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assistive technology

Access Technology Specialist

POSITION:               Access Technology Specialist

REPORTS TO:         Director of Access Technology

STATUS:                   Exempt

General Description

The Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually impaired is seeking an access technology specialist in our Access Technology department. The AT department trains 300 students each year on the use of screen readers and magnification software, and partners with dozens of companies to ensure apps, websites, and products are accessible to blind and visually impaired users.

The Access Technology Specialist is responsible for providing technology assessments and training to blind and  visually impaired students both one on one and in group workshops. Specialists work with each student to define learning goals, present material in a clear and comprehensive manner, and document instruction in the Lighthouse database. Specialists stay current on the latest access technology, and the accessibility of mainstream apps, in order to provide high quality assessments to students. Specialists work on Lighthouse consulting projects in the areas of accessible design and user research.

This position may be for you if:

You keep pace with the latest in mainstream and access technology.

You’re interested in the interactions between people and the technologies they use.

You enjoy spending significant parts of your workday interacting with students

You enjoy explaining technical concepts to others.

Qualifications

In depth knowledge of the following operating systems: Windows, Mac OS, iOS, and Android.

Advanced user of screenreading and magnification software for desktop and mobile operating systems.

In depth knowledge of non visual techniques for information access including:

Efficiently navigating websites,

Using apps and software to access printed material.

Using GPS apps for navigation.

Demonstrated ability to create lesson plans,

Demonstrated ability to conduct comprehensive technology assessments

High level of emotional intelligence to relate to students at all levels of adjustment to blindness,

Demonstrated ability to convey technical knowledge in a clear and approachable manner,

ability to learn new technologies from documentation and tutorials.

Prefered qualifications:

Knowledge of web accessibility standards.

Profficiency in the UEB Braille code.

Fluency in a second language in addition to English.

Education:       Bachelors degree in education, Rehabilitation Teaching, Computer Science, or comparable degree/experience.

Accountabilities

Conduct comprehensive assistive technology assessments

Work with students to define schedules, goals and objectives for technology training,

Deliver one on one technology training to blind and visually impaired students on a variety of technologies, at Lighthouse, at work sites, and in students’ homes

Design and deliver group workshops on current technology topics,

Keep accurate and timely records of student progress in the Lighthouse database,

Provide accessibility feedback on products and websites as part of Lighthouse access technology consulting projects,

Other duties as assigned.

This position is located at the LightHouse’s new headquarters at 1155 Market St. in San Francisco, CA.

Compensation

Commensurate with experience.

Physical Demands

Must be able to sit at a desk and perform computer-intensive work for long periods of time; operate standard office equipment; move 10lbs independently.

To Apply

Send your resume and cover letter to hr@lighthouse-sf.org

All attachments must be formatted as Word Documents or accessible PDFs. No undescribed image files please.

A Week with Be My Eyes: The First Truly Social Network

On May 11 from 5:00 t0 7:00 p.m., LightHouse will host Be My Eyes and its blind or low vision users for an evening of creative use, feedback and even a bit of friendly competition. The Be My Eyes team will take blind users through the past, present and future of the technology, and share some incredible stories about the iPhone app that connects blind people to a network of sighted volunteers via live video chat. The event is free and intended for blind and low vision users – RSVP on Facebook.

We love our independence. Even if our vegetables are grown and picked by hundreds of hands, our cars designed by teams of closely collaborating engineers, and everything from our electricity to our government benefits kept running by vast networks of individuals — modern day technology and consumption are designed to make us feel self sufficient.

We are thus allowed to hold ourselves ideals of self-determination and rugged individualism that have been passed down over the centuries. As blind people, these values are challenged every day of our lives. When something is poorly designed or downright unusable, we confront a deep conundrum: going it alone or asking for help, and risking the perceived possibility of burdening others.

When Be My Eyes launched nearly two years ago, a new tool was born: a radically different way to ask for help. Be My Eyes introduced blind smartphone users to a whole new type of social support network, one unbounded by geography, bureaucracy, or even practical limitations, that allowed blind users to get sighted assistance via video chat.

Today there are about half a million sighted volunteers with Be My Eyes loaded onto their phones, with more than 30,000 blind users on the other end. These volunteers will do anything from help you adjust the thermostat to spending half an hour helping you pick out an outfit for a high-stakes presentation. But at it’s core, each interaction is random, at-will and obligation free. The free app puts no limit on the number of calls you can make in a day. If you really wanted to, you could call 100 different people and have each of them identify the exact same piece of art – and the service, as always, would be free.

Even though thousands of blind people benefit from this app every week, the platform can handle thousands more. I wonder often if our notion of independent living so engrained, so hard-wired that we have still have trouble asking for help, even when there are really no strings attached.

Be My Eyes is working toward a gold-standard for people helping people. They have hundreds of thousands of hours of free labor, given with good faith, at a moments notice from people all around the world. It’s truly a new tool – like a fishing pole that reels in assistance whenever you want it. But as the old saying goes, you have to “teach a man to fish” before he can really benefit from the tools at hand.

Last month, I challenged myself to re-consider how I use the app. Occasionally I will be somewhere, alone, and realize that I am struggling. We all do this, sighted and blind alike: make things harder for ourselves then they need to be.

For one week, I told myself, any time I needed help I would pull out the app and give it a spin. What came out of it was surprising. Watch the video below to see Be My Eyes in action.

Not only did I use it for things I never thought it could work for – like identifying house numbers as I walked through a neighborhood or even the types of fish on my sushi plate – but I met people who were patient, not overbearing, and curious as to what they could do to be helpful without being obtrusive.

No one asked me personal questions, no one tried to coach me on how to live my life, and above all no one grabbed me by the arm and steered me somewhere I didn’t want to go. When I got what I needed, I could politely say thank you and hang up without fear that being brisk with someone would have repercussions later. It’s all the value of having someone nearby without any of the additional worry of initiating contact, explaining yourself, and ultimately breaking free of their of custody.

Our understanding of “independence” is not truly about total independence, but instead about masking the assembly line of helpers which make up our lives: the tiny little micro-transactions where individuals step in to provide assistance, whether or not we have a disability. For blind people, this is a more obvious reality than for most.

The reason Be My Eyes is so remarkable is because it embraces this reality wholesale: You can get the tiniest bit of help and move on through your life. The safety net is huge, and yet doesn’t loom over you.

Maybe it makes sense, then, that the guys behind Be My Eyes hail from Denmark, where you’re much more likely to hear about a more “social” approach. And if we think of human interaction as give and take, as an exchange of ideas or assistance as a true social interaction – maybe Be My Eyes has created the first truly social network.

HIMS Assistive Tech Demo Day Comes to LightHouse in October

HIMS has just announced its Demo Day at LightHouse for the Blind. Download the flyer here or read full text below:

Coming to San Francisco October 4, 2016!

Come learn about new advances in technology for low vision and blindness!

When: October 4, 2016 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Where: San Francisco Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired
1155 Market Street, 10th oor, San Francisco, CA 94103

What’s new at HIMS? Join Damian Pickering and Paul Stevenson for the latest braille and low vision product news. Stay for lunch on us. We welcome this opportunity to share our latest innovations. We would also love to hear your dream wishlist of features and products you’d like to see from HIMS.

Learn about and try Braille Notetakers, Braille Displays, DAISY Players/OCR Video Magnifiers/OCR and more

RSVP to Paul Stevenson by Monday, October 3rd by calling 888-520-4467 ext. 316 or emailing paul@hims-inc.com.

Meet DictationBridge: Hands-free Typing Sponsored by LightHouse for the Blind

Speech recognition and screen readers are both valuable tools for the blindness community, but what about technology that combines the two? Unfortunately, the current options are few, sometimes unstable and often expensive.

image of microphone with headphones on itThat’s why, when a group of notable blind technologists and power-users from around the country brought the idea for DictationBridge, to LightHouse Labs, our organization knew we had to help. The investment in DictationBridge, which represents the LightHouse’s expanding capability to invest in projects meaningful to the blindness community, will help ensure that the software is released into to the universe free-of-charge.

“We on the DictationBridge team are proud to have the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually-Impaired on our team,” says Lucy Greco, assistive tech expert and spokesperson for DictationBridge, “We hope this is a first in what will become a series of projects like this moving into the future.”

As the highest level sponsor in DictationBridge’s Indiegogo campaign, which met its funding goal this week, the LightHouse is proud to help bring free hands-free typing to blind folks all around the world. If you’re still a little unclear about what DictationBridge actually does, DB’s website invites you to imagine a scenario:

“James is a blind entrepreneur but injures his hand and is unable to type. He knows he has to continue working. He has heard of speech-recognition and decides to try it. He has a little bit of vision so he uses ZoomText for magnification and speech. In the current scenario, he does not have a solution. DictationBridge is going to be a generic solution which will talk to ZoomText and WSR [Windows Screen Reader] or Dragon. Once James recovers, he may continue to use speech-recognition for productivity or he can resume a keyboard only way of working.”

That’s what we want for our community: to be able to keep working.

“The overwhelming majority of blind people worldwide cannot afford expensive and unstable solutions when they need to use dictation and a screen reader,” CEO Bryan Bashin said last week, “The Lighthouse believes it has a moral obligation to support the access needs of blind and visually-impaired people wherever they live. We applaud the creativity of the DictationBridge team to address this need and are happy to be part of their success.”

Happy typing, and check back for updates on DictationBridge’s public release.

Blind & Low Vision Skills Training

Our team of teachers and specialists (many of whom are low vision/blind themselves) are highly trained in low vision and blind skills techniques and strategies, providing solutions to all aspects of maintaining one’s independence.

From learning essential safe travel skills in your home and community to accessing your daily mail, beloved novels, or e-mail and the internet using the latest access technology, the LightHouse can accommodate any individual seeking to enhance self-reliance. While there are many different ways to meet your needs and desires for training and independence, understanding what we can offer is important.

Our philosophy about teaching is that we work with you as a team, our teachers meet you where you are in your level of readiness and desire to move forward. Every person has their own journey and learning mode. As long as you are open to learning how you can do something in a new way with your changing vision, we are ready to provide the training and support you need.

For those who are new to low vision, blindness or have a recent change in their vision, we recommend our flagship program, CVCL.

Immersion Training: Changing Vision, Changing Lives (CVCL)

Changing Vision, Changing Lives is our introductory immersion program for adults who are newly blind or have experienced a change in vision and find that new skills are needed. The program introduces basic yet essential skills to live confidently at home and in the community. Topics such as magnification, organizational skills, time management, use of adaptive aids and accessing print materials provide students solutions and strategies for living with low vision or blindness. In addition, each class session includes a discussion on adjusting to changing vision.

While CVCL provides an introduction to solutions regarding blindness or low vision training and techniques, the bigger purpose is to bring people together, learning and sharing experiences together. While so many students have felt isolated in their learning, CVCL instinctively propels and motivates students to study further and know the right choices for later. A great majority of students who go through the CVCL class remain enthusiastically engaged with the LightHouse and return to leading full, active lives.

Students need not live in the Bay Area to take advantage of our CVCL program. Our facilities in Napa and San Francisco are equipped with lodging and meals to keep you comfortable and nourished throughout the training.

Read about CVCL in the New York Times!

In addition to CVCL, listed below are the core learning opportunities in which you can participate as a student. All of these skills can be learned from our headquarters in San Francisco and most of them from our satellite offices: LightHouse of Marin, LightHouse of the North Coast, or LightHouse of the East Bay.

Orientation and Mobility (O&M)

“Orientation” refers to the ability to know where you are and where you want to go; whether you’re moving from one room to another, walking route from your home to downtown, taking a bus from one place to another or ‘orienting’ to a new worksite or school campus.

“Mobility” refers to the ability to move safely, efficiently, and effectively from one place to another. This means walking confidently without tripping or falling, street crossing and use of public transportation. Learning mobility also includes learning the use of essential tools such as a cane or even a monocular for those with low vision, and strategies, such as listening for traffic patterns when crossing the street or using accessible pedestrian signals.

LightHouse teachers recognize that traveling ‘independently’ is done in so many ways and once basic skills are learned, students can concurrently learn alternate systems for travel such as Human Guide skills and transit using community Paratransit. Additionally, LightHouse Orientation and Mobility Specialists also provide training in navigation systems such as the Trekker Breeze; current mobility applications on smartphones for travel such as BlindSquare or orientation devices such as the Brain Port.

The ability to move about independently, with confidence and grace is an essential step towards self-confidence, independence and living a full life.

Essential Living Skills

Essential living skills, often referred to as Independent Living Skills or Daily Living Skills are none the less the essential skills you typically use for performing your daily routine. Many of these subconscious skills can change if your vision changes. Our team of skilled Certified Rehabilitation Specialist, Independent Living Skills and Kitchen Skills Teachers can provide you the tips, strategies, simple modifications and tools so that you can do to continue your routine at home, school or work. The beauty of the skills learned is that so many of them transfer to variety of other skills you may need in your life, such as cleaning/clearing a table requires tactile and/or visual scanning patterns or techniques, as does orientation and mobility, reading Braille or reading using a video magnifier.

While the skills are many, you work with your teacher to prioritize what skills are most essential to your independent living and daily routine. Here are some of the skills and strategies you can learn for home, school and/or work:

  • Personal Hygiene Care
  • Food Preparation and Kitchen Skills (from list making and shopping to cooking)
  • Clothing Care and developing and managing your wardrobe
  • Paper Management (bills, correspondences)
  • Organizational and labeling (visual and non visual)
  • Household Management and housekeeping
  • Record Keeping and financial/household document management
  • Money/banking management
  • Time and Calendaring Management Tools
  • Shopping (from on-line to in-store shopping)
  • Social and Recreational Involvement – getting back to a routine of fun!
  • Smartphone training and relevant apps

Access Technology 

Access Technology (AT) is exciting, ever changing and has become the big equalizer for persons who are low vision or blind. Our exceptional and trained AT staff are all users of Access Technology, from computer use (through speech or magnification), to scanning print on stand alone systems, or using a smartphone.

LightHouse AT Specialists and Trainers work with students in the following ways:

Assessment: Matching student’s abilities and needs with the array of tools is essential. LightHouse AT staff start off by conducting an AT Assessment with each student to understand the following:

  • What is the student’s current experience and skill with technology in general? What are they using now (including PC and/or MAC use)?
  • Visual function as it relates to best options effective and efficient access to print, either magnification or speech access.
  • Does the student have financial limitations to equipment needs?
  • Is the student a Braille user?
  • What tasks does the student need to complete using AT?
  • Does the student need to be mobile in using his/her AT?

All of these questions and help to identify not only what training a student may need, but also the equipment (from low tech to high tech) may be the best fit for the student, their vision and their intended use.

Training: The language alone used in teaching Access Technology as well as the names of the equipment and software can be overwhelming and hard to understand, but our AT staff understand this and their goal is to work with each student, ensuring the student can use the chosen technology efficiently and effectively as well as having the tools to problem solve potential hardware, software or user challenges. While each student works with the teacher on a path of training and equipment, training options are also varied and include some of the following (may be taught individually or in a small class environment):

  • Keyboarding Skills – effective touch typing skills are a foundation of access technology use
  • Computer software instruction using screen magnification, screen reading or a combination of both
  • Use of Video Magnification Systems (desk top, handheld or in conjunction with a computer system)
  • Internet Browsing and Website Use
  • Access and Reading materials in accessible formats
  • Use of scanning systems and software
  • Use of portable recording and listening systems
  • Use of smartphones and tablets (iOS or Android), including ‘best’ apps for blind access
  • Use of refreshable braille displays
  • Use of GPS devices

Spotlight Gateway: Low vision students referred by the American Academy of Ophthalmology will receive complimentary trainings in Spotlight Gateway, a new app designed specifically to expand access to digital reading materials for people with low vision. Select students who meet income and eyesight requirements will receive a complimentary Apple iPad loaded with Spotlight Gateway. This LightHouse will then train qualifying low vision students to instantly access over half a million books through Bookshare and read text with a whole new comfort level.

This program is a partnership with Lighthouse Guild, Benetech, VisionService Alliance, the American Academy of Ophthalmology and Spotlight Text.

February 1, 2017: Ophthalmologists may begin registering students at the AAO website’s low vision rehabilitation page.

Mar. 1, 2017: Distribution program begins with tech trainings at LightHouse in San Francisco and Lighthouse Guild in New York City.

For more info on referrals, contact sblanks@lighthouse-sf.org.

Braille

Braille is not a fading form of communication. It is not only an essential means of writing and reading, but is one of the primary skills that is essential to successful education and employability.

The LightHouse is not only dedicated to teaching Braille, but also supports many businesses, schools and community agencies in ensuring that they have and maintain Braille access. Braille is everywhere in public venues, elevators, ATM’s, restaurants and more, it is a tactile reading and writing system that most anyone can learn (youth and adults) and the LightHouse teaches every day of the week.

Adult students of all ages can benefit from learning Braille for simple label writing and labeling and playing cards with friends and family, to learning contracted braille for notetaking and reading text books or documents or learning refreshable displays in tandem with computer use or smartphones.

To receive low vision or blind skills training, contact:

LightHouse Headquarters for San Francisco and the Greater Bay Area (including LightHouse of the East Bay): Debbie Bacon, Rehabilitation Counselor – dbacon@lighthouse-sf.org.

LightHouse of Marin, for Marin County: Jeff Carlson, Social Worker – jcarlson@lighthouse-sf.org.

LightHouse of the North Coast, for Humboldt and Del Norte Counties: Janet Pomerantz, Social Worker – jpomerantz@lighthouse-sf.org.