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Fall 2001 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

New Technology for Blind and Visually Impaired Students

By Holly Cooper, Technology Consultant, TSBVI, Outreach

One of the things we do here at Outreach is learn about new technology products, and try to share that information with parents and professionals. There are currently some new note takers, CCTVs and software available on the market we thought might be of interest to our readers. Most of these new devices are designed for academic students. There is, however, one software product that is also useful for students with additional and more severe disabilities.

BrailleNote: There has been an explosion of new devices and new revisions of existing devices in the world of notetakers. The newest of the note takers is a completely new family of products available from Pulse Data International. These include BrailleNote QT, BrailleNote BT, VoiceNote BT and VoiceNote QT. All of these devices are built on the Windows CE operating system, and include a built-in modem, standard computer ports, type II PCMCIA slot, support for standard POP3 e-mail services, and Active Synch. For the first time, students can send and receive e-mail (including MS Word attachments) with their note taker. Another notable feature is Active Synch, which allows the user to easily share files between note takers and computers. For more information, see www.humanware.com.

Blazie: Significant revisions to existing Blazie products are now on the market. These note takers continue to support familiar features such as spell check and word processing. They now, however, also include a built-in modem for POP3 e-mail and internet access, programmable scrolling wheels, and a backspace and enter key. The programmable scrolling wheels are designed to allow the user to scroll by line, sentence or paragraph. Both the BrailleLite Millennium 20 and 40 now come with software called Connect Outloud. Connect Outloud is a product of Henter-Joyce (the manufacturer of JAWS) which allows Internet access using MS Internet Explorer and e-mail. Connect Outloud works with the built in Microsoft Outlook Express e-mail client. The software also has a built in word processor. All of these features include the Eloquence speech synthesizer usually found in JFW (JAWS). For more info, see www.freedomscientific.com.

Flipper: The Flipper, manufactured by Enhanced Vision Systems, is a small CCTV with a camera size of about 2 by 3 inches and a small, lighted microscope-like stand. It has the ability to focus on both a desktop and chalkboard with the flip of the camera. The Flipper can be hooked up to any TV monitor, but requires an adaptor for connection to a computer monitor, which entails additional cost. For a photograph and additional information, see http://www.enhancedvision.com/flipper.php.

Clarity: The Clarity Classmate CCTV is a comparable small CCTV made by Clarity Solutions. Connecting the camera to the stand is more difficult with this device, and a special lens must be slid over the camera to change from near to distance viewing. The Clarity, however, does not require a special interface to connect with a computer monitor. For additional information and photographs, see www.clarityaf.com.

Clicker 4: Clicker 4 is a software product developed for the general education population that is also very useful for single-switch blind and low vision students. The software is advertised as a multimedia word processor, and it is similar to an onscreen version of Intellitools. Clicker 4 can be used in an auditory scanning mode with a single switch user. Using teacher-made and parent-made "grids," the student can write stories, access talking books, and write e-mail. It can be used as a simple, computer-based augmentative communication device. This product is very exciting, and it has potential for use with VI students who have additional multiple disabilities. TSBVI Outreach will be offering training to interested new users. Clicker 4 is available in Mac and Windows versions. See www.cricksoft.com.

Connect Outloud: Connect Outloud by Henter-Joyce is a simplified version of JAWS. It can speak in English or Spanish. It works only with MS Internet Explorer, MS Outlook Express (e-mail), and built in word processors. The most exciting things about this program are its simple to use interface, inexpensive price, and its similarity to JAWS. This allows for ease of transfer of skills, as student's educational needs change. See www.freedomscientific.com.

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Last Revision: July 30, 2002