November 2006 Issue  Volume 7  Number 6

Letters to the Editor

Thanks for the Histories

I read with great interest the first two installments of "Legends and Pioneers of Blindness Assistive Technology." Anthony Candela has put together a very well-rounded account of his interviews thus far with these legends and pioneers. I am not quite old enough to remember most of them; in fact, I never met any of them. But I have been fortunate enough to use some of their products at one time or another throughout my years as a user of assistive technology. I was always very satisfied with these products, and the ongoing revolution of assistive technology is something I find truly amazing. I am now using JAWS with the Eloquence software synthesizer. Eloquence is probably the best speech I've ever heard, and I know others who may have varying opinions on that. It would be neat if Mr. Candela and/or someone else could put together a review of the various speech synthesizers and how they were created, both the software and hardware ones.

Thanks again for this wonderful series.

Jacob Joehl

What's in a Name?

At least once a month I receive an e-mail or phone call from a vendor who wants to sell me the latest in security systems using CCTVs. Closed-circuit TVs are useful components of a good security system. The CCTVs that I'm most familiar with are devices that use a camera to enlarge text and images that are then displayed on a video monitor. I'm assuming that they found my name through a Google search because I've done some writing about CCTVs. Usually I just delete the e-mail or explain to the caller that we are talking about a piece of assistive technology for people with low vision.

What's in a name? Well, it seems to me that a name should clearly describe something without being overly complicated. CCTV is a name that seems simple enough, but it would seem that it can identify two very different things. Consequently, this has lead to the e-mails, phone calls, and confusion about the device. In an effort to clarify the situation I would like to propose that we in the field make a concentrated effort to use a more descriptive term or name to identify the devices that provide an enlarged display of printed information for people with low vision. As the technology has changed and improved over the years I would suggest that CCTV no longer adequately describes the wide variety of devices in this category.

The traditional desktop CCTV consists of a camera mounted over a moveable platform (X-Y table). This camera is cabled to a television or some type of video monitor. While this type of device is still widely used, there are numerous other options available. Models are now available that offer a variety of display and camera options. Some models use laptop computers for their display. Others connect to head-mounted displays, while some models have built-in displays. Cameras may be mounted on a flexible arm, connected to the unit via a cable like a computer mouse, mounted into a head-borne display, or integrated into a one-piece, battery-powered portable unit. CCTV just doesn't seem to describe these devices adequately.

For the past few years, I have been referring to these devices as video magnifiers. Video magnifier is probably not a perfect name for such a device, but it's a bit more descriptive than CCTV and doesn't cause confusion with security systems. Electronic magnifier might be an even better term. I'm certainly open to suggestions for a better name. My objective is to get the conversation started, and I hope that as a field we can decide on terminology that will be more useful for us and for the general population as well.

I know that the readers of AccessWorld are knowledgeable about this type of technology, and like me, will most likely have an opinion on the subject. Please submit any comments or suggestions you might have to AccessWorld, or if you prefer you can contact me directly at

Ike Presley
AFB Literacy Center
Atlanta, Georgia

The Editor responds

AccessWorld uses the term "CCTV" for consistency and because it is the term that most consumers, manufacturers, and professionals in the blindness field use. We are certainly open to change, though. For example, we use "PDA" (personal digital assistant), rather than "notetaker," to describe devices such as the BrailleNote and the PAC Mate. Notetaker seems very inadequate for a device with so many features and functions. We'd like to hear what readers think about such terminology issues.

Please let us know if you believe that video magnifier is a more appropriate term than CCTV.

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