by Sue Lichtenfels

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 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 [email protected], 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.


Disney engineers have taken recent advances in wireless technology one step further, creating a first-of-a-kind, handheld assistive device to bring the magic of Disney theme parks to guests with visual and hearing disabilities.

Disney’s Handheld Device combines multiple functions – assistive listening, handheld captioning, and closed captioning activation – into one small, easy-to-use platform. The assistive listening system provides amplified audio, while handheld captioning enables guests to read captions while enjoying specific theme park attractions. Closed captioning is also activated by the handheld device in pre-show areas where TV displays narrate the upcoming experience.

The device also provides audio description for guests who are blind or with low vision. This service provides narrated information about key visual elements in attractions such as actions, settings and scene changes and works seamlessly with the existing show audio.

The device is offered at no additional cost at Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort theme parks. For more information, visit the Walt Disney World Web site at or contact Walt Disney World Information at (407) 824-4321 (voice) or (407) 827-5141 (TTY).


Staples will be improving its payment service terminals by providing tactile keypads at the in-store point-of-sale devices to protect the privacy and security of shoppers with visual impairments. The company will also make improvements to that will benefit customers with visual impairments and other disabilities.

This announcement is the result of collaboration between Staples and major blindness organizations including the Bay State Council of the Blind, the American Foundation for the Blind, the American Council of the Blind, and the California Council of the Blind. The initiative includes Staples’ commitment to design in accordance with guidelines issued by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) (

Staples will also be adding tactile keypads to payment services devices throughout the chain. The new units will allow Staples shoppers who have difficulty reading information on a touch screen to enter their PIN and other confidential information privately and independently. Staples stores in Massachusetts will have the new devices by September. All stores in the country are scheduled to have the devices by the middle of next year.


Candle in the Window, a small national non-profit organization with the aim of building both individual skills and a sense of community among persons with visual impairments, welcomes blind people with varied experiences to join them at their 22nd annual conference entitled "Facing Our Fear and Effecting Positive Change.” Areas being explored will include: 1. What do we consider to be "normal" or "healthy" fear? What is "unhealthy" fear? 2. What fears may be specific to people who are blind? What fears are peculiar to or accentuated by blindness? 3. How is our fear impacted by family? Culture? Society? 4. What strategies can we employ to begin to overcome our fears?

In addition to provocative presentations and stimulating discussions, there will be plenty of time for hiking, eating, singing, quiet reflection, and hanging out. It will be held at Wooded Glen, Henryville, Ind., Aug. 5-9, 2009. The cost is $485 for double occupancy, $465 triple occupancy, $415 for quad occupancy. A $15 discount will be given to those who send a deposit of $40 by June 15. Conference fee includes lodging, and meals. Transportation is not included in the conference fee. Arrangements will be made to transport participants from Louisville, Ky., to Wooded Glen. Registration is limited to 20 participants. For more information, contact Nancy Trzcinski at (413) 441-2305 or [email protected] To reserve your space, contact Jonathan Ice, 509 20th St. NE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52402, (319) 298-2919 or [email protected]


The Braille Authority of North America (BANA), in response to consumer requests, and to respond to ACB resolution 2008-16, is conducting an evaluation of the Nemeth Uniform Braille System (NUBS). NUBS is an experimental code designed to include literary, math, and scientific information, combining all three codes into one unified system.

As an initial phase of this evaluation, BANA is recruiting interested braille readers who will be attending the ACB convention in Orlando, Fla., between July 6-8 when BANA researchers will be conducting this phase of the evaluation. BANA is seeking a broad representation of participants -- readers of various ages, with different levels of braille reading experience, and both casual and professional users of braille. At the convention, selected individuals will take part in sessions examining the experimental code. Some individuals will be assigned to a group task, and others to a half-hour individual task. If an individual is not selected for the convention tasks, he or she will be welcome to participate in a later survey. If you are interested in being considered as a participant in this phase, please send a message including your name and contact information to [email protected] or you can call Kim Charlson at (617) 926-9198. You will be asked to fill out a simple demographic questionnaire that will help BANA determine into which age group you fall. From all of the responses received BANA will create participant groups of similar size.


National Industries for the Blind (NIB) has launched a new training program, Contract Management Support (CMS), and is seeking motivated blind or severely visually impaired individuals to participate. CMS services include the tasks required to conduct contract close-out and administration. These tasks range from research and analysis prior to awarding a contract to contract negotiation and post-award vendor follow-up. NIB is partnering with the country’s premiere contract management training program to provide the core training courses required to establish a solid foundation in the contract management area. Individuals may also apply to NIB’s CMS internship program, which combines training with paid on-the-job work experience at NIB’s Alexandria, Va. headquarters. While CMS program participants complete their training, NIB will work with them to identify career opportunities in contract management, either in Washington, D.C., or in locations across the country. Anyone who is blind or severely visually impaired, has a college degree (or at least 24 business credit hours), and is proficient using adaptive technology such as a screen reader may be eligible for the CMS program. ACB convention attendees are encouraged to stop by the NIB exhibit booth. For more information, visit, or contact Billy Parker at (703) 310-0560 or [email protected]


The U.S. Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) is pleased to play host to the 2009 International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) World Youth & Student Championships and the 2009 IBSA Pan American Games to be held in Colorado Springs, Colo. July 15-20, 2009. Fifteen countries from around the world have already committed to attend. This prestigious event is full of intense competition amongst the world's top blind and visually impaired athletes in the sports of swimming, judo, track and field and goalball. More than 350 athletes will reside in the Athlete Village at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colo. for the games. For more information on either of these games, visit or call (719) 630-0422.


The National Church Conference of the Blind will hold its 2009 Annual Bible Conference Sept. 12-17 at the Wyndham Richmond Airport Hotel located at 4700 S. Laburnum Ave., Richmond, Va. To get the $99 nightly hotel rate, call (804) 226-4300. For information about the conference agenda or to register, contact Rheba Dunn at (970) 895-2352 or visit


Audiopoint has released version 1.5 of its Voice Terminal Service (VTS), a platform-based application service for anyone who wants to access the Internet, e-mail and customized web information while on the go. With simple voice commands, VTS is accessed via any telephone -- landline, cellular or smart phone. VTS’ Google Calendar Interface allows users to listen to daily agendas, add calendar events, and enter descriptive event details. VTS 1.5 improves usability with new call flow prompts, an updated voice user interface, and an easier, more secure login process. Users can now access their address book over the phone and the Enhanced Notifier feature allows users to broadcast messages by group, individual contact or, particularly critical for emergency services, access a phone number that is not in their address book that is sent via e-mail or alert. Monthly subscriptions, annual plans and site licenses are all available. Audiopoint is offering VTS free to all visually impaired U.S. veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. For more information, visit or call 1-888-382-8346.


Ai Squared has released ZoomText version 9.18. The upgrade features Smooth Panning (patent pending) which enables the navigation of applications without the abrupt jumping around in the magnified view. As you type text, arrow key through menus and dialogs, and switch windows, ZoomText smoothly pans from one location to another. ZoomText Scripting is now included in every license of ZoomText Magnifier and Magnifier/Reader which allows users to automate tasks in ZoomText and most applications. The upgrade supports 64-bit editions of Windows Vista. Users of ZoomText 9.1 or later can download the free upgrade at Others wishing to upgrade or purchase this software can call 1-800-859-0270. Ai Squared is now offering monthly payment plans for software purchases.


Disney cast member Jeannie Amendola has been named vice chair of the board of Lighthouse Central Florida and chair of the organization's 2009 gala. Jeannie, who is legally blind, is the executive assistant to Shannon McAleavey, senior vice president of public affairs for Walt Disney World Resort. During her tenure at Disney, Jeannie served as a Disney Ambassador, a highly coveted role that offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience for those who demonstrate passion and knowledge of Disney heritage. As an ambassador, Jeannie helped open Hong Kong Disneyland and helped present a $1 million grant to the Orlando Boys and Girls Club at The Magic Kingdom. Jeannie also served four years as president of CastAble, a WDW diversity resource group promoting respect, equality and appreciation of people with disabilities. She also received appointments to The Able Trust by Governors Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist.


As the Chicago Lighthouse’s Adaptive Technology Desk moves into its fourth year of serving blind and visually impaired computer users around the world, they will begin utilizing JAWS Tandem. This means for anyone using JAWS version 10.0, the help desk is now able to remotely access their computer and either fix problems or help them understand how to do something. Although this new tool only works with JAWS 10.0, the help desk can assist with a variety of assistive technology issues despite the screen reader or version in use. Anyone who is blind or visually impaired, or who works with this population and wishes to receive assistance from the Help Desk, can call 1-888-825-0080 Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Central time; send e-mail to [email protected]; or send an AOL Instant Message using I.D. tclhelp.


Plustek has released their new BookReader V100, a reading device with text-to-speech and optical character recognition that is designed for users with learning and visual disabilities as well as those looking to learn a foreign language. The scanner’s software features a "magnify tool" which enlarges the print, making books easier to see. This tool also includes a "see & speak" function that allows users to see enlarged text while the scanner is "reading" it aloud. For additional features and pricing, visit; e-mail [email protected]; or call (714) 670-7713.


Dr. Roy W. Beck is the recipient of the 2009 Alfred W. Bressler Prize in Vision Science, awarded by the Jewish Guild for the Blind. Beck is the executive director of the Jaeb Center for Health Research in Tampa, Fla., as well as adjunct professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of South Florida. He is best known for his design and management of clinical trials in ophthalmology, which have resulted in landmark investigations related to the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the retina, cornea and nervous system in adults and children. He will receive the $40,000 prize at a ceremony in New York City this fall.

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