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AFB  ®
Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
From the American Foundation for the Blind
 September 2006 Issue  Volume 7  Number 5

AccessWorld News

World's Smallest Portable Viewer

In June 2006, GW Micro, of Fort Wayne, Indiana, announced the release of the Portable SenseView closed-circuit television (CCTV), which the company describes as the world's smallest portable CCTV on the market. The unit is small enough to travel anywhere for reading price tags, package labels, menus, or other printed material on the go, yet is powerful enough to enable individuals with low vision to read print. Weighing 7.8 ounces, the Portable SenseView has a 4.3-inch widescreen LCD (liquid crystal display) and two folding legs that can be used to achieve optimal angles for viewing.

Other handheld CCTVs, according to the company's press release, are limited to a maximum of 7x magnification. In contrast, the Portable SenseView can magnify an image anywhere from 4x up to 28x of the original size. The unit requires no advanced technical sophistication. With the press of a button, people with low vision can digitally zoom in on a label, a memo, or package instructions. The Portable SenseView offers four levels of brightness and six color modes. Its battery runs for an estimated five hours of use, and a battery meter allows the user to check available power at any time. The Portable SenseView sells for $825. For more information, contact GW Micro, 725 Airport North Office Park, Fort Wayne, IN 46825; phone 260-489-3671; e-mail: <sales@gwmicro.com>; web site: <www.gwmicro.com>.

More Product News from GW Micro

GW Micro has recently announced price changes for two of its most popular portable products: the Braille Sense and Small-Talk Ultra. The Braille Sense, the PDA introduced in March 2005, has added features and a price change to $5,495. Although the introductory price of $4,950 is no longer available, the company continues to provide free upgrades. It offers both speech and braille output (via a 32-cell braille display) and includes word processing, scheduling, address management, Internet capabilities, a digital audio recorder, and an MP3 player. Recently added features include a DAISY player, improved wireless capabilities, Bluetooth support, and support of the JAWS screen reader, thus enabling the Braille Sense to act as a refreshable braille display for computers that run Windows and the JAWS screen reader. To learn more about the Braille Sense, visit <www.gwmicro.com>.

The company also announced a $200 price reduction for its Small-Talk Ultra, bringing the price to $2,595, or $2,295 for customers who already own the Window-Eyes screen reader. The Small-Talk Ultra is a handheld device intended for those who need the portability of a notetaker but the power of Windows XP. It has the power of a full-blown computer; comes loaded with Windows XP and Window-Eyes Pro; and has a 30GB hard drive, a built-in speaker, microphone, wireless capabilities, and a 57-key keyboard. (An external USB 88-key keyboard and a DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive are also included in the package price.) For more information on the Small-Talk Ultra, visit <www.gwmicro.com>.

Kurzweil-NFB Portable Reader

Receiving perhaps more mainstream news coverage than any piece of assistive technology for people who are blind has done in the past, the Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind Reader (hereafter K-NFB Reader) was released for sale on July 1, 2006, just in time for the summer conventions of the American Council of the Blind and NFB. This collaborative effort between inventor Ray Kurzweil and the NFB was begun four years ago and was released right on target with Kurzweil's predicted date of completion. The unit consists of an off-the-shelf PDA (portable digital assistant), combined with a digital camera. The user literally shoots a picture of a printed page and then hears the text read aloud through the built-in speaker or, for private listening, through the provided earbuds. Because of its portable size and real-time translation, the K-NFB Reader can be used to read package labels, restaurant menus, store receipts, business cards, memos, advertisements, and other printed items that were previously inaccessible to people who are blind. The K-NFB Reader stores documents as text files that can be transferred to other PDAs or PCs for later reading or editing. It also includes a voice recorder for making stand-alone voice memos or for recording a voice note to be linked to a stored document. The unit is shipped with a carrying case; a camera battery charger and additional battery; an AC power adapter for the PDA; earbuds with volume control; the software on an SD (secure digital) card; a 512MB compact flash card for storing documents, images, and voice notes; and instructions in print, in braille, and on a CD. It sells for $3,495 and is available from either the NFB or Kurzweil Educational Systems.

For further information, contact NFB, web site: <www.nfb.org>, or Kurzweil Educational Systems, web site: <www.kurzweiledu.com>.

Accessible Searches on Google

Google, the Internet search engine that is so popular that its name has become a commonly used verb, has announced the addition of a special function for people with disabilities in which searches prioritize sites that offer the most accessible pages. According to its own Frequently Asked Questions, the new feature is described as follows:

"In its current version, Google Accessible Search looks at a number of signals by examining the HTML markup found on a web page. It tends to favor pages that degrade gracefully--pages with few visual distractions and pages that are likely to render well with images turned off. Google Accessible Search is built on Google Co-op's technology, which improves search results based on specialized interests."

To check it out, visit the web site <http://labs.google.com/accessible>.

Kudos to Walgreens

Walgreens, America's largest drugstore chain, has launched a full-blown recruitment campaign to hire people with physical, sensory, and cognitive disabilities for a targeted one-third of the workforce to staff its new distribution center in Anderson, SC. Scheduled to open in 2007, the center is hiring at all levels and is proud of its outreach web site where detailed information is provided. The company's goal is to hire 200 employees initially (at least one-third of whom will be people with disabilities) and eventually to increase the number to 600. A recent press release stated, in part: "Walgreensoutreach.com provides information to help potential employees understand what work will be like at the distribution center. The site incorporates audio messages, photos, video and a large-print text option to depict jobs and worklife at Anderson. The site also is designed to be accessible to individuals who are blind or have low vision who use screen reader technology. Under the jobs section, videos show employees performing various jobs, and the text describes what the workers are doing. Prospective employees unsure if they can perform the essential job functions can take a self-quiz to get an idea of the tasks involved.

"For potential employees who are considering relocating to Anderson, the site also has information about Walgreens' partnership with 13 local disability agencies. Knowing the difficult challenges faced by people with disabilities who want to work, Walgreens designed the web site to address concerns such as transportation, housing and the impact of gainful employment on Medicaid, SSI or SSDI benefits."

For information, visit the web site: <www.walgreensoutreach.com>.

Call for Nominations for AFB's 2007 Migel Medals and Access Awards

The American Foundation for the Blind's Migel Medal, the highest honor in the blindness field, was established in 1937 by the late M. C. Migel, the first chairperson of AFB, to honor professionals and volunteers whose dedication and achievements have significantly improved the lives of people who are blind or have low vision. The Migel awards consist of two categories: Professional Awards and Lay Volunteer Awards.

Nominees for Professional Awards should be those whose careers have had a significant national impact on services to people with vision loss. Prospective candidates include professionals with specific training and expertise in education, rehabilitation, assistive technology, vision rehabilitation, personnel preparation, administration, or related fields. They may work in the public or private sector, and their work should span several years.

Nominees for Lay Volunteer Awards may be volunteers or employees within the field of blindness and visual impairment whose efforts have supported or extended services to people with vision loss. Professionals from other disciplines may include those who develop assistive technology equipment and software, health care devices, and improved medical services.

Access Awards honor individuals, corporations, and organizations that are eliminating or substantially reducing inequities faced by people who are blind or have low vision. Nominations for the AFB Access Awards should illustrate an exceptional and innovative effort that has improved the lives of people with vision loss by enhancing access to information, the environment, technology, education, or employment, including making mainstream products and services accessible. The effort should be one that has a national impact or can be a model for replication on a national level.

Nominations for AFB's 2007 Migel Medals and Access Awards are due by September 29, 2006. Nominations for Migel Medals should be e-mailed to Gil Johnson at <gil@afb.net>. Nominations for Access Awards should be e-mailed to Jacklyn Packer at <jpacker@afb.net>.

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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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