Preparing for the Technology Assessment



Slide: Technology Video Assessment Series

Preparing for the Assessment

Video 1

Hello.  My name is Bryen Yunashko (name sign Bryen) and I am deaf-blind and a technology trainer. I have been training people within the deaf-blind community to use communication technology for many years. The continuing advancements in the area of communication technology has greatly impacted the deaf-blind community, mainly through providing increased access. I have benefitted in countless way. For example, because my phone has the ability to zoom in/out and connect to a braille display, I can use it anywhere I go.  This allows me to communicate and stay in touch with people on the go. These advancements in technology have led to federal and local initiatives that support deaf-blind consumers to purchase and receive training on communication technology.  The first step in a successful outcome is a thorough and well planned assessment. It is crucial we provide the right piece of equipment to each consumer.

Slide: Overview

This video series focuses on how to conduct a technology assessment for individuals who are deaf-blind.  In this video series we offer tips and strategies to meet the unique needs of the deaf-blind population. As you watch the series, keep in mind that each person you work with is unique.  This series will not provide you with a "one size fits all" solution.  Rather than giving you a prescribed set of rules to follow, we will provide you with tips and tricks that will help you identify the best piece of equipment to recommend; whether it is a simple, low-cost phone amplifier or an advanced piece of technology such as a braille notetaker.  After watching this series you will be more adept at identifying the needs of each consumer and recommending the right piece of equipment.

Slide: Preparing for the assessment

This video will help you prepare for your assessment. The video is divided into three sections:  First, how to gather information before the date of the assessment.  Second, how to prepare an assessment kit.  Third, how to prepare yourself to conduct a technology assessment.

Slide: Gathering Information

Prior to conducting the assessment, it is important to gather a few particulars about the individual.  Here are a few examples of things to find out before the assessment is conducted.  Personal background questions related to their hearing and vision loss. Are they low vision or completely blind? Deaf or Hard of Hearing? What is their preferred mode of communication? Do they use tactile ASL or distance signing? Where will the meeting be held and what is the environment like?  These pieces of information are helpful to have in advance of the meeting.

Slide: Determine the Consumer’s Preferred Mode of Communication and Necessary Accommodations

The deaf-blind population is quite diverse and there many ways in which people communicate.  Some use tactile ASL, while others prefer to use speech and speech read, still others prefer distance signing.

Communicating directly with the consumer in their preferred mode of communication is ideal. Matching the assessor to the consumer's communication modes will result in the best outcome of an assessment. However, when this match is not possible, qualified interpreters experienced in working with people who are deaf-blind and familiar with the content can be utilized to ensure effective communication. 

This video is not intended to provide in-depth instruction on communication modes used by deaf-blind, but rather emphasize the importance of truly understanding your consumer’s communication needs and how they access information.  Here are a few of the most common modes of communication used by deaf-blind individuals:

  • Tactile signing
  • Close-Vision signing
  • Distance signing
  • Verbal (Spoken)

Verbal (Spoken) with assistive listening devices.  For example, a blue tooth hearing aid with a microphone.

After you've found out the consumer's preferred mode of communication do not make assumptions.  Be aware that a consumer's chosen mode of communication does not mean the consumer is fluent in that method.  Many deaf-blind consumers go through a transition from one mode to the next as their vision loss progresses and may still be working on mastering that particular skill-set. Make sure to stay flexible and give yourself plenty of time to conduct a thorough assessment.

Slide: Determine How the Consumer Accesses Written Materials

One last piece of information to gather before the assessment is to ask the individual's preference for accessing written materials.  They might use large print or regular font or prefer written materials in braille.

Slide:  Building the Perfect Assessment Kit

While it is impossible to bring every piece of equipment with you when you visit your consumer, there are ways to build an effective kit. 

Slide: Items to Include for Documentation Purposes

Image of a notebook with a black marker, iPad, a tape measure, an eye glass, a portable CCTV, and a braille notetaker.

As part of your assessment, you need to document existing equipment in the consumer's environment.  For this, I recommend the following items in your kit:

  • Paper and Pen or electronic note-taking device to write down models and software versions
  • Magnifying glass, this can be either glass or electronic, to help you identify small-print model numbers
  • Thick marker pen that way if the person is low vision it will be easier for them to read
  • Tape Measure to measure devices, such as monitors or television screen sizes. This will also help in ensuring there is space for the new equipment

Slide:  Items to Include for Demonstration Purposes

Image: An iPad, a laptop, an iPhone, a dongle, a braille notetaker, a portable CCTV, an extension cord, a cable and a braille display.

Next, your kit should also include demonstration equipment.  Again, you want to keep your kit lightweight for easy portability, but you also want to make sure your consumer has a chance to evaluate equipment fairly.   Some suggestions:

  • Smart phones:iPhone and Android phone
  • Dongles and Cables:to connect devices to larger screens if available. This will give your consumer an idea of what the device looks like on a larger screen.As a note, dongles can be used with many different devices
  • Braille Displays: One small, lightweight, portable, perhaps 14 cell braille display and one large, possibly 32 cell braille display. You can also present the differences between braille displays and the more advanced braille notetakers
  • Computers- It is important to show a variety of available laptops and desktops

Let's talk about the laptop computer in your kit.  Today, there are several operating systems available for computers.  There is Windows 7 and 8.  There is Apple Macintosh OSX, there is Linux with many variations.

You certainly do not want to carry a laptop for each operating system.  Not only would that be expensive to maintain, but certainly heavy to lug around!

To avoid this hassle I recommend using either virtualization or dual boot.  Either option allows you to house multiple operating systems within one physical machine, eliminating the need for you to carry multiple laptops from assessment to assessment.

Slide: Word of Warning: Consult Experts When Necessary

Now that you know about both virtualization and dual boot, I must provide you with a word of warning.  If you don't have expertise in these programs it is recommended to consult an expert. If you proceed without consultation you risk corruption and potential loss of the data on your computer.

Slide: Virtualization and Dual Boot

Virtualization allows you to install a program that warehouses other operating systems within your current operating system. Here's a more concrete example: if you are using OSX, virtualization will allow you to bring up a window and virtually run a Windows operating system.

The advantage of virtualization is that it allows you to run multiple operating systems while your computer is running the main operating system. The disadvantage is that some hardware that you are demonstrating may not be compatible in virtualization mode.

Dual boot is slightly different than virtualization.  With dual boot you actually install each operating system to the hard drive. Each is separated by virtual partitions in the hard drive. When your computer is booted a menu prompts you to select which OS you would like to run.  The advantage of dual boot is that each operating system runs natively on your laptop, thus preventing hardware incompatibility issues.  The disadvantage is that you must shut down and restart your computer to access each operating system.

III: Preparing yourself

Slide: Preparing Oneself for the Assessment

Now that you've determined the consumer's communication preferences and built your beautiful assessment kit, it is now time to prepare yourself.

Slide: Clothing and Accessory Considerations

In most cases it is highly recommended that the assessor’s clothing strongly contrasts their skin tone. For example, I am fair skinned so I am wearing a black shirt. If you are dark skinned, consider wearing a grey or pastel color.  The contrast helps ensure that you and the consumer can effectively communicate. 

Not heeding this advice could result in miscommunications.

White clothing is not recommended.  White shirts and blouses are hard on the eyes. Most individuals with vision loss are highly sensitive to the color white.  Again, it is important to wear clothes that contrast to your skin tone.  It is also advised that you avoid clothing with stripes, polka dots, or other patterns.  Instead, wear shirts with a single solid color that contrasts with your skin tone. Stripes, other prints, and even buttons can cause visual noise and interfere with communication.

Also, you will want to consider avoiding anything that can be visually or tactually distracting including bright nail polish, dangling earrings, rings and bracelets and necklaces.  If you wear any of these items please remove them before the assessment. Taking these steps to prepare yourself sets you up for success.

Slide: Additional Considerations

Due to the close proximity that you may be sharing with your consumer you will want to be considerate of several things. First, be mindful of your nails. Keep them trimmed. Second, avoid any scents that may be offensive to the consumer including: perfumes, cigarette smoke and lotions. Third, make sure your breath is pleasant. If not, consider using gum or mints before your meeting.

It's best to keep your appearance clean and neat.  The deaf-blind community is particularly sensitive to things that affect the five senses.

Slide:  Support Service Provider SSP

As an assessor myself, and as a person who is deaf blind, I prefer to communicate directly with the consumer.  However, if I conduct the assessment alone I often don't have access to environmental information.  For example, I might not be aware of the complete layout of the room, therefore I don’t have the best idea of space available to set up equipment or I might not see that the student struggling to read a braille display or squinting at a computer screen.

In order to have full access to the environment I always bring a Support Service Provider, or SSP. The SSP will provide you with important visual and environmental and information that will aid you in making your assessment and recommendation.  This guarantees that the consumer gets the best possible recommendation for their equipment. 

If you find yourself in a similar situation to what I just described, please consider bringing along an SSP to your assessments.

Slide: Conclusion

Now that you have everything you need to get ready for your appointment, watch our next video, “The Art of Conversation,” as we discuss how to ensure an effective interview.