National Federation of the Blind Indoor Navigation Challenge

The National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute is the premier research and training institute that applies the collective knowledge and life experience of the blind to the development of innovative solutions to the barriers faced by blind people. We are designing the National Federation of the Blind Indoor Navigation Challenge to combine our expertise and experience with that of other technology and research professionals to partner in the development of universally designed access tools and strategies that enhance independent travel for the blind.  Blind people effectively use tools and strategies like white canes, guide dogs, mental mapping, echolocation, and problem-solving skills to acquire and use environmental information to travel safely and independently outdoors and indoors.

Cosmo Brailler and BERT Software Overview

The Cosmo Electronic Brailler and BERT (Braille Education Remote Training) software are produced and sold by Electronic Brailler LLC. The Cosmo is a Braille writer with several electronic functions, including acting as an input keyboard and embosser for the Duxbury Braille Translator, and working in conjunction with the BERT software. BERT is an online tool, also from Electronic Braillerthat allows a teacher to teach up to 15 students simultaneously over the internet. Teachers can have class discussions by the teacher typing into the computer using six-key entry, and the text will be Brailled on the students’ Cosmo. The software also allows the uploading and completion of assignments, which can then be archived for future reference.

VarioUltra Overview

The VarioUltra is the latest Braille display from Baum. It comes in both 20 and 40-cell models, for $2,395 and $3,995 respectively. The 20-cell model will be reviewed here. The VarioUltra is a slim, well-built display that also has the ability to function as a basic notetaker on its own. The included applications include a word processor, PDF viewer, spreadsheet viewer, calculator, countdown timer, stopwatch, and an alarm clock. The display can connect with JAWS for Windows, Window-Eyes, NVDA, VoiceOver on both the Mac and iOS, and BrailleBack for Android. Currently, some screen access software and devices do not have VarioUltra drivers, so display emulation is needed, which will be discussed later.

Health, Mobility and Navigation Focus Group at Washington Seminar

The greatest asset the National Federation of the Blind possesses is our membership.  In an effort to continue to ensure that our voices are heard in the evaluation and development of accessible biotechnology tools and strategies, we are recruiting participants for a focus group on health, mobility, and navigation on Monday, January 26 from 8:30 to 12:30 at the Holiday Inn Capitol. This is the morning of the Great Gathering In of our Washington Seminar. There is only room for 20 participants, so interested individuals should contact Clara Van Gerven at (410)659 9314 x2410 or at [email protected], as soon as possible. Whether or not you are able to participate, you are encouraged to take the time to complete, and share, the survey referenced below.  

TRF Survey

The Therapeutic Research Foundation (TRF), with input from the access technology team at the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, the only research and training institute developed and directed by blind people, has created a survey on health, mobility, and navigation. TRF is inviting blind and low-vision participants to take the survey to help them create the next generation of navigational tools. The data gathered will be used specifically to do research and development, so please consider taking the time to complete the questionnaire and help them build a device that will serve your needs. Depending on your responses, the survey will take 5-15 minutes, and your impact will shape the future of the project.

You can take the survey at


Web Accessibility Training Day session recordings

For those of you who have an interest in web accessibility, but were not able to attend the Web Accessibility Training Day on September 9, the recordings of those sessions are now available at There were some really great talks, and I especially recommend Eve Hill’s keynote. It was a real honor to have such a great list of speakers.

Train the Trainer

In two weeks, the team here at the NFB Jernigan Institute will be conducting the second iteration of Train the Trainer. We’ve got an amazing line-up–Google has volunteered some of its trainers to talk all things Google, Earle Harrison from Triumph Technology will be here to share his extensive experience as a Mac trainer, and we’ll have our affiliated experts Jennifer Dunnam and Hoby Wedler here to talk about Braille production and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), respectively. That the AT team will be here goes without saying.

The full agenda is posted at, though we are still reshuffling some of the timing (but not the topics). There are eight seats left, and we expect to fill them very soon. Join us if you can; it will be a great event.


What’s New in Accessibility for Blind, Low Vision, and Deaf-Blind Users


It's fall, that means it's time for another iOS update to fall onto your iDevices. That is, if you are running the iPad 2 or later, iPod Touch 5th generation, or iPhone 4s or later. This year, Apple introduces a lot of new mainstream features such as the ability to share purchased items with family members on joint accounts with the iTunes and App Store, the further harmonization of iOS and OS X, interactive notifications, Wi-Fi calling-- just to name a few. Many mainstream sources will be covering these features in great detail, so this article will focus on changes in accessibility. Just like all of my articles dating back to iOS 5, this one doesn't claim to have everything that's new. I've taken time, along with a few of the other staff members of Applevis, to work with the betas of iOS 8 since its first build was submitted to developers in June.

Braille Moves Forward in iOS 8

In the latest version of Apple's iOS, four Braille-related developments not only greatly improve the experience of using Braille with mobile devices, but also serve as a model for how the use of Braille can be integrated into today's digital technology. Three of these improvements relate to the interaction of iDevices with external refreshable Braille devices. The fourth does not require a Braille device at all—we'll start our review there.

Tips on how to use ACE Plus

ACE Plus is the latest personal multifunctional assistant from ABISEE.  It scans and reads printed materials out loud, and it saves OCR-converted text on its internal hard drive or on a USB flash drive.  It does this quickly and accurately. It also alerts you when a scheduled activity is due, enables you to send and receive emails, downloads ebooks, stores your photo album to share with friends and family and wakes you up when your alarm clock is set. Here are some tips on how to get the maximum from the device.

Tip 1. Short cut to Scanning and Reading

Place a printed page alongside the base of the device, so that ACE Plus captures the entire 8.5 by 11 inch space. No matter where you were in the Main menu previously, just press the Scan button and enjoy listening to the content of the page.


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