[nfb-talk] HumanWare Begins Shipping New DeafBlind Communicator

HumanWare nicolas.lagace at humanware.com
Thu Dec 4 02:15:50 UTC 2008


(a web version with photos is available 

Deaf-blind people have been dreaming about a truly portable and 
integrated replacement for the TeleBraille since it stopped 
production in 1993.  This week, HumanWare made that dream come true 
as it began shipping its new DeafBlind Communicator (DBC).

The DBC enables deaf-blind users to effectively communicate with 
other deaf people and the general public in many different ways.  The 
basic DBC provides a TTY (with answering machine) for communicating 
with other deaf or deaf-blind individuals.  It also includes a 
totally portable face-to-face communication system for dealing with 
sighted/hearing people on buses, in restaurants and shops, at school, 
or with colleagues and customers in the workplace.

"Imagine the freedom that comes from being able to communicate with 
nearly anyone anywhere," said Jim Halliday, President Emeritus of 
HumanWare.  "The DBC finally gives this capability to people who are 
both deaf and blind."

The DBC consists of two components, 1) a BrailleNote with Braille 
display and either a standard or Braille keyboard and special DB 
software, and 2) the DBC Companion phone.  These two separate units 
communicate wirelessly with each other using Bluetooth 
technology.  The BrailleNote also has special software built into it 
that enables it to operate as a TTY when connected to a telephone 
landline.  The BrailleNote and the DBC Companion are used together to 
allow Face-to-Face communication with a sighted person.

Photo - Face-to-face unit communicating through Bluetooth with DBC

"I was working at TSI back in the 1980s when we first introduced 
TeleBraille," adds Halliday.  "Although it was an effective TTY, it 
wasn't portable enough to carry around as a general 
communicator.  The DBC changes all that."

HumanWare developed the DBC in partnership with the Washington State 
Office of Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ODHH).  The DBC is the result of 
extensive collaboration between deafblind individuals and focus 
groups, professionals from both the deaf and blind communities, and 
HumanWare's engineering and marketing teams.  "Before I retired 
completely from this industry, I wanted to make sure that an 
appropriate, easy-to-use product was available to this special 
population.  The partnership with ODHH has made this possible," 
stated Halliday gratefully.

Photo - DBC BT 32 Communicating via Bluetooth with Face-to-face unit

More than TTY and Face-to-face Communication

In this modern world of smart phones and PDAs, texting and instant 
messaging (IM) have become key modes of communication.  Ironically, 
these relatively new forms of mainstream communication are quite 
similar in concept to traditional modes of deaf communication.  More 
importantly, because the DBC is based on modern technology, an 
adventurous user can actually activate texting and instant messaging 
capabilities on the DBC.  With the addition of a SIM card and a 
texting plan from a wireless provider, a DBC user is able to send and 
receive text messages to and from anyone with a cell phone.  In other 
words, a deaf-blind person is now able to communicate exactly the 
same way everyone else does, not just with other deaf-blind people, 
but with anyone who has a cell phone.  The DBC instantly translates 
the text to Braille and visa versa.  "This is really an important 
point," says Dominic Gagliano, VP of Blindness Products at 
HumanWare.  "A person's disability completely disappears in this 
situation.  Whether a message is read by one person on a visual 
screen and the other person on a Braille display is irrelevant.  The 
communication happens exactly the same way as if two sighted cell 
phone users were texting each other."

Activate BrailleNote's Full Suite of Applications

BrailleNote is the world's most widely used portable Braille device 
for blind people.  It contains a full suite of mainstream-type 
applications such as a word processor, a scientific calculator, an 
email program, an Internet browser, a planner, an address book, and 
more.  Because many deaf-blind people are not initially interested in 
these advanced features, the basic DBC hides them, leaving only the 
TTY and Face-to-face features.  However, any user can choose to 
activate the advanced features when he or she is ready because they 
are already built into every DBC at no extra cost.

Pricing* and Models
There are two price points for the DBC which correspond directly to 
the number of Braille cells on the units, 18 or 32.  Both of these 
choices are available with either Braille (BT) keyboards or QWERTY 
(QT- typewriter) keyboards.  All models include Face-to-face units.

DBC BT32 - $7,995.00
DBC QT32 - $7,995.00
DBC BT18 - $6,195.00
DBC QT18 - $6,195.00
*All prices in US dollars

Existing BrailleNote mPower users who are running v 7.5 of the 
software will be able to upgrade their units to DBCs at a price of 
$2,495.00.  Current users that are familiar with the KeySoft upgrade 
process or able to seek assistance will not need to send in their 
BrailleNotes to install the DBC software. HumanWare will provide an 
SD memory card with the authorization key and DBC software on the 
card and the installation is identical to upgrading KeySoft. Both 
Braille and print instructions will be included. If you prefer to 
have HumanWare install DBC and send in your unit, HumanWare will 
provide this without charge.

HumanWare US is Now Taking Orders and Shipping
HumanWare will deliver DBCs on a first come first serve basis as 
orders arrive.  To be among the first to receive a DBC, you may now 
place your orders with:

175 Mason Circle
CA 94520

Toll-free phone (US only) 1 800 722-3393
Phone +1 925 680-7100
Fax +1 925 681-4630
E-mail: us.info at humanware.com

More Information on the DBC
For more detailed information on the features and options of the DBC, 
check out the HumanWare website:

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Media contact:
Nicolas Lagace
Tel.: 450 463-1717
Email: nicolas.lagace at humanware.com

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