If it doesn't fit anywhere else, you'll find it here.
Today President Obama made an executive order raising the Federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour. This change will impact hundreds of thousands of people who either work for or are contracted by the federal government. Under that executive order, the president is including all federally contracted workers including those who work for sheltered workshops. this is the first step in the battle to change the law that allows people with disabilities who work in sheltered workshops to be paid less than the minimum wage. Hopefully, this executive order will be a wake up call to congress to finally change this law.
Technology in our classrooms is becoming more prevalent each year. Although technology can be a great asset for students with disabilities, it can also be a barrier if the technology is not accessible. There are already a number of laws that help protect student's rights to have access to accessible materials, but the current laws aren't always strong enough. A new bill in congress called the Technology, Equality, and Accessibility in College and Higher Education Act, or the TEACh act, would require that technology used by colleges and universities either be accessible or that accommodations would be put in place to give students as much access as possible. This <a href="http://petri.house.gov/press-release/petri-introduces-teach-act-ensure-equal-access-educational-materials-students" article provides more details about the act and what it would do.
A petition on Change.Org has been set up for supporters of the bill. The petition already has over 120 thousand signatures, but the more signatures the better. If you believe this is a bill that will help students with disabilities, consider adding your name by following the link in the headline. Both of the major U.S. consumer organizations have expressed support for the bill.
If you live in Sydney and are blind, you are eligible to help Google research how the blind use mobile applications made by Google. The interviews will last for about 2 hours, and questions will cover how the blind use mobile devices such as phones and tablets, and the accessibility of Google apps like Drive and Gmail. Participants will earn $200 for their time. Call Murray Gale at 02 9371 0855 or send an email to email@example.com for more information.
One of the greatest challenges for lowering the cost of printed braille is making braille printers affordable to everyone. This challenge may just have been tackled by a 7th grader in California. Using Lego's Mindstorms EV3 kit and some parts from a hardware store, Shubham Banerjee came up with a way to make a braille printer that costs less than $500. His invention, called BRAIGO is named for the combination of braille and Lego. Shubham has decided to make his project open source so that families around the world and organizations that serve the blind will have easy access to the software that runs the printer.
In this youtube video, Shubham demonstrates how the printer actually works. At this point, the printing speed may be too slow for many applications, but the cost will hopefully open the doors to more of the blind having access to braille around the world. It will be fascinating to see how this project progresses.
It's not often that as a future reader of a magazine that you get to help shape the content. If you are interested in a new lifestyle magazine for the blind, fill out this survey. The questions ask you to think about things you enjoy doing, activities that you find challenging, and even what you have always wished you could do. All participants will be entered to win a $25 gift certificate for Amazon. If you feel uncomfortable answering the survey questions on the website, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and they'll happily do the survey with you over the phone. While the survey lists a February 5 deadline, we checked with the creators and they are still looking for responses, so have at it.
Humanware is continuing to expand the number of services that Victor Reader Stream users can access wirelessly. With version 4.3, users can now access Wikipedia and Wiktionary as well as thousands of internet radio stations. According to the press release, Humanware is planning to expand wireless options in the months to come. Their hope is to make the Victor Reader Stream as powerful a tool as they can.
Researchers at Microsoft are trying to understand the intersection of crowd sourcing with people who self identify as disabled. They estimate that the survey should take no more than 20 minutes, and participants have until February 10 to fill out the survey. All of those who finish the survey will be entered to win a $50 gift card to Amazon.
Now that GW Micro has partnered with Microsoft to offer anyone who has Office 2010 or later a free copy of Window-Eyes, they're offering people the ability to become Window-Eyes certified. This certification does not certify you as a Window-Eyes trainer, but it demonstrates to either people you're teaching or an employer that you're really knowledgeable about the software, it's features, and how to use it.
The certification exam consists of 100 multiple choice questions. It costs $99, and you need to get 80% of the test right to pass. If you don't pass, you can choose to take it again, but it will cost another $99. The test is also only currently offered in the U.S., but it's possible that they'll offer it in other countries in the future.
One of the biggest challenges of using a touch screen device when you're blind is typing on the on screen keyboard. Solutions like Fleksy and MBraille have addressed many of these issues, but they don't work for everyone. A team in Israel is working on a whole new way of typing. Their app known as the UpSense Super keyboard relies on gestures rather than a standard QWERTY keyboard design. Think of it as being similar to the handwriting feature in iOS 7.
Along with creating a gesture based typing app, the UpSense Super Keyboard will also allow you to type in braille. At this point, the hope is to release the app for Android and iOS this year, but the team needs more funding in order to bring the app to market. If you want to support their efforts, consider contributing to their Indiegogo campaign by following the link in the headline.
Since I wasn't clear on how the UpSense keyboard differed from solutions that already exist, I contacted the developer Nissan Yaron.
Q: How is the UpSense keyboard different from solutions like Fleksy?
A: Our keyboard works entirely different, it's based on making gestures with the fingers rather than pressing on specific keys.
After calibration, hot zones come under your fingers and make it possible to define between your fingers in a way that doing the same gesture with a different finger will create a different character.
The characters are made in intuitive way so it's easy to remember them and you can also customize them according to your comfort.
For example, typing 'V' is made with the Index and Middle fingers together in an upward movement.
If you want, you can switch it for downward movement or to something entirely different.
Google is expanding it's horizons once again. They've just announced that they plan to design a contact lens that will measure a person's glucose level using their tears. This is an important issue to our community since Diabetic Retinopathy is one of the leading causes of blindness in the US today. As it stands right now, people have to check their blood throughout the day using needles and glucose monitors. This process can be quite challenging when you can not see. Also, using a contact lens instead of a needle would remove the painful aspect of the process. Finally, since the plan is for readings to be taken every second, diabetics would likely know sooner that their blood sugar is dropping, hopefully preventing blood sugar crashes that can lead to serious medical consequences.
The Matilda Ziegler publishing company was founded in 1907 to provide a monthly magazine in braille to the blind. Over the past 107 years, the magazine has been distributed to thousands of people around the world. In 2009, the board of directors decided to change the magazine to a weekly publication. They also stopped production of the magazine in braille and audio, and decided to offer the articles exclusively online. After 4 years of running the magazine exclusively online, the board of directors is now stopped production of the magazine all together while they decide what they want the future of the magazine to be.
I was brought onto the writing team of the magazine in June of 2010. Over the past three and a half years, it has been my privilege to write for the magazine and to share it with people who don't know about it. I think that our team of writers is passionate and knowledgeable, and that the content that we provide is a valuable resource for our community.
If you are a fan of the Matilda Ziegler magazine and you feel like the board of directors would be making a mistake if they shut the magazine down, please send them your feedback. You can write to them at email@example.com or you can submit comments by visiting the contact section of the Matilda Ziegler website.
the team at Serotek wants to reward it's customers just for buying their products. Today they announced that people who have a SamNet subscription or one of the Accessibility Anywhere packages will be entered to win prizes each month. This month, they're giving away copies of the book "Out of the Whirlpool" by Sue Martin. Visit the <a href="http://www.serotek.com" Serotek website to learn more.
Access to transportation is a critical issue for the blind and visually impaired. When we don't have access to efficient transportation, our independence can be severely impacted. Researchers at Mississippi State University are studying the transportation issues that the blind and visually impaired face in their daily lives. According to the survey website, the information gained from the survey will be used to help policy makers and other groups that serve our community better serve our transportation needs. Those who complete the survey will have the option to be entered to win 1 of 4 $100 gift certificates.
The University of Nevada Reno is conducting a survey on the challenges that the blind face when dealing with social interactions. A team of researchers is currently developing a device that will recognize faces and give the user information about the faces. They hope that the results from the survey will help them determine what information the device should give to the user. The survey is 12 questions long and should take between 10 and 25 minutes to complete.
For a number of years, WebAiM has collected data on the types of screen readers that people are using. This information is very helpful for website developers. The survey will be open until Jan. 15, 2014.
A team in Italy hopes to make accessing email on the web a much better experience for the visually impaired. As it stands now, many email providers do not offer a quality experience for screen reader users when accessing their mail on the web. Some providers offer simplified options like basic html, but this strips out some if not many of the features that are available to sighted users. To solve this issue, the team has created "Voice My Mail", a web ad on that gives blind users a more feature rich experience when accessing email on the web. Since it's not a stand alone program, the idea is for it to work with any email provider website.
The team has created a working demo for people to try out, but according to the Indiegogo page, they won't be able to make the project global without extra funding. Users of JAWS and NVDA can test out the demo in the Firefox browser. Let us know in the comments what the experience is like and if you would use the app if it was available.
I am always on the look out for finding more ways to get access to books, in fact, I think I have more book apps on my iPhone than is really necessary. Well now I've added one more. Audio Books HQ is an app that provides access to almost 8000 free audio books. This app was previously not usable to Voiceover users, but now I can say with pleasure that the app is easy to use.
The app currently has access to books from LibriVox, PodioBooks, and the Globe Radio Repertory. Each of these three catalogs is easy to search through. Finding books can be done in a number of ways including: looking by genre, title, author, most downloaded, or in order of when books were posted. There is also an option to preview the book before choosing to download it. For me, I really appreciate this feature because it means I get to hear the narrator and decide if I like their voice before I download the book.
There are a number of features when playing books that you've downloaded. You can adjust the playback speed to be slow or very fast, add a bookmark, skip forward and backward by time or by chapter, and even start a sleep timer.
Just as a final note, the app itself is $1.99 but all of the books available in the app are free.
In November of last year, the Braille Authority of North America (BANA), decided to adopt the Unified English Braille code (UEB). After a year of discussions which included a forum in October of this year, BANA voted at their annual meeting to make January 4, 2016 the date that UEB will be fully implemented in the U.S. What this means for braille readers in the U.S. is that our braille code is going to change. Some of the changes are minor, and some will
feel very strange to those of us who have been reading braille for years. BANA has put together a list of many of the changes to the literary code. The most significant of these changes is the removal of nine contractions and no longer joining and, for, of, the, and with.
There are likely those who are still wondering why BANA made this decision since it's going to be disruptive for braille readers and transcribers. In effect, children who are learning braille now will have to know both the literary braille code and the UEB code because they are likely to encounter both. According to BANA's website, there are a number of reasons why they decided to make this change. The primary reason was to allow for more braille books to be sent across borders. The U.S. was the only English speaking country that still was not using UEB which made it challenging to provide braille materials to other English speaking countries. It will also mean that braille readers who go to other countries will not have any problem reading braille produced in those nations.
One of the reasons people often choose not to try new assistive technology is cost. The team at Serotek wants the blind community to have a chance to try out all of their products for free. So, from now until December 11, feel free to download and use any of their products for no cost.
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