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Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
From the American Foundation for the Blind
 March 2005 Issue  Volume 6  Number 2

Letters to the Editor

Action from Assistive Technology Act

For over a year now I have been working with my state services for the blind to get some badly needed equipment for my little business. They put me through three years of school to learn this trade. Even though I am now totally blind, I did very well and was able to keep up and do everything the fully sighted students did. But have I been successful at obtaining $1,300 of measuring equipment for my machines that are absolutely necessary? Well, the blunt answer is "Hell no!"

I was able to finance $7,000 worth of good mostly used equipment that I now have but cannot use very well because the lathe and milling machine aren't equipped with measuring instruments. It's like trying to be a carpenter without a tape measure. My bank says my business plan is good, but I have reached the limits of my ability to finance anything else for several months.

However, it looks like the loan program described in "The Assistive Technology Act of 2004" (AccessWorld, January 2005) will move up the timetable as to when I can purchase the digital measuring instrument and a bearing press I need to be fully set up for officially opening my doors.

Bernie Vinther

Editor's Note:

Good luck with your business. AccessWorld is thrilled that our article played a part in getting you started.

Best Buys

First, I love your magazine and the fact it is not just a promotion of products by one vendor. I have a question and a suggestion.

The question is, after reviewing numerous cell phones and supporting adaptive software, is there a top contender and a best buy? In other words, which cell phone is already most user friendly for a totally blind user without buying separate blindness software, and then which of these would be considered a "best buy"--the most accessible features for a reasonable price? In addition, which package of separate adaptive software is also best in providing the greatest number of adaptive features, and then which of the software packages is a "best buy" and provides a technological solution for the most reasonable price? Finally, which package works well with the most off-the-shelf cell phones?

Now for the suggestion. Perhaps you could provide a Buyers Guide for the holidays, mentioning the "best buys" in each category of hardware and software reviewed by the AccessWorld team so far, or recapping the best quality results during the past year for your readers. This could spur competition for the blindness market, and even encourage vendors to offer competing holiday specials to promote their products. If the vendors knew in advance this was a biannual or annual feature of Access World, they might vie to be on that "top quality" or "best buy" list by reducing prices and paying more attention to quality control.

Donna Ring

Editor's Note:

We seem to be on the same wavelength. Regarding your question, see" You Get to Choose: An Overview of Accessible Cell Phones," in this issue. As for your suggestion, AccessWorld has some similar initiatives under consideration.

Ideas about Braille Displays

I enjoyed the articles about cell phone access and refreshable braille in the November 2004 issue. I would like to share a couple of ideas. First, some European displays like the ones from Handy Tech and Papenmeier are available and supported here in the U.S. I got a Papenmeier two-dimensional display about 10 years ago. New distributors have taken over this product and are doing a good job. The Papenmeier displays work with JAWS and perhaps other screen readers. I use the 2D display which has the unique feature of having a second vertical braille display which shows which lines of the screen have text. It might be a good idea to have a review of this product and a discussion of the other Papenmeier displays.

Second, it might be a good idea to have another article discussing the possible future of refreshable braille. It is an interesting paradox that more and more products come to market though the prices of refreshable braille cells haven't decreased. I have read many announcements from various companies that they were working on low-cost solutions but none of these initiatives have resulted in new products. Is there anything consumers can do to get manufacturers to do research and develop new products? A related issue is the use of refreshable displays to show graphics. I would appreciate it if companies were more honest and wouldn't make announcements about breakthrough technology until there are real products available on the market instead of false promises.

Keep up the good work. I think the web version of AccessWorld offers many advantages.

Dan TeVelde

Editor's Note:

The LG VX 4500 phone from Verizon Wireless is mentioned in "You Get to Choose: An Overview of Accessible Cell Phones" in this issue, and will be evaluated in a future issue of AccessWorld.

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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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