Outline of the state of Massachusetts with people inside and "MassMATCH"MassMATCH NEWS Quarterly

Maximizing Assistive Technology in Consumers' Hands

Fall 2012
"Back to School" 
Back to School with Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM)
Spell Checking: It's all about Context
New in the Device Loan Library--the IRISPen Express 6
Help for Managing Your School's AT Inventory is Here!
New Virtual Toolkit for AT and Education
Get AT Stuff Highlights
AT Loan Program's $10 Million Milestone
Save the Date: Abilities Expo Boston
A Free App of Free Apps for Autism!
Build a Better Board Game
Upcoming Events
Back to School with Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM)

Tips and resources for books in alternative formats from Joy Zabala and Susan Hargrave

Logo for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education showing a person holding up a star.
As the school year begins, families, educators, and others who provide supports to students often have concerns and questions about Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM) and if those materials could be needed by their students. Since assistive technology plays an important role in the delivery of accessible instructional content, the AIM Center and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) have identified some resources of special interest for MassMATCH News Quarterly readers. We invite you to explore and share.
Where can I go for a quick introduction to accessible instructional materials?

*    AIM Basics for Families (2011): This booklet, available in English and Spanish, will help Individualized Education Program (IEP) team members decide whether a student needs accessible instructional materials, what type of specialized format the student needs, how to access the materials for the student, and what supports the student needs to use AIM.

*    AIM: A Technical Guide for Families and Advocates (2011):  This guide includes background information on AIM provisions in IDEA, definitions of terms, a thorough description of the decision making process for AIM, and where to find additional resources.

*    AIMing for Achievement Series: What Educators and Families Need to Know about Accessible Instructional Materials. This series of articles, originally published in Closing the Gap Solutions, addresses the complexities, challenges, and opportunities related to the provision of accessible instructional materials. 

Is there anything available to help IEP Teams and other teams make thoughtful decisions about AIM?  

Check out the AIM Navigator, an online decision-making tool. The AIM Navigator facilitates a 4-step process of decision-making around accessible instructional materials for an individual student. Guiding questions, resources, and scaffolds of support are built in to provide access to information at the level needed to assist the team in making informed accurate decisions.

How do Massachusetts schools obtain accessible instructional materials for students?

Massachusetts coordinates with three providers to help schools obtain accessible instructional materials for students with print disabilities. Thanks to federal and/or state funding, materials through these entities may be available at no cost to a school district (certain conditions apply). Eligibility is restricted to students who are blind, visually impaired, have a physical disability, or have a reading disability that is physically based. To obtain needed materials, schools may directly contact:

*    Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM) Library

The state's AIM Library lends specialized educational materials such as braille and large print books to eligible blind and visually impaired students. Responding to requests by certified teachers of the visually impaired, the library provides accessible versions of textbooks, workbooks, and works of literature. The library also borrows, purchases, or contracts with vendors to produce the needed books, if they are not available in its collection. In addition, the AIM Library circulates materials available through the American Printing House for the Blind, such as early literacy skill builders, math manipulatives, accessible media devices, and braille note takers.

*    Learning Ally

Formerly known as Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, Learning Ally provides audio versions of textbooks and other books that students need to read. Books are available as downloadable audio and CDs, which can be played on a variety of portable devices. Learning Ally audiobooks are recorded using the human voice and include figure, graph, and picture descriptions.

*    Bookshare

Bookshare offers downloadable digital text for textbooks and other books. Using software provided by Bookshare (or another popular text-to-speech application), students can listen to text while they view it on a computer screen or portable device. Digital braille files are also available for use with refreshable braille devices.

Learn more about this process at this ESE Web page.

How can students and families get accessible books for students to read for pleasure?   

For recreational reading, including fiction, nonfiction, magazines, and newspapers, there are two additional libraries supported in part by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. These libraries are part of a national network of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). The libraries circulate braille, large print, audiobooks, and described videos to eligible borrowers by mail. Materials can be ordered online, and downloadable materials are also available. All of these services are free, including the loan of specialized digital audiobook players.

*    Perkins Braille & Talking Book Library

Located at the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, the library has a browsing area with a variety of new titles and old favorites in digital cartridges, braille, or large print. The library also has a display of playback equipment. A public access computer is equipped with assistive technology.

*    Worcester Talking Book Library

Located at the Worcester Public Library, the library has Internet-connected computers for public use, along with braille translation software, screen reader software, text-to-speech software, a braille embosser, and a scanner.

What do purchasers and users of educational materials need to know about accessibility?

*    Check out the PALM Initiative (Purchase Accessible Learning Materials) to learn about the PALM Initiative and find supporting documents and presentation materials on accessibility issues with digital learning materials.

*    Read AIMing for Digital Equity by Bowser and Zabala, reprinted with permission from the International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE).  

Who can be contacted for more information?

For textbooks and other educational materials, a student's IEP team coordinator would be an important place to begin. The district's Director of Special Education can also be of assistance. For additional information visit this ESE Web page.  

Joy Smiley Zabala, Ed.D., is director of technical assistance for the National AIM Center and the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST). Susan Hargrave is Coordinator of Digital Learning and Accessibility at the Mass. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Spell Checking: It's all about Context

by Karen Janowski, assistive and educational technology specialist for the Newton school district

Have you ever been in a situation where you recognize the person you are talking with but just can't place how you know them? It happened to me recently, walking my dog at the park. I encountered someone but just couldn't place him. Fortunately, he recognized my memory failure and explained we were members of a town committee. Out of context, I didn't recognize him.

Context is important. Not only in face to face encounters.

It's also important when spell checking our written work.

Google Docs offers a feature which relies on context; it's a feature which makes the use of Google Docs especially helpful for our students who struggle with spelling. They call it "Intelligent Spelling," where spell checking looks at the words in context in the sentence and offers suggestions. Many people rely on the spell checker built into Microsoft Word, but it does not have contextual spell checking capabilities.

Want to see this in action? Here's a video which demonstrates how it works and compares the spell checking features built into Word with Google Docs.

Spell Check in MS Word vs Google Docs YouTube Video
Spell Check in MS Word vs Google Docs
(links to a YouTube Video)

Google's Blog states:

1. Suggestions are contextual. For example, the spell checker is now smart enough to know what you mean if you type "Icland is an icland."

2. Contextual suggestions are made even if the misspelled word is in the dictionary. If you write "Let's meat tomorrow morning for coffee" you'll see a suggestion to change "meat" to "meet."

3. Suggestions are constantly evolving. As Google crawls the web, we see new words, and if those new words become popular enough they'll automatically be included in our spell checker-even pop culture terms, like Skrillex.

Time to add Google Docs/Presentations to your students' Toolbelt (Toolbelt Theory by Ira Socol)

You may also be interested in:

1. Ginger Software - a free download which offers contextual spell checking

2. Ghot It

This article was originally published on August 25, 2012 at Karen's blog: Teaching Every Student, and republished here with permission. Karen is a member of the MassMATCH AT Advisory Council. 

New in the Device Loan Library--The
IRISPen Express 6
Photo of the IRIS Pen in someone's hand on paper with the words

Scan from hard copy into any computer software application, all from the tip of this remarkable pen!

The IRISPen Express 6 is now available for trial through the MassMATCH AT Regional Center in Boston. Students can copy text in magazines, newspapers, letters, textbooks, etc. and insert at the cursor on their computer screen. 128 languages are recognized, and most software applications are supported. Saves hours of typing. Learn more at Irislink.com
The MassMATCH Short-term Device Loan Program allows anyone to borrow assistive technology devices free of charge for up to 4 weeks at a time. Browse the inventory at MassMATCH Web page.

Disclaimer: MassMATCH makes no endorsement, representation, or warranty expressed or implied for any product, device, or information set forth in this newsletter or on its Web site. MassMATCH, the Mass. Rehabilitation Commission, nor the US Dept of Education has not examined, reviewed, or tested any product or device referred to in this newsletter or at MassMATCH.org.
Help for Managing Your School's AT Inventory is Here!
A.T. School Share logo: shows a schoolhouse encircled by recycling arrows.
Does your school need a way to keep track of its assistive technology (AT) devices? Wish you had an accessible-from-anywhere online tool to see and track what you have?

The MassMATCH AT School Share is free to schools, collaboratives, and districts. The goal of the program is to keep AT in the hands of students who can use it, and that includes helping schools and school systems track their devices so equipment stays in circulation.

With support from the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family Foundation (and pilot member feedback!) MassMATCH has recently completed a series of AT School Share Web site updates to fine tune this tool for schools. We are happy to report there are now 11 school entities signed up to use the AT School Share online inventory. Schools, districts, and collaboratives are recognizing that the ATSS online tool offers flexibility for their program and fills a real need.

How is ATSS flexible?

An ATSS inventory allows you to include a lot or a little information about devices. It even has a way to maintain your current ID# system (if you have one), so you don't have to start from scratch. The system allows users different levels of access so some can manage the inventory while others may just access information. And the system allows users a way to tag items that are available for sharing, either within their district/collaborative or beyond. At present the vast majority of listed devices are for school use only.

Why else should my school join?

The more schools that sign up, the more powerful this community can become. With enough listed information, ATSS members will be able to see quickly what technologies are being used and where so that questions about usage/implementation/effectiveness can be asked and answered by regional colleagues (message boards, in-messaging). Equipment-wanted notices may also be posted and answered by ATSS community members.

Interested? Check out the ATSS Web site. Schools, districts, and collaboratives decide how these tools can best work for them!

New Virtual Toolkit for AT and Education
Graphic of a protractor and other school supplies.
New on the MassMATCH Web site --the Virtual Toolkit for Education.

Here is a unique collection of resources for educators, therapists, and others who work with K-12 students with special needs.   


Explore links to tools for... 

  • matching students with technology,  
  • searching educational AT hardware and software,
  • AT assessments for students K-12


  • online communities for asking and answering AT-for-education questions;
  • professional and program development opportunities for AT in K-12 environments; 
  • AT for education blogs and podcasts.  

We'd love your feedback! Email info@massmatch.org with suggestions and ideas. 

Get AT Stuff Highlights
GetATStuff logo: image of New England States with recycling arrows around them

GetATStuff--the New England "Craig's List" for AT--currently
has hundreds of items available for sale or free throughout the six New England states.

As of this writing, GetATStuff highlights include:

15 Vision-related items

including a desktop magnifier for best offer in Ellington, CT!

2 Hearing-related items

including an amplified cordless telephone for $45 or best offer in Manchester, NH!

23 Speech Communication-related items

including a Mini Merc Compact fully integrated computer AAC device for $2,500 or best offer in Sutton, MA.

6 Learning, Cognitive, Development related items

including a DynaVox for best offer in Bristol, CT

346 Mobility, Seating, and Positioning related items

including a Convaid Stroller for $600 or best offer in Rochester, MA.

314 Daily Living related items

including a free Compressor Nebulizer System in Framingham, MA

66 Environmental Adaptation related items

including 2 Acorn Stair Lifts for $3,200 in Monson, MA

51 Transportation and Vehicle Modification related items

including a 2000 Dodge Caravan SE rear entry for 1 wheel chair for best offer Quincy, MA.

10 Computer related items

including a fully adjustable computer station for free in Watertown, MA

16 Recreation, Sports, and Leisure related items

including a recumbent exercise bike for $100 or best offer in Amherst, MA

Go to www.getatstuff.org to search items by category or geography or to list what you need. Go to the MassMATCH AT Swap and Shop web page to learn about additional AT reuse sites.

Quick Links
AT Loan Program's
$10 Million Milestone!
Graphic of a bag of money and the words Massachusetts Assistive Technology Loan Program.

Celebrate with us!
October 10th
 11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
The State House Grand Staircase in Boston

Massachusetts has now made $10 million in loans for residents to purchase assistive technology solutions and services they want or need.

The program--one of the oldest in the country-- makes financial loans accessible for people who may ordinarily be turned down by traditional lenders, and does so with favorable rates and terms. MATLP, through a partnership with Easter Seals MA and the Sovereign Bank, helps steward loan applications from individuals with disabilities, elders, or their family members. Adapted vans,  hearing aids, computers, and other technologies and services ranging from $500 to $25,000 are purchased through the MATLP and awareness of the program is growing ($5 million in loans were made over just the last two years!)

To mark this milestone, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, the Massachusetts Rehabilitation
Commission, and Easter Seals-MA will be celebrating the role the Assistive Technology Loan Program has played to assist persons with disabilities and elders to work and live more independently.

Learn more about the AT Loan Program at MassATLoan.org
Save the Date:
Abilities Expo Boston!
Logo for Abilities Expo. Serving the community since 1979. Shows person in a wheelchair graphic.

September 20-22, 2013

We're beginning the long drum roll...the Abilities Expo is coming next year! This is an exciting expo and conference event that travels around the U.S. and as far as Singapore. The expo features a pavilion of cutting-edge assistive technology, free workshops, adaptive sports events, and much, much more. It will be held at the Boston Convention and Exhibit Center (Hall C). Access to the hall is free. Learn more at this Abilities Expo Web page!
A Free App of Free Apps for Autism!

Autism Apps (for iPad and iPhone) is a free comprehensive list of apps that are used with and by individuals with autism (and other special needs). The apps are separated into over 30 categories and the descriptions are searchable. Apps may be emailed to others. Read about it at this iTunes apps store page.
Build a Better Board Game
Here's a way to adapt board games from Eileen Haddon, ATP

  • 1 board game (like Sorry)
  • 2 metal cookie sheets
  • super-strong magnets (discs) from a craft or hobby store
  • 3M Super 77 multi-purpose adhesive spray
  • Gorilla Glue
  • 1 clear water bottle or metal paperclips and a  "magic" magnetic wand (depending on if your game uses dice or cards)

Photo of two cookie sheets and the board game Candyland.


  1. Fold the board game in half and reinforce the crease with duct tape.
  2. Then open the board game up and lay it face down on newspapers or old easel tablet pages.
  3. With two metal cookie sheets ready, spray the back of the board game and the bottom of the cookie sheets with 3M Super 77 multi-purpose adhesive spray.
  4. Press the cookie sheets onto the back of the board game, leaving space for the center board crease. Press down hard, and then weight the cookie sheets down on the game board. (A wrapped ream of copy paper on each cookie sheet works nicely.)
  5. Leave it to cure for at least 3-4 hours.
  6. Glue a magnet to the bottom of the playing pieces. (I use Gorilla Glue.)
  7. Again, press down on the pieces and let the adhesive cure for at least 3-4 hours.

Now you're ready to play the game!


Using this light tech adaptation it is not necessary to have good fine motor control to put down a playing piece or push it along--the magnets work through the game board. The other advantage is that if the board game gets bumped, you no longer hear yells of "My piece was there!"


I have found that one request for used cookie sheets at church typically yields at least ten of them. Since you're going to need more cookie sheets for communication and puzzles, take them all!


The cookie sheet concept is an original idea I had. Strategies I've learned from others include putting the dice in a clear water bottle--the dice are rolled by knocking the bottle over. Again, less fine motor control is needed and the dice don't get lost. If the game uses cards, as in Candyland, put metal paperclips on them and pick a card from the pile using an auto parts "magic" magnetic wand.


Have fun!  


Eileen Haddon has been an Assistive Technology Access Specialist with the Vermont AT Program since 1998. 

Upcoming Events
Low Vision Yard Sale!
Carroll Center for the Blind's annual sale of used assistive technology.
September 29th,
10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Rachel E. Rosenbaum Technology Center
770 Centre Street
Newton, MA 02458

Learn about Victor Reader Stream and other Humanware products for for individuals who are visually impaired.
October 18th
9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. and
1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Free and lunch is provided!
AT Regional Center at Easter Seals
89 South Street
Boston, MA 02111

5th Annual "Tools for Schools" at the NEAT Marketplace in Hartford Connecticut.
October 23rd
8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
$25.00 registration
Hands on computer lab with the latest assistive technologies, vendor exhibits, and a keynote by Dr. Therese Wilkomm on "Making, Mounting, and Modifying Assistive Technology Solutions in Minutes." Learn more about this conference.

AppShare! Organizational and Productivity Apps
This is a drop-in time for people to come with their devices (Apple and Android) to share and learn about apps.
November 8th
11 a.m. to 12 p.m.
AT Regional Center at Easter Seals
89 South Street
Boston, MA 02111

Learn what's new from Saltillo, the company that created the Touch Chat apps for Android.
November 14th
1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
AT Regional Center at Easter Seals
89 South Street
Boston, MA 02111

Learn more about these and other events at this MassMATCH events Web page.
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