Thursday, December 17, 2009

Free On-line Banking Training at EmpowerTech

OPEN ACCESS TRAINING SESSION (OATS)
Featuring: Online Banking Using JAWS for WINDOWS
Date and time: December 23, 2009

Are you nervous about giving assistants, friends, family members or relatives access to your checkbook and financial statements? Have you been ripped off? Would you like to be able to manage your financial affairs independently and privately? Nobody else but you needs to know about and participate in your financial business. Take charge!

For years, using their computers and an Internet connection, blind and visually-impaired people have managed their financial affairs independently and privately from the comfort and convenience of their homes and offices, and you can, too. Come to the next in a series of Open Access Training Sessions at EmpowerTech, to be held on December 23, 2009 from 3:30 p.m. until 5 p.m. Using online banking facilities at chase.com , we'll show you how to register, view account activity, add and update payees, pay bills and view payment history.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Annual Appeal!

On behalf of the EmpowerTech Board of Directors, staff and our students, we wish you a Happy Holiday Season.

2009 has proven to be a trying year for most, including us here at EmpowerTech. We were faced with cutbacks across the all areas of giving and most importantly a decline in our fees for service. The good news is we were and are filled to capacity in all of our classrooms and receiving multiple program inquiries each day. Despite these obstacles, EmpowerTech once again triumphed. The start of our new fiscal year has brought positive energy and exciting gains in both our programs and our community foundation partnerships.

We would like to ask for your support to make it even more exciting and secure for our students. Just ask:

Mitch, a student who began in our Pre-school program and eventually moved into our TRADE program who is now working as a data entry clerk for the Los Angeles Mayor or

Devon
, who has limited speech and motor skills and is able to communicate with his sister 2000 miles away via email by visiting our offices each week for FREE Open Access, his only opportunity to use the computer each week or

Sara, a blind and low vision student who has furthered her independence by learning Online Banking and is no longer reliant on others to access her personal financial information.

EmpowerTech programs are thriving and providing services to more people than ever. This year alone, over 2,400 people benefited from EmpowerTech services. We have an exciting children’s program that is designed to help children improve their overall school performance, a growing TRADE program teaching job and life skills to adult students, a free community Open Access Program has served over 300 individuals in 2009 and our Blind and Low Vision program currently has a waiting list of interested students. We have the staff, the tools, and the students, NOW WE NEED YOU!

Your support of EmpowerTech is critical to help us maintain our current programs and offer new programs. We couldn’t make a difference in LA without your support.

DONATE NOW

Monday, October 5, 2009

How we have impacted the future of our students

This is from one of our TRADE student's mothers...
“You guys really deserve so much credit in regard to his maturing and growth, social skills and articulation. Before attending the TRADE program he was reclusive and didn’t want to communicate with others. I’m so thankful. He has so much respect for you. When someone shows Vernon how to do something on the computer, he says, ‘Eric said to do it this way.’ That’s all he’s been able to talk about. I’m thankful.”

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sarah's Story

I think for most of us that are reading this message there are things that we take for granted: every day things; opening mail and reading it and paying bills with checks or through our on-line banking accounts. For most of the students here at EmpowerTech these things are done with assistance usually by another person. The following story will anger and appall you but I promise it has a very good ending.

The main character of this story is Sarah (not her real name for privacy purposes). Sarah is one of our recent Blind/Low-Vision program graduates, she is extremely independent and even more so after completing the program.
There were still a few things that she did need help with, primarily opening of her bills and then writing the checks. She did have a hired assistant who would come in a few hours a week to help her with this. Sarah and her got along very well and a trust began to form. For several months, a few hours a week, the assistant helped Sarah with her finances. Then one day by sheer luck, Sarah called her bank to check her balance. She was overdrawn and the check that the assistant wrote for her rent was going to bounce.
Very upset and beside herself she called Tom Lange, EmpowerTech's Blind/Low-Vision Director. Tom immediately calmed her down and helped her navigate along with her bank's assistance, the source of the overdraft, a check was forged by the assistant. The bank acknowledged the problem and replaced the funds.
A few days later and through a series of phone calls, Tom taught her how to use on-line banking.

You see there are things you and I take for granted; opening our mail, paying bills and on-line banking. But now because of EmpowerTech and Tom's help our Blind/Low-Vision students are all being taught and taking advantage of on-line banking even furthering their independence.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Student Comment about our TRADE Program

In each quarterly TRADE progress report is a section for students to provide input. Some of the student comments are quite moving - such as the one in the report I am currently writing. The student is Christine - the tiny woman we often undoubtedly hear squealing with excitement when she experiences a success.


I think the class is fantastic. I'd love to continue as long as it takes me. As long as I will have my computer I will still come to class on Tuesdays. It will make me very smart!

Monday, July 27, 2009

1000 Empowering Moments

EmpowerTech launches emergency fundraising campaign
We are calling this campaign 1000 Empowering Moments. Our goal is for 1000 people to give $100. We are looking to raise $100,000. These "Empowering" Moments are in addition to our daily Empowering Moments we get to witness in person. Devon, who has MS, and has been coming to EmpowerTech since he was a teenager, was diagnosed with MS a degenerative disease, that has slowly taken away all of his motor skills. For Devon having access to a computer and Head Mouse each Wednesday during our Open Access Lab is the only opportunity he has to send emails to his sister 3000 miles away. Please help us keep our doors open donate now

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Orator for BlackBerry Smart Phones Coming Soon

HumanWare is pleased to introduce Orator, its newest software solution Orator for BlackBerry SmartPhones is your BlackBerry® smartphone accessibility solution.A joint collaboration with Code Factory, the leading provider of screen reader technology and maker of Mobile Speak, and Research In Motion (RIM), the maker of the award winning portfolio of BlackBerry products and solutions, Orator for BlackBerry Smartphones is design to convert the information visually displayed on the device screen into voice output enabling people who are visually impaired to use BlackBerry smartphones to increase independence and productivity in today's competitive world. In today's world access to information on the go is key and highly related to the ability to communicate via portable mobile solution. The constant evolution of mass-market electronics has been providing more portability than ever before and smartphones are quickly becoming the predominant way that business professionals, individual consumers and students stay in touch with their friends, family and information while on the go. Unfortunately this mobile technology is more design for a sighted world and still creates accessibility challenges for people who are blind and visually impaired.Orator is unique screen reader software that brings your BlackBerry® smartphone to life using state of the art text to speech (TTS) technology with adjustable volume and speech rate to let you access and interact with the Smartphone applications. Orator converts the information presented visually on the device screen into intuitive and familiar speech output. Whether you are at work, home or on the go, Orator will let you manage your emails and contacts, make and receive calls, compose and read text messages and other features while on the go. Powered by Code Factory and design for the new generation of BlackBerry® smartphones with full QWERTY key board, Orator will provide you with a unique mobile communication experience. Orator provides you: •State of the art TTS engine voice output •Auto start mode when the device turns on •Full control over the speed and pitch of the voice •Different verbosity levels to allow users to define the amount of information provided •Keyboard echo settings for text entry •Easy to use command structure •Training mode to help familiarize yourself with the structure•Fully operational during a call •Multi language support •Support documentation on the device
HumanWare is pleased to introduce Orator, its newest software solution Orator for BlackBerry SmartPhones is your BlackBerry® smartphone accessibility solution.A joint collaboration with Code Factory, the leading provider of screen reader technology and maker of Mobile Speak, and Research In Motion (RIM), the maker of the award winning portfolio of BlackBerry products and solutions, Orator for BlackBerry Smartphones is design to convert the information visually displayed on the device screen into voice output enabling people who are visually impaired to use BlackBerry smartphones to increase independence and productivity in today's competitive world.In today's world access to information on the go is key and highly related to the ability to communicate via portable mobile solution. The constant evolution of mass-market electronics has been providing more portability than ever before and smartphones are quickly becoming the predominant way that business professionals, individual consumers and students stay in touch with their friends, family and information while on the go. Unfortunately this mobile technology is more design for a sighted world and still creates accessibility challenges for people who are blind and visually impaired.Orator is unique screen reader software that brings your BlackBerry® smartphone to life using state of the art text to speech (TTS) technology with adjustable volume and speech rate to let you access and interact with the Smartphone applications. Orator converts the information presented visually on the device screen into intuitive and familiar speech output. Whether you are at work, home or on the go, Orator will let you manage your emails and contacts, make and receive calls, compose and read text messages and other features while on the go. Powered by Code Factory and design for the new generation of BlackBerry® smartphones with full QWERTY key board, Orator will provide you with a unique mobile communication experience. Orator provides State of the art TTS engine voice output, Auto start mode when the device turns on, Full control over the speed and pitch of the voice, Different verbosity levels to allow users to define the amount of information provided, Keyboard echo settings for text entry, Easy to use command structure, Training mode to help familiarize yourself with the structure, Full operation during a call, Multi-language support, and Support documentation on the device

Serotek's Accessible Event and A New Release of Window-Eyes

Serotek has released Accessible Event, an online platform that makes group meetings ,webinars, lectures and other events accessible to the blind, deaf, and deaf-blind. It works with presentations designed in the Microsoft® Word, Excel®, and PowerPoint® or Adobe® Acrobat®, with those featuring displays in Microsoft Outlook®, or web pages in Serotek SAMNetâ„¢, Microsoft Internet Explorer® 7 or higher, or Mozilla® Firefox®, and with online meeting services such as Cisco WebEx, Citrix® GoToMeeting® and GoToWebinar®, Adobe Acrobat Connect®, Microsoft Live Meeting and more.
GW Micro is proud to announce the release of Window-Eyes 7.1 and would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who participated in the public beta cycle. Your feedback helps make Window-Eyes the best it can be. Window-Eyes 7.1 is packed with features, including support for Windows 7, support for 64-bit versions of Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, and Windows 7, enhanced Braille functionality, new scripting features for end users and script authors, and more. Window-Eyes 7.1 also continues to build on the foundation of stability, performance, and reliability. The unrivaled Window-Eyes Error Reporting feature has again proved itself invaluable, allowing resolution of a wide range of issues. GW Micro is committed to ensuring a stable computing environment so that you can get your job done, without worrying about crashes and unexpected reboots. You can rely on Window-Eyes. Read more about the features that Window-Eyes 7.1 offers at http://www.gwmicro.com/Window-Eyes/Latest_Features.

News Bits and Bytes

Freedom Scientific announces that beginning in July, they will ship the new Focus 40 Blue braille display, which is more streamlined than earlier Focus displays and offers Bluetooth connectivity, for $4,495. To read the press release, click here.
Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) documents are becoming increasingly prevalent out there on the web, which is great if, for example, you’ve lost that dog-eared copy of the user’s guide for your mobile phone or you need to get an owner’s manual for a secondhand appliance that you bought on the cheap at eBay. While PDF documents are designed to look just like their hardcopy counterparts, trying to read them with JAWS or some other screen reader can be a dicey business for blind guys. Questions abound regarding which version of Adobe Reader works best and how to effectively use it with screen readers. To help solve these mysteries, the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) has produced a guide to accessing PDF documents. Entitled Screen reader access to PDF: a users guide, it covers a comprehensive array of topics including finding and configuring the proper version of Adobe Reader, reading PDF documents on web pages, saving them to your computer, navigation tips, conversion to other formats, and many more.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

EmpowerTech Alumnus Mitchell Fink Joins Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa’s Staff


Patience, focusing, determination, and faith have landed Empower Tech “alumnus” Mitchell Fink a position on Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's staff!

Mitch sends a big thanks to Eric and Empower Tech staff for stressing the importance of learning

Mitch, who has a developmental disability, overcame his obstacle, through hard work and dedication, learned the computer skills necessary to perform his new job at City Hall during his time at EmpowerTech.

He looks forward to the trek downtown on Mondays and Thursdays. The bulk of his position is data entry. He enters certificate requests into a city database and updates any information such as due dates, how the certificates will be received, etc. Mitch is also responsible for filing these requests.

He has terrific bosses and is honored to know our very own Mayor Villaraigosa!

Amber and Best Buddies agency, which were initally contacted by Tawnie at WRC, landed Mitch this incredible job, and provide a great coach, Ashley, to mentor him for now.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

EmpowerTech Luncheon June 23rd

When life gives you lemons you make lemonade. Recently we had to cancel our annual gala. I must be honest, never in all of my years in non-profit fundraising have I had to cancel an event, so this was a tough one for me to do. In some ways it was akin to me admitting defeat, throwing in the towel to this economy, and realizing that I am not superwoman. But the flip side to this is that I make one mean glass of lemonade! Due to the cancellation we were going to loose our deposit with the hotel, I WAS NOT going to let that happen! So I turned it around and created an 'educational' luncheon. In addition to a delicious lunch and supporting EmpowerTech. For $50.00 you will have the opportunity to learn from labor and employment law attorney Alfred Klein. Mr. Klein’s provocative and interactive program will dispel some of the misconceptions about labor issues pertaining to the employment of individuals with disabilities.Those who attend will receive their CRE and their MCLE. And yes we will be serving lemonade!
For more information contact our office 310-338-1597

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

All I Ever Needed to Learn I Learned at a Preschool During an AT Class

It is not everyday that you get to spend the morning with a group a preschoolers, well at least for me it's not. Judy will be leaving on vacation before the school year is over and we needed someone to cover her Tuesday morning AT classes. Without realizing I was uttering the words; "I'll do it" I had in fact said, "I can do it. (big question forming in my mind) I can handle a few of her classes while she's gone". They're just kids right? Images of the Little Engine That Could starting forming in my mind and for a week that was my mantra; I think I can, I think I can. You see I don't have any children and I have limited experiences with preschool children, you know the kind...ice cream outings, weekends and overnighters. I have however, been very fortunate to spend time with Judy and Melody assisting them in their various preschool AT classes. The key word here is, "assisting". So yesterday morning I found myself standing in front of one of the schools we work with in Santa Monica waiting for the doors to open so I could introduce myself to 19 preschoolers. Thank heavens Judy was there, she is so wonderfully patient, kind and passionate about her work and her students, I thought to myself how can I possibly fill in for her? I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. We worked with an inclusion class yesterday, this means that both children with special needs and typical children learn side by side...the way it should be. I could go on and on about the little successes I saw yesterday under Judy’s tutelage but I want to keep your attention so I will just tell you about Jack and Jill (not their real names).
I do know that some special needs kids don't take to new people very well and Judy let me know that Jill would probably be one of them. Jill entered the classroom with her teacher and proceeded to stick right by her side until Judy introduced us. I smiled at this little girl with the perfect big blue eyes accentuated by her purple glasses and fell in love. The itty-bitty child paused for a few moments before letting go of her teacher’s hand and then came to sit in-between Judy and I, in front of the laptop on the table. She looked over at me and petted my arm; her teacher told me that this doesn't happen often so apparently Jill liked me too. A year ago Jill had problems walking, she is not verbal and uses sign language to communicate. Today she walks and runs, still uses sign language but I know that in a few years she will be talking up a storm. Judy and she practiced on click and double click with the mouse (part of the computer skills that are taught by Judy and Melody). When her time was up she stood up and looked at both Judy and I and I know if she could have spoken she would have said thank you. Next up to the computer was Jack. Jack is severely disabled due to lack of oxygen at birth. His assistant a brilliantly jovial woman, who believes in Jack and thinks Judy is the sun shining in his life, began singing praises of our Judy and the program. Jack is in a wheelchair, has limited mobility and very poor eyesight and his assistant has to hold his head straight so he can see the computer. Jack is one of the most beautiful blond haired, huge soft-eyed little boys I have ever had the pleasure of spending time with. Judy diligently started working with Jack on his attention to the screen and single clicking. Very soon Jill came back to the table and wanted to be involved in the lesson. First she sat on Judy's lap and reached over to pet Jack arm, she moved behind him to sit on Jack's assistants lap again reaching over to pet Jack's arm as though she was encouraging him to click the mouse even going as far pressing his hand to a few times. Due to Jack's medications he timed out after 5 minutes. As his assistant was pushing him away from the table, little Jill slid underneath her arms and helped push his wheelchair. There are no words to describe the course of emotions that ran through me in those few short seconds but I do know this. I went to a preschool yesterday and met these 2 beautiful special needs children, that most in the world would see as disabled but to me they are more abled than most. Hence I have changed my mantra to I KNOW I can. I learned this at on a Tuesday morning at a preschool in Santa Monica during an AT class.

Friday, May 1, 2009

From Tom, the Tech Guy: BARD IS HERE!

BARD, the Braille and Audio Reading Download page, here! Now officially out of its pilot phase as of yesterday, April 30, 2009, the National Library Service of the Library of Congress has made all of its thousands of digitally recorded talking books available for download through BARD, free of charge to all blind and visually-impaired U.S. citizens with access to a computer, an Internet connection and a digital talking book player such as Humanware's Victor Reader Stream or Plextor's Plextalk Pocket DAISY book player/recorder.
After filling out a simple online application at the Bard website, readers will receive e-mails containing a user name and password as well as a user key which must be installed on their digital book player in order to enable playing of recorded content. Having completed this process, readers may log into BARD and access NLS's catalog of talking books and magazines.
Sporting a simple, no-frills user interface, BARD lets readers search the catalog by keywords such as an author's name or book title, or, if browsing is more to their liking, readers can peruse lists of recently-added books or the complete catalog organized by author, title or subject. Using these methods, it's easy, then, to locate available titles by such authors as Patricia Cornwell, Nelson De Mille or John Grisham, for example, to browse the humor section and locate titles by Tim Allen or Dave Barry, or peruse the music section and find Room Full of Mirrors, Charles Cross's biography of Jimi Hendrix, a must-read for Jimi fans.
In the magazine section, readers can obtain current issues of their favorite magazines such as Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction, Bon Appetit, Contemporary Soundtrack, National Geographic or Sports Illustrated, to name just a few. Back issues of these magazines are available there as well.
Tired of waiting days or even weeks for a talking book or magazine to arrive in your mailbox, only to find that a tape's missing or all snarled up? Go see the Bard and download your book or magazine in mere minutes! Transfer it from your computer to your digital book player and you're good to go! How cool is that?
BARD

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Switches and Scanning

The following is brought to you by:
Judy Nahman-StoufferAssistive Technology Educational SpecialistProjects Coordinator
EmpowerTech
When an individual cannot operate a mouse to access the computer, there is assistive technology to help them. If they can move any part of their body, a SWITCH and SCANNING can help them open a program, use the menu, surf the internet and type.Switches: Devices that enable the user to direct computer operations by means of a single action—such as a tap of a finger (or a toe).Scanning: A colored marker moves across the choices in a pattern. The individual hits the switch when the marker is at the selection they want to choose.Try virtual scanning yourself:University of Washington, Dept. of Speech & Hearing Sciences
Come to EmpowerTech for Open Access Wednesdays 3:30-6pm to actually try a switch and scanning.Come to OATS (Open Access Training Session) April 29th and May 27th

Friday, April 17, 2009

Posted by Tom, the Tech Guy: MathDaisy Release 1.0 Announced

The following announcement comes from Neil Soiffer, Senior Scientist at Design Science, Inc.


We at Design Science are happy to announce the release of our newest product, MathDaisy. Many educational institutions now require teachers, instructors, and professors to make classroom materials accessible to students with disabilities. MathDaisy makes it possible to save Microsoft Word documents containing equations as a DAISY book that can be read by students on a personal computer or a dedicated eBook reader. The press release has been published on our website at http://www.dessci.com/en/company/press/releases/090413.htm

Our hope is that MathDaisy together with Word's Save as DAISY makes it easy enough to publish DAISY "books" with math in them that anyone can, and more importantly, will create accessible material to give to their students, colleagues, etc.

Neil Soiffer
Senior Scientist
Design Science, Inc.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Congratulations, Carrie!

Congratulations go out today to Carrie, a recent graduate of EmpowerTech’s Blind/Low Vision Computer Training Program who completed her training as of March 31, 2009.
Carrie came to EmpowerTech in the latter half of 2008, from a blue-collar background with jobs including, among other things, sheet metal work in shipyards. Her vision loss began in 2003 as the result of myopathy related to multiple sclerosis and culminated in complete blindness in 2007. After hearing about assistive technology for the blind, specifically the JAWS for Windows screen reader, she recognized the potential for computers to enable her to pursue postsecondary vocational training. After a brief stint at the Davidson Program for Independence (DPI) at Junior Blind of America, she came to EmpowerTech and set about learning JAWS, becoming computer-literate and mastering the essentials of Microsoft Word, Excel, e-mail with Microsoft Outlook and use of the Internet. She was hard-working, diligent and focused, showing good initiative in a number of areas. Where Excel can send even sighted people running from the room with an attack of the screaming heeby-jeebies, Carrie not only finished the Excel component of the program well ahead of her classmates, she took on extra projects of her own design, even reveling in it. She quickly realized the liberating potential of the Internet in terms of enhancing her personal independence and productivity and, at the first indications that she was ready, began online banking and one of her favorite activities: shopping.
It's easy for many people, even those without any sort of disability, to go through life looking only after themselves, doggedly pursuing their particular goals and personal agendas with little regard for others. Despite her two significant physical issues, multiple sclerosis and resulting blindness, Carrie went about her business with a quiet strength, determination, dignity and grace. Fueled by a desire to be the best that she could be, both for herself and for others, she acted as a mentor to classmates in need, explaining and helping them to understand difficult concepts or methods of doing things when instructors were unavailable to provide assistance. Not only did this provide welcome relief for the instructors at times, but it also fostered a sense of teamwork which proved beneficial to all involved.
Now that Carrie has completed the training program, she has immediately set new goals for herself. Her first goal is to master reading and writing Braille. At a time when only 10 percent of the blind population chooses to learn Braille, this is a laudable undertaking that, if achieved, will pay massive dividends to her in terms of literacy, personal productivity and the joy of the simple pleasure of leisure reading.
Secondly, unlike many blind people who feel compelled to pursue training for the "job du jour" promoted by many rehabilitation agencies throughout the country, Carrie wants to undertake vocational training that's in line with one of her passions: cooking or baking. Toward that end, she plans to enroll in culinary arts courses next fall at a local school.
We congratulate Carrie on her graduation, extend heartfelt thanks to her for all that she has done for her fellow classmates, and we wish her every success in all of her future endeavors.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Zoomtext Version 9.18 Released

AI Squared, makers of the Zoomtext Magnifier and Zoomtext Magnifier/Reader, have announced the release of Zoomtext version 9.18. Highlights of this new release include a major tune-up that provides improved performance across the board, a cool new feature called Smooth Panning (patent pending) that allows you to comfortably navigate your applications without all that abrupt jumping around in the magnified view, Zoomtext scripting support for all Zoomtext licenses, and support for Windows Vista 64-bit Edition.

Already own ZoomText 9.1? If so, just go to www.aisquared.com/updates to download the free update!

Still using ZoomText 9.0 or earlier? No problem. Low cost upgrades start at just $75 for ZoomText Magnifier and $99 for ZoomText Magnifier/Reader. To place your order, call your local Zoomtext distributor or Ai Squared toll-free at (800) 859-0270.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Congratulations, Cheryl!

Congratulations are in order for Cheryl, who completed the Blind/Low Vision training program at EmpowerTech as of March 31, 2009.

Cheryl came to EmpowerTech in the latter part of 2008. Before losing most of her vision due to diabetic retinopathy, she had been employed as a data entry clerk, with additional light clerical and phone receptionist responsibilities. After becoming aware of assistive technology, she sought training first at Braille Institute, moved on to the Davidson Program for Independence (DPI) at Junior Blind of America, and came to EmpowerTech for additional up-to-date training in the use of the Zoomtext screen magnifier and Microsoft Office applications. Prior experience with Windows-based computers served her well, for it wasn't long before she quickly mastered the essentials of the Zoomtext screen magnifier and a keyboard-based approach to computer navigation. Her touch typing skills, which were good at the start of the program, became formidable and, as a fellow student once described, “absolutely awe-inspiring”. Like many of EmpowerTech's better students, she was
hard-working, diligent and focused, showing unusual initiative by going beyond the scope of the program's curriculum to explore more esoteric aspects of Word and Excel. She quickly realized the potential of computers and the Internet to free herself from the drudgery of performing a number of personal day-to-day paber-based tasks with only a magnifying glass and embraced the convenience and benefits of such things as online shopping and banking.
Though she has some apprehension about trying to rejoin the work force in today's tough economic climate, she's eager to go back to work as a customer service representative or receptionist/clerk with her newly-acquired skills. We applaud her efforts in this regard and wish her every success in all of her future endeavors.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Joan's Personal Thank You

The first letter that any new Executive Director writes is always the hardest. The reasons are many: will they like my writing style without placing too much emphasis on the grammatical, will my words convey what I want to express without upsetting anyone, and will they even read my words. Here’s what I think, words matter. I think that we are as a nation fumbling for the language of the current times, but I have the perfect two little words. Thank You. If I were asked last year about becoming the leader of a team of assistive technology professionals my first word would be, what? I had no idea what assistive technology was. But I do now. And for this I say thank you to my team. Thank you Ally, for taking a chance with me and seeing what I saw in our student’s eyes, what an amazing development department we now have. Thank you Judy, for your passion, your strength to set out into our community with your lessons; touching not only our preschoolers every day but their parents as well. Thank you Eric for your endurance, patience and familiarity with your students that you see every day during TRADE, you have taught not only them but me as well. Thank you Bruce and Tom for always amazing me that even without full eyesight you have taught your students through touch to see the world differently, completely. Thank you Melody, for your guidance that you give our preschool students through your body language, I have learned much through shadowing you, I have never met anyone who can teach so well without words. Thank you, Chris for accepting a new challenge and jumping in so quickly to our daily routine, the students have taken to you very quickly. Thank you Joanne, for your knowledge, your compassion, being the overall keeper of the mission of EmpowerTech, it is true without you my words would not be on the page right now.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

2008 EmpowerTech DVD

Thanks for to generosity of the Ahmanson Foundation we were able to have our first professionally produced DVD.




video

Clip from Tom's Interview With Luke Ford...Does Blindness Enhance other Senses?

[Luke Ford]One question for publication:

I had this sense during our interview that your blindness enables you to see people, in some ways, more clearly than the sighted. That your blindness enhances many of your other senses. Is this true?

[Tom Lange]

It's interesting that you would say that. Perhaps that's because it seemed that I was more tuned in to you as we were talking and not distracted by the visual. It is a common misconception that blind people's remaining senses are innately sharper and that some blind people have some sort of "sixth sense". The latter, in my view, is somewhat ludicrous. It is true, that our remaining senses can and do become sharper, but they aren't innately so. Rather, they become that way out of necessity. In other words, whenvision decreases or is lost altogether, there's no physiological "magic switch" that is thrown which immediately cranks up the other senses into overdrive. Instead, touch, hearing and smell become heightened because we use them more to gather clues about our environment. There are, however, physiological aspects to this that become apparent over time. Laboratory studies now show that when the visual cortex of the brain becomes idle following vision loss at an early age, the brain will, over time in effect "rewire itself", so that the visuall cortex, or portions of it, may be assigned the task of auditory processing to supplement the capabilities of the existing auditory centers. If vision is restored later in life, as was the case with Michael May, the person will be ill-equipped to process visual images and may in fact have to "learn to see" all over again, with varying degrees of success.
Interesting, eh?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The latest incremental upgrade to JAWS for Windows version 10 from Freedom Scientific features a 64-bit version of the screen reader as well as the ability to specify which sound card will be used for JAWS speech if you are using more than one on your system.
Humanware has announced two handheld electronic
magnifiers. the Smartview Versa has a 4.3-inch screen, 5-15x magnification and a rechargeable battery. The Smartview Versa+ has
all that and also plays music, shows videos and has an sd-card slot for storing material.
Humanware has announced Orator, a screen reader for the Blackberry Smartphone.
Humanware has also announced the new release of Victor Reader Stream, version 3 and the Stream Companion Software, with a new look. The new Stream, now available for download, allows you to search for text in text-based documents, has improved
navigation and file management, and lets you keep two synthesized voices available on the unit in the English version.
T&T Consultancy Ltd is excited to announce the upcoming release of
Say-Magic, a computing solution intended to provide improved access for individuals with low vision and learning challenges who wish to benefit from the advantages of speech input technology and display management technology. Say-MAGic brings together Dragon NaturallySpeaking Professional version 10 from Nuance Communications and version 11 of the MAGic screen-reader/magnifier from Freedom Scientific. While the product integrates these two applications, it also presents the user with an easy to understand interface enabling interaction with the computer using natural language and easy to remember and understand vocabulary.

Web News on Demand Accessable to the Blind by Tom the Tech Guy...

Baltimore, Maryland (March 31, 2009):
NFB-NEWSLINE®, the largest electronic newspaper
service in the world for blind and print-disabled
Americans, is pleased to announce the launch of
NFB-NEWSLINE® Online
(www.nfbnewslineonline.org).
Through NFB-NEWSLINE® Online's groundbreaking
features, subscribers can enjoy both an enhanced
experience in reading the news and dramatically
increased flexibility in how they choose to
access their favorite publication's content.
Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National
Federation of the Blind, said: "The NFB-NEWSLINE®
service was created so that blind people could
benefit from independent access to information on
world news and hometown events in the same way
that our sighted colleagues can. The new
features offered by NFB-NEWSLINE® Online are an
extension of this service's ability to allow
independent and flexible access to news content
by the blind. I am very proud of the increased
choice and convenience that initiatives like Web
News on Demand and NFB-NEWSLINE® In Your Pocket
provide to NFB-NEWSLINE® subscribers."

Monday, February 23, 2009

Open Access Training Sessions (OATS)

For many years, our center has offered individuals with disabilities “open access” to our computer lab for several hours each week. During Open Access hours, individuals use the Internet, try AT devices, reinforce their computer skills, or play games on the computer. Currently, Open Access is offered on Wednesdays from 3:30 – 6:00.

Soon we will offer Open Access Teaching Sessions (OATS). The last Wednesday of every month, a guest speaker will present information on a topic of interest during our Open Access hours. Information about the OATS schedule will be made available on our website.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Assistive Technology News, Brought to you by Tom, the Tech Guy

Code Factory Releases version 2.1 of Mobile Speak Smartphone and Mobile Speak Pocket, with support for more than 15 new devices, full support for Windows Mobile 6.1, support for the new Bookshare format and many more new features.
For details, see the Code Factory home page.

Users of the world-renowned Sendero GPS package who have not yet upgraded to version 5.0, the most recent release, may do so for half price during the remainder of February. For details, see the Sendero Group Home Page.

Humanware is pleased to announce KeySoft version 8.0, the latest upgrade to the KeySoft software suite. Version 8.0 will be available for mPower and PK platforms in March. KeySoft 8.0 requires one count of a Software Maintenance Agreement (SMA).

HumanWare strives to offer its customers and partners the best customer and technical support in the industry. To improve service to its customers across the US, HumanWare will move its support from Concord California to Canada over the next two months. The goal is to integrate its support infrastructure into one unified organization for the Americas.
See the Humanware Home Page for details.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Welcome to the EMPOWERTECH Blog

As we seek to raise EmpowerTech's public profile, we are launching the new EmpowerTech blog. Check back frequently for news from the organization, profiles of our staff and the wonderful people we serve, and commentary about trends in technology, news, and the world that impact EmpowerTech and the people we serve.

As part of the blog, we are building a "Link List" that appears on the right-hand side of the page. Please submit ideas and suggestions for other interesting sites that cover technology, assistive technology, and issues related to persons with disablities, so we can add to our growing list of sites.

Be well,

Joan