2006 Conference General Sessions

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THE NECESSITY FOR BRAILLE ACCESS WITHIN PRE-VOCATIONAL AND EMPLOYMENT

Presenter # 1

Larry Lewis
Optelec US Inc.
955 Pembrook Road
Cleveland Heights
OH
44121
USA
Day Phone: (216) 381—8107
Fax:
Email: LarryL@optelec.com

The session will demonstrate the necessity for a multi—sensory approach
to incorporating speech and Braille access into one’s pre-vocational training increases
the likelihood of the working aged adult who is blind obtaining and maintaining competitive employment.

A. A definition of Braille: what it is, how it is taught, and how it is implemented
into adaptive technology (a modified demonstration of the Switched On Braille software by
Quantum Technology will be given)
B. Current state of affairs (all statistics stemming from AFB—related research)
1. 70—75% of adults between the ages of 18—60 are unemployed.
2. Currently, there is an approximate 12% Braille literacy ratio among working—aged
adults who are blind/visually impaired.
3. Of the 25% of blind/visually impaired, working—aged adults who are employed, almost
90% of them are considered “Braille literate”; in effect, these individuals read and write
Braille to accomplish tasks relevant to their vocational, civic, and personal aspirations.
4. Thus, one might ascertain that a high Braille illiteracy rate breeds a high
percentage of unemployed adults who are blind, and a high literacy rate among employed
adults who are blind is the catalyst for successful job placement and retention by rehabilitation professionals.

II. THE ROLE OF BRAILLE IN A REHABILITATION SETTING
A, Often, Braille is introduced to a consumer in a pre—vocational, rehabilitation setting to accomplish basic tasks such as labeling, food, staples, supplies, clothes, appliances, etc.
a. Braille is often presented as a palatable option to a consumer when developing is/her “individualized rehabilitation plan”; unlike an “individualized education plan” where Braille is often a mandated component of a child’s education, Braille is not presented by service providers and rehabilitation professionals as a fundamental, necessary ingredient for successful pre—vocational and vocational outcomes for consumers who are blind.
C. Often, limited State and Federal funding coupled with a tight time—frame for a successful outcome to occur can lend themselves to be reasons why Braille does not play more of a key role in an adult’s rehabilitation plan.
D. This trend continues when a consumer begins to receive services pertinent to career exploration, vocational placement, and job retention services.
III. BRAILLE IN A VOCATIONAL SETTING
A. Often
, speech plays a primary role when adaptive technological solutions are presented to a vocationally bound consumer.
B. Arguments for the use and implementation of an audible solution include:
1. speech access such as a screenreader is a cost—effective solution which provides speedy access to mainstream applications.
2. Screenreading applications are not as intimidating to sighted employers, service providers, etc.
3. Screenreading applications are often readily available requiring in—house, phone technical support rather than hands-on hardware related service and support.
C. Arguments for the implementation of refreshable Braille hardware include:
1. While speech access is economically beneficial to an employer, it doesn’t always provide a multi—dimensional facet for an individual to successfully complete a given task which is at hand; often, tasks are more quickly and effectively completed by the utilization of solutions other than a screenreading application by those who are Braille
literate. The inclusion of refreshable Braille offers to the consumer a level of accuracy and efficiency which is rarely captured by the sole utilization of speech access.
3. The utilization of refreshable Braille can often accelerate the speed by which an employee learns a new skill.
IV. OPTELEC’S MULTI-SENSORY APPROACH TO SUCCESSFULLY CUSTOMIZING AND ADAPTIVE TECHNOLOGICAL SOLUTION IN A REHABILITATION SETTING
A. A Multi—Sensory approach to utilizing adaptive technology enables a consumer to benefit from the advantages of speech and Braille access to mainstream technologies and proprietary applications; speed and efficiency are undergirded by accuracy and comprehension of one’s interactions within a given Operating System, job application, etc with considerations being given to universal connectivity, mobility, and flexibility throughout countless environments.
B. Refreshable Braille and synthesized speech solutions complimented by “EasyLink” wireless remote Braille access provide to the consumer a comfortable, intuitive, blind— friendly user interface to perform specific tasks using mainstream devices such as PDAs, cellular phones, and PCS in a timely, portable, and compatible manner.
C. The utilization of the Dolphin screenreading solutions organizes pertinent information prevalent on a PC in an organized, audible manner to the consumer with great care to be taken for the ability to customize the applications to access difficult, graphical applications prevalent in many employment settings.
D. Refreshable Braille displays offer a secondary, tactual dimension to this complex, graphical environment.
E. Integrated Optical Character Recognition programs bring access to the hard-copy printed word to the blind employee.
F A multi—sensory approach to utilizing technology in vocational setting offers a variety of tools to the end user to develop strategies to complete duties associated with ,is/her job as well as giving to him/her the ability to successfully advance and compete with his/her sighted colleagues and peers.


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