1999 Conference Proceedings

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Stand Alone Solutions: How Note-Takers provide individuals with visual impairments access to information.

Bryan Blazie
Vice President
Blazie Engineering

Frank Irzyk
Training and Technical Support
Blazie Engineering

Introduction

Dedicated computers are nothing new. They are all around us. The automated teller machine, the cash register which scans groceries, are all examples of dedicated computer solutions. Note-takers such as the Braille 'n Speak, Braille Lite and Type 'n Speak are examples of the dedicated computer solutions we have designed for the blind and visually impaired. They have been designed from day one to be easier to use and more intuitive than adapted computers. Ease of use, portability and reliability are the primary considerations in the design. This presentation will provide participants with information on how note-takers go beyond simple word processing and provide the user useful utilities, which provide access to information.

How Note-Takers Have Changed

The current note-taking devices have gone well beyond the concept of a device to jot down a few notes and can be likened to the personal data assistants (PDA's) with multiple functions. They now have full word processing capabilities, list management, appointment management, access to electronic mail and now access to reading materials. While the basic command structure has remained the same over the past eleven years, functionality has increased greatly over that period of time.

These capabilities are often overlooked in favor of using a laptop computer. The increased portability and extended battery life of note-takers make the choice a critical one in terms of providing the student or client a device which meets the needs for productivity and access to information while keeping training directed on task oriented pursuits.

A major shift has been the addition of refreshable braille to note-takers. This addition has greatly increased the ability of the blind individual to access information in his or her primary learning medium. In a time when a new emphasis is placed on the importance of braille as reading mode it is important consider the pros and cons of refreshable braille in a portable device. The difference will be discussed during the presentation.

A variety of case studies, related to the innovative ways that note-takers from Blazie Engineering will be presented, from school-aged application to adult usage. Particular emphasis will be placed on reading applications and methods of promoting literacy.


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