Assistive Technology

The White Hands Centre of Assistive Technology and Rehabilitation (WHC) is a new center offering Assistive Technology and specialized rehabilitation for people with disabilities. The center opened in March in Mawaleh and is the results of director, Aisha Baabood, who is realizing his long held dream of a center that helps empower and educate people with disabilities by using Assistive Technology and a variety of therapies.

Read more on The White Hands Centre for Assistive Technology and Rehabilitation

No one can deny the power and persistence of a father’s love. Paul McCarthy’s son, Leon, was born without fingers on his left hand due to a complication during gestation. The now twelve-year-old Leon sports a new prostatic hand made by his father with a 3-D printer. Mr. McCarthy is a special effects artist who, realizing the potential of 3-D printing, searched the Internet for two years for blueprints for a new hand for his son. He finally found Iva Owen who had successfully created mechanical fingers for a carpenter and a 5-year-old boy in South Africa. This enabled him to create the hand for his son. The 3-D printed hand cost a fraction of what it would for a traditional prosthetic.   

GW Micro, the maker of Window-Eyes and the ZoomText and Sitecues creator Ai Squared have come together, combining their talents to better assist computer users who are blind.

Window-Eyes is a screen reader which translates visual information into speech or Braille and recently struck a deal with Microsoft to offer its licenses for free to MS Office users. ZoomText is the number one screen magnifier and text-to-speech software package in the world. It allows people with visual impairments to easily use their computers.  

The need for assistive technology continues to grow. According to the World Health Organization, over 285 million people in the world are considered visually impaired; 39 million of those are blind, and 246 million have moderate to severe visual impairments. "The merger of Ai Squared and GW Micro brings together two companies that offer great solutions for the millions of Microsoft customers around the world who are blind or visually impaired," said Rob Sinclair, Chief Accessibility Officer at Microsoft.

"We are also delighted that Ai Squared will continue to develop and support the Window-Eyes for Office Offer as many of our customers rely on this screen reading solution to enable access to Windows, Office and other Microsoft products," Sinclair said.

Dan Weirich, Co-founder of GW Micro and now Vice President at Ai Squared, said he is thrilled to incorporate Window-Eyes into the Ai Squared product family.

"It's a natural fit," Weirich said. "Combining our companies will strengthen Ai Squared's global presence in the assistive technology industry, allowing us to serve even more customers."

Weirich noted that many customers using web and computer accessibility tools inevitably progress further along the visual impairment spectrum during their lifetime. As a result, they will require more advanced assistive technology as their needs change. With the merger, Ai Squared will be in a better position to assist those customers, developing products that provide a seamless transition and user experience as customers adapt to their changing vision.

Ai Squared will continue to offer Window-Eyes and its related products as they were previously offered by GW Micro. In addition, a free and fully featured version of Window-Eyes will continue to be available via the Window-Eyes Offer for Users of Microsoft Office as part of the recently announced partnership with Microsoft and GW Micro. The GW Micro team will remain in Indiana as part of the Ai Squared team, which is headquartered in Vermont.

A new hardware and software bundle from Revel Systems provides features for people with vision disabilities. iPad touchscreens don’t naturally have tactile qualities making them difficult to be used independently and effectively by people with vision disabilities.

Revel’s new accessibility bundle allows people with vision disabilities to securely enter their debit card pin numbers or use signature screens when checking out. It uses Bluetooth enabled keyboards with textured keys to provide the necessary tactile sensitivity for people with vision disabilities to privately enter the information.

Grey Group Singapore (Grey) has developed two mobile apps with the goal of increasing the quality of life for people with hearing disabilities. Supported by the Singapore Association for the Deaf (SADeaf) the app for smart phones turns them into intelligent devices that help people who are Deaf or hard-of-hearing.

The app, Say it With Signs, translates audio messages into signs, which are displayed on the phone. This makes it easier and quicker for the user to interpret the message. They can then reply via text.

The online entertainment service, Crossway Media Solutions, is creating films and television that are more accessible for people with disabilities. They year they will launch TalkingFlix, which will be the first on-demand entertainment service that is audio-described for people with visual disabilities.  Their hope is to help sited and non-sighted people have a shared social experience.

TalkingFlix, a worldwide entertainment platform, will allow people to purchase or rent individual titles, or gain access to a growing library through a monthly subscription.

A patent application to embed cameras into contact lenses was filed by Google. The embedded microscopic cameras are designed to help the blind allowing the wearer to photograph their direct line of vision.

This could be a potential life-changing device for the blind. Among the potential applications for the lenses, the cameras and analysis components could process image data to determine if the user is approaching a busy street. This information could be conveyed to a device like a smart phone which could deliver an audible warning.

Enhancing the way users who are blind will use mobile devises, a new technology allows users to feel the screen. Senseg’s E-Sense technology is being developed in Sweden and recreates the sensation of different textures on touch screens. The technology uses “tixels,” or “tactile pixels” to generate and electric field above the screen’s surface enabling skin to feel finely tuned sensations replicating different textures.

The technology has far reaching implications for users who are blind and visually-impaired the most immediate being Braille reading.

Jacoti launched the world’s first CE approved medical device standalone hearing aid, which is a wireless audio streaming technology for complex listening situations.

Jacoti Lola uses standard wireless networks and its session requires a speaker and listener to launch the applications. This eliminates the inconvenience of purchasing dedicated hardware. Users just download the software and begin using it.

People with hearing disabilities can now benefit from Lola streaming enhanced, cd-quality audio into classrooms, meetings, auditoriums, cars, and any other complex listening situation.

Fuze, which offers a rich visual experience, has enabled students with hearing disabilities who are in different locations learn together. For example, nursing students with hearing disabilities who are interning at a hospital can remotely attend classes.

Among the latest universities to adopt Fuze and help faculty and students come together through cloud-based video collaboration are Georgetown Law School, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Saint Louis University, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and Gallaudet University.

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