Resource: New Tech for 2019: A Wrap-up of the Assistive Technology Industry Association Conference – AccessWorld® – February 2019

New Tech for 2019: A Wrap-up of the Assistive Technology Industry Association Conference

Author: J.J. Meddaugh

Date Written: Feb 23, 2019 at 4:00 PM

Date Saved: 2/24/19, 10:59 AM


2019 looks to be a busy year for new products and innovations, as evidenced by the exhibit hall at the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) annual conference in Orlando. This year’s event was held January 30 through February 2 at the Caribe Royale Hotel and Convention Center and featured an array of devices from transportable video magnifiers to tech toys for kids and seniors. I’ve recapped some of the major highlights below. AFB AccessWorld also sponsored exhibit hall coverage on Blind Bargains, and links are included to audio interviews with text transcripts where appropriate.

The BrailleNote Touch Gets Refreshed

Humanware’s BrailleNote Touch has been a popular option for students and teachers since its release in 2016. But the hybrid touchscreen and braille keyboard device has been stuck on an outdated version of Android due to hardware limitations.

Humanware sought to modernize the notetaker with the announcement of the BrailleNote Touch Plus. It has basically the same shell and shape as its predecessor, but includes a faster processor, a USBC port for charging, and the Android 8.1 Oreo operating system. As Humanware’s Andrew Flatters explains in this Blind Bargains interview, moving to a modern version of Android allows Humanware to take advantage of up-to-date features such as the Chrome Web browser and the Google Assistant for voice commands. The unit also includes 4GB of memory and 64GB of built-in storage as well as support for more modern wireless and Bluetooth protocols.

Orders can be placed now for the BrailleNote Touch Plus in either 18- or 32-cell configurations, at $4,195 and $5,695 respectively. Current BrailleNote Touch users can upgrade to the new model, which will transplant the existing braille cells to a new unit, for $1,295.

A Braille Display of a Different Kind

The cost of a 32- or 18-cell braille display is still prohibitive for many people, so a company called BraiBook is offering an alternative idea with a product of the same name. The mouse-sized device includes a single braille cell and can be loaded with books in several formats. Characters are displayed in contracted or uncontracted braille a cell at a time, and the speed can be controlled using a joystick. A headphone jack allows the user to plug in an external headset or speaker to hear words as they are displayed. The small size and weight of the unit is its major advantage. But reading braille one cell at a time can be either tediously slow or nearly impossible, depending on the speed of the unit, potentially requiring a sharp learning curve. Priced at around $450, it faces an uphill climb against the likes of the Orbit Reader and BrailleMe, two 20-cell units available for about the same price. Hear more with an interview with BraiBook CEO Sébastien Lefebvre.

Magnified Options for People with Low Vision Revealed

There was no shortage of new video magnifying options on display at the conference. This year’s focus was on updates to what are often referred to as transportable video magnifiers, units that generally will sit on a desk but are light enough to be moved around if necessary.

Irie-AT is introducing the ReadEasy Evolve to the United States, a video magnifier that can capture an entire 11-by-17-inch sheet of paper in a single picture, useful for large items such as newspaper pages. Capturing is accomplished by moving the camera between two different mounting points. The lower camera hole is designed to read standard-sized paper, while the elevated slot is for larger documents. It was quick and painless to move the camera between the two slots. As for the actual reading of text, this was accomplished within about 4 seconds, though the company is working to make this even faster. Speech was clear using modern voices from the Vocalizer speech engine, and the optional keypad can be used for finer control. An optional monitor can be attached for users with low vision.

The 4-pound ReadEasy Evolve folds so it can be taken with you, and will run on an optional battery pack. The base unit is available from Irie-AT for about $2,000. You can listen to a demo with Irie-AT CEO Jeff Gardner who also talks about a new affordable braille embosser called the Braille Buddy.

Back over at the Humanware booth, two new and slightly heavier desktop magnifiers were announced, the Reveal 16 and Reveal 16I. Weighing in at a still transportable 13 pounds, Humanware is targeting these two models at two very different markets. The Reveal 16 is designed for seniors and elementary school students who desire a simple unit with basic controls. It features only four buttons: power, autofocus, zoom, and contrast. Images can be magnified from 1X to 45X and displayed in a variety of contrast modes. The camera can either point down at the base of the unit or be pointed outward for distance viewing.

Advanced users may prefer the Reveal 16I, which offers the same features as the basic model but adds a touchscreen, an OCR camera, and a fifth button, used for switching to an Android 7 tablet. Users of the Prodigi interface will be familiar with this mode, which can be used to read books aloud or run Android apps from Google Play.

Both models collapse and can be carried using an optional case. The Reveal 16 retails for $2,995 while the Reveal 16I sells for $3,995. Learn more with Humanware’s Eric Beauchamp who talks everything low-vision in this podcast.

A New Kind of Wearable

There weren’t as many wearables in the hall as in 2018, but Zoomax was showing a new take on the category. The Acesight is a lightweight headset that displays images using augmented reality. Individual screens are centered over each eye and display magnified images of what’s in front of you. This approach allows you to focus on what’s ahead of you while using your peripheral vision to see other items at the same time. Magnification is available in a variety of contrast modes from 1.1X to 15X. The Acesight will be available soon for $4,995. Learn more from Zoomax’s David Bradburn in this podcast.

Teaching Braille and Code to Kids

The American Printing House for the Blind was showing two products designed to teach important concepts to children who are visually impaired. BrailleBuzz is a toy designed for kids ages 2-5 to teach braille letters. The bumblebee-shaped toy includes buttons for each braille letter that announce the letter or its sound when pressed. A 6-cell Perkins-style braille keyboard is positioned below and will speak the braille letter that is typed, or play a sound if something besides a braille letter is entered. The BrailleBuzz is designed in the style of other audio-based children’s toys that teach basic letter and phonics concepts. It’s available now for $99.

Older kids may love Code Jumper, an educational toy collaboration between APH and Microsoft for teaching basic coding concepts. More and more kids are learning how to write code for computers or mobile devices, and many systems have been created to teach early foundations and concepts at a young age. Code Jumper is one of the first of these systems to be fully accessible for people who are blind or visually impaired.

The brains of the device are housed in the Code Jumper Hub, a Bluetooth device that will play back sounds or music based on what it is connected to. You may not be familiar with programming concepts such as loops, constants, or if statements, but the hands-on approach to the connected pods illustrates these and more to the most novice student or teacher. APH also plans on developing lessons for both teachers and students to complement the system. You can sign up for a waiting list to be informed when the product is released, likely later this year.

A New Guide for Seniors

Dolphin has completely rewritten the software it designed to simplify the Internet for seniors. The new GuideConnect allows you to read and write emails, listen to radio stations, read books, and browse the Web using a simplified interface. The Windows 10 software runs on computers, tablets, and can even be displayed on a TV using a customized set-top box and a remote control, similar to a Roku. The product will be available from Irie-AT in the United States starting at around $800, depending on options. You can listen to Gareth Collins talk about the benefits of the new software and other Dolphin developments in this podcast.


The ATIA conference was busier than in past years, and several major products were announced over the four-day event. We will continue to follow many of these products as they are released, and review some of them in future issues of AccessWorld. The CSUN Assistive Technology Conference, our next big opportunity to learn about new technology, moves to Anaheim this year and will be March 11-15. If you can’t make it, you can read about it right here.

This article is made possible in part by generous funding from the James H. and Alice Teubert Charitable Trust, Huntington, West Virginia.

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GTT Edmonton Summary Notes, AIRA and Library Services, January 14, 2019

            Summary Notes

GTT Edmonton Meeting January 14, 2019


The most recent meeting of the Get Together with Technology (GTT) Edmonton Chapter was held January 14, at 7pm at Ascension Lutheran Church 8405 83 Street in Edmonton.

28 people attended.

Reading Tip: These summary notes apply HTML headings to help navigate the document. With screen readers, you may press the H key to jump forward or Shift H to jump backward from heading to heading.


January Topics – AIRA and Library Services



Carrie introduced Ashley, a  CNIB staff member and independent blind person, who lives in Saskatchewan. Ashley joined us remotely and presented her experience

With AIRA, a paid subscription service where blind or vision impaired people make an audio and video connection through a smartphone to trained sighted agents who can help them with virtually any task.

  • The AIRA user, referred to as an Explorer, uses their smartphone with an AIRA app or an optional set of smart eyeglasses called Horizon. The Horizon kit provides eyeglasses with built-in camera and audio connected to a dedicated Samsung smartphone that enables contact with the AIRA agents. The Samsung phone cannot be used for any other purpose other than to connect to the AIRA agent. The agent can see whatever the explorer points their phone camera at or, in the case of wearing the optional Horizon eyeglasses there is a camera that transmits video of whatever the explorer is looking at.
  • The agent becomes a sighted assistant talking to the explorer in real time and helping them navigate or perform other tasks at home or away.
  • Ashley emphasized that AIRA does not replace your mobility device. The agents will not assist you outside your home if you are not using a white cane or guide dog.
  • The agents will also not talk to you while you cross the street.
  • The AIRA subscription fee ranges from $29 USD per month for 30 minutes assistance up to $199 per month for 300 minutes of assistance.
  • The optional Horizon kit is $600 USD or can be purchased over time at $25 per month.
  • With Horizon your network data is covered in the AIRA fee. If you use your own smartphone then you must pay the cost of data through your own phone plan. It’s estimated that 1 hour of AIRA costs about 1GB of data.
  • There are now many sponsors of AIRA such as airports, retail stores, college campuses where your time on AIRA is free. However, Ashley was not aware of any sponsors in Canada yet.
  • Complete information about AIRA is available at or you can call them at 1-800-835-1934.

If you want to know more about Ashley, visit her blog at


Edmonton Public Library and CELA and NNELS

  • We were treated to a presentation on Edmonton Public Library services by Cassidy Munro, the community librarian at the Strathcona library branch.
  • Cassidy can be reached at 780.975.8102- or by email at:
  • Cassidy described the CELA accessible library service for print disabled Canadians which provides many services including: downloadable recorded DAISY books, downloadable DAISY eBooks, downloadable Bookshare DAISY eBooks, DAISY books on CD mailed to your home, braille books mailed to your home, print-brailled books for kids, over 150 downloadable DAISY e-text magazines, recorded DAISY magazines by download or mail, and over 40 daily newspapers that can be read online.
  • Many will recognize these CELA services to be the same as those previously provided by the CNIB Library. CELA took over the CNIB Library
    • In 2014 and now serves all print-disabled Canadians not just those who are blind or vision impaired.
    • Edmonton Public Library (EPL) also has 100 or so DAISY CD books that can be borrowed for those who want to experience a DAISY book prior to registering for CELA service.
    • EPL also has a few Victor Reader Stratus DAISY CD players that can be borrowed to test the service. Customers must purchase their own book player or CNIB clients can approach
  • CNIB who may be able to subsidize 75% of the cost of a player.
  • In addition to playing CD books the Victor Reader Stratus can also receive direct to player DAISY books over the Internet. The user chooses their book by logging into CELA online and once a book is chosen it is sent directly to the player. For non-computer users, CELA customer service
  • or Cassidy can set up a reader profile for you and then the CELA computer will choose your books and send them directly to the player or on CD mailed to your home.
  • Cassidy also suggested some may prefer the pocket sized Victor Reader Stream which can accept the direct to player books and perform other online functions Such as getting Bookshare books and listening to podcasts and radio stations.
    • CELA books can also be played on your iPhone or Android phone using the free Dolphin EasyReader app.
  • Visit the CELA web site for information on all their services or call their customer service at 1-855-655-2273.
  • Cassidy can register you for CELA service.
  • Cassidy can also register you for NNELS another library service for print-disabled Canadians that offers downloadable DAISY or e-text books. Cassidy highlighted that NNELS is a good source for local content and First Nations content.
  • EPL also has non CELA materials you may be interested in such as CD books, Overdrive downloadable recorded books, Music recordings, large print books and more.
  • Cassidy was asked about fees. There is no fee for an EPL card, CELA service, Bookshare service or NNELS service.

Next Meeting (Monday February 11, 2019 at 7pm)

  • Cassidy from Edmonton Public Library plans to come to the February meeting. She can answer your library questions and register clients for CELA and NNELS that were unable to come in January.
  • As always, for help with technology bring your devices and/or questions to the meeting.


Meeting Location and Logistics

  • Ascension Lutheran Church 8405 – 83 Street NW, Edmonton.
  • We meet in the basement hall. There is elevator access.
  • Enter the church from the back door. There is parking at the back.
  • Meetings are every second Monday of the month at 7pm.
  • If you have someone helping you your assistant is welcome to remain for the meeting.


GTT Edmonton Overview

  • GTT Edmonton is a chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB).
  • GTT Edmonton promotes a self-help learning experience by holding monthly meetings to assist participants with assistive technology.
  • Each meeting consists of a feature technology topic, questions and answers about technology, and one-on-one training where possible.
  • Participants are encouraged to come to each meeting even if they are not interested in the feature topic because questions on any technology are welcome. The more participants the more talent and experience we will have to help each other.
  • There are GTT groups across Canada as well as a national GTT monthly toll free teleconference. You may subscribe to the National GTT blog to get email notices of teleconferences and notes from other GTT chapters. Visit:

To subscribe, activate the “Follow “link at the bottom of that web page to enter your email.


National GTT Email Support List

CCB sponsors a GTT email support list to provide help and support with technology for blind and low vision Canadians.  To subscribe to the email list, send an empty email to:

[End of Document]



Useful resource for everyone all about labelling on the GTT national call last week.

All about labeling, and identification. 

November 11, 2015. 

There were 20 participants on this very lively and useful conference call.

I am always amazed and really enjoy all of these calls with all of the wonderful information that comes to us from all across the country.

Sometimes the blind/low vision community seems small and scattered but it feels larger and much more unified when we all Get Together.

I want to thank everyone for all of your participation and ideas.

Wherever you have a GTT, (Whether in person or on a call) thank you for all you give and share with others.

A huge thank you to Lorne from the Edmonton GTT group.

He provided me with many e-mail resources on this call which I include in the notes below.

Lorne Weber is blind. He is the accessibility specialist for Norquest College and a volunteer on the GTT Edmonton team.

Also Donna Jodhan sent along a blog post about locator dots which I have incorporated into these notes as well as it is very relevant to this topic.

Once again, thank you all for your sharing and generosity.



Albert talk about the Orcam. 

OrCam optical character recognition, face recognition head mounted device. 

The web site is

Camera is on the right arm of the glasses.  Behind it is a bone conducting speaker. Just around your right ear. There is a processing unit 6 inches long, a inch wide. 4 hours of continuous use.  One trigger button, up and down volume and power. 

Can set up menus with trigger plus volume. 

Face recognition.  Pretty accurate with face recognition. It was tested with the same person wearing and then not wearing glasses and it still picked them up.

It cannot pick people up from a distance. 

It is Light dependent and people have to be within 5 or 6 feet of the person in order for it to recognize them.  It cannot recognize them as they come into a room or across the room and your face/orcam would need to be pointing directly at them.

  If there is a certain  product you want to identify regularly,  take picture of it and every time that product is there, it will identify it. You can hold a book or piece of paper in front of you and it reads. Albert did a demonstration.  Can read books.  Cannot save the file and read later.  If want to read part of a sheet, hold your finger near your face point it at the sheet it will hopefully read.  

It was able to Read text of buttons  on a washing machine. 

Can it pick up text on a screen. Yes it does and on the iphone screen.  

Does KNFB reader work on a screen? Yes. 

how does the weight feel?  The weight is not heavy but the cable coming off the back is bothersome. 

There was talk about Google glass and possible similar products.

Google glass was banned for privacy reasons because people did not like others taking pictures of them without their knowing it.

It is interesting to think about this in relation to people who are blind and needing to take pictures of things in order to identify them.


Google glass has a head phone jack. 

We talked about how expensive iphones are and talked about people being able to now use ipod touches for almost everything.

The new ipod touch which came out in the summer has a camera which is as good as the iphone 6.  Also the processor is as good as the iphone 6 as well.

This means that for much less cost, you can now use an ipod touch for almost everything and you don’t need to incur the monthly fees of a cell phone.

Wherever there is a wifi connection you can use the ipod touch.

Use it for everything except making calls or GPS.

Fongo gives you a phone number for Ipod touch.

It is voice over internet calling service.

You can make free calls as long as you are within range of your wifi.

You can also use it for text messaging if you pay a small fee.

You can have a voicemail box too and it gives you a phone number.

Note: Kim signed up for fongo.  The app itself is accessible but the sign up process is not very accessible.  There are captias that are not accessible and also a few check boxes that were not readable with voiceover on the I device.

Kim is contacting the company to point this out to them.

The new ipod touch also reads well with KNFB reader but KNFB reader costs over 100 dollars.


Voice is a free alternative to KNFB reader. 

fopydo provides a fairly inexpensive stand to use with your phone or device for scanning pages and products. 

My fitness pal app for iphone is not necessarily designed to read bar codes but it does a good job for bar code reading.

Crowdvis is a new IOS app that is similar to bemyeyes in that it puts you in touch with people who can give you descriptions of things.

It is an app that is similar to a facetime or skype call in that you  are using your video camera and hearing audio of the other person who is helping you.


Pen friend is used for many purposes by many people on the call.

They include:


Labeling Seed packets and also labeling the markers for what is growing in your garden.

Use pen friend also for labelling food items.

Put a label on the top of a spice jar and keep the lid each time you replace the spice.

PUt Put the label on a card before putting it on something in your freezer.

Put a label on a magnet before sticking on a can.

For clothes Can buy water proof ones last up to 70 washes. 

Pen friend labeller can also label chords, label cd’s, and anything around the house, also labelling medications.

Possibly use double sided tape to stick braille labels on plastic bottles such as medications.


We talked about locator dots.

Futureaids has a pack of locator dots that come in all different shapes and sizes.

Donna Jodhan told us that she has used them for many purposes.

CNIB sells them. and look for the shop.

Futureaids has them very inexpensively and seems to have more variety.

 What do people  use the different shaped ones for?

One option is for marking stoves or appliances where there are arrows.

Use the triangular ones to mark the up and down arrows.

If you are at the gym or other place where you would regularly need to place locator dots on a machine that others use, (examples washers/dryers in  an apartment building, equipment at a fitness facility, etc, you might be able to create or have someone with sight create a sheet of plastic built with locator dots  so that you could put it over the panel. 

We talked about colour identifyers and colour identification apps.

The Colorino Color identeifyer unit has also a light detector and some said it is very good and easy to use and has lasted a long time.

Another person had the Colour reader by cobalt. 

There are a few apps that can work well but are not fool proof.

Aid colors is the one Kim uses.

She also uses the app called light detector for determining whether or not lights are on.

We talked about labelling clothes as colour identifier apps and systems do not always work well.

One good way of labelling clothes is to use Brass safety pins. They have to be Good quality. 

We talked about labelling stove tops and how some of the flat stove tops are not as accessible.

Someone suggested using a template to put over the stove top.

Solid state stove top is easier to feel. 

WE talked about the speed dots screen protectors for I devices.  No one on the call was using these.  Some people like them and others not so much.

Here are the excellent resources from Lorne Weber.

Additional Resources

GTT National Conference Call

November 11, 2015


iPhone technology that will puff out tactile buttons on the screen of your phone and then will flatten out again once the keyboard disappears is from a company called Tactus Technology,

they’re offering it in the form of a case you put your phone into (currently sold out), and it’s called Phorm (spelled with the PH). you can find out more

information if you go to the following website and go to the 4th heading down from the top where they have a frequently asked questions section:


A free app you can get that will give you a free local inbound and outbound Canadian phone number + voicemail, and will let you make unlimited long

distance calls across Canada is called Fongo, you can download the app here:


However be warned, if you sign up using the app on the phone there is a CAPTCHA. if you opt to sign up for the free pc or Mac option, then you can fill

out all the information on your computer using Jaws, etc., so you could use Firefox and the Web Vism plugin for solving CAPTCHAS.


Another app I suggested as a free alternative to the KNFB Reader app is called Voice – Take Pictures & Have Them Read/Spoken In Many

Languages with Fast OCR, and it can be found here:


and here is Applevis’s excellent page describing it:


and there is even a demonstration of it from Applevis:


We discussed the Six Dot Braille Labeller, a  new cheaper alternative to a full Braille Embosser for making braille labels, this is it:


it seems the PenFriend Labeller is quite popular with GTT groups.  CNIB is selling it for $199 here:


And here are some demos of it:



During the call we tried to remember the name of the cheaper alternative to the PenFriend labeller that Aroga sells. It’s called the AnyBook Reader, made by Franklin

Electronics, for $40, more info is here: