It's Throwback Thursday and I'm posting a 2 for 1!! I did this blog post back in 2008, and sadly the technology hasn't advanced much since.
Deafblind Access - Where? (Part One)
The other day I did an internet search for DeafBlind Accessibility products I was suprised to find it amazingly limited!
On one Accessibility Products "Vendor" site, there's about 200 products for "Deaf or Hard of Hearing" such as: ttys, videophones, visual alerts, pagers, volume controls, amplifiers, closed captioned televisions, captioned phones, hearing aids, CIs, etc.
On the same site there's about 300 products for "Blind or Low Vision" like Braillers, screenreaders (reads computer screen to speech), talking clocks, magnifiers, Large Print materials, talking handheld GPS system, audiobooks, money identifier, and a variety of equipment that "speaks".
But there's only 7 products for "DeafBlind" like Braille ttys, tactile alert (pager vibrates when phone rings, door knocks, etc), TellaTouch (a manual typewriter with a Braille output: person types their message on keyboard and the DeafBlind feels the Braille), and a few vibrating/tactile products.
Only 7 things?? What the Hell???
Then after my blog on "DeafBlind Communication", it hit me! There's no way to categorize "DeafBlind" products because we are so widely varied in our needs. The individual that has some usable hearing can choose to use an amplified system (FM system) and volume controls. Others with usable vision, like myself, can choose Large Print products and magnifiers. So we really end up "picking and choosing" from products on both lists. But for the "truly" DeafBlind with no usable vision or hearing, the products are very limited.
(To be Continued....)
Deafblind Access - Where?? (Part 2)
(Rod Sterling's Voice) "..... This is the dimension of imagination. It is the area which we call....The Twilight Zone" (Spooky music)
In an apartment, a DB person is watching TV via her "CaptionBrailler", finds out the weather will be sunny all day. She collects her "CommuniBraille" and her computerized white cane and heads out on her errands. The white cane feeds her information about her surroundings via a touchpad on her belt, "Amy's Bodega is on your right" the touchpad spells out in Braille. She slowly taps her way down the street until the touchpad informs her "Post Office across the street on your left". She stops at the crosswalk and feels the crosswalk button until it vibrates, signaling that it's safe to cross. She crosses and enters the post office. Making her way to the counter she takes out her CommuniBraille" and types in "May I have 2 stamps please?" The CommuniBraille voices her request and the postmaster slips 2 stamps into her hand.
Meanwhile across town another DB person who has some sight enters the grocery store. He's wearing computerized sunglasses and is carrying his handheld "ASLContact". He searches the aisle signs which the sunglasses magnify 4 times, he finds the canned goods aisle and walks down. An employee approaches him and talks to him. He notices her and holds up his ASLContact to her. A small sign on the front requests her to speak into the microphone. She asks again "Do you need help?" The ASLContact's screen lights up and a computerized figure signs in ASL. He types in "I'm looking for Chicken Soup" and a voice speaks his request.
Alright, alright, (clicking TV off) now that was farfetched eh? Is any of this possible?
Some of it actually is getting close to reality. Let's go over the scenarios:
"CaptionBrailler" - There seems to be 2 products available called the "Braille TeleCaption System" and the "Closed Caption/Braille Computer System (CCBCS)". Notice I said "seems", these products are listed on www.deafblind.com 's listing of equipment available. But further research turns up nothing on the internet.
"CommuniBraille" - There is a product that allows communication via "instant messaging". It's called the FaceToFace by Freedom Scientific (www.freedomscientific.com/products/fs/facetoface-product-page.asp). It's a pocket PC with Bluetooth technology that allows the DB to have conversations wirelessly with anyone they need to. The DB types on their Braille keyboard and the other person types on a keyboard on another handheld PC (included). But can it convert Braille to Voice like I imagined? No, not yet.
"Computerized White Cane" - Is this available? No it's not (but would be kewl). But there is a white cane that uses sonar (like bats) that alerts the user via vibrations. This would alert the user of objects either overhead or in front of them.
"Vibrating CrossWalk" - Yes this product is available! More and more "Audible Crosswalks" are popping up across the US and Canada which alert the "Hearing Blind" to cross by loud beeps. Sadly though there are very few tactile vibrating crosswalks.
"Computerized Sunglasses" - There is such a product called "Bioptic telescope glasses". This product is made by Ocutech (www.ocutech.com), and are glasses or sunglasses which have a miniature telescope on top. These can magnify your vision up to 4 times.
"ASL Contact" - There are products for the computer that can translate spoken English into ASL. The limit is that the "speaker" has to program their voice into the program and then the computer can recognize the speech from that user only. It cannot be "taken anywhere" and recognize any speaker. Are we getting closer with this technology? I believe so. There are many "spoken" operated products available (such as 'Sync), so we're getting closer and closer to this being available.
Now why don't more DeafBlind have these products in their arsenal? The biggest reason is $$$. The sonic cane I mentioned runs about $700 bucks! Some day in the future things will get smaller and cheaper; hey, our home computers used to be big clunky things that ran into the thousands of dollars.
Now a little "disclaimer" - The twilight zone story told here is totally fiction made up inside my warped imagination. So don't be emailing me about "I never saw that episode!" (wink)