New technology helps students with disabilities

Milwaukee-based InfoCor recently designed and released its new Satalight Interactive Learning Station with SMART board technology.

The product is designed to increase productivity and participation for adults and children with disabilities. InfoCor designed the product with wheelchair-enabled students in kindergarten through 12th grade in mind.

“Special educators have asked us for a simply designed, assistive technology unit that allows for interactivity and freedom of movement in the classroom,” said Cheryl Anderson, president and chief executive officer at InfoCor.

“InfoCor has been a super leader in SMART board technology for the last eight or nine years. Some of the challenges we faced after the boards were mounted on the wall of a classroom was making it so smaller children and children in wheelchairs could reach them,” said Bill Jones, executive vice president and chief operating officer for InfoCor.

The product is designed so the interactive screen can come down to the level of any age child or height of a wheelchair. It is also equipped with four wheels that are able to lock in place, a shelving unit for a laptop computer, printer or scanner, and the projection is a short-throw mirrored image, in order to minimize the distraction of the bright light for autistic children.

“The real selling feature of the product is its mobile accessibility. The height of the board is easily adjusted up or down, and even the angle of the board can be changed. Any teacher can make those adjustments quite easily,” Jones said.

The product also comes on four wheels with locking capabilities and is able to fit through most standard size doors in the home or in the classroom. The screen is a 48 inches diagonal, and is touch activated.

“One of the unique aspects of this product is that it is activated by just the slightest touch of a finger, you don’t have to use a pen, and so a disabled student in a wheelchair can activate and use the boards efficiently themselves,” Jones said.

Due to the quality of the projector used in Satalight, the product is also very useful for the visually impaired, Jones said.

“We are particularly excited about the product because not only is it accessible to the wheelchair bound students, but students who are visually impaired are even able to see the symbols and interact as well,” Jones said.

According to Jones, InfoCor worked with a company in Madison to design and develop the product. Educators, therapists and parents of children with disabilities were consulted in order to provide them with a product that would be Americans with Disabilities Act compliant with wheelchair reach and mobility.

InfoCor also has been able to work with software providers and manufacturers that have software that is very specific for people with disabilities, Jones said.

“We are experimenting with them and with special education teachers that have come and watched the demonstration of Satalight, to research and develop the various software applications that are available for use with the product,” he said.

The Satalight weighs about 160 pounds, and InfoCor is trying to make it a completely independent learning station with speakers, iPod adaptors and projectors all in one place. Such amenities allow for easy installation in the classroom as well as in the home for students with disabilities who may not be able to go to the classroom on a regular basis, Jones said.

“(Satalight) can be installed in the home, where the family actually can work with a Bridgit software conferencing product that allows the student to work from home and collaborate with students in the school classroom,” he said.

The technology was developed mainly for the K-12 vocational and higher education assistive technology markets. However, based on the design and functionality of the unit, its ability to work in the corporate world is an added bonus, Jones said.

The product also is being reviewed by Milwaukee area contractors to use onsite in construction trailers. Workers can’t mount a board on the wall, and if changes to the architectural plans need to be made they must travel back to the office to do so, Jones said.

“What happens now, because Satalight is sort of a work table, they can use the CAD software, annotate right on the drawings themselves, and then the office has a unit there that shows the annotations the construction team made and can then approve or disapprove of  the changes,” he said.

According to Jones, the product could also be useful within the judicial system, as a work station to demonstrate forensic evidence that can be accessed later for jury review; as remote stations of data for disaster recovery, even hospitals would be able to find uses for Satalight.

InfoCor is focused on the U.S. and Canadian markets for Satalight but has the capability of distributing the product worldwide. According to Jones, representatives from the United Kingdom and Denmark have seen the product and are interested in distributing it internationally in vocational markets in those countries, as well.

“There is a lot of excitement surrounding this product,” Jones said. “The assistive technology really opens up a whole new era for people with disabilities; it gives them an open field of opportunities.”


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