Low Vision

The innovative Smart Cane is a navigation and mobility aid for people with vision disabilities. The Smart Cane will be introduced by IIT Delhi and Chennai-based Phoenix Medical Systems. The cane detects objects up to three kilometers away, detecting the obstacles using ultrasonic sensors. Range of the obstacles is communicated using vibratory signals with varying characteristics.

This is one of many products being developed and marketed thanks to the Wellcome Trust initiative, which funds translational research for affordable healthcare in India.

A Houston, Texas based medical device start-up, Reveal Optical, LLC, has a prototype vision aid called the Reveal VUE. The device helps people who are blind or have low vision see again. It is a portable 3D vision aid that uses the Oculus Rift for its display.

Reveal Optical is now seeking additional funding through a crowd funding campaign in order to take the VUE to the next stage, which would be a limited production release.

A software designer in Perth, Australia has helped people who are blind and have low vision gain accessibility and independence in Perth’s public transport network. With the development of an application called Stop Announcer, which only cost a few dollars, people who are blind and have low vision can hear their stop announced through the app and no longer have to use the unreliable method of counting stops.

The user simply tells the app the route they are taking and the software announces when they are arriving at their location.

A seventh grade student from the San Francisco Bay Area, Shubham Banerjee, developed a Braille printer using Lego Mindstorms EV3. The cost effective Lego printer reduces the cost of a Braille printer from $2000 to $350 making it much more accessible to families and institutions needing a Braille printer.

The printer, which is made from a $349 Lego Mindstorm EV3 Kit and $5 worth of add-ons from Home Depot has been named BRAIGO v1.0 a shortening of the phrase, Braille with LEGO. BRAIGO uses the base reference model known as Banner Print3r, which was redesigned with totally new software to print the letters A-Z.

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TalkBack is a pre-installed screen reader service provided by Google for Android devices. It describes the results of actions such as launching an app, and events and notifications using spoken feedback. It works neatly with other Android Accessibility tools such as Explore by Touch, which allows you to touch your device’s screen and hear what’s under your finger.

We at Interactive Accessibility have put together a few short videos that demonstrate the setup and use of TalkBack 4.2 on a Nexus 7 Tablet. As future versions of TalkBack are released we will update the videos.

The National Federation of the Blind files suit against the Department of Transportation

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) filed suit against the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The NFB is the oldest and largest nationwide organization of people with vision disabilities. The suit challenges the regulations that require airline check-in kiosks be made accessible to airline passengers who are blind, which were announced on December 12, 2013, by the DOT under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA.)

The NFB maintains that the regulation, which requires 25 percent of airport check-in kiosks be accessible in 10 years, fails to implement the ACAA as intended by Congress. The ACAA prohibits discrimination against passengers with disabilities by airlines.

OrCam is a tiny wearable computer that clips on the user’s glasses. A bone conduction ear piece conveys descriptions of objects the wearer points to. OrCam can also read aloud printed text for menus, newspapers, and signs. OrCam has now partnered with IVONA Software to bring their SDK Text-to-Speech libraries for applications and devices to the revolutionary optical assistive technology for people who are blind and vision impaired. The goal is to improve the overall quality and user experience of the OrCam.

 

For more information on the OrCam listen to the IAP Podcast Volume 1 Episode 23 – OrCam for the Blind.

Microsoft and GW Micro have partnered up to offer the full version of the popular screen reader Window-Eyes for free to anyone who owns Microsoft Office 2010 or later. All versions of Office will be supported with the exception of Starter, which is not sold in the United States. If the Office client is not installed Window-Eyes will run for 30 minutes. If the client is present, however, the full version will be available and does not require an activation key. Office 365 is supported as long as the client is installed. This is a global offer valid in all 15+ languages that Window-Eyes supports.

All Window-Eyes scripts and apps will work the same as they did in the standalone version but a major upgrade to Window-Eyes is also expected to be announced soon.

The free version will not include the following:

  • Technical Support
  • Synthesizers
  • Braille/Large Print Hotkey Guide
  • Commercial free access to GWConnect
  • Installation CD

All will be available for purchase for a small fee, however.

Microsoft Office owners may download Window-Eyes directly from the WindowEyes Office website.

Read the GW Micro Press Release.

Conrad Lewis, founder of eSight Eyewear, has created a wearable technology that restores the sight of some people who are legally blind. Addressing a problem that both his sisters were diagnosed with, Stargardt disease, which reduced vision to a few centimeters in front of the eyes, Lewis invented eSight specs. The glasses consist of LCDs in front of each eye. A camera mounted on the front of the glasses records a real-time image of what the wearer would normally see, which is processed by a small computer then sent to the LCDs.

You can read more about eSight on TechVibes.

The OrCam uses a 5.1 mega-pixel camera module and low-power digital image processor to “read” signs, packaging and publications for people with vision disabilities. STMicroelectronics, a global semiconductor leader, created the small device that clips on to eyeglasses.

The wearer can point the OrCam at an object and the camera and processor will work together to analyze and interpret the scene and describe it to the user. It can read scenes or text in a variety of lighting conditions and surfaces, including newspapers and signs. The camera is pre-loaded with a library of objects and the wearer can teach the OrCam new objects while they use it. 

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