2006 Conference General Sessions

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PORTABLE AND POWERFUL SPEECH AND BRAILLE ACCESS SOLUTIONS

 

James Denham
Optelec USA
321 Billerica Road
Chelmsford, MA 01824
Phone: (866) 824-7963
E-mail: jimd@optelec.com

Portability has been a constant theme of technology development.  Since the advent of the first microprocessor, engineers have been working to make technology products smaller and more powerful.  The proliferation of the personal digital assistant (PDA) in to current mainstream culture is a prime example of this ongoing trend.  It is now possible to purchase a pocket sized PDA that allows the user to surf the internet, conduct voice chats and use other powerful off the shelf applications.  These devices are used by everyone from students to fortune 500 executives.  

Optelec is committed to offering technology solutions that provide visually impaired individuals equivalent access to mainstream products.  In keeping with the theme of ongoing portability, we are also committed to making accessible technology as discrete as possible.  To this end, we are offering several portable powerful access solutions.

Pocket Hal, developed by Dolphin Computer Access, is a fully functional screen reading solution for the Windows CE environment.  This means that once the product has been loaded on a supported Windows CE based PDA, the full functionality of that device is available to persons using speech and/or braille access.  Visually impaired students who want to use the same mobile applications as their sighted peers can now do this, usually on the same device as their friends.  Pocket Hal will allow executives who want full speech access to a Windows based Smart phone to use almost every feature.  As you can see, the implications of full screen reader support for a mobile environment are amazing.  When Pocket Hal is combined with Optelec's EasyLink Keyboard, even more possibilities are available.  The EasyLink hardware allows customers to use either a braille or qwerty style keyboard to access a wide variety of other devices, including a Windows CE based PDA running Pocket Hal.  This will allow individuals who wish to interact with their PDA using braille to control a fully functioning screen reader using the input method of their choice.  

Obviously, access to Windows for the desktop environment is still a critical factor in education and employment.  In this arena, Optelec has continued in its trend of providing portable solutions by offering the Dolphin Pen.  The Dolphin Pen is a fully functional access solution with the ability to provide screen magnification, screen reading and refreshable braille support, from a USB Thumb Drive.  All user defined settings are stored locally on the removable storage device.  This permits a user to customize their screen access product and take these settings with them wherever they go.  Authorization to run the product is also stored on the device, allowing users to insert the Pen in to any compatible Windows based pc.  

These portable solutions are redefining how persons who are blind or visually impaired interact with mainstream technology.  No longer is it necessary for a visually impaired user to carry around a PDA that is much larger then that of their sighted colleagues.  No longer is it necessary for a student to install and configure their screen access product on only one pc in a computer lab.  Optelec is committed to continued development of these portable and powerful access solutions.


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