Thursday, May 31, 2012

YouTube Channel Highlights Technology for Deaf People

YouTube has a new channel called DeafTechNews that features short videos on how deaf people can use mainstream technology, news about captioning and relay, etc.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission Studies Telecom Technology for the Disabled

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is taking further steps to improve telecommunications services for Canadians with hearing and speech disabilities.

Canada’s telecom regulator announced Friday that it is conducting a detailed study into video relay services, which enables people to use sign language rather than typed text, to communicate over the telephone.

 “Text relay services available nationwide meet the needs of the vast majority of people with such disabilities. However, people with disabilities who use a sign language as their first or primary language have submitted that video relay, a sign-language service, would better meet their needs,” the CRTC said in a press release.

Monday, May 28, 2012

50 Great Resources for Using iPads in Classrooms

ZDNet posted a great collection of tutorials, lesson plans, and apps that illustrate integration of the iPad in the classroom.

Source: Accessible Technology Coalition

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Firefox Accessibility Add-ons

Here is a list of 29 Accessibility add-ons for Mozilla's popular web browser Firefox. If you use Firefox, try some of these add-ons to improve your web-browsing experience. If you don't use Firefox but like the add-ons, download Firefox and try some of them out!

Apps for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired

Every day the iPhone is helping people live better lives. We have found some amazing apps that are focused on helping those who are deaf or hard of hearing communicate, network, and enjoy entertainment more.

Please see this link for more information:


Friday, May 18, 2012

W3C Mobile Accessibility Online Symposium

W3C, the Web Accessibility Initiative, will host an online Mobile Accessibility Symposium on June 25, 2012.
W3C logo
Mobile devices are becoming increasingly important and are already the primary form of accessing the Web in many parts of the world. However, persons with disabilities experience many difficulties when they access the web with mobile devices.
The symposium will discuss the accessibility of mobile devices and “aims to bring researchers and practitioners together to discuss these challenges and possible solutions, and develop a road map for future research and development in the field.”
W3C has also issued a call for papers relating to current mobile accessibility standards, technical challenges of accessibility, and new interaction models to enhance accessibility.

For more information, please visit Mobile Accessibility Online Symposium

Thursday, May 17, 2012

RIM Launches BlackBerry Screen Reader for Customers with Visual Impairments

May 7, 2012 -- Research In Motion (RIM) today launched BlackBerry® Screen Reader, a free software application that helps customers who are blind or visually impaired operate their BlackBerry® smartphone.
BlackBerry Screen Reader provides an audible output based on visual information displayed on a BlackBerry smartphone.
“We are excited to introduce BlackBerry Screen Reader as part of our suite of accessibility solutions for BlackBerry smartphones,” said Greg Fields, Senior Product Manager. “BlackBerry Screen Reader helps customers with visual impairments stay connected with the people and information that matter most to them, and is representative of RIM’s continuing commitment to support customers with disabilities.”
Key features of BlackBerry Screen Reader include:
  • Support for core applications – Users can easily access core BlackBerry applications including email, calendar, phone calls and more.
  • Speech settings – users can customize the text-to-speech settings (volume, pitch and speech rate) and preferences for punctuation, verbosity and password security.
  • Keyboard shortcuts – Users can set speech and audio preferences quickly and easily through (physical) keyboard shortcuts
  • Accessible documentation – User Guide available in accessible HTML through a desktop web browser.
BlackBerry Screen Reader is available now as a free download from for the BlackBerry® Curve(TM) 9350, 9360 and 9370 smartphones. The application is available in English, French, Italian, German and Spanish.
For information about BlackBerry accessibility solutions for customers with disabilities, visit

Massachusetts Woman Moves Robotic Arm with Her Thoughts

Using only her thoughts, a Massachusetts woman paralyzed for 15 years directed a robotic arm to pick up a bottle of coffee and bring it to her lips, researchers report in the latest advance in harnessing brain waves to help  persons with disabilities.

Using a robot arm, 'Cathy' was able to lift a bottle and drink for the first time in 15 years. (Photo credit:
Using a robot arm, 'Cathy' was able to lift a bottle and drink for the first time in 15 years. (Photo credit:
In the past year, similar stories have included a quadriplegic man in Pennsylvania who made a robotic arm give a high-five and stroke his girlfriend’s hand, and a partially paralyzed man who remotely controlled a small robot that scooted around in a Swiss lab.
It’s startling stuff. But will the experimental brain-controlled technology ever help paralyzed people in everyday life?
Experts in the technology and in rehabilitation medicine say they are optimistic that it will, once technology improves and the cost comes down.

The latest report, which was published online Wednesday in the journal Nature, comes from scientists at Brown University, the Providence VA Medical Center in Rhode Island, Harvard Medical School and elsewhere.
It describes how two people who lost use of their arms and legs because of strokes years before were able to control free-standing robotic arms with the help of a tiny sensor implanted in their brains.
The sensor, about the size of a baby aspirin, eavesdropped on the electrical activity of a few dozen brain cells as the study participants imagined moving their arms. The chip then sent signals to a computer, which translated them into commands to the robotic arms.

The computer was taught how to interpret the brain patterns through practice as participants with disabilities watched the robot arms move and then imagined that they were moving their own arms the same way.

In one task to test the system, the two participants tried to direct a robot arm to reach out and squeeze foam balls in front of them. The man succeeded in less than half his attempts, but the woman was able to do it about 60 percent of the time.

The woman, Cathy Hutchinson of East Taunton, Mass., was also asked to use the arm to drink the coffee. That involved picking up the bottle, bringing it to her lips so she could sip from a straw, and putting the bottle back on the table. She succeeded in four out of six tries with the arm, which was specially programmed for this task.
“The smile on her face … was just a wonderful thing to see,” said Dr. Leigh Hochberg, a researcher with the Providence VA, Brown and Massachusetts General Hospital.
Researchers said in Hutchinson’s case that the results show that the implanted chip still worked after five years, and that her brain was still generating useful signals even though she hadn’t moved her arms in almost 15 years.
The ultimate goal, researchers said, is an implanted device that would reactivate a person’s own paralyzed limbs. Another goal is to operate high-tech prostheses for amputees.
Andrew Schwartz, who is doing similar research at the University of Pittsburgh, said the coffee-sipping was encouraging because it represents an everyday task a paralyzed person might want to do. “I think it’s showing this technology has therapeutic potential,” he said.

“The field is rapidly advancing, and I think this offers hope for people who are paralyzed,” Schwartz said. “The types of movements we’ll be able to do are getting more and more sophisticated at a rapid pace.”
But he and others said the technology faces a number of hurdles to widespread use, like reducing its high cost, making it more reliable, and refining the technology. For example, the brain implant now sends signals out with a wire through the skull, and researchers want to develop a completely implanted version that communicates wirelessly.

Another step toward wide use will be enticing companies to invest the money to make commercial products. Just when that might happen is an open question, Schwartz said, but it could be in the next couple of years, with prostheses or free-standing robotic arms on the market a few years after that.
Dr. Bruce Gans, executive vice president and chief medical officer of the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in West Orange, N.J., said the technology is too expensive now for widespread use. But if brain control finds uses outside the relatively limited market of paralyzed people, that might drive improvements in technology and dramatically reduce the cost, he said.

Gans suggested other uses might involve industrial applications; neuroscientist Andrew Jackson of Newcastle University in England suggested it might be in rehabilitation for victims of less severe strokes.
At some point, Gans said, “It may even turn into something that allows a person with paralysis to go back to work, so it becomes a tool a vocational rehabilitation program could eventually endorse and support.”
Dr. Preeti Raghavan, an expert in physical rehabilitation of the arms and hands at the New York University Langone Medical Center, noted that the cost of the technology would be weighed against the significant expense of caregiving for paralyzed people who can’t do much on their own.
She said she expected that within a decade, many people may be using the technology to control their own limbs or robotic arms. Gans said that wider use of robotic arms might be feasible within five years, but that reactivating paralyzed limbs could be decades away.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Apple Adds Speech Recognition to iOS Devices

The latest version of Apple's iOS system for iPhones and iPads includes Siri, a powerful speech recognition and assistance feature. With Siri you can control your device by voice as well as dictate content and ask questions in natural language. Siri may engage you in a dialogue to clarify what you're after, then follow through as the context and your commands indicate. Here's a video of it, showing different users, including one who is blind.

Source: Accessible Technology Coalition - 

RoboBraille Offers Free Conversion to Braille or Audio

RoboBraille is an email service which will convert digital text documents into either Braille or audio files. You can email or use the web to give them your file and the system will give you a document that is either an audio file or Braille file. Your file can be a .doc, .docx, .pdf, .txt, .xml, .html, .htm, .rtf, .epub, .mobi, .tiff, .tif, .gif, .jpg, .bmp, .pcx, .dcx, .j2k, .jp2, .jpx, .djv and .asc file.  The file they send back can be mp3 audio, Daisy full text and audio, e-Book, document conversion, or Braille. For the audio files, you can choose 12 languages other than English, as well. While it is a computer generated voice, the speech is very high quality and is fairly engaging. It takes a day to get your file.

The inventors were honored with a 2010 BETTS Award. The system is being funded in Europe and users can make contributions. It is free to individuals and commercial users pay a licencing fee.

Source: Accessible Technology Coalition - 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Paralyzed woman uses bionic suit to complete London Marathon

bionic marathon

A paralyzed British woman made history on Tuesday, when she became the first person to ever complete a marathon while wearing a bionic suit. Claire Lomas, 32, finished the 26.2-mile race 16 days after it began, with the help of the ReWalk exoskeleton developed by Amit Goffer.
Lomas was left paralyzed from the chest down following a 2007 horse riding accident that broke her neck, back, and ribs. In the five years since her accident, she's gone skydiving, learned to monoski, and has returned to horse riding. In January, she received a £43,000 ($69,400) ReWalk suit on loan and set her sights on last month's marathon, in the hopes of raising money for Spinal Research — a charity that funds research on paralysis caused by back and neck...
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