Posted by Kim Kilpatrick
Our next evening Ottawa GTT meeting will take place on Monday March 16. As usual, we will be meeting at CCB national offices 20 James street. Our meeting time is 6-8 PM.
We may give an update on income tax preparation and accessibility. If so, this update will be brief.
Our topic for the night is internet and cell phone service providers.
So bring your ideas and experiences.
Some questions we will ask include:
How did you pick your service provider?
Who has the most accessible web sites, apps, ETC?
How well can you access your billing information?
How good are they at giving you help and tech support if needed?
We will have a discussion on this so bring your ideas and suggestions.
If anyone would like to bring snacks, let Kim know.
To RSVP, contact Kim at
Our next day time Ottawa Gtt meeting will take place on Thursday March 19 from 10 AM to noon at CCB offices 20 James street.
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.
Tools that help with navigation.
See below article
Posted by Kim Kilpatrick
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.
Posted by Kim Kilpatrick
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
Is braille less relevant now? I really hope not.
Posted by Kim Kilpatrick
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
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
Visionary – International Guide Dogs Federation magazine February 2015.
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
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
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
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:
Invitation to participate in a research study
Posted by Kim Kilpatrick
I received this information from someone doing a research study for her degree.
She would be grateful if people would consider completing this survey.
Invitation to take part in a study about the impacts of non-accessible online communications
Dear Sir or Madam,
I am a researcher from the University of Ottawa Master of Communications program. I will soon be starting a new study among Canadian Anglophones between the ages of 21-60 with low vision or blindness impacting the use of online communications. As this is a technology-driven society, it is important that we work towards accessibility online, allowing all members of society access to the same content.
If you are between the ages of 21 and 60 and your low vision or blindness impacts your ability to access content online, your participation in this study is welcome! Your participation in this study would consist of completing an accessible electronic survey (a large-print or braille paper copy of the survey is also available) which would take approximately 40 minutes. This study will be done completely anonymously. Only the researchers will have access to the completed surveys and no identifying information will be included. This research is being conducted by a student researcher from the University of Ottawa and is independent of any other organization.
This project will be conducted in English only.
To take part in the study, you can simply click on the following link: http://fluidsurveys.com/surveys/herin8/perceptions-of-internet-access-and-impacts/. This link will give you access to the consent form as well as to the accessible online survey. If you prefer a paper copy of the questionnaire in large print or Braille, please send me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have any questions about this study, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Heather Dyke, Principal Investigator
Department of Communication, University of Ottawa
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
bookshare offers books in:
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:
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
Contact info for CELA from our national conference call last week.
Posted by Kim Kilpatrick
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.
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 www.celalibrary.ca. 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
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
Technology is wonderful when it works correctly.
I had posted last week about Ottawa meetings and somehow I think that post got lost between my keyboard and the blog.
Sorry for the late notice.
GTT Ottawa day time meeting is tomorrow Feb 19.
Our topic is screen magnification with a small presentation on what it is and what it does.
However, if you don’t use that, don’t worry.
We will be set up to help you in small groups with whatever accessibility assistance you may need.
On February 23 for our evening meeting, we will have representatives from the Ottawa Public library with us to talk about some new services.
We have also been working on determining the accessibility of apps and programs for tax filing.
I have been playing with several new apps including:
google chrome for IOS
Microsoft outlook for ios
Does anyone want to bring the Monday night snack?
Please RSVP to Kim at
Posted by Kim Kilpatrick