Category Archives: ACB

ACB – Hiking the Grand Canyon without sight

This is absolutely incredible. I received this in email last night and was riveted. I saw the Grand Canyon in my sightie days and hiked some of it, but I could never do it any kind of justice. This man knows how to write along with his impressive hiking skills. I hope you take the time to read this. Grab your coffee or your orange juice and sit back and be prepared to be amazed by the sights described below.


The gentleman who this article is about was the banquet speaker at the 2010 ACB national convention in Phoenix.


Rim to Rim to Rim 
A Blind Man’s experience Hiking Across the Grand Canyon and Back…
By Mike Armstrong

I participated in another amazing hike on October 9th and 10th of 2010. This time it was a Rim to Rim to Rim hike across the Grand Canyon. This hike-a-thon was to benefit the Foundation for Blind Children. This forty-eight mile trek was a truly incredible experience, challenging my mind, body and will to succeed.
After our Kilimanjaro climb in 2009 everyone was asking, “What’s next?” There were several ideas suggested like; swimming to Alcatraz, climbing another of the seven summits, hiking the Arizona Trail, climbing Mount Whitney and several of us mentioned the Grand Canyon. After much deliberation it was decided that the next FBC hike-a-thon would be a rim to rim trek from the North Rim to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. This made the most sense because we have one of the world’s seven natural wonders right here in our home state. The date was set for 10/10/10.
Now are you wondering about that extra rim to rim I mentioned earlier? Well my team is in training for an eight hundred mile hike in April of 2011. The hike will run from the Mexico border to the Utah border onThe Arizona Trail.  We felt that hiking that extra twenty-four miles would give us a good idea of what to expect from our upcoming forty day trek across Arizona. We were not disappointed.
Ben Cane, Greg DePinto and I headed up on the afternoon of the 8th. After spending the night in Flagstaff at my in laws (Chris and Dave), we awoke at 2:45am to set out for the South Rim of the canyon. Our plan was to meet up with a friend of mine (Cat Isfan) at the Bright Angel trail head at 5am. We assumed that two hours would be more than enough time to drive seventy-eight miles. The elk crossing the road every few minutes put a bit of a glitch in that plan. At 5:40am we finally arrived. It was a bit later than we wanted, but we thought we would still be able to meet up with the rest of the group on the North Rim by 5pm. This was the deadline for us to make the group picture. 
As we started down the South Rim at 5:47am my thoughts were focused on making darn sure of where my guides were. I knew that if I slipped and fell off the side there would be no helping me. With a drop of a thousand feet or more I would be dead. Ben and Greg were very aware of this as well. 
When I hike I follow the sound of bear bells while using a set of trekking poles to feel out the terrain. Greg was in the lead with several bells attached to his pack. Ben gave verbal clues and even put himself on my ledge side to make sure that I did not fall off. 
The guys had to wear head lamps for the first hour or so of the morning. The temperature was pretty chilly at about forty degrees. Even though I am totally blind I could feel the immensity of the Canyon. 
As we worked our way down the switch backs we went through two caves and avoided several huge puddles of mule piss. 
As the sun came up the temperature began to rise and we stripped down to t-shirts and shorts. I could hear the awe in the guy’s voices as the sun came over the horizon. They tried to describe to me how amazing the views truly were. We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day for a hike.
Our first break was at Indian Gardens. This is a common destination for people who wish to camp in the Canyon. I have been told that one must reserve a camp site as early as a year in advanced to be assured a permit. It is approximately four and a half miles from the trail head and is equipped with rest rooms and water. After a quick snack and water refill, we were back on the trail.
This is where the trail becomes rockier. It also is a bit more congested. We had to pull over for a couple of mule trains. We also passed some small streams and even a couple of water falls. Gradually the trail dropped down into a sandy/rocky terrain similar to a beach or river bottom. A few miles of this lead us to the Colorado River.
The sound of the river was awesome. The guy’s were surprised at how muddy it was, but they were stunned by the beauty and majesty surrounding us. After letting another mule train pass us we stepped up to the bridge. It was made up of steal grating for the floor with thick wire fencing sloping away from us as it arose to about eight feet. The floor was about two feet wide and I could feel it move under my feet as we walked. The sound of the river running below us helped me appreciate how high above it we were and the fact that it took us at least three minutes to cross illustrated how wide the river was. As we walked across we talked about how they probably used rope bridges at first. We could only imagine how intense that would have made the crossing.
A short hike later and we made it to Phantom Ranch. Phantom Ranch is a mixture of camping sites, cabins, a hotel and a small general store. It was now noon and we were less than half way. Here is where we had our lunch and a well needed break. We spent about twenty minutes eating our sandwiches and drinking a couple glasses of their home made lemonade. The trail was much smoother at this point so we decided that we could make the next six miles to the Cottonwood Campsite before filling up our water. This decision we later came to regret.
From this point on it would be about 99% up hill. We had thirteen and a half miles to go and only four and a half hours to make it. Regardless, we were in great spirits and the trail was easy (at first). Over six thousand vertical feet is nothing to take too lightly.
The following six miles had some of the most beautiful scenery of the canyon. After leaving Phantom Ranch the trail ran next to a river through a box canyon. As we started to ascend the foliage became almost tropical. There were several bridges and the sound of water was always with us. The smells and feel of this section were intoxicating. I loved the feel of pushing passed reeds and foliage on the trail. A great majority of this portion of the trail was quite smooth. We did hit a few rocky and tight spots here and there, but nothing too challenging. Ben said it would be a great place for a ninja ambush.  
After traveling for two and a half hours I ran out of water in my hydration system and started in on my water bottle. I usually have an average hiking speed of two and a half to three miles an hour, so we figured that we would have no problem making the Cottonwood Campsite before getting low on water. We were wrong. The last mile was a bit tough without water, but we made it.
The Cottonwood Site was a relief. You can hear the waterfall in the distance. This is also were we start getting into the trees. We were all starting to feel the hike, but were still strong. While we sat on the picnic benches we fueled up with bars and trail mix, filled up our water and only lost about ten minutes.
The time was 3:20pm and we had eight miles to go. I was not too optimistic about making our five o’clock meeting. This is when Cat turns to me and says,” From this point on it will get harder”. The trail became and remained pretty steep and rocky the rest of the way up. As we hiked through the trees and over bridges, along rock ridges and moved along death drops we kept our spirits up. Around six we came upon a woman coming down and asked her how much farther to the top. She looked at us and said, “You are at least three hours from the top.” Cat and Ben had both previously hiked from north to south and they said that there was no way we were still that far out. An hour and a half later we ran across another hiker coming down and he said “At your present rate you should make the rim in another two hours and twenty minutes or so”. He then added “I hate, yet love this canyon, but this is the last time I am hiking this thing.”
We could not believe we had another two and a half hours left. It was already seven, my legs were cramping up and all of us were getting tired. This is when I almost made a fatal mistake. While hiking along a ridge Greg made a left turn around a rock wall. The bells were a bit hard to hear and I was not as alert as I should have been. As I am moving forward, Ben says, “Left Sensei”. I heard him but apparently did not adjust my angle quite fast enough. Then Ben yells “LEFT, NO LEFT, SENSEI!”. He then grabs my pack and pulls me hard to the left. He then informed me that if I would have made one more step I might have dropped a thousand feet. That woke me up and got my adrenalin kicking.

Greg said “Let’s play a game to help pass the time,” “I know, let’s each name a sport, but it must make money.” So we spent the next hour thinking of and chiming off different professional sports. This helped until we eventually ran out of ideas. The last thirty minutes were grueling, but we made it out at 8:20pm with soar feet and legs.
Now we needed to find our group and get prepared to do it all over again the next day. As we stood at the top of the north rim we were wondering where our ride to camp was. Our cell phones did not work and the van was not there. We asked a lady in a car if she had seen a van with some people looking for a blind hiking group. She said “Yes I did, but they left about ten minutes ago”. She then added that she wished she could take us to the camp, but she was waiting for her family to come out. So we started walking down the road toward camp. Ten minutes later Cat had cell signal and called Marc to come pick us up.
Upon entering the van we were greeted by Marc, Max, and Yancey. Then Marc asked me “How long did it take you”. “Fourteen and a half hours” I answered. Marc Ashton’s reply was “We’re ******”.
Entering the camp that night was awesome. Yancey had set up Greg’s tent and put all of our supplies inside. I also had Yancey pick up some beer for us on his way up. For the next two hours we ate, drank, showered and celebrated our accomplishment as well as Greg’s forty-third birthday.

Day Two
We started our second day at 4:20am. After tearing down and packing up our campsite, we had a breakfast of muffins, bagels and coffee. I followed this up with vitamin I (Ibuprofen). We were running a bit slower than the rest of the group, so we were in the last van out and arrived at the trail head at 5:45am.
It was a bit chilly and we were all road weary from the previous day. My first five minutes were rough, but as my body warmed up my muscles felt pretty good. This was a very pleasant surprise and we started to move. The up hill challenge of the night before turned into a rather fast and fun hike that morning. We also had the added encouragement of all our other team mates.
We made it to the Cottonwood Campsite at 9am and took a ten minute break. We made sure to refill our water and set off.
The different teams were spread out all along the trail. There were forty-three of us in all and as we met each other we encouraged and motivated our fellow hikers. 
There was a photographer for the Arizona Republic named Mike taking pictures as he hiked with us. The Republic also sent Dennis to write up a story on our adventure. They floated from team to team and were really nice guys.
We reached Phantom Ranch at 12:30pm in need of lunch and a break. I was starting to feel the thirty-nine miles of hiking over the last two days. After eating and sucking down some more lemonade, I sat down outside to retie my boots. While sitting there Dennis approached and asked me if I would mind giving him an interview. So I told him about my blindness and why I do these hikes. I explained to him about how we are going to hike the Arizona Trail in April of 2011. I think that he thought I was a bit crazy and maybe he was right. The guys and I were ready so we threw our packs on and set off.
Crossing the bridge over the Colorado River was just as amazing the second time. It was cool to hear the other blind hikers experiencing the same things I had the day before. Right after the bridge the guys started razzing me about the interview. Saying things like the great Mike Armstrong, the awesome Mike Armstrong and such. Then Cat asked, ”How come every time you want to do something amazing, the rest of us have to suffer?” We all laughed and then Cat offered to start an Amazing Ben website if Ben would only carry our packs up the South Rim. This type of joking kept us amused all the way to Indian Gardens. 
At Indian Gardens we refilled our water and took a five minute break. There was a television station interviewing some of the other hikers and Tanner was getting interviewed by the ASU paper. Just as we were starting up the last four and a half mile leg of the hike Dennis caught up with us. He became an unofficial fifth member of our team.
The last three hours were brutal. At times I thought that my legs were done, but they didn’t fail. All of us kept climbing, cracking up the whole way. After what seemed like forever and a day we made it to the top of the South Rim at 7:00pm with a final time of thirteen hours and fifteen minutes. This beat our south to north time by an hour and fifteen minutes.
 We immediately went to the lodge and relaxed over a few beers and some food.
Shortly after Greg and Cat left, Ben and I headed over to the trail head to wait for Yancey and to see how everyone else was doing. It must have been pretty comical to see Ben and me trudging along. 
The Grand Canyon is truly a natural wonder. The views I heard about were awe inspiring. One does not need to see this treasure to appreciate or experience it. 
During The hike Dennis asked me, “Why do you do this, I mean you can’t see the view?” “Is it for the bragging rights or something else?” I proceeded to tell him that it was a mix of reasons. I want to help inspire people to do more with their lives regardless or in spite of any hang ups or handicaps they may have. Also our entire group helped raise funds for the blind of all ages, but especially for the children. And the Foundation for Blind Children is a true asset for the blind and their families alike. Bragging rights are fine, though what it is really about for me is finding a challenge and then meeting it. These kinds of adventures help me understand about what living a truly full life is. I am just so happy that I have been blessed with a family and friends that help support me in these endeavors. Without their support I would not be able to participate in these adventures.
God Bless,
Mike Armstrong/Sensei,


Filed under ACB, wow

ACB – Braille alphabet bracelet gets an award

Natalie, if you’re reading this, is this the designer that made that necklace?

Check out the youtube video to watch the designer of the braille alphabet bracelet get a design award. I’ve wanted this bracelet but it always seems to be out of stock. That must be a good thing. 😉

The designer talks about the importance of braille. Maybe it will get me to jump start my braille learning again.


Filed under ACB, braille, cool product, youtube

ACB – Twenty-First century Communications and Video Accessibility Act passes

Woo hoo! Received this in e-mail. I’m a little late in posting. President Obama signed this last week.


Good Afternoon All,
21st Century Accessibility Act Passed
Signed by President Obama:  October 8, 2010 – P.L. 111-260, the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act  
Released:  October 8, 2010 –  News Release, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski’s Statement of the Signing of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act
Washington, D.C. — Today, President Obama signed The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (S.3304) into law. The following statement can be attributed to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski:
“The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act is the most significant disability law in two decades.  The law’s provisions were endorsed in the FCC’s National Broadband Plan.  They will bring communication laws into the 21st Century, providing people with disabilities access to new broadband technologies and promoting new opportunities for innovation. 
“Most importantly, the new law will ensure that people with disabilities are not left behind and can share fully in the economic and social benefits of broadband.  The law will enable people with disabilities to participate in our 21st century economy. 
“It is thanks to the bipartisan efforts of the legislation’s sponsors Representative Markey and Senator Pryor and the bipartisan commitment of Chairmen Representative Waxman and Senator Rockefeller and ranking members Representative Barton and Senator Hutchison that this update to our nation’s disability laws has become a reality.  Subcommittee Chairmen Representative Boucher and Senator Kerry and ranking members Representative Stearns and Senator Ensign are also to be commended for their tireless work. 
“The FCC, with the tremendous leadership of longtime advocate Karen Peltz Strauss, looks forward to working with consumer, industry, and government stakeholders as we assume the responsibility of ensuring the effective implementation of this landmark legislation.”
— FCC —

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Filed under ACB, accessibility, advocacy, in the news

ACB – Facebook seeks accessibility engineer

Wow, check out the add for an accessibility person for Facebook. Sounds like they’re trying to make things really work. But, I wanna know how they afford that food…


Are you interested in building products used by hundreds of millions of people? Do you have direct experience working with assistive technology (ie screen readers)? Facebook is seeking an experienced User Interface Engineer that is passionate about building accessible user-facing web applications. This role includes the management of technical accessibility processes as well as ownership over internal and external communication of Facebook’s accessibility strategies. This position is contractual and is based at our main office in Palo Alto, CA.
Apply for this position
• Work with product teams to implement accessible products
• Participate in code reviews with an eye for accessibility
• Identify and communicate accessibility best practices for front-end engineering
• Manage technical process for accessibility
• Communicate Facebook’s accessibility strategy internally and externally
• Expert knowledge of web technologies (HTML/CSS/JS)
• Expert knowledge of assistive technology (JAWS, VoiceOver, Dragon NaturallySpeaking)
• Experience with scripting languages (PHP)
• Passion for elegant, intuitive, and accessible user interfaces
• Ability to write well-abstracted, reusable code for UI components
• Familiarity with Object Oriented JavaScript Frameworks (Prototype JS, MooTools, Dojo, etc.)
• Experience working with HTML/CSS/JS in high-performance environments
• 3+ years experience in building web products with assistive technology in mind
• BS or MS degree in Computer Science or a related technical field
• Experience building complicated workflows
• Relevant experience includes self-started personal projects
Apply for this position

Permalink to this requisition
Benefits and Perks 
We’ve got it good!
At our Palo Alto headquarters, we also offer free breakfast, lunch and dinner at our Cafe. Whether you’re looking for healthy salads, or hearty world cuisine from Belize, India, etc., or just a couple slices of pizza, Chef Josef and his team of culinary geniuses in Palo Alto make it happen every day.
Life at Facebook 
Innovation is paramount
No matter what part of Facebook you join, you’ll be building something big and new. You won’t simply be finding answers; you’ll be framing questions that no one has ever asked before – and identifying unprecedented opportunities. We welcome pioneers. In fact, we insist on them.

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Filed under ACB, accessibility

ACB – Thank you, President Obama

A lot of work went in to getting this bill this far. I kept meaning to write about it from all the e-mails I was getting, but just never remembered. Thank you ACB members and whoever else fought tirelessly for this.

From an ACB e-mail:

Excerpt from the Presidential Proclamation on National Disability 
Employment Awareness Month:

”We must improve the accessibility of our workplaces and enable the 
collaboration and contributions of every employee, and that is why I 
look forward to signing into law the Twenty-First Century 
Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010. This legislation 
will greatly increase access to technology, with advances in areas 
such as closed captioning, delivery of emergency information, video 
description, and other advanced communications — all essential tools 
for learning and working in today’s technological society.”


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Filed under ACB, accessibility, advocacy

ACB – Reflections from the Mission Vision Sports Festival

It’s incredible what they are doing for the blinded service men and women who have fought for our country! I thought this was awesome! I can never say enough about how athletics have improved my life. This article speaks to how I feel about it all.


Blinded Veterans Re-learn Competition
By David F. Cline
The questions sound typical of most athletes.
“What’s your best time on the bike?” “How much can you bench press?” “Have you tried the discus, or do you only compete in shot put?”
It is the next round of questions that jolt the listener.
“Was it a mortar attack or an IED?” “How long were you in theater before you were hit?” “Do you prefer having a guide dog or a cane?”
At the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) Sports Festival & Mission Vision Program, wounded service members received workout tips, sport-specific training, and the opportunity to do something many thought impossible when they were injured: Compete.

Held in Colorado Springs, the Mission Vision Program was developed to promote physical activity as a main element of rehabilitation and recovery. Staff members from Veterans Affairs Blind Rehabilitation Centers across the country, as well as former Paralympians and collegiate coaches, offered their skills and assistance to work with the athletes. Training was available in swimming, running, track and field events, tandem cycling, and weight lifting and conditioning.
“One thing I do is get them acclimated to where they are, and help them get comfortable enough to move around on their own,” said strength and conditioning coach Mark Sampson (Woodland Park, CO). “Sometimes they are reluctant to get involved, so I try to get them to do one lift, or do 10 minutes on the treadmill. Once they do that, most of them realize they can do this, and they will come back for more.”
One of Sampson’s assistants is Cody Colchado (Linn, TX), a 19-time world champion power lifter, a three-time national champion in the pentathlon, and a national champion in CTF Tae Kwan Do Brick & Board events.

Colchado has been blind for 30 years, and is also legally deaf. He credits Sampson, and his coaches through the years, as reasons for his success, and said the same techniques used to spur him into competing are the same ones he now uses with newcomers to his gym.

“You have to gain their confidence, and let them know they can have confidence in you,” said Colchado. “It’s easier with some more than others, but steady encouragement goes a long way.”
 Joe Crespo (Fairless Hills, PA) knows about confidence. As a Marine serving in Vietnam, Crespo suffered head, neck and chest injuries from a mortar attack. He awoke from a three-month coma to a diagnosis of blindness; in addition, he was suffering from amnesia.
Once very involved in running and other activities, Crespo saw his participation seriously hindered because of his wounds. Over the years he has worked his way back into physical activity, and the Veterans Administration rehabilitation coordinator he works with in Philadelphia recently introduced him to a long-distance runner. Using the Guide Running technique, in which a sighted runner and a blind runner hold opposite ends of a two-foot long tether, Crespo can now run on tracks, paths, and perhaps long-distance courses such as hills and dirt tracks.
“I have learned to adapt and with intensive and ongoing training I’m doing quite well,” Crespo said. “Mission Vision has opened up a whole new world for me, as I will now be involved in a local running program.”
Many service members and Veterans are former athletes, and those wounded in battle face a multitude of adjustment issues: recovery, rehabilitation, inability to play sports, and a lack of competition. Mission Vision was created in part to address those issues by fueling their competitive fire.

Rich Cardillo (Monument, CO), USABA’s Military Sports Program Coordinator, said disabled veterans and disabled members of the Armed Forces who are blind or visually impaired who simply want to enhance their lives and to accelerate their rehabilitation through sport, recreation and physical activity will have the full support of USABA. The organization has paid for veterans, their guides and their coaches at numerous programs around the United States; to include, several learn to race cycling camps, the 2008 State Games of the West, the 2009 State Games of America, the 2009 California International Marathon, the 2010 USABA Winter Sports Program and the 2010 Rocky Mountain State Games.
“Our mission is to increase the number and quality of world-class athletic opportunities available to all Americans who are blind or visually impaired, from the grassroots to a competitive, elite level and Operation Mission Vision is just one of several programs we have to offer,” Cardillo said. “The strategic goal of any of our programs is simply to bring normalcy back into the lives of those disabled Veterans and disabled members of the Armed Forces who are blind or visually impaired and to accelerate their rehabilitation process through sport, recreation and physical activity.”
Army veteran DeDe Fox-Birdwell (Centennial, CO) has known athletic competition most of her life. In the early 1990s, she was selected as female athlete of the year at her post in Bad Kreuznach, Germany. She competed in horseshoes, softball, volleyball, power lifting, and 10k runs, and was the first woman to participate in the 5k combat cross country run, in which a service member runs the distance while outfitted in full uniform with a utility belt and canteen of water.
Then came her vision loss.
Diagnosed with a disorder that sends clots to the blood vessels in her eyes, Fox-Birdwell lost her peripheral vision in both eyes and was medically retired in 1997. Since then, she has been working out in a home gym and paying attention to the athletic exploits of her children.
“There are no team sports now. I had to move away from them because of my eyes – until I found Goalball!” Fox-Birdwell exclaimed.
For the uninitiated, Goalball is a sport created specifically for the blind and visually-impaired. Competitors, three per team, wear goggles that have been completely blacked out, leaving everyone on the court with the same level of awareness. A rubber ball with nine small bells inside is rolled back and forth; the object of the game, as the name implies, is to get the ball past the defenders and into the goal.
While it may sound simple, there are strategies, including rolling the ball quietly so the opposing team cannot hear the bells. Crespo played the game for the first time at Mission Vision, and plans to introduce it to the blind children he works with in Philadelphia.
As for Fox-Birdwell, she found energy and re-discovered the joy of playing a team sport. “I will be contacting anyone and everyone I can to hopefully participate in Goalball and power lifting, and I live close enough to try out for the Goalball team,” she said.
Here, at the foot of the Rocky Mountains and just miles from the U.S. Olympic Training Center, Joe, DeDe, and the others are not just visually-impaired, they are not just wounded warriors, and they are not just Veterans… they are athletes.
David F. Cline is a Senior Communications Specialist with General Dynamics Information Technology, and works in support of  the Vision Center of Excellence (VCE). GDIT was a co-sponsor of the Mission Vision Program.


Filed under ACB, Adjustment to blindness, goalball, gratitude, sports

ACB – Apple does it again. Oh. My. Gosh.

I think I have to switch to A.T & T.

Digital Miracles, LLC, is pleased to announce a major advancement in
assistive technology
for people who are blind and visually impaired. The Digit-Eyes Audio
Labeling System
has been approved for sale on the Apple Apps Store. As of June 23rd, the
of people worldwide with substantial vision loss can begin downloading the
application to recognize and label the important items in their lives.
Reasonably priced at $29.99, the Digit-Eyes phone app is a powerful tool
that fits
into any budget and life- style, turning challenging tasks into easy, safe
The Digit-Eyes system gives users a simple way to make custom labels for
items and it identifies packaged goods-joining advanced software with the
the Internet, home computers, printers, and inexpensive off-the-shelf
labels. People
of almost any visual ability can now put groceries away and grab the right
bottle independently.
“This is the most exciting product I’ve worked on,” says Nancy Miracle,
of Digital Miracles and software engineer with 40 years experience. “The
functions and high cost of existing assistive devices just seemed wrong, so
our objective
was to develop a product that performed better than any comparable
technology and
offer it at about 10% of the price. Combining the need for identification
with a
natural, powerful and robust tool like the iPhone made the project
With Digit-Eyes, users can print custom text labels or record audio labels
that they
make by scanning specially coded labels and speaking into their phones. They
the labels to household items, and the messages are played back whenever the
are rescanned with their iPhones. This Digit-Eyes app can also scan
codes (UPC, EAN, ISBN) and say what’s inside the package after checking the
Digit-Eyes product database. Each iPhone stores over five hundred hours of
and can be used just about anywhere.
“This product is amazing! By labeling leftovers with their contents and date
I can determine if my dinner will be edible or not. Next, I’ll be labeling
my jungle
of AC adapters so I’ll never again have to guess what they all go to. The
ease of
use and flexibility of the process make it an invaluable tool!”
Randy Builder, Seattle, Washington.
The first public display of Digit-Eyes is at the National Federation of the
convention in Dallas, Texas, July 4 – 7, booth B113. The exhibit then moves
to the
American Council of the Blind convention July 10 – 15 in Phoenix, Arizona,
#41. Attendees can experience the use and capability of the system with
demonstrations. Details, explanations, and examples will be available at
both conventions,
or immediately on-line at
Digital Miracles, LLC, the parent company of Digit-Eyes, is a Texas-based
that develops customized software solutions. The Digit-Eyes Audio Labeling
was created by a team of engineers, software designers and members of the
impaired community.
Product Reviewers can get a review copy at:
or by calling: (817) 571-3083.
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Filed under ACB, accessibility, apple Inc, assistive technologies, cool product

ACB – Letter to Shapiro about H.R.3101, “The 21st Century Telecommunications and Video Accessibility Act.”

I wish I had saved the email with the article Shapiro wrote about all this, but I didn’t. Below is a response an ACB member sent to Shapiro. I’ve omitted the writer’s info. I’m sure some googling would find the article about Shapiro’s opinion about it all. I think Shapiro should spend the day blindfolded and try to find his favorite shows on tv, or use his cell phone.


Hello All:

Below please find a copy of the e-mail message I sent to Mr. Gary Shapiro,
President, of the Consumer Electronics Association in response to the Opp.
Ed. Which he wrote that appeared in the Washington Times on June 9
discussing H.R.3101. Read and enjoy.

start letter:
Hello Mr. Shapiro:

This message is my response to the Opp Ed by you which was published June 9,
2010 by the Washington Times, against H.R.3101, “The 21st Century
Telecommunications and Video Accessibility Act.” I will respond from three
viewpoints, as a person who is totally blind, as a leader in the organized
blind movement and as a professional working daily in the field of adaptive
technology with people who are blind or visually impaired.

You assert that H.R.3101 is not needed, since industry is moving to address
accessibility. If industry is doing such a good job, then why does there
continue to be only one truly accessible cell phone out of the box for
people who are blind or visually impaired, that being the IPhone? If
industry was doing such a great job, we consumers with disabilities would
have many more choices of accessible cell phones. While there are cell
phones such as those made by LG that offer off the shelf accessibility to
some features, as I stated, the IPhone is the only fully accessible phone
off the shelf providing access to all of its features. While there are
people who are blind who use and love the IPhone, many others to whom I
speak on an almost daily basis do not want to use a touch screen interface
such as that on the IPhone. Many, myself included, do not want to be
limited to AT&T Wireless as the only cell phone provider we can use. By
your assertions, you are saying it is OK that we who have disabilities and
want to buy cell phones should have limited choices.

I use Verizon Wireless as my cell phone provider. In order to get a fully
accessible phone, I had to spend $300 over and above the cost of the phone
to purchase a software package that makes all of the phone’s features
accessible to me via speech output. I, fortunately, am employed and had the
money to do this. However, nearly 70% of people who are blind or visually
impaired are not employed, and therefore, cannot afford this extra cost.
H.R.3101 when passed will insure there will be more choices for off the
shelf accessible cell phones.

My wife and I purchased a home theater system about 10 months ago. Because
this system requires the use of on-screen menus to configure its settings,
we had to ask my brother-in-law to give up over half of his Saturday with
his family to come over and set the system up for us. What if something
goes wrong and the system needs to be re-configured? We will need to find a
sighted person to come help us. Contrary to what some believe, we don’t
have sighted people at our beckon call for everything we need. Synthesized
speech chips and software are widely available, and it would have been very
simple to include a setting where I could have requested voice guidance
through the setup of this system. If speech synthesis technology wasn’t so
widely available, why then are all of the weather forecasts you hear on NOAA
Weather Radio done using synthesized speech? Why in airports do you hear
announcements being made using synthesized speech and not humans? I ride a
commuter rail system each day to and from work, the second largest system of
its kind in the nation. When announcements are made concerning such things
as train delays, they are not made by humans. They are punched into a
computer somewhere and broadcast using synthesized speech.

My wife and I have digital cable service. We pay the same rates per month
as others with comparable plans. Yet, about all we can do is adjust the
volume, turn on and off the TV and switch channels. All of the other
features are inaccessible to us because they require use of an on-screen
menu which is not available to us via speech output. I hear announcements
about movies on demand and cannot access these to enjoy them if I wanted
too. I can’t use Digital Video Recorder (DVR) service to record programs I
want to watch later. If industry was doing such a great job, there would be
a speech output feature that I could access on demand which would allow me
to access these and other features. What if tonight after composing this
letter, I cannot sleep and want to know what is on TV? I cannot access the
program guide and I don’t have a sighted person at my disposal for that sort
of thing. I’d like to keep my friends as my friends, maintain peace in my
family and have good relationships with my neighbors. Since you assert
industry is doing such a good job, tell me how I can access the program
guide. I’m waiting.

If industry was doing such a great job, why then didn’t the designers of the
Kindle II Book Reader sold by Amazon design menus and controls that could be
accessed using speech output? After all, they designed in speech output to
read the content of books, it would have been a simple few extra steps to
make the menus and controls accessible via speech output. If Industry was
doing such a great job, why do people who are blind or visually impaired
have to pay eight or nine times the cost that sighted people do to enjoy the
benefits of Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) technology? After all, GPS
devices like those made by Garman, Magellan and Tom Tom provide spoken
directions. It would be a simple few steps to include a keypad and voice
output of menus and controls so these systems could be independently
programmed by people who are blind.

These examples and countless others totally render your assertions about how
good industry is doing pointless. The fact is, Mr. Shapiro, that there has
been nothing achieved in the area of disability access without assistance
from the Government. We'[re seeing an example of this on America’s streets
right now. Hybrid cars, which are very good for our environment are
designed to operate using an electric motor when stopped or moving at speeds
below about 25 miles per hour. When they were initially designed, no one
considered the fact that pedestrians who are blind or visually impaired and
others would not be able to hear these vehicles and know that it is safe to
cross the street. Thanks to advocacy work which has led to the introduction
of legislation in Congress to address this problem, the car companies are
taking notice.

I, personally, am one of the strongest believers in the free market you will
meet. I know that America has countless talented people, ready to innovate
and design great new electronics. But I also know that at times, Government
needs to step in and help make sure people are doing what is right so that
those of us with disabilities are not left behind. Apple is to be commended
for making their products accessible to people who are blind or visually
impaired right out of the box. Not all of us want to purchase Apple
products. You and the Consumer Electronics Association should be
encouraging other companies to follow Apple’s lead as Apple has proven that
off the shelf access is feasible. Since it appears you have not, then
H.R.3101 must be passed and signed into law. After all, the more devices we
who have disabilities can choose to purchase, the more profits the consumer
electronics industry will make as a whole. The population of people who are
blind or visually impaired is expected to grow exponentially over the next
several years. Most of those who will develop vision problems will be
seniors as they live longer. They are used to being active, being able to
do all sorts of things. They’re not going to stand for being told, sorry,
you can’t access this computer or that television set top box, and they
shouldn’t. By passing H.R.3101, we can unleash the talents of designers and
engineers in electronics companies across the world to come up with products
everyone, including those with disabilities can use. You should want
nothing less, for remember, the minority group of people with disabilities
is the only one that you, a member of your family or a close friend can join
at any time.

Thank you for your time and attention. I hope you will re-think your
demeaning, ridiculous assertions about H.R.3101 and come out in support of
true access to the latest and greatest devices for all of us.


Filed under ACB, accessibility, apple Inc, no no sightie

ACB – First hybrid to make noise

I got this in email this morning. Thing is, it says the driver can turn the sound off. So, I doubt this will do much good. Maybe I’m just bitter this morning ha!


With hybrids startling pedestrians in parking lots because of their silent
running, there has been some talk of putting synthetic sound-emitting
devices in the vehicles–to put a bell on the cat, as it were. Beyond the
talk, nothing has actually been done, until now. Nissan announced a
pedestrian safety sound system for its upcoming Leaf electric car.

The sound system includes a speaker under the hood and a synthesizer in the
dash. The driver will be able to turn it off, but it comes on by default at
start up. At speeds above 18 mph (30 kph), the system turns off as natural
road noise heightens.

The sound, a sine wave sweeping from 2.5kHz to 600Hz, was designed to be
audible to all age groups. At start-up, the sound comes on at its loudest to
warn the visually impaired and other pedestrians that a car is about to
enter their vicinity. When the Leaf is reversing, the system produces an
intermittent sound, similar to the back-up warning systems on trucks.

According to Nissan, the sound was designed to meet guidelines for an
audible pedestrian warning system set forth by Japan’s Ministry of Land,
Infrastructure and Transport.

The Nissan Leaf goes on sale this December in the United States, Japan,
Portugal, and the Netherlands, and will be the first production vehicle to
incorporate this type of system.

1 Comment

Filed under ACB, cool product Accessibility

Cool accessibility stuff is just pouring in haha! This holds a special place in my heart. Last year, I really wanted to get Gameday audio because then I could listen to radio broadcasts of all the games. I was having major problems on the site and I brought it up on Webaim. someone there forwarded my message to an attorney who is involved with accessibility. She started talking with me personally after I had tried to call customer service several times, and they were unable to help. I do have to mention that they actually have Jaws users working right there in the customer service office. Just need a few Voiceover users now. 😉 The attorney ended up pointing me to the accessible player, and I got to listen to radio broadcasts of all my games last season. I remember feeling a warmth in my heart when I went to one day and heard a message right at the top of the page, which I assumed was hidden text, written just for screen reader users telling us they were making vast improvements to the site.

I can’t help but feel involved in all of what is discussed in the following e-mail. Not only was I able to use Gameday audio, but I voted for the Allstar Game, and was my first ever online purchase with a screen reader.

So I was so excited to get this today, and I received it from that same attorney, who still has my e-mail address, and who must still remember me, which is really cool. About 5 minutes after I got it from her, I also got it on my ACB list. Sweet!

This also means baseball is right around the corner!!! Oh, and Gameday audio is only $14.95, unless they’ve increased the price. I highly recommend it if you’re a baseball fan.

I’m looking forward to checking out the site, which I haven’t done in awhile. Ok, enough outta me, here’s the email:


Please distribute as appropriate

Pasted into this email is a press release issued today by Major League Baseball about its initiative to improve the accessibility of and all 30 team websites for people who are blind or visually impaired. This release, and additional information about the Structured Negotiations that led to this announcement, is available on line at . Direct link at

For immediate release


NEW YORK, February 11, 2010 – Baseball fans with visual impairments will benefit from the implementation of functional improvements to, the official Web site of Major League Baseball, and all 30 individual Club sites as a result of a joint collaboration between MLB Advanced Media, LP (MLBAM), the American Council of the Blind, Bay State Council of the Blind and California Council of the Blind. All three organizations applaud this fan initiative taken by MLBAM.

“MLBAM has undertaken groundbreaking work to make its web sites accessible and has assumed a strong leadership position among sports, media and entertainment properties in doing so,” said Mitch Pomerantz, President of the American Council of the Blind. “We certainly urge similar sites to make this level of commitment in following MLBAM’s lead.”

As part of its initiative, launched an accessible media center for its Gameday Audio™ subscribers, offering features such as volume control, ability to choose the home or away feed and access to archived games. Additionally, has ensured that fans with visual impairments can continue to participate in the annual online voting programs associated with the All-Star Game and will be providing an accessibility page on its site detailing information on accessibility, usability tips and customer service resources. As it continues to deliver technological innovations for following baseball games, will make additional accessibility enhancements available to fans with visual impairments.

Brian Charlson, a Boston baseball fan and Director of Computer Training Services at the Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton, Massachusetts, described how’s accessibility efforts have improved his enjoyment of the game: “As a member of the blind community, the kind of changes was willing to make on its web sites keeps me coming back for more. It shows how much can be done when people with disabilities find willing partners. For example, with the changes in Gameday Audio, I find myself enjoying switching back and forth between the home and away broadcasters the same way my sighted friends do. And knowing my votes were counted in this year’s All-Star balloting made listening to the game much more meaningful. I’m excited about what has done and about its commitment to further improvements.” utilized guidelines issued by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The web content accessibility guidelines are of particular benefit to blind baseball fans who use a screen reader, through which information on a page is read aloud, or magnification technology on their computers and who rely on a keyboard instead of a mouse.

Established in June 2000 following a unanimous vote by the 30 Major League Baseball club owners to centralize all of Baseball’s Internet operations, MLB Advanced Media LP (MLBAM) is the interactive media and internet company of Major League Baseball. MLBAM manages the official league site,,and each of the 30 individual Club sites to create the most comprehensive Major League Baseball resource on the Internet. offers fans the most complete baseball information and interactivity on the web, including up-to-date statistics, game previews and summaries, extensive historical information, online ticket sales, baseball merchandise, authenticated memorabilia and collectibles, fantasy games, live full-game video webcasts and on-demand highlights, live and archived audio broadcasts of every game, Gameday pitch-by-pitch application, around-the-clock hosted and specialty video programming and complete blogging capabilities. offers more live events on the Internet than any other website in the world.

About the American Council of the Blind (ACB), Bay State Council of the Blind (BSCB) and the California Council of the Blind (CCB)
The American Council of the Blind is a national consumer-based advocacy organization working on behalf of blind and visually impaired Americans throughout the country, with members organized through seventy state and special interest affiliates. The Bay State and California Councils are the Massachusetts and California affiliates of the ACB. The ACB, BSCB and CCB are dedicated to improving the quality of life, equality of opportunity and independence of all people who have visual impairments. Their members and affiliated organizations have a long history of commitment to the advancement of policies and programs which will enhance independence for people who are blind and visually impaired. Many members of ACB, BSCB and CCB are baseball fans. More information about the organizations can be found by visiting ACB’s website, BSCB’s website, and CCB’s website.

# # #

Media Contacts

Matthew Gould
(212) 485-8959


Brian Charlson (Bay State Council of the Blind)

Mitch Pomerantz (American Council of the Blind)

Jeff Thom (California Council of the Blind)

Lainey Feingold
Law Office of Lainey Feingold


Filed under ACB, accessibility, advocacy, baseball, cool product, gratitude, Jaws, plugs, screen reader, Voiceover