Thursday, May 28, 2015

Humanware Launches the Next Generation of Trekker Breeze!

Humanware's Trekker Breeze has long been a useful tool for people who are blind or visually impaired to confidently navigate when out and about, providing a simple to use interface that can be manipulated one handed leaving a hand free to hold a white cane or dog guide. The Trekker did have a few problems though, such as very slow starting time, not telling you what side of the street things were on and sometimes inaccurate location finding when not in street view.

Step up the New Trekker Breeze+ Humanware yesterday launched the next generation of Trekker Breeze addressing all of the issues that users had with the first generation. Humanware promise quicker start up, much better location finding when not in street view and better description of where things are. We haven't had hands on time with it yet (keep tuned for a video review when we get one!) but judging by Humanware's past successes we are fully confident they will deliver another great product, and really look forward to trying it out.

Best of all is the price. A new Trekker Breeze+ will set you back $799, a great price itself, but even better if you already own a Trekker Breeze you can have yours modified to the new version for just $199! That kind of pricing is really forward thinking and consumer conscious, and we love it.

Check out the press release from Humanware below and call us at 1-800-919-3375 with any questions!  


HumanWare Launches the Trekker Breeze+
More Accurate for More Informed Travel
HumanWare is excited to announce a new travel tool to add to the navigation toolbox. The Trekker Breeze+ is the next generation of HumanWare’s popular Trekker Breeze talking GPS. Building upon the success of the original Breeze and based on the feedback received from visually impaired travelers, the new improved Breeze+ is the most accurate, intuitive, and effective navigation aid designed for travelers who are visually impaired.
Buy now

Developing strong orientation and mobility skills is essential for successful travel for individuals with a visual impairment. Effective skills with a white cane or dog guide enable a traveler who is visually impaired to successfully and safely navigate from work to home, home to school, or among different countries around the world.

“ The integration of GPS into our guide dog training curriculum would not have been possible without the relationship we have built with HumanWare. We are excited about the new Breeze Plus because it delivers the features and upgrades our clients and instructors have been requesting. HumanWare proves once again it listens to the needs of our clients.
The changes are another example of the commitment of both Leader Dogs for the Blind and HumanWare to provide meaningful products and services. We look forward to our continued collaborative relationship and the chance to improve travel of all who ask.”
Says Rod Haneline, VP and Chief Programs & Services Officer at Leader Dogs for the Blind.

Based on popular user feedback, the Breeze+ uses the same effective design as the original Trekker Breeze while on the go. With well pronounced tactile buttons, all device functions can be operated using one hand, leaving the other hand free for your white cane or dog guide.
It’s what’s inside that makes all the difference
The Breeze+ uses the latest in GPS technology to provide you with the fastest, most accurate travel information when and where you need it. So what’s different about the Breeze+ compared to the original Trekker Breeze?

·   Significantly improved GPS acquisition time
When frequently using this newly updated GPS technology, you
can expect to have a GPS connection in as little as 10 seconds
after the device boots.
·   Greatly improved performance in urban canyon environments!
The urban canyon environment often found in large cities has
always been less accommodating to GPS usage. With the
updated GPS technology in the Breeze+, you can expect
a consistent GPS signal, regardless of your environment.
·   Improved GPS accuracy
With Breeze+, you can expect accuracy of landmarks to
be significantly improved. For example, testers have
reported that their landmarks have been announced less
than 5 feet from the original location.
·   Higher quality GPS signal
Once Breeze+ acquires the satellite signal, you can expect
to travel with a higher quality GPS signal. This means a more
accurate detection of your location.

Travel with confidence with Breeze+
Here are just a few of the features existing Breeze users love:
·   Traveling to a specific address or business?
Breeze+ provides you specific walking or driving instructions as you travel.
·   Wondering where you are?
Use the “Where Am I Button”. This button tells you your current cardinal direction, next intersection, nearest address and current street.
·   Curious about what you just passed?
The What’s Around feature lets you know what interesting points of interest are around you.
·   Worried about how you will get back home?
Simply drop a landmark in front of your house and Breeze+ will walk you back to that exact spot whenever you want.
·   Nervous about navigating in open areas such as a campus or park?
Breeze+’s open area mode allows you to use landmarked locations to get from point A to B confidently.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Microsoft Surface Brings Full Portable Computing to the Blind and Visually Impaired

With the release of Microsoft's Surface 3 tablet/laptop hybrid we thought it was time to blog about the benefits of this great line of devices for people who are blind or visually impaired (read a review of the Surface 3 here

The Surface 3 is the first time that Microsoft have released a Surface outside of the Pro line that runs a full version of Windows 8.1 - what does this mean? It means you will get a fully functioning laptop replacement running a full version of Windows for a lot cheaper than was previously possible.

Starting at just $499, the Surface 3 can have up to 4GB of RAM and 128GB storage, and uses an Intel 'Atom' processor which seems from the reviews to be capable for most users needs. Also available is the great Surface Type Cover, a fantastic keyboard with fully tactile keys that also doubles as a cover (although this will set you back a further $130).

The keyboard is a great feature for people who are blind as it allows easy navigation of the computer using the keyboard only, and also connects to the tablet with a strong magnet meaning you don't have to fumble to find the port and connect it - simply bring the Surface close to the keyboard and the magnet will do the rest! Talking of ports, the Surface also offers a full sized USB port, making it a breeze to connect a printer or transfer files with a USB drive).

The other great thing about the Surface 3 (and Surface Pro, Surface Pro 2 and Surface Pro 3) is that it runs a full version of Windows 8.1 - meaning if you are a current user of JAWS, NVDA, Window-Eyes, Zoomtext, MAGic or anything else that runs on a Windows platform you can install in on this tablet and be ready to get computing right away! Also, any programs you are used to using on your computer, be it something from the Microsoft Office suite, Google Chrome, Photoshop or anything else that will run on a Windows computer can be installed and run on the Surface.

The convenience of being able to pick up a tablet and be familiar with the OS and operation for someone who is blind or visually impaired is huge, as it means no need to familiarize yourself with a whole new operating system that may or may not have been designed with the needs of the blind and visually impaired in mind. As the Surface line has been around for a while now you can also save some money by buying used or refurbished devices, just make sure you buy The Surface Pro, Surface Pro 2, Surface Pro 3 or Surface 3 - The Surface and Surface 2 do not run full versions of Windows 8.1.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Zoomax's Butterfly Takes Flight.....

Here at The Chicago Lighthouse we are big fans of Zoomax's products as they combine great features and great prices. We're glad to see the Butterfly, our latest acquisition from them, is no exception. This 3.5" portable electronic magnifier features 5 color modes, 1.5x to 15x magnification and a freeze frame mode. The thing that we really like though (and that gives it its name!) is the butterfly shaped stand on the rear of the unit. This stand puts the screen at an angle towards your eyes, making the device very ergonomically well designed and comfortable to use. 

Check out our video about the Butterfly then call us at 1-800-919-3375 for more information! 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Accessibyte, a Great Educational Tool for Teachers of the Blind, Visually and Cognitively Impaired

A few months ago I had the pleasure of meeting Joe Jorgensen, developer of the Accessibyte suite of accessible software, and last week we got together for an interview to find out all about the software he offers - and we think it's great!

Accessibyte ( is the name for a suite of great software designed to aid teachers of the blind, visually or cognitively impaired, with applications such as a talking typing teacher called 'Typio', a suite of accessible games testing reflexes, math skills, language skills etc called 'Accessibyte Arcade', and an application to very quickly and easily convert text files to wave (audio) files called 'WordWav'. 

We had the chance to test the software out over a couple of weeks and had great fun with it. The interface proves to be excellent, being very visually uncluttered and simple to navigate. Users can customize the applications for the individual student (for example setting up custom lessons in Typio) to make sure that all skill levels are catered for. The arcade offers games needing as little as one button to be pressed to play, meaning the entry level skill needed for people to enjoy the software is very low. 

We were really impressed with the Accessibyte suite of software, and with Joe himself, and highly recommend checking out the website at and trying the software for yourself! 

Watch the interview below!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Zoomax know how to 'Panda' to their audience....

The Lighthouse has just received a new desktop CCTV from Zoomax, the company who introduced the Butterfly, Snow and Snow 7 HD electronic handheld magnifiers, and we like. 

The CCTV is called the Panda and comes in a striking black and white color scheme (hence the name!). Containing all the features you would expect such as 17 different color modes, 2x-70x magnification and a 19" monitor, the Panda is an attractive CCTV with a good image and is really easy to use.

And now for the best part (drum roll please).....the Panda retails for just $1695! That's a great price for a quality CCTV like this and makes it one of our favorite choices for an entry level, good quality unit. 

Easier to look after than a pet Panda, the Panda CCTV might be just what you or a loved one is looking for!

Need help with the TV remote ? X1 from Comcast just might be for you....

We've been talking a lot about accessible television recently, and today we came across another great service that can make it easier for people with a visual impairment or who are blind use their television - X1 from Comcast!

This service introduces some great features for the blind and visually impaired, such as an accessible television guide, accessible menus and accessible DVR control so you never have to miss your favorite shows again or find what channel they are on :-)

In addition, a problem to many people with a visual impairment may have finally been solved - Comcast have introduced a voice activated remote control! no more struggling to find the correct button, simply speak into the remote to have it change channels, start recording, suggest things to watch and a lot more. 

We think that this service has a lot of potential for helping people with visual issues access and use their television more easily, potentially increasing their quality of life and happiness. 

For more information on this service, visit

We are always getting questions about television and hope that our recent articles can help with some ideas on how to make watching television easier and more fun as a blind or low vision individual. As always, feel free to comment or call 312-997-3649 with any questions!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Watching TV as a visually impaired person

Let's face it, everyone likes to watch TV, but for the person with a visual impairment this can be a difficult task. For those with a central or peripheral scotoma it can be hard to see faces of the people on television, and easy to miss important action happening on the screen. 

Audio described television (which we talked about last week with regards to Netflix) can be one helpful tool for this problem. A narrator describes the action on the screen so even if you can't see it you can imagine what is happening through the narration. 

However there are other options out there. One device is magnifying television glasses designed to magnify at distance. Sit in your easy chair with these on and the television will appear twice as large, which may be just what you need to better see what's happening. 

If these are not enough, a spectacle mounted telescope can be prescribed which would allow you to magnify objects in the distance to an even greater extent - however bear in mind that as you magnify your field of view will become smaller, meaning you may not see the entire television screen at the same time and will have to move your head around as you are watching. 

Tom Perski from The Chicago Lighthouse, now 62 and having been legally blind since the age of 21, offers some advice from his own experience - "I have found the best way to watch television is to use a smaller television and sit closer to it" He says. "Many people think a larger television will help, but it is hard to see the whole screen. If you have a smaller television and sit right up, relative distance magnification makes it appear much larger"

Tom adds "If you have central vision loss it is more effective to use eccentric viewing (your peripheral vision) to look at things. I find it best to sit at an angle to the television in order to help with this".

So as you can say there are many possibilities. Call us today at 312-997-3649 to discuss what might work for your individual needs!