Sunday, December 30, 2007

Winnipeg bus drivers complain against new rule that helps the visually impaired

Bus drivers in Winnipeg are expressing outrage over new rules that will make them call out every stop on their routes.

The rule begins Jan. 1 and is to assist visually-impaired people. The policy follows a July decision by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, which ordered Toronto bus and streetcar operators to call out stops.

Members of an online Facebook group for Winnipeg Transit drivers say they worry about safety if drivers must remember to call out stops while also trying to focus on the road.

Some drivers say disabled people have always been able to ask drivers to call out specific stops - a system they say has always worked well.

City officials say Winnipeg Transit will begin to roll out electronic next-stop announcement systems on buses in late 2008.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Let the Paralympics begin!

Physically and visually impaired, paraplegics, amputees as well as mentally impaired swimmers demonstrated customised versions of their swimming skills at the VIII National Paralympic Swimming Championship 2007 that is being held at the Tilak tank, Deccan Gymkhana Club in the city.

The two-day event, which commenced on Friday, has been organised by the Bal Kalyan Sanstha in collaboration with the Swimming Association of India for Disabled (SWIMAID), comprises 200 events and has over 400 athletes participating, from across India.

The athletes have been divided into four disability categories based on medical classification namely: S1 to S 5 comprising swimmers who are locomotion impaired, S6 which pertains to swimmers suffering from Downs Syndrome and intellectual impairment, S7 referring to the visually impaired category and S8 which comprises the hearing and speech impaired swimmers. With no separate Masters Group having been designated this year, the swimmers have been divided into the seniors (19 years of age and above), juniors (5-18 years of age) and sub-juniors (below 15 years of age).

“Around 415 athletes have registered with us, of which around 126-127 are female. The championship will also see over 36 participants who have secured various medals in international events, like visually impaired Kanchan Mala Pandey from Amrawati and Binod Kumar Singh from Haryana, who participated in the FESPIC Games or Sharath Gaikwad from Bangalore who bagged five medals in the International Wheelchair and Amputee Games (IWAS),” said SWIMAID Secretary Dr V K Dabas. With over 180 swimmers, Maharashtra topped the list in terms of participation, while West Bengal, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh had over 40 swimmers participating in the event.

“For these athletes, its not about winning or losing but about representing the country and winning, despite their impairment. Some of them win more national and international medals than those swimmers who have their limbs intact, yet remain in the oblivion. What is needed is exposure as well as sponsorship, which may ensure that they are on par with athletes from the other countries,” said Dabas.

The championship which has been held across the states like Gwalior, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore starting from the year 2000, has now entered its eight year in Pune.

Inmates make braille books for children

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office in conjunction with the Florida Braille Education Center would like to announce their first"Holiday Braille Book Giveaway.This will be held at the Lee County Bureau of Corrections Core Facility on Saturday December 22nd at 11 a.m. The Lee County Sheriff’s Office joined forces with the education center in August to train female inmates to write, illustrate and make books for visually impaired children.

The books are written in sighted (with illustrations) and in Braille, each with an attached CD that tells the story with background music. The books start out with the inmates creating their own stories. It is then typed by the inmate into a Braille computer program. The story is then given to another inmate who draws the illustrations to match the storyline. The story is then proof read by Dr. Gail Hallas, with the Florida Braille Education Center.

The pages are then printed by a Braille printer with the sighted pages on another printer. Once printed, the inmates will laminate and assemble into a final publication. The CDs are then made and sent to the inmates and are glued to each book. This process sounds easy, but is very time consuming and in the end, extremely gratifying.

The books will be sold by the Florida Braille Education for $19.95 each. As a promotion to kick off the books, officers will be giving them away to sighted and visually impaired children on December 22nd as holiday gifts.

What do visually impaired surfers look for on websites?

You put a lot of effort into making your website successful. You implement a strong design, you add features such as wish lists, coupon modules, gift certificates and perhaps even Flash and JavaScript functionality to attract customers and provide them an enjoyable shopping experience. But have you given thought to what that experience entails for a blind or visually-impaired person? Did you even know it’s possible the blind could shop online?

Don’t be embarrassed if you answered “No.” If you weren't aware of the 10 million visually impaired users who utilize Assistive Technology (A.T.), it's time to tap that expanding — and under serviced — market. A.T. enables non-traditional web users to participate in the online experience. Using screen readers (software which reads aloud on-screen content) visitors can navigate your site using keyboard commands. While the programs are sophisticated, site builders need to pay particular attention to how pages are coded.

As Target Corp. learned when sued over's being allegedly inaccessible (thus violating the Americans with Disabilities Act), there is dual-purpose in making your site accessible. To be sure, no e-tailer wants to run afoul of ADA legislation. But perhaps more importantly, to you as a business owner, is the goal of opening up your online store to all possible consumers. What proprietor wouldn't want to expand his clientele, after all?Keep in mind that it isn’t only the visually impaired community which utilizes assistive technology.

Don’t assume you’re only catering to the blind. Users with motor-coordination impairments, dyslexics and those with mild learning disabilities or other conditions use A.T. to surf the web as well. That’s a broad audience. While making a site user-friendly for those with disabilities might seem daunting — and costly — rest assured that it is not. In future columns we’ll explore ways to make your site compliant, including such methods as using descriptive Alt Tags, coding buttons in Flash presentations, implementing easy-search functionality and more.

Remember, non-traditional users understand that sometimes a ladder is needed to retrieve an item from a high shelf. When it comes to your website, providing virtual ladders so your products are accessible benefits everyone.

Visually impaired woman was assaulted in Phoenix

Phoenix police are searching for a man who sexually abused a visually impaired woman waiting for a bus on Chandler Boulevard near 44th Street in Ahwatukee last week. The 36-year-old woman had dropped her children off at a nearby school and was waiting for the bus at about 9 a.m. on Dec. 10, Phoenix Police Sgt. Frank Matsko said. A man walked up, stood next to her and asked her how she stayed warm in the cold, Matsko said. She told him that she was wearing a sweater, Matsko said. The assaulter then asked the woman why she had a cane with her and she told him she was visually impaired.

Then he grabbed both her breasts with his hands, Matsko said. She screamed and backed way from him, ending up in the street. The man ran away and a passerby helped the woman get out of the street, he said.The woman described the assaulter as having a Middle Eastern accent and dark hair, though she only sees "dark outlines and dark colors," Matsko said.

"She did everything she could," he said. "She screamed. It's disturbing any time a lady is assaulted, especially out in a public place like that, her being visually impaired and questioned by the suspect."Matsko said police do not believe this crime is related to six sexual abuse incidents that occurred between late 2005 and summer 2006 within a 1 1/2-mile radius of Warner Road and 48th Street.

Anyone with information about the crime is encouraged to call Crime Stop at 602-262-6151 or Silent Witness at 480-WITNESS.

New technology would help the visually impaired to enjoy movies

If you disappoint the young woman shown in the photo below, I will slap you upside your head.
And I've never slapped anyone upside anything.

There was a time, in fact, when I would have gone so far as to say “I'm a lover, not a fighter.”
That was ruined after I heard Michael Jackson repeatedly sing the phrase to Paul McCartney in 1982, but I'm still not the type to engage in fisticuffs.

People who are capable of using the word “fisticuffs” are rarely capable of engaging in fisticuffs.
Things change, however.

Thanks to the determination of Kate Heidenreich, I must admit that the quest of this doggone girl is mine.

Heidenreich, who was first mentioned in this space back in February, is on the verge of achieving the salutary goal she set for herself a year ago. She just needs a little more help.

OK, a lot more help, but not as much help as she needed 10 months ago.

Heidenreich, an Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne student, has raised half of the cost of installing MoPix in one of the theaters at the Rave Motion Pictures multiplex.

MoPix (the Motion Picture Access Project) is a revolutionary new system for helping hearing- or visually impaired people enjoy movies.

Captioning, as in words scrolling across the TV or movie screen, is the established method for making programming accessible to hearing-impaired viewers.

MoPix tweaks this system with the addition of a gimcrack called a Rear Window Captioning Reflector.

The captions run in reverse at the rear of the theater and are mirrored in a reflector mounted in the patron's cupholder.

People who don't have the reflector can't see the captions.

There really is no well-established way for visually impaired viewers to enjoy programming.
MoPix rectifies this with DVS Theatrical: descriptive narration synchronized with the film and patched through headsets.

Heidenreich has raised $6,500 of the $12,500 tally. The Indiana Workers for the Blind gave $1,000; the Rave Motion Pictures corporate office gave $4,000; and Heidenreich collected the rest piecemeal through various fund-raising projects.

It goes without saying that she persuaded Rave to get on board.

And IPFW helped out by arranging a deal whereby people can donate to the MoPix project and get screen advertising at Rave in exchange.

Heidenreich believes the system will be in use by January and Rave plans to have a splashy debut. But there's the matter of that unraised $6,000.

“It's a waiting game,” Heidenreich says. “But it has been the whole time. The last time I talked to you, I hadn't even convinced a theater to agree to it.”

In the course of her fundraising efforts, Heidenreich says she heard testimonials from some visually impaired people who haven't been to the movie theater in 20 years.

“People who are blind can't go home and select the captioning option on their DVDs,” she says.
Heidenreich is working with Rave to make the theater more accessible to people with a wide range of disabilities.

She says Rave has pledged to lengthen steps, change the color of some track lighting, and offer Braille menus. And Heidenreich is training the staff in proper etiquette.

“It's just a matter of knowing to offer your arm or open a bathroom door,” she says.

Proposal for building a residential school for the visually impaired is coming up!

A proposal to build a residential school for visually impaired, differently abled and orphans will come up for discussion at the general body meeting of the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) on December 20.

Corporators and members of PCMC’s slum improvement, housing and social welfare committee - Santosh Londhe, Sunanda Phuge and Jyoti Bharati have tabled the resolution. Speaking to TOI, Londhe said that PCMC’s social welfare department gives scholarships to students belonging to backward classes, financial assistance to widows and distributes cycles among students, but does very little for the visually impaired, differently abled and orphans.

“Visually impaired, differently abled, child labourers, orphans and child beggars are deprived of education. They fall prey to various addictions and later start committing crimes. The PCMC has no welfare schemes for them,” he pointed out. The committee as a result took a decision to start a residential school from std I to XII for such children and give them vocational training to make them self-reliant, he added.

The resolution states that the residential school should be built on a minimum of four to five acre land. It should have a well-equipped building, a big hall for training, kitchen, cultural hall, dining hall and children’s garden. The allocation for the building should either be made through funds received under Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) or from allocation of five per cent share in the civic budget for backward class.

The resolution also called for naming this residential school as ‘Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Ashram’. It called for allocation of Rs 5 crore for the school and another Rs 5 crore to be kept as fixed deposit. The daily expenditure was to be met from the interest earned from the fixed deposit.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Studio helps to record talking books for the visually impaired

Visually impaired students will now have audio textbooks to help them score higher marks on their exams. The Welfare Society for the Blind had introduced a Talking Book Project which will convert academic and reference books into audio CDs and cassettes to facilitate visually impaired students. The project's recording studio, Trinayan, was inaugurated this afternoon by Mrs Naina Lal Kidwai, the society's general manager and country head of HSBC India, at the training centre of the society.

This project will convert printed texts into audio CDs and cassettes to reduce the dependence of visually impaired students on readers. This will eliminate visually impaired students from waiting for readers to read out reference books and interpret texts. Moreover, the studio will be used to create content for radio programmes for visually impaired students and will become part of the community radio broadcasting services. It will establish guidelines for specific radio programmes on education, information, awareness creation and entertainment.

The radio programmes will be aired through existing radio channels until the creation of a separate community radio channel for the visually impaired is established. The state-of-the-art studio was fully funded by HSBC to further enable the Welfare Society to improve recording quality and their services. The society's main objective is to extend services for visually impaired students of different universities in the state.

While speaking at the inaugural occasion Mrs Kidwai said, “We have been the largest employer in the city and also encourage diversity within our workforce, i.e, offering employment to such students who happen to be the best people on the job.”

Computer for the visually impaired are now available in libraries

Visually impaired people who have been trained to use a computer now have another resource for personal computer needs. Computers with special software programs that enlarge print and read text to users are available at the Lafayette Public Library's downtown and Southside locations.
The software JAWS converts computer text to speech so those who are visually impaired can use a computer by hearing the words that are shown on the screen.

Another software, ZoomText, allows users to enlarge text on the computer screen to magnifications of their choice. With ZoomText, all images seen on the screen are enlarged, including tool bars and icons. Persons interested in getting training for JAWS and ZoomText can call Affiliated Blind of Louisiana at 234-6492. In some cases, help can be given with funding tuition for the training.
Available at the library for all to enjoy are books on tapes and CDs to check out as well as downloadable e-audiobooks. Patrons can also check out Playaways, and listen to books contained in a small portable listening device.

For more information about services at Lafayette Public Library, call 261-5787 or log on to

Sponsor a guide dog puppy!

If you have a pet lover and humanitarian on your Christmas list this year, why not sponsor a guide dog puppy in their name as a Christmas gift?Alberta Guide Dog Services (AGDS) is offering the chance to support a charitable organization and give a friend or relative the unique opportunity of watching little puppies change from lovable bundles of fur to full fledged working guide dogs.

"We were trying to think of what you can give that person who has everything, and what we came up with was kind of a virtual dog," said Susan Deike, the manager of development and communications with AGDS."This way you are putting money into something that really matters and helping those who really need it."For less than the cost of a cup of coffee a day, the recipient can learn more about the guide dog training process, while watching the transformation from puppy to fully trained guide dog.

At $250, the gift lasts almost two years and gives your loved one the opportunity to own a puppy and go through all of the pivotal steps as he or she grows without ever having to feed it or take it for a walk.

"It is just like having a dog in that you have a relationship with them," said Deike."Puppy raising in a 24/7 job and this way you don’t have to house train them, stay up all night, or worry about your couch being torn up."The recipient of your gift will receive a welcome pack that includes a framed photo of your sponsored puppy. As well as quarterly "pupdates" on how your puppy is progressing, issues of "Paw Prints" – the charity’s newsletter – and a photo of your sponsored guide dog graduating with his/her new blind or visually impaired partner some 22 months from now.In addition, you will receive a tax receipt for your support.

"You actually get updates from the puppies’ point of view, so they can let you know how they are doing with their foster parents," said Deike."It really starts to come together and become real when you get the letter from the person who receives the dog and you realize what you have done for someone you don’t even know with your gift."

Although it costs nearly $40,000 to graduate one guide dog, the value of a dog to a someone in need of their services is priceless.This year, spread some holiday cheer by supporting AGDS, an organization that breeds and trains guide dogs for blind and visually impaired people all over the province.

For more information on how to give the gift of independence to a visually impaired individual, call at Alberta Guide Dog Services at (403) 258-0819 or visit our website at Christmas, help AGDS live up to its slogan: "We cannot give the gift of sight, but with your help, we can give the gift of independence."

Pilot in the airplane crash was visually the time of the crash!

An Alabama pilot who died in a crash near the Central Illinois Regional Airport lost control of the plane because he was suffering from a medical emergency, federal investigators say.The National Transportation Safety Board released the probable cause of the Nov. 9, 2005, crash that killed James L. Gross, 66.“The aircraft control (was) not possible by the pilot during a visual approach to the runway due to the physical impairment of the pilot,” said the board in its report. The report was completed Nov. 29 but only recently released to the public.

Medical reports released at a McLean County coroner’s inquest in June 2006 showed Gross suffered from a tear in his aorta during his attempt to land the twin-engine cargo plane at the Bloomington airport.NTSB also stated, “The condition would most likely have been fatal regardless of the circumstances under which it occurred.”Gross was flying parts for Caterpillar Inc. from Peoria to Smithfield, N.C.

He reported to air traffic controllers he was having problems with the plane’s right engine and requested clearance to land at Bloomington.During the flight, Gross declined to declare an emergency, which would have given him priority over all other aircraft operating in and out of the Bloomington airport.The plane crashed in a field about a mile southeast of the airport.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Visually impaired children visit Santa

Jervon Brown took a different approach this year when he met Santa Claus.

Instead of sitting on the jolly one's lap Saturday at the Cleveland Sight Center, the 12-year-old boy, who is blind, extended his arm and tried to give St. Nick a handshake.

But it didn't work.

"He didn't let me get away with it, but at least I got to tell him what I wanted," said Jervon, who eventually sat on Santa's lap and asked for an iPod. "I think he heard me."

The seventh-grader was one of nearly 200 blind and visually impaired children, and their siblings, who got a chance to talk and have their pictures taken with Santa as part of the group's annual Christmas party.

The party has been a tradition for more than 40 years and is a way for families who have children who are blind or visually impaired to connect with each other, said Judith Carey, chief development officer at the Cleveland Sight Center.

"I think for a lot of our families, they don't bring their kids to see Santa, and nobody has a special party for them," Carey said. "This party is so that Christmas is the same for them as it is for everybody else."

A long line of children and camera-toting parents extended down a hallway of the group's building during the party.

Volunteers passed out specialized toys and teddy bears after the children talked with Santa, played by Gordon Safran.

Children in line talked about what they wanted, but as some stepped closer to Santa, they either froze up, cried or sat speechless on his lap.

Not Miriam Derai.

The 6-year-old Mentor girl, who has had several eye surgeries, walked right up to Santa , touched his white beard a little bit and got right into what she wanted to see under the tree.

"Dear Santa, may I please have an American Girl doll, a dress and a plate of strawberries," she said.

After Miriam and Santa talked, Miriam's mother, Cheryl Derai, smiled at her and said her daughter probably could have kept on going. "She practiced what she wanted to say to Santa," Derai said, "so she was ready."

Visually impaired people and other disabilities are now more accepted

Sonal, 28, was just a step away from getting her dream job, when her employer refused to hire her after learning about her disability. Impressed by Sonal’s resume, who is a computer graduate, a private firm called her up for an interview, but after she revealed that she has been suffering from cerebral palsy, the firm hung up on her.

Like Sonal, many people with disabilities are left out of the main -stream employment sector. If one goes by the figures in the World Bank report titled “People with Disabilities in India: From Commitments to Outcomes”, which was released in November this year, the track record of hiring people with disabilities (PwDs) by Indian companies has worsened.

The findings of the report suggest that PwDs are among the most excluded sections in society. The employment rate among disabled adults reduced from 43 per cent in 1991 to 38 per cent in 2002.

“Employers fear absenteeism and loss of productivity if they hire specially-abled people. But on the contrary, these employees are among the most loyal and are cent per cent dedicated to their work,” said Geetika Tiwari, a volunteer with the National Job Development Centre, during a discussion at the Oxford Book Store on Monday on the World Disability Day.

“Among the visually impaired, orthopaedic impaired and persons suffering from cerebral palsy, the orthopaedic impaired will get preference followed by visually challenged and cerebral palsy. There is no provision for persons with multiple disabilities,” said Uday Warunjikar, advocate, Bombay High Court.

Sonal, who is now interning with an online recruitment site, sorts out resumes of disabled people who want to be part of the mainstream business and laments that they should be considered on par with others.

“There are 600 workshops across the state to train specially-abled people in vocational activities, but if they are incorporated in the mainstream businesses it will work wonders for them,” said Vandana Garware, director state coordinator, National Job Development Centre.

However, Malini Chib, a senior executive event manager at Oxford Book Store, has become an example for others like her. Chib, suffering from cerebral palsy, says, “I was nervous like any other candidate during my interview. It’s been a month since I am working here, and I am still learning. The key to success is to change the attitudes of the people.”

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Concert given to aid the visually impaired, in India

Doctors, members of service organisations and music lovers had gathered at Vani Mahal here on Sunday to do their bit for the visually impaired.

The Chennai Vision Charitable Trust, Rajan Eye Care Hospital, and Dasanjali presented ‘Two Eyes - One Music, a Kaleidoscope of Indian Music’, in aid of the Blind Free India Project.

Speaking at the event, U.S. Consul-General in Chennai David T. Hopper said much remained to be done in the area of health and eye care, particularly in rural areas.

He commended Rajan Eye Care Hospital for its initiative.

Medical director of Rajan Eye Care Hospital Mohan Rajan said the first phase of the project sought to cover 10 million people. India was among the countries with the largest population of visually impaired persons. “However, 80 to 90 per cent of this blindness is curable or reversible,” he said. Awareness and standardisation of healthcare were vital, he added.

The hospital also took tertiary eye care to the rural population through its vans equipped with sophisticated lasers. “We hope to reach out to more people through this,” he said.

Senior general physician K.S. Krishnagopal, who was the guest of honour on the occasion, said that not all sections of society had access to good healthcare therefore, such initiatives went a long way in ensuring that those living in rural areas had access to facilities that their urban counterparts enjoyed. He lauded Dr. Mohan Rajan’s team for its effort.

Wife of the Consul-General, Susan Hopper, and associate medical director of Rajan Eye Care Hospital Dr. Sujatha Mohan were also present.

A music programme showcasing different styles of Indian music followed.