Smartphone Apps for the Visually Impaired

August 24, 2013

This article is from Kim Komando:

SoundGecko (Free; iOS, Android) – This great app is a text-to-speech converter. Is there a news article or blog you want to read? No problem! SoundGecko reads it to you. It even sounds like a real person.

LookTel Money Reader ($10; iOS) – If you have trouble reading fine print on currency, this is the app for you. The LookTel Money Reader app identifies the currency in question, speaks the denominations and displays them in large print on the screen.

LookTel Recognizer ($10; iOS) – This is a must-have app for the visually impaired. LookTel Recognizer builds a personalized library of images for instant recognition. You can identify cans, packages, Credit and ID cards and other items with fine print. This app also includes a barcode scanner for extra efficiency.

Dragon Dictation (Free; iOS) – Is Siri giving you problems again? Don’t have Siri? You’re in luck, because Dragon Diction is a free voice recognition app. Easily create emails, texts, and notes with just your voice.

Umano (Free; iOS, Android) – This 5-star app is a newsreader for your smartphone or tablet. It will read articles from your favorite sites with little fuss. Similar to the KNFB Reader.

Skyvi (Free; Android) – Android users have another answer to Siri with this witty smartphone assistant. It can do everything from checking the weather to sending emails to searching the web. Just tell it what you want to do.

For more info:


How iPhones Help Blind People See

August 24, 2013

The following is by Jacqueline Vanacek, VP of SAP:

Apple iPhone innovations have created a new way for the blind and visually impaired to “see.” In my recent interview with accessibility experts Victor Tsaran at PayPal and Ted Drake at Intuit  I saw how these technologies turn smartphones into powerful assistive devices that employ one physical sense to supplement or replace another.

The power of accessibility software and other assistive technologies can turn a smartphone or computer into a disabled person’s eyes, ears, voice or whichever sense is needed to communicate and participate more fully in everyday life.

VoiceOver is one of Apple’s award-winning iOS assistive technologies. The gesture-based screen reader tells users which button or icon they have touched on the screen. A double tap on the icon then invokes the function. This helps blind or visually impaired users know what is happening on their devices to better control them.

Other innovations like Siri and Dictation help users type, read calendars and launch apps like Facebook and Twitter.

Victor took a picture of a dollar bill, sent the image to a crowd sourced group of volunteers, like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk Internet marketplace, and received an immediate answer through the iPhone’s VoiceOver.

He uses that capability when he shops in the grocery store, to ensure he gets the correct change at checkout.

Victor and Ted also demonstrated how the camera can identify the type of soup in a can of Campbell’s – it was tomato – and the color of a pair of socks – pink!

For more Info:

A key point that Ted Drake made about expectations is that “when truly innovative products come out, it’s because” developers “didn’t really think about pre-conceived ideas. They didn’t say ‘well a blind person can’t use a phone that’s only glass, because there are no tactile buttons. They said here’s a glass surface. Let’s make it accessible ….’ ”

One Man’s Experience with the Telescopic Eye Implant

August 20, 2013

The following is an NBC News Health article.

Hindman, a college coach, and a racehorse owner with severe macular degeneration found doctors at the Wilmer Eye Institute at the Johns Hopkins Hospital who have been helping patients see better with a tiny device that can be surgically implanted in the eye.

telescopic implant

The device was given Food and Drug Administration approval and is now covered by Medicare. For those paying out of pocket, the cost of the device is $15,000, not including surgery or rehabilitation.

At the institute, doctors implanted a miniature telescope behind the iris of Hindman’s left eye. The device magnifies what’s in front of Hindman and projects it back onto the parts of his retina that haven’t been destroyed by the disease. The advantages of the telescope are that people can see detail much more clearly — people’s faces, television, looking out into the world.

Still, the device is not a panacea. “It’s important that patients know that this device is not going to allow them to drive,” says Dr. Oliver D. Schein, a professor of ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute. “It’s not going to let them read small print. But it may take someone who has had to give up reading entirely and get them to the point where they can read large print.”

Beyond that, the device requires months of therapy. It’s implanted in only one eye because it takes away peripheral vision. As a result, patients need therapy to help rewire their brains to use one eye to see directly in front of them and the other to see everything else.

The rehab isn’t for the faint hearted. “The therapy at first was very exhausting,” Hindman said. “I can remember at the end of a two hour session, just getting in the back seat of the car and going to sleep.”

For more info:

EPGL Medical Devices for Eye Treatments

August 17, 2013

A couple of weeks ago, I decided not to share some info on a an eye treatment developed by EGPL. But it seems they are not a fly by night operation. They are continuing to produce several other helpful medical devices.

EPGL Medical has invented a smart needle for procedures involving injection of any substance into the epidural (spinal) space to help prevent puncture while threading the needle between vertebras into the epidural space.

EPGL Medical has invented a smarter nerve ablation device. Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA), is used to produce heat on nerves surrounding the facet joints on either side of the lumbar spine. This procedure eliminates the ability for the nerve to transmit pain signals to the brain, thus giving the patient temporary relief.

EPGL Medical has invented a more accurate needle device for treatment of myofascial trigger points. Injections for trigger points can be dry or include saline, local anesthetics such as steroids procaine hydrochloride, lidocaine, and botulinum toxin to provide more immediate relief and can be effective when other methods fail.

Now, closer to “home”, EPGL  invented a new device for the purpose of treating serious eye diseases such as macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. The technology emits low intensity pulse ultrasound into the eye for the purpose of regeneration of damaged cells and to possibly arrest the degeneration of existing healthy cells within the macula and the entire retina.

In addition, EPGL  invented the world’s first self powered, self contained, power source for contact lenses. The power supply comes from within the lenses and is self perpetuating day or night. Using cutting edge technology, EPGL has invented a self perpetuating power source for lenses which does not require external energy such as RF.

Researchers are now designing applications for use in contact lenses for both health care and consumer needs. One use of powered contact lenses being investigated is for displaying data in real-time to the lenses wearer about medical data such as their blood sugar level, oxygen level, heart rate, EKG and many other possible medical applications. Powered contact lenses are also being looked into as delivery devices for drugs and other therapeutic applications.

In the consumer electronics market, powered contact lenses have promise to display data from the Internet directly into the wearer’s field of vision real-time. Imagine being able to have telescopic vision on demand or microscopic vision.

Now do you understand my hesitancy about publishing this information? It almost seems unbelievable. Let us hope time proves this all true.

for more info:

Macular Degeneration Test Could Come From Astronomy Engineers

August 15, 2013

Engineers at the UK Astronomy Technology Center (UKATC), who are used to designing space-based telescopes, are applying their knowledge to develop a diagnostic test for Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD).

The engineers typically design and make instruments to detect faint light from distant stars and galaxies. However, they are collaborating with scientists from Cardiff University’s School of Optometry and Vision Sciences to develop a “retinal densitometer,” which can pick up the earliest stages of AMD by measuring how the eye responds to light.

One of the earliest signs of AMD is a change in the way the light sensitive pigments in the macula regenerate after exposure to light. The densitometer developed by the team can assess this change by measuring the very small changes in the amount of light reflected by the retina after exposure.

The Retinal Densitometer measures the way the eye “dark adapts” after exposure to a bright light. It has several distinct advantages when compared to existing detection techniques, including its sensitivity and ability to measure responses to light from different parts of the retina.

Early tests with the new device on 10 patients with early stage AMD and 10 controls have shown that light changes in the macula can be highly accurately measured using this technology.

“Space technology doesn’t just tell us more about the universe — it also has applications right here on earth,” said Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts. “This project is very promising for patients and shows that, by working across disciplines, scientists and engineers can develop innovative new solutions for a whole range of issues, including healthcare.”

For more Info:


Portable Digital Magnifier Comparison

August 15, 2013
Here is a great comparison web page for portable video magnifiers. The Pebble at $645 seems to be the older model. There are even models like the Ash I never heard of.
I also found a price for the Pebble HD…$595. The Ruby & the original Pebble have a snapshot freeze-frame feature. The Pebble HD does not.

Turn your iPad into a high-end video magnifier for under $90

August 10, 2013

Here is an article explaining how to do it.



Desktop video magnifiers are one of the great assistive technology solutions for those with a vision impairment. The price for these devices can be cost prohibitive in that they usually start at upwards of $2000. The iPad has opened the door for many individuals to have a powerful magnifying device that is also portable. This is  going to show you how to turn the iPad into a desktop video magnifier by constructing a simple stand and connecting the iPad to a TV for under $90.

For more info: