Friday, April 03, 2009

Touch phone in the future to help the visually impaired

Scientists from the University of Tampere, Finland in collaboration with the Stanford University US, have managed to develop a new technology that will bring touchscreen phones to the realm of visually impaired users.

While blind users were bereft of using the cellphone like other folks do, the new technology will create an opportunity for them to actually interact with the mobile phone instead just limiting them to receiving and making calls. The researchers used a Nokia 770 Internet Tablet, which has a piezoelectric material built into the touch screen that vibrates when an electric signal is applied to it.

The researchers tried to represent Braille dots on the device and adopted two methods to do so. For starters, Braille uses a two by three-matrix format to display characters that are identified by different configurations of raised and absent dots at the six points of the matrix. Finally, after integrating the Braille language in the device, volunteers were asked to read things on the phone screen. Although they started off slowly, they were able to speed up gradually and were able to read a character in about 1.25 seconds.

As of now, efforts are being made to present entire words and not just single characters onscreen.

Visually impaired children experience parasailing!

“We experienced the freedom of birds flying in the sky.” It was how Nagesh Netke and Sushama Pawar, two visually-impaired children from the Poona School and Home for the Blind, Kothrud, described their experience after attempting to set a Limca world record — as the first pair of blind children to parasail at a height of 100 feet at Bavdhan Hill here on Thursday.

Nagesh Netke was the first to take to the air. “It was a thrilling experience. I was apprehensive initially but once I took off, the feeling was magical. I felt like a bird. I am on the ground everyday. It felt nice to be high in the air for a change,” the 19-year-old said. Netke hails from Ahmednagar and lived with his parents in Mumbai before shifting to the Poona School and Home for the Blind in 1997. A district champion in chess, he has a keen interest in politics and aims at becoming a lawyer.

Next, it was Sushama Pawar’s turn. Even after three days of theoretical preparation, she was anxious. “I was very scared before the flight and did not know what to expect. But once my feet were off the ground, I experienced the freedom of a bird,” she said. Pawar is from Baramati and has been with the institute for the past 10 years. She is also interested in other sporting events — running, swimming and throwball. Dancing is her another passion.

Anand Munje, head of the parasailing school at Bavdhan, spoke about the difficulty he faced in explaining the details of the sport to the children. “We had to give a detailed explanation of the entire process, right from the parachute to the harness. Taking off was not a problem... but landing was a major concern as they will have no guide with them and will have to do it on their own. But after three days of training, we knew these children were ready to attempt this feat. We are glad it went off successfully,” said Munje.

The principal of the girls’ section, Sulabha Pujari, feels this will motivate other wards from her school to be more active. “These kids learn more when they experience things rather than hearing about it. This will motivate other children to take part in such activities. They will be determined to look past their disabilities and achieve the impossible.”

Incidentally, Pune is home to two national record holders in parasailing. In February last year, Kedar Munje set a record for using the longest towing rope (565 feet) for a parasail. In May 2008, N K Mahajan, then 88, became the oldest parasailor to take flight.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Visually impaired to enjoy Easter eggs hunt!

An Easter Egg hunt for visually impaired children will be held Wednesday at Watson Park.

The hunt, sponsored by the city of Wichita's Park and Recreation Department and AT&T Pioneers, will be held from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Watson Park is at 3022 S. McLean Blvd.

Specially designed beeping eggs will be used during the hunt, which children can then exchange for prizes and candy, said Larry Foos, superintendent of park and recreation.

Staff and volunteers will assist the children in locating the eggs. Other activities at the event will include games, pony rides, train rides, story time, snacks and a special visit from the Easter Bunny.

Preregistration is requested by calling 316-268-4361.

Reach Stan Finger at 316-268-6437 or

Cuba: Rehabilitation Program for the visually impaired

The number of the visually impaired people rehabilitated in Cuba has risen to 18,000, since the creation of the National Association for the Blind (ANCI) a little over three decades ago.

Among the aspects included in their training are the learning of Braille reading and writing, orientation in space and the use of canes, daily life activities, and occupational therapy.

ANCI has a National Rehabilitation Center -now about to undergo refurbishing-, in which over 1,600 people have studied.

Elementary rehabilitation areas and circles of areas of interest are also working in other territories, where the blind can learn basic techniques for their incorporation into society.

Likewise, the creation of rehab centers in communities in eastern Villa Clara and Santiago de Cuba provinces, financed by the Foundation for Latin America of the National Organization of Spanish Blind People has been planned.

Visually impaired singer asks for help!

Anna Fiki is not an ordinary musician. The woman possesses a golden voice that many artistes can only dream of. So talented is the visually impaired vocalist that many are often left in tears after they have attended her solo performances.

It is incomprehensible that such a gifted musicians who started singing to the public years before our country could have any recording artists, still remains in the background while many average musicians have made it big in this industry.

"I am appealing to people to help me because I have always wanted to be a professional musician but I have not met the right people who can help me rise and realise my full potential," she told Showtime.

Fiki started out as a lead vocalist and keyboard player for Pudulogong Rehabilitation Centre music band back in the late 80s, the same institution that groomed Donald Botshelo.

While Fiki, who originates from Mabule but now resides in Pitsane, has been left in the cold, Botshelo is a celebrity musician who has posted hit after hit and continues to make more hits.

The woman popularly known for her song Mpolelle Re Babedi has gone through many tough roads trying to carve a career out of her talent but she says all she got was disappointment.

"I have met people from way back in the 90s who always promised to push my career to greater heights but none has fulfilled those promises.

It is hard for me because as a person who has lost her sight I can rely on my vocal talent for survival," Fiki said.

One of the promoters who worked with her needed to be pushed to do the job, according to the musician. The two had agreed to cut 200 cassets from Mpolelle Re Babedi, which was recorded in 2004 but only 100 copies were made and that after some persistence from the musician.

Family members, according to her, have done little to help her find the right people to help, she said.

"I have always expressed my displeasure to those close to me about the way people were treating me in the music industry but no none has heeded my call and try to arrange anything. I do not blame them anyway because music might not be their passion.

Fiki thought the dreams would turn into reality last year after a rehabilitation officer based in Goodhope managed to source funds for her to reproduce her master CD but her world came crashing when the said officer went for further studies abroad.

She has appealed to producers and record company executives to give her a chance as she believes that she could easily penetrate the market.

"I have accepted my disability, it is my friend and people should not worry about it. My voice is perfect it has not been affected by this disability," she said.

She told Showtime that she had tried hard to market herself, but those with the resources have shown no or little interest in her talents.

"My performances in front of shops are not necessarily meant for the few thebes that people throw in my cup. I normally do these hoping to impress sponsors or record companies to snap me up," she said.