Answered Questions is a monthly resource for the Spanish language Disability Community that fills an information need. Each month, we look through the searches on our blog and through the information requests made by our patrons who speak Spanish and pick a topic that fills the largest need. Each resource mentioned below is associated with this month’s information need. We search the various Spanish language news sources and feeds throughout the month to bring you these articles. With the exception of the NIDILRR Projects and Further Investigation, all the linked articles and resources are in Spanish – any that are in English will be clearly marked. This month’s question is: What technology is available/being researched so that people with visual disabilities have access to employment, education, community living, and so on? This edition of Answered Questions includes items that discuss talking campus models, universal home environments, a 3D computer vision system, discusses a cane that recognizes faces, information access, and a video about a bionic eye.
Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center: Develop and Evaluate Technology for Low Vision, Blindness, and Multi-Sensory Loss (90RE5008/H133E110004) (In English).
This NIDILRR funded project’s comprehensive research and development program delves into the areas of blindness, low vision, and sensory loss, and focuses on assessment, access to technology, and education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Within these areas, the project identifies and addresses outstanding problems faced by different age and population groups. This project expands the research on existing computer-vision-based sign finding and sign reading to solve practical user-oriented problems. This project is also developing a next-generation, reduced-cost version of the Remotely Accessible Infrared Signage technology and is pursuing the development of special hearing aids that are designed to augment wayfinding cues for people with co-occurring visual and hearing disabilities. The researchers also partner with a major science curriculum developer to apply these and other technologies so as to adapt widely used mainstream science curricula to support STEM education for students with visual disabilities.
HomePortal – A Universal Home Environment for Individuals who are Blind or Have Visual Impairments (90BI0022) (In English).
The current phase of this NIDILRR funded project is building on previous research to complete the HomePortal system and application, expand the features and functions, perform extensive usability evaluations of the system in a wide range of settings, and transition into commercialization. HomePortal is an innovative approach and state-of-the-art software that aids with daily living activities and removes barriers in the home for elderly people with disabilities, including visual disabilities. The HomePortal system has been developed to promote independence, enhance self-esteem, and create opportunities for self-direction.
Overbrook School for Blind’s Talking Campus Model: Demonstrating New Fabrication Methods for Interactive Wayfinding and Orientation Aids. (90BI0025). (In English).
This NIDILRR funded project is developing and redefining fabrication methods so as to drastically reduce the costs and complexity of accessible interactive maps and models for wayfinding and orientation in public places. Researchers are designing, implementing, and evaluating the Talking Campus Model for the Overbrook School of the Blind, which includes opaque scale models of campus building that are placed on a translucent base layer that shows roads and other landscape features in tactile relief. Users explore the model with their hands and use a simple gestural vocabulary of differently numbered taps on any location so they can hear spoken information about that specific place.
CamIO: A 3D computer vision system enabling audio/haptic interaction with physical objects by blind users. (O20016) (In English).
This article describes the Camera Input-Output (CamIO), which is a novel camera system that was designed to make physical objects, such as documents, devices, and 3D models, fully accessible to people with visual disabilities. The prototype provides real-time audio feedback in relation to the location of an object that the user is pointing to.
Computer technologies that aid the access to information by the visual disabilities community (Discapnet – Spain).
This article, which is a part of Discapnet’s grouping of webpages on blindness, speaks about computer technologies that provide access to information and communication to the visual disabilities community. It describes technologies such as software that enlarges items on a computer screen, screen readers such as JAWS, systems that work outside of computers that read screens in different languages, and image magnifiers.
A cane for the Blind that recognizes faces (Tendencias Tecnológicas – Spain)
A group of students at Birmingham City University in the United Kingdom have developed a revolutionary intelligent cane for people who are blind. Within the cane, they have incorporated smartphone technology with those technologies that recognize familiar faces up to 10 meters away. The cane can also guide the user to different destinations.
CaptiVoice (CharmTech Labs LLC) (In English)
Charmtech Labs LLC developed a ubiquitous screen reader that will read aloud any text on a tablet, phone, or computer. Developed under several NIDILRR-funded Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants, CaptiVoice can be used to read ebooks, newspapers, emails, web pages, cloud files, and any other screen-based material. The technology can be helpful for people with print or cognitive disabilities.
Man gets bionic eye, sees wife for the first time in a decade (CNN)
This video from CNN tells the story of a man from Minnesota who, after receiving a bionic eye implant at the Mayo Clinic, is able to see his wife for the first time in ten years. The 60 electrodes implanted into his eye send information to his optic nerve which allow him to see shapes.
- The Accessibility and Mobile Apps Story (AbleData – US). This factsheet from AbleData shares an overview of the development of smartphone apps and the benefits they provide people with disabilities. It describes popular disability-related apps that are currently available and categorizes them by disability, including for people who are blind or have low vision. It also discusses an app that is currently under development that warns people with visual disabilities of obstacles in their way. Although the factsheet is in English, AbleData does provide services in Spanish.
- Unión Nacional de Ciegos del Uruguay (UNUC). UNUC is a non-profit organization in Uruguay whose goal is fight for the rights of people with visual disabilities. Provides information about visual disabilities, an FAQ, information about technology for people with disabilities, and a list of organizations for people with visual disabilities in Uruguay.
- Instituto Nacional Para Ciegos (INCI – Colombia). INCI is a national institute for the supporting people who are blind or have visual disabilities in Colombia. Its mission is the organization, planning and execution of public policies at a national level that have inclusive education in mind for people with visual disabilities.