lot of the communicators that start using CoughDrop, some of them have come from other systems. When they do, the thing that they seem to like the most – just from talking to their staff and teams and things – is the fact that we don’t have to take anything away. It becomes a lot easier to be able to personalize the communication where a lot of individuals would say we’re just going to leave it on the template because we don’t really know how to do with it. All of a sudden, it’s easy enough so the team can say we can make those changes, that’s easy to do. So the individual can feel a little more connected to what’s going on it. We also have a lot of individuals who this is their first communication app. There is an individual who is using it on a Windows device with an eye tracker in organ who has had some really good progress just being able to open that communication world and being able to say this is something that wasn’t affordable before, where insurance wasn’t going to be able to help them. You were talking $10,000 to get an eye tracking device or all the software to go with it. But because of the CoughDrop price, they could buy an affordable Windows tablet, an iBar, and then CoughDrop can run on that. All of a sudden it was something that was within their availability. The one as you think about CoughDrop and the future of augmentative communication, what’s in your crystal ball? What kind of things are on the horizon?BRIAN WHITMER: I love the potential that is here with augmentative negation to be able to tie into other systems. I think that there is some really interesting potential around context, adaptive contextual communication pieces. For example, if you go to a movie theater and pull up the movie listings and here’s how I can buy tickets without having to pre-set up all those boards and everything, or you go to a website and can pull up those resources, and those are maintained whether it’s by the actual theater or restaurant or third party. Having that dynamic resources I think can really open up a lot of great opportunities for individuals to have more freedom. I think that there are some additional reports and insights we are working to provide that are going to be really valuable so that we can say here is what we are working for, here is the progress that we are making, here are areas where we are falling short in here or maybe things we can do about it.WADE WINGLER: Your energy is contagious and so is your enthusiasm. I’m sure some folks in my audience are going to want to reach out to you, learn more about CoughDrop and get more information. What would you provide in the way of contact information, website addresses, those kinds of things for folks who do want to reach out and learn more?BRIAN WHITMER: You can always go to the website. There’s a free sign-up. If you go to MyCoughDrop.com, you can sign up for the app and play with it as much as you want to yourself, two months for free. If you want to talk to us, you can reach out to [email protected] That’ll get to me directly. Then we can respond and answer questions. We regularly do trainings and webinars for organizations, so if you are interested in learning more, we would be happy to put something together for your team.WADE WINGLER: Brian Whitmer is the founder of CoughDrop and has been a great guest today. Thank you so much for being with us.BRIAN WHITMER: Thanks again for your time, Wade.WADE WINGLER: Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update? Call our listener line at 317-721-7124, shoot us a note on Twitter @INDATAProject, or check us out on Facebook. Looking for a transcript or show notes from today’s show? Head on over to www.EasterSealstech.com. Assistive Technology Update is a proud member of the Accessibility Channel. Find more shows like this plus much more over at AccessibilityChannel.com. That was your Assistance Technology Update. I’m Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana.***Transcript provided by TJ Cortopassi. For requests and inquiries, contact [email protected]***Share this…TwitterFacebookPinterest1LinkedInEmailPrint RelatedATU188 – Wheel Life & The Bally Foundation, Look at Me app for Autism, Applevis’ Golden Apple Awards, Birdhouse for AutismJanuary 2, 2015In “Assistive Technology Update”ATU228 – iOS 9 and Its Impact on People with Disabilities | Luis Perez | Free AT Webinars, Insulin and Blood Sugar Monitoring on Your Smart Phone, Robots and AutismOctober 9, 2015In “Assistive Technology Update”ATU302 – SOSQR Emergency ApplicationMarch 10, 2017In “Assistive Technology Update”last_img read more

Read More →