PORTUGAL; EUROPE: Offering tailor-made information and on-site services for the hearing-impaired can ensure deaf people access to the universal right to travel with no barriers to accessibility, but one can find such services in few countries. Meanwhile, in Portugal one online platform is leading the way.
Have you wondered what challenges await a hearing-impaired person hoping to visit a foreign country? Lack of information, communication barriers, unprepared professionals, among many other hurdles. But tackling these issues is CTILG – Serviços de Tradução e Interpretação de Língua Gestual, Lda (Sign Language Translation and Interpretation Services), who created the “Hands to Discover” platform.
The platform aims to service the disabled community by providing users with information about the country, scheduling, and choice of points of interest, making communication easier for all, whether deaf or hard-of-hearing, having knowledge of sign language or not. Users also have the option of being accompanied by a certified sign language interpreter.
The platform grants access to national culture, history, heritage, and gastronomy, and is now available in three languages (Portuguese, French, and English).
MAKING TRAVELING EGALITARIAN
“Hands to Discover” is a unique project in Portugal and in Europe and is directed exclusively at deaf people (estimated to be around 70 million worldwide) and their families.
Founded in 2005, the company has developed its activity in the area of translation, research, dissemination, and development of materials related with sign language and the deaf community. In 2013, the company was awarded with the Accessibility and Mobility for All Merit Diploma, recognized as one of the 50 best practices in promoting universal accessibility in Portugal.
In the words of Ana Bela Baltazar, managing partner of the company “all people, regardless of age or degree of (dis)ability, should be able to participate in tourist experiences in an egalitarian manner”.
In a nutshell, Hands to Discover works to make travel planning, site information, scheduling visits or choosing points of interest in a “perfectly autonomous and integrated situation like any other citizen traveling the world”, says Ana Bela Baltazar.
CTILG is currently developing partnerships in the areas of hotel management, catering, and tourism in general, and is actively pursuing new partners.
Travelling to Portugal is therefore easier, with the following services:
Get to know this unique service in Portugal and in Europe.
In addition to very brief and objective written information, there’s a strong, iconic, and compelling visual component.
Re-posted with permission
Children with visual disabilities can experience striking deep-space images like never before in a free, multi-touch iBooks textbook for the iPad entitled “Reach for the Stars: Touch, Look, Listen, Learn.” The book can be downloaded free from Apple’s iBooks Store at https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/reach-for-stars-touch-look/id763516126?mt=11.
Astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) have teamed up with the SAS Corporation, the National Braille Press, and the National Federation of the Blind to create a book to inspire students of all abilities to pursue future careers in science. The book incorporates new assistive technologies to help the seeing impaired.
STScI astronomer Elena Sabbi worked with developers to translate colorful imagery from the Hubble Space Telescope into content accessible to all students, including students with visual disabilities.
The development of the iBooks textbook is funded by a Hubble education and public outreach grant.
Students can use, enjoy, and learn from “Reach for the Stars,” including those with vision disabilities and learning disabilities. “This book allows any child to experience the wonders of space,” Sabbi explained. “We want young students to understand that anyone can be a scientist.”
Traditionally, the abundance of charts, graphs, and other visual representations of data have made it challenging to present math and science topics to students with vision disabilities. In addition, teachers of the visually impaired are struggling to cope with the rapid conversion from printed textbooks to digital instructional materials. “Reach for the Stars” embeds accessibility directly into the book so every student in the classroom can use the same book. Educators do not have to convert the content to special formats for students with disabilities.
Ed Summers, a blind software engineer and Senior Manager of Accessibility and Applied Assisted Technology at SAS, spearheaded the development of the iBooks textbook, leading a team of programmers, graphic artists, and accessibility specialists. Summers emphasized that “Reach for the Stars” is not solely for blind children.
“This is a mainstream book to benefit every student, rather than something limited to a small audience of students with vision disabilities,” said Summers.
The iBooks textbook consists of seven chapters. Children with learning disabilities can touch the audio icon on each screen to hear the text read to them. Students with visual impairments can access the book using the VoiceOver screen reader that is available on every iPad.
Images, graphics, and animations, some of which are interactive, appear in every chapter. Prominent star clusters in an image of the Tarantula Nebula, for example, are marked by circles. Touch a circle and the name of the feature is read aloud and a caption appears on the screen.
The iBooks textbook takes advantage of accessibility features built into iOS including Text to Speech, captioning, a compatibility option for hearing aids, compatibility with refreshable Braille displays, and high-contrast colors for students with low vision.
The iBooks textbook also utilizes “sonification,” which uses sound to convey data. For instance, in a diagram plotting the brightness of stars against their surface temperature, touch-generated variations in pitch convey the intensity of a particular star. The brighter the star, the higher the pitch. The temperature of a star is conveyed through either the left or right ear. Cooler stars are on the left of the graph, hotter stars on the right.
National Braille Press has created tactile overlays for all of the interactive images in the book. The tactile overlays contain raised lines and textures that are perfectly congruent with each interactive image. For example, the tactile overlay for an image that contains dozens of galaxies will allow a blind student to feel a shape for each galaxy and simultaneously hear a sound that represents that galaxy. Teachers and parents can order the tactile overlays from the National Braille Press website.
The Baltimore-based National Federation of the Blind, a project partner, will promote the book through its network of teachers and parents.
Prospective users are encouraged to download the book from Apple’s iBooks Store and order the tactile overlays. The book was created for the iPad and iPad Mini. A short video and teacher support page will help jump start learning. In addition, users can download a 3-D model of the Hubble Space Telescope and print it on a 3-D printer.
For more information, visit http://sascurriculumpathways.com/astronomy
Three-dimensional printers are transforming the business, medical, and consumer landscape by creating a vast variety of objects, including airplane parts, football cleats, lamps, jewelry, and even artificial human bones.
Now astronomers Carol Christian and Antonella Nota of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., are experimenting with the innovative technology to transform astronomy education by turning images from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope into tactile 3-D pictures for people who cannot explore celestial wonders by sight. The 3-D print design is also useful and intriguing for sighted people who have different learning styles, said the researchers. Christian and Nota admit their task is a challenge because astronomers really can’t see space objects in three dimensions.
“It’s very easy to take any tool or object that you can actually measure and produce a 3-D printout,” Nota said. “But it’s very hard to think of an astronomical object about which you know very little. You can measure the sizes and brightnesses of space objects from the images, as well as some of the distances. But it’s really hard to understand their 3-D structure. The work is scientific, but it’s also guesswork and artistry to try to produce an object, which printed, will look like the image that Hubble has taken. So, we are basically designing the process from scratch.”
The duo started their foray into 3-D printing seven months ago when they received a small Hubble education and public outreach grant that allowed them to buy a 3-D printer and experiment with the technology to make Hubble tactile images. They started with a Hubble image of the bright star cluster NGC 602, located in our neighboring galaxy the Small Magellanic Cloud. The Hubble portrait reveals the brilliant blue glow of newly formed stars nestled within a cavity of gas and dust, shaped like a geode. Turning this stunning 2-D image into a 3-D tactile picture involved plenty of trial and error. Their quest was to create 3-D pictures that allow people with vision disabilities to feel what they cannot see and form a picture of the cluster in their minds.
So far, the scientists have developed 3-D tactile prototype representations in plastic showing the stars, filaments, gas, and dust seen in the visual image using textures such as raised open circles, lines, and dots in the 3-D printout. These features also have different heights to correspond with their brightnesses. The tallest, and therefore brightest, features are a tight group of open circles, which represent the stars in the core of the cluster. The astronomers will present their 3-D representations of NGC 602 at a press conference Tuesday, Jan. 7, at the American Astronomical meeting in Washington, D.C.
The 3-D printouts of NGC 602 are just the first few baby steps toward Christian and Nota’s goal of creating a 3-D model of the cluster in the shape of a geode that people will be able to hold in their hands and study.
“Imagine making a visualization that you visually fly through, and as you fly through, first you encounter filaments, and then you see some dust and also some stars,” Christian said. “As you fly to the back side of the cavity, you see other features. I want to represent that in 3-D and have people feel it with their fingers because they can’t see it. They would be able to spatially understand where important features are relative to everything else and what the structure is. We may have to do it in layers, or we may have to do it in some other way. At this point we’re jumping off the platform and seeing what happens.”
To accomplish their goal, the two scientists have assembled a team of experts adept in software design and in developing programs for people with vision disabilities . Perry Greenfield, manager of the Space Telescope Science Institute’s science software branch, took on the task of producing a combination of inexpensive commercial and custom-developed software to turn the measurements from Hubble images into something the 3-D printers could successfully print. This software is being used to make the Hubble 3-D tactile prototypes of the texture maps and the 3-D printouts that combine the textured features and their brightnesses.
Noreen Grice, an author of several tactile astronomy books, helped select the textures to represent the individual features in the Hubble 3-D images. Grice, the president of You Can Do Astronomy L.L.C., based in Connecticut, is a pioneer in making astronomy accessible to people with vision disabilities , including creating tactile embossed images of astronomical objects on a specially coated paper, called swell form. The challenge for the group was to come up with distinct textures for the gas, dust, and stars that would be clearly perceived by blind and visually impaired viewers. “We want to make sure that they can experience the texture and correctly identify it,” Christian explained. “We were amazed during testing how quickly people identified the individual features and appreciated the complexity of the star cluster after using the printouts for a few minutes.”
So far, the group has tested the prototype images with about 100 people with vision disabilities at several events sponsored by the Baltimore-based National Federation of the Blind (NFB), including at its national convention last July in Orlando, Fla., and at a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education program for blind youth last summer, hosted at Towson University in Maryland. Early low-resolution prototypes were created in partnership with Amy Hurst and Shaun Kane at the University of Maryland Baltimore County in Catonsville. Tested at the NFB’s national convention in July, the early prototypes gave a glimpse of the potential the technology could have for astronomy.
The testing has helped the group fine-tune the 3-D representations. Grice discovered through testing, for example, that the textures that were distinctive on the swell-form paper were not always as clearly perceived on the 3-D plastic prints. Greenfield agreed that selecting the right textures was a challenge. “I think the important thing for blind and visually impaired people is to be able to move easily across the image, and anything that sticks up a lot gets in the way,” he said. “You don’t want these sudden, big obstacles. So, to represent the stars, for example, we decided to use what looks like craters. They have a very distinctive edge to them, as opposed to a flat circle.”
The 3-D tactile prototypes already have been a big hit with many people with vision disabilities. More than 60 of them provided feedback on the 3-D tactile images of NGC 602 at the National Federation of the Blind state conventions in Maryland and Connecticut. “These 3-D images make me feel great because images of space objects were inaccessible and now all of a sudden they are accessible,” said Nijat Worley of Baltimore, at the NFB’s state convention Nov. 8 in Ocean City, Md. “Sure, we cannot see the image, so we don’t know exactly what it looks like. It can never replace pictures, but with this 3-D image you can get an idea of what it’s supposed to look like and then use your imagination for the rest.”
Natalie Shaheen, director of education for the National Federation of the Blind, believes the 3-D technology opens a new way to provide access to information for people with vision disabilities. “The nice thing about 3-D printing is that it’s a mainstream technology,” Shaheen said. “It is not specific to blindness. There are many people who want and need and have 3-D printers who are not blind. Three-dimensional technology shows that you don’t have to have some blindness-specific technology necessarily in order to provide a person with vision disability with access to information.”
Greenfield, the project’s computer programmer, is now helping Christian and Nota design a way of rendering the nebula’s structure onto a sphere that represents its true three-dimensional shape. Grice can’t wait to see it. She thinks the 3-D technology is taking tactile astronomical images to a whole new level that will benefit everyone, both sighted and blind people. “When you look up at the night sky and you see the stars against a dark, velvety texture, the stars look like they are flat on the sky,” she said. “But imagine that you could reach up and touch the stars up there. I think the 3-D tactile images are akin to that: being able to put yourself in the object. It really takes you to a completely different level.”
Christian and Nota’s long-term goal is to produce 3-D tactile pictures of all Hubble images and make them available online to schools, libraries, and the public to print using 3-D printers.
“Our ultimate goal of having the 3-D image files available to everybody is for the long-term future,” Nota said. “But you have to think big when you’re doing something like this. Maybe sometime in the future you will be able to press a button and out comes the object Hubble has imaged, and you will be able to hold it in your hands.”
KUALA LUMPUR: The National Planetarium has launched the Space Insight program to identify the best approach to provide astronomy education to students with vision disabilities.
The Planetarium director Azreena Ahmad said to this end there was an ongoing competition for trainee teachers at the Teacher Training Institute’s Special Education Campus from June 19 to Sept 9, with results to be announced in October.
The competition was aimed at generating effective teaching tools to provide a clearer insight and understanding on astronomy for such students, she told.
She said the competition was organised in conjunction with the National Innovation Movement Program 2013 under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.
The idea for the Space Insight program was sparked when a group of students with vision disabilities visited the Planetarium and brought about the realisation that such children could not grasp or appreciate the subject as the present exhibits were unsuitable for them, she explained.
“We feel that the visually impaired should have equal opportunities with normal students as their syllabus is the same. Only the learning methods are different,” she said.
ARLINGTON, VA.: LG Electronics and Sprint announced the upcoming availability of the LG Optimus F3™ smartphone offering features designed to make the device more accessible for people with vision disabilities or other disabilities. The LG Optimus F3 offers access to the Sprint 4G LTE1 network, a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, a long-lasting 2,460mAh battery, a vivid IPS display, and premium features that allow customers to connect and share with ease.
At just $29.99 (excluding taxes) with a new line or eligible upgrade, two-year service agreement and $50 mail-in rebate via reward card, this device will be the most affordable 4G LTE smartphone from Sprint at launch. Available in two colors – silver and purple – the LG Optimus F3 can be purchased beginning June 14 at www.sprint.com or by calling 1-800-SPRINT1. It will be available in all Sprint retail channels later this summer.
The LG Optimus F3 is the first phone to come preloaded with TalkBack, which is accessible when users take the phone out of the box and power it on. Talkback is a text-to-speech accessibility feature from Google that helps users who are blind and low vision interact with their devices more easily. With the TalkBack feature “on” from the get-go, customers will benefit from voice guidance as they go through the activation and setup process on their device.
“Sprint is committed to providing technology that meets the needs of all of our customers,” said Dan Hesse, Sprint CEO, who announced the device today at the M-Enabling Summit in Arlington, Va. “The LG Optimus F3 offers a robust list of features for any customer, and it is uniquely empowering for people with disabilities.”
“Combining intelligent features with the user-friendly LG interface, the LG Optimus F3 allows users to easily collaborate and communicate while handling a variety of tasks or enjoying entertainment content,” said Wayne Park, president and CEO of LG Electronics USA. “This device exemplifies LG’s commitment to delivering compelling accessibility features.”
The LG Optimus F3 is Sprint ID-enabled, allowing users to download the new Accessible Education ID pack. This ID pack makes it easy for millions of K-12 students with print disabilities – individuals who cannot effectively read print because of visual, physical, perceptual, developmental, cognitive or learning disabilities – to access Web-based educational resources on their smartphone. The Accessible Education ID pack is a package of applications and mobile Web services available in a single download.
The Accessible Education ID pack features customized mobile Web services that are designed to eliminate clutter and display only the parts of Web pages of interest to the user. It also provides students who do not have computers or Internet connections at home with mobile-friendly interfaces and Web-based educational resources.
Applications within the Accessible Education ID pack, developed by Apps4Android, include:
With nearly 90 Sprint ID packs available today, Sprint ID allows consumers, on select Android-powered devices from Sprint, including the LG Optimus F3, to download “ID packs” – a bundle of content that delivers a complete mobile experience in a few simple clicks. ID packs include applications, widgets, ringtones and wallpapers. Whether they are an environmentalist, sports lover, music enthusiast, fitness fanatic, gamer or an individual with disabilities, Sprint ID makes it easy for customers to personalize their smartphone by allowing them to download ID packs with content to fit their lifestyle.
In addition, the unique LED indicator on the LG Optimus F3’s home button offers a rainbow of color options that can assist those with hearing impairment, such as green for a phone call or red for a text message. Specified colored and patterned light provides charging status and notifications, such as alarms, calendar reminders, new messages and missed events.
Built with a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera and convenient front-facing camera, the LG Optimus F3 is packed with nifty camera features that allow users to enhance special moments and photos. With Beauty Shot, users can snap photos that enhance their friends’ and their own appearances. Cheese Shot lets users take a voice-activated photo by simply saying “cheese” while Panorama Shot helps users to capture the entire scene in a single photo.
Additional features include:
For more information, visit www.sprint.com/accessibility.
Arizona State University is kicking off a pilot program aimed at improving access to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) classes for students who are blind or low vision.
Called 3D-IMAGINE (Image Arrays to Graphically Implement New Education), the program will use three-dimensional materials to enhance independent learning. Researchers are seeking as many program participants as possible from both ASU and the wider community.
Beginning biology (100) and astronomy (113) lab classes each will have one section using new, 3-D tactile boards designed specifically for students who are blind or low vision. However, sighted students may use the materials as well.
“Textbook images typically contain important messages, whether it’s intensity or altitude, or cell structure,” said Rogier Windhorst, Regents’ and Foundation Professor in ASU’s School of Earth & Space Exploration. “We think these messages can be conveyed in a 3-D tactile just fine. While a person who is blind would have to sense the information, we believe 3-D images may open up a new world in STEM courses for students with vision disabilities.”
To test their theory, an ASU interdisciplinary research team developed a series of 3-D tactile boards that represent key textbook images. Students need to understand these images in order to successfully complete each science class. Made of high-density plastic, the boards will initially cost about $60 each, and be used in place of or in addition to traditional lab materials.
The goal is to provide an opportunity for students who are blind or low vision, to learn the material independently.
College level STEM courses are typically rigorous, but for students who are blind or low vision, these classes often present even greater challenges. Imagine taking an astronomy class and having to depend on someone else to accurately and effectively describe a photo of a nebula, or in biology, detail the image of a cell.
The idea to turn digital images into 3-D tactile representations originated in Debra Baluch’s upper-level Cell Biotechnology class. Baluch, a research scientist in ASU’s School of Life Sciences, in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, taught junior Ashleigh Gonzales last spring. Gonzales is pursing a degree in molecular biosciences and biotechnology, and is visually impaired.
“She is just as capable as anyone else in the class of doing this level of science, but unfortunately, she faces a barrier,” said Baluch. “What she chooses as a career may be decided by her visual impairment, even though she has the same level of education as her peers. We can improve access to our STEM classes by providing these 3-D models which we expect will enhance independent learning in students who are blind or low vision.”
“Accessible is an interesting term,” said Terri Hedgpeth, director of ASU’s Disability Resource Center. “When a student signs up for a class, we get the textbook and convert it into Braille or electronic text, and we render tactile diagrams that go along with it. That’s time-consuming and expensive,” she added. “What we are doing in this pilot program allows us to create 3-D models which provide a better tactile representation of the material. It’s very different from the line pictures we typically produce.”
If the pilot program is successful, the team hopes to lay the foundation for using the 3-D tactile boards in all 100 level STEM courses. The group is currently seeking funding from the National Science Foundation and other organizations to support the program.
“I would like to see students be inspired to take additional classes in STEM and consider majors in the STEM fields,” said Hedgpeth. “Maybe we can excite them a bit and raise their hopes for a better level of access.”
The team includes researchers from ASU’s School of Life Sciences, School of Earth & Space Exploration, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, and Disability Resource Center.
Source: Arizona State University
CONCORD, NH: The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center’s planetarium is now equipped with an assistive technology for people with hearing disabilites, thanks to the New Hampshire Academy of Audiology and Oticon. On Saturday, November 12, NH Academy of Audiology President Katie Harrington AuD and Discovery Center Executive Director Jeanne Gerulskis unveiled the new technology to Center visitors and NHAA guests at a celebration that included a special 2 p.m. showing of Tonight’s Sky.
The new magnetic loop enables individuals with Telecoil-equipped hearing aids to fully enjoy the wide variety of planetarium shows that explore the universe and beyond. Installed by a specialist throughout the planetarium theater between the floor and carpeting, a low-frequency magnetic tape sends clear signals picked up by theater patrons’ Telecoil-equipped hearing aids, enabling them to hear the Discovery Center show presenter and soundtrack fully and clearly, free of distortions or interference. Compressed into a hearer’s dynamic range, eliminating both the harshness of too-loud sounds and the challenges of hearing too-soft sounds, the signals travel in a loop with an apex about 3.5′ high – high enough to reach a seated person’s ear – hence the technology’s name, looping.
Commonly used throughout Europe, looping is a less familiar technology in the U.S., but is rapidly gaining ground. In addition to public buildings, loop systems are also utilized in venues ranging from taxi cabs to airports to banks. Dr. Katie Harrington, audiologist and Rayovac’s 2011 Hearing Professional of the Year for the Northeast region, is one of the founders of Loop New Hampshire, a new non-profit organization committed to increasing accessibility for people with hearing disabilites throughout the Granite State. The first step in this effort is installation of the looping system at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center.
“A common misconception is that looping is a new technology. What people do not realize is that induction loops have been around for quite some time. Most people do not even realize that such a technology is available; it is the NHAA’s job to educate, inform and empower our patients…letting them know this is out there is a step in the right direction,” Dr. Harrington notes. “The NHAA hopes this is the first of many facilities to be looped by the Loop NH project.”
“We are fully committed to having an accessible facility,” relates Discovery Center Executive Director Gerulskis. “We are delighted with the NH Academy of Audiology and Oticon’s donation of technical expertise, funding and installation of Loop New Hampshire’s very first looping system in our planetarium. One more barrier to learning and enjoyment has been lifted, thanks to their generosity.”
The Discovery Center is open Thursday through Sunday from 10 AM-5 PM; with special open hours this Wednesday, November 23. Planetarium shows, which run on the hour beginning at 11 AM, will all utilize the new looping system. Visit www.starhop.com for the show schedule – currently featuring Extreme Planets and Holiday Tonight’s Sky for a limited time only.
The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center features interactive exhibits on aviation, astronomy, Earth and space sciences, a state-of-art planetarium and a variety of science, technology, engineering and math programs. The engaging, robust educational programs are geared towards families, teens, seniors, students, community groups, and lifelong learners. For more information and hours of operation, visit www.starhop.com.
The NH Academy of Audiology is an organization comprised of audiologists from around the state dedicated to the awareness, education, and advocacy of audiology. For more information on the Academy, visit https://secure.mawebcenters.com/websites/newhampshireacademyofaudiology1/index.html.
For more information on looping technology, visit www.hearingloop.org.
The book “Getting a Feel for Lunar Craters” was created with the NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI) and features tactile diagrams of the lunar surface designed to educate blind people about the wonders of Earth’s moon, according to NASA.
David Hurd, a space science professor at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, is the book’s author. He and tactile engineer John Matelock began creating tactile astronomy tools after a blind student signed up for Hurd’s introductory astronomy course. Cassandra Runyon, a professor at College of Charleston and Hurd previously produced “A Tactile Guide to the Solar System with Digital Talking Book” for NASA.
For more information, please visit http://lunarscience.nasa.gov/articles/tactile