Braille Monitor April 2004
News from the Federation Family
Donations Needed for 2004 Braille Book Flea Market:
Donate your gently used but no longer wanted Braille books to the 2004 annual Braille Book Flea Market, sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children and the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille. Books should be in good condition. Cookbooks and books suitable for children and young adults are preferred. Books may be shipped Free Matter for the Blind between April 1 and June 1, 2004, to:
UPS HR Department General
215 Marvin Miller Drive
Atlanta, Georgia 30336
Att: Christy Davis
Re: NFB Conference Materials
Do not mark the packages or boxes in any other way, and use the address exactly as given here. Donations from the flea market will be used to support the Braille Readers Are Leaders expanded literacy program.
.Convention Notes and Reminders:
Dan Burke holds a bouquet of roses made of $5 bills that he won as a door prize at the banquet.
The March issue contained a misprint in the address for ordering tour packages for convention. The address should have read: NFB of Georgia, P.O. Box 56859, Atlanta, Georgia 30343. The initial 5 was omitted from the post office box number. We regret the error.
Remember that, if you wish to send door prizes for convention ahead of time, you can ship them to Thelma Godwin, 1705 Paradise Drive, N.E., Atlanta, Georgia 30307. Please label all prizes with the donor's name and the value of the item, and remember to indicate what the prize is.
At its fall meeting the board of directors regretfully voted to decline door prizes containing alcohol in future. We therefore request affiliates, chapters, and individuals to refrain from soliciting such prizes.
Lynn Heitz reports that in November of 2003 the NFB of Pennsylvania conducted elections at its annual convention. Those elected were James Antonacci, president; Judy Jobes, first vice president; Lynn Heitz, second vice president; Connie Johnson, secretary; Charles Morgenstern, treasurer; and Denice Brown, Lisa Mattioli, Rodney Powell, Mark Stracks, Cary Supalo, and Mike Wolk, members of the board of directors.
In January of 2004 the Keystone Chapter of the NFB of Pennsylvania held its elections. The following officers were elected: Lynn Heitz, president; Mary Brucker, first vice president; Harriet Go, second vice president; Georgia Nowaxzyk, secretary; and Patricia Grebloski, treasurer.
The Capital District Chapter of the NFB of New York held its election on February 27, 2004, and the following officers were elected: Craig Hedgecock, president; Jackie Batista, vice president; Rick Nestler, treasurer; Rey Torres, secretary; and Beverly Parker, board member.
Notices and information in this section may be of interest to Monitor readers. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the information; we have edited only for space and clarity.
Volunteers Needed to Complete New Braille Music Survey:
Most people who use Braille music--as well as those who teach it, produce it, or distribute it--would probably agree that locating and obtaining the Braille music scores they need or want is often difficult or impossible. Serious musicians who use Braille music regard this shortage as a critical problem in need of an aggressive solution.
Last year, in response to these concerns, the North America/Caribbean Region of the World Blind Union created a special task force whose purpose was "to examine the status of Braille music transcription in North America and to determine if there is a need to increase the capacity to produce it."
The taskforce was chaired by Dr. Tuck Tinsley, president of the American Printing House for the Blind, and it included representatives from each of the various agencies and organizations that make up the North America/Caribbean Region. Karen McDonald, second vice president of the National Association of Blind Musicians (the NFB's music division) represented the National Federation of the Blind on the taskforce.
McDonald reports that the working group has now developed a comprehensive survey aimed at gathering important information about Braille music such as who purchases it; where it is produced; the types of music (classical, popular, vocal, instrumental) that are most widely used; the quality of the product; the timeliness of delivery; and any difficulties that people have experienced in obtaining the Braille music they need.
The next step is to reach as many people as possible who are interested in responding to the survey. The greater the number of respondents, the more accurate and complete the survey findings will be.
The NFB national office is helping to disseminate the survey to members and others interested in completing it. Requests for the survey form in Braille or large print should be sent to Mrs. Patricia Maurer, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. An electronic version is available by sending an email request to <[email protected]>.
Anyone wishing to complete the survey online can go to the Web site of the American Printing House for the Blind at <www.aph.org/brlmusicsurvey.html>. The deadline for submitting completed surveys is June 1, 2004. Blind musicians, parents and teachers of blind children, transcribers, and others with a particular knowledge of and interest in the subject are encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity to help shape the future of Braille music in North America.
Optelec Sets Sights on Blindness Market:
On February 16, 2004, we received the following press release:
Optelec, Inc., a subsidiary of the Tieman Group (NL) and the leading supplier of video and hand magnifiers for those with low vision, announced today that it will enter the blindness market with a complete line of adaptive products designed to increase the mobility and connectivity of blind children and adults. Product launch is set for the second half of 2004.
Heading the project is Larry Lewis, the newly appointed vice president of blindness sales. Larry joins Optelec from Pulse Data International, a New Zealand-based company. While at Pulse Data Larry led the development of the BrailleNote™ family of personal data assistants, serving as both product manager and head of U.S. sales. Under Larry's guidance the product became the premiere portable information management system to date. Most important, this technology has changed the lives of thousands of blind users within educational, vocational, and residential settings.
Lewis said: "I'm enthused by the opportunity to work with the Tieman Group and to develop a blindness division for Optelec. For years Optelec has set the standard for providing the most innovative solutions to North America's low-vision market, and I welcome the challenge of mirroring this stellar effort by introducing and driving the most innovative product line designed to serve blind people."
Congenitally blind, Lewis was mainstreamed into the public school system. He is a fluent Braille reader and writer and a strong advocate of Braille literacy. His Braille reading and writing skills allowed him to attain a comprehensive formal education, holding both an MA in English and an MS in special education (blind rehabilitation). Lewis has an extensive background in assessing, training, and recommending systems for those who require adaptive speech or Braille solutions.
Annette Fasnacht, president of Optelec U.S., Inc., said: "I am delighted to have Larry on our team; his broad experience and personal success bring excellent leadership to this project. Larry has a true passion for technologies that allow the blind to be mainstreamed into schools and compete in the workplace. Larry's presence coupled with the extensive product development efforts underway at Tieman in the Netherlands will allow Optelec to develop products and services that will change the lives of blind people."
The Audio-Read handheld navigator
Tony Blackwood is a director of an Australian company called Audio-Read. After attending the grand opening of the NFB Jernigan Institute, he made a presentation of his company's portable audio player to the NFB research and development committee. I was impressed enough with this product to ask him to tell Monitor readers about it. He suggests that we think of the Audio-Read as a portable NFB-NEWSLINE® player to listen to your favorite newspaper or magazine anywhere, anytime. This is what he says:
The Audio-Read System is also a suite of hardware, software, and audio content designed to provide print-disabled readers access to newspapers, magazines, and books. Fast delivery of content, ease of use, and simple content navigation are key features. Audio-Read came about because the mother of one of our directors lost most of her vision through age-related macular degeneration. Trudy was an avid reader and was devastated by the sudden onset of this disease. We looked at the alternatives available to give her the print access she was used to, but no single option fitted the bill. So we formed Audio-Read and set about designing a purpose-built player to give Trudy the freedom to read again.
Because Trudy was in her late seventies and had no previous computer experience, we designed the system to hide the underlying technology. We designed a custom-built, handheld Audio Navigator and set-top box. These two pieces of hardware would automatically gather her news and audio books from the Internet and put them into a format she could easily use. Here is a brief description of some of the portable Audio-Navigator's features:
1. Solid state, with no moving parts
2. Battery life of over thirty hours for continuous audio playback
3. Capacity of twenty-four hours of audio material
4. Simple, three-level navigation controls
5. Simple, intuitive operation suitable for older users and typical leisure readers
6. Automatic bookmarks within each book
7. Lightweight and robust
8. Ergonomic design
9. Easy to use--operation learning time of two to three minutes
10. Both built-in speaker and standard earphone jack
11. All button operations audibly acknowledged
12. Remotely upgradable new software downloadable from the Internet
13. Secure, making publishers happy
14. Zero media costs--all memory is internal
15. User-customized messages and commands
Of course having a portable player and seamless way to get content is of no use without the content. So we contacted major Australian news publishers and now offer daily newspapers and a selection of magazines. We approached audio book publishers, hoping to make their content available economically. We now have agreements with major publishers including the BBC (who owns Chivers), the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and many other smaller niche producers.
Audio-Read uses digital technology to deliver its content, so users can be anywhere in the world and still receive their local newspapers or selected audio books.
Here are some of the projects we are working on:
We have successfully trialed our system in South Australia, and we are about to embark on a full rollout in conjunction with the public library of South Australia.
We are working with the Royal National Institute of the Blind UK to provide daily delivery of DAISY-based TV guides, newspapers, timetables, and magazines.
We are working on several projects providing accessible text-based information for local government authorities.
We are working closely with public libraries to evaluate the use of Audio-Read for delivery and playback of digital audio books.
We have a number of other exciting projects in the pipeline and will be releasing details in our newsletter in the coming months. We hope to present the Audio-Read system at the NFB's annual convention in Atlanta in July. I am looking forward to being back in the U.S.A., and I have been assured that the weather in Atlanta in July will be nothing like the weather in Baltimore in January.
For more information about the Audio-Read service, you can register your interest by dropping us a short email at <[email protected]>. or learn more about us at <www.audio-read.com.au>.
Braille NASCAR Racing Schedules Now Available:
For a free NASCAR Racing Schedule in Braille contact Linda at Braille International, Inc. The schedule includes the NASCAR Nextel Cup, NASCAR Busch Series, and Craftsman Truck Series races. To order phone (888) 336-3142 or email <[email protected]>.
New Rates for InternetSpeech's netECHO:
InternetSpeech's netECHO® is the only voice Internet service to give you access to the entire Web without a computer. You can surf and browse any Web site, listen to and respond to your email, search any word, and much more--pretty much anything you can do using a computer and visual browser, you can now do by phone.
The rates are very affordable. Program A: $12 a month, unlimited use. You call a toll number in the 408 area code. Program B: $21 a month. You call a toll-free number. Includes five hours of use, five cents per minute for additional minutes for the U.S. and Canada. There is a one-time set up fee of $20 for both programs.
Just call (877) 312-4638 or (408) 360-7730 to learn more and sign up. You can also visit our Web site at <www.internetspeech.com>.
Independent Living Aids, Inc., Acquires Ann Morris Enterprises:
We recently received the following press release:
Independent Living Aids, Inc., the country's oldest privately held mail-order business specializing in products for the blind and visually impaired, acquired Ann Morris Enterprises on February 1, 2004. Ann Morris has been in business for eighteen years and is one of the most respected and established mail-order companies in the industry. ILA is in its twenty-seventh year of continuous operation.
ILA intends to maintain the Ann Morris identification by continuing to publish its catalog of unique products for the visually impaired and by maintaining its Web site <www.annmorris.com>. Ann Morris, regarded as the Lillian Vernon of the blind mail-order industry, will assist with the transition and will share her expertise on an on-going basis. The acquisition enhances both companies' product lines, which ultimately benefits all customers. ILA can now offer a more comprehensive range of CAN-DOÔ Products through its catalogs and on its Web site <www.independentliving.com.>
Candle in the Window will hold its eighteenth conference from Wednesday, August 11, through Sunday, August 15, 2004, at the Kavanaugh Life Enrichment Center, outside of Louisville, Kentucky. Participants will explore many aspects of independence within and outside the blindness community. For instance, if independence is so desirable, why do so many people resist it so mightily, and why do others value it above all else?
Cost for the conference will be $240, which covers lodging, meals, conference materials, and transportation to and from Louisville International Airport. Participants sending a $35 deposit postmarked no later than July 15 will qualify for a $15 discount on conference fees. Payment plans and scholarships will be available.
For more information contact Jonathan Ice, (319) 298-2919, <[email protected]>, or Kathy Szinnyey, (502) 895-0866, <[email protected]>.
The notice in this section has been edited for clarity, but we can pass along only the information we were given. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the statements made or the quality of the product for sale.
I am selling a simple-to-use color identifier with two buttons. It will tell you color, brightness, saturation, and hue. I am asking $450 or best offer. Those interested can call or email me at daytime phone (202) 345-3609, email <[email protected]>.
I pledge to participate actively in the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its constitution.