Earlier this year I had the pleasure of attending the 31st
annual Technology and Persons with Disabilities conference in San Diego. This
conference is more widely known as CSUN. CSUN is the largest adaptive
technology conference in the world. As a person who is passionate about new and
upcoming technologies, it is a wonderful place to explore. Every major company
who produces technology for people with vision loss is represented.
This year, there was a strong emphasis on braille technology.
Several new devices were introduced, some of which are game changing.
At CSUN, the Orbit Braille Reader was announced. This
is a 20-cell braille display that was developed through collaboration with
CNIB, the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) in the UK, the American
Printing House for the Blind, and a number of other organizations. This display
will act as a braille display for a computer, and lets users read e-books from
a SD card. The most significant aspect of this display is its price. When the
display is launched in the fall, the price is expected to be around $500
Canadian. This is approximately one-third of the cost of competing displays.
Other braille devices announced include:
This is a braille
display integrated with an Android tablet. It includes a fully-accessible touch
B2G from National Braille Press
another Android device that includes a braille display and a braille keyboard.
This product will be released later this year. It allows
people to read short messages, such as texts, via a small refreshable braille display.
Another interesting trend at CSUN was mainstream
companies stepping up in the area of accessibility. Microsoft and Google had a
strong presence. There was even the opportunity to talk to a Microsoft engineer
with specific problems you might be having with their products!
Amazon is selling tablets with their own screen reader
built in called Voiceview. Another product, Echo, isn't designed specifically for
accessibility, but is voice activated. If you use smart home technology such as
a Nest thermostat, they can be controlled directly by voice. The stand-alone
unit connects to your Wi-Fi network. This product provides a solution for a
person with vision loss to operate otherwise inaccessible technology. It’s a
stand-alone unit consisting of many directional microphones that connects to
your Wi-Fi network.
CSUN was a great opportunity to see some of the
technological advancements and accessible products that will benefit people
with vision loss.