Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Technology

Every year it seems like technology is advancing more and more, with more devices available than the year before, steadily moving forward. There is a device for almost everything and everyone. When we heard that there was a possibility that Liam could be able to go to public schools, depending on the difficulties it presents for him and how he does there, we began our search for anything that could possibly make a public classroom more manageable for him. (Granted he may end up at the school for the blind eventually, we just want him to have the option to try public schools before we make that leap.)


We have found several different companies that provide low vision technological devices that could possibly be of help to Liam when he is a tad bit older and starting to read and write but our favorite by far is Optelec. They specialize in magnification devices for the visually impaired and have a wide variety of products for the classroom and the home. I thought I would take a second to show two of my favorite Optelec devices that we hope to purchase for Liam in the future and one other from EZSee that we also liked.

First up is the Optelec Farview.
When I think of the Farview I think of a professional photographer’s camera with an amazing zoom lenses. It is a video magnifier that looks just like a small electronic videogame device. It has a 4.3 inch widescreen so it is very compact and great for classroom use. It allows you to zoom in (to lets say the chalkboard) up to 24 times the magnification and use live mode (move the device along to scan the board or object you are trying to see) or use a camera mode which captures an image from far away and then allows you to use it like a photo and zoom in and scan the “picture” to view. Let’s say you are trying to see the chalkboard in class, you can either hold your device up and move it to follow along with the writing on the board, or you can take one large picture of the board (from the same distance) and then zoom in to the writing on the board and use the arrow keys to move the picture along at that size. With the Farview, you can also make the image move on it’s own with a scroll key at the speed that is most comfortable for you the viewer. The brightness and contrast as well as the colors that the text is in, are all adjustable to allow for multiple viewing options. For someone who needs high contrast in their reading materials, like Liam does, this is an excellent tool. The contrast can be: white text on a black background, black text on a white background, blue text on a yellow background, yellow text on a blue background, and yellow text on a black background. The Farview will store up to 100 images to save for later use and with the 2.5-4 hrs of battery use (depending on if it is in playback mode or live view) it is very convenient for school aged children in the classroom. As far as the cost goes on this device, the Optelec Company sells them for $1,400 to $1,500 but there are several similar companies with similar devices being sold for around $800-$900.

Next up is the Optelec 22” Widescreen Ultra Flexible Arm System
As the picture shows, this is a desktop reading machine that is perfect for in the home or in the office magnification. It is very easy to use (see video on Optelec website) and the adjustable arm allows for personal viewing comfort. This device does not zoom into an object that is in front of you (like a chalkboard) but it does magnify any reading material or object placed on its platform. Simply place the book or object on the platform and adjust the settings of magnification/zoom to your desired level. Just like the Farview, this device has the ability to change brightness and contrast as well as the colors of text and background. I won’t list all of the color contrasts because there are 16 of them as opposed to the Farview’s five, but they are all available on the Optelec website. The cost on this particular Optelec device (they do come in larger and smaller sizes) is between $3-$4,000 with in home installation. Several other companies also make a similar product, for a slightly cheaper price, that can be installed onto your own home computer screen.

And finally there is the EZSee keyboard.
This is a simple black keyboard with bright yellow keys which have bold, black letters and numbers on them for easy high contrast viewing. The EZSee keyboard can be connected to any home or work computer and works on laptops as well, to make typing on a computer easier for visually impaired individuals. It is available on Amazon and Ebay for anywhere from $17 to $40.

All of the photos seen here along with information on the Optelec devices can be found on their website at www.optelec.com, along with demonstration videos for more information.

4 comments:

  1. Great information! I am taking a special education course right now and have had to create lesson plans that provide modifications for students who are blind or visually impaired. I know Liam is way too young for most of these technology tools; however, I thought you might be interested in reading more about them. Here is a link to one part of the UDL (Universal Design for Learning) guidelines that provide resources for students who need alternatives for visual information. (http://www.udlcenter.org/implementation/examples/examples1_3) Here is another link to the complete UDL Guidelines. As Liam gets older, I'm sure some of these resources would be useful. They may even help him be able to attend public schools.

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  2. I forgot to post the second link... here it is. http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/udlguidelines

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  3. I have not heard of that yet thanks so much Emily!! I will check it out!

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  4. At my work there are many visually impaired individuals. I'm not sure what equipment they use to accommodate the needs but I will say it doesn't seem obtrusive to the environment. I hope that you are able to start Liam out in public school. I have the same feelings about my son. I feel really lucky though that we have the public school system already working with him to (hopefully) make a smooth transition into schooling. If you haven't seen it, I strongly suggest watching "Going Blind". You can buy/rent it on Amazon.com and there is a story of a little boy in the movie who I believe is low vision due to albinism.

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