Friday, April 13, 2007

How to turn a Wal-Mart talking gift card holder into a communication device

I don't have to tell many of you how stupidly expensive assistive technology is. It is frustrating as hell, especially when you see off-the shelf technology that almost works but is a fraction of the price.

For instance, a 4 button, low tech communication device -- say a Go-Talk 4, is $159 (that's not a totally fair comparison because the go talk is more sturdy and has more levels than my example.) Still, that's a lot of money just to see if your kid will use something. I just made a 4-button device for $4.00 and tax.
There is technology everywhere. But it occasionally just a bit unsuited for the assistive technology use, but not hundreds of dollars worth of unsuited. I found a handful of talking gift card holders from Wal-Mart on sale for $1.00 a piece (regularly 2.88). If I had been smart, I would have grabbed 50 of them. As it was, I grabbed four.

The problem is that the record button is too prominent, making the message too easy to erase, especially if the student is someone familiar with these devices. (And in my case, wants to hear her OWN vocalizations recorded -- which is nice but not the objective.)

So, if you want step by step instructions on how to open one of these things and remove the record button, but still keep it a functional device, here you go:

A photo frame

Here's what my frame looks like. Test the frames in the store because the sound quality varies widely. You'll need a small screwdriver set.

back of frame

STEP 1Flip it over, remove the five screws in the back. (If you're tired of hearing the thing beep, you can take the battery out).

photo frame with back panel removed
STEP 2:Gently lift off the back of the device, taking care not to pull out any of the wires.
STEP 3Remove the two screws that hold the record button in its place (This is the smaller of the two brown panels you see in the picture in step 2.)

photo frame with record button removed
STEP 4:remove gray plastic record button.

STEP 5:reassemble the device.
front with record button removed

This is what the record button space will look like. To record, stick a pencil or other object into the hole and touch the metal conductor that you can see. The frame will beep once. Speak your message and then remove the pencil or other object. The frame will beep twice when you're done. This is bit trickier than using the record button and it might take a few more tries, but, well, that's the point. Hopefully it will keep little (or not so little) hands from erasing your message.

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