Exciting new technology for visually impaired

Posted: Tuesday, October 12, 2004


  Scott Hale of Freedom Scientific demonstrates new Braille learning system to 6-year-old Destiny Schmidt of Soldotna.

Scott Hale of Freedom Scientific demonstrates new Braille learning system to 6-year-old Destiny Schmidt of Soldotna.

An exciting new array of electronic products has revolutionized learning and assistance technology for the visually impaired, according to Scott Hegle, product specialist for Freedom Scientific. Hegle and Tyler Brown, from St. Petersburg, Florida, were in Alaska recently to demonstrate the latest and greatest "assistive technology" for low vision and blind children and adults. "It's a completely different world today for people with visual impairments or who are not sighted than it was say 10 or even 5 years ago. Today we have off the shelf technology that levels the playing field between the sighted and the blind. We have electronic Braille or what's called refreshable Braille so you no longer have to have things on paper it can all be electronic. We also have screen readers that can read to you and programs that can enlarge things for you on your computer screen," explained Hegle. According to Hegle the demand for these new products has quadrupled in the last few years.

Hegle and Brown recently held a demonstration at the Soldotna Senior Center assisted by John Clare, Vision Specialist for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. "Our low vision and blind students (around 17 in this district) have the good fortune to be living during a time when technology allows blind folks to access information which has been inaccessible in the past. As the vision specialist for the district, it is my job to make sure that our low vision and blind (BVI) students have all the skills and tools necessary to be academically competitive at whatever level they operate," said Clare. Clare feels that several students in the district could greatly benefit from some of the devices offered by Freedom Scientific and plans to approach the district as well as local service organizations to help with funding. "Scott and Tyler are going to loan us a Speech Assisted Learning Systems Courseware Braille instruction computer for several weeks and during that time I would really like to take it to show it to anyone who might have the ability to help us purchase some of these tools," said Clare. For more information about these new devices you can go to www.freedomscientific.com or call John Clare at 714-8933.

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