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AFB  ®
Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
From the American Foundation for the Blind
 July 2003 Issue  Volume 4  Number 4

AccessWorld News

AccessWorld News

Read Braille Files with E-Book Reader

Electronic braille files can finally be read on a screen reader or refreshable braille display, thanks to WB-View 1.0. The first software designed to read electronic braille files, WB-View is also compatible with plain text files. Developed with funding by NLS, WB-View's features include automatic return to the last line read, support for up to 10 bookmarks, auto-read with custom speed settings, and support for "find" commands. The cost is $69. Contact: Computers and Assistive Technologies; phone: 772-546-8950 or 772-546-2473; web site: <www.computerassistivetech.com/wbview.htm>.

Read Books on the Run

Book Port debuted in May 2003. Created by the American Printing House for the Blind (APH), the device is a handheld reader that is compatible with DAISY, text, Word, HTML, BRF, and MP3 files. Book Port utilizes a DoubleTalk speech synthesizer and doubles as a digital voice recorder. Book Port connects to a PC computer via a USB port, and downloads can be queued when the device is not connected. The lightweight device operates on two AA batteries. The full Book Port manual is available online: <www.aph.org/tech/bp_info.htm>. The cost is $395. Contact: APH; phone: 800-223-1839 or 502-895-2405.

Calling All Technophiles

Share your technology insights with the world. Presentations are invited for Techshare, the November 2003 Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB) technology conference. In addition to focusing on technology, presentations should relate to one of the four themes of the conference: learning, work, digital society, or technology showcase. Submit online at: <www.rnib.org.uk/techshare/papercall.htm>. The deadline is July 31, 2003. Contact: RNIB; phone: 44-121-665-4230.

Zoom Zoom

Ai Squared has just unleashed ZoomText 8.0, the newest version of its screen magnifier and screen reader software. New features include a redesigned toolbar with "intuitive" icons; an AppReader function, designed to provide continuous reading of documents, web pages, and e-mail, within application programs; increased support for Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office; a mouse echo; an expanded typing echo that speaks every key on a standard QWERTY keyboard; and a setup program with an automatic installation feature. A free trial version is available at: <www.aisquared.com/Products/ZoomText8/Z8FreeTrial/Z8Beta.htm>. A single-user license for ZoomText 8.0 Magnifier and ScreenReader is $595; upgrades range in cost from $199 to $249. A single-user license for ZoomText 8.0 Magnifier alone costs $395; all upgrades cost $149. Contact: Ai Squared; phone: 802-362-3612.

Think Inside the Box

It is possible to add a keyboard or mouse to your FreedomBox with the new Flexible User Interface. Infrared/Sound/Touch functionality is also available. FreedomBox software provides speech-equipped PC access to selected web sites and to the FreedomBox online community. FreedomBox costs $99-$1,499; Internet access is extra. Contact: Serotek; phone: 877-661-3785; web site: <www.freedombox.info/trial_signup.php>.

Navigate by Phone

NetECHO by InternetSpeech is a voice-driven Internet service provider that is designed to allow users to surf the web by telephone. Available to people in the United States and Canada, netECHO's rates vary by location. Monthly charges range from $9.95 to $19.95, plus a $20 setup fee and other additional charges. Contact: InternetSpeech; phone: 877-312-4638; web site: <www.internetspeech.com>.

Online Club for Youths

Pulse Data hosts the BrailleNote Club, an online community for BrailleNote and VoiceNote users aged 7 to 17. Join the club by visiting <www.pulsedata.org/BNClub.asp> and receive a free BrailleNote Club Member's Pack. Club members are able to e-mail other club members, trade files, and contribute stories and poems. Contact: Pulse Data; phone: 800-722-3393 or 925-680-7100.

Magic 8-Ball

The updated English release of MAGic 8.02 screen magnification with speech is available to authorized users via free download. The new features include a bilingual English/Spanish user interface, which switches languages with a single keystroke; and Driver Chain Manager, which is designed to allow multiple assistive technology software to be installed on a single PC without crashes, boot or software failures. The 8.02 version is designed to synchronize with Microsoft's GDI+ feature that draws images directly to the graphics card for faster image display. The software is enhanced to track and speak toolbar buttons on Microsoft Office 2000 and UP applications. A free upgrade is available for download to MAGic 8.01 users. A CD version of the upgrade costs $10. A new version of MAGic 8.02 costs between $295 and $595. For more information, contact: Freedom Scientific; phone: 800-444-4443 or 727-803-8000; web site: <www.freedomscientific.com>.

Virtual Pencil for Math

Virtual Pencil 1.0, the first product from Henter Math, is computer software designed to allow interactive access to mathematics. Meant to be used by people who cannot effectively use a pencil because of visual, motor, or learning disabilities, the Virtual Pencil is a tool that can be used to interactively solve a math problem. Guided by the user with keyboard or voice commands, the Virtual Pencil is described as a "'smart' pencil that knows where to put the immediate answers, where to put the final answers, and where to get the raw numbers that are used to get the answers." The software has two modes of operation. The tutor mode demonstrates how to navigate around math problems and solve them, and online help is available. The test mode requires the student to know how to navigate the problem and where to put the answers. Teachers can use Virtual Pencil to create an assignment or test, password protect it, and then send the test or assignment to the student via e-mail, save it to a disk, or emboss it in braille. The current version of Virtual Pencil is designed to perform addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, and work with decimals. Future versions will be designed for higher levels of mathematics, such as algebra, trigonometry, differential equations, and calculus. The cost is $99. For more information, contact: Henter Math; phone: 727-347-1313; e-mail: <support@hentermath.com>; web site: <www.VirtualPencil.com>.

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