GAAD 2022: Assistive Tech Demo
Pat: Okay, it is 10:02 I think I will kick this off. I’d like to just welcome everyone, I’m Pat Kogos the Director of digital accessibility at UChicago. I want to welcome you to the first of our two sessions today to celebrate the 11th annual Global Accessibility Awareness Day, also known as GAAD. GAAD provides an opportunity for us to focus on digital equality for the one billion people in the world and many people in our UChicago community living with a disability. Creating an accessible digital environment supports the full participation of all members of the campus community and the academic research and work life of the university.
This morning, the Digital Accessibility Experience team, DAX, from the Chicago Lighthouse will demonstrate assistive technology used by people with disabilities. Mohammed Ahmed from our own ITS Academic Technology Solutions team will be our moderator. I will turn it over to Mohammad now to get us started.
Mohammad: Good morning everyone, a few housekeeping items, as you’ve already probably noticed this session is being automatically recorded. And the recording will be made available for those who are not able to make it or had any tech issues. If you do not wish to be recorded, just mute your microphone and turn off your camera.
And if you have any questions you can put them in the chat. But because two of our presenters are native screen reader users, we ask that you refrain from putting too much in the chat during their presentations because the chat messages are actually read aloud to screen reader users in real time. And that can become disruptive to the presenters. We will have several Q&A periods at the end of the session and during that time, if you like, you can put your questions in the chat. And you can also use your raised hand feature so I’m gonna demonstrate that and what we can do is call on you and then people can speak at that time as well.
And with those housekeeping matters complete, I will turn it – also, we have live captioning. So at the bottom on your zoom toolbar, if you would like, you can click on the live captioning button and then show captions or hide captions depending on your preferences.
With those considerations complete, I will now turn it over to Pat.
Pat: Thanks Mohammad, I’d like to welcome the Digital Accessible Experience team from the Chicago Lighthouse. We are really pleased to have them here with us today and excited to see their demonstration and have this conversation with them. So I will turn this meeting over to them to begin their presentation.
Jose: All right, can everybody hear me?
Jose: Okay, Geo, could you please mute yourself? Okay, thank you. All right, so good morning everybody, my name is Jose Martinez. I’m the lead analyst for our Digital Accessible Experience group, also known as DAX for short. Credit to my supervisor, Phil Yatvin for that name. It’s catchy and everything, but I think it also talks about our mission and displays our mission quite greatly.
So a little bit about the Chicago Lighthouse. We are [COUGH] a social enterprise organization. We’ve been around for quite a long time, over 100 years. Our mission is to serve the community of people who are blind or visually impaired. We also have various other disabilities here and there. We are here to provide assistance during daily life, assistance in rehabilitation. We have over 40 departments that provide different types of assistance to our patrons.
So I wanna tell you a little bit about myself, introduce myself. I actually started, well, first of all can everybody – do I need to speak louder? Can everybody understand me? Am I coming in clearly?
Pat: Sounds great Jose, thanks.
Jose: Good. Okay, so yes, I wanna tell you a little bit about my involvement with the Chicago Lighthouse. I actually started out in the birth to three program. That program is such that it sends a counselor over to your parents’ house, I should say, if you are blind, and the counselor goes over how to interact with a person who is blind or visually impaired. Educates them on the things they can do, the things they might need some help with, the differences and how they may think of the world, they may perceive the world.
So I had the privilege of being a part of that and throughout my years, on this earth, I was able to benefit from the various programs that the Chicago Lighthouse offered up until I got fully employed back in 2015. It was a call center agent for UI Health call center. I worked at the call center for two years, afterwards I got promoted to IT. I worked there until 2020, now doing IT is where we formed the idea for the DAX group. What DAX does in short is it examines products, websites, applications, hardware.
[ offscreen ] Everything okay?
[ offscreen ] I completely forgot I had a client call.
[ offscreen ] I put her down, no I didn’t forget I put it down for the wrong time on my calendar.
Mohammad: I went ahead and muted everyone and I think some people had their mics open and then Jose if you could unmute yourself because when I hit mute all everyone got muted. I apologize for that.
Jose: Can you hear me now? Yeah, you can. Okay, yeah so during IT is when we decided that part of our mission at the Chicago Lighthouse could include accessibility. And we did several programs where we piloted some of Google’s products and just to practice our documentation skills with accessibility because one of the most important parts of accessibility is that you can communicate to others. So in short that is how the DAX group was formed. We have been around for about two years.
I think the pandemic was, actually it helped us in getting started because all of our agents, all of our workers here at DAX, they also got started at the call centers, various call centers. They were able to work remote and we partnered with AFB to test various websites and phone applications.
So a little bit about us, how we’re doing. To my right is Geovanni Bahena, which you will hear from soon and to my left is Patrick Andrade manager of our assistive technology program. So what we’re here to do today is discuss some of our experiences that we had, when attending college. Also I am open to any questions that you might have because I’m sure you will have plenty.
I wanna start off by telling you some of what I went through. So yeah, what I wanna do is have us talk about our experiences and then after that we can demo some of the assistive technology that we use for work and to also today’s. Any questions so far?
Okay, all right, I guess I’ll proceed then.
Okay, so full disclosure. I’m 40, I’ve been out of college since 2005. I got a Bachelor’s degree in Sound Engineering from Columbia College here in Chicago. The experience when I went to school, I think there were fewer resources available offhand. But at the same time the commitment I feel was still there with some, I don’t wanna say weaknesses. I just think that what I kept hearing from people was you would get readers, note takers. And by that, I mean, other human beings that would go to your classes, take notes for you or maybe somebody from the class was assigned to take notes on your behalf. It was voluntary, people were not paid to do it. It was other students or people working that needed jobs. They might get paid if they were working for Student Support Services, which was the name of the resource program at Columbia. We did have resources like we had the technology there.
I think the one thing that I could have benefited from at the time was that if we had more people whose sole task was to ensure that things were working, assistance and such, because the volunteers were very helpful. They meant well, but sometimes, I mean, think about it.
So in my case I was subject to different reading speeds, people’s voices that were not professional narrators, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a variable in how somebody reads to you. If you’re going to have things read to you on tape, which I had plenty of. We had a braille embosser but few of us knew how to use it. I had scanners, so that I can scan my books, I had one of my own and I also had it in the resource center at Columbia, that, that took time.
One thing about OCR if you are used to it, it has vastly improved since when I was in school, but no matter what, it’s still subject to mistakes, you’re prone to make mistakes, so it is not a perfect scan. So I made do with what I had also in the field of sound engineering. This was around the area at the time when things were moving to computers. So although I had the full support of the sound engineering department, we were all kind of new to it. On a person to person basis that could assist me, that could help me stand up for what I needed, it could help me vocalize what it is that I needed, what I could do, I could not do, I didn’t know. So I did not have, I think I learned more from hands on experience which I personally was afraid to demand more of and to assert myself for like I said because I didn’t have the backing. But that hands on experience came after I graduated.
When it came to sound engineering, it was about placing microphones knowing which microphones sounded like what, operating compressors and things like that. But yeah, like I said later on I learned more as we moved forward in time, there was more technology available, I had access to more technology. I mean eventually I was employed at the Lighthouse and it was able to expand my horizons that way. But also web standards have improved. So I would imagine that currently there are more opportunities for students today to – quote unquote – get it right. I say that because that is a subjective view. And I also say it because a lot of accessibility and usability involves the people who are in positions of management power and leadership to actually understand the person’s needs and how to accommodate a person.
I’m gonna pass the mic over to Geovanni. I’d like him to share his experiences.
Geo: All right, can you guys hear me?
Geo: Okay, perfect mode. As I mentioned, my name is Geovanni Bahena, one of the accessibility analysts here with our Digital Accessible Experience team. I’ll just start off by telling you a little bit about how I got here and then I’ll kind of give you guys a little bit of my experiences with my time in college.
I started here back in 2018 as a call center agent. Call center agent here for our UI Health call center as well. And then right when the pandemic started, it was kind of, I know Jose mentioned this too, and that’s kind of how we started. It was the perfect timing. Because as you know, obviously hospital visits kind of dwindled to an end pretty much for a while. So had our call volumes. So it was the perfect timing and got to move on to really something that I personally have a huge passion for in accessibility. And ensuring that not only myself but people around the world could also experience better accessible technology. And growing up, it was something that even though I didn’t get paid for it, but I always did it, whether it was like dealing with a complicated app. Or an app that I couldn’t really use myself, or a website that I struggle with.
And as we grew up, we kind of got by. We kind of learned how to get around tricky situations and how to get around tough websites and some websites you just could not even access. So getting the opportunity to work in this field was such a huge blessing for me. And so that’s a little bit about me.
And so I’ve been here working with this great team and making sure that we can help businesses make their apps accessible. So I’m 33. So I’ve had a little bit of college experience back in 2009. Technology was starting to evolve a little bit more. I had a screen reader. I had access to the internet. Some of my classes, I’m not sure if Blackboard is still used these days, but that was one of the things I remember using as when I was in college. Well we would have to post bulletins and assignments and comment on other people’s assignments for a grade. And at the time, I remember really struggling with that because of the accessibility of Blackboard. I’ve heard it’s gotten better over the years. But the entire class that I took was basically the teacher taught on the topic, we were to write a bulletin post, and we were instructed to comment on others’ posts as well.
So those were our assignments throughout the entire semester. So I kind of based it off on other people’s assistance where I could. Sometimes I wasn’t even able to complete it. I had note takers as well. Kind of like what Jose was used to where they would write notes for me. But again I had to also, and I’m sure they meant well. But how would I have known if someone missed something important that might be on the test that wasn’t notated, things like that.
Jose: So it’s interesting Geo that your experiences are somewhat similar to mine. Give me for a second where I had hard copies of documents that I couldn’t read. And I’d either have to scan them or have somebody read them. And then you had Blackboard which was inaccessible for you or at the very least it was difficult to use. Am I hearing you right?
Geo: Yes, that’s correct. There were parts of it that were accessible. But I remember really struggling. You really have to post like bulletins under certain sections within Blackboard. So I was able to create just a post in the main class but the instructor wanted us to categorize under certain sections and that was one of the things I struggled with as well.
Jose: Yeah, if I could just interject for a second. I was asked to review some of these LMS platforms. And the one that I have found so far because I haven’t seen them all but one that I was able to actually deep dive into and see that was accessible was Open LMS. I have heard that Blackboard is not all there yet. That it’s they could be working on something. But Open LMS was something that I was able to look at and confirm that it was accessible.
So I mean and I point this out not to name names but more to just shed some light on what is available that is workable. And that can present an experience like a pleasant experience because since a lot of stuff now is online, it’s important to note these kinds of things. Go ahead Geo.
Geo: Yeah, and as time goes on, things have gotten better now with companies like Google providing different technologies. Google Classroom, I’ve heard that that has accessibility features built in. Here with our DAX team, we use Google Suite to do a lot of our work. So think things definitely have gotten better. But, one of the other struggles I struggled with in college was Scantron when we used to do exams. Sometimes I would have to wait for someone to finish their exam to help me complete it or textbooks were also a difficult chore for me.
Sometimes they were online books, which was great now that it’s not that they were online. But sometimes the platform that you would use to access them so that they could make sure that it was you, that once you bought the book you weren’t downloading it somewhere else etcetera. But some of the platforms they were using for us to get access to the book was not very accessible. So that was kind of a little bit of my experience. We did have some resources.
I went to Wright College here in the City of Chicago. We had an embosser kind of like similar to Jose’s experience. We had some technology but very few people knew how to use it. Sometimes it would just sit there and wouldn’t get used because we didn’t have the resources that knew how to use it. And at the time in 2009 we also had scanning OCR but to Jose’s point, it was always it’s not always perfect. You’re gonna have mistakes when you scan stuff in.
So now I’m gonna go ahead and turn it over to our Manager of Assistive Technology here at the Chicago Lighthouse. Patrick, would you like to introduce yourself a little bit?
Patrick: Yeah, thank you Geo. My name is Patrick. I am the Assistive Technology Manager at the Chicago Lighthouse … Assistive Technology and Accessibility Manager of the Chicago Lighthouse. I just realized my mic was down.
[LAUGH] Okay, sorry about that.
So to re introduce myself, my name is Patrick. I am the Manager of Assistive Technology and Accessibility at the Lighthouse. What that means is, so what Geo had mentioned that there was always places might have the technology and not know how to use it. That’s where someone like me can come into play, where I, in addition to having and housing all of this technology for people who are blind and low vision, we are able to train those on the technology in addition to being able to let them demonstrate it for them and purchase, and have them purchase it from us.
So just to preface, one very unfortunate thing about these technologies is that in the eyes of the federal government, it’s not a medical necessity to be able to see or hear. And so what that means is that none of these technologies are covered by Medicaid or Medicare. And because of that, they’re not covered by private health insurance either. And so all of these technologies are actually out of pocket unless they’re covered by a state agency such as the Department of Human Services or Division of Rehabilitative Services. They, if you are have a case open and are going to school or seeking employment, then you can get these technologies paid for or supplemented depending on your income.
So in addition to training those on technology, we also have road shows where we go out into the field and go to all of the various Chicago suburbs. And bring the technology out so that TVIs, teachers for the visually impaired, can be able to experience this technology and not have to make their way all the way to one of our two locations. And they are also then we’re also able to showcase it to students or seniors or anyone in between.
So I have a couple pieces of technology to showcase today. A lot of these are tools that are great for those who are in the classroom. I apologize but I was having some technical issues earlier and so because of that, my main camera wasn’t able to work. So I just have, uh, let me get my video filter off. So I just have my laptop camera today. Hopefully I can get my virtual background off. There we go.
Okay, so to showcase a few pieces of technology, a lot of what people need in the classroom are portable electronic magnifiers. An example of a portable electronic magnifier is the Clover 6 device. This is just one example. This device is nice because in addition to being touch screen, it also can be used like a portable handheld or it can be used like a handheld magnifier. In addition, it has a distance camera. So it can be used to magnify things in the distance, such as like a blackboard or whiteboard, I should say, since they have those more these days in classrooms. And so a great device for students or even those in the workplace.
Lots of other devices really when it comes to assistive technology, the best way to handle it is by having an assistive technology consultation. So what that means is we take into account, it’s like a collaborative process usually, not any single event, in which the problem is defined and a combination should then be considered to help those who are struggling to perform a task using existing strategies. So that might mean using an additional device like the Clover 6 or it could mean using your personal cell phone that you already have or iPad and utilizing different apps. So that’s just another thing that we work on together when meeting with clients. Since the needs and goals are determined in addition to having a breath of items that are showcased that showcase various features. Since it’s best for items to then be narrowed down based on the necessary features and the feedback. A device can then be chosen and a plan for implementation can be finalized and that can mean we choose to use a free app that’s within someone’s iPhone because they already have an iPhone nd might have a financial restriction in terms of buying an additional device, maybe don’t have an open case, aren’t going back to school yet. Or already closed their case because they already got devices for when they’re going to school since a lot of times you can’t reopen it and get more devices if you’ve already gotten something. So that’s just a few of the frustrations that Geo and Jose probably had to deal with when going through school.
And yeah, so in addition to that, there’s different types of low vision devices. There’s like what I showcased, the handheld portable magnifier. There’s also desktop CCTVs. So these are more traditional devices that aren’t really portable, they’re very stationary. There’s devices that have camera arms, so it gives you a lot greater view. One example is this right here. What’s really nice about this one is it actually can be taken into the classroom and can be, over a WiFi connection that it transmits out, can be connected to your to iPad. And you can magnify wirelessly to your iPad. So you could magnify onto the board, onto your paper, whatever you need magnification of.
There’s also wearable devices. So an example of a wearable device is something that looks like a pair of electronic opera glasses. So this is a fairly new one. It’s very nice because comparatively, wearables run from about usually $3,000 to $6,000, but this one is I say only but only $1,800 [LAUGH] which is comparatively very good. But these devices are great for those who are looking more for scenic viewing, television watching. Or possibly not if they don’t enjoy magnifying on or if they don’t enjoy magnification for their computer such as built in magnification like the Windows magnifier or Zoom Text, which is magnification software, then they could use a wearable device. So there’s different kinds of wearable devices.
There’s one that is a little bit bulkier that actually transmits the television or computer screen directly into the goggles so that you can see it up close and personal. It’s almost like a IMAX surround sound kind of environment. And then in addition to other low vision devices, there’s readers. So this can be a device like no bigger than a marker called the OrCam which can point a red laser onto the page or you can point it onto a board or what have you. And it will point and shoot.
Screenreader: excerpt [inaudible] Franklin … It was about this time I conceived the bold and arduous project.
Patrick: And it reads out what I just took a photo of, so there’s different kinds of devices like that. In addition to there being devices for low vision individuals, there’s types of devices for braille or non print readers. A lot of these are the devices that read aloud, like I just showcased or sensory substitution devices, things that have haptic feedback. There are braille displays like Geo and Jose are gonna showcase, there are talking cellphones or applications or features within cell phones that allow you to screen read. There are computer based software and smart devices and assistants.
And so one thing I wanna mention before handing it back to Geo and Jose to showcase braille displays is the Orbit Graphiti. Which is a way to have non visual access to any graphical information such as a chart, a drawing, a flow chart, floor plan, image, and photograph. And it’s through an array of moving pins. So this isn’t a very expensive device but I think it’s just when I was thinking back to, when I was helping a friend of mine understand acceleration and velocity and like movement charts for physics. When they were taking like AP Physics C and Just thinking back it would have been so helpful to have a device like the Orbit Graphiti where it’s capable of various pin heights. It’s almost like a large flat braille display that has I think it has like 1600 pins or something.
And so I can connect to a talking graphing calculator at the same time. So that all of the graphs that you would normally have on your graphing calculator can be translated into a braille like device. Where it has movable pins pins capable of various pin heights that allow for element representation in different colors or or shadings. And so talking about that, I’d like to hand it back to Jose and Geo. So they can talk about their braille displays and how they got them through college.
Jose: Thank you Patrick. So a couple of things we have two models here that we want to show. One of them is a more traditional braille display whose technology has been available for maybe 40 years. Rough estimate. And then because it is prohibitively expensive for the average average blind consumer, most blind people don’t have the privilege of owning one of these. I was lucky enough to find it from a friend who was in desperate need and so you know, he sold it to me and a fraction of the original cost. I’m gonna hold it up to the camera so that you can just see what it looks like. This is one Line of 40 braille cells. I believe a print line has about 80 characters. So this is half of a print line right here.
Normally, even now because this It would cost you about $2500, maybe $2000 if you can get them brand new. Even now, originally I believe it was $2700. And you know this technology here, you see here these are the refreshable pins. I’m gonna move over to all right, I’m using a, I’ve got Google Docs up right now and right now I’m just reading a line of braille here. The following questions have multiple purposes and then the next sentence started. But you see how if I move down the line, you see how the pins instantly refreshed all at once. I’m moving from line to line. Can everybody see that?
Pat: Yes. Thanks Jose.
Jose: Okay so yeah that is one of the reasons why this technology can be very expensive. In the blindness community there are what are called note takers similar to what today’s smartphones can do. But these note takers have been around since the eighties, kind of like PDAs, before Palm Pilots came out. I wonder if they were inspired by that, actually. We know eighties, they had electronic organizers, I think that would have been the print equivalent and some of them had braille displays attached to them. That is what made them multiple thousands of dollars. Something again that a person, you know, with limited means could not afford.
One of the reasons why we’re showing these to you is just to give you an idea of some of the assistive technology that we use. The difference, however, these days is that when you move to something that is off the shelf like a smartphone, I tip my hat to you know, Google and Apple which are the dominant smartphone manufacturers at least around here, who have made their off the shelf devices very much accessible. They they have screen readers and magnification programs on them like built into the phones. That’s a huge deal because when I was coming up you had to buy separate software that was $300-$600 per phone. Now you didn’t pay the full price after you invested at one time but it was still $99 additional fee if you wanted to upgrade phones, Phones were not as expensive at the time because we were using Nokias but it was still expensive especially for someone like me that that was on SSI monthly and that was my only income for years and years.
Now, what Geo has is what is called an Orbit Reader. It was known as one of the first affordable braille displays. He has a 20 cell unit, and it is connected to a smartphone. Now this unit brand new is around $600 or $700. They have various models of different capabilities and also different sizes. So like I said he has a 20 cell display, I’m gonna pass it over to him so you can show you how that one looks and how it works.
Geo: Okay can you guys hear me? Mhm. Perfect. So here, is and you guys can notice how much smaller this is. Hopefully you guys can see it. So this is the Orbit Reader as Jose mentioned.
Patrick: Let’s see, hold it back a little. Yeah. Alright pull it back a little more. Perfect.
Geo: Alright perfect. So now we’ve got a good a good view of it here. So I have my smartphone next to me here as well and so I can kind of use my finger to kind of tap where I want and then I can use use my my my braille display here as you can see the pins, just like on what Jose has, move instantly as I scroll up and down the screen now. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but I’m having to scroll a lot quicker because as you guys can notice this is a much smaller display so obviously the smaller the display the more often you’re going to have to scroll. But this one is handy when you’re using a smartphone because when you’re you know maybe traveling on a bus or something and you want to look at something on your phone or if you want to read over email, you know while you’re on the phone maybe maybe you don’t necessarily want to have a big display with you.
But this is just one of the ones, I think it’s one of the more portable ones. But this this I think would be great especially you know when you’re reading stuff I find it very useful like when we’re in a meeting like this, that let’s say I’m gonna be meeting with one of our clients and I’m taking notes rather than having my my speech going through and having to listen to my phone, I can just jot down notes or read notes or read the presentation as they go along. So that that that is just one of the nice things about this.
So yeah I can see, you know I have, I have an email from a friend of mine who emailed me and I’m just kind of reading through it. He’s a big Cubs fan so he’s wondering when we’re gonna go to a game and things like that. So that is just one of the nice things about this, this particular display here.
Jose: Thank you Geo. So yeah I want to show you some of the things that are available on smartphones now because although most blind people cannot afford most of the braille displays out there, most of us do have smartphones. In fact, there are more people now that have smartphones in the blind community than computers maybe because there’s not a need, sometimes a computer even nowadays is still out of some people’s means and that’s perfectly okay in some ways.
There we go.
And that’s perfectly okay because smartphones nowadays are so powerful. There’s there’s a lot that you can do with them. Like when I’m on vacation it is my personal computer. I can, I mean, I even have enough room to store enough content for me to you know to be without internet if I had to and just you know, keep our personal lives on there. I mean that’s what we’re doing now. Our personal lives are part of our smartphones besides academia and college there’s also social settings, there’s also the ability to use your phone the way everybody else does to be able to send tweets or go on Facebook or the various other social networks that come and go throughout the years.
One of the things I want to demonstrate to you is an app made by Microsoft called Seeing AI which uses artificial intelligence to allow you to do various things that before you could only do with assistive devices like braille displays. There are things like color recognizers, and they range from $150 to about $750, whose sole purpose is to identify what color is in front of its camera. There are barcode scanners, some of which were in the range of like $1500. $900 to $1500, again condensed into a smartphone, a free app that uses artificial intelligence technology.
Let’s see. Okay, I’m going to slow this down. [Screenreader voicing]
I’m going to do something similar to what Patrick did with the OrCam
Screenreader: channel document adjustment.
Jose: I don’t know if you can see that.
I’m gonna …
… mm hmm …
… Yeah, talking
about this …
So one of the things about using something like this is that you have to aim it, which is okay, so this is definitely advantage that OrCam has is that you can use your glasses. Now the idea here is that you’re going to aim it at a piece of mail, at a document that you want to read. You can also have it read short text. Let me do that.
Screenreader: Excerpt of the autobiography of
[ Inaudible ]
Wish to live without …
[ Inaudible ]
Jose: Now, that might not make a lot of sense to most of you, but what it helps us do is to figure out in this case, what is this document? Do I need it? Do I want it, what can I do with it? Sometimes it’s kind of like you glancing at some mail and quickly you can see what’s what and then decide what you wanna do with it. But then yeah if you want to continue on and actually get a good reading on this then you would switch to the document mode and position it properly and as you heard earlier it would tell you how to do that. It would guide you.
Now this is a free app made by Microsoft but there are also paid options out there which for a small fee, one of the first ones was the KNFB Reader and that was like $100 which is actually very inexpensive when you consider that the original KNFB Reader was first its own hardware device and then was ported to the Nokia N82. That software alone was about $1,500. That was around 2007, 2008. So things have moved quite a bit and have moved up and they have become much more affordable.
I’m gonna pass it over to Patrick to show you a little bit about some navigation technology also available on smartphones.
Pat: So I just wanted to jump in real quick. We have, it’s 10:48 and the plan was to end at 10:50 but we are happy to stay a little bit longer if anybody wants to stay longer. Patrick I will definitely turn it back over to you. We’ll stay online till 10:55. People are always trying to get to their next meeting. So we want to end before 11 but definitely can hang in there for a few more minutes. If anyone does have to pop out at 10:50, thank you so much for coming. We really appreciate it. But I’m gonna turn back to Patrick for now.
Patrick: All right, thanks so much, I’ll keep this really brief. So just to touch on haptic feedback. It’s essentially basically what similar to a phone, vibration on a ring. But for blind users, vibrational feedback on smart devices can detect obstacles, walls or doorways a lot of times. So two examples of how haptic feedback are utilized are in these two wearable devices called the Wayband or the Sunu band. So they’re really smart wrist bands linked to phone applications. The Wayband, what it does is it was created with a blind marathon runner.
Pat: No Patrick, your sound went out.
Patrick: Did my speaker just go out?
Pat: There we go. It’s back.
Patrick: Perfect. So it was created with a blind marathon runner in mind who wanted to be able to be a run a marathon without a sighted guide. So it creates a virtual corridor by plotting a pathway through a map on your phone. And when you stray from that corridor you receive vibrations. And so this is being tested right now. It can be done with the Wayband wristband or done with the cellphone itself because the cell phone can also vibrate. It’s less about obstacles on your route and more about successful navigation from one point to another.
And then there’s the Sunu band which is a smart wristband linked with the phone app that works on its own as well. It uses echolocation to detect objects up to 16 fit and the intensity of the vibrational feedback details how near or far the objects may be. And so it’s designed to detect and inform the user about obstacles to the upper body, above the waist, at chest level or head level and used in addition to a white cane.
And so these together are something similar to the a device called the WeWALK cane so that WeWALK cane is a smart cane with.
Pat: Your sound just went out again Patrick.
Patrick: The WeWALK is a smart cane with an Ambutech attachment that combines the goals of the Wayband and the Sunu band. So successful navigation and obstacle detection into one device and it connects to a mobile application for cane-friendly directions with public transit integration. So this is something that you can check out on your mobile app on your mobile phone.
And in addition to the WeWALK device or WeWALK app, there’s also an app called Right Hear, R I G H T H E A R instead of H E R E and so that one is basically audio signage. And so we have one, we’re currently in the process of trying to get them around the Lighthouse and essentially it takes away the need for multiple beacons. Because the way beacons work before is you need three beacons to triangulate one beacon point. And so that can be really costly and also just not very practical because you need to make sure they’re always staying there. If one falls, then the beacon point’s kind of not good. So then Right Hear takes away the need for those three and instead you put one that when you come across the beacon point it gives you an audio direction of where you’re going. So it’ll say “bathrooms ahead 20 feet” or “turn left for the cafeteria” or something like that.
So this is something that’s being put into McDonald’s right now in Israel and they’re looking to expand far beyond that. So I just wanted to brush on navigational technology since I totally forgot to. But if you turn it back to you all or Jose for questions.
Jose: Before that, I just wanted to make a quick point to say that, we are very happy to show all of you this technology that’s out there. But one of the most important aspects of a student’s experience, I think in my humble opinion is that … the professors and the staff maintain an open mind and be curious to know “what can we do to accommodate you to the best of our ability?” I think that goes the furthest.
Pat: Thank you so much. We really appreciate the presentation. So much interesting information! We do have one question in the chat, which screen reader do you prefer to use on your computer?
Jose: You can take that Geo.
Geo: So there’s two out there. My preference is JAWS for Windows, it’s the market screenreader. It is a paid screenreader. There are several options out there for like if you’re a home user you can get a home annual license and that’s significantly less expensive than your standard license per se. I believe the annual license is like $120 per year. And if there’s upgrades in between when your license is still current, you get those upgrades.
And there is NVDA as well, which is the free alternative which is becoming very popular. And is used by a lot of people and it’s become quite good. It’s the free alternatives out there as well. I’ve been using JAWS for over 20 years now. [LAUGH] And it’s my preference there are those options out there. Thank you.
Jose: It looks like there was a question from Sarah about why weren’t we accommodated in college? I wanted to explain that a little bit better. It’s not that we weren’t accommodated. And from a legal standpoint I think I’m pretty sure that our colleges fulfilled the ADA requirements. Which was that one must make reasonable accommodations provide reasonable accommodations. Which is to say that you do the best that you can with what you have. You don’t have to, not everybody can afford … … and when I say everybody, I mean institutions, not everybody is able to afford a $3000 or $4,000 Braille device.
But if you provide readers, if you provide a maybe even a Perkins brailler something that’s about $600. It’s a typewriter that allows you to type in braille on paper. Or just to provide some means of accommodations. So we were accommodated in college. But there was more to it than that. It was in my case it was that I didn’t have other people who went through my same path, went down my same path, that I could use as a role model to say how I could assert myself. I could say advocate but I feel like that word is overused but it would be the best way. How to advocate for myself. I think that’s what I could have done more with.
And also some of the resources and the technology wasn’t yet as mature as it is right now. So maybe that helps to explain better the position that I’m coming from.
Pat: Yeah, thanks so much for your perspective. So I hate to cut this short cause I feel like we could go on all day. I’m so interested in everything you all have presented and I really appreciate you sharing your personal stories with us that I think that’s really impactful and helpful for everybody to know. I think getting a chance to see all those various assistive technology options, it’s really insightful for us. So thank you so much to everybody from the Chicago Lighthouse for sharing your time, expertise and dedication with us. I’d like to thank everyone also who attended today’s session. It’s great that you could spend part of your day today focusing on digital accessibility and inclusivity.
We will be posting the recording and providing a link to registrants within the next couple of weeks. We’ll be working on captions and whatnot before then. So please also join us for the lightning talks this afternoon at 1 o’clock featuring presentations from our team, the CDA. As well as the Office of the Provost’s Equal Opportunity Programs and the Office of Legal Counsel.
So you can find more information about the lightning talks on the CDA website and reach out to us if you have any questions. But thank you so much for coming today, we really appreciate it. Enjoy the rest of your day.
Patrick: Thank you so much. If anyone would like to reach out and would like to see any of these devices, please feel free.
Pat: And thanks Jose, Geo and Patrick. It was really great.
Patrick: Thanks for having us.