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By Dr. Elizabeth Hinkle-Turner, Student Computing Services Manager
The ACS/Adaptive Lab has acquired two new pieces of hardware that will expand the learning opportunities of the visually impaired on campus greatly. In late October the lab received the Focus 84 Braille display manufactured by Freedom Scientific (the 'JAWS' people). This hardware displays in Braille the contents of the computer screen so anyone literate in Braille can easily read the screen with his or her finger tips. Data from the screen is displayed in the same matter that it is typically read by Freedom Scientific's JAWS software and the JAWS software engine is what 'drives' the display. This is important because the same ADA-compliant HTML tags used to create ADA-friendly websites are applicable to creating websites that can be accessed via the Braille display.
The Focus 84 is the largest of the three Braille displays available. Braille is displayed via rows of metal 'pins' that pop up and down in a series of holes. The display has an extra line of holes to display text elements such as boldface or italics (the user decides what text element he or she may want to be aware of) and also gives the cursor position. A toggle wheel on the side of the display allows the user to roll back and forward through lines of text at his or her own pace also if needed. The display should prove to be especially appropriate for computer science students utilizing more 'texty' operating systems such as LINUX and UNIX and who are writing lines of code since this type of straightforward display of text is what the Focus shows best.
The staff of the ACS / Adaptive General Access Lab are working on a tutorial for use of the Focus 84 and this tutorial should appear soon on their Website.
Tiger Professional Embosser
The lab has also acquired a Tiger Professional Embosser which will greatly enhance the embossing technologies available for the preparation of course and testing materials for students who are visually impaired. The Tiger specializes in the embossing of images rather than text though it will emboss the appropriate Braille upon recognition of a letter in an embossed image. The Tiger is used best to emboss materials such as math graphs, astronomy star charts, maps, technical drawings, and spreadsheets (be sure that any font in the spreadsheet is large in size so it is recognized by the embosser). This hardware should be a real advantage for the creation of accommodating materials in math and science. Persons wishing to emboss text only, however, should continue to use the 4x4 Braille Embosser for such purposes.
We have an easy-to-follow tutorial for the use of the Tiger Embosser on the ACS/Adaptive website. The Tiger accepts a variety of paper sizes and has a roller paper feature for really large graphic production. The Tiger should only be used for the benefit of students with disabilities; it cannot be used for artistic projects. The lab is currently having an isolation cabinet built for the Tiger; though it is touted by its manufacturer (ViewPlus Technologies) as being very quiet, it really makes quite a racket when in use!
Come in and check it out!
Faculty and staff who may be working with students with visual disabilities are strongly encouraged to come to ISB110 - the ACS/Adaptive lab - and check out this new equipment and its possibilities. Additionally, faculty who need to prepare materials for students with visual disabilities for Spring 2004 should begin such projects as soon as possible. Our lab staff is not available for the completion of such projects so UNT community members are responsible for finding workers who can complete these tasks (we are happy to show them how).
The lab is open until Dec. 23 (9:00 - 5:00) and again from January 5 to the beginning of school. For more information about these and other adaptive technologies and services please contact Dr. Elizabeth Hinkle-Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org.