ATU315 – Off the cuff with Craig Burns – Mobility and Cognition

first_imgPodcast: Play in new window | DownloadYour weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.Off the cuff with Craig Burns – Mobility and Cognition Team Lead at Easterseals | [email protected]——————————If you have an AT question, leave us a voice mail at: 317-721-7124 or email [email protected] out our web site: https://www.eastersealstech.comFollow us on Twitter: @INDATAprojectLike us on Facebook:——-transcript follows —— CRAIG BURNS:  Hi, this is Craig Burns, mobility and cognitive team lead, and this is your Assistive Technology Update.WADE WINGLER:  Hi, this is Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals crossroads in Indiana with your Assistive Technology Update, a weekly dose of information that keeps you up-to-date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.Welcome to episode number 315 of assistive technology update. It’s scheduled to be released on June 9, 2017.Today I have a fun conversation with a good friend and colleague named Craig Burns. He is the mobility and cognition team lead here at Easter Seals crossroads, somebody with over 20 years experience in the assistive technology field. We sort of talk informally and off-the-cuff about his career at his job and his thoughts on the importance of technology for people with disabilities. We hope you’ll check out our website at, sent us a note on Twitter at INDATA Project, or leave us feedback or questions on our listener line at 317-721-7124.If you are listening to the show, it is very likely have assistive technology questions and answers. Our other show ATFAQ, assistive technology frequently asked questions, is a panel show that does just that. We get all kinds of questions from you about assistive technology and our experts set around and enter those and tell jokes. You can find that show at You can also tweet with the hashtag ATFAQ to send your questions and we will respond.We are going to break from our normal format of news and interviews a little bit today – I guess not totally. We are going to do something different. As I think about our assistive technology program here at Easter Seals crossroads in Indianapolis, sometimes I forget that it’s about the people and not the technology. Today we are going to spend time with a dear friend of mine, Craig Burns, who is our mobility and cognition team lead in our clinical assistance technology program. This is part of a series called “Off the Cuff”, and it’s where we take the folks who work here and have leadership positions or clinical positions and talk about them and why they ended up in the field and what they do and sort of having informal, maybe disorganized, conversation about where assistive technology lands in their life and in their job and those kinds of things. Before we start jumping into the questions, good morning Craig. How are you?CRAIG BURNS:  I’m good. How are you?WADE WINGLER:  I’m okay. We are in the studio, we have coffee, no one is here yet. We have a little construction going on in the building so we’ve been recording lately and hearing jackhammers in the background. I haven’t heard those yet. I think so far, so good.CRAIG BURNS:  We’ve had some instances where it sounds like a small airfield.WADE WINGLER:  We recorded and assistive technology frequently asked questions recently where we literally had to stop because it was so loud that we can hear each other. Then we got to laugh and having a good time.CRAIG BURNS:  It’ll look good in the end.WADE WINGLER:  There you go. I have a lot of stuff I want to talk to you about and ask, but the first thing I think might help our audience is to understand a little bit about your job here at Easter Seals crossroads. You are one of our team leads. Tell us what your job is and then we will back up into how you got into the field.CRAIG BURNS:  It is to do evaluations and assessments and installations and training for all sorts of assistive technology for individuals that we serve. As a team lead, I guess my responsibilities would be to assist any of the other specialists and what they need if they have to talk about what things they might commend to somebody or ask if this or that will work, those kinds of things, back them up if they need help with an install or cover if they are ill.WADE WINGLER:  So you are an assistive technology specialist “plus,” because on the mobility cognitive side of our program, you are the lead, the guy people go to when they have questions or problems or training.CRAIG BURNS:  Yes.WADE WINGLER:  So you do carry a caseload. You do a lot of evaluations, and then you also that leadership to that part of the program. We will probably come back to that a little bit, but let’s go back in time. You and I have known each other for more than 10 years.CRAIG BURNS:  I got into this business 21 years ago. I probably met you shortly after I got into this.WADE WINGLER:  I’ve been here almost 25 years. Time flies.CRAIG BURNS:  It sure does.WADE WINGLER:  Let’s start with that. When did you learn about what assistive technology is, and why were you motivated to get involved?  What did that look like?CRAIG BURNS:  To be honest, I needed a job.WADE WINGLER:  Don’t we all?CRAIG BURNS:  There was an ad in a paper, a one inch column add. They said we need somebody for augmentative and alternative communication specialist in sales. I didn’t know what that was but I thought I would apply for it because I needed a job. A few weeks later, I’m starting in the augmentative communication field. I had two options on jobs. My wife said do you think you can make a living doing that?  I said I don’t know but I think it’s the perfect fit for me. It was. It was a blast for almost 9 years when I did that.WADE WINGLER:  You are working at that point for one of the main providers of AugCom devices.CRAIG BURNS:  Right. I traveled around the state, both Indiana and Illinois and then I started traveling around the country doing regional work. That was three years of a lot of air travel.WADE WINGLER:  Was that the beginning of your warrior life or did you do that before?CRAIG BURNS:  I did a little bit of warrior before but not to the extent that I was traveling to that position.WADE WINGLER:  Right.CRAIG BURNS:  You put 40,000 miles a year on your car –WADE WINGLER:  You know every fast food place and every rest stop in your favor gas station.CRAIG BURNS:  I tried avoid eating in my car because I would get home and leave the car in the garage for the weekend, and get in Monday morning. If I had fast food on Friday, it smelled like fast food on Monday morning or Sunday night when I had to leave sometimes.WADE WINGLER:  Let’s back up a little bit before that. In terms of educational background in your career path before, what did that look like?CRAIG BURNS:  I was involved in technology in the computer drafting industry. My major is completely off of that. I thought I needed to get into something technology so I started taking a class, and the professor said this architecture firm is hiring people for drafting on an automated system. I’d look at that and got that job. I then started getting interested into the technology that was behind the drafting and started in programming for that and it built from then. I’ve always liked the technology part of the job. In this position, I like it because you get to work with all different types of technology. You talk to the sales people, eye tracking, they’ll say this system is the best. It’s nice to be able to play with all of them and recommend all of them if I need to. It makes it more exciting than just dealing with the same thing day in and day out.WADE WINGLER:  And there aren’t sales quotas and deadlines related to that and the pressure of sales.CRAIG BURNS:  Right.WADE WINGLER:  We had different pressures.CRAIG BURNS:  Which report is done.WADE WINGLER:  We have two team leads here. Belva Smith is somebody we did an off-the-cuff interview about a year or so ago. She is the vision and sensory team lead. You are the mobility and cognition team lead. Is that the way I’m supposed to say it?CRAIG BURNS:  It works for me.WADE WINGLER:  Talk to me about our team structure and how your job is different from Belva’s. It’s same in a lot of ways but different too.CRAIG BURNS:  We have some people that are technicians, and the media people that are AT specialists. The technicians are the pre–AT individuals that are getting to that point. We need them to get to that point because we really need that level. By that, I mean being able to go out on their own, do evaluations, come back, write the reports, and later on to the installations. The people that we have in place now are really good and interested in everything. They want to get out there and do that, but we have to hold them back a little bit to make sure that we are comfortable that they are at level we need them to be. Other than going out and doing those reports and getting those installations done, the evaluation is a really critical thing. You go out, and some days in the referral, what we go off of when we meet a individual, it might say they have LD. Then you get there and dig a little deeper during the interview and you find that they have all these other things. Some things are easily solved with a minor thing, but then you find some things they have trouble taking notes, and you might think a smart pen. That’s pretty easy. But then you think they have problems writing, maybe it takes them a long time to write or the writing is sloppy or they might have physical pain in their hand. I just had one recently that’s like that. Now you go to a different approach with note taking. It brings in the multitudes of ways you can do that. You want to know from them what they feel about those kinds of approaches and which one they think would work for them best. You show them what you can and see which Avenue or approach they prefer best.Then there are some cases that are incredibly involved right off the get go. You know that and say, this is a spinal cord injury or ALS, and now you’ve got a whole bucket of things that you are looking at. It can be complex.WADE WINGLER:  Just get a context for folks that might not know our clinical program, we mostly work with vocational rehabilitation here in Indiana. Not exclusively but that’s the big chunk of the funding that we have for the work is done in your program. That means we’re talking about people who have disabilities who are going to work or school with the intention of going to work later on. More adult or kids who are transitioning out of high school into adulthood and more job related settings as opposed to education, although there are some exclusions to that.On your team, you will see people who have mobility and cognition issues. You mentioned learning disabilities, spinal cord injuries and those things. Belva’s team is more vision and sensory. We break that down because we have people – everybody who is an assistive technology specialist should be able to do a basic evaluation regardless of the disability and technology. We make sure everybody has those core competencies, but people then specialize and break into these teams so that we never want lone Wolf assistive technology specialist. We don’t want people working in a vacuum, not talking to others, networking with other nationals to continue to hone and refine their skills. That team structure puts people who are working in similar situations together to build upon each other.CRAIG BURNS:  Right. I put some CCTV’s in place with individuals and help them. I’ve had cases where there is some vision issue. It’s not the predominant issue they have but it can be a secondary issue. Then you have to consider maybe a larger monitor that goes along with their laptop so they can have an easier viewing experience. Belva focuses on the vision and sensory things, my history in augmentative communication let’s refocus on that. When those cases come in, generally they come to me, but I want to get the other team members experienced in that so they can identify those cases as well.WADE WINGLER:  I guess it’s worth mentioning that although we have these two team structures, mobility and cognition, and vision and sensory, you are in the same hallway and meetings and those things. You are working with somebody who is multiple disabilities and vision is an issue, if you run to the short end of the pond in terms of your experience and knowledge and expertise, you are five steps away from somebody who really focuses and can specialize on that.CRAIG BURNS:  Not only that but I had a recent case where I installed the ZoomText. I haven’t had a lot of experience – I worked with the ZoomText but not with Windows 10. I called Belva and said it’s not in selling right. Well, you need to do this and this. It’s quick access and get this fixed.WADE WINGLER:  We’ve already acknowledged the fact that we are old men in the industry. I don’t know any other way to say it. We’ve known each other for 20 years. There are probably some people in the audience who are that old. What have been the big changes in the industry since you have been in the industry?  If you think about AugCom, there are a ton of big changes that have happened. Just go back and pick two or three of the main changes that you think have been important in the industry in your 20-plus years.CRAIG BURNS:  In the AugCom, I think the biggest impact that I had experienced was the advent of the iPad and iPhone. I think that impacted the industry tremendously. A lot of the companies did not want to accept that. They were challenging that. Now they’ve accepted that and are changing their tools. The new device from Toby DynaVox is a tablet with lower cost. It has a louder speaker.Eye tracking has come a long way since I started in the industry in 96. That’s been effective. I was just commenting the other day. We work a lot with people with math problems and math troubles when they are studying. When I started here, you could hardly find a math program to help with those. Now there are a dozen, online solutions, iPhone solutions, android solutions. There is pretty much something for everybody, whether they need to remember how to divide and multiply and do this easy algebra equation of two handling statistics and find that math and that stuff. It’s been a growth and change in that direction. You expect that. You expect more thing — once somebody comes out with something, more people will come out with things that are competitive or similar.WADE WINGLER:  You mentioned the iPad and tablet computers as being a big change in the world of augmentative communication. I guess if I asked somebody that question who work with blindness or learning disability, they may have the same answer. As I look back in my experience with assistive technology, I’m going to say that tablets and the iPad in particular have been a game changer in our field. I remember the days when the manufacturers of communication devices and braille no takers were freaking out about those changes, the sky is falling. We’ve evolved. We are growing up as an industry. I think we’re getting closer to the manufacturers of those technologies so people aren’t afraid of Microsoft or Microsoft killing the assistive technology industry. It’s starting to level out a little bit.CRAIG BURNS:  It helps with the individuals that have the disabilities that need to use those because they are more mainstream. Now the child that needs to use augmentative communication isn’t so different from the child that’s not using AugCom but is using the same tablet.WADE WINGLER:  A couple of other questions I think would be interesting. One of the things you do here is mentor people who are new to the field. You have folks on your team who have been longer. What advice do you have for people who are interested in getting into the field of assistive technology?  What advice would you give to somebody who says I want to do what you do. I know you get that question.CRAIG BURNS:  I would say, are you sure?  You have to be inquisitive. You have to look at technology as a tool and not let it scare you. I use to try to break the drafting system when I was doing programming. Me in the system manager would see how far we could run the memory down before it cried. Usually during lunch time. Sometimes it made the drafting people mad. You have to be inquisitive in that way and explore some of the technology. On the other side, you have to not be a techie only. You have to work with people. Some people can be challenging when you are having a discussion with them, and they are either not opening up to you. You have to develop a relationship with people. Yes not just go in there and say what do you need, what are your problems. They are not necessarily problems. They are just issues that people find they have when they’re trying to do schoolwork were trying to work. You have to be able to sit down with them and have a conversation. In that conversation you uncover things. You have to be a good listener because you have to hear things they are saying that they don’t come out and say it’s a problem, but yet it is. If somebody has trouble writing, or their notes are sloppy – my question is if you look at your notes three days from now when you are studying for the test, do they make any sense to you?  Are they meaningful?  Most of the time people say no. Even in my referrals I have to write notes that I can remember and write stuff I will recommend right away, make a list of things I think might work. I think that’s the key, being compassionate with the individuals and working with them. You need to want to help them. You need to want them to see success whether in school or college or the workplace.I’ve had a couple people in the five years I’ve been here who came back and said thanks for this, a really helped me in school, it was the difference between me failing and succeeding in school. Those are good. They don’t happen very often but it hits you in the heart when you hear that and get that feedback from people.WADE WINGLER:  Those of the good days. Excellent. I know you’re passionate about assistive technology and I know you are passionate about people with disabilities. I also know you are passionate about other things in your life. Just a quick peek into what your life is like when you’re not here, when you’re not doing this. What does a day off look like for you?CRAIG BURNS:  What is a day off?WADE WINGLER:  That’s a good question.CRAIG BURNS:  I tried to play golf when I can. Every year I say I’m going to play more golf and every year it seems to get less. I don’t see how that works. I have three grandkids, two daughters with a total of three grandsons all playing baseball, all love baseball. We go to a lot of Little League this fall games when I’m not here. I have to cut the lawn all the time. I try to work on some ideas that I have, just general yard work and housework.WADE WINGLER:  The never-ending stuff.CRAIG BURNS:  I’m hoping to take a few days off coming up here. I don’t know if we will travel anywhere, just to sit at home. I think my wife wants to go someplace.WADE WINGLER:  One more question before we wrap up the interview because we are getting close on time. If you had unlimited time, unlimited money, unlimited resources they could solve one assistive technology problem, what would it be?CRAIG BURNS:  A different augmentative communication solution. Other than general worldwide technology. I need to have smart stoplights so when you’re sitting at a corner for three minutes and there are no cars coming the other way, I that stop like to know that so it changes for me. That’s just an aside.That’s a tough question. There are things I worked on for years. I’ve shown you that application that, someday, if I had all the money in the world, I’d hire somebody to do it because nobody wants to do it without getting paid anymore. The technology has changed from building things in your garage and trying to sell them to let’s pay for everything and hope it works.WADE WINGLER:  The business model flipped.CRAIG BURNS:  It’s been an experience and I don’t think I would trade it for anything. I hope I can do it a few more years. I’m not sure I can sit in the cars for that much longer.WADE WINGLER:  This interview just took a turn for the worse. Craig is announcing his retirement right here on the air.CRAIG BURNS:  Five or eight years ahead of time.WADE WINGLER:  Or ten or twelve. If people wanted to reach out to you if they had questions and wanted to ask you things, is there something you would recommend in terms of a website or contact information?CRAIG BURNS:  The Easter Seals tech website, My email address, [email protected] You can send emails to that. You can get a hold of the folks at INDATA because we borrow a lot of computers from them and a lot of tools. For my aspect I use them to try different options for people. I just loaned a computer to somebody who needed a computer for online classes. They didn’t need to go out and buy one without knowing what to look for and what software application that they might need for assistive technology. Go ahead and get a hold of INDATA.WADE WINGLER:  And Craig Burns is the mobility and cognition team lead here in the clinical assistance technology program at Easter Seals crossroads and a good friend of mine. Thanks for hanging out today.CRAIG BURNS:  You’re welcome. It was fun.WADE WINGLER:  Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update? Call our listener line at 317-721-7124, shoot us a note on Twitter @INDATAProject, or check us out on Facebook. Looking for a transcript or show notes from today’s show? Head on over to Assistive Technology Update is a proud member of the Accessibility Channel. Find more shows like this plus much more over at That was your Assistance Technology Update. I’m Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana.Share this…TwitterFacebookPinterestLinkedInEmailPrint RelatedATU102 – Dear Assistive Technology User – Special EpisodeMay 10, 2013In “Assistive Technology Update”ATU158 – What will iOS8 mean for people with disabilities, Cole Galloway of Go Baby Go, Hey Siri, iOS keyboards and more!June 6, 2014In “Assistive Technology Update”ATU339 – Annual Holiday Shopping Show Part 2 – 2017November 24, 2017In “Assistive Technology Update”last_img read more