February 2016 Issue  Volume 17  Number 2

AccessWorld News

AccessWorld News

Microsoft Makes Changes to its Accessibility Strategies

Very recently, Microsoft announced some organizational shifts and investments in how it is going to be leading and driving accessibility across the company. Important information is provided by Microsoft in its blog post, Moving forward on Accessibility.

AFB's VisionAware Posts New Survey to Capture Information about Older Workers who Experience Vision Loss

AFB's VisionAware is conducting a survey for people who are blind or visually impaired, who experienced vision loss at age 55 or older, and who continued to work or returned to work after vision loss. The criteria for taking the survey are as follows: (1) You experienced vision loss that started when you were age 55 or older and (2) You continued to work or return to work after experiencing vision loss (even if you are retired now). If the answer to both criteria is "yes," please take this 22-question survey. We will enter your name in a drawing for a $100 Amazon gift card if you participate and share your contact information with us.

The survey will help AFB develop and update information on VisionAware for older individuals with vision loss who are seeking to retain jobs or find employment.

Please take our survey.

Envision Names Second Round of Research Fellows and Awards First Round Projects a Second Year

Envision recently announced that it has awarded two new postdoctoral fellowships to Andrea Urqueta Alfaro, PhD, from California and Arun Kumar Krishnan, PhD, from India for research to be conducted at its Envision Research Institute (ERI), based here in the United States. Both studies are expected to commence in the first quarter of this year. In addition to naming two new fellows to the ERI, Executive Director Laura Walker, PhD, announced both of the first round fellows, Tony Succar, PhD, from Australia, and Rezaul Karim, PhD, from Bangladesh, had been awarded a second year to continue their respective studies.

Fellowships at the ERI provide an educational environment where appointees identify?solutions to improve the quality of life for people who are blind or visually impaired. Through mentoring, the fellows are put on the fast?track to independent and impactful?research?careers. Each fellowship is awarded for one year, with a second year contingent on progress in the first.

Dr. Alfaro's fellowship is being generously funded through a partnership with LC Industries, a sister National Industries for the Blind agency to Envision. She recently received her degree in psychology from the University of California, Berkeley and holds a master's degree in special education from San Francisco State University. Her dissertation examined engagement and attachment patterns in infants with visual impairment. Two mentors will advise Dr. Alfaro while she conducts her work at the ERI. Dr. Joshua Miele, director of the Video Description Research and Development Center and Description Research and Innovation Lab at the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco, will advise on accessibility technologies and multisensory processing pertaining to early childhood education. Dr. Walker will advise Dr. Alfaro on quantitative research techniques and analysis.

Dr. Krishnan's fellowship is being generously funded through a partnership with Bosma Enterprises, a sister National Industries for the Blind agency to Envision. Dr. Krishnan has a background in pediatric optometry and low vision and holds a bachelor's degree in Optometry from the Elite School of Optometry in Chennai, India. He completed his PhD with Harold Bedell, PhD, at the University of Houston, and prepared a dissertation focused on structural and functional changes at the preferred retinal locus in patients with central field loss. While working at the ERI, he will be mentored by Dr. Susana Chung, OD, PhD, from the University of California, Berkeley, a leader in his chosen area of research.

After releasing a call for applicants last summer, Envision heard from numerous candidates who submitted letters of intent to apply. Envision selected and invited five candidates to submit full research and training proposals based on their qualifications, their potential for future research careers and the alignment of their proposed projects with the mission of the ERI. All applications were reviewed externally by experts in blind and visually impaired (BVI) research. Those who were not invited to apply this year were given constructive feedback to help prepare a future application.

The two new research fellows will now join their first round counterparts who made significant progress in blind and low vision research.

Retinal Consultants of Arizona Announces New North Phoenix Location; Adds Second Airplane to Clinical Practice

Retinal Consultants of Arizona (RCA), one of the nation's leading Retina & Vitreous clinical research and patient treatment facilities, announced it has purchased a 35,000 square foot building in North Phoenix to become the latest expansion of its clinical practice and research institute. This building adds to RCA's growing network of more than 35 locations throughout Arizona serving patients with retina diseases such as Macular Degeneration and Diabetic Eye Diseases. The new building will be operational later this year. Retinal Consultants will maintain its current practice locations.

In addition to the new building, Retinal Consultants of Arizona has added a second airplane, a Beechcraft King Air 200, to further serve patients at a higher frequency outside of the Phoenix-metro area. This is a practice model that RCA has instituted in order to provide patients living throughout the state to have access to the best retina care available. RCA physicians and staff travel daily with medicine, equipment and gear to various parts of the state to serve its patients, including communities such as Tuba City where RCA has been treating the Native American population for more than 20 years.

A large part of the new building will focus on the Retinal Research Institute, which is currently the largest, most active research institute in the country focused exclusively on diseases of the retina, macula, and vitreous. The research institute, and the RCA physicians, are sought after for their expertise and dedication to researching and studying new treatments toward retinal diseases and have contributed to the advancement of new drugs, treatments and surgical processes available to patients.

Get Three Free books from Seedlings in 2016

Every blind or visually impaired child (ages 0-21) in the U.S. and Canada may now get three free books from Seedlings Braille Books for Children! Seedlings has expanded its Book Angel Program for 2016. The program was originally called "Anna's Book Angel Project" in memory of its Director's 19-year-old daughter who was killed by a drunk driver in 2001. Each year, every blind child registered received one free book in Anna's name, but thanks to Seedlings' generous donors, that number is now three. Just register your child or student online.

FCC Considering a Proposal to Unlock the Set-top Box

Most Americans get their television programming through Cable or Satellite TV, and that usually requires consumers to rent or buy a device commonly called a set-top box. In an effort to spur competition and address the rising costs of renting a set-top box, the Federal Communications Commission Chairman is proposing to create a framework through which consumers may receive television programming content via their choice of delivery device. The proposal is up for consideration at the Meeting of FCC Commissioners on February 18, 2016. The FCC contends that U.S. consumers spend $20 billion per year to lease set-top boxes.

Supporters of the idea to move away from the set-top box gateway believe that consumers will benefit from having more choices, greater flexibility, improved technology innovation, greater competition, and lower prices. Companies are already in the marketplace poised to take advantage of changes in the delivery of television. For example, Google, Amazon's Fire TV, TiVo, a producer of competitive set-top boxes, and Apple TV, are offering alternative means of obtaining video content and television channels.

Cable and satellite providers, collectively known as Multichannel Video Programming Distributor's (MVPDs), have formed a coalition, Future of the TV, to oppose the proposal. They argue that consumers would be hurt because they would have to buy new devices to obtain the variety of programs they now get?through the set-top box and that support for diverse programming and consumer privacy would be weakened. The National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA), which represents cable TV companies, notes that app-based television services are already growing rapidly.

Any significant change in the nature of television program delivery will likely take a while to get sorted out. However, alterations to the current system, still dominated by access and control through the set-top?box rather than the television receiver, may affect individuals with vision loss. By the end of 2016, set-top boxes, as well as television receivers, must include access features to allow individuals who are blind or visually impaired to independently control and operate the equipment. Samsung and Panasonic have already developed television receivers with accessible controls, while Apple TV, as noted in a previous issue of AccessWorld, has continued to improve accessibility. Bypassing the set-top box with these devices might benefit consumers with vision loss. However, Comcast has already introduced an accessible set-top box, and as other Cable and satellite systems follow suit later this year, the situation will get better for those who get their television that way. Stay tuned for further developments. IN the meantime, if you want to follow the FCC action on this topic, the official proceeding is?MB Docket No. 15-64.

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