[Nfbmo] Fw: new tool for visually impaired

DanFlasar at aol.com DanFlasar at aol.com
Tue Aug 2 18:48:58 UTC 2011

   This system is particularly useful for people in science and  math 
classes, which present information primarily in visual terms that are not  easily 
interpretable even w/ today's technology.  Although I can't judge  whether 
this device is effective in all science and math classes in all cases,  my 
impression was that the blind are not well-represented in science and math  
programs (please correct me if I'm wrong).  Access barriers can steer  a 
student away from engineering and math because, difficult as they can  be to 
begin with, having to gerry-rig some way of reading graphics  makes it more 
difficult stil.
    I had a great deal of trouble, for example,  participating in webinars 
required in my last posision at Wash U in  which project management 
schematics were presented on a shared  webpage.   The window in which the schematic 
was presented was a  simple video-feed - in other words, not - usable by a 
screen reader. Though I  have some usable vision, I was not able to fully 
participate in the webinar  because, despite very large monitors, I couldn't 
get the overall sense of the  proposed scope of the changes to the project 
fast enough to keep up with the  other presenters.
     I worked out an arrangement wherein all graphical  material was sent 
to me in the original document format at least an hour before  webinar time, 
and w/ Gary Wunder's help in sending along some helpful links and  with 
Freedom Scientific's help, I was able to get JAWS to read the diagrams but  it 
was slow, cumbersome, inconsistent and presented in such a way that it was  
very difficult to follow the flow of the algorithms.   
    I'm not yet sure exactly what technology would make this  problem 
easier to resolve but I'm all for efforts to find new tech  options.
    I should note, though, that at PowerUp this  year -  and last  year - 
the big excitement was all about the iPod, iPhone and iPad  platform which 
offers an environment to create specialized applications that  duplicated the 
functionality of specific use devices that cost thousands of  dollars.  I 
suspect that given the increase in resolution of phone and web  cameras, it 
should be relatively easy to mount one of them on a bendable stalk  attached 
to a USB port.  The software component wouldn't be  difficult to create.   
I'm sure Android devices can offer the same  platform flexibility.  This would 
eliminate the need to cobble together  large devices like a video camera 
and laptop.
     Technology has already made huge strides in  making us less depdenent 
on well-meaning friends.
In a message dated 8/2/2011 9:59:21 A.M. Central Daylight Time,  
goodfolks at charter.net writes:

Jim, I'm  definitely in favor of technology because of it's practical 
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 
covered in each day's lectures wouldn't be more efficient and less  
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 
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  
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 
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 
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  
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 
blind and  low-vision students,” he says. (Arizona State U. has gotten in 
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 
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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