Saturday, January 9, 2010

Devices for People Who Can't See

Lately I've mentioned several contraptions (love that word) that help people with special needs. My legally blind friend, Earl Leonard Langguth, has agreed to share information about some that have helped him a lot. Here's what Earl says:

"The people that have been most helpful for me in my advanced Macular degeneration have been Freedom Scientific of St. Petersburg, FL. My son immediately put me to seeking their JAWS program, which enables me without sight of the screen, to use the computer. I am using it now as I write. It reads the screen to me and advises me of which key I have just pressed. Inasmuch as I am a touch typist it is ideal in making the computer again useful to me.

" The second help I have received from them is a machine called SARA, Scanning and Reading Appliance. This is very much easier to use and less complicated than a computer keyboard, and it enables me to read anything that is in print. It resembles a regular computer scanner, and operates as a scanner normally functions, except that it scans the printed page, subjects it at once to OCR (optical character recognition) and then reads it with the voice and at the speed I specify. This machine has given me back my library, and would also serve to restore my newspaper if it were not that I have given up reading newspapers. It reads letters so long as they are not hand written. I spend hours every week with SARA and have read more books in the last month than I usually read when my eyes were young and healthy.

" In addition to the scanner there is also a compact disk reader and writer in SARA that reads and records DAISY format as well as the other CD formats. SARA has an amazing amount of memory and can maintain a large number of files in its interior memory. It can also be easily connected to a monitor so that text can be read in whatever size desired on screen, with a special highlight on the word currently being read. This is at present of no value to me so I have not done this.

"And there are a hundred complete books now in public domain in SARA and I have enjoyed reading The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins and Pride And Prejudice.

" Oh yes, you can select having the scan of a book recognize columns, and then scan two pages of a book at a time. You can also “scan in background” so that you are hearing what has already been scanned while you are continuing to scan. A nice chime sounds softly when a scan is finished to tell you to begin the next page. Since each page is actually two facing pages in the book, you scan much faster than you read, even though the reading speed can be set in increments up to five hundred words a minute.

"I have just been given a RUBY for Christmas. It is a video handheld magnifier ranging from two to fourteen power with a fine usable screen for viewing, with a capture facility for holding the magnified text for closer examination, and a variety of color modes for increasing definition of what is magnified. All of these and much much more can be viewed at "

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