April 2010 Archives

At a hearing on Thursday April 22, 2010 at 1 p.m., COAT affiliate leader Mark Richert of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) testified about accessibility and civil rights. The hearing, entitled "Achieving the Promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act in the Digital Age - Current Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities," was before House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties.

Five panelists testified about the civil rights of people with disabilities in regard to the rapid changes in technology in the 21st century. While H.R. 3101 was not the subject of the hearing, it was mentioned and alluded to, along with topics such as accessibility of websites and other technologies.

Panelists are listed [at the URL] below (includes photos) and their written testimony. Some panelist statements and organizational press releases are also posted as attachments to this story below. Attached also below is a "transcript" of the live tweets sent out during the hearing by two tweeters.


Another helpful resource found in my travels through the experience of sensory disabilities: Even Grounds.

Tom has posted "How Blind People Identify Color." The article breaks down into three sections:

  • Manual Techniques for Identifying Color
  • Color Identifier Applications in Camera Phones
  • Color Identifying Functions in Screen Readers
From the article:

It's so easy for us to rely on colors to enjoy our activities and do our tasks, that we often take this ability for granted. But without this basic ability, you would find that the simplest of tasks can become very difficult.

There are, however, techniques and devices that can help you if you can't recognize colors. Below we look at the most common ones and discuss their strong points and issues.

Read the entire article:

Just a simple observation from the editors of the DAISY Planet:

There is no country in the world where accessible publications are as readily available as print publications, and in the developing world, where the greatest majority of people with a print disability live, the number of accessible books is in many instances almost negligible.

Without information and knowledge it is almost impossible to gain ground or compete in a world where knowledge 'rules'. We are once again dealing with the haves and the have-nots, but this time it is information that is lacking, lacking because accessible formats cannot be shared across borders. It is time to take a stand to ensure that everyone everywhere has access to information in a format that they can use in a meaningful and useful way.


Two hundred people attended the 4th European eAccessibility Forum, held in Paris on April 12th, 2010. 

This forum provided a unique opportunity to discuss the complementary aspects involved in making an 'accessible information society' a reality in Europe. It also provided an opportunity to hear first-hand about experiences from users with disabilities, public organizations and industry. All speakers were specialists involved in organizations representing users and consumers with disabilities, research organizations and companies operating at a European level or worldwide. 

Details are available on the the 4th European eAccessibility Forum website.

Copyright law is under review in India:

Mumbai: 16 April: Opposing the upcoming amendment to the Copyright Act, 1957 that proposes to exempt only the 'specially designed' formats like Braille to help disabled people to read, a group of disability rights activists on Thursday said that the move is "discriminatory" to people not knowing Braille and will be "counterproductive". 

The National Access Alliance (NAA), an umbrella body campaigning for an appropriate amendment to the copyright Act, said it believes that the proposed clause, 52 Z (a) will hamper rather than help the print- impaired (people with any form of visual, cerebral or orthopaedic disability that deters normal reading) in accessing books. 

It insisted that the Human Resource Development Ministry sets up a sub- committee that can propose appropriate suggestions before the clause is tabled in the Parliament. 

Dr Sam Taraporewala, director of the Xaviers Resource Centre for the Visually Challenged and a member of the NAA, gives reasons for the opposition. "For one, the amendment claims that in order to convert books to disabled-friendly formats, the entity seeking to do so must apply for a license. That itself will take two to three months to be processed and students seeking to read will suffer unreasonable time losses," he said. "We would be caught up in paperwork. Moreover, the proposed clause wants to set an expiry date on the license and limit the number of people who can use the licensed books," he added.

Source: http://www.indianexpress.com

Dr Taraporewala was previously quoted as saying:

Technology has made it possible for the visually challenged to access the print. But there is little awareness among publishers and authors about the need to make printed documents accessible to all. An amendment in copyright laws is needed to bring about this awareness.

To make it happen, the Xavier's Resource Centre for the Visually Challenged (XRCVC) has urged authors and publishers to support the global Right to Read [RTR] campaign initiated by the World Blind Union and Sight Savers International among others.

"The proposed amendments to the Indian Copyright Act are yet to be tabled in Parliament. But it is not just the law that needs to change," said Dr Sam Taraporevala, XRCVC director. "There needs to be a quantum leap in the mindset, where people are thinking of accessibility across diverse dimensions."

The XRCVC has urged authors and publishers to sign the RTR declaration. Technology can convert print into audio, larger print or Braille. But very little content has been converted into formats accessible to the print impaired.

The RTR campaign seeks to bring about changes to copyright laws, increase public awareness on the issue of access to reading for the print-impaired, and gather support for the treaty for the blind proposed by the WBU at the World Intellectual Property Organisation.

The XRCVC feels that amendments to the Indian Copyright Act should take interests of all stake holders into consideration. "A coordinated effort is required by all the stake holders, like the government, the copyright owners, persons with print impairment and organisations representing them, and the public,"

Taraporevala said. "Signing the declaration does not involve handing over rights but indicates a statement of intent in support for the cause."


Mumbai, April 15: The Union government has made the right to education a fundamental right; but print-disabled people will find it difficult to access textbooks and other study material if the government amends the Copyright Act, 1957. 

The amended act will make it mandatory to have licences to reproduce copyrighted work in any format  even it is meant for the use of persons suffering from visual, aural, or other disability. 

The amended proposal may be introduced in Parliament in the current budget session, Dr Sam Taraporevala, director of the Xavier's Resource Centre for the Visually Challenged (XRCVC), said at a press conference on Thursday. He said the government should reconsider changing the act. 

"There are a few proposed amendments," Kanchan Pamnani, visually impaired advocate and solicitor, said. "But this will make our life more difficult." Citing her experience while she was studying law, Pamnani said a plethora of reference books had to be unbound and scanned for her to study. "It was a back-breaking job because such books ran into thousands of pages." 

If the act is changed, an organisation working for the disabled will have to apply for a licence from the copyright board before reproducing any copyrighted text. 

The process of accessing available material will become more tedious, she said. "If somebody in Kolkata has already scanned the reference material why should I have to do it again here?"


Source: http://www.dnaindia.com

More on Xavier's Resource Centre for the Visually Challenged 

Bookshare in India 

The question circulating in the tech savvy sensory disabled community is, "What DAISY reader is in store for the iPad?"

With Kindle disappointing from the start but with iPad possibly jumpstarting a tablet and e-book convergence the question of access for print-disabled users resurges -- and with it the importance of Benetech's  Bookshare.org and new DIAGRAM project.

Cutting edge will be improving image description. Right now this is a fully manual process that we do when converting textbooks from print to digital. The Wall Street Journal points out some of what is going on in the market that will continue to drive demand:

Industry analysts and professors say schools won't fully embrace iPads until textbook publishers offer more digital resources that go beyond electronic versions of hard copy books. Educational books can be more difficult than trade paperbacks to translate into e-books because they often include graphs, mathematical formulas and other non-standard-text material.

A Princeton pilot study last fall found that students were frustrated by the lack of a note-taking or highlighting function on Amazon.com Inc.'s (AMZN) Kindle e-reader. Apple's iBookstore now offers books in a similar format, though third-party companies are working on alternatives.

Houghton Mifflin Co.'s Harcourt, Pearson PLC (PSO, PSON.LN) and McGraw-Hill Cos. (MHP), among others, have formed partnerships with application developer ScrollMotion for interactive digital texts. But ScrollMotion has one only set of texts available for the iPhone so far: medical school entrance exam and licensing test study guides from Washington Post Co.'s (WPO) Kaplan Publishing. It doesn't yet provide any textbooks for the iPad.

ScrollMotion co-founder Josh Koppel says iPad offerings will be available within "several months" but wouldn't provide further details, citing continuing talks with publishers. He said the products would allow for notations, audio notes and an interactive glossary. "We're not just turning a book into a PDF," Koppel said.


Here Audio Description Services gives examples of audio-described video scenes and theAudio description.gifrationale behind their techniques. They offer a video and audio tour of Cape Lookout National Seashore, the US Johnstown Flood National Memorial, and a kelp forest.


On this travelogue theme of sensory disabilities I ran into Jen (Thanks to mention of the following article on Katja Stokley's Broken Clay Journal)

Whenever I leave my house - and I do mean whenever - something will happen that I interpret as "You can't play." These are events or circumstances that by their nature exclude me because of my blindness. Each and every incident is a reminder that I do not quite fit in the world, an octagonal plug in a round hole fitting, but with gaps all around. 

These acts that speak louder than words fall into some broad categories. "You can't play unless you figure out how" is the least irritating possibility. When I first moved into my apartment complex, I discovered the mailboxes were in a grid without tactile numbers, so in order to "play" I had to learn my location and subsequently count rows and columns when I check my box. 
These acts that speak louder than words fall into some broad categories. "You can't play unless you figure out how" is the least irritating possibility. When I first moved into my apartment complex, I discovered the mailboxes were in a grid without tactile numbers, so in order to "play" I had to learn my location and subsequently count rows and columns when I check my box. 

For the full article:

As I weave this travelogue of greater familiarity with sensory disabilities the work of Churchill Fellow Sarah Tracton caught my attention. Sarah is studying theater accessibility worldwide:

Sarah Tracton was born with moderate hearing loss, but in her early twenties, she lost what little hearing she had.

Sarah Tracton.jpg

Sarah lipreads the accents of 68 nationalities following her work at SBS Radio - some people suggest she's so good at it, she could work for the FBI.

As she had all those years living with some hearing, she has a very strong auditory memory, and a strong musicality. She uses these in the film White Sound to explore the idea of living in a soundless world.

Follow this link to hear Sarah to describe her ideas and reasons for the film.

She has created a web site chronicling her fellowship experience: Sarah Tracton - Churchill Fellowship

Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it's this veneer -- that the designers are handed this box and told, 'Make it look good!' That's not what we think design is. It's not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works. - Steve Jobs

From Forbes:

Ask any PC-loving computer nerd why Apple products have become the de facto choice of


the masses, and you'll likely hear something like, "People buy Apple products because they're pretty." That may be true for many, but one group of consumers who care little for Apple's prodigious aesthetics are the blind.

They care more about how Apple products actually work. And while the iPad may be Apple's most controversial launch in recent memory, the blind community is unanimous in its support. The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) even released a statement last January praising the device.

What are they so excited about?

To find out read:


Regular RollingRains.com readers will have noticed that I pull in resources from several languages - most often Portuguese - and frequently without translating them. The following is from the web site of Naziberto Lopes on the struggle to find accessible books in Brazil. Here it is in Portuguese but a translation will follow within 24 hours:

Prezados colegas, nos links abaixo vocês poderão conhecer um pouco da história de minha luta pelo direito de adquirir livros com dignidade, liberdade e autonomia. Poderão


conhecer as editoras que me trataram como um leitor comum, como qualquer outro, me dando a oportunidade de adquirir os livros que eu queria e no formato que eu precisava. Ao mesmo tempo poderão também conhecer aquelas editoras que me ignoraram, me discriminaram, me excluíram, me trataram como uma pessoa desprovida de autocontrole, responsabilidade e digna apenas de tutela.

Se você passou por uma das duas situações acima, isto é, se foi tratado com respeito por alguma editora ou autor que você procurou para adquirir seus livros, então compartilhe essa história com a gente e registre essa editora ou autor em nosso paraíso da inclusão.

Agora se aconteceu o contrário, se a editora ou autor o discriminaram, ignorando esse direito seu a leitura e a informação, não perca tempo, registre essa editora ou autor em nosso inferno da exclusão e faça toda a comunidade saber disso.

Todavia, se você ainda não teve oportunidade de tentar solicitar seu livro diretamente à uma editora ou livraria, ou mesmo para um autor isoladamente, você pode contar com a nossa ajuda entrando no link "precisa de livros? Saiba como solicitá-los às editoras".

Entretanto, não tenha dúvidas, se mesmo com todo o diálogo do mundo você não conseguiu vencer a barreira do preconceito, prepare-se para a guerra e entre no link "Foi discriminado? Saiba como procurar a justiça" e nele você terá um guia para poder começar a lutar por seu direito de cidadão leitor com toda dignidade e auto respeito.

Por último, informamos que se você é daquelas pessoas que acredita que pelo simples fato de possuir uma deficiência todo o universo deve algo a você, se você vive procurando vantagens, privilégios, assistencialismos, gratuidades, benevolência e caridade social, se você se pauta pela cartilha de algumas entidades e "instituições especiais", para lá de mal intencionadas, que defendem que o direito das pessoas com deficiência deve ser controlado e tutelado por elas, se você concorda com isso, sentimos muito em avisar que você está no lugar errado, não vai encontrar nada que procura por aqui, pois neste espaço defendemos a autonomia, a independência, a liberdade e a acessibilidade ampla, geral e irrestrita. Mais do que isso, defendemos a igualdade com respeito à diversidade de cada um, sem vantagens ou privilégios, mas equilíbrio de oportunidades.

Continue navegando.


This YouTube poster takes us on a tour of iPad from the perspective of a print disabled user:

Lenka Vodicka runs through iPad for Disability Reviews

By Peter Blanck:

March 09: As people and institutions move away from print and toward electronic books, publishers are making more and more books available in electronic formats, using devices like Amazon's Kindle and Sony's Reader, digitization services like Google's, and downloadable books such as Adobe Digital Editions.

The technology is becoming more user-friendly, and readers welcome the new options. E-books offer benefits for all readers, including reduction of damage to the environment, portability, light weight, and improved reference capabilities. But for some readers, e-books offer even more: their first opportunity to enjoy reading.

People with print disabilities--those who are blind or have low vision, people with dyslexia or other learning disabilities, and those with manual-dexterity impairments who have trouble holding books or turning pages--struggle to read print books. People with low literacy and those who don't read English face similar difficulties. Such struggles keep good employees from advancing, lead intelligent people to cut short their academic careers, and deny people the joy of reading for pleasure.

E-books have the potential to open the world of reading--and the potential for academic and employment success--to approximately 30 million people with disabilities. E-books are, at heart, sequences of ones and zeros that are converted into usable format by a computer. As such, they are not inherently limited to text. They can be rendered in electronic text, Braille, or hieroglyphics as well as in print on paper.

E-books can also now be rendered in audible format, which makes them usable by people with print disabilities, low literacy, or for whom English is a second language. Thus, as e-books make their way into libraries, academic institutions, and the business world, opportunities may be opened up to these people as never before.

Unfortunately, a variety of barriers keep e-books from reaching people who would benefit from audio formats. The Amazon Kindle has text-to-speech capability that will read an e-book aloud in a computerized voice. But the device itself is not accessible to blind people, because the menus are on-screen only, with no audio option. Because the menus are inaccessible, a blind student would be unable to find and turn on the text-to-speech function that she needs to read a book.

Other devices, such as Apple's iPhone, offer audible menus, but Amazon lags behind.

even colleges and universities have jumped at the opportunity to incorporate the Kindle into their courses and are providing Kindles to their students this fall. However, offering inaccessible e-books very likely violates the Americans With Disabilities Act. Advocates for people with disabilities have sued Arizona State University and filed complaints with the Department of Education and Department of Justice against Case Western Reserve, Pace, and Princeton Universities, Reed College, and the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business.

Although the Kindle has text-to-speech capability, some publishers have called on Amazon to turn off the feature in their books. Apparently afraid that computerized text-to-speech will compete with its audiobooks, for example, Random House is systematically turning off text-to-speech in its Kindle editions. Advocates for those with disabilities, through the Reading Rights Coalition, have protested and petitioned to keep text-to-speech on. At least one publisher, Hachette Book Group, has agreed to permit text-to-speech in all of its books unless the author objects or the book is scheduled to be offered as an audiobook.

Several libraries have begun offering downloadable e-books through Adobe Digital Editions

Unfortunately, those books are not readable by text-to-speech software or devices

Therefore, while nondisabled patrons can download books from their homes, people with print disabilities must go to the library to order the audiobook or other accessible format (if available), and wait for it to arrive. It is only a matter of time before such a library is sued or investigated by a federal agency under the ADA.

We, as educators, librarians, and employers, have legal obligations to ensure that all our students have access to our programs. But more important, it is our larger responsibility and concern to make sure that potential readers are fully and equally included. Blind people or those with low vision are no less academically talented than sighted students. People with learning disabilities are no less capable of contributing to their employers. And people with limited manual dexterity are no less able to enjoy reading and learning. In an age when our colleges, businesses, and society need the talents of everyone, we have a responsibility to lead the charge against unnecessary barriers that keep people from achieving their potential and making their full contribution.

We also have the power to knock down those barriers. We are a strong market force. We can, should, and arguably must refuse to purchase e-books and other electronic devices and services unless and until they are made accessible to all. If we don't care, the vendors won't care. If we insist, the vendors will rush to comply.

In recognition of the purchasing power of libraries, the American Library Association recently adopted a resolution strongly encouraging libraries to require vendors of electronic resources to guarantee accessibility, encouraging user-testing of technology before adoption, and encouraging financial supporters to provide sufficient resources to ensure accessibility. The Los Angeles Public Library recently announced that it would not purchase additional Adobe Digital Editions downloadable electronic books until they are made accessible. Academic institutions should develop similar policies

Adopting inaccessible technology and retrofitting it later, or being sued for violating disability-rights laws, is a dangerous and expensive approach to progress.

Rather than adopt technology and worry about inclusion later, we should put procurement policies in place that require vendors to guarantee the accessibility of their products and services. We should demand user-testing in advance. Such an up-front step will ensure that we are being inclusive and economical--and will help us avoid more significant and unnecessary expenses in the long run

By Peter Blanck, is a university professor, with a primary appointment in law, at Syracuse University and chairman of the Burton Blatt Institute

Source: http://chronicle.com

Thanks  to my colleagues at Disability News Asia for announcement of the following overview:

April 7: When someone is visually impaired and loves literature, it is often a daunting endeavour to read the books by the authors they love, or to discover new authors. When someone is near sighted, blind or has dyslexia it is tremendously difficult to read books, or menus unless they are in brail or to listen to audio books.


Intel Reader Detail

Intel Reader Detail

E-Books and E-Readers not only are designed for portable reading, but they also save you a ton of money in the long-term. Brail books are often very expensive and most of the times their selection of books are not widely available. The whole point of an e-reader is to save money buying digital books instead of tangible books.

E-Readers with text to speech functions such as the Amazon Kindle are hard to turn on, and people may need assistance to even turn the function on. During Pilot programs at two major American Universities, the National Federation of the Blind has sued the schools saying the Kindle is discriminating because without assistance blind people cannot utilize the functions. Amazon.com Inc. spokesman Drew Herdener said many visually impaired customers have asked Amazon to make the Kindle easier to navigate. The company is working on it, he said.

Amazon is soon releasing an SDK to developers to allow independent companies and people to make custom applications. Amazon is banking that companies will make this new technology for them which will give the company a stronger foothold on educational institutions.

There is promise with new technology to assist visually impaired people, with the Intel corporation. Intel is pioneering new emerging technologies that seek to aid people being released shortly that should assist people who have a hard time reading books.

Intel Corp announced a new e-reader that can snap pictures of books and newspapers and then read them back to people who have a hard time reading the printed page.

Called the Intel Reader, the $1,499 device assists people who are blind, dyslexic or have weak vision. Intel estimates that there are as many as 55 million people in the U.S. who could use its device. This new E-Reader will give many visually impaired people a new freedom to read books, magazines and newspapers that would otherwise be inaccessible. Users hold the Reader a few feet above the paper they want to read; it snaps a photo, and within seconds converts the page to text, which it can then display in a large font or read out loud.

Braille Book

Braille Book

There is also new software made by KFNB. 

The eReader software (which will be available for free) will run on several smart phones and operating systems including the iPhone, PCs, Macs, and Windows Mobile with more mobile devices to come. The software will allow eBooks, articles and other textual material to be read out load on these devices. The software can handle many text formats including PDF and ePub. Elsevier Science and Technology Books is an early partner.

KFNB also offers other software, KReader Mobile and the knfbReader Mobile which, like the Intel Reader, allows users to snap pictures of text and then have it read back to them immediately. However, unlike the Intel product, these devices work on cell or smart phones.

Finally, there are new concept devices from Yanko Designs, a team of four designers are showcasing this Braille ebook reader. According to the developers, the concept for driving the technology is already here-all that's needed is a friendly neighborhood investor to toss some money their way.

Electroactive polymers are used to create different letter configurations when the pages are turned. Although this idea misses one crucial and disturbing fact. 

Only 10% of America's blind kids (down from 50% in the '60s) are taught to read & write Braille, still the only tool offering true literacy to blind people on a par with print. It affects all of us , because it results in lower employment of blind adults & the need for tax-payer support of intelligent and willing people. Seventy percent of working-age, blind adults are unemployed. Of the thirty percent who work, ninety percent read Braille. The coin supports the Braille Readers are Leaders" campaign of the National Federation of the Blind, which seeks to double the number of blind kids learning Braille by 2015.

Source: http://goodereader.com

Bookshare in Education


This traininig module presents an overview of Bookshare, a project supported by the U.S. Department of Education and OSEP. Bookshare provides books in digitized formats to individuals who have print disabilities. Students can access textbooks, other instructional materials, and text-reader software at no cost.

This video describes how teachers can use Bookshare in their daily instructional planning.

Traveling down this path at Bookshare.org and learning more about print disabilities in the process it is good to see road signs confirming that we are headed in the right direction:

"The Reading Rights Coalition, the Authors Guild, and the Association of American Publishers believe that the contents of books should be as accessible to individuals with print disabilities as they are to everyone else.  To that end, these groups agree to work together and through the communities they represent to ensure that when the marketplace offers alternative formats to print books, such as audio and electronic books, print-disabled consumers can access the contents of these alternative formats to the same extent as all other consumers."


A year ago today:

Statement on Kindle from the Authors Guild:


At AbledBody read Suzanne Robitaille's article and meet:

Australia's Christopher Stephen is the founder of ReadHowYouWant, a company that publishes books in accessible formats for people who are visually impaired, dyslexic, non-native English speakers -- or just have trouble reading regular print. Read How You Want has partnered with major publishers to build a collection of 4,500 titles, including Oprah Book Club picks, Classics and new releases. Readers can buy the titles online and download in the format that's easiest for them to read.

Q: Chris, how did you first get involved in accessible publishing?
A: My older sister taught me to read. She developed multiple sclerosis (MS) and found reading increasingly tiring. I bought her a large-print book and she did not find this easier to read. I was puzzled...
Read more at:

Once society begins to include young people with disabilities in the educational system, opens sports programs, and builds confidence that support systems like Bookshare will be there through their lives then expectations can grow.

the next developmental questin become, "What is there to help with the transition to work life?"

For those who want to get insight into business here is an example from within the transportation industry with Junior Achievement and Embraer:

Having been developed by the Embraer Institute in partnership with Junior Achievement of São Paulo State, 'Conexão Solidária' (Supportive Connection), the City Administration of São José dos Campos and with 'Cintra Associados', the Professional Entrepreneurship Program for Disabled Persons provides participants with the opportunity of experiencing situations similar to those experienced in a company.

In 30 weekly meetings of 3 hours and a half each, the participants set up a company, define their product, manufacture and sell it. Thus, they get familiar with the main processes that are experienced in the corporate daily routine. Their objectives are:

  • Awake the students' entrepreneurial spirit;
  • Stimulate personal development and the development of the basic skills necessary to increase the students' employment possibilities;
  • Strengthen ethic principles;
  • Provide a realistic view of how a business works.

The Program receives support from Embraer staff, 'Conexão Solidária' and 'Cintra Associados', as well as from the employees' family members and friends working as consultants of the mini-enterprise.

Participation of volunteers is very important to ensure the professional quality of the activities, which together with the learning material of the Junior Achievement Mini-enterprise Program enables the mini-enterprise to be developed in conformity with the real patterns of a company, always pointing out the importance of interpersonal relationship and offering students the possibility of running their own business.

The Professional Entrepreneurship Program for Disabled Persons started in 2002 with the Computer Course for people with visual deficiency. The course was attended by 10 students from the Pro-Vision Prevention and Rehabilitation Center of Visual Deficiency. In 2003 and 2004 the Computer Course was offered again and another 13 students participated.

Also in 2004, the Embraer Institute implemented at the Pro-Vision Center the Pro-Braille Graphic Project with the objective of preparing 16 students with visual deficiency for their entrance into the labor market.

In 2005, the Embraer Institute granted the voice software licenses to the Pro-Vision Center to allow the center to run by itself the Computer Course for people with visual deficiency. In 2006, the same procedure was applied regarding the Pro-Braille Graphic Project. In 2006, the Embraer Institute began to offer the Entrepreneurial Practice Program (described above). In the three years from 2006 to 2008, 78 students with deficiencies participated in the program.

In 2008, the methodology of Entrepreneurial Practice was transferred to AVAPE - Association for Valorization and Promotion of Exceptional People, in partnership with the City Administration of São José dos Campos in job-training projects for differently-abled people, to enable the association to ensure continuance of the program and to promote the students' insertion in the labor market.

Given the learning difficulties and the potentials identified, two participants continued the activities of the Entrepreneurial Practice Program autonomously, manufacturing the handicraft-made bars of soap, and one student got a job as receptionist with a security company. The other participates continue being accompanied and are introduced into specific projects offered by AVAPE for this audience.

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WGBH Boston excels in media accessibility for persons with disabilities. They have trained staff at Benetech's Bookshare.org. Bookshare in Palo Alto Caifornia is the focus of this travelogue series. For the next several weeks I am managing their volunteer program.

At Bookshare one of the growth areas in the volunteer program is something called "image description." When a print book is scanned to be convertd into DAISY format the optical character recognition program does not recognize non-ASCII items such as images (tables, photos, .gif, math formulas). Instead these must be described by humans and the descriptions inserted into the text for blind readers.

There is an art to this as well as technique.

So I was leased when Alex Garcia President of AGAPASM with firsthand experience of being deafblind wrote from Brazil with the following resource to share:

Environmental Description for visually and dual sensory impaired people



Environmental  Description enables sensory impaired people to perceive spontaneous qualitative information in real time, through everyday life experiences. This type of received information can support a person's own actions and decision-making processes. Environmental Description provides focused sensations and experiences which encourage the visually impaired person to participate more fully and deeply in their environment.


This handbook analyses how we can describe the environment. It presents different methods and techniques which can be developed and applied to each individual user's perspective, ranging from life activities to artistic interpretations. It focuses both on the describer's and the receiver's perspectives; giving practical examples with additional exercises for professionals who work with visually and dual sensory impaired people. It includes ideas for getting started, and practical tips for the basis of various categories of  descriptions. The book also includes comments and experiences of describing the environment in real-life situations from different individuals.


Environmental Description can be applied to the needs of a wide range of visually and dual sensory impaired people of various ages, their family members and friends. It provides a basic educational study book for professionals wishing to supplement their knowledge of how to apply different techniques including audio description for museums and art exhibitions.



Riitta Lahtinen  MEd, PhD.

Researcher, Teaching Consultant


Russ Palmer SRAT(M)

Music Therapist,

Visiting Lecturer


Merja Lahtinen  MEd.

Special Teacher of the visually impaired


ISBN 978-0-9550323-2-5

Price: £25.00 (plus p&p)


For further information contact:


Email: rpalmer2@tiscali.co.uk

Website: www.russpalmer.com

Or www.earfoundation.org.uk/shop

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