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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Accessible PDAs Video

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Narrator: Accessible personal digital assistants commonly referred to as PDAs are versatile and portable. They can serve many purposes for people who are blind or visually impaired: The model shown in this scene can function as a word processor to take notes and create documents; as an address book to keep track of contacts; as a calendar to manage appointments; and as a calculator. They can also be used to check e-mail, browse the Internet and even obtain traveling directions through the use of an optional GPS feature.

There are many different brands of PDAs and they all perform similar functions. The models shown here are just a sample of the variety of models available. The main difference between them is the way in which the user enters and accesses information. The user can enter information through a standard QWERTY keyboard or a braille keyboard with six or eight keys and a space bar. Accessible PDAs have a synthesized speech function that allows the user to hear spoken information.

Sample of synthesized speech: "Literacy, the ability to read and write is vital to a successful education, career and uality of life in today's world."

Some PDAs also provide tactile access through a refreshable braille display. The user enters information and control commands through a braille keyboard, using the machine's six braille keys and the spacebar. The user can then review or accesses the information through the synthetic speech output.

Sample of synthesized speech: "Please pick me up as soon as possible."

The refreshable braille found on some PDAs is produced by a series of plastic pins, each of which represents a dot in a braille cell. Combinations of pins are raised or lowered to form braille character. This particular PDA has 32 cells. Once the user has read all 32 characters on the display an advance key can be pressed that brings up the next 32 characters of information.

Unlike the other PDAs, this machine runs the Microsoft Windows CE operating system. This provides users with additional capabilities, such as the creation of Microsoft Word documents, sending and receiving e-mail, and browsing the Internet.

Users can also attach an optional GPS receiver to provide navigational information that will enable them to find local points of interest. These PDAs are between nine and twelve inches long, six to eight inches deep and between one and a half and two inches high. They weigh around two to four pounds and they're built to travel.

This model performs the same functions as the previous one, but has a standard QWERTY keyboard in place of the braille keyboard. This type of PDA is used mainly by people who are visually impaired but not fluent writers of braille.

The portability of these PDAs enables users to be effective while out and about. Wherever they are, they can access information, enter and retrieve notes, keep track of appointments, search an address book for phone numbers or use the calculator to perform basic and scientific functions.

A PDA is equally useful for taking notes in a classroom, or simply managing personal information such as travel informations.

These devices range in price from $1,500 to $6,000 depending on what features the models offer and whether or not they include refreshable braille displays. Many people who are blind or visually impaired rely on the wide range of capabilities offered by accessible PDAs.

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