Family Friendly Tech and Advocacy: Tech Psychologist's Guide by Dr. Jeanne Beckman

Family Friendly Tech and Advocacy: Tech Psychologist's Guide   by Dr. Jeanne Beckman
Finally, a book to help families find the right technology to accommodate reading disorders (dyslexia) and other disabilties! ISBN 978-1-60264-089-4

How to purchase my book

To purchase through Virtual Bookworm (my publisher) you can click Virtual Bookworm Publisher: Tech Psychologist's Guide or
Amazon no longer allows Illinois professionals to get credit for referrals to Amazon due to a sales tax dispute. I will be referring to Powell's in the near future.

What is that TinyURL notation that you see in my blog? For those who use a screen reader, the link that is hidden behind words like Tech Psychologist Guide remains hidden. However, screen readers can read aloud the website address, or URL, if it was produced by Also, sometimes these addresses are so long that they wrap around several lines or overlap into colored areas of a website that obscure the actual address. Intrigued? You can create your own tinyurl's at

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Intriguing Handwriting Tool for Palm Pilots

Many know how difficult it is to use the graffiti for Palm Pilots, opting instead to use the tiny on-screen keyboard. Here's a little program that offers a handwriting option.

Here's what they say:

Using MobileWrite, it is easy to enter text and data, in to your favorite Palm OS applications, by simply writing on the screen of your handheld, instead of using the keyboard. It is an improvement over the Graffiti 1 and Graffiti 2 handwriting recognition software found on many Palm OS PDAs and Smartphones.

Mobile Write PalmOS

MobileWrite gives you an option to use standard printed letters or Graffiti letters. Using the standard letters, capitals and lowercase letters can be written as you normally would on paper. With its standard set of characters, and the ability to write complete words across the entire width of the screen, letter writing or data entry can be done with less effort. Using the Graffiti letters option, data can be entered faster and with increased accuracy thanks to the efficient 1 stroke letters.

MobileWrite supports multiple ways of writing the same character. For example, capital "A", may be written in 4 different ways, and lowercase "a", may be written in 2 different ways. All the supported character styles can be viewed by downloading this software and pressing the "Show" button.

I hope to try this program myself as well as getting feedback from another Palm Pilot user. For more information, go to

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Demystifying People with Disabilities

Have you ever wondered how to interact with those who have disabilities? Here's an article that provides a good place to start:

From the Fred's Head Database...

Monday, October 29, 2007
How Do You Do That? Demystifying People With Disabilities


Nearly all employers and human resource professionals are aware of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Yet, how often do you, your colleagues, or the average individual have contact with someone who is visually impaired/blind, using a wheel chair, or profoundly deaf? When you do, how do you react? Interact? Ignore? Assist? Marvel at their ability to move through their environment living full and productive lives?

What can you do to put yourself and the person with a disability at ease? Well, this is our purpose here. It is not to attempt to answer all your questions. Rather, to discuss appropriate methods for interacting with individuals who are disabled while squelching many myths and misconceptions. You'll learn what to do and not do, techniques and technologies used for employment as well as in daily living.

How many times have you heard the preferred or proper method for interacting with someone with a disability? Probably never, if at all. In fact, the average individual rarely has any contact with someone who is blind, deaf, or mobility impaired. Therefore, you will be exposed to common courtesy rules governing your interactions with these individuals.

How does someone who cannot see a computer monitor or manipulate the keyboard use this most valuable technological tool of the coming century? Techniques of daily living such as setting the alarm clock, cooking on the grill, and the simple task of matching your wardrobe are tasks most of us take for granted. Yet, how would you perform these simple jobs from a wheelchair, without your eyesight, or hearing? You'll learn about specialized tools, adaptive electronic equipment, and techniques used to live a full and productive life.
Communicating ? Putting one another at ease

When you meet or come in contact with an individual who has a disability, be at ease. If you are uncertain how to assist or interact, always speak directly to the individual. After all, they are the experts! You can never go wrong by asking. The experience will be more pleasant for all by remembering and following some simple points of courtesy.

For more, please go to:

Sunday, October 28, 2007

High School football season may have ended in the playoffs, but enjoying sports has no season

For those with disabilities, often they face challenges in changing attitudes about what they "ought" to do as well as facing practical challenges to enjoying sports. Here's a fun video that shows alternate ways to enjoy skiing, racketball, scuba diving, and other sports.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Making a difference

Do you have something to share? Is there a way you can share a talent, skill, something you enjoy, with others? I am always amazed at how some small act, some act of faith in humankind, can make a lasting difference in a person's life.

Today, Mike Leonard, author of The Ride of our Lives, spoke to a group at the Winnetka (Illinois) Womans Club. He shared several stories of people he had met who had done favors or who provided breaks that had lasting effects on his own life.

What can you do? Our local Rotary club is beginning a literacy project where we are providing text-to-speech (scanning) software to our local library so that the Internet and any book or magazine can be accessible to those with vision (including age-related visual difficulties) or other print disabilities such as learning disabilities. In my practice, I have donated funds as well as a new scanner to this project. Local volunteers, including Rotarians, parents, and students, will scan books (it is almost as easy as pressing a button on a copy machine) and provide accessible CDs to circulate with the actual library books. After the project is developed, we are going to "Pay it Forward" to three other Rotary clubs to bring accessibility software/hardware to their local public libraries. Each of those clubs will pay it forward to three others, and so on. Local libraries can then become the hub of learning for everyone of all levels of ability, creating more educated citizens who can then actively participate in giving back in their own ways.

Just remember, a single kind act creates a ripple effect, spreading ever widening circles of change in our world.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Patrick Henry Hughes: a young man who took the "dis" out of disability

See how rich a family's life can be when they work to nurture the abilities in all of their children:

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Free Writing tool

This tool has been described as a free version of the "Inspiration" software program, a visual mapping software for helping to organize writing. The site, uses a version of the mapping software to indicate how it can be downloaded and used. The site uses the following description:

The IHMC CmapTools program empowers users to construct, navigate, share and criticize knowledge models represented as concept maps. It allows users to, among many other features, construct their Cmaps in their personal computer, share them on servers (CmapServers) anywhere on the Internet, link their Cmaps to other Cmaps on servers, automatically create web pages of their concept maps on servers, edit their maps synchronously (at the same time) with other users on the Internet, and search the web for information relevant to a concept map.

The IHMC CmapTools client is free for educational institutions, federal employees working for the US Government, and for individual use (non commercial). In particular, schools and universities are encouraged to download it and install it in as many computers as desired, and students and teachers may make copies of it and install it at home.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Voice Recognition for those with dyslexia

See Rhodri, a 16 year old, explain how he has used Dragon since he was 9 years old for dyslexia and dyspraxia. He explains how he uses it as well as discussing the myths surrounding its use:

Saturday, October 20, 2007

College student with cerebral palsy, demonstrating her use of assistive technology

From Youtube:
"Ellen uses Assistive Technology to go about her day to day life - both at home and in college. Ellen has Cerebral Palsy and has difficulty controlling her body - she is able to access her Assistive Technology using two head switches. Through these head switches, Ellen is able to drive her powered chair, communicate with people, access the computer and internet and control her TV and household equipment."

Technology brings access

From Teacher Tube: "Joe Barnick was born with spinal muscular atrophy and cannot use a keyboard or mouse, yet thanks to assistive technology he can use his computer to do all those things he cannot do in real life. He explains how he uses his computer to design and edit the AssistiveWare Newsletter with Adobe InDesign, write college papers in Word, chat with family and friends with iChat, and buys exotic ingredients and Japanese anime figures on the internet. "
see Joe explain how he uses his computer at or see video below

Friday, October 19, 2007

An open letter to the families of those with autism

Families of the disabled everywhere breathed a sigh of relief when of 18 year old hiker Jacob Allen was found alive. (see You see, Jacob is a young man with autism who is nonverbal and reportedly has difficulties demonstrating an understanding of complex concepts.

Many outsiders do not understand what it is like to meet the complicated needs of those with severe disabilities while also having regular family experiences like hiking. Everything can be going along fine one minute, then the next minute, panic hits when you realize that your son or daughter has disappeared. In other situations, families may realize that their schools failed to tell them that there was technology which might help nonverbal individuals communicate, might help cognitively challenged to read mainstream books and emails, and service animals that might help them to remain safe.

AAC is the term for the communication devices that can include voice output such as that used by physicist Stephen Hawking. You do not have to be a famous physicist to benefit from these devices, as there are many who have autism who have benefited from them. Here is a video of a young boy with autism who uses a Dynavox communicator:

For those who are flight risks and/or exhibit problem behaviors, individuals can use service animals, what I call "warm and fuzzy technology" that can provide tethering, as well as prompting for the individual to begin or stop a behavior. Since dogs are people magnets, they can also provide opportunities for social interactions that might otherwise be limited or nonexistent. Here is a video of a mom with a boy with autism and is nonverbal:

Exit Exam and Disability: Does It Make Sense?

Everywhere, I see articles about governments passing laws requiring students to pass an "exit exam" in order to receive a high school diploma. Those who do not pass the exam, including those with disabilities, receive a certificate to indicate they have completed school but did not receive a diploma. So what's wrong with this picture?

Schools are obligated by law to provide an appropriate education. According to, education is defined as

  • "the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life."
It only makes sense that if students "fail" their curriculum, it is because the school has failed to provide an education that has meaningful benefit for the student. For those with disabilities, the law is clear that the education must be "appropriate," yet every day schools provide watered down curricula in segregated settings that have no resemblance to the opportunities to learn in "regular" settings. A big difference between poor communities and well-to-do communities that is rarely mentioned is that parents in well-to-do communities pay tens of thousands of dollars per year for private tutoring so that their children are adequately prepared for post-high school academic and work settings. Politicians ignore parents' testimony at hearings about what children need, instead listening to administrators who have a vested interest in keeping the focus on blaming the students for the administration's failure.

If someone hires a plumber to install a new sink, and find that the pipes leak, we would not blame the sink for the leaking pipes, instead we would not pay the plumber until the sink was fully functional and the pipes did not leak. If we took our child to a physician for a broken arm, and the physician told us to put the arm in a sling and told us that performing arm curl exercises would heal the arm, we would not accept that it was our child's fault that the arm did not heal. We would sue the physician for malpractice and take our child to a physician who utilized known medical practice to properly set and cast the arm.

What if the teachers had to pass standardized practical exams to demonstrate that they are capable of administering appropriate educational interventions and understand the importance of following standardized protocol? What would happen if school administrators' salaries were tied to yearly, documented performance scores of their teachers in proper, standardized administration of research-validated reading programs? Physicians, psychologists, plumbers, and electricians have to pass exams to prove that they have a command of the essential techniques of their profession before they are allowed to practice independently. Why not teachers and administrators?

High stakes testing for "student failure?" It doesn't make sense to me.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Virtual Magnifying Glass

Virtual Magnifying Glass 3.3 is a free, open source magnifying glass for Windows and Linux. Finally, a quick magnifier when you want to read one of those tiny icons or Windows notifications, but don't need a screen reader with the magnifier. Try it, it's also fun!

Increasing size of text (font) on web browsers and email

Today I found this website that gives instructions for increasing the size of the text (font) in various web browsers. For those with vision difficulties, a bigger text sometimes helps.

Here's what the site says:

This site is designed with you in mind.
You can control the size of the text on every page.

Here's how:

Choose whether you wish to enlarge fonts throughout your computer system or only for this and other web sites.

Please select the type of browser you use —
Internet Explorer

Firefox (Saltmeadow’s pick for best browser)

Netscape 6 or newer (or Mozilla/Beonex)


Other (including AOL)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Introducing Tech Psychologist's Guide™ to Technology and Access Tools

It's Here!

Finally, a book to help families find the right technology to accommodate reading disorders (dyslexia) and other disabilties!

This book is available at my publisher

Also available at Powell's and other online retailers

To see more information about this book, please visit my website at

Can a pencil grip be viewed as assistive technology? Can a book about accessing technology be viewed as assistive technology? Can a research approach and methodology be made accessible to individuals and families? Tech Psychologist’s Guide™ to Technology and Access Tools integrates technology information geared to individuals and parents as well as teachers. It explores the traditional special education system and goes beyond, to guide families raising children as motivated, knowledgeable, and contributing members of society. This book asks whether what we’re asking the student to do is developmentally appropriate, that is, does the student have the same opportunities to learn as his peers in a manner to allow dignity and future growth? This guide is the first book to bring technology tools and strategies to students and their parents as well as educators. Since accessing and acquiring knowledge in school is a major barrier for those with disabilities, this book features technology strategies for curricula and an approach to making learning accessible for students with a wide range of disabilities. Beckman’s emphasis on using practical tools combined with the DIMS Approach™ helps families bring about educational changes by asking the question, Does It Make Sense?

To receive notification when this book is available, please visit my website at

Sunday, October 14, 2007

IBIDA Conference

Sunday, October 14

At the Illinois Branch of the International Dyslexia Association (IBIDA) conference last week, I presented information about how students of all ages (from preschool through the senior years) can benefit from technology to access the Internet, textbooks, and any aspect of mainstream classrooms. While there, I met an amazing group of dedicated teachers, parents, and professionals who were excited to see how technology allows individuals to be appropriately accommodated so that they can become active members and contributors of their mainstream learning and living community rather than being peripheral onlookers and segregated in self-contained classrooms.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Camera Mouse Program

Control of a mouse by moving your head!

Camera Mouse is a program that allows you to control the mouse pointer on a Windows computer just by moving your head.

The program was developed to help people with disabilities use the computer. The main audience for this program is people who do not have reliable control of a hand but who can move their head. People with Cerebral Palsy, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, ALS, Multiple Sclerosis, various neurological disorders use this program and its predecessors to run all types of computer software.

Camera Mouse works as a mouse replacement system for Windows computers so it should work with just about any application program. For example people use Camera Mouse with entertainment programs, education programs, communication programs, web browsers, and so on.

For more information, including information about on screen keyboarding that you can use with this camera mouse, please go to