Here and There

edited by Sharon Strzalkowski
The announcement of products and services in this column does not represent an endorsement by the American Council of the Blind, its officers, or staff. Listings are free of charge for the benefit of our readers. “The ACB Braille Forum” cannot be held responsible for the reliability of the products and services mentioned. To submit items for this column, send a message to, or phone the national office at 1-800-424-8666, and leave a message in Sharon Lovering’s mailbox. Information must be received at least two months ahead of publication date.
Accessing DirecTV’s Talking Guide and More
DirecTV now has a Talking Guide! For more information about it, you can find the Talking Guide FAQ at Need help setting up the audio description feature? Visit
Now Available from National Braille Press
Newly available from National Braille Press is “Last Stop on Market Street” by Matt de la Peña. It’s available in contracted braille (UEB) for ages 3 to 8. It features CJ and his grandma going for a ride on a city bus. Grandma helps CJ see the beauty — and fun — in their routine and the world around them.
And who can forget the jokes about the interrupting cow and the interrupting chicken? NBP now has “Interrupting Chicken” by David Ezra Stein available in contracted braille (UEB) for ages 1 to 6. It’s time for the little red chicken’s bedtime story – and a reminder from Papa to try not to interrupt. But the chicken can’t help herself! Will she ever stop interrupting? Learn more at
Also available is “Doctor De Soto” by William Steig, in contracted braille (UEB) for ages 4 to 8. Doctor De Soto is a dentist who also happens to be a mouse. He treats animals large and small, as long as they aren’t the kinds of animals that like to eat mice. But one day a fox shows up and begs for relief from the tooth that’s killing him. Will the De Sotos turn him away, treat him, or what? Find out in this book!
Newly published is “The Abundant Bookshelf: Reading Books on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch,” by Judith Dixon. It’s available in braille (1 volume), BRF, Word, text, or DAISY. Dixon explores nine reading apps in depth, focusing on the type of user experience: human voice narrators, synthesized voice narrators, or reading refreshable braille. She also offers a quick glimpse of 14 other apps for reading books on an iDevice.
For more information on any book, contact NBP, 88 Saint Stephen St., Boston, MA 02115-4302
or call toll-free (800) 548-7323. Or check online,
Touch of Genius Prize
The winner of the 2017 Louis Braille Touch of Genius Prize for Innovation is John Hudelson for his submission of the Braille Early Learning and Literacy Arcade (BELLA). The educational software uses a gaming platform which includes audio, visual and tactile feedback to teach pre-braille skills, braille reading and braille writing. 
Honorable mention goes to Mandy Lau’s Reach and Match Learning Kit and Inclusive Learning Program. This kit and its accompanying curriculum are designed for children with vision impairment as well as those with multiple needs to develop braille literacy, communication and social skills through tactile-based strategies and play-based activities. 
Prescription Access Expands in Texas
H-E-B recently announced that it now provides ScripTalk talking prescription labels for prescription medications through nine of its Austin and San Antonio area retail pharmacies. The ScripTalk labels are free to H-E-B pharmacy customers who are blind or visually impaired.
H-E-B will arrange for customers to obtain a free ScripTalk reader from En-Vision America. 
This expansion is the result of collaboration between H-E-B, American Council of the Blind of Texas and Disability Rights Texas (DRTx).  H-E-B will continue to work with Disability Rights Texas and American Council of the Blind of Texas on expanding this service.  
New BANA Publication
The Braille Authority of North America (BANA) recently published “Braille Formats: Principles of Print-to-Braille Transcription, 2016.” It is now available as printable PDF files and 40-cell BRF files. Both formats may be downloaded from
This revision aligns BANA’s braille formatting guidelines with Unified English Braille (UEB). Hard-copy print and braille will be available from the American Printing House for the Blind in the near future.
A Guide Dog Story
“Looking at the Unseen: My Guide Dog Journey” is the story of ACB member Olivia Ostergaard’s ten-year struggle to get a guide dog. Not just any dog — but the one God has for her. As a legally blind wife/mother, Olivia goes from a novice to a competent guide dog handler. After three difficult attempts, the wait was worth it.
What types of obstacles does she encounter? Can she conquer her doubts, fears, and criticism from others? Come along with her on this incredible journey and find out.
The book is available in e-book and print, from Xulon Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Lifeway Christian Store, Google Books, and Apple iBooks.
My Disability Matters
There’s a new social networking platform out there. It’s online at It includes news and information, blogs, forums, groups, and there are experts available to answer your questions. The site is open to those with disabilities, family members, caregivers, and those who work in the field of disability. Visit the site to sign up.
Quest to Cure Blindness
One of the world’s top experts in retinal diseases, who is developing an artificial retina and other regenerative therapies to treat blindness and vision impairments, was recently named as the chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, director of the UPMC Eye Center, and the Eye and Ear Foundation Chair of Ophthalmology.
José-Alain Sahel, M.D., founder and director of the Vision Institute in Paris and currently a professor at the Sorbonne’s medical school Université Pierre-et-Marie-Curie, has joined UPMC and Pitt’s faculty.
Dr. Sahel is known worldwide for his expertise in vision restoration techniques. He has developed several interventions — including stem cell implantation, gene therapy, innovative pharmacologic approaches and the artificial retina — for retinitis pigmentosa, age-related macular degeneration, vascular eye disease and other vision impairments that currently are untreatable.  Over the past decade he has led pioneering efforts in optogenetic vision restoration, a technique in which cells in the retina are genetically modified to express light sensitive proteins. This therapeutic technique has the potential to help patients who are blind or visually impaired as a result of a genetic defect.
He also brings a strong neuroscience perspective to ophthalmology research, such as exploring the application of brain-computer interface technology, for which Pitt and UPMC are well known.