Assistive to Inclusive: Technology Perspectives & Trends

In this webinar, Richard Ellenson talks about his experiences and perspectives to illustrate the observed and anticipated trends from Assistive to Inclusive Technology.
 

 

 

Transcript: 

- [Voiceover] It's my pleasure. I'm Russ Holland, with Adirondack Accessibility, and we're one of the partners of CTD. It's my pleasure to introduce today's speaker, Richard Ellenson. Richard is an inventor, entrepreneur several times over, advocate, teacher, executive, first and foremost a father. I've had the good fortune to work with Richard in several of these capacities, starting way back with the CSON Centre on disability advisory board, and in several of his ventures since then. Through his work, Richard has had a significant impact on technology tools, educational environments, and the way the world views people with disabilities. Today he's going to share some of his personal experiences, and from his unique vantage points, comment on where we are in creating inclusive education, an inclusive world, as well as the areas he feels we need to change in order to be more successful. Now Richard, it's a pleasure, and thank you for taking the time to share with us today.

- [Voiceover] Thank you, Russ. Hi everyone. It's fun to be here, thank you so much. And I think as Russ said, I'm a father who thought I could do some things that were interesting, and I'm also an advertising person who looked at things a little bit differently. And what I felt would be interesting would be to take everybody a little bit through my journey, as a person, but not my emotional journey, but my professional journey, and all the people I've been fortunate enough to meet and all the things that I've gotten to learn, and in that way, we can track, really, what is a pretty interesting history of assisted technology, specifically in the augmented communications states, and a couple of others, over the past, I guess around 10 years or so, and one of the things I'm always reminded of is the extraordinary words of Ray Kurzweil, who said that the speed at which technology advances, is not linear, it's exponential. Things move so quickly, and when we think of how things change in our world and the world of technology, it's amazing. And so I would like to say that if we look out on the horizon to see what's next, we're never going to see it, because it's already on that exponential curve above us. If we want to see what's next, we have to look up. And I've tried spending my life looking up, and also looking around me at all the people who we can help and the things we can do. So, a slightly personal, certainly professional, and a look at what I've seen, why I started, and where I think we're all going. So first slide, please. This is how it began, and I'm going to show you a video that CBS ran about gosh, 12 years ago. Here we go.

- And tonight, we'll show you how a parent changed the way his child and some other children with physical disabilities are learning.

- [Mary] Plus there's more winter weather on the way. John Belaris has all the details on your CBS2 forecast. For several years now, public schools have been moving toward mainstreaming special education children.

- But for the first time, an upper West side public school is giving severely disabled children the same opportunity now in a pilot program that really has city wide potential.

- CBS2 education reporter, Kerry Lyon explains.

- [Voiceover] Who wants to be the helper over here? Thomas?

- [Voiceover] Stricken with severe cerebral palsy, six year old Thomas Ellenson can't move or speak like other kids his age, but cognitively, he's just like any other kindergartener.

- There really wasn't an appropriate place in the entire public school system for him.

- [Voiceover] Until now, the only real option for Thomas was to go to a special education school, where he'd be with kids who are not only physically, but mentally impaired. Instead, his parents came here, to his neighbourhood school, the Manhattan Childrens School, with an idea: put Thomas and a small group of other kids like him in a regular class.

- What we tried to do in this school is get about one quarter the kids who have severe motor impairment, and three quarters of the kids who have no severe motor impairment, no motor impairment at all.

- [Voiceover] The children, six of them with special needs, all learn exactly the same things. They just learn it in different ways.

- We expect them all to learn the alphabet, but the way they practice is different, so for some children, they may not be practising the handwriting of okay, I want to learn an A and it looks like this, but we focus on keyboarding.

- [Voiceover] City officials are watching the program closely as they struggle to improve achievement among the special needs population. One big benefit: it's actually cheaper than allocating special classrooms to these kids.

- I'm operating off of my school allocation.

- [Kerry] Supporters of this program say it can actually be a big money saver for the city, because if parents don't have a public school option, the city has to spend the money to send their child to private school. The city spends 20 million dollars to send children to private schools, and while this concept won't work for everyone, Richard Ellenson says for now, it's working for his son.

- What this program is doing is setting the stage so other people can find out how much potential there is in kids who can't walk, and who can't talk.

- [Voiceover] On the upper West side, Kerry Lyon, CBS2 news.

- [Voiceover] So, that was where it all began. And what happened was, it was an amazing school program, it happened when I ran into Mayor Bloomberg at a restaurant, and someone had just told me that there was nowhere in New York City where my child could get a good education, and I told him that, and he worked with us to start this whole school program. And it was a really interesting year, and in fact, at the end of the year, it got covered in the front page of the Sunday New York Times. And what I thought was, wow, the holy grail, my kid who has disabilities is going to be on the cover of the Sunday New York Times. But what I found out, was it wasn't the holy grail, it was the starting pistol. Because there was so much more that was going to have to happen. It was an amazing year. And these are some of the things that I took away from it. What I learned is that inclusion is hard. I always talk a message of inspiration, but it is 99 percent perspiration, and everyone on this phone call probably knows it. I also learned if you're a person who's thinking about solutions, whether they're innovative solutions or pragmatic solutions, you don't have a lot of company. Most people aren't really thinking about this. I've also found you need partners. You cannot do this alone. And I found that you need to understand your needs, your goals, your opportunities, and your challenges. You can't change that. You have to find ways around them. And what's interesting, is that when I started out in this world, I felt that the DOE and the schools were on one line of a triangle, and I was on the point on the other line with my child. And we were always arguing with each other. It was us against the DOE and the schools. One day I realized, gosh, teachers are great! Teachers want to make things happen. Teachers really care. However, they don't have the resources that they needed to do these things. And I flipped the triangle, and I said, you know what, let's make it the teachers and the school and myself on one axis, and put the DOE on the other axis, and understand that we're all in this together, and the DOE isn't giving us resources. And that one insight, changing who I saw my partner as, changed everything in terms of how we were going to be able to move forward in the school, and get a better class form for inclusion. This is what happened next. When I got into this world, Tom was using the Dynavox NT4, and I remember when it used to load new stuff onto it, and it would load, you know, two kilobytes, four kilobytes, six kilobytes, it was crazy how slow it worked, and how slow it did things. We also had mayer-johnson symbols, which I understand are the industry standard, I understand why many people like them, but to me, it wasn't quite working because I was an advertising guy, for the things that I was doing. I was creating ads for carrot chips and saying let's not make it a potato chip, let's make it this gorgeous fashion statement that seduces people into fancy parties. I took Cointreau liquor, which was, really, just an enslave of liquer, and said, let's be controversial. Let's make it that when you drink the stuff, people want to talk about you. I worked on the American Express card, which said membership had its privileges, and was a high end thing. I was working on Honey Nut Cheerios, I was also working on, it's not TV it's HBO, which was probably the most well-known thing I ever did in advertising. Think of that. Five words, changed a complete network sensibility, and in many ways people say that this changed TV. Because people were challenging them so as to not be TV. And one of the things that we say about TV today is it's something very, very different. This is also the time of Spongebob Squarepants. While we were drawing little eggs with smiles on them, the world of kids who were four years old were looking at this crazy guy made out of a sponge, who talked with a voice that was ridiculous and saying I want to watch that, I want to be part of that, he lives in a pineapple under the sea. That is so cool! Why can't we embrace these things? It doesn't take longer to draw Spongebob than it takes to draw something else. It just takes a little bit more inspiration. I also learned a lot in the world of advertising. I learned from Head and Shoulders that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and what is your first impression of somebody who uses augmented communication? It's someone I don't want to be around because it's going to take too long to speak with them. Even if they're the physical, and the perceptions are fine for me, and mind you, they all should be, of course, but for many people, our world is a little difficult. And that first impression, when you then add on to it 90 seconds to say nice to meet you, how tough are we making it for the people we want to support? I've learned from American Express that membership has its privileges. Can we all want to belong to something which is bigger than us? We all want to be part of a community. So how can we create a community based on the way the rest of the world was thinking, you can't always ask people to come to you, you have to go to them. I also learned from what was once the united negro college fund, which is now UNCF, because we want to change our language, we want to change the way we look at things, that a mind is a terrible thing to waste, and I kept thinking wow, the way we're doing things is wasting so many minds. All of us have seen kid, that you notice in that spot about Thomas, when he was, who wants to volunteer, and Tom's hand went right up, and then when they said Thomas, his smile came on. This is a kid who is completely engaged in the moment, but if you don't know where to look, you won't see that. And so what do we do? And finally, what I learned from Apple, is we needed to think different. We needed to look at new ways of approaching the problems, because I gotta tell you, when I got in that world, all I heard was what's another name for an AAC device? A doorstop. Ha ha ha. Where do you find an AAC device? In a closet. Ha ha ha. But I'm a Dad, and there was nothing to laugh about. The abandonment rate in that world was awful. So how do we think differently? Because clearly, all the things that we were doing that were making sense, weren't necessarily giving us the answers that we want, and that's a really important thing. I want to say it again. The things that made sense to us, that we kept doing because we were told they made sense, were rarely getting us the results that we wanted. So what else could we do? Advertising and language structure. That's something else that I have learned. That language is really only one component of our communication. The way you look, the way you feel, someone's attention, these are all parts of communication and what people do. Another one, social communication requires completely different approaches. If you went on a date and talked to someone like you're in a job interview, you're not going to get the gal or man. If you go in to a job interview and try to act like a date, you're not going to get the job. So each one of those... There were times when you're answering your tough questions, where when you take 30 seconds and think, people understand that you're thinking hard. But when you tell a comedy routine, if you take 30 seconds, people are walking out on you. And additionally, so much of what we say, we say over and over and over again. But when you're using an AAC device and having to make that language over and over and over again, you're forcing someone to wait when they don't have to. Nonverbal communication is an imperfect world. We have to accept that. We also, I learned in advertising, things are moving incredibly rapidly in the digital age. When I got into advertising we were cutting film with a razor blade and splicing it together, you know, we were using big cameras, you know, again, I'll show you this just say hi campaign later, we're shooting celebrities with iPhones, editing him on an iPad, and they look great. It's a completely different world, and we needed to use that. And lastly, the thing I learned most in advertising, the most important person in a conversation is never the speaker, it's the listener. You need to learn how to talk in a way that people will listen to you, whether you're speaking verbally, like I am, or whether you're speaking with an AAC device. The first thing that all of us needed to do was ask ourselves what does the listener want? So, sitting there figuring out everything I knew, I figured let me be a little humble and find out what everybody else knows. So I went to closing the gap. I'll never forget, it was in October, and I was this guy, no one had ever seen me or heard of me. It was my first moment there. And I listened to all of these talks, and I had no idea who the names were, and I'll never forget two of the talks. One of them was Pati King-Debaun, one of them was Caroline Musselwhite. I also listened to Linda Berkhart, and I couldn't find a picture I needed. But again, it was amazing. And there were dozen of talks by people, if not hundreds, and these were the ones that I said oh my god, I've never heard anything like that. And I literally followed them. I remember telling Linda Berkhart, she said I have to go, I have to put this stuff in my room, and I said I'll carry your luggage. And I had such a good time and I met so many people, and I talked and I learned and I understood what this world was about, and I merged that with what I knew. Because, again, I feel very comfortable with what I know about communication from a marketing perspective, but I certainly understood that I was walking into a world that I only understood from my son's perspective. And again, Pati and Caroline and Linda, Mark Sarillion, so many people, Christian Hanser, Tiana, they've become such good friends over the years, continue to learn from them. But I'll never forget that first moment when I talked to them. And out of all that, the tango got conceived. It was like wow, let's make something fun and interesting. And here's what exceptional parent said about that. Sorry, one other thing. We not only created a tango, which is a different way of speaking, we also created a different way of talking about the tango itself. It appears simple. Then again, so did E equals MC squared. Introducing our version two, the best way to connect with people now connects to a computer. And again, formally, all of this new way of looking at things. This is what Exceptional Parent said about it. They put my son Tom and myself on the front cover, and wrote a really lovely article about it. And then, this is what ABC news said about it, and we'll show a video right now.

- [Voiceover] Finally, tonight, our person of the week. There probably isn't a parent out there who hasn't had trouble communicating with their child at some point. But imagine if it were a daily challenge, even an impossibility. Then you can begin to appreciate the challenge that faced one father, and how extraordinary was his solution.

- [Voiceover] There's so much going on in his head. Thomas sees everything, he observes everything, he's aware of everything.

- [Voiceover] Thomas Ellenson has cerebral palsy. This eight year old is right on course, academically, with his fellow about to be third graders, but he's verbally limited. Thomas can say yes and no, but not much more, which doesn't mean there's nothing going on in his head, or in his heart.

- [Richard] You are living the same life that everybody else is, you're just maybe not commenting as much, you're not expressing as much. And people should never mistake that for not understanding as much.

- [Voiceover] Thomas was trained to use a traditional speaking device, but it was tedious to express thoughts one word at a time, and he gave it up. His dad, a successful advertising man, thought he had a better idea.

- [Voiceover] It became important to me was to try to come up with ways for kids to communicate quickly, to quickly tell you what they're interested in, to quickly tell they're happy, they're unhappy.

- [Voiceover] Richard devoted his energies to creating a kid-friendly form of speech technology he named Tango. The gadget prerecords a wide variety of colorful pictures and symbols depicting commonly used actions, questions, and emotions.

- [Voiceover] You did it? I do? How? The gadget prerecords a wide variety of colorful pictures and symbols depicting commonly used actions, questions, and emotions.

- [Voiceover] You did it? I do? How?

- [Voiceover] The So Thomas can quickly select a thought, and the little computer will speak it for him in a voice much like his own.

- [Voiceover] Let me do it.

- [Voiceover] When you listen to a robotic voice, it is harder to remember what I am saying to you right now because there is no beat, there is no cadence. If I'm talking to you like this again, you're inside my emotions, you're following me.

- [Voiceover] It's a handy way for an eight year old to express unwieldy emotions, as well.

- [Voiceover] It's embarrassing.

- [Voiceover] It's embarrassing to dance?

- [Voiceover] The Ellensons made sure that Thomas has a full range of expression at his fingertips.

- [Voiceover] He can go into a mode, with one push of a button, and change that from a regular voice to a whine or a shout, or a whisper.

- [Voiceover] Please, please get that for me.

- [Voiceover] There will be a lot of things on voice output devices that you'll want to delete because later we have to add, you know, I hate you Mom, we've already added Dad you're bugging me, which is one that he loves to hit. You would love to delete all those, but you would love to delete them on your typical kids, too, and you don't have that choice.

- [Voiceover] Here's how the Ellensons get ready for a baseball game. Recording customized cheers in a human voice.

- [Voiceover] Let's go, Cyclones!

- [Voiceover] At the stadium, no one sees a kid stuck in a wheelchair. He's just one of the guys hollering for his team, his way.

- [Voiceover] If there's one thing that I want to change in the world, it's to assume that someone in a wheelchair has a headline over their head which does not say my life is difficult, but which says my life is interesting. My life is fun. And in some cases, my life is triumphant.

- [Voiceover] And so we choose Richard Ellenson and his son, Thomas. Richard says he hopes his invention, tango, will soon give the hundreds of thousands...

- [Voiceover] I'll stop it there. The audio's a little choppy, I apologize for that, everyone. The one thing that we can all take away from that, by the way, is the end of that video, the producer called me and said Charlie just showed the video, and then the next commercial break he turned to us and said you know what, that's the kind of stuff I want on my show. We live in a tough world, and our kids, and our friends, do amazing things that people want to celebrate and know about, and news shows need us for the last couple minutes of every segment. People need our stories, and the more we share them and find people who will carry them, the more we get the word out. It's something really important. So, having put the tango out there, what I learned was that people wanted something new. When we went to closing the gap, when we went to closing the gap and put up a poster for the aval map made out of white parachute material with nothing but a huge picture of the tango, literally everyone in the hall stopped and looked and said oh my god, something new is happening. And when we were at HIA in Asha, our booth was jammed all the time. In one booth we created a tropical island with pictures of kids using the tango with coconuts for headphones and using the tango itself, and people loved it because it was new and it was exciting and it wasn't just talking about logical things. It was talking about emotional things. And you know, we all know that emotions control us, as much as we wish our logic did. We also learned that people understood the need for social capital. People knew fresh design engages people, the amazing icons that we made of Zach and Zoey and Keshia and Jim, and all men and women and adults and teens of different ethnicities. People loved that because it allowed someone to start a conversation in a new place. Not like I look like an eggshell, but I look like a kid. We also learned distribution was hard. You had to get funding, you had to go out and meet people, to buy this thing it was 8000 dollars, there was a three month process. Who had the energy to do that? Particularly for a small company. We also learned that evaluating approaches in AAC is not easy for a lot of people. I mean, someone who's never seen this to start saying this is good, this isn't good, this is really tough. We also learned that the sweet spot keeps changing. What's good for a six year old is not what's good for a 12 year old, is not what's good for an 18 year old. What's good for someone who's being taught by one therapist is not good for someone who's being taught by another therapist. There was such a difference in the way people used AAC and looked at AAC, and there was such a difference in how you use it during your life, and in different moments. And we also learned that professionals and parents were very, very different. Parents make decisions much more emotionally, professionals make them more logically. Parents don't have an experience base, professionals have an experience base. It's a tough world to navigate. But as we were figuring this all out, as blink twice and the tango were getting bigger, I didn't realize 15 percent of the market inside of nine months, people were talking about it, it was really wonderful, but this is what happened to the world. The iPhone was introduced. June 29, 2007, and my CTO came in to me two weeks... I had my assistant say Pat, I'm never going to do this to you again, but you need to make sure I get one of these. Show up at one o clock in New York City and stand on the line. It's the only awful thing I've ever done that I don't regret. He brought in two of them, which was the most you could get. We all started playing with them, a week later, my chief tech guy, Tom Morris, who's my dear friend came in and said oh my god, do you realize we could put the Tango on this? And I said Tom, do you realize how many millions of dollars we've just invested in all this technology? We can't do that! And that was okay for a while. And pro local came out on the iPad. And it was still okay, because you still had to have good dexterity. And then I started hearing from my friends, in publishing, that the iPad was coming out. And I got what was about to happen, and it was introduced in April 2010, and I sold my company to Dynavox in December 2009, because I saw what was going to happen to this. Pro local came out during that time, and it moved over to the iPad pretty quickly, and this was the new world order for Apple. Over the years, went from like 40 to 100, we all know what that stock was like. But this was the new world order for augmented communication. Dynavox eventually joined with Toby, started joining the company. Pabst proliferated. If you go to a tradeshow, there used to be 18 booths, things for Dynavox, 12 for Toby. We had nine of them. I mean, huge things mirrored. Johnson, Don Johnson etc, he's at the trade shows now... those booths are like five or six, and there are all these small one person booths, because the entire economics of this world has changed, and even though we're not business people, we need to understand what that'll mean to this world. The market volume has exploded, so many more people are using AACs than ever have used it. But the dollar volume has imploded. There's so much less money in this world. What that means is there's less money for training, there's less money for innovation, there's less money to do outreach, there's less money for everybody, and so we have to get better and better at what we do. Two things, companies needed to rethink how they were going to survive. Dynavox didn't want to look at us for a while, now I have some good friends who are wonderful folks at that company, and they had to figure out what to do and they shrugged dramatically, they had just gone public, the stock price took a pretty bad pummelling, unfortunately. And, all these other things started talking, and all of a sudden the TV, news articles were more about pro local. And then David pro touch chat, there's a few of those, change was seismic. But that change is really probably just beginning. Look at what happened to music. And think about, we used to buy albums, and the album was a piece of concept art, and then all of a sudden we bought albums on the iTunes store, and now you buy one or two songs from an album, because you don't want to spend. And now we go onto Spotify and we just listen to everything. The way we consume is dictated by the economics around this world. Really interesting. Not going to spend too much time on it. But really interesting. Anyhow, this is the world order for me. I was so exhausted by this experience. I spent as much time as I could out at the beach. This is how old Tom got. This is his birthday party with a couple of his friends from high school. And I focused on him, what could I do for him, how could I support him? I moved out of the field of augmented communication, and left Dynavox after one year, contractually had to spend some time out of the field, and that was really tough for me, to be honest, but on the good side, I did have one kid who was as important to me as everybody, in a different way. And I went to school with him, I literally went to school with him three days a week for a year. And that's how panther came about, which was the next thing I did in technology. I had missed the moment for speech apps, couldn't do it at that point. But I missed the world of assisted technology even more. And there were still a lot of important questions to ask. Like number one, how do you do other things when you can't hold a pencil? How do you do math when you can't hold a pencil? How do you control a computer if you can't use a mouse, or do well on a track pad? How can you leverage technology that's available and creating amazing stuff around us, how can you leverage that technology to build more wonderful stuff that people in this world need? One answer was panther math paper, and I'd like to show. This is a little commercial-y, I apologize for it, but it gives you a sense of what panther math paper does, and I'd like to that, and I'm going to talk for, I'm going to start it and let it get a little bit ahead of it so we don't have as many of those moments, I think. But what panther math paper was, was a question, a kid is never going to learn if they're not going to make mistakes. They're never going to be able to follow along if they don't have a way to write equations, and this is true for everybody, from people who need to do two plus two is four, to people who need to do quadratic equations. I'll tell you right now, one of the big joys of my life is, Tom has an 88 average in math. He's passed two regions in math, he's doing great in math. And he once said to me you know, Dad, I never could have done any of this without math paper. And I know that's personal, but I hear that from other people who email constantly, and of course it's a smaller market, it's a smaller life changing thing, but it's so important to kids in school. So I'm going to go now and show the video. Please guys, if you are checking on the texting and we have problems with the audio, just let me know.

- [Voiceover] Introducing panther math paper. Now you can do math independently on your iPad, even if you don't have the dexterity to hold a pencil. You can use math paper for almost any problem, from simple arithmetic, to advanced algebra. Math paper provides innovative access for people with a diverse range of motor challenges, because it's based on insights from universal design. Math paper is intuitive to use, and the interface is designed to allow you to use only what you need. That means it's great for beginners, perfect for learning, and a powerful tool to grow with you through your education. Numbers are located in a line along the bottom of the screen, so they're easier to use motorically, visually, and cognitively. Math paper has so much built in support. Four carry functions for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. There are special functions for fractions, exponents, and long division. A predictive cursor makes doing work easy and efficient, anticipating where you want to enter the next number, you can add an adjustable hold time to avoid mis-hits, and do your math never lifting a finger from the screen. Panther math paper has the smart and intuitive features you need for effective inclusion. Save work in accessible folders. Email as active worksheets or PDFs. There's even a way to add notes. That means you can create a test for an entire class, send that test to everyone, and have each student send back the finished test. Because math paper is not a calculator, it can even be used during formal testing. And you can customize math paper so it looks best for you. Now, even people who can't hold a pencil can do their work, do class assignments, and gain the independence one needs for true learning. Panther math paper. From panther.

- [Voiceover] So, for those of you who ever want to wonder if a kid with disabilities knows how to smile, put cameras on him. I think that might answer that. There's also a video about panther connect, which is a super cool piece of technology, but in the interest of time, because we've gone a little long with some of the stoppages, I'll just leave it to you. If you're interested, if you go to panther technology, you can see the video that I will be showing. Panther connect is a super cool thing. It allows you to use your iPad to control your cursor on the screen. It has all sorts of interesting things you can move. You can move it quickly, you can move it slowly, you can do it so it only goes in certain directions, like the old penny giles stuff, but of course, that's a very fancy piece of technology, this is much less expensive. It even has one thing that's really cool where if you move on the left of your iPad, the cursor goes quickly, but if you move on the right of your iPad, the cursor goes slowly so you can get to where you want to be and then hone in. So this is not a there's no android, it's only iPad versions, but again, something that I really, very very proud of this stuff. And again, exceptional parent was nice enough to sort of say wow, let's show people how much you've aged through all of this. But they also, good for them, not so good for me. And we were put on the cover of their education issue, because we'd done this, we'd done panther connect, we'd also done something really interesting with keyboards that you no longer need with all the new iPad stuff. But again, that got us coverage, news articles, etc. Here's what's happening now. Total talk. I couldn't stay away from what was going on. I missed the world of augmented communication. And we've just come up with a new app called total talk. That has been getting, it's really very very nice, we've been getting five star ratings from pretty much all the review groups, people are seeing why it's different, and the question I asked myself before I did this was why should we even create another speech app, which is a fundamental question that people in technology don't often ask themselves. Why should I do this? There are so many speech apps that are just inexpensive rip offs of the good stuff. And it really, the early apps that came out, you know pro local, and touch chat, etc, they're great, they were really terrific because they made AAC available to so many more people. But they didn't do much besides take the grid and put it on an iPad so people could get it for one tenth the price. One should certainly not discount what that's done to our field, however, what have we done differently? So, the person who began my career in advertising, I believe that everything communicates. It's not just the words, it's how you say them. The key message you're trying to deliver is always influenced by visual cues others see around you. Everybody has their own brand. And so I want us to develop a system which did all it could to surround powerful language with all the other ways we can inform people about our meaning, and our experience, and who we are. I wanted to bring social capital to the field and to people who use speech generating devices and apps. And again, we were able to bring back the kanga symbols, which are now kind of arts PCS symbols, as one matter of doing that. But if you look at the screens themselves, you know when Apple does their iPhone, they'll spend like 20 months trying to figure out how sharp the curve can be. Because believe it or not that stuff really really matters, and we wanted to honor. As a person who was involved with tech for decades, I'm so aware of the user experience. And that's not just the personal user, that's the experience of everybody who interacts with a piece of technology. And if this is not a nice thing to consider, user experience is the biggest factor of success. It supports adoption or it stands in the way of adoption. And I wanted to develop a way that could make the user experience more enjoyable, thoughtful, seamless, and just celebratory for everybody, because that will keep us all moving ahead. Someone just asked what I mean by social capital. When we have capital, it's stuff we can use to acquire things, social capital are things that allow us to build a better image of ourselves, to get ourselves more embraced by others. Someone also just asked what Tom is using for augmented communication. He's using turbo fox, I'm glad to say. And I told him you don't have to, you can use something else you wanted to. But he was involved in the development, he was using the betas, and a lot of it is really informed by some of the things he taught. As a parent who watched teachers and parents struggle, we've all seen this. I wanted to make things easier for people who, for poor people to use AAC, I wanted an editing and a customization process that people actually said oh my god, this is going to be fun, I've got to create a page. That's not a sentence you hear all that often. I remember creating early pages with the Dynavox stuff. I remember using some of the other apps that were out there and transferring back and forth from one thing into another thing, and having to make pages move and stuff like that. It was tough. I really wanted to leverage the new features of the iOS in the iPad to create innovations that weren't available before. What you can do on the iPad now is incredible. The way you code on the iPad now is incredible. And by starting with thinking about what's available to us, we're able to create new things, and build in a modular way so we can answer requests for new things, so we can figure out what's best, and we can change structures in a real time basis. As the creator of the tango, I got to work with some of the best thinkers in the field. I worked with Caroline and Patti, and Linda, and Kara Erichson, and Mark Zarabian. I worked with Gretchen and Deana and Moan. These are people I've learned so much. I want to make sure that everything they think about is reflected in an AAC device. I wanted to make sure that the language organization reflected both the critical social aspects that we have, and all the linguistic things. And I wanted to get that perspective into an app. And finally, as a dad, I've always wanted to help create a path for others to more easily understand my son and people who share his challenges. That's my goal. I want people to understand my son, and see what's in him. Tango got its name because it takes two to tango. Communication's not just about one says, it's about what others hear. It's about building up that sense of relationships, and I wanted to make that happen. And then, tech today is so cool. I wanted to get to play again. There's so much new stuff you can do, stability of the hardware's increased, there's new intech's into user experience, there's new ways to code. So we created total talk. Here's some of the things that are totally new. It's got multi-modal communication already built into it. It doesn't only have a great language created. It has the photo album built in. It has quick chat. It has stories and jokes that are all built in. It has advanced user features. There's three levels of conjugation support. You can edit with a cursor, and you can edit a whole page and see it. You can speak more outputs, but in the app you can whine, you can whisper, you can shout, you can text, you can email, etc. The editing is super simple. And then we have a couple of innovative supports like teleprompt and telechecks. With teleprompt, you can support a person from across the room. I think it's really the only app that does this right now. Anyone who has an iPad can get a free app called Orbit, and with Orbit, you can watch the pages change on the iPad, and when they change, you can see, if the kid's having trouble, you can circle the thing on the page with your finger on your iPhone, and it will appear on the iPad. And if you have an iPhone, a phone that's not an iPhone, you can do it on that as well. But it's just like calistrating during a football game. You can support a kid, you can help a kid, you can put a big smiley face when they get it right. You can see what they do, and that is so cool. And one of the nice things about it is the reviews that have come out about us have not only said wow this is great, but they've also said wow, it works. And that's amazing. That it is due. And again, there's a really cool thing called teletext. Anyone who's used the 18 knows that when you go into a restaurant, or a noisy place no matter what it is, it doesn't work that well. So this allows you to just instantly, from within the app, checks back and forth through the orbit app, where people can do it. So if a kid's at a baseball game with all of his friends, any friend can text to him in real time from their phone, in the orbit app, and it'll appear in that little red bar right up there, and then you can write what you want using, not a keyboard, but any of the ways you're talking there, and it'll go right to the kid. Because instead of hitting speak, you just hit speak and the kid knows it at that point. So really really special stuff. I'm going to just show you one or two really quick things here. Why don't we show the types of talking video? And again, I'll just give you a... What this video is going to give you is a sense of how easy it is to use all sorts of multimodal communication from within TelepPromp, because again, when you're writing a paper, when you want to say something novel, you need to use the words, and if you look at this you'll see how nice each organize is. It's vertical columns. You have your folder of people, and you have your most frequent thing right beneath it. Words most frequent, activity and the verbs you need for activity, places and modifiers, your most likely modifiers, and these are all based on the top 40 words, the top 60 words, and all the clinical stuff that we all know so well, I don't need to go over that. So little words in the top four, questions are on there, and again, you'll see, as you go to different versions later, that they show up there. But this is only one part of communication, and we forget that. And even when apps build these things in, they don't make it super easy to get to. They make it tough. So what we've done is we've taken a modular approach to it, so I'm going to show you that now. Again, if the audio doesn't work, let me know.

- [Voiceover] I am good. Today. I am good today. I love food. I love food when it's beautifully arranged and not so healthy breakfasts, like thick bacon.

- [Voiceover] What you're going to be noticing, by the way, is when you hit the total talk button, it opens you up to a panel of multimodal communication options, and we just did that, and saw the photo album, and now you're about to see a couple of others.

- [Voiceover] Hi. My name's Miles. Talk to me. Hi Catherine. Nice outfit. I want to take it to school tomorrow. You're probably right.

- [Voiceover] And what you see there is one of the things I love most is the thoughtfulness that has gone into every one of these communication options. When you're doing this, this is from a play my son is in, but you might be doing your report in school, you might be doing something else, and what you can do is you just easily just write it on your symbols and then save it into a button. But when you're up there, you're nervous, and we all know that a body with disabilities often has spasms and movements and it's hard to control, and moving around the thing is tough, so we have this big next phrase button down there, so you can choose something like we did button one, button two, and it went to I want to take it to school tomorrow, but we could have also been hitting next phrase and you go from one to the next, which allows somebody to really appreciate, to acknowledge their own disability and do things better. I'm going to continue.

- [Voiceover] Hi Mom. I am so happy. What do pandas have that no other animal has?

- [Voiceover] Now that's one way to tell a joke, but sometimes you want to do a little bit more.

- [Voiceover] Did you hear the joke about the giraffe? Never mind. It's probably over your head.

- [Voiceover] So again, see what we've done there is we realized that telling a joke requires a little bit more than just saying lines, and if you're saying them with synthetic speech, you don't have the ability to do those big emotions. So we gave people another way to do it. I'm just going to show you, let's go to cous cous now, and I'll just show you the editing interface. So if we can bring that one up? And while we're doing this, what you'll see here is how we create new buttons in total talk, and again, what I really love about this is how we've acknowledged the fact that a keyboard is going to be used and it will be moving things around the screen, and you really want to focus. You don't want to have things moving all the time. You want to have things in places where you can always get to them, where you know what to do, where you can find something, and you want your editing to be beautiful. You want to see yourself building the button. You want to see the options. You don't want to do everything in the world. Some people do, and maybe this isn't the right thing for them, but you want to have great options that allow you to create things smartly, to create things quickly, to create things in an enjoyable way. So let me start this one. What we're going to do here is you'll see that we're going to create a new button. So you'll also notice down there that there's a thing called the magic button. The magic button lets you do a lot of wonderful stuff, and in this case it's going to allow you to create something new. So again, don't have to think hard, don't have to navigate, just tells you exactly what you're going to do.

- [Voiceover] This is my favourite.

- [Voiceover] You know, I think the editing interface is one of my favourite things. There's a lot of other things that you can see in Total Talk, and so we'll post these up on a website, because we only have five minutes, I want to leave a moment or two for questions. And what I'm going to do is sort of, if we can close this one, I'll just take you through one other thing right now, which would be the takeaways from all this. Distribution of the product is no longer difficult. All you have to do is get an iPad and click. But people are overwhelmed by choices and finding what you want is not as easy as it seems. How do you evaluate what's great? How do you learn about what's great? How do you share what's great? Tech allows an amazing new power, and it now also needs to inform the user, so the biggest obstacles to adoption are lack of belief in a person, lack of training and how to use something, lack of access to information, and the lack of realistic goals, but we have the ability now to get past these obstacles. I was going to say that what lies ahead, some of you may have heard about vocalide, which was actually covered by CTV earlier this week or last week, Ruple is wonderful. She actually reached out to us. We will be working with her to do some stuff there, but it's a really interesting way of creating novel voices. I also want to show you something really cool. Darpa, the great brain trust that you all know about, has allowed us, they're working on technology that you might have heard of, thought to speech, where you can actually take what people think and turn it right into speech on the spot. My son and myself borrowed UCL, Thomas, they let us borrow this technology for one day to see how we could actually do something as amazing as thought to speech. And I'm going to share this with you now. So if you could just pull up the Darpa video. Do we have the Darpa video? Yeah, here we go. So this is thought to speech technology. I think you'll all find it quite interesting.

- [Voiceover] So hey bud, how you doing?

- [Voiceover] I'm doing okay, Dad.

- [Voiceover] Great! What did you do today?

- [Voiceover] Just hung out with my friend, Desi.

- [Voiceover] Oh, sounds good. What else did you do?

- [Voiceover] Ah, he just does not stop!

- [Voiceover] What are you saying to me?

- [Voiceover] My dad is such a jerk!

- [Voiceover] The point of that, it's not real, it's some caregiver talking off camera. But the point of that, of course, is what's difficult is not always getting something to work. It's learning how to control our technology so we don't show other stuff. If we could just close this video, please. I just love that because I think people just spend the first minute going is that really happening? And finally, what I want to show, is this is what it's all about today, and if we can pull up the video of Tom on CBS, the second one? This is a piece... I was so proud of Tom. They found him this time. He was on a little TV on the learning channel, a CBS reporter found him. She set up the interview with him on his own, Tom planned everything on his own, he got the people who you're going to see in the video on his own. Really, really spectacular. All of the earlier things that Tom had done, I was involved in, but he's 18 now, and it's such a joy to see this boy taking independence as the greatest challenge and the greatest deliverable in the life. It's been incredibly gratifying having... On a very personal level, to have developed technology to allow your son to speak, rather than having used the technology that's out there. You know, the first thing people think about is wow, that's amazing of you to do that. But it's also damn scary, because what if you didn't do what was right? What if your thinking wasn't as good as some of the other thinking? What if your child ended up not being lifted up, but ended up being held back? And again, we made some tough choices where the specific language was less important than the ability to communicate, and someone just asked if the Darpa app was available. No, that doesn't actually exist. That was just sort of a fun demo. Total talk exists and you can find that. Total talk AAC. But, what's amazing is to have watched your child learn how to be independent, learn how to fend for himself, learn how to create things by himself, learn how to find language, and what Tom's joy right now, is Broadway. He wants to be an actor. He's writing his own show. I've been lucky because I've been able to introduce him to some people on Broadway, but what I say to him all the time is you know, buddy, I can get you in the door, but that's all I can do. After that it's up to you. And to watch him do this on his own is very, very special. So I'm going to show this, the video's moving slowly, hopefully it'll catch up.

- [Voiceover] Now to a story we first brought you back in 2004. We introduced you to a young man who has cerebral palsy.

- [Voiceover] Well now he's all grown up, and he isn't letting his physical limits hold him back when it comes to his dreams. CBS2's Cindy Shu has his inspiring story.

- [Voiceover] Who wants to be the helper over here? Thomas? Alright.

- [Voiceover] We first met Thomas Ellenson 12 years ago, when he was in kindergarten. He's now 18, in high school, and his first love is acting. He's able to say his lines through a program called Total Talk.

- [Voiceover] What is cerebral palsy?

- [Voiceover] CP is an injury to the brain. I didn't have enough oxygen when I was born.

- [Voiceover] While Thomas has limited movement and speech, cognitively he's just like any other teenager. He types his words into this machine, which is then able to give those words sound. He dreams of acting on Broadway.

- [Voiceover] I'm writing my own one-man show because I know people might not hire me otherwise.

- [Voiceover] What do you want people to take away from your show?

- [Voiceover] I want people to learn that people with disabilities are normal. See me, not CP.

- [Voiceover] So see you, not cerebral palsy.

- [Voiceover] He loves Broadway so much he has a review website called Theaterrific.

- [Voiceover] I focus on the good in shows. Because people work really hard on them.

- [Voiceover] So you're a theatre critic with a heart.

- [Voiceover] He can't even remember how many shows he's attended. One of his best friends is actor Christopher Hanke, who's been in four Broadway shows.

- [Voiceover] Aww. Love you buddy.

- [Voiceover] If he wants to be on Broadway, he should be on Broadway. He has to fight it. If he fights hard enough, he can do it.

- [Voiceover] Desiree Valdez is another dear friend. They met four years ago in an acting program. And while they're now inseparable, Desiree remembers when they first met.

- [Voiceover] I was like oh my goodness, how am I going to do this? How are we going to make scenes? Can he talk? How does it work?

- [Voiceover] It's worked just fine.

- [Voiceover] I use his old chair...

- [Voiceover] The people from Front Home actually spotted this and invited him to go be with him at Sardi's, where they put up all their posters at this famous Broadway restaurant. So if we can close that. If I can indulge everyone in just two more minutes, I'll just... That's what it's all about. The takeaways for me, our tech today is amazing. We have the ability to apply remarkable and transformative supports and opportunity to the individual, but we have far less ability to provide this to an ecosystem, and we forget that. So what we really need to consider first is what's not really so obvious. We need to understand the needs of people with disabilities, but to understand them without the experiences that you and I have, is almost impossible. I've seen it time and time again. We need to think not only of the individual, but rather we need to think about the listener, we need to think about the teacher, we need to think about the ecosystem. These days, I not only own Total Talk, but I've also become CEO of the cerebral palsy foundation. Our website is your CPS dot org. We're doing some really important stuff these days. And I will just show you one of the videos that might be a little, can we do that? It looks like we can do that. We'll just show one of the videos that we're doing. The issue is that people don't understand people with disabilities, and they don't. Let's start with the nuts and cook. If you just go down you can. Let's start with John Oliver, actually, right there. Just up a little bit. Let's start with John Oliver. But we've done all these celebrities. You can see the website right up there. Your CPS dot org. Here we go.

- [Voiceover] If I have any advice on how to start a conversation with someone who has disabilities. So maybe let's start with what not to do. Don't mumble or stare, or blurt out an intimate detail from your own life, and, whatever you do, don't speak extra loud, as if you think being in a wheelchair is somehow the same as wearing noise-cancelling headphones. Frankly, those aren't particularly good ways to start a conversation with anyone. Essentially, the best thing to do is just say hi. And then go from there.

- [Voiceover] And why don't we just show the Tim Cook one? Tim Cook heard about this, the folks of Apple really loved what we were doing, and they asked if Tim could do one, and he did something quite special that you'll see.

- [Voiceover] At Apple, we believe inclusion inspires innovation. Diversity gives us strength. And that includes people with disabilities. The cerebral Palsy foundation asked me what's the best way to strike up a conversation with someone who has a disability? It's easier than you think. But don't take my word for it. Hey Siri, how do you start a conversation with someone who has a disability?

- [Voiceover] It's easy. Just say hi.

- [Voiceover] There you go. Reach out to someone with a disability. You can start by just saying hi.

- [Voiceover] If we can just go back to my final slide. The campaign is wonderful. It's being picked up by so many people. And one of the most exciting things, it was really remarkable to see the CBS piece that we just saw that begins with the CBS piece, beginning of this presentation. I hadn't really, I knew the video, so I didn't look at it like that, but in the context of the presentation, how special to look at it and see that? And it's also amazing to see what's going on with the just say hi campaign. Because last Monday, we had a press conference with the chancellor of New York City schools, Carmen Farina, and with the deputy chancellor, Carine Valensalmi, who runs special ed, who with Alex Brightman, who's the star of School of Rock on Broadway, and we announced that the just say hi campaign is becoming the platform for inclusion in every New York City public school next year. And what a remarkable thing to see, the power of a simple idea. And with that I'll just end that the world is constantly changing. Technology and humanity are really poised to come together. We're already sort of cyborg-ish, and you know, when we think back to when we all started this, when a kid came out with the Dynavox it was what's that, and now a kid comes out with an iPad and it's you're like me. What an astounding difference. In considering opportunities for people with disabilities, we need to always make sure we're looking for what is equal without any compromise. We need to demand equality, we need to demand opportunity, we need to fight when things aren't quite the way they should be. But in thinking of how to get there, we need to think of what is equivalent. My son wanted to be on a ball field with his friends, and I said you know, buddy, that's not going to work, because you can't catch a fly ball. So he became a coach. And he was every bit as much a part of the team. My foundation's actually now working with ESPN to share that message. And most importantly, as you work to support individuals, I'd ask everyone on this call to always remember that very few people will care about a person until they know them, and it's up to us to help bridge that gap where someone knows what to look for. And in doing that, we have to remember that we're not only professionals, but we are story tellers. The stories that we tell parents, as professionals, the stories we tell our kids, as parents, the stories we tell others as they look at this world that they just don't understand as well as we do, are the stories that will start their journey, and it will tell them where to look, and it will tell them what to look for. And that is really the greatest thing about technology. That's the greatest thing about inclusion. That is where we are today. We're at a moment in time when people are ready to hear something new, and to hear something different, to use the technology, to breakthrough things that they'd never thought before, and what a joy it is to be able to part of that, and since we're storytellers, I guess my final aside should be the end. So thank everybody so much. It's just a joy to have been doing this. And I guess I'll pass this over to Russell. I just also say that if anyone wants to email me, personally, the email is Richard at Ellenson dot com, that's my personal email there, and I'd be happy to answer any questions. I'd also be happy to send you the links to, my friend Thomas has his website, Theaterrific. That's the most important one for you all to go to. You can also go to the Total Talk AAC site and learn about Total Talk. You can go to the Panther technology site, learn about some of that technology. And you can go to the Your CPS site and see some of the really terrific work our foundation's doing. I'd be glad to send everyone a link to that. But thank you so much for taking the time, and sorry that I've gone a little long.

- [Voiceover] Thanks very much, Richard. And Jackie has just put up the fact that we'll be, if you missed any part of this, you'll be able to take another look at it. It's being recorded and it'll be archived. And I appreciate everyone's waiting through the technology glitches with us, and those of you who stayed a little longer, hoping you feel that it was really well worth it. And even though it is a bit late, if you have a couple of questions, Richard will be happy to entertain those.

- [Voiceover] Doesn't seem like there are questions.

- [Voiceover] Thanks again, Richard, for all the time and effort that you've put into this. I'm thinking maybe in the archiving we can clean some of the technology up just a little bit. Certainly your perspectives and message came through in spite of the little technology glitches, and after all, it's a technology webinar, that's what we're talking about, so maybe we also were demonstrating that it isn't always smooth and easy, but when we make it smooth and easy, it's well worth the efforts.

- [Voiceover] Okay, so thank you everyone.

- [Voiceover] Thank you.