Optelec to announce new product launch at CSUN13

This just hit my desk, and I wanted to get it posted while you are still putting together your CSUN13 schedule.

Optelec invites you to attend this presentation:
Topic: Diagnostic Tool; Hope for Low Vision Patients

Description: There are many reasons low vision patients are turned away. What if there was a simple inexpensive diagnostic tool?

Track: Blind/Low Vision
Session ID: BLV-053

Date: Friday, Mar. 1 @ 1:50 PM PST

Location: Annie AB, 3rd Floor
Rebecca Kammer, OD
Assistant Director of Optometric Education, Associate Professor College of Optometry Western University of Health Sciences.

Check this out, while you’re walking the exhibit hall: Optelec Booth #205
28th Annual CSUN International Technology & Persons
with Disabilities Conference

Exhibit Hall: Feb. 27 – Mar. 1, 2013

This year is different. We have a NEW product release unlike any other. We listened. We tested. We pushed the limits. We set the standards yet again.

Be there to witness low vision industry history in the making for our official worldwide product launch of the NEW….
Special unveil on Wednesday, Feb. 27th at 3:00 PM!
Where: Optelec Booth #205

The product speaks for itself, don’t miss it…
Point & Read to Stay In Touch!

**Plus, visit our Optelec Booth to learn how you can WIN $100 towards your next purchase**

Follow us on Twitter @Optelec with #CSUN13 and Facebook for announcements and photos!

Contact us at 800.826.4200 or marketing@optelec.com to connect at the show or arrange a demo at the booth.

Exhibit Hall Schedule
Wednesday, February 27: 12:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Thursday, February 28: 9:30 AM – 5:30 PM
Friday, March 1: 9:30 AM – 5:30 PM

Optelec U.S. Inc.
800.826.4200 (main), 800.368.4111 (fax)
E: info@optelec.com

See you there!


Online career fair for job-seekers with disabilities March 5th

Have you heard about this year’s Think Beyond the Label Online Career Fair? They will be hosting 4 events this year, and the first one is less than 2 weeks away – Tuesday, March 5 from 1 to 4 pm EST. Employers are registering now for these one-of-a-kind online career fairs to recruit job seekers with disabilities nationwide.

This year’s TBTL Online Career Fairs will again be powered by Brazen Careerist and will connect job seekers with businesses like Pearson, United Therapeutics, and Aetna, who are actively recruiting qualified candidates with disabilities—all without leaving their computer. It will be a great event to meet and chat with businesses who are committed to building a diverse workforce!

There are currently over 150 registered job seekers but more are needed. Please help spread the word about this event so that moore businesses recruit qualified candidates with disabilities now.
For more information or to register, visit the event’s page online – https://www.brazenconnect.com/event/thinkbeyondthelabel_mar_5. For questions or additional information contact Laura Wilhelm at lwilhelm@hdadvocates.org.


Novel approaches to icon-based AAC presented by Karl Wiegand

One can easily argue that few are as keenly interested in the well-being of a person with a disability as is a parent. Expanding from that core of support one can also include siblings, guardians, educators, social workers and health care professionals. One can further include advocates, friends, spouses and co-workers, all of whom are concerned about quality of life. That covers just about everyone, and just about everyone should be in attendance at Karl Wiegand’s presentation at this year’s Conference on Disability, hosted by CSUN.

Mr. Wiegand is presenting some astonishing work in the field of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). His presentation, entitled “Novel Approaches to Icon-Based AAC,” will explore two different methodologies for message construction and input. These two approaches can elevate the quality of communication for a person who has locked in syndrome. “Locked in syndrome” is an umbrella term that describes people who may have paralysis to the degree that the individual is unable to move any major body parts, except for above the neck. Even a person who may be in a full body cast is an example of someone who may have near complete lack of motor function, albeit temporarily.

The choices in alternative and augmentative communication devices now commonly involve the use of mouth sticks, switches or eye gaze input devices that can be cumbersome and fatiguing for the user. The current systems were designed based on an assumption that the user can press a button, make repetitious movements, or is able to maintain movement or body position for extended periods, so as to select letters or short words or phrases from choices on a menu. Using letter-based systems can be time consuming, because a letter-based system is more generative than the icon-based system that some users prefer in face-to-face or real time communication situations.

The challenge for Wiegand and his colleagues was to answer the questions: How can you redesign a screen such that you can display a large number of icons, but not all at once, which can be cognitively burdensome? How can icon-based systems be redesigned for faster and more efficient communication, as well as to accommodate users with upper limb motor impairments?

Together with his advisor and colleagues at Northeastern University, Wiegand is working on initial designs of two new approaches to icon-based
AAC: one using continuous motion and one using a brain-computer interface (BCI). The continuous motion system, called Symbol Path, consists of 120 screen icons of semantically salient words. “Continuous motion” means that a user can touch a word to begin a sentence, and without breaking contact from the screen, swipe or drag from icon to icon, ultimately completing a sentence.

His second approach makes use of a practice borrowed from the field of psychology. It is a system that shows icons to a user that represents a word or small phrase, in a serial fashion. It’s called Rapid Serial Visual Presentation. It allows for more efficient sentence construction, rather than presenting the user with a screen full of icons that must be made small in order to offer the user a full compliment of choices, which may be overwhelming.

This method of presenting information in rapid-fire fashion has been used before. If it sounds familiar, you may have once used this same technique if you’ve ever tried to tackle “speed reading.”

“My goal is to build a star trek computer.” Wiegand declares. He went on to explain. “A computer like the one in the program Star Trek, that can understand anybody, and will do it’s best to fill a person’s desires or needs.”

Karl was gracious enough to patiently explain what essential elements of communication would be required in order to make a “Star Trek computer” possible. First, a computer would have to be capable of parsing, which senses for context and speech recognition. Another element would include learning contexts, whereby a computer would understand how people interact with systems and expected responses from users. Finally, artificial intelligence would have to be achieved, enabling problem-solving with incomplete information, and natural language processing.

Until the point at which Mr. Wiegand has utterly changed our lives, and I do not doubt for a moment that he will, Wiegand says he’d like to work on Siri. To achieve his ultimate ends, Karl has worked in a number of other fields that have led him to this research. “I like AAC.” Wiegand continues. “It is a very focused area that is actually a vertex for four or five other fields.”

At CSUN, Karl will demonstrate the SymbolPath system, a prototype version of which is currently available for free on the Android app store (search for “SymbolPath”), show the BCI system, explain how both systems work, and talk about future directions for both. Wiegand hopes to have a system in place at his CSUN session so that attendees who interact with AAC users, friends or loved ones of AAC users, or AAC users themselves, can help create a corpus — a data set that shows what certain users want in certain times or settings or situations.

“We have revised both approaches based on initial testing and user feedback, and we are currently conducting several iterations of user-assisted design and revision before proceeding to full user testing.” Wiegand notes.

Attendees can help build this database by contributing realistic text, utterances, or phrases that AAC users like to say. If you attend the session, or find Karl throughout the week, you can contribute to the database or ask questions. In exchange, Karl will give you a copy of Symbol Path.

Karl will be presenting on Friday, March 1st at 3:10 pm in the Ford AB room, third floor.
Here is the link to the session page:

More about Karl Wiegand:

Karl Wiegand is a Ph.D. student in computer science at
Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. He works in the
Communication Analysis and Design Laboratory (CadLab) under the
advisement of Dr. Rupal Patel. Since joining the CadLab in 2009, Karl
has been working on alternative methods of communication for users
with neurological
impairments and severely limited mobility. His research includes
aspects of interface design, artificial intelligence, and language

Here are more ways to contact Karl, and help with his corpus gathering project:

Karl Wiegand’s homepage: http://www.ccs.neu.edu/home/wiegand/
Karl’s lab: http://www.cadlab.neu.edu/
Link to Karl on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/karlwiegand/

Finally, if you know or love an AAC user, you can help get the ball rolling on data-gathering here:


Don’t forget to use hashtag #CSUN13 when tweeting about the event. See you in San Diego!


Sina Bahram to present an accessible, gesture-based approach to controlling classroom technology

There are any number of reasons one might attend a particular session at the upcoming 28th annual International Assistive Technology and Persons with Disabilities conference. You might want to learn more about a ground-breaking awareness project, you might want to learn a new skill, you might want to find fresh inspiration for your own work. One reason to attend Sina Bahram’s session is that he has helped to solve a problem that has affected educators, lecturers, or corporate presenters who are blind or visually impaired, as well as people who use tech automation in the workplace. He will discuss an accessible, gesture-based approach to controlling the technology in either a classroom or corporate setting.

Sina Bahram is a technical consultant and accessibility researcher pursuing his PhD in the Department of Computer Science at North Carolina State University. His field of research is Human Computer Interaction (HCI) with a focus on the use of innovative environments and multi-modal approaches to facilitate eyes-free exploration of highly graphical information. Combining artificial intelligence, intelligent user interfaces (IUI), and HCI, Sina devises innovative and user-centered solutions to difficult real-world problems.

Bahram’s session will show you how an instructor who is blind can independently give a presentation. typically, when using the technology available to a sighted presenter, there are barriers imposed by the device that is used to control the projector, the microphone, document camera, and other input devices. This controller, usually either a Crestron or AMX technology box, allows for many inputs that can be managed by way of a touch screen. This touch screen interface is inaccessible to blind instructors, and presents numerous difficulties for a speaker or educator with low or no vision. For example, without sighted assistance, there is no way to know the state of readiness of the technology being used. There is no feedback alerting the presenter as to whether the projector is warmed up, or how he or she might adjust the volume level of the audio. Bahram will discuss and demonstrate how this approach to an embedded system allows blind or vision-impaired instructors to control classroom technology.

The project is a collaboration between North Carolina State University, Bahram, Ron Jailall, who works in control systems programming and classroom design, and Greg Kraus, who is Coordinator of Campus Accessibility. They have devised an approach whereby simple gestures, swipe up, down, and to the right, are used to move about various screen elements. Further, computer-generated speech is used to provide menu and status information.

“We have an underrepresentation of persons with disabilities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM),” says Bahram. “In particular, people who are blind or visually impaired. This is one of the approaches that can help address this problem, in a small way, without having to depend upon a teaching assistant or student to assist. Now, a blind instructor can manage classroom technology independently.”

No matter the context in which you give presentations, craft accessibility policy or purchase tech for employees or students who are blind, this session is for you. No special skill level is required to attend. All are welcome. Sina will be available for questions, demonstrations, and further discussion, at any time you can catch him throughout the conference week.

More about Sina Bahram:
In 2012, Sina was recognized as one of President Barack Obama’s Champions of Change for his work in enabling users with disabilities to succeed in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. You can read more about Sina and his research on his website, www.SinaBahram.com, or follow him on Twitter via @SinaBahram.

Be sure to check out the links below for more information.

For further ways to contact Sina, see his contact page at:
Read Bahram’s blog here:
Discussion of an Eyes-Free Approach to Controlling Classroom Tech:

Demonstration of an Eyes-Free Approach to Controlling Classroom Tech:

For more videos on other topics, Sina’s YouTube channel is at:

Don’t forget to use the hashtag #CSUN13 when tweeting about the event.


Join Joseph K. O’Connor in a global effort to build a more accessible Word Press

The session that will be presented by Joseph Karr O’Connor at the CSUN 2013 International Technology and Persons with Disabilities conference in San Diego, California, promises to be a popular one. Joe will be focusing on WordPress accessibility, will be showcasing the work that has been achieved by the WordPress accessibility team, and will talk about Cities, a global effort to create free accessible themes for use with the WordPress blogging system.

WordPress is currently the most popular free blogging system in use on the web. It has many features including a template system that makes sites look and function as they do. Templates are free and available at http://wordpress.org/extend/themes/ where there are currently 1,691 themes. Only a handful of those themes allow information to be accessible to everyone, regardless of ability. WordPress server software has recently been upgraded to version 3.5 with some new accessibility features for site owners, but it is not fully accessible. The presentation will report on the people involved in making the back-end of WordPress accessible, and the teams of accessibility experts from Mumbai, Sydney, New York, and several other cities who are building accessible themes.

O’Connor has an impressive history of contribution to the technology industry. He regularly attends local meetup groups in Santa Monica’s Silicon Beach to introduce the concept of accessibility to developers. During one of his many visits to local WordPress and general tech industry meetups to advocate for online accessibility, one member of the audience interrupted Joe. “Excuse me,” she said, “What is ‘accessibility’?” This is why Joe believes outreach is so important.

O’Connor realized there was much work to be done to raise awareness as to the specific barriers imposed by web developers who failed to create accessible online destinations. After years of searching for accessible themes for clients, Joe was struck by inspiration for the Cities project. He challenged teams of accessibility practitioners around the world to create accessible Word Press themes for free.

Joseph is also working with the team at WordPress.org to implement a voluntary theme accessibility assessment process. “Theme developers can submit themes with tags or categories for assessment.” O’Connor says. “This will be part of the regular theme checking process, but will be voluntary.”

Whether you are a WP theme developer or just a Word Press devotee, you are encouraged to attend joseph’s session. He hopes to have some themes ready at the time of his presentation, and sing the praises of the teams of volunteers working to submit accessible WordPress themes, which will be available through the themes directory. The presentation will be held on Thursday, February 28 at 1:50. All are welcome.

As if O’Connor isn’t busy enough, he is also hosting a WordPress Tweetup during the CSUN conference. The WordPress Accessibility Tweetup is on February 26, 4:30 – 5:30 pm, at the Hyatt, in the Paciello Group Suite. Show your support by signing up on Lanyrd at: lanyrd.com/cmhqy or just show up!

Joe will also be doing WordPress 3.5 usability testing at the CSUN conference, and is seeking a wide range of users with whom to spend a few minutes to create screencasts that will be shown to WordPress developers.

More about Joseph Karr O’Connor:

Joseph Karr O’Connor lives in Santa Monica, California, with his wife Linda, daughter Siobhan, daughter’s skilled companion dog Harriet, and cat, Achoo! His first career was in motion picture post production. Starting in 1991 his second career was computing in education. He found his true calling when Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act was enhanced to include web accessibility in 1998. Starting with pasadena.edu in 1999 and moving to csun.edu in 2005, web accessibility has been his focus. Now an accessibility consultant, he is working with Silicon Beach startups and international accessibility companies. He envisions a future where information is equally accessible to all.

You can follow @AccessibleJoe on Twitter, or you can visit his web sites:

Cities: Creating Accessible WordPress Themes

Black Telephone, Disability Rights
Twitter: @blacktelephone

To RSVP to attend O’Connor’s session, go here:

Don’t forget to use hashtag #CSUN13 when tweeting about the conference.


It will only take a minute to make a difference with these Web Aim surveys

Web Aim [http://webaim.org/] has put out a call to assist in gathering data that will help people with disabilities to gain greater access to online and mobile technology. Here is an opportunity for you to toss in your two cents, and provide meaningful data and commentary that will make a difference in the lives of everyone who uses or needs assistive technology. Web Aim is asking anyone who qualifies to participate in two surveys, one for people who have low vision, and the other for people who have motor disabilities.

In reviewing both surveys, I found the questions to be thoughtful and interesting, enabling the respondents to not only share what devices or methodologies they are using now, but also to express preferences and offer input as to improvements in existing accessibility. the surveys are both short, and will help web and mobile developers to continue to make our technology usable and inclusive for all.

Low vision survey:


Motor disabilities survey:


The surveys will be open until March 15th, 2013. Raise your voice now!


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The 2013 Assistive Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference

If you are a person who has a disability, or if you know or love someone who does, you will soon have an opportunity to attend what could be a life-changing event. If you have never before attended the International Conference on Disability, presented by California State University, Northridge, I am going to work hard over the next few weeks to give you some compelling reasons to attend. This annual conference is the largest of its kind, and each year showcases the very latest assistive technologies, teaching techniques and best practices for web and mobile accessibility development, as well as the latest in disability-related policy news and legislation. You’ll hear inspiring words from thought leaders and educators, and you can experience the camaraderie and fellowship of others who may be living with a disability similar to your own. If you can only attend one event this year, this is the one to attend. There is truly something educational, fun and uplifting here for everyone.

Start with this link, below. It will take you to the main page, where you will find all the info you need. Attendee registration is now open, so make your plans soon.


If you want to explore the full list of educational sessions, click this link:


You will be amazed at the range of topics, and the depth to which they can be explored. If you are not a technology fanatic, don’t worry. There are sessions on just about every aspect of disability awareness, accessibility and advocacy. All levels of expertise are addressed at many sessions, so don’t let intimidation or feelings of technical illiteracy keep you away.

There are also some social events you can attend. For example, The Paciello Group, WebAIM, Infoaxia, PayPal, The Center on Disabilities at CSUN, EZFire, OpenDirective, and CA Technologies will coordinate and sponsor a tweetup at the CSUN Technology & Persons with Disabilities Conference. The tweetup will be held Thursday, February 28th at 6:00pm at the Manchester Grand Hyatt, San Diego. Additional details will be coming soon. The tweetup is open to all Twitter users, but attendees are asked to RSVP.


Finally, be sure to use the hashtag #CSUN13 when tweeting about the conference. Check back here throughout February, as I will be showcasing a few of the presenters you can look forward to seeing at the conference. Make your travel arrangements early, and I look forward to seeing you there. You can follow me at @Accessible_Info on Twitter, so tweet me up so we can meet!