Tuesday, November 24, 2015

So How Do I Do That?

This is a question we get asked a lot at the Lighthouse by people who are visually impaired or blind and who want to achieve something like watching TV more easily, reading a book or using an ATM. 

Because of this we created 'The Chicago Lighthouse Presents How To...' Youtube Channel, a channel dedicated to answering questions on how to perform specific activities as a person with a visual impairment and increase quality of life. 

We have 13 videos up already with more on the way, and if you have a topic you would like to see covered then don't hesitate to contact us and let us know. If we can, we'll make a video on it! See the Youtube Channel here https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCra0Oaa96s8-RZFcXJ3EwgA and see a sample video below. 


Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Next Generation of Portable Camera

Technology advances ever onward, and one of the latest devices to be born from the imagination of the engineers at HIMS is the E-bot.

The E-bot is a portable CCTV camera designed to be connected via HDMI to a television or monitor - so far so normal. What sets the E-bot apart is that it can also wirelessly connect to an iPad, using the iPad's screen as its monitor!

In another twist, the most advanced version of the E-bot, the E-bot Pro, is fully motorized and allows control of the camera through either swipe and touch gestures directly on the iPad screen, or with the included remote control. This is fantastic for making fine adjustments when magnified and makes it possible to use the camera from beyond arm's length as you don't need to touch the camera in order to move it. 

The E-bot comes in three models, with the E-bot Pro being the most fully featured. The E-bot Pro, in addition to the motorized movement, offers great OCR, distance viewing, near viewing and superb portability due to its fold-away design. 

Look out for a video on the E-bot very soon, and in the meantime read more about the device here http://hims-inc.com/products/e-bot-pro/

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Joy of Reading

“Literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disenfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourses of my book friends. They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness.” ―Helen Keller, The Story of My Life

One of the main areas in which people who are blind or have a visual impairment suffer, particularly if they have lost their vision at a later age, is the loss of their ability to read. Suddenly being unable to read mail, books, magazines, restaurant menus and product labels, to name just a few areas, means a loss of independence and a subsequent decline in quality of life. Often people will turn to their family and friends for help; however having to rely on others is unsatisfactory to many people and the psychological burden further leads to a decline in quality of life. If a student experiences vision loss, being unable to access textbooks or see the whiteboard can put them at a disadvantage to their peers and lead to a loss of motivation in school and poor grades. Being able therefore to propose viable techniques that can enhance the ability of a person who is blind or visually impaired to read is very important, and thankfully there are many devices that can be utilized. 

Electronic magnification is a huge area and consists of devices from handheld to desktop and every size in between. Using an electronic magnifier or CCTV a user can read anything from a menu or food label to a book much more easily than with a regular magnifying glass.

If magnification doesn't work for you then OCR may be the answer. OCR or read aloud devices can take a picture of a piece of text and read it aloud to a user. Great for reading mail or books these devices can do wonders for your independence. 

As well as these there are many services available providing audio books. The Library of Congress runs a program called BARD offering free audio books and a device to play them to people with a visual impairment. You can apply at nlsbard.loc.gov or visit your local library. In addition, services such as Bookshare.org and learning ally offer access to many books including textbooks for students. As well as these, through a tablet, e-reader or phone it is possible to download thousands of books from places such as Amazon or the Apple App Store. 

Reading as a person who is blind or visually impaired is a huge topic and can't be covered in a blog post. For more information you can contact us at 312-997-3649, email at luke.scriven@chicagolighthouse.org and visit our Youtube Channel at youtube.com/chilighthouse 

The Connect 12 - A Connection to the Future

The Connect 12 from Humanware is a fantastic new device combining the convenience of tablet technology with low vision features. Based on an Android tablet, the Connect 12 runs the Prodigi software meaning good quality near magnification, fast and accurate OCR and ease of use. An optional extra is a wireless distance camera which can be used to magnify the whiteboard, look out the window or whatever else you might want to see.

Once you have finished on the Prodigi side it is easy to exit to the Android side and use Android's built in accessibility to access the internet, send and receive emails, take pictures, read books and so much more. Fantastic for students or those wanting a really portable do-it-all device, check out the video below to see it in action!