A metaphoric mechanism with which one can reset, restart, or rethink something. —v.
GPS For The Visually Impaired
The VoiceNote GPS by PulseData/Humanware
--combines a GPS receiver, braille keyboard, 4GB keyboard and text to speech processor to help blind people navigate.
PulseData Press Release:
February 2, 2004, Seward, Alaska—Jim King will demonstrate just how inaccurate the label “disabled” really is. He is the first blind person to record the Iditarod National Historic Trail with GPS technology. Jim is part of a three-week 938-mile expedition that embarks on a journey to celebrate the unique cultural and diverse history of the Iditarod National Historic Trail, which connects over 26 native villages in Alaska’s vast interior. It is one of only 16 national millennium trails designated by the National Millennium Council in 1999.
Jim was born with Retinitis Pigmentosa, an eye condition that led to total blindness early in his youth. But that hasn’t slowed him down much – or stopped him from realizing his dreams. A competitive athlete and avid biker, Jim won the silver medal in the U.S. Downhill Ski Races for the Disabled in 1993.
Former director of the Alaska Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Jim now lives in Maine and works with the state’s Division of Services for the Blind and Visually impaired. He is a tireless advocate and living example of the independence and achievements that are possible for people with ‘disabilities’.
“I am bursting with excitement to make this incredible trek,” said Jim, “not only for the sheer adventure and challenge of it, but because it gives me a opportunity to open people’s minds—sighted or not—to the fantastic technology I’ll be using that makes it possible.”
Augmentative and Alternative Communication
More information: AAC Links
'A Language Minority'
Unlike blind people --who share the English language with those who are blind as well as those who are not
blind-- those who communicate with American Sign Language
are quite literally using a different language, one that is as distinct from English as French. And that distinct language barrier creates a challenge to thousands of single deaf people seeking companionship and love, via online connections. Many deaf people around the country are lonely, and don't have a lot of options available to meet friends that are deaf, particularly if they live outside of major metropolitan areas. Estimates of the size of the deaf community in the United States are between 20 and 25 million people. The number of people fluent in American Sign Language is much smaller, however, fewer than 1 million people nationwide, according to Robert Pollard, director of the Deaf Wellness Center
at the University of Rochester.
The recent explosion of online dating, (about 17 million people at least peeked at a dating site last year, according to estimates) has created a cottage industry of smaller sites hoping to draft off the success of market monster Match.com. By coincidence, Match.com “vice president of romance” Trish McDermott formerly worked as an American Sign Language interpreter, making her well-versed in the issues surrounding deaf culture. She said her site does all it can to be inclusive. While there is no selection criteria where users can identify themselves as deaf, members can mention a desire for deaf partners in their personal description. Full-text search was recently added to the service, making it easy to find anyone who mentions “deaf” or “American Sign Language” in their personal ad. McDermott said she had no way to know how many personals had been placed by deaf people on Match.com, but a search of the site yielded thousands of entries. Still, McDermott said, there is certainly a place for the niche sites.
Two small but growing sites devoted to dating for the deaf, now offer non-hearing singles their own place on the Internet to find love.
is free, but has plans to start charging a small membership fee in the future to support additional features and Web hosting costs.
is the older of the two sites, but not by much; it launched in 2001. The site has nearly 4,000 members, including about 1,000 who pay $20 a month to be “deluxe” members. Memberships for both sites include the completely deaf, aging singles who are losing their hearing — even sign language interpreters who can hear but are looking for relationships with people immersed in deaf culture.
Macular Degeneration Foundation
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has made some of its course materials available online -- for free.
If you have an Internet connection and a Web browser, you can access MIT's pilot project: OpenCourseWare
which includes the syllabus, lecture notes, exams (with answers), and videotaped lectures of 32 MIT courses. Typically, MIT undergraduates pay $26,960 per year for these same course materials. This effort is part of a multiyear effort to create a unified approach to online access to the Institute's classes. The MIT faculty is embracing a comparison to the open-source model used by software developers who publish, license and release their products free of charge. Although MIT is not offering course credits for degrees with a similarly free pricing scheme, students are getting an increasing amount of their MIT education in the privacy of their own dorm room, rather than attending live lectures. There are still 1,968 courses remaining to be published, but teaching and learning using the new framework called "open knowledge systems" may be the future of higher education.
Global Change Master Directory
Recently, AT&T launched its free Video Relay Service, allowing hearing-impaired and deaf people nationwide to communicate with those who can hear.
Here's how it works: a deaf person sitting in front of a high-speed internet connected PC with a webcam installed, uses American Sign Language to "sign" to an ASL interpreter on the other end of the connection. The interpreter then gives the message to a hearing person, who takes an order or responds to a request as it's made.
The older version of this process, known as traditional relay
, allows a deaf or hearing-impaired person to use a TTY or a TDD (telecommunications device for the deaf), to type on the special keypad and transmit the message to an operator, who relays it by speaking to intended recipient.
(VRS) is more natural however, allowing faster and smoother communication from the deaf person's computer to the person being communicated with.
A similar VRS
is also available from Communications Services for the Deaf
Americans With Disabilities Act
-- made for children with visual impairments -- emit sound waves just like sonar equipment on submarines. The waves bounce off nearby objects and back to the sonar transmitter-receiver on the glasses, which measures the time period of the round trip. The device processes that distance information and translates it into audible beeps. The beeps are higher-pitched when objects are closer than four feet and lower-pitched when they're farther away. If an obstacle is more than 12 feet away, and therefore safely out of range, the glasses don't beep at all. They won't replace a cane or a guide dog -- imagine the chaos of trying to use them on a busy street. But they allow wearers to audibly "feel" the surface contours of a room or area.
if I remember correctly
Gloves do the talking for the deaf
At the University of New South Wales in Australia, research fellow Waleed Kadous is developing a pair of gloves capable of translating sign language into English text on a computer monitor. Although so far the translations have only been 95% accurate using Australian sign language, the project shows the possibility of allowing communication for the deaf, by using a device enclosed in the gloves that meaures the movement of the wearer's hand making signs, translating the different signs and then "speaking" the words through a transmitter to the person with whom the deaf or mute are communicating.
I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; And because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
- Helen Keller
On the subject of Deafness or hard-of-hearing (HOH), I'd like to address a few things. There are many misconceptions that hearing people have about Deaf people. Since the Phoenix Bird project
pertains to this (among other
things), I'm inclined to put a few of those misconceptions to rest. Don't get me wrong: I speak for no one. Deaf people can speak for themselves. But my research has provided me with some information that I realize is need-to-know stuff. So this posting is about all those mistakes that get made UN-intentionally when interacting with people who are Deaf. I've made quite a few, and I'M supposed to know better! As I intend to include some Deaf people or the Deaf community in my work...it's time for some commentary, some acknowledgements and some interesting things to learn about.
THE "OOPS" LIST
Or, how a hearing person learns NOT to be misunderstood by the Deaf Culture.
On the word "deaf":
The preferred word is "Deaf" or hard-of-hearing, not:
deaf and dumb
hearing-impaired (no matter how politically correct in hearing society it is, it simply annoys Deaf people)
any other phrase other than Deaf or Hard of Hearing
Those words are outdated and obviously insulting. It's the equivalent of negro, colored, whatever. They're words that are just not used anymore.
On being considered "handicapped":
Deaf people see deafness as an ethnic feature, not as a handicap. They get real annoyed when people refer to them as "disabled".
On talking in the company of a Deaf person:
It's rude to "talk" back and forth between hearing people if a Deaf person is present -- that's like speaking Spanish when the people around you speak English. It's not polite to exclude them, especially if you know English. Right?
Most Deaf people can NOT read lips. Statistically, an expert lip-reader can make out approximately 30% of what you say, simply because the mouth is closed for so many parts of the word or sentence. If by some chance you meet a Deaf person who does read lips, don't do that whole wide fish-mouth exagerrated words thing. That's like saying to a Spanish person, "Speaka de English?". Talk at a comfortable pace as you normally would, not too slow and not too fast.
A more effective form of communication, if you don't sign, would be to simply get someone who does or use paper and pencil if the information you want to pass on is critical.
We hearing types have a tendency to think people who stare or look too intently at us are recent escapees from a hospital for the criminally insane -- or at least a little too forward. But when you're talking with a person who is deaf, eye contact is crucial. Why? Because all of the grammatical cues of the language as well as the form and structure of the language are based mostly in the face.
Watch two signers sometime and take a look at where their eyes are. You'll probably see that they barely glance at the other's hands. This is because the face is the primary focus and the signing space (a little above the head, to the belly button, and just outside each shoulder) is visible peripherally.
As an example: The difference between "That boy is yours" as a statement and "Is that boy yours?" as a question is a grammatical eyebrow raise and a tilt forward of the head. Since there is no tonal inflections to indicate it's a question, signers use facial expressions to cover things like: questions, statements, feelings, distance, etc.
So if you're the one being signed to, and you look away or can't look the Deaf person in the eye:
a) you're missing a big part of the conversation
b) they assume that you're not interested in what they're saying (it's like when kids hold their hands over their ears so they can't hear you - - same deal)
On hearing aids:
Most hearing people assume that if a person is wearing hearing aids, they have corrected their hearing loss and now they can hear "20/20". Well that's not true. It amplifies SOME residual hearing and helps somewhat but it doesn't make them understand you perfectly. Hearing aids aren't a one-size-fits-all solution so don't assume that if someone is wearing one you don't have to make any special effort in communicating with them.
These links range in content from hearing to Deaf (and everything in between).
A Basic Guide to ASL
This is an animated dictionary. Use by looking up the word, and it''ll give you the sign. You may need QuickTime, though.
Animated ASL Dictionary
Another animated dictionary for ASL Beginners.
Want some practice fingerspelling? I really like this site because it's good for honing visual reception skills, but unfortunately pre-formed letters can't show the usual transition in "real life" fingerspelling. But, considering this is an online tool, they do a good job with the medium they have to work with!
This is his home page posted by Gallaudet University. Benjamin Bahan is an incredibly talented storyteller and educator.
Did you think all signed languages were the same? My dream that I would learn ONE sign language and be able to travel around the world with it...was naive. Sign Language, like any other language, has it's varieties from community to community and country to country.
California School for the Deaf (Fremont).
Deaf Counseling Advocacy & Referral Agency.
A search engine with all hits relating to deaf businesses, etc.
Links to many other resources.
A great place to pick up merchandise and information.
Deaf Resources Library
This website is maintained by a professor of Anthropology and Asian Studies and it's HUGE.
A fantastically funny man by the name of Ken Glickman runs this site. He's written three books about Deaf Culture. All hilarious. Check him out!
Deaf Tamara's World of Cartoons
This is an interesting page about Deaf cartoonists, featuring articles, news clippings, and some cartoons.
First Liberal Arts University for Deaf People.
National Association of the Deaf. Another great resource and non-profit organization.
Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (United States)
A website dedicated to the artistic talents of Deaf people. And for the uninformed hearing people, like myself? TRAINGOSORRY is a sign, translated roughly to English, meaning "Over one's head" (as in, "I didn't get it.")
World Around You
A Deaf magazine produced for teens through early twenties.
what you see is what you get
Screen readers, used by blind and visually-impaired Web-surfers, read text, menus, links, and other visual interface elements out loud in a selection of voices.
1. “Introduction to the Screen Reader”: Enjoyable and somewhat informative QuickTime video (with optional captions) on screen-reader usage (2002.03.28)
2. Linux with speech? Accessible text mode applications: “The nice thing about screen readers written for Linux are that they are under the Gnu Public License like Linux itself.... Several years ago, T. B. Raman had the idea that he could make Linux ‘speak’ to the blind. He came up with the idea of having a speaking environment that operated from within Emacs, a powerful Unix editor. The user could then issue shell commands from within Emacs, thus gaining nearly full control of the system. This had the advantage that it would run on many different UNIXes including Linux. It had the disadvantage of requiring the new user to learn emacs commands,” and so on, and so on, in endless discursion (2002.10.12)
3. Screen readers open Windows for the blind: Good explanation of the differences between Jaws and Window-Eyes screen readers (2001.01.11)
4. Screen readers comparative chart (just what it says, but limited to Jaws and Window-Eyes; 2001.01.11)
5. A guiding standard: Squib on Microsoft Active Accessibility (2001.01.11)
6. Talking browser speaks to blind Net users: “WeMedia said Tuesday it had launched a talking browser to make Internet surfing easier for the visually-impaired” (2001.03.07)
7. Screen-reader manufacturers’ pages
1. IBM Home Page Reader (official page); also technology background
2. Jaws (Freedom Scientific)
3. Window-Eyes (GW Micro)
4. Outspoken (ALVA Access Group; Windows and Macintosh, though the Mac version is old)
5. Emacspeak (freeware for Linux; T.V. Raman)
Perceivable, Operable, Navigable, Understandable, Robust
This story was written by a woman in Phoenix who has been blind since birth.
A Personal Story from Long Ago
Hi. I've been debating when to share a certain story from my life with this list. Judging from all the posts, tonight is good, so here I go. It's a bit to the long side, so read, enjoy, and feel free to comment. I may divide this up into the story itself, and then a follow-up post talking about the results of it in more detail. I was born in October, 1952. I was two pounds, twelve ounces, and I'm totally blind. My story takes place in 1963, winter, in Phoenix, where I've lived most of my life. I was in the second group of children to be integrated into public school. We went to regular class, and had a special teacher one period per day. One winter afternoon Miss Fry, my fifth grade teacher, was teaching us a unit on poetry. Now the poems in this unit were very visually oriented-sunsets, dafodils, clouds, lots of Emily Dickinson and Wiliam Wordsworth. She said that if we understood the poems, we would be able to explain to the class how and what we felt when we read them. We should be able to have images in our minds, and these would come from our reading the word pictures in the poems. The trouble was that I was feeling nothing from this class exercise. I had nothing to say. I wanted to do well in school. I didn't want to be sent to the blind school, a hundred miles away in Tucson. I was already starting to have great trouble with math. When class was over, I got out of there as fast as possible. For the first time I could remember, I hated being blind, and knew I was a failure. That night I wasn't myself, too quiet. Mother asked me if everything was okay at school. I lied and said things were fine. I don't advocate this practice, but even at that age I had learned it wasn't cool to complain about things, tha all you would get was a lecture about how you shouldn't feel that way. Besides, I had done what I was told to do; if I had a problem in class, I was to tell the resource teacher, the special teacher for blind children. I loved Mrs. Griswold like a grandmother, and thought she would solve things as Mom had said she should. When I told her what had happened, she said, "Because you've never seen anything with your eyes, there are certain things you will never understand. You will just have to accept that." When I asked her what that was and how I should do that, she couldn't explain to me what acceptance was. I figured it would do no good to talk to those dumb grownups, anyway, since they would be no help at all, anyway. I was in a funk; I didn't even stay up to catch SING ALONG WITH MITCH, which I watched without fail every Friday night. However, a little after nine p.m. I woke up. Dad was doing what Dad always did-keeping the TV on and falling asleep. Jack Parr was on, and in a half sleep I heard him introducing Giselle Mc'Kenzie, a singer from Canada who was often on that show. "She's going to perform a song from a new musical that's just come from London to Broadway, STOP THE WORLD, I WANT TO GET OFF." He explained that the song was called GONA BUILD A MOUNTAIN. "Grown-ups have gotten really strange. I'll listen if I can stay awake," I thought. Well, I not only stayed awake, I sat bolt upright in bed, and that was when something happened as this singer performed this catchy song, which would remind you of one of those gospel songs Christians, especially black ones, have at church. I was getting all sorts of images, just as Miss Fry had said. I was receiving those word pictures, thick and fast. There were these little people, short and wide, with tools in their hands, working on a project of some sort, and the foreman in charge was directing them as he sang along with the televission. As the song concluded, I heard this voice say, "That woman isn't the grown-up responsible for this song. She's only sending it to you. If you learn about the place from which this song comes, you'll be all right, and you'll stay at school and not be sent away." Mother walked by, and saw me jumping up and down while sitting on the bed. "Are you okay?" she asked. "I'm fine now, Mom," I said, not a trace of lying to be found anywhere. There was one problem, though. I couldn't tell Miss Fry what had happened. She would think I had totally lost it, if I had said I saw word pictures while listening to a song about some guy who wants to build a mountain. I kept my secret hidden from grownups for a long time, but a year later, when we had to do geography papers, I told my teacher I had to learn about this place called London. "You should write about the British Aisles," she said, and I did that. I've been interested in that part of the world ever since. I never was sent away to blind school, but did public school all the way through Arizona State University. I heard Jack Parr's show of that night in a summer re-run, so I knew I hadn't imagined the song, and besides, Sammy Davis Jr. had a hit with this song, so I heard it on radio numerous times. It was years later, while listening to Ed Sullivan, that I found out about the responsible person, a performer whose work I've come to love. Anthony Newley, who is now sadly no longer with us, had a voice that could tell stories. You never had to see anything in order to know what was on his mind; he sang with such feeling. It's true this guy had the thickest British accent I had known in my young life so far to the point of becoming familiar with him, but I reckoned that was part of the asignment I had received on that long ago night, back in 1963. Well, that's the basic story. I'm inclined to tell you about it all, but have taken up quite a bit of cyberspace and will close this shortly. Rosalyn B. and sleeping Razzle, Phoenix Arizona