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AFB  ®
Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
From the American Foundation for the Blind
 November 2006 Issue  Volume 7  Number 6

Editor's Page

I was thrilled to learn in September that Jim Fruchterman has been awarded a 2006 MacArthur Fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Fruchterman is the CEO of the Benetech initiative, which includes Bookshare.org. As many AccessWorld readers know, Benetech is an online library of scanned books available for download to qualified people who are blind or visually impaired in the U.S. In February 1989, Fruchterman founded Arkenstone, Inc., to create affordable reading machines for people who are blind.

Each of this year's 25 MacArthur Fellows will receive $500,000 in no-strings-attached funding over the next five years. According to Fruchterman, his MacArthur award will allow him to further his work in technology applications and fulfill his dream of writing a book.

It's wonderful news that someone in the assistive technology field has received such a high honor. No one in our field is more innovative or charismatic. I hope this award makes more people aware of assistive technology and how it can improve the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired.

Darren Burton is now one of AccessWorld's contributing editors. Darren joined AFB TECH in 2002 and contributed his first article to AccessWorld in September of that year. He has written articles evaluating accessible voting machines, products used by diabetics with visual impairments, and a new interface for elevators. But, of course, you know him best for his groundbreaking coverage of cell phone access. When we first started publishing cell phone articles, there were no accessible products. Now there are a variety of options. Our cell phone articles are always the most popular among those we publish. Darren will keep you up to date as new products come on the market. And, as you will read next, we let him cover products other than cell phones from time to time.

In this issue, Darren Burton evaluates the Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind Reader. This innovative new product combines a digital camera and a personal digital assistant (PDA) to capture the image of printed text and translate it into synthetic speech. The Reader has received a lot of attention in the general media. Read about how this first-of-a-kind device performs.

Deborah Kendrick tells the story of the development and testing of the Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind Reader. The Reader began as a prediction by Ray Kurzweil and, with the collaboration of the National Federation of the Blind and its members, was brought to market through the work of engineers and hundreds of testers from across the country. Learn the details of this product's development.

Lee Huffman of AFB TECH evaluates the PVO from Low Vision International and the SenseView from GW Micro, two small, portable CCTVs. Both products have an approximately four-inch TFT-LCD (thin film transistor) screen, various high-contrast color modes and brightness levels, adjustable magnification levels, rechargeable batteries, and weigh less than one pound. Get the big picture on these small products.

Deborah Kendrick evaluates the BrailleNote GPS 3.5 from Sendero Group. This product provides tools for enhancing your traveling experience. You can plot and follow routes, explore an upcoming trip offline from the comfort of your home or office, and hear announcements of intersections and nearby points of interest such as restaurants, banks, and tourist attractions, as well as places you add to the supplied commercial database. Find out what the latest version of this product has to offer.

Janet Ingber, author and music therapist, provides an overview of accessible standardized testing. The article defines standardized tests, describes past accessibility efforts, and explores possible future adaptations.

Anthony Candela, Deputy Director, Specialized Services Division of the California Department of Rehabilitation, presents the third in a series of articles chronicling the history of assistive technology. He interviewed more than 20 major players--inventors, company executives, and trainers--spending hours with each one. This article highlights the development of assistive technologies including electronic braille, synthetic speech, CCTVs, and OCR systems.

Jay Leventhal
Editor in Chief

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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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