CCB National Newsletter
++CCB Ontario Chapter Conference Call: The CCB Ontario Chapters will be meeting via conference call on April 19 at 7:30 p.m., and all Ontario Chapters are invited to have one representative participate in the meeting. The conference call number is 1-866-351-5099, and at the prompt press # 229.
++White Cane Week 2012: To watch fantastic coverage of the AMI Canadian Vision Impaired Curling Championship medal presentations, please visit:
++ Math by touch: new tablet app teaches the visually impaired to do math
For the visually impaired, certain subjects are particularly challenging. While English and biology can often be learned by listening to e-books or lectures, math and physics rely heavily on visual information like graphs and formulas. Learning even basic algebra and geometry becomes a huge obstacle to those who cannot see what most students can see.
Now, a student at Vanderbilt University is trying to provide visually impaired students with a new way to learn math using tablets like the iPad and Android.
The project uses something called “haptic technology” – tactile responses like vibrations or motion built into devices. These kinds of things are commonly built into video game controllers and biomedical robots.
Gorlewicz says, “When I began reading articles about haptic technology being incorporated into these new touch screen devices, I realized that the people who really need haptics are people with impaired vision because they heavily rely on their sense of touch to ‘see’ the world around them. I love math and I love teaching, so I immediately thought of using them for math education, because it has such a strong visual component.”
The way the tablets teach math is by responding to the users touch with sound and vibrations. Here’s how they describe one way the app can be used:
For example, in an exercise that includes an X-Y grid, she can set the horizontal and vertical lines to vibrate at different frequencies and set points to make a certain tone. In this way, it’s easier for the students to distinguish between the gridlines and the points on the grid.
The researchers are testing the technology with the help of two visually impaired students at Hillsboro High School in Nashville named Kira and Quinn. Their teaching aid, Ann Smith, sits when them in classes to help them follow along with the app. “One of these haptic tablets would allow them to keep up much better,” she said. “If I didn’t have to attend class with them, it would also make them feel more independent.”
The next step, according to Gorlewicz, is to develop a touch sensitive graphing calculator – to help the students keep up with their classmates.
By Rose Eveleth | March 5, 2012,
++CCB Member Highlight: Janet Bowman was recently featured in a newsletter from Antigonish, NS. Here is what was featured on Janet:
Pet Peeve: People who butt in front of the line!
Favourite Food: Chocolate!
Favourite Hobbies: Knitting, singing and playing guitar
Janet can be found each day on the main level of St. Martha’s
Hospital, smiling and greeting patients and staff in the canteen
that bears her name. When she isn't working in the canteen, Janet enjoys volunteering for the Canadian Council of the Blind-an organization that she is a member of, relaxing with friends or family, or playing on the computer. Next time you are at St. Martha’s stop in and say ‘hi!’!
In the News
++Braille is thriving in a high-tech world: Braille still has the bumps - but now it has the high-tech bells and whistles, too.
"It's a revolution in making material accessible to people who can't read print and know how to read Braille," says Darlene Bogart, national braille convener for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.
This is no small matter. Without Braille, a blind person can't read and write, so independence depends on it. About 85 per cent of blind people who are employed know Braille.
Braille-equipped electronic readers and iPhones (indeed, all Apple devices are Braille compatible) now enable people to go about their daily lives with greater independence. A blind individual simply types directly on to any computer or smartphone and the words are converted into Brail, which can be read on a separate display by touch.
That display, a portable device called a refreshable Braille display, communicates via wireless Bluetooth connection. And its getting small enough to fit in a pocket.
Another portable device, called a notetaker, allows a user to convert any electronic file into Braille - say, a restaurant menu, an agenda or an article. Online text is easily converted into Braille.
Costs for the devices vary from $900 to $5,000, prohibitively expensive for many young people.
Technology has long been part of the picture in helping integrate blind individuals - notably audio books and voice-recognition. But the experts say there is no replacement for that 200-
year-old tactile writing system.
While it has long been standard to see Braille on elevator buttons, it is only with the aid of the new technology that such everyday items as prescription labels, groceries, menus and phone numbers can be reproduced in Braille, says Debbie Gillespie, a Braille user who works at the CNIB.
"Technology has been an equalizer," she says.
With sophisticated smartphone technology, Braille users can take a snapshot of a document and convert it on the spot to Braille.
"If you do know Braille, you can do anything," she says. "You can sit in a meeting with all the financial reports at your fingertips, literally, like everybody else has. It opens employment doors, that's a proven fact."
Toronto resident and CCB member Chelsea Mohler, a Masters student in rehabilitation science at the University of Western Ontario, uses a Braille display and screen reading software every day to read and write. "It allows me to have access to the same computer resources as everybody else, Mohler, 26, says. She also uses a talking GPS to get around.
Until the 1960s, Braille was routinely taught to blind children. Then came mainstreaming, and universal access to Braille instruction dipped. Then the advent of computers encouraged listening over reading and literacy levels, particularly spelling, dropped among blind people.
"Can you imagine doing math by hearing it only?" asks Bogart. "How can you learn a foreign language?
By the early 1990s, the education system recognized the importance of Braille and began to provide more and better Braille instruction.
Braille is more available in business and customer service in the States as a result of accessibility legislation passed 20 years ago. Europe and Japan is also ahead of Canada.
But while Canadian regulations have lagged, many companies have nevertheless moved ahead. "You are going to be seeing more and more Braille throughout the world," Bogart says.
The same technology that opens up the world has led to a decline in the large cumbersome Braille books of the past - Braille type requires 2.5 times more space than regular print. The decline is most noticeable in the plummeting use of library books available to CNIB clients.
However, that is not a reflection on the use of Braille, Bogart hastens to add.
"There are many people out there who have not borrowed a book from the library in years, yet they have their CD collection listed in Braille," she says.
The Braille alphabet does pose a challenge to seniors who lose their sight later in life through conditions such as macular degeneration. A sizable majority of people who could benefit from reading through touch simply don't. It is estimated that less than 10 per cent of those without sight know Braille.
Most Canadians with sight impairment are more than 65 - and their numbers will increase as our population ages.
After a lifetime of being able to read print, there is less incentive to learn Braille, and some elderly people may lack the memory and sensory capability to learn it. That's where audio files and voice recognition helps.
Blindness is rare in children and youth, but young people who have impaired vision want to blend in. Before the new Braille technology was available, those big Braille books made them stand out in class, says Bogart.
"Some kids would have a really hard time and do anything to pretend they are just like everybody else. With technology, they are."
By Barbara Turnbull, The Toronto Star, March 15, 2012
++Blind TV Personality:
If you are interested in Ultimate Fighting– a mix of traditional boxing and martial arts, you may already know their promotional announcer, Ken Osborne is blind. So although Ken has never seen a match himself, he manages to get viewers excited about the upcoming fights through the power of his voice. Visit here to read an interview with Ken Osborne. http://www.selfprotech.net/2009/01/meet-ken-osborne-voice-behind-ufcs-pay_27.html
++GPS Technology: The Swiss Federation of the Blind (SFB) has launched a GPS app for smartphones; the “lite” version is free.
MyWay is a GPS orientation aid which provides distance and directional information to a selected point of interest. These might include an address from your address book or a point on a self-defined route.
Enter a name of the route first, for example “From Home to the bus stop” Then you can add a route point you think important whenever you want, for example at an intersection. The app offers many ways to define a route point. The simplest way to do this is to shake the iPhone.
A Lite version of the app is available for free, whilst the paid version currently costs $19.99.
The paid version allows file exchange via the iTunes file sharing option. There, you can also import files containing nodes in Open Street Map format giving access to hundreds of points of interest in the proximity such as bus stops or restaurants.
++Navigation: Students have invented a prototype shoe loaded with sensors to help navigate through an environment. They hope devices like this will one day replace the white cane for visually impaired people. The link has both text and video/ audio to convey the full story: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/technology/2011/09/students-invent-vibrating-shoe-for-the-blind/
++The new PenFriend Laundry labels: Customers and users of the award winning PenFriend have been pining for a way to use it to label their clothes. The regular labels for the PenFriend are not suited for labeling clothes as they cannot keep up with the rigors of regular washing and drying, and end up disintegrating in the dryer or losing the adhesive and coming loose in the wash.
RNIB, the makers of the PenFriend, in response to the overwhelming demand have engineered a product specifically for this need.
Introducing the new PenFriend Laundry labels: Label your clothes using your own voice.
Use your RNIB PenFriend to record the pattern, color and care instructions of your entire wardrobe onto these self-adhesive labels, and never leave the house with odd socks or a mismatched outfit again!
The self-adhesive labels come in a package of 48, each measuring 1.1 inches by 0.8 inches - which is fairly large. The special adhesive on the back of these labels means that no stiching is required to affix them in place, and can be directly applied to cotton and other smooth and slippery fabrics like silk. Each label can withstand numerous washes and up to 120 degrees of temperature. These labels are slightly different than standard PenFriend labels. The material is thicker, and the labels are die-cut giving them a long life.
For more information, please visit:
++Similar to PenFriend but cheaper!:
Last year, a new product from Franklin Electronics called AnyBook Reader was launched. It is aimed at the working, busy or traveling parent, far-away grandparent, or any other long distance relatives, who want to bond with a child even when they are apart. It's an interactive reading device that allows you to read & record any book in your personal library in your own voice and then allows your toddler (who may or may not know how to read yet) to follow along with their favorite books and your voice. So that you're reading the book instead of the Nanny!
AnyBook can be purchased through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. There is a 15-hour version ($39.99), and a 60-hour
AnyBook comes with a selection of blank stickers for recording your voice. There are also stickers that have sounds recorded in them if appropriate to the book (dog, fire truck, rain, crying, etc). The stickers are made to be removed and won't ruin your pages. You can even re-record on them or order more if you run out.
You touch the button on the pen to start the record mode. You hear a few beeps and it is ready for you to record. That's it! So easy!
Here’s what people are saying: Last week I quickly and easily recorded two books so that I could carry it everywhere with me. My first stop was the school where I was meeting with my son's teachers and therapists.
I opened the first book and put the reader to the sticker. They heard the book being read through the pen and then I opened the next book to show them how the reader will read anything I record into the sticker. They all looked at me in amazement.
Everyone stated the same thing; they have seen other readers out there but you have to buy books from the maker of the pen. That is what makes this pen so much better! You can read/record your children's favorite books and they can hear you read to them anytime.