The purpose of the event is to inform vision-impaired individuals of current technology and other services that could help them with everyday obstacles. The symposium also allows people with low-vision to try different products in person so they can decide which ones would best fit their individual needs.
“Many of us couldn’t make it without technology,” said Debbie Culver, coordinator of blind services for the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services.
Culver and her husband, Norman, began discussing the idea of a technology fair in 2005. They talked about the impact technology can have on the blind/low-vision community and the difference it can make in their everyday lives.
“We thought it would be great,” Culver said.
The event came to be through the partnership of the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind, the Department of Rehabilitation Services and the Alumni Association of the School for the Blind. Culver said the event would not be possible without the cooperation of the three groups, as well as those who volunteered their time.
Twenty vendors from across the country were present at the first day of the symposium, offering a chance for hands-on use of devices such as closed circuit televisions, prescription medicine and bar code readers and low-vision accessible Apple products, such as the iPod and iPad. Other products available included braille greeting cards, talking watches, talking scales, color identifiers and mobility canes.
Culver, who is visually impaired, knows from experience the usefulness of the audible prescription medication reader. Users of the device can hold their prescription bottles above the device and hear important information such as the name of the drug, dosage and instructions, warnings, pharmacy and doctor information and who the medicine has been prescribed to. Culver said the ScripTalk device has made a “tremendous” difference in her life.
Also available at the symposium was the ID Mate, a portable talking bar code scanner. The scanner aids those with low vision with the identification of millions of items through the products’ UPC or bar code. The ID Mate works with a wide variety of items, including groceries, over-the-counter drugs, beauty products, cleaning supplies, pet supplies and DVDs.
“It’s wonderful when you can find a device that people with no vision or low vision can use,” Culver said. “It lets them venture out and do things they couldn’t do before. It just makes it easier.”
Representatives from Regions Bank were present at ASB to provide assistance with the banking needs of those with low vision. Available at Regions are services such as braille bank statements, audio bank statements, large-print bank statements and an American Sign Language interpreter.
Several training sessions were also presented by employees of AIDB and the Department of Rehabilitation Services that dealt with topics such as “Appropriate and Positive Uses of Social Media,” “Underutilized Technology” and “Accessible Digital Lifestyle.”
Today’s training sessions will cover many different subjects, including how the visually impaired can utilize technology to overcome employment barriers.
The Technology Symposium was planned in conjunction with the annual Alumni Convention of the Alabama School for the Blind so the information could reach a large number of people. The event usually sees 400-500 visitors each year.
The technology symposium, which is open to the public, continues today at Asbury Hall on the campus of Alabama School for the Blind, located at 705 S. East St. in Talladega.
Contact Kenny Farmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.