The [AT] Connects Blog

Low-Tech Solutions in a High-Tech World

Posted By Anne Long | Dec 13, 2012

Submitted by Timothy E. Willis, Esq.
Licensing Manager, Creative Works
Proposal Development Specialist
UNH Office for Research Partnerships and Commercialization



On November 27, 2012, I attended the Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference  in Manchester, New Hampshire to showcase Dr. Therese Willkomm’s assistive technologies. I have the pleasure of working with one of UNH’s most creative and inventive faculty members, who is regularly referred to as the MacGyver of Assistive Technology (AT). Dr. Willkomm literally travels the world lecturing on rehabilitative technologies and constructing extraordinary tools on site to help those with disabilities. She uses ordinary materials like pvc pipes, corrugated cardboard, and umbilical cord clips to innovate new and useful alternatives to high priced assistive technologies. While everything she makes may not be 100% aesthetically pleasing, it is guaranteed to get the job done.

Aside from inventing cutting edge assistive technologies, Dr. Willkomm is the director of the New Hampshire Statewide Assistive Technology Program (ATinNH, http://www.atconnects.com/ ), the coordinator of the UNH Graduate Certificate in Assistive Technology Program , and the coordinator of the UNH Disability Studies Minor . Needless to say, she is a very busy woman and I appreciate the time she spends working with me to protect, manage and commercialize the intellectual property she develops.

To date, Therese has submitted six innovation disclosures with our Office; one of the disclosures was for the AT Tablet Stand. In June of this year we filed UNH’s first design patent for the AT Tablet Stand. Barring any extraordinary circumstances the patent should issue sometime next fall. The AT Tablet Stand was showcased at the Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference and, as expected, received high interest from a number of educators and businesses. The Stand is a flexible, stable, easy to use tablet stand. What makes Therese’s Stand different from those currently on the market is that it can be positioned at any height, angle or distance from a user, it has a non-slip base offering stability, particularly to those with disabilities, and it allows for hands-free use. The Stand is designed primarily for iPad users, however it has the ability to be used with any tablet.

Currently, we are taking individual orders for the AT Tablet Stand and we have sold a number of them across the country. I am also working to license the design patent to a company that can better handle the mass manufacturing and production of the AT Tablet Stand. While the Stand was initially developed as an assistive technology for the disabled, I can personally speak to its wider appeal, as I use mine regularly when I am using a recipe in the kitchen and can’t hold my iPad.

The Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference is definitely worth attending for educators not only in New Hampshire, but also in neighboring states. It was encouraging to see the level of innovation and technology in New Hampshire.

High tech is clearly the world we live in today, but Dr. Willkomm has managed to develop a niche market for low-tech solutions. You never know what she may come up with next, so keep a lookout for the MacGyver of AT.

To continue the conversation or for more information about the AT Tablet Stand, please contact me, Timothy Willis at timothy.willis@unh.edu.


Reflecting on Closing the Gap

Posted By Anne Long | Dec 04, 2012
Submitted by Curtis D. Edmonds / Richard West Assistive Technology Advocacy Center, Disability Rights New Jersey

In October 2012, I attended the Closing the Gap Conference in Bloomington, Minnesota. Closing the Gap is an annual conference that focuses on the intersection of special education and assistive technology.  Presenters, attendees, and exhibitors from all over North America came to discuss how technology can be used to assist students with disabilities to achieve the educational outcomes that they need to succeed in adult life.

I was asked to conduct a short presentation on captioning YouTube videos.  More and more, schools are relying on YouTube videos as part of the instructional curriculum. Whether videos are created by teachers as part of a lesson, or by students as part of a class assignment, these videos need to be captioned in order to be accessible for all viewers.  Captioning videos also helps with search engine optimization, as people searching for a specific video can use the text in the captions to find the video that they need.  I demonstrated two different approaches to using YouTube’s software to make captioning easier and simpler for everyone.  View the YouTube clip here:  ATAC of DRNJ - A Brief History of Captioning.

Additionally, our center recently purchased an iPad for training, and I was excited that there were so many presentations that focused on iPad apps for education – especially apps that were free or low-cost.  There was a big focus, of course, on communication applications, from complex (and expensive) programs like Proloquo, down to a very simple app that allowed the user to say “Yes” or “No” to a simple question. But there were plenty of other interesting and useful apps for many people with disparate disabilities.

The most important lesson from the conference, though, was that all of the tools and gadgets and apps were secondary to the task of helping students to learn. Technology is making fantastic strides, as we all know, but unless that technology is actively helping with learning, it can be a distraction or even be counterproductive.