July 2006 Issue  Volume 7  Number 4

Editor's Page

In June, Amazon.com launched a store for people with visual impairments. The site says that the store will offer "a diverse selection of products for those with vision difficulties, as well as for those who care for or care about them." Current items include books in large print, braille and audio, as well as some talking products and other household products, mainly from the MaxiAids catalog.

Books about blindness include several titles published by the American Foundation for the Blind. Also listed, however, are such questionable titles as Yoga For Your Eyes and The Bates Method for Better Eyesight Without Glasses. This store will help make people aware of what is out there for people who are experiencing vision loss. You can visit the store at <www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/browse/-/14264821/104-3999956-5349515>.

In this issue, Darren Burton and Mark Uslan of AFB Tech evaluate the accessibility of insulin pens, devices that offer diabetics a delivery method that is easier, less painful, and more discreet than drawing doses from a vial using a needle and syringe. They are small, lightweight plastic handheld devices with prefilled insulin cartridges inside, and they use small microfine needles that have been shown to cause significantly less pain than conventional syringe needles. Find out how accessible these devices are for people who are blind or have low vision.

Lee Huffman of AFB TECH evaluates the MLS Student Addition from Low Vision International, a laptop-compatible CCTV. This is the second article in a series evaluating CCTVs that are compatible with laptops, weigh less than 5 pounds, have a rotating camera that allows for near and distance viewing, and have the ability to take a "picture" of an image and save it to the computer. Learn what this product has to offer.

Brad Hodges of AFB TECH evaluates Kurzweil 1000 and OpenBook, the two leading optical character recognition (OCR) systems for people who are blind. Each product was tested to determine how well it recognizes the text on a variety of printed pages, its ability to follow the formatting of printed material, and how well it handles file conversion--reading untagged PDF documents, for example. Read about how these products compare.

Janet Ingber, author and music therapist, evaluates Henter Math's Virtual Pencil, a program that allows people who are blind to solve math problems independently. Virtual Pencil offers two math programs: VP Arithmetic and VP Algebra. VP Arithmetic covers such operations as addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and fractions. VP Algebra allows you to solve both simple and complicated problems and equations. Check out this handy software.

Janet Ingber also reviews music download sites. These are the sites to go to if you want to purchase and download all types of music legally. The sites include eMusic, RealPlayer, Rhapsody, Napster, Wal-Mart, and iTunes. None of these sites is a model of accessibility, but with some persistence, you can buy and play the music of your choice.

Darren Burton and Lee Huffman present the third in a three-part series investigating the accessibility of today's multifunctional copy machines. This article focuses on accessibility solutions from Canon and Xerox that have been specifically designed to make their large copy machines more accessible and usable for people who are blind or have low vision. Find out how well these accessibility solutions work.

Deborah Kendrick describes Playaway, a combination audio book and player in one. It includes simple controls and costs about the same as an audio book on CD or cassette. Find out how accessible this interesting new product is.

Anthony Candela, Deputy Director, Specialized Services Division of the California Department of Rehabilitation, presents the first 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. Read about how these people's innovations led to the assistive technology we use today.

Jay Leventhal
Editor in Chief

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