Low Vision

The 2015 Access Awards honor individuals, corporation and organizations who substantially reduce inequities faced by individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Today they are calling for nominations.

A nominee should be someone who illustrates an exceptional and innovative effort responsible for improving the lives of people who are blind or have low vision by improving access to information, the environment, technology, education or employment. This may include making mainstream products and services Accessible. It should be an effort that has national or international impact or is able to serve as a model for replication on a national or international level.

The Access Awards will be presented on April 10, 2015 at the AFB Leadership Conference in Phoenix, Arizona.

A team at the University of Colorado Boulder printed the first 3D version of the children’s classic Goodnight Moon. Now children with vision disabilities can touch objects in the story as it is read allowed to them. Sever other books have been slated to be printed using the same technique by CU-Boulder computer science Assistant Professor Tom Yeah. Among the books on deck are “Harold and the Purple Crayon” and “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”

Read more about 3D Picture Books

People who are blind will soon be able to learn Braille with Smart Gloves that have vibrating motors at the knuckle of each finger. When one of the motors vibrates it indicates the key that should be pressed. Audio feedback announces the letter being typed.

Researchers at Georgia Tech in the US created the gloves and found that those who received passive haptic training using the gloves were much more adept than those who didn’t as they made 30 percent fewer errors.

People who are blind will soon be able to learn Braille with Smart Gloves that have vibrating motors at the knuckle of each finger. When one of the motors vibrates it indicates the key that should be pressed. Audio feedback announces the letter being typed.

Researchers at Georgia Tech in the US created the gloves and found that those who received passive haptic training using the gloves were much more adept than those who didn’t as they made 30 percent fewer errors.

Verizon has partnered with Visus Technology to introduce advanced accessibility tools that promise a higher level of independence for the blind. They are developing Velansense, which is a mobile application suite that utilizes the Verizon 4G LTE network and advanced camera on smartphones to deliver real-time feedback to users who are blind. It will be capable of providing feedback about people, objects and surroundings. It can recognize text, colors, currency, barcodes, and familiar faces.

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Aaron Leventhal from AI Squared joins us on the IAP for a great discussion about the assistive technology that is place right on the website - sitecues. Discover the innovation that went into this revolutionary approach.

Show Notes & Links

Researchers from the University of Alicante in Spain have developed a new smartphone application that uses a phone’s 3D camera to detect obstacles and warn people with vision disabilities. Nine people with vision disabilities tested the app by wearing a cell phone with a 3D camera on a lanyard around their neck. The binocular vision of the 3D camera allowed the software to estimate the distance of objects. The phone vibrated or sounded a tone when an object was closer than roughly six feet.

The team is also developing a version for Google Glass thanks to a grant they won from the Vodafone Spain Foundation in 2013 for a previous version of the app. A full version is expected to be available in 2015.

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.

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