Reminder of the national teleconference call for GTT on Wednesday March 11 at 7 PM Eastern. 

This is just a reminder of our national teleconference call on Wednesday March 11 at 7 PM eastern.  4 Pacific.  The topic will be a continuation of various services to help us read and access books.  In February, we discussed  CELA and this month we will talk about NELS. 

For notes on CELA, see earlier blog posts. 

If you want to be part of this call, we still have spaces. 

Call or email Kim at 


Kim will be sending out call in info to those registered on the day of the call. 

Article on a new navigation tool.

Tools that help with navigation.

See below article

Posted by Kim Kilpatrick

GTT coordinator


It seems that very regularly thee days, products are tested and developed to help people who are blind or have low vision to get around.

However, sometimes these products are developed without consulting people who are blind to know what they exactly need and would like in a product.

I find this happens most with navigation apps and tools.

What is it we want to know when traveling outside?

How much is too much distraction?

How much information do we need?

What format do we want it in?

This project seems to be testing many people who are blind or have low vision.  This is always a good sign.

They also seem to be testing travelers who use canes, guide dogs, some with less and some with more vision.

Also, they seem to be asking the testers what else they might use the device to do.

This is very interesting reading.


See below.

Posted by Kim Kilpatrick 

GTT Coordinator

Putting SUNU to the test
Perkins students, staff take award-winning navigation tool for a spin

Rob, a Perkins student, uses the navigational wristband SUNU to locate 
doorways during a testing session for the device.
December 30, 2014
Byline: Alix Hackett
No one likes waiting in line at the bank, least of all Perkins teacher Kate 
Katulak. Because she is visually impaired, Katulak sometimes has trouble 
keeping tabs on the person in front of her, which can lead to some awkward 

“With a guide dog you have to constantly ask people, ‘Excuse me, are you 
moving up?’” she explained. “And if I say ‘forward’ to my dog she’s going to 
lead me right around people… so I cut a lot of lines.”

Enter SUNU (formerly known as Ustraap), a wristband that uses an ultrasonic 
sensor to detect obstacles and vibrate as they come closer. Someone wearing 
SUNU while waiting in line can feel the vibrations lessening as the person 
in front of them advances, prompting them to move forward themselves.

Katulak was able to try the product for herself during a recent two-day 
testing session run by SUNU and Perkins Products to gather feedback on the 
wristband, which is still in the prototype phase. Perkins Products staff 
formed a makeshift line, and Katulak practiced moving forward an appropriate 
distance behind them. On the first try, she was able to mirror the movement 
of the person in front of her.

“The band pulsated, and the pulsation kept getting lighter and lighter so I 
moved toward you,” she said. “That’s pretty cool.”

SUNU touts itself primarily as a navigational device, designed to help 
people who are blind avoid low-hanging tree branches or find doorways in a 
room. But during testing, SUNU’s chief strategy officer Fernando Albertorio 
was interested in hearing what other uses people came up with after wearing 
the wristband for the first time.

“To be honest with you, this is a use we hadn’t even thought of,” he said, 
referring to standing in line. “These two days are really about learning as 
much as we can in order to make improvements to the product and inform our 
launch and how we market it.”

SUNU and Perkins have been working together ever since SUNU (then known as 
Ustraap) won the Perkins Technology Sidecar Prize as part of MassChallenge, 
a Boston-based competition for entrepreneurs. Once a prototype of the band 
was developed, Albertorio tapped Perkins Products Director Joe Martini to 
recruit testers for the device who might use it in different ways.

“It hadn’t been tested with people who use guide dogs, individuals with low 
vision, or people who are deafblind,” said Martini.

During testing, each user donned a SUNU band and practiced using the 
vibration feedback to gauge distances, avoid obstacles and locate doorways. 
In one exercise, Albertorio held a plastic tree branch out at eye level, and 
asked testers to stop before walking into it. Perkins Products technology 
specialist Joann Becker, who uses a cane to navigate, said walking into 
stray branches is one of her biggest pet peeves. During the test, she strode 
quickly toward the branch, but stopped just inches away from it.

“Wow,” she said. “I could feel that it was there all of a sudden. I knew if 
I kept going, I would hit it.”

Perkins trainer Milissa Garside, another tester, wasn’t as worried about 
hitting things at eye level. “I’m short, so I don’t run into a lot of that,” 
she said, but like most people who tried SUNU, she had ideas for other uses.

“I would love to use this to locate a (traffic) light pole when I want to 
press the ‘walk’ button,” she said. “This would be so helpful, you have no 

Article on Braille. Is it becoming outdated?

Is braille less relevant now?  I really hope not.

Posted by Kim Kilpatrick

GTT Coordinator

I learned braille when I was six years old.

I could not wait to do that!

Having others read to me was interesting but not totally satisfying as I wanted to read for myself.

Braille was wonderful.

I could read and write by myself.

I could read in the dark and not get caught.

I could read in moving vehicles and not get sick.

But, braille was bulky.

Huge books, braille machines that were noisy and heavy to carry.

For GTT, I have been able to play with several braille displays.

I’d like to thank the people from Aroga Technologies and from canadialog who have been letting me play with braille displays.

I have tried out the focus displays, braille note from humanware, braille edge, and braille sense.

It is such a pleasure to be able to read and write braille any time with my I devices.

I prefer it to anything else.


I have also started playing with the braille screen input mode built into IOS 8.

I am getting more used to it.

If any of you are using it or other braille displays and products, I would love to hear all about it.

So, I was delighted to read this article.

it is from June 2014 and I share it with you.


Braille isn’t [quote] embattled–we’re on the cusp of a golden age for blind

Far from heralding the death of a great medium, technology may be ushering
in a new era of access and greater independence

Ian Macrae, The Guardian (UK)
Thursday, May 22, 2014.

[photo caption:]  A cash machine keypad with Braille: ‘Braille has gone

Imagine a situation where you walk into your favourite restaurant and ask
for the menu, only to be told it isn’t available. Chances are it wouldn’t
stay your favourite for very long.

As a braillist–someone who uses braille–the dream for me is when the
opposite happens. A small number of chain restaurants offer menus in
braille; sometimes, they’re even up to date.

It is difficult to over-express the sense of liberation at being able to
browse and choose your preferred pizza independently. And in Co-op
supermarkets, where some of the own-brand labels feature braille, there is
pride in being able to identify a bottle of wine from a label that few if
any other people in the store are able to read.

All too often, though, finding anything in shops is a matter of random
selection, peering in earnest, or asking for help. And just when it seemed
the situation couldn’t get any worse for braillists, along come headlines
suggesting the end is nigh for braille, that this communication lifeline is
about to be cut off.

This week, Dr Matthew Rubery, curator of an exhibition on alternative
methods of reading for blind people, described braille as [quote] embattled.
He went on to say its biggest threat [quote] is computer technology, which
makes it much easier not to have to learn it. A lot of people fear braille
won’t survive because it will be read by so few people. The use has declined
and there are concerns about funding to keep it going.

This seems to me a rather glass-half-empty view, although there is some
evidence to support his argument. Anecdotally, it is claimed blind children
are no longer being taught braille. This is said to be owing to sighted
teachers who believe computer technology, and in particular synthesised
speech, has rendered it redundant. Therefore, the teachers don’t need to
learn braille either.

If this is true, and no other factors were to come into play, then the
outlook might really look bad. But, like print, braille has gone through a
process of evolution. It started out in classrooms as the equivalent of the
slate – my five-year-old hands punched out each dot individually through a
sheet of thick manilla paper. We learned to write it backwards and read it

Then Harold Wilson’s [quote] white heat  age of technology ushered in the
mechanical era. Classrooms echoed to the deafening collective rattle of 15
or more braille machines – the Stainsby, the Perkins, the Lavender –
pounding away at dictation or composition.

And now, like print with its tablets, Kindles and touch screens, braille has
gone digital. And it is my belief that this could well mean it becomes more
widely available and infinitely more useful. This is important because it
means all children in future will be able to enjoy the same degree of
literacy, not to mention the same levels of liberation and pleasure, as I do

Think of this: I am writing and editing this piece on an Apple computer
using braille from an electronic display that drives pins into the correct
shapes to form a line of braille text. Once the piece is published I will be
able to go to the Guardian website on my iPhone or iPad, use Bluetooth to
connect up a portable braille device, and read it along with you. The main
problem currently is the cost of the braille-reading equipment: the cheapest
is 900 [pounds].

But, fellow reader, we are now in the age of the app and of haptic
technology, which communicates through vibration and touch. It is already
possible for me to download an app that will create on my touch screen a
virtual braille keyboard on which I can compose texts, emails, tweets and
Facebook updates in braille.

Meanwhile, the search is already on for the holy grail of braille–a means
of creating dots without using expensive mechanical cells that make the
shape of braille characters using pins. Then the world would truly be at our

What is needed is an app that would turn digital text on your device into
electronic impulses in the shape of braille characters, transmitted by the
screen of your iPad or other tablet, to be read by touch. To go back to my
restaurant quandary, all I would need to do would be to call up the menu
online, put it through my haptic braille app, and read it on my screen.

Add into that mix a scanning app, and I could point my device at what was on
the supermarket shelf and have the haptic braille app produce the package

And if you think this is hopelessly optimistic pie in the sky, it’s worth
remembering that less than five years ago 96% of all books produced would
never be turned into forms accessible to blind people. But with the advent
of e-books and existing technology, I am now able to read pretty much any
book I want to in electronic braille.

So rather than seeing the end of braille, we could be entering a golden age
of access and communication. Here’s to more pizza, more wine, and more


Fascinating article and video on possibilities for travel in the future.

This is a fascinating article and video.

If some of these things happen, travel for people who are blind or have low vision could be very different and enhanced.

I think we are already noticing this.

With apps like blindsquare for I devices, near by explorer for android, and more, travel even in new locations is getting much easier..

Any device that enhances the tools in our tool box is always welcome.


See article and video below..

Posted by Kim Kilpatrick

GTT Coordinator

Visionary – International Guide Dogs Federation magazine February 2015.

Cities Unlocked 

exploring the world using 3D Soundscapes 

John Shelton, – Cities Unlocked Program, Manager , Guide Dogs UK 

In 2013 Guide Dogs and Microsoft created a film called A Family Day Out to
demonstrate technology concepts that could greatly enhance the quality of
life for blind and visually impaired people. 
Following the launch of the film, Guide Dogs and Microsoft teamed up with
Future Cities Catapult to research and pilot some of the concepts; the
programmed of work is called Cities Unlocked.

To bring the concepts imagined in the film to life, we conducted an in-depth
analysis of current technology and transport issues affecting intermodal
journeys made by people who are blind or partially sighted. This research
identified the key stress points in their journeys and possible solutions to
alleviate them. We then set about designing and developing prototype
technologies that, with a little training and practice, dissolve into the
background of the user experience to enhance but not hinder cognitive
ability. The pilot technologies are moving us closer to Social Computing –
whereby places, points of interest and objects are aware of each other, and
are contextually aware of us and our social interactions.

How the technology works
Crudely speaking, there are three aspects to the technology:

A ‘Cities Unlocked’ smartphone app that can be used with just one hand ..A
bone-conducting headset containing a Gyro, GPS and Accelerometer to place
information in 3D space relative to the direction the user is facing ..A
boosted environment using GPS, WiFi and Bluetooth Low Energy beacons to aid
orientation, navigation, transport and retail experiences Once user
preferences have been set and a route selected, the phone can be stowed in a
pocket or bag, leaving the user free to go about their business whilst
receiving useful information through the headset in a unique 3D Soundscape.
Additional buttons mounted on the headset, allow the user to access more
information on the move without needing to take the phone out of their bag
or pocket.

Here are examples of some of the features:

If the user is facing in the wrong direction they hear a clip-clop sound
coming from the direction that they should be facing ..The user rotates
towards the clipclop sound, and when they are facing in the right direction
they will hear a gentle ping sound ..The ping sound plots the route, so the
user simply follows the ping whilst using their guide dog or cane ..Along
the route the user receives navigation information e.g. “turn left in
20 metres”

They also receive contextual information e.g. “dropped curb approximately 3
meres” or “caution, this street regularly has cars parked on the pavement”

Points of interest, shops and street furniture are also announced in 3D
Soundscape – it sounds as though the announcement is coming from the
direction of the point of interest. If the user changes direction the
announcement automatically changes direction accordingly.

Bus stops, bus timetables, and when the next bus is approaching are
announced. On the bus journey the technology continues to announce
approaching stops and points of interest that the bus is passing. It also
works in a similar fashion on train journeys.

Results from our user trials We conducted a trial with 8 participants and
used data collection tools to assess mobility and quality of life factors
while the participants undertook a long, complex and unfamiliar intermodal
journey without the technology. This provided a baseline measure against
which to measure any positive or negative effects when traveling the same
journey some weeks later using the technology.

The illustration shows the improvements across 17 wellbeing measures in six
areas; physiology, orientation skills, cognitive/conceptual skills, mobility
skills, safety skills, and use of residual vision (for those that had some).
The pink area shows results using their normal mobility aid, the blue area
shows the improvement when the technology is used alongside the mobility

The results show that the concept is a success in helping VI people’s
mobility. Importantly, none of the markers showed a negative impact, and the
results indicate that the technology is a complement to traditional mobility

Next steps
Recognising that the solutions need to be sustainable on their own merit,
otherwise they will raise expectations and lead to disappointment, we have
now started planning for Phase 2 to incorporate the lessons learned into a
bigger and more ambitious project.

We know that what we are doing is important globally – but we must all
remember that what we are doing isn’t really about the technology; it is
about people and the user experience.

Watch the Cities Unlocked film with audio description:

NOtes on CELA from our national teleconference on February 11, 2015.

More than 20 people attended this conference call.

We welcomed Margaret and Lindsay to tell us about the CELA service.

Margaret told us about the history of cela.

CNIB had been lobbying for many years to have accessible library service delivered through public libraries.

Other organizations of canadians who are blind or have low vision have also wanted this to happen.

It is a right for all Canadians to access library services in their communities..

Coming to a charity to obtain library services was inappropriate.  

Many studies were conducted.


In the end, the federal government asked CNIB to organize this service.

A report was produced called Reading Reimagined.

The report said that this service that should come through local public libraries.

In April of 2014, CELA (Centre for equitable library access) was launched.

As of February 2015, this service is available through over 600 public libraries in 1600 service points.

Most of these libraries are in Ontario, Alberta, and PEI.

There are also libraries in Saskatchewan and Manitoba and some in BC.

Libraries contribute funding to help the CELA service.

The list of participating libraries has been growing.

There were 25 thousand CNIB library clients prior to April 2014.  they are still able to use the service through

They are encouraged to join CELA if they wish to do so.

They would then benefit also from services from their local public libraries.

The aim of CELA is to meet the needs of users across the spectrum of technical abilities and interests.  They can get Cd’s in the mail, download their own books, choose their own books, or get help choosing and selecting books.

There are currently 300 thousand titles in the collection.

90 thousand are from CELA.

200 thousand are through bookshare.

When you join CELA, you get an automatic membership to bookshare.

To find out more about bookshare itself, go to


5000 titles were added to CELA in the last fiscal year.

The formats offered through CELA and bookshare include:

human narrated audio


hard copy braille

electronic braille


described video

electronic text

bookshare offers books in:

synthetic speech

electronic braille

and text 

Delivery options available

direct to player (this will allow books to go directly from the library to supported players.

At the time of this blog entry, (February 2015) the players include:

plextalk players

sold in CAnada by aroga technologies


Victor stratus and victor stream second generation (sold by Humanware)

Braille electronic (you must download these to a device or computer with braille display or talking book player that can support the brf format

hard copy braille

books on CD delivered through the mail

Download from a web site.

How to sign up for CELA

CELA is available to Canadians with a broad range of disabilities.

Any disability (learning, or physical) that makes it difficult for someone to read print can be eligible.

You would sign up through your local public library.

The books you access through CNIB and CELA are the same collections.

Local library staff have had some training about CELA.

If the library has questions or does not know about CELA, they should visit the CELA web site at

To register for CELA, you need a public library card, proof of your address, fill out a registration form, and declare that you have trouble accessing or reading regular print.  You do not need a doctor’s form.  

CNIB staff can also assist you with finding out about CELA.

CAnnot search books from public library, CELA, or bookshare all in one place.

You must go to each site for their collections.

Some libraries are starting to enter CELA records into their catalogs.

In future, they might integrate all services into one place.

Every existing CNIB library client before april 2014 is also now a CELA client.

How can people advocate for their libraries to come to CELA?

Someone mentioned there is a good presentation about CELA on youtube.

In Ontario and Alberta, CELA funding is provided provincially for all of its municipal libraries.

CNIB will still be creating books in braille and audio formats.  CELA will not do that.

Here are some apps for I devices and android that work well with bookshare and CNIB library books.

For Iphone, the app voicedream reader which costs about $10 CAnadian is excellent and allows you to search and download bookshare books directly into the app.

It also works well with CNIB library books.

If people want, Kim could do a conference call on how to download these books to your iphone.

There is also an app called read2go which is about $20 and works with bookshare books.

On androi there is a free app called goread which allows you to download bookshare books directly onto  your device..

Posted by Kim Kilpatrick

GTT Coordinator

CELA contact info.

Contact info for CELA from our national conference call last week.

Posted by Kim Kilpatrick

GTT Coordinator


We had a very successful conference call on February 11 2015.

I will be posting more detailed notes to this blog about the call very soon.

Lindsay provided contact information below and I know some of you on the call were very interested in getting it.

Stay tuned for more.

Hello Kim,


Thank you for the opportunity to speak with your group last night. It was a pleasure to speak with such an engaged group of readers and technology enthusiasts.


I’m following up to provide my contact details and summary of CELA as we discussed yesterday. The CELA website address is My contact information is in the signature block below.


Here’s the text from the bookmark that Margaret mentioned which summarizes CELA services nicely:


Do you or someone you know have difficulty reading print?


Your public library offers a collection of over 230,000 books and more for people who have trouble reading print due to a learning, physical or visual disability.


•        A choice of formats including audio, braille or accessible e-book

•        Bestsellers, award-winners, classics, self-help, business and more

•        Books for kids, teens and adults

•        Download books or receive home delivery by mail


Ask at your public library


Best regards,


Lindsay Tyler

Manager, CELA Member Services

Centre for Equitable Library Access

T: (416) 486-2500, ext. 7746 or 1-855-655-2273 press 2

F: (416) 480-7700

Thanks again to the people at Blind Bargains, developing a full page braille display.

A full page braille display?

Is it really approaching?

Posted by Kim Kilpatrick

Thanks again to the people at Blind Bargains for this article.

Many of us (if we are lucky enough to be able to afford one) have used refreshable braille displays with our computers and smart phones.

These displays are wonderful.

They allow me to read in braille what is on my computer or device.

If anyone wants help learning to use their displays, I am able to provide training with the following displays and notetakers.

Braille note

Braille sense

Focus braille displays

braille edge

Although these displays are wonderful, they only display one line of braille at a time.

For some things, this works well.

However, for math, for times when you need to touch the whole page at once to feel the lay out, skim over a schedule, etc, having more than one line of braille would be wonderfully helpful.

The refreshable braille cells are extremely expensive.

See the article below for a possible new development in this field.

Austrian Researchers Tackling Full Page Braille Display Challenge with BLITAB

A team of researchers has recently raised over $10,000 to create an alpha prototype for BLITAB, a full-page braille display project which has been in development for three years. The claim on the project’s page as the “world’s first tablet for blind people” is perhaps a bit misleading, but the project itself has some lofty goals. The BLITAB would include braille translation features as well as a GPS and support for obtaining information from NFC tags.

The project’s Indiegogo crowdfunding page describes the technology like this:

BLITAB is a next curve Braille device for reading and writing that displays one whole page Braille text, without mechanical elements. It is like an e-book which instead of using a screen displays small physical bubbles. They rise and fall on demand, composing a whole page in Braille code without any mechanical elements.
The project has received support from some major corporations including T-Mobile, Volkswagen, and 3M. The full-page braille display is a challenge that many have tackled, but to this point, no devices are available for retail. Perhaps the BLITAB will be the one to buck the trend.

Source: BLITAB
Category: News

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Thanks to the people at Blind Bargains. New voices for NVDA screen reader.

New voices for NVDA screen reader

Posted by Kim Kilpatrick

I really love what the people at blind bargains are doing.

They have many interesting podcasts and interviews from technology exhibits for people who are blind and have low vision.

They also have a great app and very interesting articles.

Below is a great one I found from them about NVDa and some new voices you can get for it.


For those who don’t know NVDA, it is a free screen reader for windows computers.

Their web site is

Here is the article.

Acapela Adds its Voice to the NVDA Screen Reader, Available Starting at 59 Euros

Acapela Adds its Voice to the NVDA Screen Reader, Available Starting at 59 Euros – Blind Bargains

Blind Bargains

Users of the free NVDA screen reader now have another option for obtaining enhanced voices. Acapela Group is now offering two voice packages, which both include a variety of voice styles and languages and work on up to three computers.

The basic package, which costs 59 Euros or about $67 in U.S. Dollars as of this post, includes what Acapela calls the Colibri voices, which are slightly more robotic but better at higher speech rates. Upgrading to the 99 Euro package ($112 USD) adds higher quality voices which may be more suited for reading books and longer passages.

The voices are available for a 15-day free trial and delivered as an NVDA ad-on.

Source: Acapela TTS Voices for NVDA
Category: News

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Copyright 2006-2015, A T Guys, LLC.

 Using Voiceover screen reader and braille display.
Sent from my iPhone

Very interesting device that is still in development.

Very interesting device being developed for bone conduction through sunglasses.

Posted by Kim Kilpatrick


This article came from a very useful list I am on called LV Ottawa (it is a blind and low vision list for people in Ottawa Canada)

The person who sent it got it from another list.

I paste below.

I can see many interesting ways this could be used by the blind and low vision community.

For people with low vision, they could put their lenses in and have bone conduction head phones and glasses all in one.

For those of us who have light sensitivity and need to wear sunglasses anyway, these would be great.



Here’s an interesting piece that was on another list I’m on.  

Get this through your skull: Ditch the earbuds. That’s more or less the
message from a startup called Buhel, which is aiming to radically change the
way you take calls — from inside your head.

Sound a little crazy? Let me explain.

The company has concocted a pair of Bluetooth 4.0 sunglasses — aptly named
SoundGlasses SGO5 — that pump the sound of music and calls into your inner
ear through your cranium. It’s kind of a head trip.

Buhel says the intra-cranial aural magic happens through the wonders of bone
conduction technology. Small, soft speakers tucked into each lightweight,
polymer arm of the sunglasses (the parts that hug the sides of your head)
let users listen to calls, tunes, videos and more from connected iPhone,
Android and Windows mobile devices through their skulls, hands-free and
ear-free, too.

Without earbuds muffling surrounding sounds, SoundGlasses free users to hear
noises around them. In other words, taking and making phone calls while
driving, biking or running can be a lot easier and, more importantly, safer.
For ski bunnies, Buhel also offers similar ski goggles. They’re called
Speakgoggle G33 Intercoms and they allow you to talk through your nose

You can’t make this stuff up.

To chat on calls, SoundGlasses wearers need only speak. A bi-directional
noise-cancelling mic embedded in the nose bridge of the shades picks up and
transmits their voices. To place and end calls, Buhel says users simply push
a button on the glasses. The button also controls volume and activates
interaction with Siri and Cortana, Apple’s and Microsoft’s respective voice

If you have an eye for fancy lenses, Buhel has you covered. Depending on how
much you spend, you can choose from a variety of scratch-resistant lenses.
Or you can even add your own prescription lenses. The shades’ lithium-ion
battery juices approximately three hours of talk time and recharges via a
USB cable/wall charger combo.

Some obvious questions: How clear will the audio be when vibrated through
your inner ear? And, um, what about cloudy days? You don’t wear sunglasses
in the dark.

Buhel’s parent company Atellani recently launched the high-tech specs on
Kickstarter. The campaign is the company’s second stab on the crowdfunding
platform and has already exceeded its $80,000 funding goal, with 36 days to
go. A set of these bad boys will put you back a pledge of $160. Shipping is
slated to start in May.