Assistive Technology

Ducer Technology has launched new smart shoes. They’ve launched their new haptic footwear under the wearable technology brand Lechal. The shoes help people with vision disabilities navigate from place to place. The shoes can be synced to your smartphone and will buzz the wearer to alert them whether to turn left or right. Vibrations also indicate which way the wearer should turn.

There are two Lechal products: a complete set of shoes and polyurethane insoles that can be inserted into existing shoes. The system also contains a smartphone app which connect via Bluetooth. 

The revamped Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 boasts better speed and accuracy, Web application compatibility, and a cleaner interface. Nuance Communications says that Dragon 13 is faster than the previous version and 15 percent more accurate. This is due in part to new microphone and PC compatibilities like automatic detection of microphone availability.

"The most important thing for everyone has always been accuracy, and we've seen another major leap forward with accuracy in Dragon 13," says Peter Mahoney, chief marketing officer and general manager of Dragon products at Nuance.

"If you have a new laptop that's got microphones built into the display, you can get very good accuracy even without a headset," Mahoney says. "It enables a different kind of user product, especially with these newer laptops and tablets and convertibles. You can just touch the screen to turn on the microphone or use voice command and you start talking. That's a really compelling application."

The new Dragon 13 provides full text control, which allows users to navigate around text and manipulate text so it’s supported in text rich fields.

Microsoft has been developing a ‘smart headband’ to aid people who are blind in ‘seeing’ the world around them. The Microsoft device helps those with low vision or who are blind through audio instructions about their surroundings delivered to an ear piece.

The device is still in the early stages of development and remains a research project for now. However, it is being tested by a group of eight people who are blind in the area of Microsoft’s UK headquarters in Reading. Reportedly, testing has occurred around the busy Reading train station, helping the group navigate staircases, escalators platforms and ticket barriers.

This concept video created in 2012 gives and idea of what using the devise may be like.

A new smartphone app that will tell people with vision disabilities when to cross the street, which direction they’re going, and how many lanes the street is wide. The app can also announce the name of the street in any direction, tell users when to cross and how much time they have. The app is being developed by researchers and students at the University of Minnesota.

The launch of the newest version of Kurzweil 3000 firefly, an award-winning literacy software, was announced by Kurzweil Education, inc.

Major new features include:

  • High-quality Acapela text-to-speech voices
  • Support for the OpenDyslexic font
  • An updated Optical Character Reader
  • Improved scanning capabilities
  • Ability to read EPUB files, images, and locked files providing a superior reading experience
  • Updates to built-in American Heritage dictionaries
  • Addition of 12,000 new Widgit images in the picture dictionary
  • Vocabulary study guides
  • Translation to over 70 languages to enhance comprehension
  • New and updated writing tools, including updates to word prediction and study guides
  • New academic word lists
  • New writing templates such as Analyzing Informational Text and Determining Important Details
  • Enhancements to the Kurzweil 3000–firefly cloud-based Universal Library that provides educators with a centralized, flexible user-management system and usage reporting
  • New teacher templates, including a UDL Lesson with Kurzweil 3000–firefly and a Common Core State Standards Lesson Plan

Kurzweil 3000-firefly helps all students, including those with learning disabilities like dyslexia and English Language learners (ELL and ESL) learn from the same materials as their peers.

Read about other assistive technologies for people with cognitive disabilities

Ian Burkhart, 23, is a quadriplegic from Ohio that is the first patient to use Neurobridge, which is an electronic neural bypass for spinal cord injuries. The revolutionary technology combines algorithms that learn and decode the user’s brain activity and a high-definition muscle stimulation sleeve that translate the impulses from the brain and transmits signals to the paralyzed limb.

The Ohio State and Battelle teams collaborated to figure out the correct sequence of electrodes to enable Burkhart to move his fingers and hand functionally. Burkhart was paralyzed 4 years ago in a diving accident and volunteered for the project viewing it as an opportunity to help others.

Dr. Myoung-Woon is leading a research team at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology that has developed a new method of producing touchable objects with detailed lines and curves. The revolutionary new method combines 3D printing with 3D thermal reflow treatment and can be used to produce braille books, braille picture books and teaching materials with far greater flexibility in color, height, and size. Further, it is safe for humans as it does not require a UV coating or harmful chemical treatments.

First Exoskeleton that Helps People with Disabilities Walk Approved by FDA

ReWalk Robotics out of Marlborough, MA announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved its ReWalk Personal System for at home use. The robotic wearable exoskeleton provides powered hip and knee motion enabling people with Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) to stand and walk. ReWalk is the first and only exoskeleton with FDA clearance and is now available throughout the United States.

Larry Jasinski, CEO of ReWalk Robotics said, “This revolutionary product will have an immediate, life-changing impact on individuals with spinal cord injuries.”

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While other mobile platforms are making strides in accessibility, iOS has always been a clear leader. Given the buzz from this year’s annual developer conference, iOS 8 will deliver again. Some of the major accessibility features discussed were:

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