iPadders and Low Vision Musicians Take Note

by Maurie Hill on April 22, 2014

Picture of the Music Zoom app logoIt seems I’ve had a music theme going on lately, including my resourceful method of using the Voice Dream Reader app to display music lyrics downloaded from Bookshare. But I hadn’t forgotten about those of you who play an instrument and are having trouble reading your sheet music. Dancing Dots has been in the forefront of developing tools for low vision and blind musicians to access documented musical notation. But could the iPad be a platform for low vision users to read their sheet music as well? I tried out the new app created by Edward Dalton called “Music Zoom” to find out.

I tested Music Zoom on an iPad 2 using iOS 7.1. The video demonstration on the Music Zoom App website shows what the app can do and how best to use it more concisely than I ever could. The app is elegant in its simplicity and choice of features; all of its buttons are labeled and the app is VoiceOver compatible.

You can access music either from your photo library or by using the app to take a photo of sheet music. Since the iPad does not have a flash, it makes more sense to either scan in your sheet music and add the image to your photo library, or get the sheet music online. Ed Dalton, the developer of the app, suggested the 8notes website as a good source of free sheet music for many different instruments.   When you have your selected sheet music in view on the webpage, simply hold your finger on it and then select “Save Image”. Now you can access it through the Music Zoom app.

Read on!


ZoomText University to the Rescue

by Maurie Hill on April 18, 2014

Picture of Kimberly teaching a ZoomText University class

Picture of Kimberly teaching a ZoomText University class

When learning something new, there is certainly merit to reading the manual, listening to a tutorial, or trying to figure things out on your own. That said, there is just no replacement for having another human being, who knows a product inside and out, guide you through to the other side. Typically, they’ll understand the logic and reasoning of why something is so, which makes it easier to remember. So when you start beating your head against the wall and feel like you’re not moving forward, it might be time to stage an intervention.

Though ZoomText is an easy to use program, you’re probably not living up to your most productive potential by just utilizing the basics. Enter ZoomText University. For me, I like to know how to do specific tasks in the most efficient way possible, and no online help system is likely to lead me to that solution. Human intervention is more than worth its weight in gold, especially if your job requires that you train others on the best ways to use ZoomText.

In years past, we didn’t really have a dedicated training person so training opportunities from Ai Squared were sparse. Enter Kimberly Cline and Cathy Gettel who are born to teach and don’t mind traveling. Under the umbrella of ZoomText University, you can enroll in their two day, hands-on training classes. Check out the current class schedule, which spans across the country.

The cost of the training is $399, with CEUs available for $25. If your job requires that you earn ACVREP credits from the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals, we have that covered as well.

Kimberly and Cathy provide the best ZoomText training on the planet, and you will have a good time learning from their energetic curriculum. To find out more about ZoomText University, you can email Kimberly Cline or give her a call at (802) 367-6152. Be sure to tell her the “Zoomed In” blog sent you!


ImageReader Multilingual Edition Now Available!

by Rebecca White on April 15, 2014

Picture of a globeWith the new ZoomText ImageReader Multilingual Edition, you can capture and read printed materials in over 150 languages. The captured text can be read aloud using your choice of over 70 premium-quality “ZoomText Voices“. You can even set it so that languages are detected automatically – in documents containing more than one language, the voice will switch as soon as a different language is detected, providing an enhanced reading experience.

Currently an ImageReader English-Only customer? You can upgrade to the Multilingual Edition for just $149. Call our sales team to place your order: (800) 859-0270.

Here’s a great video highlighting the new features in the Multilingual Edition:

ZoomText ImageReader… Portable, Affordable, and Easy to Use.


Picture of a beach in MexicoOn the back roads of New England, the deep frost gradually seeps up and thaws marking the beginning of “mud season”.  April is prime time to escape the mess and seek out a more pleasant climate.  But if you have any type of disability, you will want to be aware of problems you may encounter while visiting spring break destinations, especially in other countries.

Are handrails and wheelchair ramps commonplace?  Are there any laws regarding access to public facilities, and if so, are they enforced or disregarded?  How are service animals regarded?  How are disabilities viewed in different cultures?  I had a conversation about this very topic with my friend Shelly, who has lived on the coast of Mexico for 15 years.  She has some cautionary tales; handrails, wheelchair ramps, and accessible sidewalk curbing is virtually non-existent where she lives.  And it’s not unusual to find a two or three foot drop-off with no guardrail or barrier to prevent you from stumbling down into it.

Even if you have a guide dog with all the required documentation, this might not be acknowledged at restaurants, stores, or other places you wish to visit.  She said that many coastal resorts in Mexico have reservation desks in the U.S. who assure them that guide dogs are welcome.  Even if you’ve prepaid for your entire vacation, you and your dog might still be turned away at the door of your lovely hotel resort.  Shelly has witnessed this many times; calling the resort directly before booking your stay might clarify things.  In fact, Shelly suggests getting a signed letter from the hotel management beforehand.

Ground transportation may not be what you’re accustomed to either.  While trying to catch a cab in her coastal community, Shelly is often treated with hostility.  Buses are no different; she has been thrown off public buses several times.  One time, her guide dog’s harness was ripped off and she found herself face to face with machine guns, with the police turning a blind eye.  Sometimes the written law doesn’t matter.

Read on!


Back “The 100 Cameras Project”

by Rebecca White on April 8, 2014

Kickstarter is a fascinating place – you can easily spend hours perusing the interesting projects that people are hoping to get financed.  We featured one last summer for The Bradley, a timepiece that requires no sight to tell the time.  That project was immensely successful and grossly outperformed its goal.  While they hoped to raise $40,000, by the end of the campaign they collected over $450,000!

Well now we’ve got another one for you to consider – “The 100 Cameras Project”, an extension of a successful program that was chronicled in an award winning documentary, Shooting Beauty. Over the past decade, Courtney Bent has adapted cameras for people with a wide range of disabilities – from those who cannot speak to those who have to press the shutter button with their tongue since they’re unable to use their hands.  She gathered the works of art from her photographers and created a very special exhibit that not only allowed their unique perspectives to be seen but also helped to spread awareness of ability just as much as disability.

Courtney launched a Kickstarter project to help achieve her dream of teaching photography to as many individuals with disabilities as possible.  As she states on the Kickstarter site, “Over time, I discovered that each new photographer had his or her own interesting, unique and beautiful creative voice; for many this was literally the first voice they ever had…Our differences no longer mattered when we all had something in common to share.”

If successful, The 100 Cameras Project will extend the work that Courtney has done and will provide adaptive camera systems to 100 individuals all over the United States.  Watch the video above or head over to the Kickstarter page and consider backing this project.  There are 22 days remaining, and they still have a ways to go to reach their $65,000 goal.  Best of luck to Courtney and her team!


April Showers Bring Tax Powers

by Maurie Hill on April 3, 2014

Picture of a clock that says time for taxesI wasn’t going to write anything about tax preparation this year but misery loves company.  Even if you have an accountant, your organization skills are inevitably pressed to the limit while gathering up all your data.  And the fact that you can’t scour that data without an army of different magnification tools makes the task 100 times more difficult as well as time consuming.  I’m deciding that this is not an exaggeration since normal central vision cone receptor cells are 100 to 200 fold more perceptive to fine detail than are the peripheral rod receptors that I have to rely on.

Though I say this every year, I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  I have handed in my numbers to the accountant and at the same time, have developed a system of banking, software, filing, and daily diligence that may make (next) March a time for movies instead of misery as mud season lingers in Vermont.

Read on!


Virtually Visiting An Accessibility Conference

by Maurie Hill on April 1, 2014

Picture of the Ai Squared team at CSUN

Ai Squared team members at CSUN: Kimberly, Cathy, Seth, Becca, Doug and Shawn

Most people don’t have the time or money to attend a large assistive technology conference unless it happens to land in their city.  The CSUN conference is likely the place to go to witness the vastest array of equipment for every disability on the planet.  But if you didn’t make it to San Diego this year, like me, never fear!  Joe Steinkamp and Ricky Enger of Serotalk not only attend this conference but they go around interviewing many of the vendors.  Since they know just what to ask, I think you actually can learn more by listening to their interviews than you could by aimlessly wandering around the showroom floor.

If you want to expand your knowledge of what’s new, what’s cool, what works, and how vendors are listening to your feedback in improving their products, check out all the CSUN coverage over on Serotalk.


Turning the Tables to Explore Music Therapy

by Maurie Hill on March 27, 2014

Jamie Pauls, Content Director at Serotek Corporation and a Music Therapist

Jamie Pauls, Content Director at Serotek Corporation and a Music Therapist

Lisa Salinger and Jamie Pauls are frequent hosts on the ever-popular Serotalk Podcast Network (SPN) where everyone, including the sound editors, is either blind or visually impaired.  While Serotalk frequently conducts interviews with people in the assistive technology industry, in the latest podcast, Lisa turned the tables on Jamie by exploring his other day job as a music therapist.  Jamie talked about his experience with both the elderly and children with severe and profound challenges.  His lack of sight provides its own opportunities for creativity – from entering new, disorganized environments or working with someone that’s not capable of giving Jamie verbal feedback.  Wisely, he recognizes that in order to help a client achieve their goal, whatever it may be, “teamwork is a necessity, not a luxury”.

I really enjoy learning about what other sight impaired people do for a living; I find the list of possibilities is ever expanding.  I encourage you to listen to the interview to learn what strategies Jamie uses in his interesting field of music therapy.  There are great topics of conversation in the entire podcast, including advice for Windows XP users, but Lisa’s interview with Jamie starts around 50 minutes into it (about 70%).  Sit back, relax, and enjoy the show!



“Low Vision Rants” Speaks Your Language

March 24, 2014

Byron Lee, a fellow host on Serotalk’s “High Contrast” podcast, has a cool website called Low Vision Rants.   Byron, who of course is low vision himself, intimately knows the frustrations, technical hurdles, and funny situations that we encounter on our interesting journey through low vision life. I find his website to be fun, educational, empowering, […]

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Winter Ice Tricks on “High Contrast” Podcast

March 21, 2014

Short of having studded snow tires on the bottom of your feet, no one is immune to falling on the ice.  Navigating the winter wonderland is cause for even more trepidation when lack of vision prevents you from being able to look ahead and pick out the safest route.  And what can you do to […]

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