Blind World Magazine

Braille goes high tech.

Lincoln Journal Star, (Nebraska).
Wednesday, August 09, 2006

It's tough for most people to navigate the high-tech universe of the Internet, PDAs, cell phones, MP3 players and Bluetooth.

But electronic gadgets are the portals that allow the blind and visually impaired to see, work and play in the everyday world most of us take for granted.

"How to access information -that is our main barrier," said Fatos Floyd, director of the orientation center for the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Now that barrier is crumbling, thanks to high-tech gadgets like the Easy Link 12.

The wireless, remote-control device allows a blind person to use a computer, cell phone or a Personal Digital Assistant. Users can type in Braille - a pattern of raised dots felt with the fingers - and it appears on the device.

Then there's the Trekker. It can tell a blind person if they are approaching an intersection or a Burger King, or help them chart a route to a doctor's office.

These were some of the items on display Tuesday at the Blind and Low Vision Technology Showcase at the commission office, 4600 Valley Road.

Some of the devices and technology are state-of-the art, having the capability of translating in English and Spanish.

But the showcase also included services that allow the blind to hear 236 newspapers over the phone, and devices that tell them their blood pressure or the room's temperature.

But one of the best things about some of the gadgets is their portability, a far cry from earlier technology that took up so much space in a home or office.

Some devices cost thousands of dollars, while others - like a blood-glucose monitor - sell for $25.

The commission helps its clients buy some of the items depending on need, Floyd said. Those who can afford to buy them do so on their own.

Here are more gadgets:

Braille Voyager

The portable device displays in Braille what is shown on a PC monitor or laptop. Users can type commands in Braille or using a keyboard. They can also listen to what is typed on the computer screen. Connects to a USB port. Price: $3,495.

Kurzweil NFB Reader

A pocket-sized scanning and reading device that uses PDA and digital camera technology. A user takes a photo of a document and the device translates words to audio. Price: $3,400.


The hand-held device uses Global Positioning System technology to help a person identify a street or other location. Users can plan a route and the device will tell them if they are on course. It can also be used as a PDA to keep track of appointments and record messages. Price: $1,700.

Icon Levelstar

A palm-sized note-taking device that allows a user to access the Internet, read e-mail, or listen to music or talking books. Comes with a keyboard dock. Price: $1,700.

Bar code reader

Hand-held device reads bar codes on everything from cans to cake mixes and tells the user the item's name. Recipes also can be added for future use. Although mainly for home use, it can be taken to a grocery store. Price: $1,300.

Color identifier

This device can read the colors of a rainbow and everything in between. Press it to the fabric or other object and a voice tells you if it's green or turquoise. It also can be used as a timer, stopwatch and memo pad. Comes with games, too. Price: $600.

End of article.

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