Blog Posts by Steve Kelley

Steve holds an M. A. in Rehabilitation of the Blind and an M. A. in Rehabilitation Counseling from the University of Arkansas. He works as a Vision Rehabilitation Therapist (VRT) for the Iris Network in Portland, Maine.

When the Smartphone Doesn’t Speak Your Language

Who coined the term smartphone? It must have been a 12-year-old nerdy kid or a software developer that thought it would be a great idea to put a computer in the phone and take away the keyboard! Smart, in this instance is a very relative term! In the interest of full disclosure, this writer loves his dated Samsung Galaxy Android phone, a flat screen smartphone, so this is not a personal issue with smartphones, it’s a professional issue! For the umpteenth time in what seems like a very short while, one of the clients with whom I work went into a phone store and walked out with a new smartphone they couldn’t even

Two Awesome Reading Apps

How Myopic Degeneration Affected My Vision Twenty-five years ago, a doctor diagnosed the little spot in the center of my vision as a retinal bleed from macular degeneration. The spot could hide a stop light when looking down the road. I was 34 years old at the time, and this has since been re-diagnosed as myopic degeneration. It gradually got worse, meaning that little spot got a bit bigger. At the outset I understood this might be progressive and might affect my ability to read. At the time, one of the books in my library was the complete works of Shakespeare, in one volume of the tiniest print you can imagine. The book hadn’t been opened since my last literature class as an undergraduate,

A Useful Tool: i.d. mate Galaxy Dedicated Barcode Scanner

In the era of "Swiss army knife-esque" devices with lots of bells and whistles, smartphones have apps to do virtually any task. It’s easy to lose sight of the value of a piece of assistive technology (AT) that is dedicated to a specific task and does it really well. As consumers, we’ve also gotten lulled into the cheaper prices of some of the apps and find it hard to justify the cost of a device with more of a singular focus. Likewise, if we are counting on funding assistance through a state agency for a more expensive device, they may need specific details on how a more costly, dedicated item is worth the added expense. <img src="" alt="device resembling remote control for tv with shoulder carry showing array

Diabetes and Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month

Did you know that the leading causes of blindness among working age adults, may also be one of the most preventable eye diseases? November is Diabetes and Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month. Diabetic Retinopathy, one of the eye diseases associated with diabetes, is the leading cause of blindness among working age adults, according to the National Eye Institute (NEI). In fact, NEI also reports that between 40%-45% of individuals with diabetes have some stage of diabetic retinopathy, yet only half that number are aware of it! During a

Assistive Technology Essentials- How to Find the Gadgets and Figure Them Out

There Is Something You Can Do If you grew up with vision loss, or any disability really, there's a good chance you are already familiar with some of the resources you need to find assistive technology (AT). Assistive technology includes products, devices, or equipment, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that are used to maintain, increase, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. Those who learned about AT at a younger age probably received some training on it early on. Many of the clients I work with as a

Searching for Those Elusive Magic Glasses

What Are Magic Glasses? Show of hands or better yet, clap if you like to make fundamental changes in the way you do everyday, daily living activities! Are you one of those folks who relish the idea of throwing away the computer mouse and trackpad to rely solely on keyboard shortcuts to do your work? Or suddenly read your favorite books and magazines by listening to them? Abandon your usual mode of transportation and just switch to Uber, public transportation, or a bicycle? A couple of you are clapping, but the rest of us recognize these changes will be time-consuming and inconvenient at best. Even the most adventuresome of us may find some of these fundamental changes in our lifestyle can be disorienting, have a negative impact on doing routine tasks, and be

Smart Speakers: How They Can Help People with Vision Loss

In a very short period of time, a whole new genre of devices has evolved called, smart speakers. It started with the Amazon Echo a couple of years ago, spread to the Google Home, and now, there is the Apple Home Pod, the Sonos One, and more. The major differences are in the sound quality, the smart assistant responding to the user’s verbal questions, and the price. Google Home and Amazon Echo Google Home sitting on a table next to the Google Home box Let’s keep it simple here and focus on the market leaders, the

Celebrate National Library Week with a Vision Rehabilitation Therapist

Get Ready to Read This Month at Your Local Library The week of April 8 through 14, 2018, is both National Library Week and Vision Rehabilitation Therapist Awareness Week. This is the perfect time to team up with the local library and a Vision Rehabilitation Therapist (VRT) to learn more about reading with vision loss. For some, particularly those with recent vision loss, the idea of reading and returning to the library may seem like a lost pleasure or an unattainable goal. The most common goal I hear from clients is

Low-Cost Refreshable Braille at CSUN

CSUN, the annual Assistive Technology Conference, took place this month in sunny San Diego, and again, I participated virtually, listening to podcasts and reading tweets of the products featured in between shoveling out from a series of late winter storms in southern Maine! For readers unfamiliar, CSUN is often a conference where new products, updates, and ideas are first launched in the world of Assistive Technology (AT). The continued enthusiasm for refreshable braille displaysboth low-cost and tablet sizedgot my attention. These are not new this year. CSUN attendees will be tantalized by the

A Quick Look at the New Victor Reader Trek

March is National Reading Month and what a great reason to take a look at one of the true standard devices for accessible reading, the Victor Reader Stream. Humanware’s Victor Reader product line has been around for some time and has truly mastered the art of providing accessible book reading. Victor Stream TrekLatest in the Line of Victor Streams The latest in their line of Streams has added GPS and changed the name to reflect it, the new reader with GPS is called the Victor ReaderTrek. <img

Out of the Box Technology, Low Vision, and Quality of Life

You may wonder how the phrases in the title connect? Read on! February is both Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) Awareness Month and Low Vision Awareness Month. If you have recently been diagnosed with AMD and experienced some of the frustration and grief that seem to arrive simultaneously with the onset of a vision loss, you will not be surprised to learn that there is a high incidence of clinical depression among individuals

H.R. 620 May Dramatically Undermine the ADA: Act Now

Editor's update March 8, 2018: As projected, the House of Representatives took up H.R. 620, the ADA Education and Reform Act. When the House voted on the bill, it passed 225-192. The next step for this bill, which AFB strongly opposes, is to be introduced and considered in the US Senate. We do not want this to happen. To forestall the bill's progress in the Senate, a group of Senators, led by Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, has drafted a letter to tell Senators McConnell and Schumer not to bring forward H.R. 620 or any similar bill. As the leaders of the Senate, these two Senators have the power to choose which bills will be placed on the agenda. Since a vote on such a bill requires 60 votes, Senator Duckworth and others are seeking at least

The Holy Grail of Braille

Holy Braille is a term coined by the University of Michigan’s School of Information for a project directed by Sile O'Modhrain, Associate Professor, to create a tablet of braille cells that will more closely emulate a page of embossed braille on paper. Part of the effort of this team is to transform the mechanism that creates the raised dots on an electronic refreshable braille display from pins moving up and down to a pneumatic system. It is hoped that this design will reduce the cost of this refreshable braille device dramatically from the current cost of refreshable braille. Understanding Refreshable Braille Refreshable braille is a digital file on a computer or other electronic device that is read with a braille display. Refreshable braille remains

New Year’s Resolution for Assistive Technology

If like many individuals experiencing vision loss, you are finding it difficult to read the text on the computer screen, tablet, or smartphone, you may be completely unaware of what options are available on your existing devices to make them easier to see, or in some cases, read the screen to you. Chances are, if you have a recent loss of vision, you may have no idea that features or technology exists called Assistive Technology (AT) that makes it easier for users with vision loss to access their devices. With the other New Year’s resolutions you may have thought to commit to this year, why not make a

Four Misconceptions to Learning and Reading Braille

January Is Braille Awareness Month January is braille awareness month, in honor of Louis Braille, the inventor of the raised dot system of reading and writing. He was born January 4, 1809. If you were born without sight or limited vision, there is a very good chance you learned braille at an early age, and that is how you learned to read and write your way through school. For many of us who are able to read print or could access it at one point in our lives, braille is like another

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