An ambitious group of scientists are trying to end blindness forever

September 4, 2015

A comprehensive article in the Australian journal Business Insider.

Historically, there’s been little we can do for someone going blind. Slowly but surely, that’s starting to change.

In many cases, diseases that cause blindness damage the retina at the back of the eye, which contains the specialised nerve cells that make vision possible. Since the body only has limited means to repair nerve cells and can’t replace dead ones, this damage is pretty much permanent— at least for now.

The National Eye Institute has launched the Audacious Goals Initiative, the “audacious goal” being finding a way to regenerate those lost nerve cells and restore vision to millions.

The article goes on to cover the Bionic Eye by Argus, Stem Cell research, a molecule called a Photoswitch that changes shape in response to light, and advice from the Mayo Clinic on Blindness Prevention.

For more info:

http://www.businessinsider.com.au/scientists-are-doing-research-to-cure-blindness-2015-8


George Wurtzel — Blind Woodworker & Craftsman

March 7, 2015

George teaches woodworking to people who are sightless or have limited vision. A former NC craftsman, he works in Minneapolis, MN.

george-wurtzel-builds-a-boat
Woodworking Classes For Anyone At Any Experience Level

He can take someone with no experience at all — maybe never even had the opportunity to use a hammer or screw driver — and show them with the right amount of directions through their own hands or feet they can bring their project to life.

He has taught people from all walks of life and people with a wide array of skills, talents and challenges: from a trades person with 30 years experience who needs to become a solid service fabricator to a person who had no hands and he taught him to run power saws with his feet. He happened to be a person with normal vision, but he was taking a job with an agency for the blind and there the policy was that their employees will take my class while wearing a blindfold.

He has taught deaf, blind people, people with many different varieties of physical or mental capacities. He is proud to say he thinks that he improved the quality of their lives and added to how they felt about their ability to encompass new challenges.

If you want to learn how to build beautiful wood objects, please inquire. He is always willing to help someone who just wants to build one thing, or someone who wants to build as a hobby or to earn a living at it.

If you want to build a one-time project, learn how to be a good hobby craftsman or want the background to pursue woodworking as your vocation, he is willing to help you to use your own talents better.

For more info:

George Wurtzel Woodworking | 517-449-2150
2613 S. Stevens Ave., Minneapolis, MN 55408

http://www.gmwurtzel.com/

http://www.woodworkersjournal.com/woodworking-blind-incorporated-blindness-training-center/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=baPFeV9Y_QA


It’s Time to Go Mobile

August 26, 2014

The following is by Lauren Tappan, It is a quote from the AI Squared blog.

Who would have thought a decade ago that a smartphone or tablet device with a non-tactile touch screen could be operated completely non-visually? With Apple’s VoiceOver and Google Android’s TalkBack as the major players in touch-based screen reading, one can slide, swipe, and tap on the screen to make a phone call, check the weather, look at your calendar, or even play a game without seeing what’s on the screen. There’s not a lot of memorization or training required because the screen reader tells you what you’ve selected and then may give you hints on what to do next. Zooming in is also an option if you have partial sight, but I use this only occasionally to view a picture or familiarize myself with an app. On small touch screens, I find zooming is just not an efficient way to navigate around.

On the Apple iOS side, which is all I’m familiar with, you can pretty much bet that you’ll have complete access to all the native apps that come pre-installed on the device using VoiceOver. For example, when sliding your finger over a button, VoiceOver will tell you what that button is. Now you can double tap anywhere on the screen in order to select the button that was just announced. As for third party apps that you download for free or purchase from the iTunes store, it’s anyone’s guess whether you’ll have VoiceOver access to all the buttons and features within the app. Then there’s the question of whether updates to the app will decrease the accessibility. For the sighted, updating is usually a good idea, but VoiceOver users tend to hesitate or simply cross their fingers and hope for the best because it’s not possible to “go back” and download a previous version from the iTunes store.

The notes and reviews for the app in the iTunes store or the AppleVis website might give you some clue regarding the app’s level of accessibility, so it’s always good to check before you download. As an example, when a developer doesn’t label a button, you may come across the ever-helpful announcement of “button” for some (or all) buttons. While the user has the ability to label buttons, this may be futile if the app keeps changing in subsequent updates. The best solution for developers is to use the tools that Apple gives them to make their app accessible. Depending on the app, this may take little to no extra effort at all on the developer’s part.

At any rate, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) is resolved to encourage Apple to not accept apps into the iTunes store until they are accessible. Apple is adding even more features in its developer toolkit to make it pretty effortless to do so. So in the Apple world, I suspect the frustration of purchasing an app that you can’t effectively use with VoiceOver will become a thing of the past in the next few years.

If you still haven’t jumped into the mobile market due to your low vision, or can’t decide which solution is right for you, here are some articles that might help:

http://www.aisquared.com/blog/2014/08/its-time-to-go-mobile

 


Computer Program Allows the Blind to ‘See’ With Sound

March 8, 2014

A man blind since birth is taking up a surprising new hobby: photography. His newfound passion is thanks to a system that turns images into sequences of sound. The technology not only gives “sight” to the blind, but also challenges the way neurologists think the brain is organized.

 

Voice software

In 1992, Dutch engineer Peter Meijer created vOICe, an algorithm that converts simplegrayscale images into musical soundscapes. (The capitalized middle letters sound out “Oh, I see!”). The system scans images from left to right, converting shapes in the image into sound as it sweeps, with higher positions in the image corresponding to higher sound frequencies. For instance, a diagonal line stretching upward from left to right becomes a series of ascending musical notes. While more complicated images, such as a person sitting on a lawn chair, at first seem like garbled noise, with enough training users can learn to “hear” everyday scenes.

In 2007, neuroscientist Amir Amedi and his colleagues at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem began training subjects who were born blind to use vOICe. Despite having no visual reference points, after just 70 hours of training, the individuals went from “hearing” simple dots and lines to “seeing” whole images such as faces and street corners composed of 4500 pixels.

Amedi’s team recently released a successor to vOICe, called EyeMusic, as a free iPhone app. The new algorithm produces more pleasant tones and can even provide color information.

For more info:   http://news.sciencemag.org/biology/2014/03/computer-program-allows-blind-see-sound

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id805461054?mt=8