Livescribe computerized pen helps students with disabilities


By: Sharon Langer

Picture of the Echo Pen slightly tilted on a angle as if it was being used to write.

The UC Berkeley Disabled Students Program did a pilot test of a computerized pen using its students with learning disabilities. The goal of the study was to see if use of the pen would eliminate the need for note takers in the classroom. Forty students with a variety of physical and learning disabilities participated using the Echo Smartpen. The smartpen records audio from the classroom, along with a digital version of the student’s handwritten notes and syncs the audio and notes, and then they can be accessed for review through the pen itself or through Livescribe’s computer software.

The pilot project revealed several things: the pen reduced classroom anxiety about taking notes, so students were able to concentrate and pay better attention. If a student was an auditory learner, the pen was a big help, but if they had an auditory processing problem, the pen offered little benefit. The smartpen is another tool that may help in the educational setting and is readily available now for those who might benefit from its use. They cost around $120 dollars and may be a tool for your student.


A note from Matt….


By: Matthew Dietz

According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Matt standing next to a giant blow up dog with the dog's paw touching Matt's head.Persons with Disabilities, the right for education for persons with disabilities are essential to the development of human potential and sense of dignity and self-worth, and the strengthening of respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and human diversity.  Today, there should be no limits.  This month, DIG has filed an action to strengthen sexual and reproductive education for the Deaf, provide effective technologies and, the use of alternate therapies to encourage participation in society.



By: Kevin McGuire

AbleRoad, a company that connects people with accessible Kevin McGuire head shot.places, is a website and app that allows people with disabilities and medical conditions – including those who use a wheelchair or have other mobility, vision, hearing or cognitive disabilities – and their families and caregivers to review any public space or business.

AbleRoad is the most comprehensive website and app available for helping people with disabilities. The company has worked with Yelp, so users can see both the Yelp and AbleRoad ratings for a business on the same screen, with up to 200 results per search. The app allows users to add ratings and upload photos while on location and rate them for many factors relating to ease of access.

Reviews of restaurants, stores, hotels, medical practices and facilities, and more can be shared easily on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The app supports badge ranking of reviewers, and has voice over screen capabilities for people who are blind or low vision. Users can leave detailed reviews for others to read, allowing people with disabilities or their families and friends to research and choose the businesses they want to patronize. AbleRoad is seeking new users around the world to enter reviews in an effort to make the website and app even more comprehensive and useful for people with disabilities.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 56.7 million Americans, or nearly 20% of the population, have some type of disability, making them the largest minority group in the nation. People with disabilities represent $220 billion dollars in discretionary spending power, and more than 25% of American consumers are currently disabled, or have a close friend or family member who is. With the number of Americans over age 65 projected to double by the year 2030, the need for AbleRoad’s services will only increase over time.

McGuire is working to make AbleRoad not only a tool for people with disabilities, but a brand of its own that will one day lend its seal of approval to a variety of products and services marketed toward them. “As a child of a parent who is aging, I’ve found there is no certification program for medical products like walkers and grab bars,” McGuire says. “Taking the rating and reviewing one step further, I would like our website and app to be able to direct people to AbleRoad approved goods, services and contractors.”