Technotalk - September 2009 - Cerebral Palsy Alliance

Technotalk - September 2009 - Cerebral Palsy Alliance


The TASC Newsletter

Volume 18 Issue 5 September 2009


In today’s fast paced world, technology

is king. Many of us use email, mobile

phones and the internet to keep in touch

with friends and family. So where does that

leave people with a disability who have

difficulty accessing standard technology

In this edition, the TASC occupational

therapists - Elizabeth Nade, Justin Ware,

Rachelle Woods and I focus on some of the

ways that people with a disability can keep

in touch using the internet.

I recently attended the National Disability

Coordination Officer Program Forum -

Accessing the Future, with the focus of assistive

technology in education and employment.

I have provided some information on the

fantastic EduApps initiative presented by

Gerry Kennedy; this development provides

over 90 portable assistive technology

applications available to download for free!

There were also some other great

presentations which will soon be available to

download from the forum website - http://www.


Happy reading,




Speech Pathology

Australia, in conjunction

with AGOSCI and

supported by Northcott

Disability Services, are

offering a 2 day Workshop

in Sydney on Thursday

22nd and Friday 23rd

October 2009:

“Augmentative & Alternative Communication in

Health Care Settings: Supporting Patients from

Intensive Care Units into the Community” by Melanie


For more information, see the SPA website:



News: Speech Pathology Australia ....................1

Main Story: In Touch with the World on the Web.....2

Article: EduApps...................................................6

We welcome any feedback, good or bad, that you may have on our service. Please feel free to contact us by phone on 02 9975 8469,

email or by writing to The Spastic Centre PO Box 184 Brookvale NSW 2100

TechnoTalk Newsletter is free and available from

Main Story:

In Touch with the World on the Web

by Liza MacLean, Elizabeth Nade, Justin Ware and Rachelle Woods.

In today’s fast paced technology world, it seems like there

are more ways to communicate than ever – text messaging,

emails, instant messaging and social networking are

all a part of daily life for many people. But how do you

communicate when you have a disability that can impact on

your ability to speak on the phone, or type a text message

or access a computer There are a number of internet

based options that can allow people with disabilities to

keep in touch with friends and family with more ease than

your standard home or mobile phone. Many people these

days have access to a desktop or laptop computer and

with broadband services improving across the country

these options will become more popular and accessible.

In this edition we will focus on VoIP, text messaging and

the National Relay Service Internet Relay. In November

we will continue this theme and provide information on

instant messaging, social networking and voice and video

email options.

The options discussed in this edition all require the user to

be able to input text via a keyboard or keyboard alternative

(such as an enlarged keyboard or an onscreen keyboard)

to enter numbers or messages, and have access to a

mouse or mouse alternative (such as a trackball, joystick,

head mouse or switch scanning mouse emulation) for

navigation of menus, etc.

Users with a visual impairment or literacy difficulties may

benefit from software options such as screen readers,

screen magnifiers, talking web browsers, text-to-speech

or other adaptive technology to enhance access to the

options discussed in this article.

If you need further information on mouse, keyboard or

software options, please contact TASC for further information,

as in this article we will be focussing on the internet options

themselves, rather than the access options to the to the



VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol and put

simply, VoIP is anything that is capable of enabling you to

chat over the internet with someone else. There are many

forms, but basically VoIP phones fall into 2 categories:

Softphones that are normally operated as software from

a standard computer and Hardphones that look and feel

similar to a standard phone, but send the users voice via

the internet instead of the normal phone line.

The types of VoIP that are most relevant for users with a

disability are software-based because the separate VoIP

Hardphones currently present similar physical access

difficulties as standard telephones.

Currently, the best known VoIP provider is Skype, however

it is worth noting that there are literally hundreds of

different VoIP Softphone options, most of which (including

Skype) are free to download. The costs for using VoIP are

generally quite low too: usually it is free to call other users

who are online and using the same program and it costs

about 3c per minute to call landline phones and 30c per

minute to call mobile phones, depending on the Softphone

that you are using. It is recommended to shop around for

the different deals that are available; some providers also

bundle broadband and VoIP services into one package.

Please also be aware that there have been some reports

of lesser known VoIP software advertising very low prices,

but then charging users lots of hidden costs. Also, some

VoIP software may contain adware, malware and viruses,

so caution must be taken when downloading and installing

these applications.

In order to use VoIP you need a reasonably good internet

connection. VoIP is not recommended for people who are

using dial-up internet and there can be some issues with

using VoIP with the slower variations of mobile broadband.

Most broadband internet connections are fine for VoIP use

(generally faster is better, check your download/upload

speed with your internet service provider – a minimum of

512/512 kb/s is recommended). It is also recommended

that you have a computer that is less than 3 years old if

you want to use VoIP software.

Even though VoIP is essentially designed as a voice-based

communication method, the majority of the VoIP software

available gives the user a broad range of options for textbased

communication, such as SMS text messaging, and

instant messaging (please see the remainder of this article

for more information on text messaging and the next edition

of TechnoTalk for more information on instant messaging).

Many VoIP software options also allow video chat when a

computer-to-computer call is made. While the quality can

occasionally be poor, this feature enables users who use

visual communication aids to implement these during a

phone call. To use a video chat feature each person who

wants to be seen needs to have a webcam. These are

available from all computer retailers and are often built-in

to newer laptop computers.

The beauty of a VoIP Softphone for a person with a

physical disability is that it moves the telephone access

method from a physical phone, which a user may have

difficulty accessing, to a computer, which a greater number

of people are able to access with adapted hardware and

software. This move enables a greater number of people

with disabilities to access telephone-based communication.

For users who use switches to access their computer

there are a few options emerging to make VoIP more

accessible without having to use your switch access to

do time consuming mouse movement. Both The Grid 2 by

Sensory Software and also a program called QualiFriends

by QualiWorld integrate with Skype, however when testing

these, the interface was found to be very limited and it was

not possible to get the software to send the synthesised

(computer generated) speech from the software directly

to Skype. It was possible to make standard voice calls

to other Skype users (not standard phones though) and

send instant messages via Skype to other users that were


the features of each please see


For a consumer guide from the Communications Alliance

on setting up a VoIP service see http://www.commsalliance.

Text messaging

Text or SMS messaging provides a mobile, immediate and

relatively private and cheap method of communication. In

addition to its universal appeal it seems to have become

synonymous with youth culture, becoming a significant

means for young people to keep in touch with each other. It is

also a convenient way for people with hearing impairments

to communicate via the mobile phone network.

Generally, sending an SMS requires the user to compose

and send a message using a mobile phone keypad.

Recipients of a message need to be able to open messages

and then read the text. At various stages of this process

a person may experience difficulties due to the physical,

visual or literacy demands of the task.

There are however several ways that text messages can

be sent and received via a computer to enable users with

special access needs to use SMS. They include:

Email SMS - this involves sending and receiving SMS

messages using an email program via an Email SMS

provider. Generally most email programs are compatible

and include Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express and

Lotus Notes. Usually the user types the text message in

the body of the email and enters the target mobile number

at the beginning of the email address, for example,

While there are limitations to the accessibility of VoIP

Softphones, they certainly open up a broader range of

possibilities for people with disabilities who want to access

a telephone. It is anticipated that there will be a greater

number of fully accessible VoIP options in the near future.

Please note, most VoIP phones (Softphone and

Hardphones) will not work in the case of a power

failure. Also, many VoIP phones are unable to dial

emergency services numbers (i.e. 000).

For a list of VoIP Softphone options and a comparison of

Return messages are also received as emails and SMS

messages can be stored in Sent and Inbox folders.

Many Email SMS providers exist, including the major Telco

companies: Telstra and Optus. They all vary in price,

method of payment and undoubtedly reliability, speed

and functionality. Most offer a free trial. It is important to

carefully scrutinise companies that offer free or very cheap


Computer SMS - this option involves using a dedicated

application to write and send SMS messages from a

computer. There are two main ways that messages can

then be sent:

1. The first being via the Internet as with Telstra’s Online

Text Buddy option. This is an application that can be

downloaded for free from the Telstra website for users

with Telstra mobile phone accounts. The program

enables users to type out and send SMS messages

using their PC when online. Charges are billed to the

users mobile phone account. It is important to note that

return messages can not be received on the computer

but are sent to the mobile phone. This could be a

significant disadvantage for many users with special

access needs.

2. The second way that messages can be sent and

received is by connecting a mobile phone to the

computer either via a cable or wireless connection and

using a dedicated application to compose and store the

messages on the computer. Once the message has

been written it can be sent to the mobile phone and

then sent out as a regular SMS message. Check with

your local mobile phone provider if this option is available

and whether the software offers all the features that you


Online SMS - this involves using an online web based

service to write and send SMS. Users enter the dedicated

site using a user name and password. Again, most

providers offer a free trial period. Charges then usually

apply and again vary greatly. One such provider of this

type of service reported that it is heavily used by numerous

schools to enable students with disabilities to ‘SMS’ like

their peers within the wider school community. They are

able to do text from any online computer either at home or

at school, to stay in touch with their friends.

Some providers require the user to have a mobile phone

account, for example, Telstra’s MyInbox. Free or very

cheap SMS web sites do exist but scrutinise these carefully

before signing up and again check if return messages can

be received online or only sent to a mobile.

Voice SMS – this option involves composing an SMS

that is converted and sent as a voice message. The

phone rings to alert the person of the voice message and

is only given once the call is picked up. This is a useful

feature if sending a message to someone who has literacy

difficulties or a visual disability. Esendex is one provider

that offers this feature from their Web based SMS service

and the cost is the same regardless of whether the SMS is

sent as a text or a voice message, which is approximately

23 cents a message. Please see for

more information.

Email MMS - (Video and Picture Messaging) – this options

enables images, audio and video clips to be sent from a

mobile phone to an email address. A virtual phone number

is provided to the user to send the multimedia message to,

which is then automatically redirected to an email address.

This is considerably more costly compared with sending

an SMS message but a powerful way for a person who has

difficulty accessing a standard mobile phone to receive

MMS messages.

National Relay Service - Internet Relay

The National Relay Service is an Australia wide telephone

access service provided for people who have complex

communication needs. It is also available to anyone who

wants to call someone with complex communication needs.

The service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It

is no additional charge to the user and is accessible to

anyone in the wider telephone network.

There are a number of ways to communicate over the

telephone through the National Relay Service. One of

these is the Internet Relay; all you need is an internet

connection! An Internet Relay call is what is known as

a ‘Type and Read’ call. The caller types their side of

the conversation and then reads the responses from

the person on the other end on their computer or mobile

phone. An internet call can be made on your computer;

laptop or internet enabled (3G) mobile phones.

All calls through the National Relay Service are relayed

through a relay officer, who is online to ensure your call

goes smoothly. You can type and read your conversation

entirely via your computer or mobile phone connected

to the internet. The relay officer will become ‘your voice’

and read out loud your conversation to the other person.

The relay officer will then listen to the response and type

it back for you to read and respond to. The conversation

goes on from there. All calls are confidential and all relay

officers and other National Relay Service staff have signed

a confidentiality agreement.

Internet relay calls are free, except for your normal internet

connection costs, to calls in Australia. Exceptions are

calls to international numbers or calls to premium (1900)

numbers within Australia. You will need a National Relay

Service account if you would like to make these types of

calls. You can also retrieve answering machine and voice

mail messages over internet relay.

For more information on the National relay Service and

Internet Relay calls please refer to their website: (internet

relay information)

So as you can see, there are some interesting ways people

with a disability can use the internet to communicate,

and in our next edition we will continue this theme, in the

meantime, we hope you can start chatting!


by Liza MacLean

Gerry Kennedy (IT Consultant) presented at the NDCO Forums recently on this exciting initiative from

Scotland. A portable app is an application or program that can be run from a portable USB device, such

as a thumb drive, PDA, iPod or external hard drive on any computer without having to install the program.

This provides access for users anywhere, anytime to the programs and information required to support

their access and participation.

EduApps includes the following bundles of portable apps (over 90 programs) to support learners and


• AccessApps - a range of e-learning solutions to support reading, writing, and planning as well as

sensory, cognitive and physical difficulties

• LearnApps - a range of applications with learning in mind

• TeachApps - includes applications specifically for developing and testing learning materials

These bundles include a range of programs such as: office and presentation software; web browsers;

email, calendar and organiser programs; multimedia tools such as audio and video editors and players;

graphics and image editors; reading and writing supports; keyboard and mouse alternatives; visual

supports; security software and games.

All the apps are free to download either as a bundle, or you can mix and match and choose the range of

programs required for individual needs. All that is a required is a minimum 4GB USB to store the programs

and the user files that will be saved with the programs.

For more information see the EduApps website:

The Spastic Centre

321 Mona Vale Road, Terrey Hills NSW

PO Box 184 Brookvale NSW 2100

T: 02 9479 7200

F: 02 9479 7233


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