Technology For the Blind They Still Got A Long Way To Go

2011 is here last time I checked, and we still have a long way to go in improvements of technology for the blind. First off, I do have to give Optelec and VisionZone credit for all their manufacturing and distribution on products for the visually impaired. If you have low vision, I would highly recommend using their Compact Flash. Without, I wouldn’t be able to see bills or any paperwork, and my vision has deteriorated but it is still a very useful tool to me. The Compact Flash is also very compact, and easy to carry with you, even if you are a guy and don’t carry a purse. Although I do not make use of them, Optelec also makes a lot of great CCTV’s. I would probably find it useful, but I live in a tiny apartment in NYC, and even though the CCTV’s have become more compact, space is a priority in NYC.

I am still able to use computers, thank God, but do need to use specialized software to write these blogs. I am still using Zoomtext as I like to make use of the little vision I have left, and spend most of my time on the computer with the tv on in the background, so using JAWS which speaks everything to you would be quite annoying. For those of you not familiar with Zoomtext, it is meant for those that are visually impaired, and not completely blind, as the program combines a screen magnifyer with vocie reading, and you can switch between the two along with change the screen contrast to best suit your eyes and help with the glare from the computer screen. JAWS to my understanding is just a speech program that reads everything to you and does not magnify the screen. To give you an understanding, I currently use a magnification level on Zoomtext between 2.5 and 4X depending on the site I am looking at, and use the reverse brightness setting.

Do to all of my travels with Laugh For Sight, I have a laptop and desktop. Unfortunately, they are both at least five years old, so they are not the best computers. We are currently talking with some companies about helping Laugh For Sight modernize our systems, and it has been an interesting process which I will fill you in on once I can. You will be blown away by some of the things we have gone through. I am starting to have severe difficulty using my ancient computers, and really need to upgrade to a system with improved graphics and an anti-glare screen, as I think the glare is what is bothering me the most.

One of the most useful technological tools for the visually impaired has got to be the Iphone. I have used it for over a year, as it has a great built in VoiceOver Technology. Now, I can’t see the screen, but VoiceOver does read all the pre-built in applications to me, including the phone, emails, texts, and weather. Unfortunately, most of the apps that you can install from third party providers do not work, or only partially work with the Voiceover technology. You would think that Apple who is doing a lot of great work in the acessibility field with all of their products would encourage more of the third party developers to have their Voiceover be compatible. One thing that has impressed me about Apple is that I have the Iphone 3GS and the 4 has improved acessibility functions. Well, I finally got around to updating my 3GS software and in doing so, it upgrade the accessibility features. Allowing me to now use up to a 56 font in applications that I am typing in. Impressive, as most companies would make you buy the new version of the product to get the improved features. Some of the best apps that work with VoiceOver are Facebook, Twitter, and FoxSports. Amazingly all of ESPN’s apps do not work with VoiceOver. I guess I am now becoming more of a Fox Sports fan. Shame on you ESPN, get with the program. My gift now to my visually impaired readers who use the Iphone, is my discovery of the best application for visually impaired or blind users of the Iphone. Dragon Dictation and Search. WOW, and its about time. With Dragon Dictation, you can speak your thoughts, and with the click of a button, send an SMS, email, post to Facebook, or post to Twitter. I have had a blast using this app since I discovered it a few weeks ago. With Dragon Search you can speak your search terms. These apps are great, but like anything, the program doesnt always get your speech correct, but it is the best thing out there I have discovered. What does amaze me about Apple and the Iphone is that I have yet to discover a site that is frequently updated with a list of the user friendly accessibility apps. If someone knows of one, please let me know.

There are more and more technological tools being introduce for the blind and visually impaired. My favorite one I have come across is the talking fly swatter! Seriously, they make one. Not sure of the point of that. Does it speak to you that you have killed the fly? Is that something that is really necessary? I would say once you stop hearing the buzzing, you got the sucker.

Another thing I have learned, going blind ain’t cheap! I have discovered some great tools for the blind, then I look at the price and of course the product is in the several thousand dollar range. They now make GPS systems for the blind, and products that will scan a document or bill, and then read it out loud to you.

Well, I can go on and on about technology, my props, and of course my complaints, but I just wanted to give you a taste of what I have been thinking about. One thing I would like to see a bigger push on is every day household items being manufactured with VoiceOver technology. If an Iphone can do it, what should all technology be able to do it, as most modern products all have some kind of computer chip in it. Think about these your Tivo menu reads the titles of your shows out loud to you, your DVD player offers an option to describe the movie to you, your microwave would speak the options out loud to you, your fridge would give you temperature settings, water, or ice, and I can go on forever, but now the next Playoff game is starting. Go PACKERS, Nash and I HATE the vick!

4 Responses to “Technology For the Blind They Still Got A Long Way To Go”

  1. Barbara Fischler Says:

    Wow. I thought I was up to date on the technology (don’t laugh) I did. Well I wasn’t. You have certainly enlightened me and hopefully given some great ideas to those out there who can manufacture some better products. Way to go with this blog.

  2. blindgator Says:

    Thanks, glad you enjoyed it, and I only briefly touched on it. Yeah, I did chuckle when you wrote I thought I understood technology. LOL

  3. Barbara Fischler Says:

    Always glad to provide a laugh!!!

  4. Geeoff Says:

    Apple TV is the latest and greatest. Stream from your Iphone or computer Itunes. Voice over equipped. Net Flix, You Tuve, and much more. Air play lets you control Itunes on computer or Apple TV with a simple app. One plug in and a HDMI to HD TV and that is it. Jaws is very simular to voice over. Oh, the sound on the voice over for Apple TV sounds great and cuts the music a bit while it talks as you go through the menu. Nice! Jaws has no glare. I can use zoom or cctv but I never tire of Jaws. You may want to try the free demo.

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