FAIRMONT - Smartphones and tablets such as the iPad have been making lives more convenient, but for those with disabilities they can mean so much more.
"I describe it with the simple example of power door-openers," said Howard Rosten of SMILES Center for Independent Living in Mankato. "It's a convenience for a person without any disabilities. But for a person with a disability, such as being in a wheelchair who actually needs that in order to get in the building, that is what's considered assistive technology."
Rosten will demonstrate assistive technology from 6:30-8 p.m. Monday at the Martin County Library. While the presentation is geared toward students with disabilities, the devices and software are available to anyone.
Along with iPads and iPods, which can be used to help people and children with disabilities, such as autism , Rosten will feature other programs and devices, such as speech recognition software, pocket talkers for those who are hearing impaired, portable magnifiers, adaptive computer keyboards and mice, and other daily living aides.
"The best-known speech recognition software is the Dragon software," Rosten said. "It allows people to speak to their computers. They can dictate e-mails or search the Web. It's a powerful software and relatively inexpensive. When it first came out, it was about 80 to 85 percent accurate, and now it's up to 99 percent accurate. There's one person I know who's a quadriplegic and they've done amazing things with that software."
Some of the items tend to be expensive.
"We know the iPads go for about $400 a piece, and I don't know a lot of people who just have $400 sitting around," Rosten said. "A lot of these items are not cheap, so what we try to do is let a family test it for a 30-day trial to see if it's a good fit, and whether it would be a good investment."
Meetings such as Monday's are meant to help educate families about the tools available, and to update.
"Technology is always changing," Rosten said. "As new stuff comes out, there's more available and more to learn about ... What we do is give people a chance, to educate and inform them as to what's available and it's an opportunity for people to see what's out there."
Rosten adds that it isn't only students with disabilities who can benefit.
"You'll find disabilities of one sort or another with many people, even if they don't want to admit to it," he said. "Seniors, people with vision or hearing problems, these aides can be useful to a lot of different people."
For more information, contact Rosten at SMILES at (507) 345-7139.