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Support Cycle for Sight – Help Tony and Margie meet their goal of $5,000!

EHC Camp Director Tony Fletcher riding his bicycle with his helmet on

Enchanted Hills Camp Director Tony Fletcher and LightHouse Board member Margie Donovan have teamed up to gather pledges for their respective 50 and 25-mile rides at Cycle for Sight on April 17th in Napa to support Enchanted Hills Camp.

Help Tony and Margie reach their goal of raising $5,000 in pledges!

Combined they have raised just under $3,000, your pledge could make the difference in sending more blind and visually impaired youth to camp this summer!

How you can help:

  • Donate online (donation can be made in honor of “Tony and Margie”)
  • Send your pledge by mail to: The LightHouse, 214 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94102  (memo line can read “Tony and Margie”)

Thank you for your support of Enchanted Hills Camp’s 60th year!

Marilee Talkington's performance "Truce", through April 10

Marilee Talkington is a critically acclaimed actor, writer and director who earned her MFA from the American Conservatory Theatre marking her as one of only two legally blind actors in the country to do so.

Her solo show Truce, the story of her vision loss, has been getting fierce notice in the mainstream press and those in the blind/VI community who have attended that I’ve heard from strongly recommend it, indicating that “… it’s a powerful excursion into many issues faced by people becoming blind”. “Marilee captures exquisitely that profound sense of ambivalence, sometimes fear, sometimes loathing,  that is often associated with progressive vision loss.”

“Truce” runs Thursday, April 8, Friday, April 9, and Saturday, April 10,  all shows at 8 p.m. at the NOH SPACE in San Francisco.  You can buy tickets here.

Marilee Talkington’s performance “Truce”, through April 10

Marilee Talkington is a critically acclaimed actor, writer and director who earned her MFA from the American Conservatory Theatre marking her as one of only two legally blind actors in the country to do so.

Her solo show Truce, the story of her vision loss, has been getting fierce notice in the mainstream press and those in the blind/VI community who have attended that I’ve heard from strongly recommend it, indicating that “… it’s a powerful excursion into many issues faced by people becoming blind”. “Marilee captures exquisitely that profound sense of ambivalence, sometimes fear, sometimes loathing,  that is often associated with progressive vision loss.”

“Truce” runs Thursday, April 8, Friday, April 9, and Saturday, April 10,  all shows at 8 p.m. at the NOH SPACE in San Francisco.  You can buy tickets here.

Update from CSUN – part 3

If you have an interest in tactile maps, as Josh Miele does, or more to the point – simply getting around and accessing information – there is a lot to explore at CSUN and Josh is hitting it all: “Service Based Approach to the Construction and Delivery of Audio Tactile Diagrams”, “Crosswatch: A System to Help VI Pedestrians Find and Traverse Crosswalks”, “Tactile Maps of Montreal Subway Stations”, and “Audio-Tactile Interactive Computing with the Livescribe Pulse Smartpen”. The Quick Guide I was relying on didn’t provide many details, so when I apprised Josh that Livescribe was presenting he was like “Wha? I never heard about that. I’m their man. They should be calling me”. Turns out that this was Josh’s presentation. Doh!

A smartpen is a device with a small computer in it that writes on special paper and does two things ordinary pens can’t: It captures handwriting digitally and captures an audio recoding that is synchronized with the writing.

Josh and Steve Landau have developed a smartpen based system for producing tables, graphs, diagrams and other graphics in an audio-tactile form. Tactile can be over-cluttered. The more densely packed, the harder it is to interpret. More is less in the tactile world. Adding audio allows for much more complicated labeling than could be achieved with tactile alone. Adding a smartpen allows for even more functionality, elaborating on earlier tactile technologies.

With the smartpen there is no need for calibration (letting the computer know where it is), or sheet identification (a process you have to run through each time you change a sheet). At $150, it’s about a quarter the cost of existing systems. And the smartpen stands alone – it doesn’t need a computer or host device to work. Once the software is loaded onto it you can just run around with the pen in your pocket. It’s also much more accurate than using your finger, which is a lot bigger than the tip of the pen. Therefore the active areas can be much smaller, allowing you to do much finer granularity on the information that is provided on a tactile figure.

This is a technology developed in Sweden by a company called Anoto. The Pulse Smartpen is made in Oakland CA by a company called Livescribe. The pen has a computer built into it. It is a mainstream product developed for sighted college students to take notes with. They take notes in a notebook that is sold with the Livescribe pen. As they’re taking notes the pen is also recording the lecture as audio. When they go back later and tap on the notes in the notebook, it jumps to the spot in the recording when that note was written. Every page that you use with the pen is printed with a very high resolution field of black dots. The pattern of dots is unique for every spot of every page.  Because of the unique dot patterns the sensor in the tip of the pen is able to see where you are and react accordingly based on the program you loaded into the pen. Livescribe also provides a Software Developer Kit (SDK), so that other people can write applications for the Pulse smartpen.

Josh and Steve demonstrated a number of audio-tactile materials that they’ve developed:  a periodic table of the elements, a scientific calculator, a biology chart, and a sudoku. Continue reading Update from CSUN – part 3

Update from CSUN – part 2

With the idea that we’d glean some knowledge that would benefit the LightHouse’s foray into tactile cartography and graphics Shen and I attended “Service Based Approach to the Construction and Delivery of Audio Tactile Diagrams”. The PhD thesis of two lads from Dublin City University School of Computing, researchers Declan McMullen and Donal Fitzpatrick, the premise of their project is that “The conveying of graphical materials to visually impaired students has been difficult to achieve… If a learner is operating in a distance-learning environment, or cannot read Braille there is little to no access to graphical material.” And creating tactile graphics
tends to be time consuming and labor intensive. To answer this need, they’ve devised a server based model for, well… the Construction and Delivery of Audio Tactile Diagrams.

The culmination of years of concentrated effort and computing expertise, as a layperson catching a glimpse of their project for the first time a good deal of what they were describing went over my head, but as far as usability, for a teacher, say, needing to provide materials to a student, the process is straightforward. What I took away, in simplistic terms, is this: servers serve as the repositories of Scalable Vector Graphic (SVG) images. There are also directories of content. The web-based interface lets the user wed images with content and generate any number of outputs including DAISY and Swell Paper. For example, you log on, search for a stock image (a map of the US, or human anatomy), search for content you wish to overlay (US Census Data, election results, the liver, etc.) and then apply the content and labels. Hit submit and an interactive graphic materializes on your computer. Clicking on a feature results in audio feedback revealing the nature of that item (“The capital of  California is Sacramento. The population of CA is 30 million…”). Image and content are given unique identifiers and are mapped to each other, so the original remains unmodified for future reuse. Pretty cool.  Users can also contribute images and content to share with others. Indeed, for such a system to be effective it will have to be adopted by many users. The challenge of proposing a new standard is that a significant majority must adopt it for it to become a standard. Aside from having to create a defensible thesis, other challenges will have to be sorted out or they will become problems. Calibration for instance. It’s one thing to generate a graphic on a screen, but output that is compatible wth a multitude of devices and methods requires calibration, because slight changes between formats can cause data to shift.  And there is the question of precision. A finger tip is sensitive, but not as accurate a pointer as a mouse cursor, which can target a very discrete location. Send the same graphic to be embossed and that tiny point may be too small for the finger to discern. There has to be a way to enlarge fine detail as you scale the diagram for tactile output. Still, all in all, fine work. Overall we’re very impressed.

Update from CSUN

Shen and I attended the seminar “508: The Next Generation”. Didn’t know quite what to expect, but was looking forward to learning about updates to the current Section 508 Standards. Standards issued by the US Access Board under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act cover access to electronic and information technology procured by Federal agencies. The Board is conducting a joint update of these standards and its guidelines. The presentation was laced with a lot of acronyms that  I was unfamiliar with. TEITAC is Telecommunications and Electronic and Information Technology Advisory Committee, ICT is Information and Communication Technology, ANPRM is Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, and so on. The presentation was predicated on the release, on March 17, of an ANPRM –  a Draft Refresh of Section 508 Standards and Section 255 Guidelines. The draft rule is based on recommendations from the TEITAC. The draft features a new structure and format that integrates the 508 standards and 255 guidelines into a single document referred to as the “ICT Standards and Guidelines.” Requirements have been reorganized according to functionality instead of product type since many devices now feature an array of capabilities and applications. Still with me? If you are at all familiar with the language employed by government bureaucracy you get the idea.  Any faint hope I had that the new and improved 508 standards would be more comprehensible to the layperson began to evaporate as the session wore on and the presenter reiterated that this stuff really is not easy to understand and takes repeated readings and how even he, who had been working on this stuff for years, still found sections that were open to interpretation. However, I have not read the ANPRM, so the verdict is still out. The better part of the session was given over to pointing out a number of proposed changes to the standard and inviting comments. Continue reading Update from CSUN

Accessible Pedestrian Signal Program Receives Stimulus Funds

**Press Release** SFMTA Expands APS Program

March 24, 2010

SFMTA Contact: Kristen Holland kristen.holland@sfmta.com

Contact for blind community organizations: Jessie Lorenz,  510.388.3903
jessie@ilrcsf.org

Linda Porelle  415.431.1481 lporelle@lighthouse-sf.org

Accessible Pedestrian Signal Program Receives Stimulus Funds

San Francisco-The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), which oversees the surface transportation network in San Francisco including the Municipal Railway (Muni), today announced that the City has received more than $200,000 in federal stimulus funds that will in part equip five additional intersections with Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS).

In the City 116 intersections have been equipped with the devices over the past two and a half years, making San Francisco the national leader on this important safety issue.

“The SFMTA remains committed to increasing access and mobility across the City,” said Nathaniel P. Ford Sr., SFMTA Executive Director/CEO. “We will continue to work with our partners to provide greater accessibility for all San Franciscans.”

“San Francisco has a vibrant and diverse community of people with disabilities who are able to live here independently,” said Susan Mizner, Executive Director, Mayor’s Office on Disability.  “Features such as the APS expand the range of their independence, enriching their lives as well as the culture of the City.”

“San Francisco’s APS program is the gold standard that other municipalities are emulating,” said Jessie Lorenz, Associate Director of the Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco.  “The success of the program is based in large part on the unwavering commitment of the California Council of the Blind, the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and the SFMTA.  Collaboration among these organizations has turned San Francisco into one of the most visitable cities in the country for individuals who are blind.”

The APS units installed by the SFMTA meet new federal guidelines issued in December.  The state of the art signaling devices assist pedestrians with visual impairments by emitting a rapid ticking sound in tandem with the familiar WALK symbol displayed for sighted pedestrians.  Other accessibility features include locator tones to help those with visual impairments find the devices, vibrating push buttons during the walk phase and audible information such as street names when pedestrians press the push buttons for one second or longer.

“The audible and tactile information conveyed by the APS has helped eliminate my fear of crossing intersections in San Francisco,” said David Jackson, a blind, 30-year resident of San Francisco and a Board member of the California Council of the Blind.

San Francisco’s APS program also includes a detailed checklist for prioritizing requests for APS and a carefully monitored maintenance program.  Members of the public can request that the signals be installed by either visiting 311.org or calling 311.

The SFMTA’s successful APS program grew out of a cooperative effort between blind advocates from the California Council of the Blind, the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired and the Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco.  The SFMTA and the California Council of the Blind reached a landmark settlement on the issue in 2007. The original agreement included at least 80 intersections.  The SFMTA continues to work with the community to expand the use of APS in San Francisco.

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Established by voter proposition in 1999, the SFMTA, a department of the City and County of San Francisco, oversees the Municipal Railway (Muni), parking and traffic and taxis.  With five modes of transit, Muni has approximately 700,000 passenger boardings each day.  Over 35,000 extra vehicles enter San Francisco on any given business day, and rely on the SFMTA to keep the flow of cars, transit vehicles, taxis, delivery trucks, pedestrians and bicycles moving smoothly through the streets.

Audio-described performance of "Truce" this Saturday

Image for Marilee Talkington's one-woman show 'Truce'

Former Insights artist Marilee Talkington’s one-woman show “Truce” will feature an audio-described performance on Saturday, March 27th at 8pm at  Noh Space, 2840 Mariposa Street, San Francisco, CA 94110. This theater show about Marilee’s coming to terms with her blindness was reviewed in the San Francisco Chronicle, which has increased her ticket sales. She is reserving the remaining seats for this performance for any viewers who are blind or visually impaired to benefit from the audio description.

Tickets to this performance are $20. Send ticket inquiries directly to the following email address: truceboxoffice@gmail.com

For more information about Truce, visit the show’s website.

Audio-described performance of “Truce” this Saturday

Image for Marilee Talkington's one-woman show 'Truce'

Former Insights artist Marilee Talkington’s one-woman show “Truce” will feature an audio-described performance on Saturday, March 27th at 8pm at  Noh Space, 2840 Mariposa Street, San Francisco, CA 94110. This theater show about Marilee’s coming to terms with her blindness was reviewed in the San Francisco Chronicle, which has increased her ticket sales. She is reserving the remaining seats for this performance for any viewers who are blind or visually impaired to benefit from the audio description.

Tickets to this performance are $20. Send ticket inquiries directly to the following email address: truceboxoffice@gmail.com

For more information about Truce, visit the show’s website.