Listening to Braille

December 31, 2009

This week’s NY Times Magazine has an article by Rachel Aviv on braille and the alternative assistive technologies that are replacing it.

AT 4 O’CLOCK each morning, Laura J. Sloate begins her daily reading. She calls a phone service that reads newspapers aloud in a synthetic voice, and she listens to The Wall Street Journal at 300 words a minute, which is nearly twice the average pace of speech. Later, an assistant reads The Financial Times to her while she uses her computer’s text-to-speech system to play The Economist aloud. She devotes one ear to the paper and the other to the magazine. The managing director of a Wall Street investment management firm, Sloate has been blind since age 6, and although she reads constantly, poring over the news and the economic reports for several hours every morning, she does not use Braille. “Knowledge goes from my ears to my brain, not from my finger to my brain,” she says. As a child she learned how the letters of the alphabet sounded, not how they appeared or felt on the page. She doesn’t think of a comma in terms of its written form but rather as “a stop on the way before continuing.” This, she says, is the future of reading for the blind. “Literacy evolves,” she told me. “When Braille was invented, in the 19th century, we had nothing else. We didn’t even have radio. At that time, blindness was a disability. Now it’s just a minor, minor impairment.”

But some argue that blindness without braille is illiteracy.

For the complete article, see the following:


IPEVO P2V Camera – CCTV Input … $69

December 30, 2009

The Point 2 View (P2V) is a USB Camera designed to free you from the usual screen-mounted web camera perspective. With its excellent resolution and unmatched versatility, the P2V will quickly become your favorite for video chats, business presentations, family photo sharing, and much more.

The key to the P2V’s wide range of uses is its unique stand. Featuring a solid weighted base and multiple joints, the P2V’s stand allows the camera to capture anything and everything, from any distance and angle. The P2V promises nothing less than the innovation and liberation of your video communication.

2 Megapixel, Macro-Mode, autofocus, video or still shots, pedestal mounted. Use as CCTV input … $69

Increased lead levels found in neural retinas of eyes with AMD

December 28, 2009

Reported in the Amer. Journal of Ophthalmolgy:

Patients with age-related macular degeneration may have elevated lead levels in their neural retinas, suggesting a diminished capacity to eliminate the harmful metal compared with patients without the retinal pathology.

In a laboratory comparison, 50 donor eyes from 25 subjects diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration during their lifetimes exhibited higher lead concentrations in their neural retinas (median, 12 ng/g) compared with 72 donor eyes of 36 subjects without AMD (8 ng/g).

There was no difference in lead concentration in the retinal pigment epithelium-choroid complex. Also, there was no difference in cadmium levels, another nonessential metal known to cause oxidative stress, in either the neural retina or RPE-choroid complex.

According to the study, accumulation of lead in the neural retina is associated with AMD, although it is unclear what the exact role, if any, the metal plays in the pathogenesis of AMD. As well, the study authors said, future work should investigate the role of metal homeostasis in retinal function.

Kapten Personal GPS Voice Navigator

December 21, 2009

Kapsys is an innovative mobile navigation system principally based on satellite geo-location (GPS) and vocal interaction (speech synthesis and voice recognition). The user can locate the best routes whatever the mode of transport (by foot, bicycle, or car). Audio files can be downloaded to listen to your favorite music (1GB), or even listen to FM radio stations. Using Bluetooth technology, the Kapten allows the user to make or receive calls at any time and speak with your contact. The user can create a “ktag” which is a voice recording of a place noticed. Once recorded, all that is needed is to add a voice memo. When the name of the location is said, Kapten Personal GPS Voice Navigator will speak the directions aloud. This mobility pack includes a sturdy carrying case and a back-up battery which extends the power supply for 17 additional hours.

Retired optician ‘cures own blindness with marigolds’

December 14, 2009

Harry Marsland feared he would lose his sight completely after developing dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD) – a condition responsible for half of all cases of blindness in this country.

AMD had claimed the sight in his right eye and the 73-year-old’s vision had become so bad that he could not get around without the help of his wife. He was even considering learning Braille, fearing that his left eye would follow the same fate.

However, after trying various treatments to no avail, Mr Marsland finally decided to experiment taking a vitamin supplement containing extracts from the orange flowers.

Within months of taking the taking the capsules, which are not available on the NHS, he regained vision in his left eye.

Mr Marsland, from Oundle, Northants, said: “I now know, professionally, that I have recovered almost completely from the effects of the dry AMD in my left eye. I am the first person to have such good fortune.

“I have recovered 95 per cent of the sight in my left eye which is miraculous, considering that at one point I was literally blind in the dark.”

Macushield contains lutein, found in spinach, and zeaxanthin, the yellow pigment found in corn – both of which are used in other treatments. It also contains meso-zeaxanthin, derived from marigolds, which was a nutrient Mr Marsland had not tried before.

Scientists Crack Mystery of Protein’s Dual Function

December 14, 2009

Researchers at The Scripps Research Institute have solved a 10-year-old mystery of how a single protein from an ancient family of enzymes can have two completely distinct roles in the body. In addition to providing guidance for understanding other molecules in the family, the research supplies a theoretical underpinning for the protein’s possible use for combating diseases including cancer and macular degeneration.

New Intel® Reader Transforms the Printed Word

December 14, 2009


Printed text into audio: quickly and easily

There has never been a mobile device quite like the Intel® Reader. Such convenient access to the printed word can be life changing for people with vision or reading-related disabilities, blindness, or low vision. The level of success and freedom they stand to gain with the Intel Reader is unprecedented.

Intel® Reader for low vision

For people with low vision, the Intel Reader offers convenient access to a variety of printed information, empowering you to live a more independent life. Straightforward menus, easy-to-locate buttons, and audio menus make it easy to use.

The Intel Reader can read many kinds of printed text, so you can enjoy having a magazine, book, or a concert program read back or displayed in large print on the screen. You can play back the audio in either a male or female voice, and you can adjust the playback speed (words per minute) to your preference. Quick access to cookbooks, grocery labels, or receipts makes it easier to handle everyday tasks. At home, you can read for pleasure with the enlarged text size on the LCD display or relax your eyes and have the story unfold as a narrated audio file. And the ability to deal with your own printed mail helps you keep personal information private.

The Intel Reader lists for $1,500, same as the K-NFB Reader at street price.