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Reading devices for the blind have come a long way in the past 40 years.  The first one I ever used was the size of a large desk.  It was rather slow and not terribly accurate.  It was, however, revolutionary.  Until that point, there was no way for a blind person to independently read printed material.  Over the years, document scanners and the accompanying OCR (optical character recognition) software which converts the image of the printed page into machine readable text have gotten smaller and more affordable.

An excellent example of the current crop of stand-alone reading machines for the blind is the Eye-Pal SOLO.  A folding stand positions a camera at the proper height for scanning a document.  The built-in motion detection allows the Eye-Pal to know when a page has been turned, and reading can be stopped or started with a wave of the hand.

Setup is quick and easy and virtually no training is required, allowing the user to start reading printed documents in minutes.  The OCR engine is extremely accurate and text formatting elements, like columns and headings, are interpreted.  The usual array of advanced functionality, such as changing the speech characteristics and saving and converting documents can be done via the custom keypad.  The Eye-Pal also incorporates several selections from the current crop of high-quality text-to-speech voices.

Overall, I find the Eye-Pal SOLO to be extremely user-friendly. For a demonstration, or to arrange to borrow the Eye-Pal SOLO or another piece of assistive technology from MDTAP call 410-554-9230.

Contributed by Joel Zimba, MDTAP Special Projects Coordinator

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