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Talking Camera Aids Blind Persons

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July 6, 2006 – On Saturday, the Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind (K-NFB) unveiled its Blind Reader, a portable scanning-camera reader to aid the visually impaired.  Fitting in the palm of your hand, the Blind Reader is the first handheld reading device, states the K-NFB website.  The user can place the device over printed text and snap a picture.  In seconds, a synthesized voice reads the text.   The Blind Reader "reads most printed documents," states the product website.  The device can read a few sentences or a page at a time.  It can also store text memory and even read from computer screens, says the website.  Intended to be used for sorting through mail, reviewing important documents, or even reading a menu, the camera-reader is geared towards self-sufficiency for people with disabilities.   "We have needed human readers or scanners and software programs for such jobs – until now," states the K-NFB website.   The K-NFB website also addresses troubleshooting questions.  To accurately frame the picture, the Blind Reader has a "Field of View Report" feature in which the function vocally places the parameters of the document.  The Blind Reader can automatically rotate an image but works more effectively when the text document is square with the reader, so both the reader and the document are oriented in the same direction.  The Field of View Report key gives directions in degrees so the user can rotate the reader, with "zero degrees" meaning both are aligned.  K-NFB also notes multiple graphics on a page may prevent the Blind Reader from accurately reading.   "A blind person has to be more tech-savvy because assistive technology is what levels the playing field for us," said regional sales manager Bobby Lakey of Freedom Scientific, a technology company that manufactures products for the visually impaired. The suggested retail price of the Blind Reader is $3,495. There is an estimated 1.3 million legally blind Americans, according to the American Foundation for the Blind, and approximately 10 million visually impaired people in the U.S.  With three-fourths of visually impaired Americans unemployed, according to the American Foundation for the Blind, the pricey personal assistant poses a financial hurdle.   Kurzweil Educational Systems, Inc. agent Gene Helfrich told that there is no discount for the Blind Reader at this time.  Helfrich could not comment on possible pricing reductions in the future.   The Blind Reader will be available for shipment on July 13.  

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