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

Friday, January 4, 2008

Menus that Talk: Restaurant style inclusion

For those who cannot read menus due to visual impairments, here's an article about a talking menu machine (called Menus That Talk) that will read your dining choices aloud to you.

Menus that speak out aid sight-impaired diners

Scott Joseph

Sentinel Restaurant Critic

January 4, 2008

Orlando native Jessica MacWithey was having lunch with her aunt Susan Perry in a South Florida Olive Garden last year when they realized that neither of them could read the menu.

MacWithey, 24, has a condition that leaves her unable to see fine details, recognize faces or read print, and Perry had forgotten her glasses. They asked the server for a run-down, but she was too busy to give a complete reading.

"I said, 'You know, we should put the menu on a tape recorder,' " Perry recalls.

The luncheon became a brainstorming session between the two women, with Perry drawing a prototype. A mere nine months later the two had the prototype in hand and had developed Menus That Talk, an electronic device about the size of a hardcover book with the details of a restaurant's bill of fare recorded on a chip.

Mike Carcaise, former vice president of Dan Marino's Fine Food & Spirts, saw Menus That Talk at a restaurant-trade show and proposed them for the South Florida restaurants. Carcaise may have a better understanding of the unit's potential because his father was an optometrist.

"As kids growing up, we spent a lot of time with people who have disabilities," he says.

Menus That Talk is designed to speak briefly and on request.

"It's very difficult for someone to have to listen to the whole menu without sectioning it out," says Perry.

There are 15 buttons that can be designated to various subsets of the menu -- pasta, chicken, beef, etc. Each button is labeled with print and in Braille, but for those who don't know Braille -- which includes 90 percent of people with severe vision impairment, MacWithey says -- pressing a button will first announce the category.

Press the button marked "chicken" and it will speak the word chicken. If a chicken dish interests you, press the same button again and it will describe all the chicken dishes on the menu, with prices. Once you hear something you like, press the button again and it will stop reading.

The talking menu has a detachable earphone that slides out of the side of the device, allowing the user to listen in private. There is also a jack so diners can use their own headphones, and the menu is compatible with most hearing aids.

When the guest is ready to order, another button causes lights on the sides of the unit to flash as a signal to the waiter.

MacWithey and Perry say customized voices is one of the selling points. They have recommended an Elvis impersonator to read the menu for a music-themed restaurant and a breathy-voiced woman for some South Florida Hooters.

There is also a button to switch the unit to a second language so that it becomes a talking translator.

MacWithey says a single unit costs as little as $300, and restaurateurs might be eligible for a tax deduction through the Americans with Disabilities Act. When a restaurant implements major changes to its menu, such as a change in prices, the chip can be updated in about 48 hours. (One of the tricks is to have the original reader record a variety of prices, says MacWithey.)

Carcaise sees potential in Menus That Talk. "If it's as truly useful, and people will use them, I can see their need everywhere," he says.

Scott Joseph can be reached at or 407-420-5514.

Copyright © 2008, Orlando Sentinel,0,6886121.story

Hats off to Menus That Talk ( for this innovative product and to the Orlando Sentinal for helping to get out the word.

Inspired innovation for full access and independent living is something we should all encourage and expect. If you have had difficulties with obtaining accommodations in various settings, including restaurants, schools, and work settings, please contact Dr. Jeanne Beckman at or visit her website at

1 comment:

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