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A weekend with the Blaze EZ

Contributed by Joel Zimba, Special Projects Coordinator, MDTAP

First, HIMS made the BookSense.  It was a fine little device which could play all of your books and media.  It’s the pocket-sized version of the large, but free, Digital Talking Book player available from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. We saw a few iterations of the BookSense, and ours is still alive and well in the MDTAP AT Library.

But, as it does, technology has moved on.  We demand more features from our devices and the Blaze EZ delivers. Not only can you read books from BARD and BookShare, not to mention Audible, Learning Allies, etc., you can also download podcasts, stream web content and more. There is one more format supported by the Blaze EZ—print.  That’s right, it comes equipped with a 5MP camera and can perform OCR (optical character recognition) on printed material.

If you name the thing “EZ”, operating it should not be overly complicated.  In fact, I had it up and running in just a few minutes.  The quick start guide told me everything I needed to know.  I connected it to the office WiFi and was downloading books right away.

The Blaze EZ is powerful and it has potential to do even more.  For example, you can set the time and date—the time can be announced by tapping the power button. I do wonder though, where are the alarms or calendar reminders with accompanying voice memos? This seems like an easy add-on for future updates.

BlueTooth support has been added, so you can play the audio through wireless speakers through BlueTooth headsets. It’s possible reading Braille books could be supported in the future by connecting to a BlueTooth refreshable Braille display. No other device on the market can boast this functionality.

For now, I crown the Blaze EZ the king of the accessible audio bookreader. It may cost more than the competition, but the excellent OCR functionality makes up for it.

As a reminder, we have at least four different types of audio book players in the AT Library. Come see which one fits your needs.



If you are a parent or caregiver of a student fourteen years or older with an IEP, or a teacher or school administrator involved in the IEP development process for students age fourteen or older, you are invited to take a survey entitled “Aiding Technology-Assisted Student Self-Advocacy in the IEP Development Process.” This study is being conducted by Holly Lane, a student at Queens University of Charlotte, under the guidance of Dr. Daina Nathaniel, an Associate Professor at the Knight School of Communication at Queens University of Charlotte. Learn more and take the survey here http://www.graspingforgrades.com/…

Couldn’t share them all (WAY too many) so I had to use the art of selection to represent. Enjoy the pickins’- AT in the news for the weeks of 3/9 to 3/20.

A Discussion About Disability And Accessible Music Venues On ‘Kojo Nnamdi Show’

Speech that will take your breath away, AT innovation from a 16-yr-old

Father working to develop app to help other parents find autism-friendly businesses

Harnessing Technology for Success in the Classroom

This Wearable Game For Visually Impaired Kids Aims To Help Cognitive Development

New dark theme for users with low vision – Microsoft announces IT Pro and Developer Preview of Office 2016

In the Age of the Internet, one group is being left out of the conversation—the hearing impaired

Augmented Reality Glasses for Blind Created at Oxford

Low Cost Solutions for Making Your Home  Accessible

Soft Bionic Power Trousers Could Help Us Walk Up Stairs

Bluetooth wristband to alert disabled bus travellers when to get off

MIT Hackathon Tackles Technologies To Benefit the Disabled

Audio description app allows blind people to enjoy VOD content

Seniors don’t want ugly tech that screams ‘I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up’

Fashion design with a social impact

Caltech, Art Center students create new devices to aid those with disabilities

Welcome to the NEAThome – the bungalow helping in the fight against dementia

iDo Hygiene helps users understand the steps to hygiene & using the bathroom using videos & picture sequence cards

Meet the Team That Makes It Possible for the Blind to Use Facebook

‘Robotic clothes’ to aid mobility of disabled and elderly

Students design ‘farm arm’ to help operate machinery

Smart table brings kids together

Will Technology Put an End to Disability? A Future Tense Event Recap

Arizona State University student develops sensing technology for people with vision disabilities

3D paintings allow the visually impaired to visit museums

Traditional hearing aids don’t work? The new generation of implants are better than ever

A wearable device that stimulates the sense of balance with electric “noise” could help Parkinson’s


Equipment Link has an exciting new look!  Please check it out at www.equipmentlink.org

And here are some of the newest items listed –

Mobility, Seating, Positioning

  • Electric Wheelchair – Free
  • Power Chair with Full Tilt and Recline – Priced at $3,800
  • 2 Stair Lifts – Free

Speech Communication

  • NOVA7X-D+ – $1,500 Or Best Offer

Daily Living

  • Semi Electric Hospital Bed – $600 Or Best Offer

Web Accessibility and SEO

Web accessibility and search engine optimization (SEO) are both about getting relevant content to users. Accessible content and search engine optimized content are both machine readable. Accessibility and SEO best practices are closely aligned. Proper alternative text for images, good heading structure, descriptive link text, descriptive and succinct page titles, ensuring keyboard accessibility, providing captions and transcripts, identifying the language of the page, using text instead of images when possible, providing clear and consistent navigation and page structure, and several other best practices help provide accessible and search engine friendly content.

CSUN 2015

Contributed by Joel Zimba, Special Projects Coordinator, MDTAP

During the first week of March, MDTAP staff attended the 30th Annual International Conference on People with Disabilities.  Everyone in the know seems to simply call it “CSUN,” referring to Cal State North Ridge.

CSUN brings together thousands of participants from around the world. It would be impossible to attend all of the hundreds of conference sessions, and nearly impossible to explore the vast exhibit hall.  CSUN becomes an overwhelming “choose your own adventure” experience.

Each of the conference tracks could easily be their own separate conference.  Policy and legal covers international standards all the way down to court rulings and new agency policies. Education might acquaint you with the challenges of new standardized testing or new approaches for teaching math to blind college students.  Then there is technology, which includes the latest offerings from assistive technology vendors to Microsoft introducing the new accessibility features of Windows 10.  There is more than enough for everyone and then some.

Of the vast array of exhibits, three quarters of them featured vision-related assistive technology.  Every vendor had something newer, smaller or faster.  That said, there are certainly emerging trends.  Products from book readers to glasses that are sprouting cameras which can read printed text or even recognize faces.  Everything is going mobile and connecting to the cloud.  In short, many of the technologies we have mentioned on the MDTAP BLOG, “Where It’s AT,” are maturing into products that are making their way to market.

Perhaps the most valuable part of CSUN is rubbing elbows with the best and brightest in nearly all fields related to disabilities.  I have no doubt many of the projects and products discussed at this year’s CSUN were first imagined during an after-hours discussion in previous years.

In the future, I might demonstrate a device in our Assistive Technology library which I first saw at CSUN.  Perhaps I discussed it’s pros and cons with the engineers.  And my feedback may have been useful in shaping the final product.  That’s the AT life cycle.  It starts, in the early Spring, far away from the ice and snow, at CSUN.


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