Friday, December 3, 2010

Blind DJ back at Work

Greetings everyone as you know my name is DJ Ken. You’ve probably heard about me on the blog at the EmpowerTech web site. Before we get started, let's talk about a man who’s been truly blessed, taught some of the best techniques in technology by some of the most genuinely committed, experienced, passionate & accomplished teachers in the educational industry over at the Empowertech school of computer technology. Now just imagine a man who was one of the top broadcast professionals on the air in America, and the regional manager for one of the top telecommunications providers in the USA. Then out of nowhere Glaucoma had struck & attacked him like a Visual Virus. Would you believe I never saw it coming? Although, I had been advised by my medical physicians that it would immediately impact my future, personal & business relationships. Actually, he simply explained to me that my life will unfortunately change completely if I didn’t agree to at least one more surgery, although I had recently endured five excruciating operations within the last two years and was refusing to tolerate another one. I went totally blind in just a few weeks, not knowing that my highly successful career would change like I could never imagine. I didn’t start crying or feeling sorry for myself. I kept on pushing but after awhile, I needed a way to communicate with my colleagues, employees, representatives & most of all the clients. Now if you know anything about me, this tragic event had to be dealt with at once. So I resigned immediately to take some time and find the resources to better myself for my four boys & my beautiful wife Barbi. And there it was, EmpowerTech. Most would not know this, but when I arrived at EmpowerTech, I did not know how to type, email, download, or even go on the internet. I could not use a computer at all. & yes thanks to Chris, Eric, Joan, Julie, Joanne, Rosemarie & the man Tom Lange my Teachers I became the computer geek that I am today. Now when I head out to the radio station I’m able to get my show going without an intern or an assistant. I just walk into the control room & pop in my NVDA flash drive then it starts talking; now I’m on my way. Once everything’s up & going I can find out which commercials & songs that I need to play next. Also it tells the time & the order in which to play them. Yes I am on the air & it's time to be the number one DJ in L A again. Thanks to the fine people over at Empowertech, yo’ boy Ken has his independence back! ”that’s Y I say every day I’m Empowered!

Friday, November 19, 2010


Center for the Partially Sighted and the San Fernando Valley chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of California held an event called The Best In Tech 2010 conference at the Radisson Hotel in Culver City. Attending this free annual event offered a rare chance to learn from actual users of the latest assistive technology about their favorite solutions (cell phones, GPS, CCTV's, note takers, etc.), attend workshops to learn how to use the latest solutions, including the Open Book Pearl Camera, latest features of JAWS 12, Transformer, Eye Pal Solo, Apex, Victor Reader, and Trekker Breeze, and get hands on experience by visiting the booths of the most popular vendors of assistive technology for the blind and visually-impaired.
Several event sponsors raffled off the Pebble portable video magnifier and the IBill currency identifier, a handy little item that's scarcely larger than a packet of chewing gum.
At Best in Tech, some of the products could be purchased at substantial discounts. The Open Book Pearl Camera, for example, was available at nearly a 50 percent discount, which, incidentally, will be extended through the end of March, 2011.
"At events such as this, I'm like a kid in a candy store," said Tom Lange, director of EmpowerTech's Blind/Low-Vision Computer Training Program. "I was wowed by the Pearl Camera demo, and when I found it at the Sweetman Systems booth at such a killer price, I bought it on the spot; I just had to have it now," Tom said. Tom received the product shortly thereafter and promptly set about putting it through its paces.
"Combined with my laptop, Open Book and Pearl is a portable reading solution that gives me highly accurate access to printed material in mere seconds compared to what I used to have with a desktop computer and a flatbed scanner; it's absolutely awesome!", Tom said.
If you missed Best in Tech 2010, you'll definitely want to attend next year's event. It's easy to get to and well worth the time spent.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Tesitmonial Success Story...

It is a pleasure to announce to the community the positive outcomes for our client/student Paul R. from Santa Monica High School Young Adult Transition Services Program.

Paul R. is highly motivated to continue his training with EmpowerTech. He recognizes the advancement in his skills and is proud to demonstrate his proficiencies to others. This morning, Paul interviewed with the Silver Crest Senior Living Community in Santa Monica. The interview team was impressed with his manner, polish and clarity inviting Paul to return for a second level interview. He was asked to submit his resume and letter of interest to the main headquarters for Silver Crest's program, The Salvation Army of Santa Monica.

As you may know, securing a second level interview with the Salvation Army is a cu do for Paul! The Army is seeking only the best and Paul is approaching the grade.

Needless to say, Paul was delighted! He immediately proceeded to the public library and prepared his resume. The skill set required to produce the document was clearly the result of his training with EmpowerTech.

Eric, you and the devoted friends of Empower Tech are to be congratulated on your contribution to this young adult's adjustment to the world of work.

I am looking forward to referring additional clients to your program and sharing in their successes with your organization.

All Non-Profit organizations need full community support to continue their tremendous contributions. On behalf of our shared customers, please ask me to assist in fund raising activities sponsored by Empower Tech. My team and I at SAMOHI want to see EmpowerTech thrive not merely survive.

With sincerity,


Carol Gassman-Proud
Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor
Transition Specialist Young Adult Program
Santa Monica High School

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

JAWS 12 Sneak Preview

JAWS version 12 is due out later this year, and we've got the latest scoop on its most exciting changes!
The JAWS Configuration Manager is replaced with the Settings Center, where you can search for the setting that you want to change and simply change it, with no need to hunt through a variety of menus to track down where, for instance, you can change the level of punctuation that JAWS speaks or increase the JAWS speech rate. Also, the Settings Center remembers your last 25 changes and displays them at the bottom of the tree view, making it easier for you to fix a setting that you might have adjusted incorrectly or adjust settings that you change frequently.
Braille display users, take note! JAWS 12 lets you operate your computer from the Braille keyboard of any connected refreshable Braille display. Using the Braille keys, you can enter any character that would be entered through a standard QWERTY keyboard, and this includes all JAWS commands, too. If you're a whiz at Grade II Braille, you'll also be able to enter text in contracted Braille and have the result reverse-translated to text on the fly.
Finally, if you just can't seem to make your way around Office 2007 or 2010's new Office Fluent User Interface (OFUI) without getting frustrated and saying oh phooey!, JAWS 12 lets you choose whether to use the Office ribbon as is or to use a Virtual Ribbon interface that feels more like the old traditional Office menu system.
Stay tuned, and EmpowerTech will bring you the latest details on these and other exciting developments as we receive them.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Sendero Maps by Tom Lange

Sendero Maps is the recently-released PC-based counterpart to the Sendero GPS software package that runs on a BrailleNote. I use Sendero GPS to keep track of where I am when I'm traveling around. Sendero Maps is essentially Sendero GPS in virtual mode. Using maps that Sendero gives you with the package, you can virtually explore any area on a map, calculate pedestrian or vehicle routes from point A to point B, as well as retrieve point-of-interest information. So, on the PC, I could open Sendero Maps, tell it that I'm located at 6234 W. 87th Street, calculate a route from here to an address such as 333 Wilshire Boulevard (a DOR office), , and explore the route. Or, I could doo a point-of-interest search for banks, schools, restaurants, or other points of interest and get addresses and phone numbers. Using the address info, I can set that as a destination and calculate how to get there. It's a great tool.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Still Living the American Dream...

Still Living the American Dream...

When Namundi and his wife set out for America in the early 70's life was filled with a bright kaleidoscope of dreams, a land of endless possibilities. He set his sights on progressing up the career ladder beginning as a bookkeeper for Weyerhaeuser Mortgage Company and before the company was sold ended up as the Vice President of the Mortgage Division.
Not one to rest on his laurels and loving the world of numbers he also held a variety of honorary positions with the West LA Chapter of the National Association of Accountants. In 2006, while working as a senior loan officer with Clarion Mortgage Capital Namundi noticed that something was happening with this eyesight, things were blurry and objects began to have halos around them.
Soon he was diagnosed with acute glaucoma in both eyes. In 2007, he was legally blind and the mortgage market had collapsed. I know what you are thinking, raise the white flag of surrender, give in, give up. Namundi did none of these things. You see Namundi loves numbers. He viewed the stats, weighed the odds, calculated with fierce determination that he would once again work with numbers. To help him win his independence back, is where EmpowerTech steps in. Over the course of several months in our Blind/Low Vision Program, Namundi has been reunited with his numbers. The kaleidoscope of dreams and endless possibilities don't end with the loss of eyesight, they begin again as they have with Namundi. Currently he is being vetted for a position as a disbursement officer with the FBI, yup that's right folks the FBI!

Friday, June 25, 2010

First PowerPoint Created Entirely by a Blind Person

The Sky’s the Limit Powerpoint presentation was created using several devices and programs. The hardware included my Toshiba Laptop, a BrailleNote MPower note-taker and a Victor Reader Stream portable Daisy book reader/digital recorder. The software that I used included the JAWS for Windows screen reader version 11, Powerpoint 2007, Notepad, and version 1.3 of the freeware Audacity multi-track sound recorder/editor.

I began by creating a simple Powerpoint using a sampler set of four still photos of different phases of my skydive Each photo went into a single slide. I added title and/or descriptive text for each slide, then created the slide notes. I discovered that while creating the notes and running the presentation, JAWS wouldn’t read the slide notes aloud. . So for reviewing and editing, I transferred each slite’s notes to individual text files in Notepad, and transferred them to my BrailleNote note-taker.

I then read each file on my BrailleNote aloud and recorded the narrations on my Victor Reader Stream in MP3 format.
Next, I used Audacity to create four multi-track projects, one for each slide. Each project contained background music clips which were cut from various MP3’s in my collection of albums. I then imported an MP3 narration into each Audacity project, effectively dubbing in voice-over. After setting sound levels and adding effects like stereo phasing for the background music on slide 1 and repeat echo for part of the narration on slide 4, each project was exported to an MP3 file. The files were then inserted into their appropriate places in the Powerpoint presentation.
The end result is a multimedia Powerpoint presentation that, hopefully, is as fun to look at and listen to as it was for me to create. I thoroughly enjoyed the creation process and learned a lot in the bargain. The knowledge that I gained from this experience will be passed on to students in the future, and perhaps we’ll put together similar presentations as fun class projects.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Lisa,came to EmpowerTech in mid-March. She first became aware of assistive technology in the late 1990s, after several years of increasing vision loss. The Zoomtext screen magnifier was instrumental in helping her perform a variety of computer-based administrative duties at a well-known charitable organization here in Los Angeles where she was employed for 28 years.

Three years after retiring from this organization, she decided to return to the work force and has come to EmpowerTech to refresh her computer and Zoomtext skills. She’s doing very well in the program, is enjoying herself tremendously, and her enthusiasm and hard work is an inspiration to her fellow students.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Blind DJ Keeps it Real

If you're a rhythm and blues fan and you've been a listener to certain L.A. radio stations over the last ten years or so, chances are that you've probably heard Ken (not his real name). He's one of the guys who got you movin' and groovin' in the morning with all those hot jams that got your eyes open, put a smile on your face and a spring in your step. He was one of the guys who played just the right tunes to take the tedium and frustration out of your long afternoon commute. And when the day melted down into a sleepy red glow and your wild desires started to show,
Ken made sure that the night time was the right time to be with the one you love, playin' those sweet songs, those straight-from-the-heart songs that put you in that special mood for that special someone.Ken's vision loss began back in 1997 and he became totally blind around the year 2000. In those days there were still knobs and switches, LP's and cartridges, so being a DJ wasn't that difficult for someone without vision. But as Ken adjusted to his blindness, the DJ technology changed too, from analog to digital, posing new challenges.Ken came to EmpowerTech recently, determined to learn to use computers with JAWS for Windows. His ultimate goal is
to use those new-found skills to get familiar with digital DJ technology and get back on the air. It will be a great day when we can hear that great music and that special radio voice of his once again.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Attorney uses AT at EmpowerTech

Chibuzo, (not his real name), was a practicing attorney in his country of origin. Although his legal practice was thriving, he found himself in ever-increasing danger, fearing for his life, for he and many others were part of a group of conscientious people who opposed his government in an effort to end human rights abuses perpetrated by the oppressive regime. When at last his position became untenable, he made sure that his wife and family were safe and well-cared for, then he came to the United States, sought and was granted political asylum. Today his future is still uncertain as he awaits a final ruling on whether he can stay and establish U.S. citizenship. In the meantime, he realized that he needed to obtain a law degree and pass the bar exam in order to set up another law practice, and, he needed to acquire good assistive technology and computer skills in order for him to reach those goals. This led him to EmpowerTech last spring. Though English was his second language, Chibuzo worked hard and graduated from EmpowerTech's Blind-Low Vision Training Program, having acquired a solid knowledge of JAWS for Windows, the computer environment in general, Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook and Internet skills, all of which will serve him well in his efforts to pursue higher education and establish his career in the United States.


Disabled Students Among Scheduled Jumpers
February __, 2010—LOS ANGELES: EmpowerTech announced today that a team of jumpers will participate in the non-profit organization’s skydiving fundraiser, “Sky’s the Limit” on April 24, 2010 in Lake Elsninore, CA. EmpowerTech’s Director of Blind and Low Vision Services, Tom Lange, who is blind, will also make the jump and is planning to broadcast the experience on Twitter.

Only a limited number of spots remain for the jump. Individuals interested in jumping or in learning more about EmpowerTech, the only assistive technology center in Los Angeles that provides computer training to persons with physical and developmental disabilities, can visit

The event, which is open to the public, requires individual jumpers to recruit friends, relatives, and colleagues to sponsor a jump by pledging money to support EmpowerTech. The minimum total pledge per jumper is $1,000 ($750 for students and persons with disabilities).

“Sky’s the Limit” begins with a first jump at 7:30 A.M. at Lake Elsinore Skydive in Lake Elsinore, CA, followed by 20 jumpers per hour throughout the day. All jumps will be “tandem” jumps with professionals from Lake Elsinore Skydive. On the ground there will be live entertainment, kids’ activities, food and fun for the whole family.

Anderson stated, “We are so excited about Tom Lange’s decision to jump. He is an inspiration to us all and living proof that you can do ANYTHING with the right attitude and proper support. I am directing all of my fundraising efforts to sponsor Tom’s jump and I encourage the public to consider sponsoring a jumper, as well.“