Hilde reports on her experiences at TechnoCamp, which took place in North Dekota, USA. TechnoCamp is week-long summer camp for teens with special needs.

I work as an Interaction Designer for AssistiveWare. My aim is to design applications that work in a user friendly way. To be able to do this it is very important to understand who the users are, and how, why, where and when they will use the design. To meet some of our users I visited the TechnoCamp organized every summer by the Anne Carlsen Center in North Dakota.

This year there were around 25 campers at TechnoCamp. The young campers all have various disabilities like autism or physical handicaps. During the camp, technologies like iPads, MacBooks and digital cameras are used to communicate, be creative, and have fun. Other technologies that are made accessible are also used, like a walking cow toy that is used for painting (see picture).

Accessible technologies

A very inspiring person I met is Sady. She is a video editing expert with cerebral palsy and is using her MacBook with Proloquo and SwitchXS. At the camp she helped other campers become video experts, too. Read more about Sady.

Hilde at the TechnoCamp Cow toy used for painting Sady with her MacBook
Hilde at the TechnoCamp Cow toy used for painting Sady with her MacBook

Amanda and her new MacBook

One of the campers Sady helped is Amanda. Amanda was so excited because she got her new MacBook at TechnoCamp. She controls her Mac with a button behind her head. Amanda started making a film with iMovie. When she didn’t know what to do she would ask Sady, who could answer all her questions. Within a few hours she finished her first movie.

When Amanda had finished making her film, she couldn’t believe that she had done it all on her own. She kept asking us if she had actually done it all by herself. It was incredible to see a young girl finding her way through technology and seeing all the possibilities, freedom and independence that it will give her in her life. See her video.
The dance
On the last evening everybody dressed up and got ready to make their favorite moves on the dance floor. But the campers needed an accessible way to select the songs they wanted played. Mark used KeyStrokes and LayoutKitchen to make an accessible music player. The campers could control it with either one button, a touch interface, or a mouse. The campers chose their favorite music and we danced all evening. It was the perfect way to end an incredible week.
Amanda on her new MacBook The dance
Amanda on her new MacBook The dance
What I learned
It was an amazing experience and I learned a lot. I found the inspiration to design new apps and areas for improvement for our current applications. It is so fulfilling to see people like Sady being able to follow their dreams and to see all the campers having so much fun by being able to choose their favorite music. For me the most incredible part was seeing Amanda using her new MacBook and how she couldn’t believe that she could edit her own videos.
Now when I’m working on a new design, and I’m not sure what the perfect solution is, I think about one of the campers and how they would use it. Will Amanda be able to use it with her switch on her new MacBook? Will it be challenging enough for Andy so it will make him smile? And how would Sady like to use it to make jokes about Mark? The experiences I had at TechnoCamp continue helping me now as an Interaction Designer to improve our current applications and to develop new ones, which are used both by people with special needs and those who assist them.
Hilde, AssistiveWare's Interaction Desginer


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