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profoundly yours the abledbody blog

At the start of every month, ReadHowYouWant, the company that translated my book into braille and audio formats, offers a free chapter download of 20 books. Since March is Women’s History Month and celebrates women authors, ReadHowYouWant is giving away a free chapter of my new book, The Illustrated Guide to Assistive Technology! Australian-based ReadHowYouWant partners with leading publishers to make their content accessible at the time of publication. It has a small collection of 3,500 titles but they are adding 200 new titles every month. Braille and DAISY titles range in price from $4.99 to $12.99. The free chapter download program is a joint project between ReadHowYouWant and Humanware, an assistive technology company that makes accessible digital book readers for the blind such as the VictorReader Stream. The chapters are available in digital braille (which can be read on a braille display) as well as two audio types: regular MP3 ... keep reading »
My favorite gadgets at this year’s Assistive Technology Industry Association conference, which featured more than 100 vendors, include two communications products and a new PDA for the blind. I also note some worthy mentions – gadgets that I liked because of their design or originality. Here’s the list. ECO2 This eye-gaze system brings the latest in alternative input. For people who cannot use their limbs, nor speak (perhaps someone with ALS — Lou Gehrig’s Disease – or a person who has had a stroke), Prentke-Romich’s ECO2 is a great innovation. To calibrate ECO2, I followed a bouncing ball on screen while it recorded my eye movements – this takes all of 30 seconds. The program, a combination of words, phrases and pictures, can be operated using just the eyes, allowing someone to express their thoughts (and their gratitude for this program.) ($7,795) Proloquo2go An iPhone/iTouch app for people who have trouble communicating, Assistive ... keep reading »
I have been to plenty of Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) conferences, and this year has all the usual stuff (though gadgets are getting smaller every year!) As I walked the exhibit halls, I was haunted by the recent New York TImes Sunday Magazine article, Listening to Braille, where the author bemoans the decline of braille teaching in the classroom, which she says is contributing to higher illiteracy rates among the blind. I kept an eye out for cool new Braille products, hoping to find the spark that would re-energize braille again. For starers, I liked the sleek design of the Next Generation Perkins Brailler — a typewriter that outputs in braille instead of alpha-numeric. Perkins also just came out with a product called Top Braille. it’s a portable reader with a braille button on top. A user slides the device across printed text, and “feels” the braille button translating the ... keep reading »
The media is talking about braille and literacy, a topic jump-started by a New York Times Magazine article, “Listening to Braille,” by Rachel Aviv. The author writes that new technology may be undermining Braille literacy as people who are blind are now “reading” via e-books, iPods, telephone news services and other text-to-speech devices. Aviv’s article centers on education: Teaching braille in order to inform language structure and help blind children read and write better. While she touches on the economics of technology, I wish she had gone deeper into this issue. The cost of reading Braille really does need to be stressed. Aviv writes: “Braille books are expensive and cumbersome, requiring reams of thick, oversize paper. The National Braille Press, an 83-year-old publishing house in Boston, printed the Harry Potter series on its Heidelberg cylinder; the final product was 56 volumes, each nearly a foot tall. Because a single textbook can cost ... keep reading »
Things aren’t letting up for Amazon. Under recent pressure from the Authors Guild, Amazon has allowed authors and publishers to disable the text-to-speech function on any or all of their e-books available for the Kindle 2. Now, no fewer than nine disability organizations are leading a fight to persuade Amazon, authors and publishers to make all books on the Kindle 2 book reader available in audio format to people with sight and reading disabilities. Brown, Goldstein & Levy, a law firm representing the National Federation for the Blind, the American Association of People with Disabilities, the International Dyslexia Association, and other groups sent a letter to six publishing houses denouncing Amazon’s decision with the Authors Guild. The groups asked Amazon, authors and publishers to turn text-to-speech back on for all books offered on mainstream devices. While the Authors Guild has long waived copyright fees for audio formats for people who are ... keep reading »
Some people have asked me to give them a better description of assistive technology. I often hestitate to answer without informing them that sometimes, assistive technology isn’t the answer to people with disabilities’ needs and that our society should be more focused on universal design, or at least accessible technology. Now you’re even more confused, right? Well, take a look at the picture of this Coke can. A blogger at Yanko Design created it to demonstrate how a braille-label maker might help people who are blind identify products such as soft drinks, money and spices. The Coke can is the product; the label represents the assistive technology, meaning something has been added to the product to make it useable by the person with a disability. However, if the Coke can was made accessible to the blind, it would have some braille built into the aluminum can. If we applied universal design principles, ... keep reading »

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