[Nfbmo] Fw: new tool for visually impaired

fred olver goodfolks at charter.net
Tue Aug 2 14:58:31 UTC 2011

Jim, I'm definitely in favor of technology because of it's practical aspects 
but I have to wonder if the office of student services paid someone to 
either take down the information that was placed on the chalk boards or 
asking the instructor to make available to the V.I. students the information 
covered in each day's lectures wouldn't be more efficient and less expensive 
than a device such as the one that is outlined here?
Especially since we have no indication of how large the field of vision is 
enlarged or what manipulative tasks are involved in moving the device to see 
a different quadrant of the board in question.

Also, I'm remembering the days when no type of hand-holding was available 
for students in college accept those really bad recordings of well-meaning 
individuals who read us our books on tapes. No choice of which format our 
books would be in, no choice of whether we would have access to tests or any 
other materials for that matter in any format other than print, and it was 
up to us to be the responsible party in getting the materials read by a 
well-meaning friend or classmate.
And we did manage without these things to get through college and have 
successful careers inspite of it all.

Fred Olver
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "James Moynihan" <jamesmmoynihan at gmail.com>
To: "NFB of Missouri Mailing List" <nfbmo at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Tuesday, August 02, 2011 9:29 AM
Subject: [Nfbmo] Fw: new tool for visually impaired

Fellow Federationists


Jim Moynihan
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Neuman, Dale A." <NeumanD at umkc.edu>
To: <jamesmmoynihan at gmail.com>
Sent: Tuesday, August 02, 2011 7:50 AM
Subject: new tool for visually impaired

College students with very poor vision have had to struggle to see a
blackboard and take notes—basic tasks that can hold some back. Now a team of
four students from Arizona State University has designed a system, called
Note-Taker, that couples a tablet PC and a video camera, and could be a
major advance over the small eyeglass-mounted telescopes that many students
have had to rely on. It recently
won<http://www.imaginecup.com/CompetitionsContent/2011Winners.aspx> second
place in Microsoft’s Imagine Cup technology competition.

There are roughly 75,000 students at colleges and trade schools who are
visually impaired. The telescopes allow students with low vision to see the
blackboard, but they can only focus on one section at a time. Then they have
to take off the telescope, write notes, and then go back to the board and
try and catch up with the lecture.

David S. Hayden, who graduated from Arizona State in May, understands these
challenges—he can only read texts if he gets about two inches away from the
material. Mr. Hayden, the lead designer of Note-Taker, says he faced a
“morbid tradeoff” in class. Using the assistive technology that was
available to him, he could either take notes or listen and absorb the
information, but never both. After he had to withdraw from three
senior-level math classes, he says, “I realized the existing technologies
weren’t going to assist my needs, so I had a project on my hands.”

The result was Note-Taker, which connects a tablet PC (a laptop with a
screen you can write on) to a high-resolution video camera. Screen commands
get the camera to pan and zoom. The video footage, along with audio, can be
played in real time on the tablet and are also saved for later reference.
Alongside the video is a space for typed or handwritten notes, which
students can jot down using a stylus. That should be helpful in math and
science courses, says Mr. Hayden, where students need to copy down graphs,
charts, and symbols not readily available on a keyboard.

Mr. Hayden built a prototype of the device with the help of John A. Black
Jr., a researcher specializing in computing and human visual perception at
the university’s Center for Cognitive Ubiquitous Computing. The project was
then awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation and refined with
the help of Michael Astrauskas, Shashank Srinivas, and Qian Yan, who are
Arizona State students.

“It’s unlike what I’ve seen,” says Clara Van Gerven, an access-technology
content specialist with the National Federation of the Blind. The
handwriting feature seems valuable, and she has not seen it in other
computer-compatible video-recording systems. Note-Taker, she says, “uses
existing technology to its advantage and then adds the rewind feature and
the manual note-taking to that. It seems like it would be a useful tool.”

But no tool can replace institutional support, says Chris S. Danielsen,
director of public relations for the federation. “The university is always
going to have to make sure that whatever technology it uses is accessible to
blind and low-vision students,” he says. (Arizona State U. has gotten in hot
water in the
past<http://chronicle.com/article/Blind-Students-Demand-Access/125695/> in
just this area.)

The team continues to develop the Note-Taker—a fourth-generation model is
already in the works—and is looking into ways to get it on the market.
Though the prototype is prohibitively expensive, the designers hope to bring
the price tag down to $1,000 per camera unit (the tablet PC would be
purchased separately), so that it will be affordable to more consumers.
Their second-place finish a few weeks ago in the Imagine Cup’s
software-design category may also attract some interest.

Mr. Hayden is starting graduate school in the fall at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology. He’s taking one of the Note-Taker models with him
to use when classes resume.

Dale A. Neuman
Director, Harry S Truman Center for Governmental Affairs
Special Projects Associate, College of Arts and Sciences
Professor Emeritus of Political Science
816-235-6108 or 816-235-2787
FAX 816-235-5191
Neumand at umkc.edu

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