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The latest news about Assistive Technology in California

Survey on Emergency Communications and People with Disabilities

The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Wireless Technologies (Wireless RERC) is asking for individuals to take its new online survey on emergency communications. The survey questions address emergency services, public alerts and warnings, and social media use during emergencies.

The Wireless RERC conducted this survey once before, almost two years ago. Because technology is changing so rapidly and new government rules are being implemented, RERC think it's the right time to conduct the survey again. The data will be of great interest to regulatory authorities and other professionals working to improve emergency response and disaster relief for people with disabilities.

New to this version of the survey is the inclusion of a question for the respondent to identify if he/she is a caregiver. In this way, the RERC hopes to collect data on the caregiver experience as it relates to emergency communications technologies and behaviors, as well as the experiences of individuals with disabilities.

Take the Survey on Emergency Communications and People with Disabilities

Wireless RERC announcement regarding the 2012 Survey on Emergency Communications and People with Disabilities

AT Network Announces Video Contest

Show Off Your Assistive Technology Video Contest

Does assistive technology (AT) play a role in your life? Do you use an assistive device to get things done, or to make your life easier?  Have you modified a device to make it work better, or come up with your own device? Then show off your AT! Share your ideas and win up to $400. !!! Visit for details and official rules.

Wheelchair Breakdowns on the Rise, Study Finds

More than half of spinal cord injury patients surveyed had equipment problems within 6 months.

WEDNESDAY, May 9 (HealthDay News) -- An increasing number of wheelchair breakdowns are causing people with spinal cord injuries to be left stranded, hurt or unable to keep their medical appointments, according to a new study. Read More...

Advocacy groups alarmed that California's new online voting registration is inaccessible to people with disabilities

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – While many Californians applauded the Secretary of State’s launch of the California Online Voter Registration (COVR) website last week, the disability community is concerned that the new system excludes individuals who use screen readers from completing the registration process.   Immediately following the launch of, disability advocates with expertise in assistive technology tested the website and found that it was incompatible with JAWS, the most commonly used screen reader for people who are blind and visually impaired.  Members of the Assistive Technology Network (ATNet) and the Systems Change Network (SCNet) at California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) tested the site and then reached out to technical professionals and people with disabilities to test the website with a variety of browsers and versions of JAWS for a complete analysis.  Teresa Favuzzi of CFILC noted, “Multiple testers were unable to complete the registration process; we believe the failure to ensure the accessibility of the on-line system violates the law.” Read More...

The University of Louisville is conducting a nationwide project to improve bus access and safety for people with disabilities.

Wheelchair and scooter users, their family members, and aids are invited to share ramp-related problems they have experienced on public transit buses. Responses will be used to develop new ramp design guidelines and improve the accessibility, usability, and safety of bus ramps. All responses are anonymous. Take the survey.

AT Brief Released By Center for Assistive Technology Act Data Assistance

The Center for Assistive Technology Act Data Assistance (CATADA) recently announced the release of their most recent AT brief on device reutilization programs, which incorporates FY 2011 data. To view the brief, please go to: An accessible HTML version is also available for your viewing.

How New Technology is Benefiting People with Disabilities

From the Bakersfield Californian

Many individuals with disabilities are benefiting from new technology, including iPads and other tablet computers. Bakersfield, Calif., high-school student Tynesha Murray, who has cerebral palsy, communicates with the help of the iPad mobile application TouchChat. "She just happens to be trapped and she needed this device to even out the playing field," school program specialist Beverly Foster said. Read more about How New Technology is Benefiting People with Disabilities article.

Expanded DOR Strategic Planning Survey Options!

FYI. From the Department of Rehabilitation.

As communicated earlier this month the Department of Rehabilitation is conducting a survey to gauge its effectiveness and scan the environment for trends on the pursuit of employment, independence, and equality for people with disabilities.  We have added more options for the public to participate and have extended the survey through June 22, 2012.

You and your networks can take the survey by responding through these ways:

  • Online - <>  , on this webpage you will find the online survey and documents to download.
  • By phone or fax – You can call-in or fax your responses to: (916) 558-5895 or TTY: (916) 558-5807 or
    FAX: (916) 558-5879
  • Surveys are also available in Braille by request by calling (916) 558-5895.
  • You may print a copy of the survey and mail or email us your responses:

    Department of Rehabilitation, Planning Unit
    721 Capitol Mall
    Sacramento, CA 95814


For those who do not have access to the Internet and for those who need assistance in responding; all DOR offices have copies of the surveys and postage paid return envelopes.  Please help us reach as many people as we can; every opinion counts!

The survey will take about 10 minutes to complete and has sections for narrative comments.  Be candid in your responses as they will be confidential.  Please note that due to the anticipated volume of comments we will not be able to respond to them directly, but your contributions will be incorporated into the overall analysis and will be used to help shape the plan.  We may hold focus groups that concentrate on specific issues that surface from the survey.

Thank you for being a partner in advancing "Employment, Independence and Equality for all Californians with Disabilities”!

Speech to Speech launches Video Relay Services

As of May 1, 2012, the California Relay Service (CRS) is offering a new service, called "Visually Assisted Speech-to-Speech" (VA STS).

In addition to a phone call to the relay service, the Speech-to-Speech (STS) caller is also using a webcam or videophone with SkypeTM to connect with the Communications Assistant at the relay call center. This allows the Communications Assistant to see the STS user as they are speaking.

Seeing the STS caller's mouth movements, facial expressions, and gestures can enable the Communications Assistant to better understand and re-voice for the caller.

For more information see the press release on the CPUC Web site:

Or visit the Web site of the Deaf and Disabled Telecommunications Program: 

Support Service Providers for Deaf-Blind Individuals

As you may know, there are estimated to be 1.2 million Americans who are both deaf and visually impaired.  Dealing with this dual sensory loss can be challenging at the very least and devastating at its worst, causing profound isolation and loneliness.  Support Service Providers can make a huge difference in improving the quality of lives for people who are Deaf-Blind.

Personal testimonials by Donna Ragland of Morrison, Colorado, and other Deaf-Blind travelers from all over the United States, describe the value of support service providers:  how their services enable them to access the world around them, participate in their communities, and maintain and enjoy an active life.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this DVD will benefit future trips of the Deaf-Blind Explorers.   For more information on this DVD and other books go to

Microsoft outlines new accessibility features for Windows 8 (video)

Ready to submit your premier Windows 8 app? Interested in adding some new accessibility features? Microsoft wants to ensure that its incoming OS can be used by people with disabilities right out of the box, detailing its "comprehensive accessibility platform" that will arrive on the next version of Windows. It's redesigned the built-in screen reader, improving performance speed while adding more languages and voices. Microsoft has also extended its compatibility, including the ability to read output from applications. The Narrator will even assist with the installation of Windows 8, something that's already integrated into the developer preview. The voice assistant will also be better equipped to keep up with your web browsing habits, with improved processing speed and keyboard shortcuts to navigate during narration. Read more about Windows 8 accessibility features.

IRS Provides Assistance for People with Disabilities

Individuals who are blind or visually impaired can download hundreds of the most popular federal tax forms and publications from  These products range from accessible PDFs to e-Braille formats and are accessible using screen reading software and refreshable Braille displays.  Visit the IRS Accessibility page to download these forms and publications.  Also, view a video that highlights IRS products and services available for people with disabilities.

Free Tax Return preparation help is also available

People who are unable to complete their tax return because of a disability may get assistance from a local IRS Tax Assistance Center or through a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance or Tax Counseling for the Elderly site (VITA or TCE).  To find a Tax Assistance Center near you, click on contact IRS, on and then select contact your local IRS office.  You can also find a nearby VITA or TCE location by calling 1-800-906-9887 or at for VITA and for TCE.  The IRS sponsors VITA and TCE.  Publication 907, Tax Highlights for Persons with Disabilities, explains the tax implications of certain disability benefits and other issues, and is available at

Visit and enter "accessibility" in the Search box for more information.


The AT Network is dedicated to protecting the rights of our consumers and allowing them to remain independent in the community. If you have a question, concern, or a story to share with us then please don't hesitate to contact us:

Toll-Free: 800-390-2699
TTY: 800-900-0706