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AFB  ®
Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
From the American Foundation for the Blind
 January 2005 Issue  Volume 6  Number 1

Perspectives: Technology in Our Lives

A Packed Day with My PAC Mate

Editor's Note: High school students now use technology incessantly. They use their cell phones to text-message their friends on anything from "What are you doing right now?" to "What's happening Saturday night?"; play online games; meet people and do homework in online chat rooms; and visit web sites on any subject imaginable.

Like their peers, high school kids who are visually impaired use technology nearly every waking minute. However, for them it has become a necessity. Technology is often the only way that they can do what their peers are doing, both at school and at home--keep up with soap operas on the web, access dictionaries and other reference books, print out homework and term papers, send and receive instant messages, and so on.

We asked Kolby Garrison, a tenth grader in Greensboro, North Carolina, to tell us how she uses technology in her daily life. Her answer is the first in an occasional series "Perspectives: Technology in Our Lives." With AccessWorld's constant focus on technology in the workplace, we thought it would be refreshing to hear a different point of view.

"Ding dong! Ding dong! Ding dong!" My PAC Mate's alarm wakes me up. I hit the Dismiss button, get up, and get ready for school.

Just before I head out the door, I synchronize my PAC Mate with my PC using Microsoft ActiveSync and download my e-mail for reading on the go. I can read my e-mail on my PAC Mate, respond to the important ones, and then, when I synchronize my PAC Mate with my PC again, my replies are sent out. I have the PAC Mate BX420, which has a braille keyboard and 20-cell braille display.

I head to school and go to my office. Here, I print out my homework assignments. I also use ActiveSync to print out my homework on the school's computer. After printing my homework, I go to my first period class, which is Geometry.

In Geometry, I use my PAC Mate to do in-class assignments and homework assignments, as well as taking tons of notes on a daily basis. I use FSEdit, which is one of two word processing applications found on the PAC Mate. FSEdit allows you to write in contracted braille, as well as computer braille. The PAC Mate also has Pocket Word, but I rarely use that application, because FSEdit is more robust. I also use FSCalc, which is a calculator developed by Freedom Scientific specifically for the PAC Mate. It is a basic operations, statistical, scientific, financial, and trigonometric calculator. It can be easily activated with the touch of a key. I use this calculator for all my mathematical needs.

My second period class is honors Earth Science. In this class, I use my PAC Mate constantly, because of all the notes we take. My PAC Mate is never turned off in this class! My fingers never stop tap tap tapping away at the keyboard! My teacher says that she can see smoke coming out of my fingers, because I type so fast!

My third period class is an honors Show Choir. My PAC Mate gets some use in this class, but not quite as much. I use FSEdit to copy down lyrics to songs, and sometimes I use the Resco Audio Recorder to record the class singing, so I can go back for future reference and review.

My fourth period class is a V.I. period. In this class, I work on the computer constantly. I use my PAC Mate to do research and read books. I am a proud user of bookshare.org, rfbd.org, and Web-Braille.

Now the school day is over, and the real fun begins! I head home, and synchronize my PAC Mate with my PC. I get my e-mail and use MSN and AOL instant messengers to communicate with family and friends. I surf the Internet and read some more books. I use bookshare.org and Web-braille for school-related reading materials, as well as pleasure reading materials. I also have Skype on my PAC Mate. Skype is an Internet telephone program, and it allows you to communicate with people around the world. It is really cool! I talk to people on Skype on a daily basis.

I love music, and I have plenty of that on my PAC Mate! I use Windows Media Player, GS Player, and RealPlayer to listen to the various types of media on my PAC Mate. With GS Player, I can even listen to Internet streams. My favorites are ACB Radio, and the Mosen Explosion.

I think that having a braille display is essential for a student. All in all, my PAC Mate helps me out a great deal in my daily life. I consider notetakers to be invaluable for me, and I can't imagine life without one!

For more info on the PAC Mate and its many great features, visit: <www.freedomscientific.com> and <www.pacmategear.com>.

Related Articles

It's in Your Hands: A Review of the PAC Mate and the VoiceNote by Jim Denham and Jay Leventhal


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Copyright © 2005 American Foundation for the Blind. All rights reserved. AccessWorld is a trademark of the American Foundation for the Blind.

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