jump to article
AFB  ®
Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
From the American Foundation for the Blind
 December 2011 Issue  Volume 12  Number 12

In This Issue

Editor's Page

A Step Toward Independent Travel

Lee Huffman

Independent Travel Issues

Driving with a Bioptic System: One User's Experiences

Those with certain stable low-vision conditions can use a bioptic lens system to drive. This article discusses the required training and the experience of using the bioptic system, along with some tips for driving with the system. — Ike Presley

Q and A with Janet Ingber: Things to Consider When Thinking About a Guide Dog

A roundup of frequently asked questions about working with a guide dog, along with their answers. — Janet Ingber

The LookAround GPS from Sendero and the Ariadne GPS: Two iPhone Apps that Increase Independence for Blind and Visually Impaired Travelers

Whether you use a guide dog, a cane, or have functional vision, these two inexpensive iPhone apps are easy to use for location determination and for acquiring nearby street information. — Janet Ingber

Product Evaluations

The Serotek HoverCam: A Portable Reading Solution for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Evaluating the HoverCam lead to mixed results. — Deborah Kendrick

Letters to the Editor

Can a blind person navigate a Kindle Keyboard reader to access Audible books?

AccessWorld News

AccessWorld News


Editor's Page

A Step Toward Independent Travel

Lee Huffman

Dear AccessWorld readers,

Last month, AccessWorld served up its best holiday gift-giving ideas for your friends and family with vision loss. In the November issue, we took the opportunity to tell you about some new accessible technology and games that would be sure to make that special someone on your shopping list very happy.

Perhaps Janet Ingber's guide to popular online shopping sites is making purchasing your holiday gifts a little easier, and I hope Bradley Hodges' guide to holiday gifts and Tara Annis' guide to accessible toys are helping to take some of the guesswork out of shopping this season. If you are doing some cooking this time of year, you may want to take a look back at Deborah Kendrick's review of directionsforme, which may help take the guesswork out of preparing those holiday meals by having package directions available at your fingertips.

In this December issue, the AccessWorld team turns its attention to independent travel. AFB staffer Ike Presley relays his personal experiences as a bioptic driver, and Janet Ingber answers frequently asked questions about dog guides and describes two GPS apps. Deborah Kendrick also reviews the HoverCam.

Be sure to check out AccessWorld News this month, which is full of great information, including the announcement of the latest AccessWorld App (Version 1.7), AFB and NFB scholarship announcements, news about the long awaited ZoomText 10 update, and a new textbook release from AFB Press.

If you have a few extra minutes while reading AccessWorld News, we also invite you to take AFB's travel survey to help us learn more about the accessibility of the websites you use to make your travel arrangements.

The AccessWorld team wishes you and yours health, happiness, prosperity, and safe travels during the holiday season

Sincerely,

Lee Huffman

AccessWorld Editor-in-Chief

Back to top


Independent Travel Issues

Driving with a Bioptic System: One User's Experiences

"I'm sorry, but you'll never be able to drive a car" is a statement that my brother and I heard our father say from the time we were very young. We were both born with congenital cataracts, had operations at about the age of six months, and grew up wearing "Coke bottle" glasses. Those were fine for reading, but not so good for distance viewing, and obviously not good for driving. Though it was disappointing, we resigned ourselves to not driving and got on with our lives.

I went to see my first low-vision specialist, Dr. J. D. Newman, during my senior year of high school for some assistance with reading music for band. He prescribed a pair of glasses with telescopes mounted near the bottom of the lenses that focused at approximately 14 inches. These bioptic glasses allowed me to read my music through the telescopes and see the band director through the top part of the lenses. They worked very well for that purpose.

When I visited Dr. Newman again a couple of years later, he told me that if he moved the telescope up to the top of the lens and focused it for infinity, I might be able to drive" Well, after I picked myself up off the floor I said, "Let's do it!"

Dr. Newman also informed my dad and me that Florida, where we lived, had started allowing some people with low vision to drive under certain strict conditions. Dr. Newman measured my visual acuity and visual fields and determined that I met the minimum requirements. He adjusted the bioptic glasses for driving and then told my dad to take me home, get my learner's permit, teach me how to drive, and then come back to let him check me out. My dad figured that the safest place to teach me to drive at first was an abandoned airfield. This was great for avoiding accidents—there was nothing to run into in the vast openness of the airfield—but it didn't do much for teaching me how to drive in traffic.

When I went back to see Dr. Newman he made me drive on the street for the first time. Needless to say I was scared to death, but I must have done okay because he told me I was ready to start learning how to drive on the streets. He said that after I got some more experience I would be ready to take the driving test. After a good bit of additional experience with my dad I took the test and passed it on the first try. Woo-hoo! I could now drive.

This was in the mid-1970s, when I was in my junior year at Florida State University. My dad helped me get a used car and I regularly drove in the small town of Tallahassee and to and from my parent's home in Miami several times.

I ended up going back to FSU for my master's degree, and it was during my first year in graduate school when I received a letter from the Florida Highway Patrol informing me, and all the other low-vision drivers, that our licenses had been suspended simply because the medical review board had decided to discontinue the low-vision driving program. The low-vision drivers in Florida tried to fight the change, but we were not successful. Today, almost 40 states have laws allowing bioptic driving under specific conditions. Laws vary from state to state, but often include restrictions such as: driving during daylight hours only and not driving in inclement weather.

After completing my master's degree I moved to Atlanta, Georgia, and began my career as a teacher of the visually impaired. At that time, Georgia did not allow low-vision drivers. During the next 15 years I used public transportation, my bicycle, my two feet, friends, and family to travel around the city. In 1992, Georgia passed a law allowing drivers with low vision the privilege of driving if they met certain requirements. I had already been working with an optometrist specializing in low vision so we began the process of getting me bioptic glasses and applying for a driver's license.

After spending many hours in the doctor's office and quite a bit of money, I was ready to begin the process. The first requirement was that I had to have training on the use of the bioptic. This sounded reasonable, but neither the doctor, nor his assistant (who would be doing the training) could tell me how many hours of training I would need. At first this was very irritating. The training was expensive and I had no idea how long it would take or how much it would cost in total. I later realized that there was no way the doctor could accurately predict how much time it would take for me to become competent at certain tasks using the bioptic system. My frustration with the situation stemmed from the fact that I had used a bioptic before, while neither the doctor nor the assistant had ever used a bioptic system themselves. In my own egotistical way I felt like I knew more about bioptics from a user standpoint than they did so I didn't want to pay approximately $90 per hour for training that I thought might be useless. I finally came to grips with the fact that I had to have the training if I wished to receive my license. Since I was experienced at using the bioptic I was able to complete the training in less than two hours. The tasks required in the training were realistic tasks that one would need to be able to do in order to drive safely, and I'm glad that this is a requirement for potential bioptic drivers.

Next I had to take a driver's education class consisting of 30 hours of classroom work and 6 hours of road work. I had not driven for over 15 years so I welcomed the opportunity to refresh my skills and learn more. To my surprise and amusement, the required class is the same class that teenagers and new drivers take to receive a reduction in their insurance premiums. I learned many important things from the driving instructor in my class and at he end of it he said he thought I was ready to take the test and begin driving. In fact, I did have the confidence and ability to drive safely at that time. I passed the test and began driving in a major metropolitan area, Atlanta. My license is restricted to daytime only and I am required to have outside mirrors on the left and right side of my car. I agree with both of these requirements.

The Driving Experience

One of the first things that a bioptic driver must learn is when to look through the telescope and when to look through the main (carrier) lens. Spending too much time looking through the telescope can be very dangerous because it limits the field of vision. However, the increased acuity through the telescope makes it very tempting to use it for extended viewing. The new driver must quickly learn not to succumb to this temptation because the narrow field of the telescope prevents the user from staying attuned to all the things happening in the periphery that are essential for safe driving.

It is estimated that most bioptic drivers spend 80 to 90 percent of the time viewing through the carrier lens and only use the telescope for short spot reading of signs, viewing actions on the road ahead, and locating and viewing traffic control signals. I'm not sure that this is true for me. I think I spend more time looking through the telescope. What I have learned to do is to move in and out of the telescope quickly and accurately. I think it's somewhat similar to the way other drivers quickly switch their gaze between the mirrors and the road ahead. I do this too, but I also take quick looks through the telescope to see what's happening further down the road. This allows me to have a little more reaction time to unexpected events happening two or three cars ahead, such as a car swerving or turning, or the appearance of a pedestrian.

If someone were to take a video of me driving you would probably notice that my head is pretty much in constant motion as I visually attend to the essential visual stimuli of the environment. The competent bioptic driver will learn to quickly switch between viewing through the carrier lens, viewing through the telescope, and returning to the carrier. Depending on the amount of traffic, this strategy works well for most drivers when driving on surface streets or highways. The addition of a GPS unit with spoken turn-by-turn directions makes this task easier and safer.

Tips for the Low-Vision Driver

The task of reading street signs and address numbers can be very difficult and requires the bioptic driver to quickly switch between the two viewing components of the system. There are a couple of strategies that can assist the low-vision driver when attempting to locate a particular street or address. One of my favorites is to ask for landmarks and navigation cues when acquiring directions to a location. For instance, you might receive the following directions when trying to locate a small business at 3029 Johnson Street.

  1. Exit the Interstate at 3rd Street and turn Left.
  2. Drive 1.2 miles on 3rd Street and turn Right on Harris.
  3. Drive about ½ mile on Harris and turn Left on Johnson.
  4. Proceed 1 mile on Johnson to 3029.

In this scenario, I would ask for the following additional information.

  1. What is the exit number for 3rd Street?
  2. How many traffic lights are there between the Interstate and Harris Street? Does Harris St. have a traffic light?
  3. What are some businesses on the corner of 3rd and Harris? Which corner? Do you know any landmarks I can look for in the block just before Harris Street?
  4. Repeat 2 & 3 for locating Johnson Street.
  5. Repeat 2 & 3 for locating 3029. Is 3029 on the left or right?
  6. What is the type, color, size, and location of the business's sign?
  7. If I go past 3029 what landmark will I see that will let me know I've missed it?

When traveling to a new location it's always a good idea to allow plenty of extra time in case you miss your destination and need to backtrack. Recently I had to locate a business on a road with many buildings side by side. I had asked for a landmark before and after the desired address. Armed with this information I thought I would have no problem finding the place because I was familiar with the area. After passing the landmarks twice and not seeing the desired address I decided to park my car nearby and walk. Even on foot, I had trouble locating the address. I finally found it down a driveway between two buildings. I had forgotten to ask about the business's sign. It was just a small 16-inch by 20-inch sign with the business name and address on the side of the building. There's no way I would have been able to read this from the road. Bottom line, being a safe driver with low vision requires good information and planning. My GPS didn't even help in this situation.

A large part of driving is mental. Thinking about the environment you're driving through and asking yourself, "What things might I encounter?" can be very critical. Having an idea of what types of activities, objects, vehicles, and people you might encounter can help a driver be prepared for unexpected circumstances. In order to deal with the unexpected, a driver with low vision will find it useful to be a cautious driver. By this I do not mean a "slow poke" driver, but one who follows good, safe driving practices. Rapid starts and abrupt stops can lead to crashes, in addition to poor gas mileage. (Are you non-bioptic drivers listening?) Not slowing down to an appropriate speed when turning corners can find you colliding with another vehicle or pedestrian. Exceeding the speed limit and tailgating are two extremely dangerous behaviors for a driver with low vision. Because of your reduced vision it's always best to give yourself as much reaction time as possible for an unexpected traffic event.

Drive Responsibly and Safely

Driving a motor vehicle is a privilege that is accompanied by a great deal of responsibility. I, for one, feel a great deal of responsibility for the public safety and mine. I also feel a responsibility to present the best possible image of drivers with low vision to the general public. I don't want to do anything that might make citizens petition their representatives to make driving laws more restrictive. I have had a fairly good driving record (not perfect) compared to the average driver, because I take the privilege and the responsibilities of driving very seriously, and I wish to continue driving for many more years.

Comment on This Article

Back to top


Independent Travel Issues

Q and A with Janet Ingber: Things to Consider when Thinking About a Guide Dog

On a daily basis, as I travel with my guide dog, Jack, I'm asked a lot of questions. Many people who are fully sighted have never encountered a guide dog before and are naturally very curious. People with vision loss sometimes think about the prospect of obtaining a dog for a long time before making a decision and often seek a first-hand perspective on the experience. For this article I've compiled some of the questions I get asked most frequently, along with their answers.

Q: What are some factors to consider when thinking about getting a guide dog?

A: Getting a guide dog is a major decision. For many people with visual impairments, a dog provides the handler with a greater sense of independence and safety. It was definitely the right decision for me.

There are many issues to consider before finalizing your decision. First of all, the dog requires a good deal of attention and grooming. Besides being a working dog, he/she needs play time and lots of affection. Unlike a cane that you can put away, the dog needs to be walked several times a day, no matter the weather. Do you have enough money to cover dog food and veterinary care? Most vets will give a discount to a guide dog handler, but they aren't required to do this. In New York City, the Animal Medical Center in Manhattan is kind enough to treat all guide dogs at no cost to the handler.

Q: What are some common misconceptions people have about guide dogs?

A: For one thing, guide dogs can't read traffic signals. The handler commands the dog to go forward when the handler thinks it's safe to cross. If the dog feels it's not safe, the dog will not move. Another misconception is that you can't have a pet dog or other animals at home with a guide dog. You can. If you have an additional disability, you still may be able to receive a guide dog. There are schools that may be able to accommodate your needs. Also, you do not have to be totally blind to receive a guide dog.

Q: What are the types of things that guide dogs assist with?

A: Here are a few of the tasks that a guide dog can accomplish:

  • The dog will stop at a curb.
  • When given a command to go inside, the dog will find a door or doorway.
  • The dog will find an exit when given the command to go outside.
  • With a steps command, the dog will go to the flight of steps.
  • At a flight of steps, the dog will stop and wait for the command to go forward.

The dog does understand left and right and these directions may be accompanied with hand signals.

Q: Is it OK to pet a guide dog?

A: While a guide dog is in harness, no, it is not OK for others to pet or speak to them. The dog is considered to be working and should not be distracted from their work of guiding a person. Even if the dog is not in harness, it is always best to ask the handler for permission to approach the dog.

Q: Tell us about your experience with your guide dog.

A: When I'm walking with my guide dog, Jack, a large, black Labrador Retriever, I am much more relaxed than when I used a cane. Jack walks me around obstacles and has learned to stop near places I frequently visit. He has no problem handling the distractions of New York City, including subways, buses, loud noises, and crowds. Sometimes I travel late at night, and I know I would not do that without a dog. Also, I've found people are friendlier to me when I am with Jack than when I used a cane.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the process for receiving a guide dog?

A: Once you decide to get a guide dog, the next step is to choose a school. An excellent place to start is the Guide Dog Users, Inc., (GDUI) website. The "Guide Dog Schools" link brings up a list of all the guide dog schools in the United States. Activating a school's link will show their contact information. GDUI asked each school to provide extensive information about their program, including instructor qualifications, how they get their dogs, length of training, amenities for students while attending the school, and the wait time to get a dog. To access this information, activate the "Guide Dog School Surveys" link on the GDUI homepage. The next page that loads lists the schools; activate a school's link to bring up a PDF document.

Q: How does the application process work?

A: You can apply to more than one school at a time, and the school doesn't have to be near your home. Some schools will require home interviews, others will do phone interviews. The interviewer will ask many questions in order to insure that the school can accommodate your needs and find the right dog for you. If you get a home visit, the interviewer will most likely take a walk with you to assess your mobility skills. If you do a phone interview, the school may ask for a video demonstrating your mobility skills.

Q: Are there any schools that will train you at home?

A: There are only two schools that exclusively train at home: Freedom Guide Dogs for the Blind and Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation. Freedom uses mostly Labrador Retrievers while Fidelco uses German Shepherds. There are many advantages to an at-home program, the first of which is the one-to-one trainer/student ratio. In addition, with an at-home program you train in familiar surroundings and work on the routes you normally take and the places you visit. Training at home can take less time than at a school. I chose to use Freedom Guide Dogs because I had a young child and did not want to be away for several weeks.

Q: Are there any advantages to attending a school that is away from your home?

A: The advantage of attending a school is that you are not distracted by events at home. Along with learning to work with a guide dog, some schools provide lectures on various topics such as grooming and canine health. There is camaraderie with the class and some people consider it a vacation. You can learn from the instructor and also from other students. Many long term friends have been made at school training classes.

Q: What should you expect when you start working with a dog?

A: Whether training at home or at a school, be aware that it will take time for you and your dog to function as a team. Have patience and give your dog lots of praise when he or she does a task or command correctly. The school will try to give you the best dog to meet your needs. Occasionally a dog and student don't work well together and the school will try another dog. The schools usually have graduate services available should issues arise and a dog needs extra training.

Q: Do you have any final words for our readers?

A: Personally, getting a guide dog was one of the best decisions I ever made. Weigh all the options and if you feel that a guide dog might be a good idea, then do your research and start the application process.

Comment on This Article.

Back to top


Independent Travel Issues

The LookAround GPS from Sendero and the Ariadne GPS: Two iPhone Apps that Increase Independence for Blind and Visually Impaired Travelers

Ariadne and LookAround are two easy-to-use GPS iPhone apps that, when you are out and about, can give you your location, identify nearby streets, and provide compass directions. Both apps are good at location-finding, but remember that there is always a margin of error with satellite-based GPS software. Each of these two apps has its own unique features; both are definitely worth checking out.

Ariadne GPS from Giovanni Ciaffoni

With the Ariadne GPS app, created by independent developer Giovanni Ciaffoni, the buttons to find your location are at the bottom left corner of the screen. Activating the "Where Am I" button will give the street and address of your location. The address may be several feet from where you are standing. When the "Look Around" button is activated, a virtual map appears on the screen. Your current street is in the middle of the screen, the next cross street in the direction of travel is at the top, and the previous cross street is at the bottom. Occasionally the Ariadne had some difficulty accurately identifying the previous cross street. The app also can give directional headings.

The Ariadne is able to alert the user when approaching a previously designated location. The first time you take the app to a location, enter and save the information into the app and from that point on you will be notified whenever that location is approached.

You can customize how the app responds through the iPhone's settings menu. For more information about this app visit the Ariadne product website.

LookAround GPS from Sendero

On the LookAround GPS app from Sendero, the control buttons are on the left side of the screen. There is a "LookAround" button, a "Nearest Cross Street" button and a button to display the nearest five points of interest. You can program the app to say the location, including the address, nearest cross street, and compass direction by just shaking the phone in a figure eight pattern. LookAround does not say whether the nearest cross street is behind or ahead of you.

The LookAround can display the closest five points of interest in sixteen categories including ATMs, restaurants, and entertainment. Activating a selection will bring up additional information including the phone number of the listing. The category button is on the bottom right of the screen. To learn more about this app, visit the Sendero's website.

Comment on This Article.

Back to top


Product Evaluations

The Serotek HoverCam: A Portable Reading Solution for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

The hardest part of this review was getting the right product. After a number of failed attempts at connecting and using the device, I learned from Serotek that an entire batch of HoverCams was being recalled because they'd mistakenly shipped the mainstream version, intended for scanning images, instead of the version adapted for blind and low-vision consumers. If you purchased one of the original units and have been bewildered by its inability to function, contact Serotek and a replacement will promptly be supplied. This problem has since been corrected by the manufacturer.

The HoverCam T5V

HoverCam is a portable device used for optical character recognition in conjunction with DocuScan Plus (reviewed in the February 2011 issue of AccessWorld ), Serotek's Internet-based scanning and reading software. The HoverCam is truly a plug-and-play device, and it works on both Windows and Mac platforms.

When collapsed, the HoverCam is a slender pole on an oval base, with a height of 12 inches and a weight of 1.8 pounds. An additional piece comes out of the back of the pole, extending the height to 19 inches. From the extended piece, the 12-inch HoverCam "arm" unfolds, at the end of which are the camera lens and a tiny light with a simple on/off slide switch. The light is intended for use when ambient light may not be sufficient for the HoverCam to properly focus on the printed page.

In the Box

The HoverCam comes with a USB cable for connecting to your Windows-based or Mac computer, a skid-resistant mat on which you place your documents for scanning, and a soft drawstring bag for carrying these objects. It also comes with two unnecessary items for users who are blind or have low vision: a CD and a small piece of plastic that forms a right angle when unfolded. With the unnecessary items placed back in the box, you are ready to use the HoverCam.

Using the HoverCam

The Mat

The skid-resistant mat, which rolls into a compact bundle when not in use, has the kind of rubbery texture one might find in children's galoshes or kitchen mats for placing beneath pet dishes. It's not necessary to use the mat when scanning, but it can be helpful when aligning the camera and pages to be scanned. When laid flat on a desktop or table a variety of raised tactile markings are revealed. Most notable are the two curved lines at the top center of the mat that indicate where to position the camera base. The lower part of the mat bears various raised corners that can be used for aligning the documents to be scanned.

Scanning

With the mat in place, the camera set-up properly, and the USB cable connecting the camera to your computer, you are ready to read.

Launch DocuScan and select "Simple Scan." HoverCam will be recognized by the software as a device. Tab to the "Continue" button. Because the HoverCam itself makes no sound, Serotek has inserted a camera shutter sound into the DocuScan software to confirm for you that the picture has been taken

The sometimes reassuring (and sometimes annoying) tweedle sounds of System Access are then heard as the page is processed. You are reminded that "This may take a minute" and, indeed, a minute is almost what it often takes. Although Serotek documentation indicates that the scanning and processing will require less time after the first page has been scanned, I found that there was little difference in the time it took from one page to another. Pages typically took 35 to 45 seconds to process, with the shortest time I encountered being about 15 seconds.

While scanning, DocuScan provides its standard prompts, identifying that the page is being processed, announcing the orientation of the page, suggesting that the page might need to be turned over, and so on.

Reading Performance

I tested a variety of printed documents with the HoverCam, including magazines, books, receipts, business cards, and food in boxes from my pantry. The results were widely varied, but demonstrated certain predictable patterns.

Without question, the HoverCam performed best on large pages of dense text. This included magazine articles, book pages, and other 8.5 by 11-inch pages. Card advertisements, usually measuring roughly 8 by 5 inches, produced inconsistent results. Some words were usually recognized, but never was all of the print on these types of documents read aloud.

Product packaging netted similarly mixed results. On some packages, usually only after several tries, the HoverCam would process the name of the product, a portion of its ingredients, or a recipe on the box. Other packages, despite fairly uncluttered print identified by human eyes, were pronounced by the device as having no recognizable text.

Very small items such as receipts and business cards were rarely recognized at all, and when they were, the recognition results typically included a plethora of 1s and 0s.

In support of the ease of use of this product, the mat with its tactile markings was useful initially although not, as Serotek informs its customers, at all necessary to the success or failure of using the device for reading. Similarly, the absence or presence of the light seemed to make a difference only occasionally.

The Bottom Line

Despite its small size, I found the HoverCam to be somewhat clunky and less appealing to use from an esthetic standpoint than, say, a lightweight flatbed scanner of about the same weight. If you mostly need to read full pages of text, and you aren't particularly impatient, you might want to check out the HoverCam. On the other hand, the CanoScan LIDE scanner, also from Serotek, is much less expensive ($80 as compared to $499), extremely lightweight and portable, and provides much more consistent results.

Product: HoverCam T5V.

Price: $499.00.

Available From: Serotek, (612) 246-4818.

Comment on This Article.

Back to top


Letters to the Editor

Can a blind person navigate a Kindle Keyboard reader to access Audible books?

Dear AccessWorld Editor,

Can a blind person navigate a Kindle Keyboard reader to access Audible books? Please send me any articles regarding this topic.

Thank you,

Sue

AccessWorld author Darren Burton responds:

Hello Sue,

The answer is yes, a blind person can navigate and read Audible books on a Kindle Keyboard device. From what I have learned recently, the Kindle Keyboard is exactly the same as the Kindle 3, which I reviewed in AccessWorld. Please be aware the other Kindle devices currently available are not at all accessible to people who are blind. You might also find of interest this Serotalk review of the Kindle.

Here is some information from the Serotalk article that addresses Audible books:

The Kindle supports reading of Audible content which can be purchased directly from the Kindle store and downloaded over WiFi, or transferred from the PC when the Kindle is connected via USB. As with other types of content, you may select the Audible book you'd like to read from the home screen. After you've pressed the center button on the 5-way navigation controller, the book opens, announcing your current position and the remaining time in the file. To play or pause, press the space bar. Once the book is playing, you can use the left and right arrows on the 5-way navigation controller to view options, which include the ability to move to beginning, move backward and forward 30 seconds, and move to previous or next section.

While we believe that an enhancement for adjusting playback speed would be a useful feature for blind and sighted users alike, there are no accessibility concerns with the current implementation of audiobook playback.

Thank you for reading AccessWorld. Just as a reminder, if you have an iPhone, you can download the AccessWorld app, free, from the App store.

Darren Burton, AccessWorld Author

Comment on This Article.

Back to top


AccessWorld News

AccessWorld News

AccessWorld App Version 1.7 Now Available!

Check out the 1.7 update for the AccessWorld app! We've added a new color scheme and enhanced menu features. The new color scheme is taken from the AFB AccessWorld logo and adds a predominantly blue color to the interface. The "Current Issue" menu now displays the month of the most recent AccessWorld issue, and the "Back Issues" menu has been enhanced to include information about which back issue you are viewing. Other updates include improvements and additions to the "Contact AccessWorld" screen, minor bug fixes, and some overall performance tuning. Visit the App Store to download this latest version!

American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) Scholarship Program 2012

AFB administers seven post-secondary education scholarships for up to 11 deserving students who are legally blind:

    Delta Gamma Memorial Scholarship—One scholarship of $1,000:
  • Undergraduate or graduate study in the field(s) of rehabilitation and/or education. of people who are blind or visually impaired.
    Ferdinand Torres Scholarship—One scholarship of $3,500:
  • Undergraduate or graduate study in any full-time program in any field.
  • Applicant need not be a U.S. citizen, but must reside in U.S. Preference given to New York City metropolitan area residents, and new immigrants to the U.S.
    Gladys C. Anderson Memorial Scholarship—One scholarship of $1,000:
  • Undergraduate or graduate study in classical or religious music.
  • Applicant must be female.
    Karen D. Carsel Memorial Scholarship—One scholarship of $500:
  • Graduate study in any full-time program in any field.
  • Applicant must submit evidence of economic need.
    Paul W. Ruckes Scholarship—One scholarship of $1,000:
  • Undergraduate or graduate study in engineering or in the computer, physical, or life sciences.
    R. L. Gillette Scholarship—Two scholarships of $1,000 each:
  • Undergraduate study in a four-year degree program in literature or music.
  • Applicant must be female.
    Rudolph Dillman Memorial Scholarship—Four scholarships of $2,500 each:
  • Undergraduate or graduate study in the field of rehabilitation and/or education of people who are blind or visually impaired.

Visit the AFB scholarships website for further information and to fill out the application.

Please direct questions and comments to: American Foundation for the Blind Information Center, (800) 232-5463, afbinfo@afb.net

The National Federation of the Blind Offers 30 National Scholarships

To recognize achievement by blind scholars, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) annually offers blind college students in the United States the opportunity to win one of thirty national scholarships worth from $3,000 to $12,000. See the NFB scholarship website for the rules on eligibility, requirements for documentation, and an online application form. Membership in the NFB is not required. The 2012 NFB Scholarship Program begins November 1, 2011. Application deadline: March 31, 2012.

The Gadling Travel Blog May Help with Holiday Travel Plans

Gadling is a frequently updated travel blog from AOL that may be a resource worth investigating as you make your holiday travel plans.

Gadling provides a variety of content addressing topics as diverse as dining in former Soviet Bloc countries to a series on traveling the Great American Highway. Destination and travel gear reviews are also available, and new content is posted throughout the day.

The outstanding accessibility feature of Gadling is its straightforward construction. Headings are used consistently to organize and identify individual items. Each of the approximately 10 articles that appear on each page is identified with heading level 2; and heading level 3 defines supplemental information, such as a photo gallery or site navigation options.

Beyond the individual articles, a link for "Next Page" makes navigating straightforward. Heading level 4 items organize categories of information such as International Tips, Dining Out Tips, and Cruise Tips.

Finally, links near the top and bottom of the page provide quick navigation to popular categories of articles including, Budget Travel, Travel Tech, and Adventure Travel.

The website's consistent structure makes using it on the iPhone, iPad, or iPod easier—especially handy when traveling and you want to leave the laptop at home.

An Assistive Technology Gift Certificate May Be the Perfect Gift Solution!

No need to try to guess what your loved one might want—give them a gift certificate, and they can choose for themselves!

This holiday season, HumanWare is offering gift certificates that can be used to purchase any item available from HumanWare. Their gift certificate is redeemable on phone orders and is valid for U.S. residents only. Visit the HumanWare website for more details.

Serotek Conquers a New Frontier for Blind Veterans

More than 13 percent of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered severe eye injuries that result in blindness. In recognition of this year's Veteran's Day celebration, Serotek Corporation is offering all blind veterans a lifetime subscription to System Access Mobile Network (SAMNet).

SAMNet is Serotek's Internet communication portal that delivers content for the blind, with e-mail, news, blogs, podcasts, streaming radio, described video service for thousands of movies, and more. Through SAMNet, veterans have access to a new world of communication right at their fingertips.

"For many veterans sight loss is the new battleground," says Serotek's Chief Executive Officer, Mike Calvo. "We want to do our part to help them face the challenges ahead with the same tools and confidence they showed in service to our country."

To that end, Serotek is offering lifetime access to SAMNet for all legally blind U.S. veterans. Individuals who can provide proof of status as a legally blind veteran will be eligible for the program, which will officially kick off December 15. In addition to the content already available on SAMNet, Serotek will further customize the service by creating chat rooms, forums, and other exclusive communication channels to help facilitate networking opportunities among veterans.

To stay on top of this latest initiative, you can subscribe to the SAMNet-vets mailing list, where you can learn more about SAMNet and the program specifically designed for this population of the country's wounded warriors. You can also get an online overview of SAMNet and other Serotek products, and you can sign up to begin a 7-day free trial of these products and services.

AFB Press Announces New Release

AFB Press is pleased to announce the recent publication of an important new resource for teachers and other professionals, families, and anyone who works with or cares about children who are visually impaired. Learning to Listen/Listening to Learn: Teaching Listening Skills to Students with Visual Impairments is the first comprehensive book to address the systematic development of skills in listening for and interpreting auditory information. This topic is an often-overlooked but crucial area of instruction related to the expanded core curriculum, as well as to literacy, independent travel, and the sensory and cognitive development of children who are visually impaired, including those with multiple disabilities.

Edited by Lizbeth A. Barclay, Coordinator of the Assessment Program at the California School for the Blind, with contributions from a group of accomplished and experienced educators, Learning to Listen/Listening to Learn is a major contribution to the special education literature and contains in-depth information nowhere else compiled on an array of topics of compelling interest to educational professionals today: working with students with multiple disabilities, with students with learning disabilities, and with those who are English Language Learners, and with cutting-edge techniques such as Response to Intervention. The book is 560 pages long and is priced at $59.95, but is now available at a special pre-publication price of $49.95 until the end of this year. Learning to Listen/Listening to Learn is available in paperback and in ASCII as well as online as part of AFB's ePublications program.

Tis the Season to Travel: Take the AFB Travel Survey

Online travel services, such as travel aggregators, including Travelocity and Kayak, as well as hotel, airline, train, bus and ship websites offer customers the convenience of comparison shopping, purchasing, and managing their travel from the convenience of their computer or mobile device. AFB is seeking participants to complete a survey to help us understand more about the experiences of blind and visually impaired customers of online travel services. Please take a few moments and complete our survey.

ZoomText 10 Storms onto the Scene

AccessWorld readers with low vision will be happy to know, according to Ai Squared, ZoomText 10 is available and ready for sale.

You can make your purchase online or give them a call at 800-859-0270 (upgrade orders need to be placed over the phone). Ai Squared is also running a bunch of specials if you order by the end of the year.

If you want to try ZoomText 10 before you buy, visit Ai Squared's website and download a free 60-day trial.

A lot of new features have been incorporated into the new release, and you might need some training to make sure you're getting the most out of them. Visit Ai Squared's website to learn about a series of free webinars and sign up for a one-hour training session that exclusively covers the new features of ZoomText 10.

Ai Squared has also produced a quick video that covers all the new features in version 10. Check it out!

Back to top

Copyright © 2011 American Foundation for the Blind. All rights reserved AccessWorld is a trademark of the American Foundation for the Blind.

Download the free AccessWorld appDownload the free AccessWorld app
 
Back Issues
Search AccessWorld
AccessWorld Alerts Signup
For Advertisers
Contact AccessWorld
 

Related Links

Technology
AccessWorld Appliance Accessibility Guide
Product Search
AFB Consulting
 
 Advertising
Baum Varioultra braille display and notetaker

Low Vision Simulators Plus VSRT (Pepper) Test LUV Reading Workbook

Talking Typer for Windows Multiple License

Image of an older man and woman being taught by another man to use an iPad
 
 End of advertising