Thursday March 6, 2014
The American Council of the Blind and the American Foundation for the Blind will co-host a free national teleseminar (sponsored by HumanWare) to discuss recent Congressional activities promoting Medicare coverage of low vision devices, such as desktop video magnifiers.
The teleseminar takes place Wednesday, March 12th at 3:00 P.M, EST.
Topics will include pending legislation, policy implications of permanent Medicare program changes, and how advocates can participate in the policy process.
The blindness community has long advocated for Medicare coverage of assistive technology devices. Currently, Medicare does not fund devices that use lenses, regardless of other functions, just as eyeglasses and contact lenses are excluded from coverage.
Proposed legislation, H.R. 3749, introduced by Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), would initiate a five-year, $62.5 million demonstration project to fund devices deemed medically necessary through clinical evaluation.
To attend, call 1.866.939.3921 ten minutes prior to the start and tell the operator you're joining the "low vision devices" call. You need not preregister.
Wednesday March 5, 2014
GW Micro's Lex Air is a portable camera system that attaches to a computer and uses Lex literacy software to make text more accessible.
The system is designed for computer users with print disabilities such as dyslexia or visual impairment and students who prefer instant, bi-modal access to printed text.
The camera scans text from a book, handout, or other document; the software uses optical character recognition and text-to-speech to enable a student to hear the words read aloud -- or read along with the highlighted words displayed onscreen.
The Lex Air is similar to other camera-based reading solutions, such as the Flick from Sight Enhancement Systems, Ai Squared's ZoomText ImageReader, and Enhanced Vision's Transformer.
Monday March 3, 2014
GW Micro's Window-Eyes converts components of Windows operating systems and applications into synthetic speech to make them more accessible to blind and visually impaired PC users.
The screen reader has always trailed Freedom Scientific's JAWS in popularity. But a recent Microsoft alliance making the $895 program free to MS Office 2010 licensees may be a game-changer.
Window-Eyes is thought to be more intuitive than its competitors in giving users more control over what they hear and when. The program integrates with most Windows applications out of the box and thus requires little or no configuration or having to learn additional keystrokes.
It's a bold move -- though in keeping with accessibility's evolution from specialized add-on to built-in feature.
All Apple products, for example, include the VoiceOver screen reader and Zoom magnification -- features that have helped make the iPhone popular among blind users.
Friday February 28, 2014
This Sunday marks the 185th anniversary of Perkins, the first American school for children who are blind. Since its 1829 opening in Watertown, Massachusetts, Perkins has become global leader in blind education, serving nearly 1 million students in 67 countries.
Here's a quick historical index of notables and their Perkins connection:
- Student: Laura Bridgman, world's first formally educated deafblind individual, 1837
- Visitor: Charles Dickens, 1842
- Relative: Julia Ward Howe ("Battle Hymn of the Republic"), wife of founder, Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe
- Rejected Job Applicant: Henry David Thoreau
- Alumnus: Anne Sullivan, who taught Helen Keller, 1886
- Volunteer: Amelia Earhart, aviator
- Career Launched: Ellis Hall, blues musician
- Fired Employee: Joan Baez (she went barefoot)
- Current Employee: Marla Runyan, first visually impaired Olympian (teacher, spokesperson).
Among Perkins educational and braille literacy innovations are the Perkins Brailler (1951), the Next-Generation Perkins Brailler (2008), the Perkins SMART Brailler (2012), and LightAide (2013).
In 2011, Perkins launched the Grousbeck Center for Students & Technology, a focal point of professional training, community connection, and innovation. The school also sponsors the annual Perkins Assistive Technology Prize.