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profoundly yours the abledbody blog

The latest innovation from Google is Google Latitude, which pinpoints the location of your friends and family on a map. This application excites me to no end because of its possibilities for aiding the disabled, like the deaf and hard of hearing. I think back to the early ‘00s, before I had my cochlear implant and relied on a hearing-aid. I was unable to hear on the telephone and SMS (text messaging) was available only if you and your friends used the same service provider. A typical Friday night: “We’re at McFadden’s!” my friends would scream into the phone. “The corner of 49th and Second avenues!” In the midst of noisy Manhattan, I can’t decipher what they’re saying and I don’t know where to direct the cab driver. I give up and go home. Beyond drinking adventures, the deaf and hearing-impaired can, conceivably, use Google Latitude if they lose their ... keep reading »
At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, Vision Free presented awards to 19 companies and organizations for making products that blind people can use. Vision Free is led by blind musician Stevie Wonder and several organizations that promote equality for visually impaired people. Among the awards this year were National Public Radio for their accessible digital radio broadcast services initiative; Apple for adding speech capabilities to its its iPod Nano and iTunes music library; and Audible.com for providing a good web interface and enabling Audible books on several devices for the blind. In an Popular Science magazine interview, Wonder says huge advances in technology have made life easier for people with physical disabilities, but there’s still much more work to be done. “I hear manufacturers say, ‘Oh, we forgot about that,’ or ‘Oh, that’s interesting.’ Well, think! Make your products a convenience for everyone. Be an all-inclusive company,” Wonder said. ... keep reading »
The setting: Phoenix. The scene: American Idol, season eight, the momentous singing competition that makes or breaks the dreams of young, hopeful talent. Tonight’s two-hour premiere was well worth watching to the very end, when 23-year old Scott McIntyre auditioned for the judges. McIntyre has been blind from birth. Sporting a ‘Mind the Gap’ t-shirt (a nod to London’s famous ‘tube’ system) that he thought Simon Cowell would appreciate, McIntyre won the judges over with his rendition of Billy Joel’s And So It Goes. Because of my hearing impairment, I rely on my boyfriend to tell me whether each contestant has a good voice. “Is he good? Can she sing?,” I ask during each performance. I had my fingers crossed for McIntyre. “He’s pretty good,” my boyfriend replied, somewhat tentatively. When the song finished, I sat up straight in my seat. I had seen contestants with disabilities compete on Idol ... keep reading »
On Saturday night, SNL portrayed New York Gov. David Paterson in a four-minute “Weekend Update” segment as confused and disoriented — often looking in the wrong direction and mistakenly walking in front of the camera when it was not his turn to speak. The skit includes Gov. Paterson saying, “Come on, I’m a blind man who loves cocaine who was suddenly appointed governor of New York. My life is an actual plot from a Richard Pryor movie.” After watching the skit, Gov. Paterson said it went too far, saying such “third-grade humor” only adds to negative stereotypes. But I’m starting so see a trend here: Disability humor is now up for grabs along with the more traditional racial and ethnic jokes. There was the New Yorker cover depicting Barack Obama as an Islamic, and the movie Tropic Thunder that parodied actors who tried to “act” disabled or black, giving us ... keep reading »
As I wrote in a previous post, most multi-touch smart phones — like Apple’s iPhone — aren’t suitable for blind and visually-impaired persons. There’s good news, however, in the form of a prototype case from Portugal-based industrial designer Bruno Fosi. The Silicon Touch lays on top of the iPhone’s screen and works in tandem with an accompanying iPhone application, helping the user feel the icons and what it is they are typing. There are also many nice features like text to speech and moon type tactile feedback, which the iPhone lacked for the visually impaired until now. In my opinion, what makes Silicon Touch so promising is how Mr. Fosi has re-thought how a person physcially interacts with a smart phone: Surprise! It doesn’t have to be just a visual user interface. One comment from a Yanko Design reader: “The idea can be applied to any usage scenario requiring [or] ... keep reading »
Last night I watched the latest episode of ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, where Ty Pennington and his crew helped two St. Louis-area families, the Martirizes and the Maleks, who are struggling to live life with major disabilities. Emmanual and Dawn Martirez’s home was refurbished to make it accessible to their twin boys, Evan and Alec, who have rare neurological diseases that cause extreme physical and cognitive disabilities. And Egyptian-born Sam Malek, who has cerebal palsy, owns a small coffee shop that was demoed and rebuilt to make it accessible to him and his employees with disabilities. In doing so, ABC makes a strong statement for supporting small-business and equal-employment opportunities for the disabled. Since its start in 2003, Extreme Makeover has touched the lives of dozens of people with disabilities by renovating their inaccessible or otherwise unlivable homes for free. Each project, which takes seven days, results in significant ... keep reading »
Many years before spearheading a $700 billion package to rescue Wall Street banks despite cries from exasperated Americans who didn’t like where their hard-earned money was going, U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson found himself in hot water with another group of irate Americans — 10 million to be exact — who didn’t like how their money looked or felt. Mr. Paulson was sued in 2002 by the American Council of the Blind (ACB) on behalf of blind and visually impaired Americans, who said the Treasury was being discriminatory by failing to make U.S. currency accessible. According to the ruling, blind and visually impaired people must rely on the “kindness of strangers” for help reading their money, or else use an electronic bill reader to identify and speak the dollar denomination. In a landmark ruling in May 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals said the Treasury Dept. must make U.S. currency accessible to ... keep reading »
Sometimes I get Mac envy. Like today when I was switching between my touchpad and wireless mouse to prevent hand fatigue and cramping, I had wished I owned a MacBook Air, which has a giant touchpad and offers an easier, more fun ‘touch’ experience using several fingers. I began thinking about alternative mouse devices, especially for people with physical and motor impairments. For those with limited motor skills, there are a variety of options that have been around for a while, including the joystick, head pointers, Mouse keys and eye gaze devices. But the coolest non-mouse is known as multitouch, which was popularized by Apple’s iPhone, and lets computer users control graphical applications with their fingers. Touch is quickly becoming a common way of directly interacting with software and devices. Today iPhone and MacBook Air are used by millions of people with and without disabilities, and other companies are bringing ... keep reading »
The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) has been quite active in the last couple months. On Friday, the NFB, along with Massachusetts General Martha Coakley, reached an agreement with Apple Inc. to make Apple’s iTunes — the most popular music retail outlet in the U.S. — more accessible to blind and visually-impaired Internet users. In September, Apple released, and was praised for, its 4th generation iPod Nano and iTunes 8, which is screen-reader friendly on both Macs and PCs. These new features let blind users manage their libraries as well as purchase and download content from the iTunes store. The new iPod itself is also equipped with talking menus and large font options. On a Mac, iTunes is compatible with Apple’s built-in VoiceOver screen reader; on a PC using Windows XP or Vista, it’s compatible with GW Micro’s Windows-Eyes (and soon, Freedom Scientific’s Jaws for Windows) screen readers, which must ... keep reading »
A New York Times Saturday profile, A Blind Boxer Inspires Uganda on Bashir Ramathan, a blind boxer from Uganda, sparked my interest, not just for the awe-factor: “Wow, a blind boxer!” but rather because of a statement he made towards the end of the article. Listing the good fortune that has befallen on him since his newfound fame on the boxing circuit, Mr. Ramathan said to the reporter that he would give it all up for two working eyes. “They think I’m doing this for attention or for money. But I’m not pretending. I want to see, like them.” This is how a lot of driven people with disabilities really think, including myself. I’m a disability writer, but I’d give up a a graduate degree and professional writing career — and yes, start over — if I could have hearing in my two ears. I’m not regretful about my disability, but this ... keep reading »

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