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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Blog Posts by Paul Schroeder

Checking in from the CTIA Super Mobility Conference

Paul Schroeder, AFB Vice President, Programs and Policy This week in Las Vegas it's everything wireless at the CTIA Super Mobility conference. CTIA, the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, hosts the show and notably also hosts an Accessibility Outreach Initiative Forum as part of the conference. I am pleased to participate in the forum and express appreciation to CTIA for making it possible to attend. I thought I'd share some of the points from the forum on September 7. AFB has been collecting the views of people with vision loss through a series of


Day 4 at CES: Home, Health, and Fitness

Paul Schroeder at the MagicaVision booth On the second day of the official CES, John Lilly and I spent most of the day among the home, health, and fitness area of the show. At Whirlpool we learned that a line of “connected” kitchen appliances will soon be launched in the US. As with the connected washer and dryer, these are toward the top of the line, so they won’t be cheap, but the Whirlpool app does seem to work reasonably well with VoiceOver and they are interested in continuing to improve it. Every year, CES attracts a bunch of start-up companies and entrepreneurs who seem right out of Shark Tank casting.


Day 3 at CES 2016: The Grand Opening

CES 2016 officially opened on Wednesday January 6, and as Lyle Lovett might say, CES is not large, it's huge. Encompassing over 2.6 million square feet of exhibit and presentation space, there is just no way to convey the absolute awesomeness of the size of this thing. Read the full report on day 3 of CES in AccessWorld(r), including our impressions of Casio's new "2.5D" printer, a system for producing tactile graphics and braille. We also took a look at Vuzix's iWear headset and M300 Smart Glasses, and reported on the conversation between Gary Shapiro, President and CEO of the Consumer


Day 2 at CES 2016

As you read this, the CES show, an annual event about all things technology, is only just now opening, but lots has been happening already. Press events dominated Tuesday's schedule. I attended presentations by LG, Panasonic, and others. Read the full report on day 2 of CES in AccessWorld(r), and you can also follow AFB on Twitter or Facebook for additional updates. I'll have lots more as the week of CES 2016 goes on, so stay tuned!


Attending the 2016 CES, a Global Technology Event

With a big thank you to the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)(tm), AFB is again attending "CES(r)," the global technology event that takes place in early January in Las Vegas. CTA, formerly the Consumer Electronics Association, again made it possible for John Lilly (who works in our tech office in Huntington, WV, and me to attend the show, along with a select delegation from the disability community. We’ll do our best to provide updates throughout this week as we try to see as many of the over 3,600 exhibitors that attend. Yes, that’s 3,600the show is huge! CES features all aspects of the industry and it has served as the proving ground for innovators and


AFB’s Vice President Paul Schroeder's Visit to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES)

Our VP of Programs and Policy, Paul Schroeder, got up close and personal with the Mercedes self-driving concept car at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) took place earlier this month in Las Vegas with lots of gushing about the latest in huge televisions with remarkable pictures. Oddly, the show gave more and more attention to automotive technology. For those of us with vision loss, the other exciting trend was captured in an opening keynote by Boo-Keun Yoon, Samsung President and CEO, who described his company’s commitment


Notes, Observations from the Consumer Electronics Show (CES)

I've just wrapped up my second visit to the mega Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. There's been tons of coverage of all the exciting new products, especially wearable technology, health and body monitoring technologies, devices to enhance our autos and, of course, more and more 3-D printing. I want to again give a special thank you and shout-out to our friends at the Consumer Electronics Association (the trade association that hosting the conference), for inviting disability advocates out to the show. More than just making this opportunity available, CEA also helped ensure that we


More on the Government Shutdown: Do We Fully Understand What’s at Stake?

As the federal government shutdown continues, I am troubled by some of what I've been hearingand some of what I've not been hearing. On October 1, as the shutdown began, I heard some comments on news programs that they didn't really notice any change. And as Day 1 of the shutdown came to a close, the House of Representatives took up bills to fund certain parts of the government, the ones that people may already be noticing, such as closed national parks. This is sad and irresponsible. Of course, the most noticeable activities of our federal government do, in fact, continueair traffic controllers, military and Social


Disability Roundtable at the White House

The Americans with Disabilities Act will be 23 years old tomorrow. In recognition of this historic and still vibrant legislation, disability leaders were invited to meet with President Obama and key leaders in his Administration this morning. I was proud to be included in this group of leaders. Along with a brief opportunity to meet the President, we spent an hour discussing issues with newly confirmed Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, and the new disability point person at the White House, Claudia Gordon. The group stressed the need


Good News: Finding Described TV Just Got Much Easier

Wondering what's on TV with video description? Finding out just got much easier. Today, AFB launched Described TV Listings, a new, web-based search tool that helps people with vision loss quickly find described TV programming in their area. For those unfamiliar with video description, it's a verbal description of the action and visual elements of a TV show. It helps people who are blind or visually impaired more easily follow what's happening on the screen. How AFB’s Described TV Listings Work: Visit AFB.org/TV Select “Described TV Listings” Enter your zip code, cable


As CES wraps up…

There are just a couple of other items I want to share from CES. I did get a chance to play with the Fleksy keypad from Syntellia. As many know, this is an app for Android and iOS that allows text input using a touchscreen keyboard using the relative position of your finger touches to mimic the qwerty keyboard. In other words, you start typing where you think the letters are, and Fleksy fills in what it thinks you're typing. It works quite well and I found the learning curve to be very short. I can see why so many users are finding this popular. One serious drawback is that you can't use Fleksy directly in the iOS email. Instead, you enter what you want to type and paste it into an email. Bone conduction headphones are gaining in popularity. With these headphones, the


More updates from CES

Day 2 at CES featured some TV, some audio, some speech and a nice little company making nifty headphones. OK, so I sort of surrender to the TV juggernaut that is CES with a visit to Panasonic. But, this is a blindness access story and not a (super high-def, screen as large as my garage story). Some of you have probably heard about television sets from Panasonic that are available in England with great speech output for on-screen menus, channels and the like. And, we've been asking, and asking, why not here in the US? Well, Panasonic is going to release a whole bunch of televisions in the US market with


Updates from CES

After taking in a couple of sessions focusing on tech and seniors, William Reuschel and I tackled the exhibit floor (the lifeblood of CES). We got a chance to check out the Sensus from Canopy (a maker of game controllers for the iPhone), which has developed a nifty prototype for doing braille input on the iPhone using a touch-sensitive case. The input controls are on the top and back side of the case, with the fingers curled around the two ends of the phone). I was able to get the hang of brailing fairly quickly. It's not quite ready for primetime, but could prove interesting for those who would prefer braille input to the touch-screen QWERTY keypad. Possibly of greater value might be the zoom control that Canopy is developing to enable individuals with low vision


Off to Vegas for CES 2013

I am heading out to the big Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas for my first visit. CES is a huge event, with just about every tech company (and a whole lot of non-traditional tech companies) showing off their new products. I'll try to let you know what I find regarding accessibility for people with vision loss. But first, a big shoutout of thanks to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) who is assisting AFB and the Hearing Loss Association of America to be able to get the most out of the show and meet with companies and find out what's going on regarding accessibility for


One Major Step Closer to Ending an International Book Famine

Convenient and affordable access to books in formats that can be read by individuals who are blind or visually impaired has long been a major struggle. With high-quality audio and braille production, and more recently, digital production, books are now far more available for those of us with vision loss, at least in the wealthier nations. Although copyright laws in many nations allow production of accessible books for people who cannot read print, it is quite difficult and often illegal to share these accessible books across international borders. And, even with all the progress we've made, only a very small percentage of published books


Urgent: Take Action to Ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Please take action today—this afternoon and early tomorrow—and contact your U.S. senators to urge them to vote yes to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The Senate will take up the CRPD tomorrow (December 4) at noon. It is fitting that we take this action today, as we recognize the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The CRPD has strong support, with every major disability organization supporting it and the business community also expressing support. Unfortunately, some political leaders who resist international efforts are spreading lies about the impact of the CRPD on laws in the United States. In short, the CRPD will have no impact on U.S. law, which already sets the standard worldwide for disability rights and


Practical Advice 101

This past weekend, I had one of those opportunities I cherish: a chance to talk to parents of children who are blind or visually impaired. I love these opportunities, partly because I get to talk about all the things my parents got right in helping me achieve independence as a blind person. A lot of it they did on instinct and good judgment, following a few good words of advice from, believe it or not, the surgeon who removed my eyes as an infant. His parting advice was direct and profound. After the surgery, when my parents asked him if they should keep me in a playpen, he responded with, "Absolutely not. Treat him just like


Watching TV Blind: A Love-Hate Relationship

I have a longstanding love-hate relationship with television. And, for 20 years now, video description has hung like a shadow over this relationship. I grew up on the great classic comedies of the 1970s: "All in the Family," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," and "M.A.S.H." I spent far too many summer vacation hours lazily watching programs from "Love Boat" to gameshows. I later adopted sitcoms like "Cheers" and "The Cosby Show," along with a sprinkling of a few medical and legal dramas. In other words, I was a pretty typical American TV watcher. Yet, there was always a disappointing aspect to TV programs (okay, there are


Congratulating Bookshare on its 10th Anniversary

On Thursday evening, March 8, Mark Richert and I were thrilled to join Bookshare at its celebration in Washington D.C., commemorating ten years of bringing books to people with print disabilities. The event featured remarks by Senator Tom Harkin, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) who set the tone for the evening, noting that timely and affordable access to books is essential for truly equal opportunity. Donna McNear, a noted educator and leader in the blindness


Education, Technology and Accessibility

We're pretty focused around here on trying to improve opportunities for people with vision loss to use our talents and pursue our dreams. Certainly, education is one of the most important opportunities and we know that the right technologies are opening up access to education like never before. This week, Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) convened a hearing to spotlight the need to ensure that access to education is enhanced through the deployment of accessible technology. You can read more about the hearing in our breaking news item from AccessWorld. Senator Harkin was


How Can We Make Accessibility More Mainstream?

How can we ensure that mainstream products and services (including websites) are designed to meet our needs as people with disabilities? Over the past 20 years, advocates for people with disabilities have successfully pushed for legislation to foster accessibility in the design and development of information and communication technologies. For example, the Communication and Video Accessibility Act was passed to address access to advanced communications technologies like smart phones and television access (see the January AccessWorld article for more details on this law). However, far too


Thoughts from the 2011 M-Enabling Summit

In early December, leaders from around the world gathered at the M-Enabling Summit held near Washington, DC to address access to mobile technologies for people with disabilities and seniors. The summit was sponsored by http://g3ict.com/. Check out the site in a couple days to find presentations and information. I'd like to share a couple points I made during a panel on the implementation of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, (CVAA), the landmark access law enacted last year. Access to Television In July 2012, top television networks will begin providing


AT&T Takes Significant Step Forward to Improve Access to Android Phones for People with Vision Loss

This week, AT&T announced the launch of AT&T Mobile Accessibility Lite, a suite of applications for Android smart phones designed to be intuitive and easier to use for people who are blind. While I have not yet had a chance to fully test the new release, I am impressed by four things: First, it is offered at no cost. Second, AT&T Mobile Accessibility Lite is designed by Code Factory, an internationally recognized company that has made a name for itself in developing excellent software to provide access to mobile technology for people with vision loss. Third, it fills an important need, as it was designed to be easy to


Let's Talk Tech: Accessibility in a Changing Environment

In the September 2011 issue of AccessWorld, I wrote a commentary about the future of accessibility in light of the ever-shifting flow of technological advancement. I discuss how mobile information technology, rapidly developing apps, cloud computing, social networking and other developments will supplant the centrality of the PC, upend "traditional" entertainment equipment like TVs and stereos (remember walkmen?), and likely finalize the shift away from printed mediums like books and magazines. What remains in question, then, is how these changes will affect accessibility, and whether


Big Change in the Cell Phone Business Could Help People with Vision Loss

By now you've likely heard that AT&T wants to merge with T-Mobile to become the biggest cell phone provider in the United States. This proposed merger must get approval from a couple of government agencies before it is final, and there will be lots of arguments for and against the marriage of these two big carriers. But there is one thing that definitely is important for cell phone customers who are blind or visually impaired. AT&T has been a leader in providing consumers with vision loss with comprehensive access to a range of mobile phone handsets, especially smart phones. It led the way in subsidizing and supporting specialized software


AT&T Expands Options for Cell Phone Users with Vision Loss

Good news on the cell phone front. This week, AT&T Inc. announced their new partnership with Code Factory and their initiative to increase usability for wireless customers who are blind or have low vision. AT&T will now offer the screen reader and magnification software, Mobile Speak and Mobile Magnifier, on select Windows Mobile and Symbian Series 60 phones. Consumers with vision loss are advised to contact AT&T's National Center for Customers with Disabilities at 866-241-6568 with questions or for more information. We have set up a page on


Glenn Beck Makes Offensive Comments on CNN

Guest Blogger Paul Schroeder, Vice President, Programs and Policy Group --> Late last week Glenn Beck made some offensive comments on his CNN Headline News program about braille signs on walls. Media Matters has a clip on their site. The reality is that braille signage is extremely important for information and orientation purposes just like signage for anyone. And though we wish Mr. Beck would have thought twice before making such stupid remarks on national television, it has given us the opportunity to address some of the questions people have about braille in public spaces.