Saturday, January 27, 2007

New technology allows the visually impaired to read

The Spanish National Organization for the Blind (ONCE) recently announced the winner of the Fourth International R & D Award in New Technologies for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Developed by the Spanish company Robotiker-Tecnalia, the winning entry is a software program that enables the blind and visually impaired to read information displayed on screens -- such as supermarket displays, microwaves, and digital clocks -- by means of a portable device.

A pioneering and unique initiative, the R & D competition provides a $310,000 (euro 240,000) award to the top technological development that helps the blind and visually impaired function more effectively in a sighted world.

According to Cesar Nombela, Professor of Microbiology at the Universidad Complutense of Madrid and President of the Experts' Committee -- the body that reviewed the R & D Award entries -- the winning project "addresses an important need for the visually impaired, considering the prevalence of information screens and displays in all the areas of our daily life."

Overall, this year's competition received 52 projects from 18 countries, with the United States, United Kingdom, Italy, and Spain submitting approximately 10 projects each. Organizations from France, Germany, India, Israel, Japan and Russia also submitted entries for the R & D Award.
In addition to the winning project, other entries for the Fourth International R & D Award included:

-- A system to help the visually impaired better access public transportation

-- A fingertip color recognition device

-- A Braille machine for recognizing musical symbols to help with musical transcription and learning music
-- An Internet browser enabling low vision access to the World Wide Web

As in previous competitions, many of the project submissions for this year's R & D Award were from universities and research and design centers, including the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the University of Tokyo, the University of Reading (UK), and the Institute for the Research, Training and Rehabilitation of Rome.


Held every two years, the ONCE International R & D Award in New Technologies for the Blind and Visually Impaired promotes technological developments that make a substantial contribution toward the integration and normalization of the blind and visually impaired.

Through the R & D Award, ONCE seeks to help the blind and visually impaired overcome their disability by promoting scientific and technical research innovations in the fields of engineering, artificial intelligence, computing, telecommunications, microtechnology and nanoelectronics.


The Spanish National Organization for the Blind (ONCE) was founded in 1938 to further the social integration of the Spanish blind and visually impaired. Today, almost 70 years after its founding, ONCE continues to provide social services for some 63,000 blind or visually impaired Spanish citizens.

Since 1988, ONCE has expanded its scope of action to include people with other disabilities, advocating for the elimination of physical and communication-related barriers and providing financing training and employment programs to assist the more than 3.5 million people with disabilities in Spain.

ONCE funds its activities and initiatives almost exclusively with proceeds from the sale of tickets (the "Cupon") issued for a popular Spanish lottery. To learn more about ONCE, visit .


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