Sunday, January 19, 2014

The LightAide: An Innovative Device For All

 I was honored to be asked to field test the LightAide by the product creator, Dr. Catherine Rose.  She worked effortlessly to create this device on behalf of her daughter who has a visual impairment.  This is a device that came straight from the amazing ideas of a proactive and creative parent!  It was beyond fun to test, collaborate and brainstorm on the capabilities of this device with other parents of children with visual impairments.

 The LightAide  was tested out with one of my students, a toddler with visual impairments and additional motor challenges.  His mother and I put our thoughts on the device together and collaborate on this post.

 The Lightaide's Features
  The LightAide, developed by Perkins School for the Blind and Dr. Catherine Rose of Philips, is an innovative educational tool for children with low vision and additional disabilities.  The LightAide presents a variety of interactive LED light displays appropriate for a wide spectrum of developmental levels.  With the LightAide, users can work on color recognition, sequencing, cause and effect skills via switch activation and basic literacy and math skill development.

The LightAide screen is approximately the size of a large laptop computer screen and is supported on an adjustable stand that be adapted for a child with visual impairment's preferred visual viewing level. The LightAide is laid out so that the user can access the activities via a single switch that it is appropriate for the fine motor abilities of the individual user  (i.e.JellyBean, BigMack, Stick Switch, Lever Switch,). The user can choose between sensory, literacy, and math based activities on the menu on the left hand side of the device.  The parent or professional can scroll through the variety of activities on this menu to determine the  desired activity, ease, color options and the speed of the visual stimulus (i.e. dots, individual letters, numbers, etc).  Please view the YouTube video below to see the LightAide in action:

Our Take On the LightAide
The LightAide was a very innovative, universally designed device. The high contrast, multi-colored lights on the board with the amount of visual and graphic information options that the user can choose from made the LightAide appropriate for the diverse populations that I serve in the field of visual impairments.  During our experience with the device, the toddler was able to access the LightAide with a large, single introductory switch.  As a one year old, he was able to follow the single colored shapes and lines using his head and eyes together.  The speed of the moving stimulus was decreased  so the toddler could easily follow the moving shapes and activate the switch during the cause and effect activities.   He enjoyed the variety of switch accessible games on the LightAide and the amount of options offered on the LightAide increased his attention to to task on the cause and effect activities.  Since I work primarily in early intervention, the LightAide would be most beneficial for me to perform Functional Vision Assessments and Assistive Technology Evaluations, specifically for students with cortical visual impairment and additional physical disabilities.

The mother of the child with visual impairments stated that the device was appropriate for children of all ages but most of the activities, she felt, were meant for children that were over the age of 3.  In upcoming versions of the LightAide we hoped the developers would consider making the LightAide screen accessible via touch screen.  We think this feature would make the LightAide a successful learning tool for an even larger number of children with visual disabilities and offer another device for children with low vision who are dual media learners to learn both Braille and large print.  We also thought the device could be improved with the addition of a wall attachment so it could suspended on a wall.  This could possibly increase the visual  and physical accessibility of the device for more distance viewing activities.

Overall, this is a fantastic device for a children with visual impairments with motor challenges.  The variety of colorful activities and switch options make this device a hole in one.  We look forward to reviewing and learning more about any future updates of the LightAide!

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