Wednesday, December 17, 2014

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Local Center For Visually Impaired Highlights Affordable Gadgets

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Affordable tech devices for the visually impaired were recently presented at Baruch College. NY1's Technology reporter Adam Balkin filed the following report.

Every few weeks, the technology demonstration center at the Computer Center for Visually Impaired People at Baruch College shows off to a crowd an assortment of gadgets to help those who are visually impaired. Most recently, the center decided to focus on a very small sector of these products -- those which are accessible and cost less then $200.

"One thing that we've found as a trend is that a lot of devices for people who are blind are pretty expensive and most of the people who come to our past presentations have told us it's a shame these things aren't more accessible money-wise," says Gus Chalkias of Baruch College.

One such device is a money identifier, which can save a lot of money and confusion for the visually-impaired. While in other countries, the currency is often different sizes and more easily identifiable for the visually-impaired, the U.S. dollar is not so friendly. So the Money Talks and iBill devices do a quick scan of a bill and then speak the bill's denomination.

"Say you've gotten change or there's a wad of bills in your pocket. This is a good way to find out what they are, separate them and then organize them in a certain way," says Chalkias.

Portable media players offer more reading functions and read more media titles aloud in an effort to be more accessible. Even some devices that do not come that way can be retrofitted with new software called "Rockbox."

"It basically replaces the firmware on the device and makes all the menus and commands accessible so you can hear them through your speakers," says Chalkias.

The technology demonstration center tries not to play favorites, but does remind audience members at its demo sessions that pretty much all Apple products are usable for the visually-impaired, straight out of the box.

"All of their newer stuff, the Mac OS X, the iPad, the iPhone, the [iPod] Shuffle, the [iPod] Nano, all of them have accessibility built in. All you have to do is turn them on," says Chalkias.

Users can do that through the Universal Access button inside the System Preferences folder. ClientIP:, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP