Libraries Without Walls Conference Showcases Adaptive Technology for the Blind

Opening Doors to the Future Theme of 2019 Event

Media Contact: LARA Communications 517-335-LARA (5272)
Email: mediainfo@michigan.gov

June 4, 2019 – Consumers and professionals from around the state are meeting today to learn from experts on how assistive technology can meet the information needs of persons who are blind, visually or physically impaired via the Internet, online catalogs and electronic media. The daylong event, held at the Lansing Community College West Campus, is sponsored by the Michigan Bureau of Services for Blind Persons (BSBP) in the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA). 

"The understanding and accessibility of cutting-edge technology can be a vital communication and learning resource for Michigan residents with disabilities," BSBP Director Bill Robinson said. "Our bureau is focused on providing a diverse set of quality services to ensure that blind individuals have the opportunities they need to achieve active employability and independence."

Keynote is Paul Ponchillia, Distinguished Professor Emeritus and Chairperson of Blindness and Low Vision Studies at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo.  He is also principle investigator at Sendero Group, a company developing accessible Wayfinding for people with visual impairments. Dr. Ponchillia is speaking on indoor wayfinding: using adaptive technology to determine an individual’s location in unfamiliar surroundings inside a building.

Participants will also attend numerous breakout sessions that demonstrate the wide range of available technology – from basic to high-tech, including:

  • Non-Visual Desktop Access (NVDA) – This free, open-source screen reader program is designed for computers running the Windows operating system. Ease of use, availability and access will be discussed. Presenter: J.J. Meddaugh, technology specialist, AT Guys, an accessible technology sales and services company.
  • Microsoft Narrator – This native text to speech program supplied by Microsoft for its Windows operating systems has been progressively improved to be compatible with all Windows 10 systems, free, supported by Microsoft’s accessibility team, and can be used with Microsoft’s magnification feature. Methods will be shown on starting Narrator, its Start Up Guide, customizing Narrator’s settings, help features, navigation, and Narrator’s use with magnification. Presenter: Joe Todd, certified vision rehabilitation therapist and adaptive technology instructor.
  • Apple iOS and VoiceOver – Basic components of Apple products (iPhone and iPad), layout of the native apps, along with the built-in accessibility features will be presented along with how to access specific features within the settings. Presenter: Kellie Blackwell, adaptive technology trainer, Disability Network Capitol Area.
  • Aira – This service connects a person who is blind or has severe low vision to a sighted assistant. The student can direct the Aira agent to perform tasks such as reading inaccessible web sites, filling out inaccessible forms, and following the student’s directions in formatting assigned papers. Aira benefits for students in learning and activities of daily living will be demonstrated. Presenter: Pat Love-Sypho, special education consultant, Michigan Department of Education Low Incidence Outreach.
  • OrCam – This device uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies to recognize faces, identify products, read text, and more, and can be used by being worn on a pair of glasses. Presenter: Aliza Olenick.
  • BrailleNote Touch Plus – This first Google-certified braille tablet offers versatility and productivity giving the user the ability to create and read documents, surf the web, e-mail, and more. Presenter: Jim Sullivan, regional sales manager, HumanWare.
  • Screen Enlargement and Magnification – A demonstration of a variety of magnification options: hand-held, for Apple's iPad, and for the computer. Presenter: Nancy Ozinga, retired, Teacher Counselors of Visually Impaired Students.
  • Accessing Information with Mobile Apps – A demonstration of options for accessing information by using mobile apps such as KNFB Reader, Seeing AI, and others. Presenter: Caitlin Snyder, adaptive technology instructor, BSBP Training Center.
  • Low Cost Magnifiers – Discussion of what they are, benefits to the low vision user, and where to get them. Presenter: Kellie Blackwell, adaptive technology instructor, Disability Network Capitol Area.
  • HIMS Polaris – HIMS’ many products promote braille literacy and productivity on a competitive and mainstream level such as the QBraille XL braille display and the Polaris. Presenter: Earle Harrison, Midwest regional manager, HIMS, Inc.
  • Books Galore – How to access thousands of audiobooks and millions of e-books, beyond BARD Mobile App and the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped will be discussed. Presenter: Dr. James Nuttall, author.
  • App Smackdown – A fast-paced open forum for conference attendees to give a one-minute presentation on their favorite mobile app. Facilitator: Bridgid Turner, adaptive technology librarian, Braille and Talking Book Library (BTBL).

For more information on the above topics, please contact Scott Norris, adaptive technology librarian, BSBP Braille and Talking Book Library, 800-992-9012, norriss5@michigan.gov. Michigan residents can find more information on technology related to blindess and visual impairment on the BTBL resource page here.

The BSBP provides training and other services for individuals who are blind or visually impaired to achieve employment and/or independence in the careers of their choice. These services include:

  • BSBP services that can help the visually impaired understand and access cutting-edge technology and provides training on the accessibility of the iPhone, iPad and Android operating system, and the capabilities of many screen reader programs.
  • The BSBP Vocational Rehabilitation Program helps blind residents become employed in a career that suits their current or potential abilities. The program provides diagnostic evaluations, vocational counseling, and training in skills of blindness at no cost.
  • BSBP’s Braille and Talking Book Library serves people with visual and physical impairments that prevent the reading of standard print material. The library loans books and magazines in braille and audio formats to those who qualify.
  • The BSBP Business Enterprise Program (BEP) provides blind individuals with opportunities for employment. The BEP operates vending routes and cafeteria facilities in state and federal government facilities as well as in a limited number of private buildings. The role of the BEP is to guide and assist the operator in achieving upward mobility.

The Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) programs described in this press release are funded 78.7 percent through a VR grant from the U.S. Department of Education and 21.3 percent through state funding. Total federal funding for federal fiscal year 2018 was approximately $19,409,613.

For more information about BSBP visit www.michigan.gov/bsbp or call toll-free:  800-292-4200, TTY 888-864-1212.

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