Sunday, June 24, 2007

Latest inventions for the visually impaired

Confusing a can of cat food for canned tuna is a mistake taste buds remember for a long time.
Confusing cholesterol pills for heart medication is a mistake you might not live to remember.
Those are two common perils faced every day by the visually impaired. Wednesday’s 13th annual Visually Impaired Awareness Day featured new solutions to those problems and more.

More than 30 vendors made the College of DuPage’s Student Resource Center bigger, bolder and brighter with their products.

Most of the world seeks pocket-sized convenience. The visually impaired in attendance sought TV remotes the size of a rolled-up magazine, glasses that blow up individual letters and electronic magnifiers that make it possible to find the dotted line when writing checks.

But the items drawing the most interest involved safety.

Rex, the disposable talking medication bottle, and the ScripTalk Station both may appear at pharmacies in the near future. They use audio clips to supplement prescription labels.

While some pharmacists have the ability to print up Braille instructions, many people don’t become visually impaired until their senior years when the raised-dot system is harder to learn and the sense of touch is lessened, said Eugene Franz, general manager of Medivox Rx in Carol Stream.
Medivox Rx sells Rex, which lets users record prescription names and instructions that play back with the touch of a button on the bottle itself.

“You can have it say, ‘Mom, this is your ibuprofen. Take it at 2 p.m.,’” Franz said.

ScripTalk Station is slightly different. It involves a device the size of an answering machine that works in tandem with a microchip pharmacists would embed in the prescription bottle. The ScripTalk Station home unit scans the microchip and reads the patient’s name, drug name, dosage and warnings out loud.

Anna McClure, who sells the ScripTalk Station, said the device helps avoid confusion with multiple medications for the visually impaired and thus unnecessary trips to the doctor or hospital.
“It can be quite dangerous for people when they confuse their medicines,” McClure said.

The third hot item on exhibit was the UltraCane Electronic Mobility Aid by Northbrook-based LS&S. The folding cane uses echolocation, just like bats, to detect the distance between the user and objects. When a user approaches an object such as a wall or person, the cane gives off a slight vibration. The closer the object is, the stronger the vibration.

For more information about any of these products, contact the DuPage Center for Independent Living in Glen Ellyn at (630) 469-2300.


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