DEDICATED TO IMPROVING THE LIVES OF BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED PEOPLE

The NFB Convention continued…

Our interns, Nikhil Vohra and Ahmat Djouma, continue their coverage of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Convention here. Next week they will report on the upcoming convention of the American Council of the Blind (ACB).

At the convention, accessibility related to medications was an important discussion topic. Unfortunately, a number of barriers make it difficult for individuals who are blind or visually impaired to manage their medications independently—and excessively small print on medication labels is just the start. One major issue that emerged during the past year involved taking a COVID test. The at-home tests promoted for those experiencing symptoms, to avoid inadvertently spreading the virus, are not accessible to those who cannot see them. For people who are blind, this required engaging someone who is trusted with the individual’s health information as well as capable of reporting test results accurately. Not everyone had such a luxury, and going to an in-person clinic was not possible for many, due to travel limitations and other pandemic-related constraints. Fortunately, Be My Eyes, in partnership with Accessible Pharmacy, stepped up to fill the void, creating a new service in late 2020. Be My Eyes users can now contact a representative from Accessible Pharmacy to assist with COVID tests and managing medications in general. Users can call in from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM on weekdays for assistance with reading medication labels, ordering and checking COVID tests, and even asking questions about drug interactions. Learn more about this new service on the Be My Eyes website, and try it out for yourself. Be My Eyes can be downloaded for free from the Apple App Store or on Google Play.

APH-Humanware collaboration and the Promise of a “Braille Revolution”— In a partnership nothing short of a technological revolution, American Printing House for the Blind and Humanware are collaborating to design a device that can create tactile graphics along with braille. “We’re developing what we consider the holy grail of Braille: a single tablet device that provides both braille text and tactile graphics, all in one,” according to the two companies announcing their ambitions for this project. Unlike traditional braille displays on the market that display only a few lines of braille text at a time, the new device uses a much more flexible and sophisticated system to provide a tactile version of a graphic, a full page of braille, or even a tactile mirror image of a computer desktop or microscope display. In the past, improvements to electronic braille gadgets typically involved designing lighter, more cost-effective models of braille displays or increasing the amount of text that could be displayed at once. This project seeks to combine the functionalities of braille displays with those of tactile graphic displays, which are fairly new on the overall tech scene. It promises to have a significant impact on education, career opportunities and much more. For example: “We will level the playing field for students who can receive braille instructional materials at the touch of a download button instead of waiting weeks or months for embossed braille textbooks to be transcribed and shipped.” Find out more about this exciting development from APH’s recent online announcement, where you can also learn about how to participate in the project personally by offering expertise or becoming a beta tester.