2006 Conference General Sessions



Dipl.-Ing. Siegfried Kipke
Handy Tech Elektronik GmbH
BrunnenstraRe 10
Horb 72160 Germany
Day phone: +49 7451 5546-0
Fax: +49 7451 5546-67
Email: info@handytech.de

Making of-the-shelf technology accessible helps to improve the lives of blind and visual impaired. It is important that the latest generation of technology is accessible for people with handicaps. Special solutions for blind and visual impaired like dedicated notetakers with dedicated software are always soon out dated.

We believe making off-the-shelf technology accessible for blind and visual impaired helps to provide them with the latest improvements. Separating assistive technology like a Braille display from off-the-shelf technology is needed since they have so different life cycles. Since a Braille display is a high investment it needs to be used for about 7 years or longer. On the other side off-the-shelf technology, like a mobile phone, is typically chan9ed once a year. So if a mobile phone or other components are built into a Braille notetaker, the user will soon end up with an out dated device, using standard interfaces to off-the-shelf technology opens up new possibilities.

Bluetooth(r) technology is the world leading standard for wireless connection. Most mobile assistance like PDA5 and mobile phones offer Bluetooth(r) as wireless interface. The latest screen reading solutions are providing access by speech output and Braille to different platforms of mobile assistance. For Braille access a Braille display with build in Braille keyboard is needed, equipped with Bluetooth(r) technology.

Accessing Mobile Phones for the Blind and visual Impaired
For mobile phones, the most popular solution to provide access for blind and visual impaired is the Talks software from scansoft. The Talks software is operating on symbian based mobile phones. Handy Tech offers with Talks & Braille additional Braille access to this mobile phones. All needed is a portable Braille system with built-in Bluetooth(r) interface which is available for products like Braillino, Braille Wave and Braille Star.

The different Braille devices are displaying the content of the mobile phone display in Braille. Here a user can select computer Braille or grade 2.


Handy Tech Braille systems also allow to enter text. The built-in Braille keyboard can be used for writing text messages (SMS) and entering commands wireless. So it is possible to keep the mobile phone in the pocket and control all its functionality from the Braille system. A headset can be used for the audio channel.

In combination with a mobile phone, Talk&Braille offers:
* Caller ID detection
* use and modification of the phone book
* checkin9 provider and battery status
* Announcing keys
* SMS and E-Mail reading and writing
* Writing notes
* Using the scheduler


Universal Access
Talks & Braille is a screen reader software for the symbian operating system. Being able to use standard applications is a huge advantage of the screen reader. One can benefit from the vast functionality of professional software components. For a few dollars programs like a dictionary which can be used with Talks & Braille without modification can be bought. Talks & Braille is available in different languages such as German, English French, Spanish and much more.

Bluetooth(r), the Wireless Connection
Bluetooth(r) allows to use a mobile phone within a range of 10 meters without annoying cables. This makes it possible to leave the mobile phone in the pocket and write e-mails or text messages (sMs) everywhere and listen discreet to the speech output with a headset which can also be used for making phone calls.

Speech Output
The Eloquence speech output converts displayed text into natural sounding speech. Speed, pitch and loudness can be adjusted. The built-in speaker of the mobile phone or a headset can be used.

Braille support
The Braille support allows Braille output as well as Braille entry on a Braille
system to control the mobile phone. This includes functions like:
* Grade two support
* selectable Braille tables
* Quick entry mode
* Cursorrouting
* Block marking functions
* Navigation functions

Talks settings
Talks offers a lot of parameters that can be set individually for the users need.
The settings for the speech output allow to adjust volume, speed, pitch and much
more. With the Braille settings you can choose and activate grade 2, change the
Braille table, select 6 dot Braille and more.
Talks & Braille Phones
Various mobile phones ’running on symbian operating system, so-called series 60 phones, are working with Talks & Braille. These are for example Nokia 3230, 3650, 3660, 6260, 6600, 6630, 6670, 6680, 6681,7610, N-Gage, N-Gage QD, Siemens sXl and Panasonic X700.

These mobile phones are equipped with wireless Bluetooth used by Talk&Braille to connect them to a Handy Tech Braille system.

As mobile phones with organizer function, so-called series 80 phones are available. Nokia Communicator 9300, 9500 and 9210i.

Accessing Personal Digital Assistants (PDA)
Popular PDAS like the iPAQ from HP or the Pocket LOOX from Siemens are using the windows Mobil for Pocket PC (windows cE) operating system. Two screen reading solutions supporting Handy Tech Braille systems are shown at the CSUN. One is Pocket HAL from Dolphin, the other is Mobile speak Pocket from CodeFactory.

Both screen readers provide access for the blind and visual impaired to windows Mobil PDA5. it is possible to use software applications via a windows based mobile PDA, including Pocket word(r), Pocket Excel(r), Pocket Outlook(r) and Pocket
Internet Explorer(r).

To be able to turn a PDA into a powerful tool for the blind users, we have to look at the usability aspects. A standard PDA does neither have a Qwerty keyboard nor a number pad like a mobile phone. So it is needed to connect an input device like a keyboard or a Braille display with the PDA to make it accessible for a blind user. Handy Tech has worked to improve the usability. Functions like automatic pairing or re-pairin9 of the Bluetooth(r) interface or the automatic reconnection, if the Braille display was outside the 10 m range and needs to be reconnected, are helping to make of-the-shelf technology better usable.

Making off-the-shelf technology accessible opens new possibilities for blind and visual impaired. Separating the assistive technology from the off-the-shelf technology is needed since they have so different live spans. screen reading solutions for mobile phones and PDA5 provide access in speech and Braille. The usability aspect, like automatic start up, are important for the every day use.

Go to previous article
Go to next article
Return to 2006 Table of Contents

Reprinted with author(s) permission. Author(s) retain copyright