January 2002 Issue  Volume 3  Number 1

Access News

Tim Cranmer: One of Our Great Pioneers

by Deborah Kendrick

The world of blindness technology lost one of its great pioneers when Tim Cranmer died on November 15. Born with very little vision and totally blind since age 9, Cranmer was a remarkable example of what can be accomplished by sheer intellect and motivation.

Born in 1925 as the fourth of seven children in a Depression-era Kentucky family, Cranmer attended the Kentucky School for the Blind from first through sixth grade. No one seemed to mind that he left; no one else in his family had ever gone much further in formal education. But Cranmer went light years further in his own education as scientist, inventor, and general finder of solutions for how a blind person might do a thing.

Best known for the Cranmer abacus, a tool that he modified from studying Japanese versions and used now for decades as an educational tool for blind students, Cranmer played a role in the evolution of many other products. Most familiar to users of assistive technology will be the Braille 'n Speak, which was the outgrowth of study, experimentation, and long-time friendship with Deane Blazie. Each of these two men claimed credit for the other for the product's origin, but it was clearly the result of their collaboration and of Cranmer inspiring his then-young friend.

Tim Cranmer was the epitome of the self-taught man. After learning braille in his few years of schooling, he taught himself Grade 3 and personal shorthand by using only a slate and stylus for many years. From braille books, he taught himself the principles of physics, chemistry, computer science, philosophy, and more. His gifts to the blindness community, both in products and by way of example, will resonate long, and he will be greatly missed.

Software Purchase Discounts

People with disabilities can enjoy selected IBM software and notebook and desktop computers at reduced prices through the IBM Accessibility Center's Empower program. The program offers people with disabilities monthly discounts that are similar to those given to IBM employees. At press time the offerings included Home Page Reader for Windows for $127.80 and ThinkPad R30 for $1,125. For more information, contact: IBM Empower; phone: 800-426-7235, extension 4249; web site: <www.ibm.com/shop/ibmdeals/sns>.

Talking Automatic Teller Machines

Bank of America recently announced plans to install 3,000 talking automatic teller machines (ATMs) by the end of 2002. By 2005, Bank of America hopes to have installed more than 7,000 talking ATMs coast to coast in the United States.

First Union National Bank installed its first accessible ATMs in the fall of 2001, 19 total, in Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Washington, DC. The bank plans to open more than 100 talking ATMs in the region before midsummer 2002. For more information, contact: Bank of America; phone: 800-299-BANK (2265); web site: <www.bankofamerica.com>. First Union National Bank; phone: 800-ASK-FUNB (275-3862); web site: <www.firstunion.com>.

New Digital Talking Book Player

In late November 2001, VisuAide released the Victor Reader Soft, its newest Digital Talking Book Player. The Victor Reader Soft displays both audio and text and offers enhanced navigation with bookmarks, text annotation, and custom display parameters. For more information, contact: VisuAide; phone: 888-723-7273 or 819-471-4818; web site: <www.visuaide.com>.

CD with Hundreds of Books

The Super CD, published by Vanilla Press for National Braille Press, contains the full ASCII text for over 600 books from National Braille Press' American literature and children's book CDs. The full Table of Contents is available online, <www.nbp.org/superconts.html>. The cost is $39. For more information, contact: National Braille Press; phone: 888-965-8965 or 617-266-6160; web site: <www.nbp.org>.

Got News?

Does your magnifier outshine the competition? Do you have inside information on the next big merger? Here is your chance to share your news with the readership of AccessWorld. Please send information to Rebecca Burrichter, associate editor, AFB Press, American Foundation for the Blind: e-mail: <rebeccab@afb.net>; fax: 212-502-7774.

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