2003 Conference Proceedings

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Larry L. Lewis, Jr.
Product Marketing Manager,
BrailleNote Family
Pulse Data International, LTD.
Phone: 800/722/3393 Extension 664
Email: larryl@pulsedata.com

One of the most significant problems faced by both students and employees who are visually impaired is the difficulties faced by them sharing written data with their sighted instructors, employers, and colleagues. While the methods by which we communicate with one another have changed, this problem of sharing and interacting with this written data still poses an ominous obstacle to persons who are blind who wish to succeed in both the educational and vocational sectors. Despite countless attempts and approaches of various service providers, manufacturers, and educators of persons who are visually impaired, the depth of this problem only seems to increase with each passing technological advancement.


In attempting to provide a solution to this dilemma, it is important that an explanation of the problem is given. To begin with, the first component of this problem is actually obtaining written information that is often disseminated to sighted individuals in print format. For instance, when an instructor in a classroom hands out a classroom or a homework assignment, how does the instructor distribute this information? Traditionally, blackboards were used. The student could enter the classroom and receive confirmation of a task that was at hand. Blackboards have sense given way to hard copies of text delivered on paper, and in more recent times some schools may even employ the use of e-mail to distribute this information. So the student who is blind would then be faced with the prospects of retrieving this information via sighted assistance, through the utilization of Braille or tape transcribing services, the use of a scanner and OCR package, etc.

Secondly, once the given information is obtained, then the student is faced with the task of interacting with that information. Strategies must then be developed and implemented by the student to complete the given task.

Thirdly, the results produced by the efforts of the student now must be rendered in a format and a medium acceptable to a sighted instructor, and ultimately, a sighted employer. This third component to the problem is especially crucial in the competitive employment sector.

In determining a solution to this problem, an appropriate technological solution must be selected to provide strategies for task completion. Such a solution should interact seamlessly with other technologies on both the hardware and software fronts. The BrailleNote Family of Portable Information Management Systems allows for such innovation and flexibility providing antidotes to all three elements of the problem which has been described.

Firstly, portability is a fundamental ingredient for a solution to both students and employees who are blind who must have an robust, accessible strategy for accessing printed information with an electronic origin. Utilization of Microsoft Word Conversion, traditional pop-e-mail access, and portable web-browsing capabilities provides to the student efficient methods by which he/she can access Microsoft Word files, receive e-mail instruction, and obtain pertinent, up-to-the-minute, ever-changing information from the "world wide web". The author will present concrete examples of how this information might be obtained using these three methods.

Once this information is received, then the student must be able to easily manipulate, edit, or further research this given data. The author will demonstrate the ability to portably research information using standard search engines on the internet using the BrailleNote Personal Information Management System.

Lastly, once a given task has been completed, the student or employee must then share the results with his/her sighted instructor, peer, or employee. E-mail exchange through a network connection, wireless printing of data, and automatic file synchronization will be demonstrated by the author.

The author will then shift the focus to a competitive employment situation which often calls for the automatic synchronization between an adaptive technological tool and a network at a given employment site. Seamless exchanging of dynamic information will be demonstrated through Pulse Data's KeySync Utility which synchronizes the BrailleNote's calendar, address list, and e-mail messages with Microsoft Outlook. Also, attention will be devoted to automatic file synchronization using Microsoft's ActiveSync utility as a link to automatically update information between the BrailleNote and the network on the work site.

The author will conclude by summarizing the problem and succinctly presenting the solutions set forth in this paper with a challenge to all to continually expand about the benefits currently offered by technologies which take advantage of the same utilities used by the mainstream while preserving the integrity of a product line designed with the interests of individuals who are blind as the focus of all current and future development efforts.

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