Blind World Magazine

Technology helps the blind to read.

November 12, 2005.
Centre Daily Times (Penn State, USA).

STATE COLLEGE -- Laura Wolk, a 19-year-old freshman at Swarthmore College, is blind, so for every class she attends, she has to get any handouts in advance and make sure someone is available to read them to her so she doesn't fall behind.

On Friday, she got her hands on a new piece of technology that could make her life, in and out of the classroom, a lot easier.

She was attending the state convention of the National Federation for the Blind, which began Friday at the Atherton Hotel and continues through Sunday. She had the opportunity to try the NFB Kurzweil Reader.

Among exhibits on technology to assist the blind, and in between seminars on topics ranging from guide dogs to yoga, the Kurzweil Reader was the most talked-about item of the day.

Developed by Kurzweil Technologies in conjunction with the federation, it is a personal digital assistant connected to a digital camera that takes a picture of any object -- a sheet of paper, page in a book or a box of cereal -- and reads it out loud.

It's only a prototype, but testing is slated to begin in the spring, said Lynn Heitz, vice president of the NFB of Pennsylvania. The units will have a price tag of about $3,000.

The reader will allow blind users to go grocery shopping and hear what is written on labels, or to read printed class material with a headset.

"The reader creates another level of independence," said Heitz who, as a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, has a large amount of reading for which she needs assistance. The Kurzweil Reader, she said, would allow her to read books and reports on her own time.

Wolk was also this year's recipient of a $1,000 NFB scholarship.

For more information on the National Federation of the Blind visit or call (215) 988-0888.

Ivonne D'Amato can be reached at 231-4619.

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