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Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
From the American Foundation for the Blind
 January 2006 Issue  Volume 7  Number 1

AccessWorld News

New FaceToFace Communication for People Who Are Deaf-Blind

Freedom Scientific has released a new product with exciting communication possibilities for people who are both deaf and blind. Designed as an adjunct to the company's PAC Mate PDA (personal digital assistant), FaceToFace makes it possible to have a conversation with an individual up to 30 feet away. From either the Pac Mate QX (with a standard QWERTY-style keyboard) or the Pac Mate BX (the model with the Perkins Brailler-style keyboard), an individual can type conversation, which is then immediately displayed on either another PAC Mate or the visual display of an iPAQ Pocket PC. Responses are then typed and sent back from the iPAQ or another PAC Mate and read on the PAC Mate's braille display. Both sides of the conversation are automatically displayed on both units.

FaceToFace costs $1,400 and includes the FaceToFace application, an iPAQ with a thumb keyboard, and a CompactFlash Bluetooth card. Freedom Scientific's earlier release of its FSTTY application enables Pac Mate users who are deaf-blind to make TTY or relay phone calls wherever a phone line connection is available. Now, sitting in an airport or a coffee shop wireless "hot spot," a person who is both blind and deaf could send and receive e-mail, conduct a conversation via instant messaging, or even hold a conversation with a person across the table without benefit of an interpreter or any special training. For more information, contact Freedom Scientific: web site <www.freedomscientific.com> or phone: 800-444-4443 or 727-803-8000.

Instant Messages Press Pause

America Online (AOL) has announced its newest release for real-time communication via instant messaging called the AIM Triton service. A recent announcement from GW Micro, however, advises screen-reader users to postpone installing the new release. Although it is not currently compatible with screen readers, GW Micro and Freedom Scientific are working with AOL to render the release user friendly for people who are blind or have low vision. For more information, contact GW Micro: phone: 260-489-3671; web site: <www.gwmicro.com>; or e-mail: <imaccessibility@aol.com>.

Mapping Input Sought

The University of Oregon has received a grant from the National Science Foundation to develop software for producing tactile maps for people who are blind or have low vision. The resulting application will be available as a free download to anyone who is interested in producing tactile maps. The research team is seeking input from orientation and mobility instructors, parents of blind children, and people who are blind or have low vision who are interested in tactile maps. To respond to a three-question survey regarding your use of tactile maps and suggestions of features to be incorporated for the greatest usability, contact Amy Lobben, Department of Geography, University of Oregon, by e-mail: <tactmaps@uoregon.edu> or phone: 541-346-4566.

FreedomBox Receives da Vinci Award

At the fifth annual da Vinci Awards dinner, sponsored by the Engineering Society of Detroit and the Michigan chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Serotek Corporation was honored for its development of the FreedomBox software. Presented in previous years to such companies as IBM, the GM Mobility Center, Walt Disney World, and the Delphi Corporation, the da Vinci Award recognizes individuals or companies for innovative products in the field of assistive or adaptive technology that go beyond legal mandates to empower people with disabilities. The FreedomBox software enables a user who is blind to access any computer with a Key to Freedom USB device or FreedomBox Pass Key (a credit card-sized CD-ROM) with tremendous flexibility. Launched in 2001, the FreedomBox family of products enables users with little computer experience to access the Internet, create Word documents, review PowerPoint and Excel documents, and query their home systems from anywhere via the Internet. For more information about Serotek Corporation or the FreedomBox products, visit the web site <www.freedombox.info> or phone 866-202-0520.

New Web Site to Promote Braille Literacy

Quantum Technology, of Sydney, Australia, has recently launched a web site for parents and teachers of children who are blind. Centered on the company's Mountbatten Brailler, a Perkins-style braillewriter with a speech interface that enables children to write, edit, store, and retrieve their documents, the site will be a place for sharing success stories and finding papers and presentations, links to sources of curriculum materials, and anything else that is related to the Mountbatten and braille literacy. The site can be found at <www.mountbattenbrailler.com>. For more information about the company and its other products, visit the web site <www.quantumtechnology.com.au>; phone: 61 2 8844 9888.

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Copyright © 2006 American Foundation for the Blind. All rights reserved. AccessWorld is a trademark of the American Foundation for the Blind.

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