Saturday, November 24, 2007

Yahoo now offers mail services for the visually impaired

Yahoo! India Research & Development has announced the launch of a new product which will help the visually impaired people to use Yahoo! Mail service.

The company said Yahoo! Mail Classic, which has support for accessibility, will help the visually impaired users to use Yahoo! Mail with similar ease as other users. The Yahoo! Mail classic works on all standard screen reader software.

A screen reader software helps in identifying and interpreting what is being displayed on the screen and then represent this to the users with text-to-speech, sound icons, or a braille output.

A form of assistive technology, screen readers are usually beneficial for visually impaired or learning disabled people.

The Yahoo! India R&D team in Bangalore has played pivotal role to make the new Yahoo! Mail accessible to all. Yahoo! has a dedicated team of accessibility experts who ensure that Yahoo! products benefit all users with disabilities, the company said.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Visually impaired couple suffer harassment from family members and police

Milton charitable foundation for visually handicapped (MCFVH) has drawn the attention of the district administration on alleged harassment of a visually-impaired couple by their family members and police.

At a media conference on Tuesday, A K Panda, general secretary of MCFVH, said Ajit Sahu and his wife Sashirekha Sahu of Kumbhar street in Soroda were driven out of their house by their family members over a property dispute.

Without any shelter, the couple with their two kids are roaming in the streets, he alleged. Even the family members lodged false complaints against Sashirekha and the police without proper investigation arrested her. Panda has appealed the district administration for justice.

Pickpocket is targeting visually impaired victims

Sixty-year-old Richard Martinez was waiting for the bus when someone offered him a ride. He is visually impaired, and that so-called friendly Samaritan took advantage of that.

Martinez gave police a vague description of the pickpocket who approached him at the bus stop, but he wants to send a warning to others.

"She got my buddy at Hackberry and Rigsby. She got me at W.W. White," Martinez said. "I just want to warn other people to be on the lookout."

Martinez says while waiting for the bus near Martin Luther King, a woman named Paula approached him.

"I had grocery bags. And she said, 'Why go on the bus with all those bags?'" Martinez said.
He said he was reluctant, but said, "She was so convincing. And she's not a young lady. She's a middle-aged lady, looks respectful."

Martinez took her generous offer, but he said she took his wallet.

"It's very common for people with any type of disability to be taken advantage of," said Laura Dupree, with The Lighthouse for the Blind.

She's heard the unfortunate stories one too many times, but has some advice.

"Trust what they feel, to trust their gut instinct, and don't get in a car with a stranger. Don't allow a stranger to help you, no matter how convincing they are," Dupree said.

She also said carrying a cell phone may deter any strangers lurking in the area.

Registration plates soon to be available in Braille for the visually impaired

Delhi has had as many as ten Transport Commissioners in the past six years and this has had a negative impact on implementation of various projects, particularly those which are not big in nature and require a committed and human approach from the authorities. A case in point is the installation of Braille registration plates in three-wheeler scooter rickshaws that has still not been done despite the Delhi Government giving its in-principle approval to the project.

The installation would have been of critical use for the visually impaired as it would allow them to know by the feel of hand the registration number of a hired auto-rickshaw and pass it on to some friend or acquaintance for personal security. But despite the project not being expensive as each plate costs barely Rs.15, it has not taken off due to bureaucratic red tape.

This has prompted Samarthya National Centre for Promotion of Barrier Free Environment for Disabled Persons, which has been working to promote “Mobility for All” for persons with reduced mobility and disability, to once again approach the Commissioner Transport, this time D. M. Spolia, to demand speedy implementation of the project.

In his letter, Samarthya founder and project director Sanjeev Sachdeva has stated that following the consent of Delhi Transport Minister Haroon Yusuf the organisation had proposed installation of Braille plates of auto registration number on all auto-rickshaws for the benefit of persons with low vision and vision impairment, including senior citizens.

“These Braille plates will help people lead an independent life and make travel safer for them,” he wrote, adding that “in this regard, meetings and discussions were held with your predecessors Mr. Vijay Madan and Mr. Chandra Mohan as also with Mr. Virendra Kumar, Joint Commissioner.”
Mr. Sachdeva has expressed regret over non-implementation of the scheme and stated that he was made to understand that the State Transport Authority had decided to place the Braille registration plates in the auto-rickshaws in the groove near the entrance and to include the same in the permit conditions for the autos.

Referring to a letter sent to him on February 13 this year by Assistant Director (Operations) A. K. Srivastava, the Samarthya founder wrote that the letter had clearly stated that the Delhi Government has “in principle approved of the proposal for introduction of the Braille manuscript registration plates and it has been decided that this could be made as one of the permit conditions for the auto-rickshaws”.

Lamenting the delay in the matter, Mr. Sachdeva said what needs to be realised is that the visually impaired have to put up with a daily struggle while commuting and hoped that the Delhi Government would speedily implement this scheme and not allow change in posts to affect its enactment.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Middle School receives donations for Braille technology for their visually impaired students

Sixth-grader Chris Freeman likes to build things when he’s not in school, and with the help of some new technology, the visually impaired Madison student can work on building his grades.Southern Michigan Parents of the Visually Impaired presented Madison Middle School with a $6,000 check Thursday for the purchase of a BrailleNote 32, a braille keypad supportive of many computer programs.

With the equipment, Freeman will be able to plug a memory stick from the BrailleNote 32 into a computer and print off work in word-processing programs.Freeman said the new device, which also includes a scientific calculator and has Internet capabilities, is a welcome change.
“That old piece of machinery was unforgiving when it came to mistakes,” Freeman said.

Madison principal Brad Anschuetz called the former method, a clunky braille typewriter, an “old dinosaur of a thing.” Anschuetz said the BrailleNote 32 will allow Freeman to correct mistakes before turning in a paper and permit quicker feedback on homework assignments.With the old typewriter, Freeman’s homework had to be sent to the Lenawee Intermediate School District, where it was checked before he could have a chance to make corrections.

Instead of overnight turnaround like other students receive, Anschuetz said turnaround time for Freeman’s work would often be several days.The BrailleNote 32 is the property of the district, but Anschuetz said Freeman will be allowed to take it with him if he moves but stays in Lenawee County. If he leaves the county the BrailleNote 32 will go to another county student who can use it. Although Freeman is currently using the device exclusively at school, eventually he will be allowed to take it home.

“It’s definitely a piece of machinery he will need to grow with,” Anschuetz said.Madison received the money to purchase the device from the Southern Michigan Parents for the Visually Impaired, a small group of Lenawee County parents with visually impaired students. Karen Wood, the group’s treasurer, said on average the group helps two or three children a year. She said Freeman is a familiar face for the organization.

“We have helped Christopher in the past so this is not the first time we’ve worked with Chris. But this is certainly our largest donation.” Wood said. “This is something that he can carry on with him, it’s very portable.”Wood said the organization was the beneficiary of WLEN’s Rally to Ride in 2007 and raised $4,000 from the event. Handing out pencils for donation at TLC Credit Union and Avon Sales make up the group’s other fundraisers.“We’re very small but we do dynamite work,” Wood said.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Manager of center for the visually was arrested for embezzlement!

Charlotte County sheriff’s detectives have arrested the office manager of a visually impaired center and the man’s roommate in connection with thefts totaling $14,000.According to the sheriff’s office:Mark Thomas Valade, 38, of 17990 Murdock Circle, was the office manager of Visually Impaired Persons, 22107 Elmira Blvd. in Port Charlotte.

Timothy Michael Conklin, 39, the roommate.Valade was charged with delivering controlled substance Oxycodone, forgery, uttering a false instrument, and two counts of grand theft. Conklin was charged with grand theft and possession of a controlled substance Oxycodone without a prescription. Both were taken to the Charlotte County Jail; bond on Valade was set at $15,000 and $5,000 for Conklin.VIP officials told detectives that Valade admitted that he made more than $4,000 in unlawful ATM transactions.

Valde stated Conklin told him he was in debt several thousand dollars from a drug dealer for heroin and other prescription drugs.To help his friend, Valade said he used the VIP ATM card and made several withdrawals.Valade also admitted to taking two VIP checks and writing them for $5,000 each, forging them with the VIP Executive Directors signature stamp and depositing them into his bank account.

During the interview, detectives took possession of seven Oxycodone pills found on Conklin’s bedroom dresser. Valade told detectives he gave Conklin several of his prescription Oxycodone pills.