CSUN — Wonders of Technology

This year’s California State University Northridge’s Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference, aka CSUN 2014, was full of wonder and awesomeness. Wonder was the legendary Stevie Wonder who stopped by to check out the new intelligent technology for his own use, like the SARA CE scanning and reading appliance from Freedom Scientific. Awesomeness was the hundreds of attendees and their buzz of excitement to find the latest and greatest in assistive technology. Children with parents and school groups added great energy and urgency to the state of the art innovations.

The conference sessions were full of companies showing their advances and benchmarks in assisting users with disabilities to make their products and services more accessible. Google, for instance, showed how its online applications like Google Docs and Google Drive are providing a more accessible experience. We also learned that companies like Microsoft are providing direct support to people who are using their assistive technology products through a designated trained support desk.

At CSUN 2014 we saw hundreds of advances in multiple areas of assistive technology. Viewplus demonstrated their high quality Braille and tactile graphic embosser and its computer interactive learning capabilities. ABILITY Magazine joined the cutting edge technology this year by being the first ever audible print magazine using QR code via Voiceye app.

As closed captioning is a common television technology, communities in Canada are going further. Peter Burke of Accessible Media (AMI) shared how Canada is broadening its inclusive media with Described Video (DV). Canadians who are blind or have partial vision can now listen to audio versions of television programming. AMI strives to ensure “content of the media can be consumed by persons of all abilities.”

Whill drove to new horizons. When thinking of 4×4 and torque, a mud-whomping truck comes to mind. Imagine that truck, a mobility chair and a little R2-D2 combined; and you have a Whill Type-A. The Type-A can scale rugged terrain, including gravel, snow and 3 inch curbs. No need for a backup beeper; its innovative wheels let it turn on a dime. Its smooth ride, light touch mouse controller and
slide-forward exit seat let you know you’re not in a truck.

Passionate about robotics? James McCarthy, President of Human Information Management Service (HIMS) and a person with low-vision due to a sports injury as a young man, is living his passion. McCarthy introduced a very personable (and hilarious) robot in celebration of HIMS 15th anniversary. The robot was a perfect compliment to HIMS’s newest technology for low vision, the E-bot. By using a robotic arm with a wireless controller, a student with low vision won’t miss out in the classroom since this machine can quickly move from viewing desktop to chalkboard using an iPad, Mac or PC. Even better, the E-bot is portable and rechargeable and has an optical character reader.

Microsoft is changing its game. Xbox-One, typically known for mostly sitting and thumbing a game controller, wowed the CSUN crowds by demonstrating its “get up and move” sensory technology. Facial recognition and movement are great, but how about sensing bones, energy output, physical force and heart rate? All from a distance? Yes!

The therapeutic and accessible possibilities are limitless. Microsoft has just begun calling out to independent application developers who want to help

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expand on this new technology to accommodate and help people with disabilities.

Finally, the camera was turned on ABILITY Magazine’s Lia Martirosyan in an interview by this year’s keynote speaker comedian, Tommy Edison also known as the “Blind Film Critic.” Checkout Tommy Edison on YouTube for lots of fun, laughs and enlightening perspective.

After having an awesome time at CSUN 2014, I can’t help but Wonder what next year will bring!

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by Marge Plasmier


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