March 2006 Issue  Volume 7  Number 2

AccessWorld News

Optelec Expands Product Line and Staff

Optelec has announced the addition of Jaap Breider to its executive management team, as technology officer for blindness products. Twenty years ago, Breider, who is blind, founded ALVA, the Netherlands-based supplier of refreshable braille terminals.

"Both Optelec and ALVA have historically been two leading providers of access technology from one small country," Breider announced. "I am excited to be working with such a committed team of professionals, and look forward to meeting many of you at various conferences and events in the not-too-distant future."

In September 2005, Optelec acquired the assets of the erstwhile ALVA, so Breider's addition to the management was a less-than-surprising step. Meanwhile, Optelec U.S. has announced a strategic alliance with VisionCue, an Oregon-based technology supplier. Larry Lake, president of VisionCue, was formerly with ALVA Access, so he brings considerable familiarity and expertise with the ALVA line. For more information, visit: <>.

OPAL Added to the TOPAZ Line for Seeing on the Go

At the annual conference of the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) in January 2006, Freedom Scientific unveiled its new "ultra-portable video magnifier," called the OPAL. The OPAL contains a small camera and displays images on a brightly lit 4-inch screen. The magnification level can be varied from 3x to 6.4x with a sliding fingertip control while the unit rests firmly on a document.

A recent press release from the company stated that "the OPAL features simple, ergonomic controls. Simply turn it on with a push of a button, place it on an object or document, and use the zoom slider to adjust the magnification for the best reading comfort. A single button can switch between seven different viewing modes--indoor and outdoor full-color modes and five contrast modes for reading text."

The unit is small enough to be carried in a pocket or purse and can be used for all small reading needs on the go. It can be attached to a television screen or computer monitor for additional enlargement when at home or in the office. The product will be available in March. For more information, contact Freedom Scientific: phone: 800-444-4443; web site: <>.

Bluetooth Braille Keyboard Accompanies the Maestro

HumanWare Canada has announced the availability of a portable Bluetooth braille-style keyboard to accompany its Maestro PDA. The Maestro is an adapted off-the-shelf handheld device that incorporates the Trekker GPS system with such features as a calendar, notetaker, DAISY book reader, voice memo recorder, and contacts manager.

Although the Maestro has a tactile overlay keyboard that enables you to enter text in a braille format by pressing one "dot" key at a time, the new wireless keyboard offers another alternative: Braille can be entered in either computer braille or contracted braille formats. In its small carrying case, the keyboard offers what will be for some a faster, more efficient method of entering text into the Maestro. For more information, contact HumanWare: web site: <>.

Cicero Upgrade Released in Britain

Dolphin Computer Access has announced the release of Cicero, version 3.0, an upgrade that the company says enhances the user's ability to manipulate hard copy and electronic text. An optical character recognition program, Cicero translates letters, magazines, books, and the like and offers the user with low vision a variety of options to magnify text, change color schemes, manipulate format, and more. Cicero 3.0 uses the Abbyyy Finereader recognition engine, noted for its OCR accuracy. It is available in British English, U.S. English, and 36 other languages. For more information, contact Dolphin Computer Access: phone: 0845-130-5353; web site: <>.

Easier Surfing

EITAC Solutions Group has developed the MaximEyes toolbar to make surfing the web easier for people with low vision. The MaximEyes toolbar is a plug-in for Internet Explorer 6.0, which provides a combination of features that will help reduce eye strain. Features include the ability to magnify the entire web page from 1x to 16x; to speak text aloud using the Click-and-Speak tool; and to customize background, text and link colors for better contrast. In addition, the MaximEyes toolbar has a giant mouse pointer, toolbar buttons, and dialogs. To download a free 14-day trial version, visit: <>.

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