November 2004 Issue  Volume 5  Number 6

AccessWorld News


The DECtalk USB is a small small speech synthesizer measuring 5.5 inches by 3.6 inches by 1.1 inches and weighing 9 ounces. It has a built-in speaker, volume control, and output jack for headphones or external speakers. The unit is powered by the USB port, a 9-volt battery, or an external power supply (which is included). It can be connected to either a USB or serial port, and offers speech which is similar to the DECtalk 4.2. The $695 price includes the DECtalk USB, power supply, USB cable, serial cable, headphones, and shipping costs. (Add $30 for shipping outside the U.S.) For more information, contact: Access Solutions: 916-481-3559; e-mail: <>; web site: <>.

New List for Optacon Users

One of the first breakthrough technological devices for blind people just prior to the personal computer was the Optacon. As its name (taken from the words "optical to tactile converter") proclaimed, this device transmits printed text, one character at a time, to a vibrating array felt by the index finger. Many technologically savvy users continue to utilize their Optacons daily, making it perhaps the most enduring piece of assistive technology in three decades. A new electronic mailing list has been formed by Optacon users to share information with one another regarding the use of this unique piece of equipment. To join, send a message to <> and put the word "subscribe" in the subject field.

Two Quick References in Braille

National Braille Press has announced two new quick-reference guides, one for Windows XP keyboard commands and the other for Office XP. The "Windows XP Keyboard Commands" reference card includes all commands for Windows Desktop, Windows Explorer, menus, dialog boxes, accessibility features, and more. Similarly, the "Office XP Keyboard Commands" reference includes keyboard commands for Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint. Keys specific to either Window-Eyes or JAWS for Windows are also included, as well as some guidance in configuring your system for optimal results. As a recent release from National Braille Press explains: "Whether you're a student trying to figure out how to add acute accents to vowels for a foreign language class, an office worker trying to create PowerPoint demonstrations, or anyone else who needs to use one or more of these programs on a regular basis," these reference cards will help.

Each costs $10 and is available in either hardcopy braille or PortaBook format. To learn more or to order, contact: National Braille Press; phone: 800-548-7323; website: <>.

Read Your Newspaper in Braille

Bookshare has teamed up with the National Federation of the Blind to add newspapers and magazines to its growing collection of books for download to PCs and notetakers. The Federation's Newsline is a telephone menu-driven service that provides over 100 newspapers via synthesized speech. Now, on Bookshare, those same digital files are used to bring periodicals to the Bookshare collection. At present, only two magazines, the Economist and the New Yorker, plus a few newspapers, are available, with more planned in the future. Like the books, the newspapers and magazines are available in either BRF (braille) or DAISY formats. Members can go directly to the newspapers and magazines at <>. For general information, go to <>.

Merging with the Mainstream

Rarely have blind and visually impaired people been able to go to a large commercial outlet and purchase assistive technology products, but that seems to be changing, as three products almost simultaneously became available through mainstream outlets during the month of September. As discussed elsewhere in this issue, two screen-reader software packages for certain cell phone models became available that render mobile phones almost as friendly to blind people as they are to sighted people: TALKS, available from Cingular Wireless <> and Mobile Speak from Optelec USA <>. Finally, Premier Assistive Technology Inc. announced that nine of its software programs designed for users who are blind will be available on Amazon <>. Among the programs are a Talking Word Processor, Talking Checkbook, and Premier CD/DVD Creator.

Upgrade for Pico Video Magnifier

Telesensory Corp has announced improvements to Pico, its handheld video magnifier. Weighing 10 ounces, this device enables people with low vision to see text and photos in all environments. Improvements include two new viewing modes (black text on a white background or yellow on blue), a brighter display with increased viewing angle, and the addition of an AC adapter for recharging the unit's power. Other features already familiar to Pico users are its one-button on/off and mode selection, 4-inch color display, and illumination control for reducing glare when viewing electronic displays such as ATMs or cell phones. The Pico sells for $795. For more information, contact: Telesensory Corporation; phone: 800-804-8004; web site: <>.

Previous Article | Next Article | Table of Contents

Copyright © 2004 American Foundation for the Blind. ISSN 1526-9574. All rights reserved. AccessWorld® is a registered trademark of the American Foundation for the Blind.