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Posts Tagged ‘Accessible Reading and Braille’
If you are a Braille reader, sit back, relax, close your eyes, and open your mind to the step by step directions of our Braille iPhone Getting Started Manual. With this manual, you don’t need to learn how to use a computer to learn how to use your phone. Just rest your hands on the Braille and “Get Started!” A complete set of directions on how to use your mobile device and much more is intelligently organized into four volumes of interpoint Braille. Braille users will tell you, there just isn’t anything better for referencing information than the hard copy. It’s not every day that a mainstream product offers blind and visually impaired users a fully formatted, highly edited and well-thought-out how-to guide. Great for both beginner and intermediate learners. Educate yourself on the great things everybody says your iPhone can do with this excellent Braille manual from Adaptations.
The LightHouse is the world’s sole authorized producer and distributer of Apple’s Braille User Guides. The User Guide must be Pre-ordered to allow time for embossing. We are selling the Braille iPhone User Guide for IOS5 Software by phone at 1-888-400-8933 or online for $29.95 + tax and shipping.
Good news for iPhone with IOS6 users: We are working on a Braille iPhone User Guide for IOS6 at this writing and should have it available in three or four weeks. Please call the store for updates.
BJ Epstein began her association with the LightHouse in March of 2011 working on the Accessible BART Station Map Project, a collaboration between LightHouse and Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute. This innovative project, funded by a New Freedom grant, will produce talking tactile maps of each BART station and will allow those who are blind or have low vision to independently navigate this essential public transport system, enabling them to be active participants in their communities.
BJ began work on this project as a volunteer, creating base maps for our team of volunteer surveyors (architects and Orientation and Mobility Specialists) to use in assessing the important features of each BART station at street, concourse, and platform levels. She also participated in the station surveys. She then was hired by the LightHouse to take those surveys and create tactile map designs using the software program AutoCAD.
BJ has a Masters in Architecture from Iowa State University and a minor in Accessibility. Regular meetings with blind team members, including Smith-Kettlewell scientist Joshua Miele and architect Chris Downey, have given her a better understanding of what it means to navigate the world blind, as well as how blind people read documents, especially those documents traditionally thought to be primarily visual – such as maps. This experience has taught her how best to represent paths of travel, landmarks and obstacles on maps and combined with her experience as a designer, drafter and accessibility consultant, it ensures that our maps will be accessible to, and usable by, those with any level of vision.
BJ continues to be integral to the Accessible BART Station Map Project as well as the Accessible Muni Metro Station Map Project and supports LightHouse staff in creating Braille, audio recordings, e-text, Tactile Maps and Graphics and providing Accessibility Consultation to businesses, government agencies, museums, exhibitors and designers with a focus on making their information accessible. She told us, “It’s very exciting to use these emerging technologies and see how they can assist people with various abilities. I’m grateful for this opportunity to make the world a better place.”
Can BJ and the full AIS team help your company with access? Start by contacting Greg Kehret, Director of Access to Information Services, at 415-694-7349 or email@example.com.
In June the LightHouse of the North Coast will join a panel of local vision resource providers.
When: Saturday, June 8 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.
Where: Humboldt County Main Library, 1313 Third Street, Eureka, next to the Ingomar Club
Ali O. Lee, LightHouse Vision Rehabilitation Services Coordinator, will talk about LightHouse services, local resources and how the LightHouse continues to work with the library to increase access to information. Frances Rapin, who is to be the 2013 recipient of the Friends of the Library’s Community Service Award, will speak about how, with the help of LightHouse’s Vision Rehabilitation Services, her life has changed as her vision has changed. Librarian Rachael Harwood will discuss how people with low vision or blindness can continue to access library services. For more information, call the Humboldt County Main Library reference desk at 707-269-1905.
Are you interested in the services LightHouse of the North Coast can provide? Contact us at 707-268-5646, TTY: 707-268-5655.
Talking BART maps? Yes, talking BART maps. The technology to produce BART maps that audibly describe BART stations is just around the corner and the LightHouse is helping to make this happen.
The LightHouse, working with Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute, has produced a prototype for the first-ever talking maps that will enable blind or visually impaired people to handily navigate BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) subway stations. Three of the stations are completed, with the other 41 stations on this BART’s 104-mile subway line soon to follow. Muni Metro underground stations are next on the agenda, and the principal designers – who themselves are blind – envision someday bringing similar innovative devices to many sites across the nation and globe.
The talking maps concept was applied to BART by LightHouse staff and Joshua Miele, a scientist at Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco. Miele directs technology research and development at Smith-Kettlewell.
“I dreamed of doing this for years,” Miele says. “A blind person at an unfamiliar station doesn’t know to head left or right, how to find a ticket kiosk, where to go up onto the street to hop on a bus. You needed to budget time for getting lost, asking strangers for assistance, or both. Well, my solution was making maps talk. The key to that was the arrival of the Smartpen.”
Miele solved the BART map problem by adapting the capability of a Livescribe Smartpen. The new LightHouse produced flip books with tactile graphics have pages with raised symbols – easily detected with a fingertip – that indicate staircases and escalators, bathrooms and exits, and brief Braille captions. The paper also has a subtle, swirling matrix of printed dots. When a user sweeps a map page with a Smartpen (basically, a slim computer with a tiny camera that can read that pattern) a richly detailed audio commentary on each location, including all nearby landscape features and assets, will pour into the user’s ear.
Miele blended the technologies that resulted in the map project, but to actually create the maps, he relies on staff at the LightHouse. “They’ve been the lynchpin of this whole project,” Miele says. The LightHouse has a Braille production facility at its headquarters office, where the Access to Information Services team will produce and distribute the maps.
To make talking BART maps a reality, considerable information had to be gathered. Each station required a detailed study to decide what features to represent. LightHouse Board member Chris Downey, a blind architect, called in colleagues from major architectural firms, like HOK and Gensler, and other members of the AIA (American Institute of Architects) to help. Volunteer teams fanned out across the subway system. Downey says necessary data not only streamed into the LightHouse, but flowed back in the other direction. Participating architects grew much more cognizant of how blind and disabled people experience space – which can influence and improve their future designs.
“It’s the first time a project like this has been accomplished anywhere,” says Miele. “But it won’t be the last. This sort of tool can be used everywhere, airports, bus and train stations, malls, schools, libraries, national parks, even your governor’s office.”
It is estimated that the first talking BART maps will get into riders’ hands by Fall 2013. For more information, please contact Greg Kehret, Director of Access to Information Services, at 415-694-7349 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By: Catherine J. Kudlick
Note from the LightHouse: Ms. Kudlick is the Director of the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability and a professor of history. She has been a friend of the LightHouse for many years and agreed to let us post the following article:
For Easter I went to visit my parents who are in their mid-80s and still live in the house where I grew up. Over the past few years my father has been proof of that saying in the disability community that if we live long enough, we’ll become disabled in some way. His eyesight has been declining due to macular degeneration. I’ve watched with fascination as the eagle-eyed fellow who shepherded my mother from whom I inherited my eye condition and me around to our various eye doctors became the one who Mom and I helped.
Interestingly, the things that we all thought would be beyond horror turned out to be something he took in stride. They live in San Jose, a city dominated by the car if ever there was one. Non-drivers because of our eyesight, my mother and I had always taken public transit, but Dad had been aloof, viewing it as a necessary, less-desirable alternative for his wife and daughter. And yet the day he traded his car for the bus, he seemed relieved, even freed. Maybe his inner New Yorker came back to sit on vehicles with a cross-section of the local community, yet maybe too his wife and daughter had paved the way for demystifying transit. In fact, he found his fellow passengers fascinating, especially how the well-dressed, largely white eco crowd interacted with the mostly Latino day-laborers, those of all races either too young or too old to drive, interspersed with the occasional grump whose car or license had been impounded. After years of listening to me and Mom complain about the car culture and advocate for every possible transit initiative, he became even more zealous than both of us combined, telling everyone about routes and projected improvements and the like.
But my father’s real gift from the disability community came from my having discovered the iPad’s accessibility. Several years ago I began hearing about this out-of-the box feature built into iOS called VoiceOver which made Apple mobile devices fully accessible to blind and low-vision users by making everything you touched on the screen talk. I knew you could make the letters bigger by spreading your fingers, but otherwise unless you’d been around blind people who used the text-to-speech feature, it seemed counter-intuitive: tiny flat screen, few buttons, no knobs. Poking at it, I felt frustrated, but something deep down told me that if so many of my blind friends (only two qualified rocket scientists) were raving about how great it was, there had to be something to it.
Bored on a transatlantic flight, I pulled out my iPod Touch and started fooling around with the VoiceOver practice screen that comes on every Apple mobile device beginning with 3GS. It’s a bit of a learning curve because when you turn VoiceOver on, you use different gestures to make things happen, so there’s tons of trial and error as you try to master new ways of interacting. For example, there’s something called a “rotor” that allows you to switch languages, how fast it speaks, whether it reads individual words, characters, or paragraphs, and lots of other things you can set up by slowly moving your thumb and index finger like you’re turning a knob. One, two, three, finger swipes allow you to jump to a new article or chapter by flicking your finger. The advice provided by blind iPhone users on the web is useful, if hilarious, with descriptions such as “think of it like you’re removing a bug.” I can only imagine how all my swiping and tapping – not to mention any accompanying facial gestures or unintended exclamations – must have appeared to the guy sitting next to me who finally somewhere over Greenland plucked up the courage to ask “what game is that you’ve been playing?” But my perseverance was rewarded, because by the time I arrived in London, I owned that thing: books and webpages with pinhead-sized print and apps with cryptic logos all came to life. I could access nearly everything, except for a chunk of apps that hadn’t been designed with access in mind. (I would LOVE for every description in the App Store to say whether or not it was compatible with VoiceOver.)
As my father’s vision continued its slow, inevitable decline, he grew more and more depressed about having first to read his beloved New York Times with a magnifier, then on a cc-tv, then online with ever larger fonts. The New Yorker with its shiny paper and precious print had been out a long time ago. “The lights are going out, kid,” he said one day. Always mentally-alert and a voracious reader, he was withdrawing more and more into himself.
Something in his sadness clicked: I thought of my father not as an old guy losing his sight but as a blind person with possible links to the same community that had nourished me. The reasons for my failure to make this connection sooner are perhaps the topic of another blog, rooted as they are in the barriers our culture continues to draw between disability and old age. But however it came about, I finally realized that my own experience and, by extension, the expertise of my fellow blind people with VoiceOver could open a new chapter for my father.
When my partner and I showed up with an iPad, Dad seemed intrigued but skeptical. He tried the gestures, but they didn’t seem to work, the voice talked when it wasn’t supposed to and failed to talk when he seemed to need it most. Too fast, too slow, the swipes and pokes felt silly and did nothing. I tried to help, but wondered if he needed his own equivalent of my transatlantic flight. A week later, he sounded defeated on the phone. I could tell he wanted to learn and sensed somewhere that he could. But he needed a cheerleader, so I came back home and sat with him on the couch, maybe just like he sat with me as I held my first book in my lap when I was learning to read. “All the blind people do it,” I kept saying, “and they do it only through touch and hearing!” We practiced, furrowed our brows, we cheered, we laughed and rewarded ourselves with chocolate. By the end of the two hours we sat together, he’d mastered enough of the gestures to experience results. I left only once I knew there was no turning back.
This was two years ago. Since then, I’ve told him about apps like Bookshare.org and the National Federation of the Blind’s free access to hundreds of newspapers and magazines through their amazing Newsline for the Blind. He constantly sends links to articles in the Times, keeps up with the local paper, and has added new magazines to his repertoire like Wired and the Guardian. He follows stocks and financial news of every sort, sports, and reads novels. Together at home a couple of days ago for Easter, we compared notes and swapped gossip from our reading. “Go figure,” he said, shaking his head, “Who would have thought that blind people would have given me back the ability to read!”
For several months now the LightHouse has been hosting a monthly class on iOS apps called “I Think Therefore I App.” This session is an informal and informative way to learn about interesting apps for daily use, from exercise apps to apps that can help keep your life on track.
Join us for “I Think Therefore I App” every second Thursday of the month from 10:00 until 11:30 a.m. For more information or to RSVP for the class, please contact Molly Irish at 415-694-7320 or email@example.com.
Upcoming Class Dates:
- Thursday, April 11, 10:00 to 11:30 a.m.
- Thursday, May 9, 10:00 to 11:30 a.m.
- Thursday, June 6, 10:00 to 11:30 a.m.
Want to get a jump start on living successfully with little or no vision? Would you like to meet students starting their journey like you? And do it in the world class Napa Wine Country? Apply now for one of the spaces available in the Lighthouse’s new immersion retreat at Enchanted Hills Retreat in Napa.
The LightHouse presents a one week immersion retreat for adults new to low vision or blindness. Learn basic, yet essential daily living skills to live confidently. This retreat offers mentoring, peer participation and support in the splendid wine country setting of the LightHouse’s Enchanted Hills Retreat.
June 9 through 14
If you are a Department of Rehabilitation client or are over 55, you may be eligible for these classes free of charge. For more information or to sign up for any of our training classes, please contact Debbie Bacon at 415-694-7357, or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://bit.ly/visionclass2013.
The Library of Congress National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) survey is now available. The survey will help them assess how to better serve the needs of readers of talking books and braille. Let your opinions be heard!
To take the survey online or to learn more about it, go to www.LibraryOfCongressSurvey.org. Or, you can call 1-866-545-1618 to schedule a time to take the survey over the phone.
You do not have to be a current NLS reader to take the survey.
The 25 minute survey is designed to learn more about your experiences with talking books and braille, what types of talking book and braille materials and services you are looking for, and what NLS can do to get you interested in the free Library of Congress talking book and braille program. If you aren’t currently using NLS, let them know what services you want and how they can add you to the list of NLS readers. If you are a current NLS reader, let them know what they are doing well, where they can improve, and what new services you would like NLS to offer. Your answers to the survey questions will be kept confidential. Take the survey now to help Library of Congress NLS better serve all readers who use talking books and braille!
The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) has a number of programs and services to directly assist blind veterans, including:
- Fast, easy access to services and resources
- A nationwide network of blind mentors
- Thirty scholarships for higher education offered annually, generally ranging from $3,000 to $12,000
- Eligibility for financial assistance to attend the convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Orlando on July 1-6
- NFB-NEWSLINE®, the largest on-demand audio newspaper service in the world
- Free advice on finding the right assistive or mainstream technology to meet your needs
- Training and employment opportunities with the federal government
- Effective advocacy on issues important to blind veterans, including access to the military Space Available program
- The opportunity to join in advocacy and fellowship with like-minded blind veterans through the National Association of Blind Veterans, a division of the National Federation of the Blind (http://www.nabv.org)
- A positive philosophy of blindness emphasizing the normality of the blind and our ability to compete on terms of equality with our sighted peers
For more information on NFB programs for blind veterans, please contact Dr. Joanne Wilson by phone at (410) 659-9314, extension 2335, or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Did you know that our Adaptations store offers 30 different digital magnifiers, some that can fit in your pocket?
The SmartLux Digital is ideal for anyone who is visually impaired and wants an economical, portable video magnifier. The SmartLux Digital features a generous depth of focus and includes a stand that, when placed in its fully extended position, is ideal for reading. When placed in its half-extended position, it is ideal for writing. The two small SMD-LEDs on the underside of the device can be switched off when viewing other backlit displays, such as cell phones, to avoid screen glare. The screen is hard-coated for protection and is made with an additional anti-glare layer of film.
- Display: 5 inch LCD TFT display with contrast ration 600:1
- Magnification: 5x, 7x, 9x, and 12x
- Color Modes: Full color, black on white, white on black, black on yellow, yellow black
- Weight: 7.8 oz.
- Dimensions: 3½ in W x 6½ in L x 1¼ in H
- Power: Rechargeable; power cord with attachments included
- Run Time: Operating time is 2½ hours
- Charging Time: 2 hours
- 2-year warranty
To purchase the SmartLux Digital or peruse our full inventory of magnifiers and other gadgets designed for the blind and visually impaired, contact Adaptations, the LightHouse Store at 1-888-400-8933 or visit our store online for more information.