Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My CSUN Conference Adventure

By Shannon Ramsay, CFILC’s Information & Assistance Advocate

I traveled to San Diego to attend the annual CSUN Technology and Persons with Disabilities conference last month.  Until this year, I have heard a lot about it, but I never had the chance to attend. 

I spent part of Wednesday afternoon and most of Thursday and Friday staffing the AT Network’s table in the exhibit hall at the CSUN conference.  We were located in the second floor ballroom along with all the other nonprofits and government agencies. 

I was able to take some time to circulate and visit with vendors in both parts of the exhibit hall on Thursday and Friday, and I have to say that I was impressed by how many organizations were present from foreign countries.  There were organizations at the conference from Switzerland, Germany, China, Canada, Ireland and Brazil.  It was especially informative to talk to individuals from these organizations to find out what sorts of services are available to people with disabilities in other countries.

I met with representatives from a British company called Traveleyes.  This company organizes trips all over the world for blind and sighted travelers.  The company helps blind individuals find sighted travel companions in the groups in which they travel so that the visually impaired travelers can fully experience the travel destination.  I checked out the Traveleyes website after I returned from the conference to see what sorts of trips the company has planned, and I found myself fantasizing about my next vacation.

This conference really allowed me to broaden my horizons about what types of technology are available for people with other disabilities including people with hearing and speech disabilities as well as various learning disabilities.  I was able to speak with representatives from a company called Interpretype which sells products to help people who are deaf or hard of hearing as well as individuals with communication disabilities.  This company sells products which help individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing communicate by way of text messaging and video phones.  Interpretype also operates a relay communication service and provides access to a remote interpreting service through its products.  

In addition, I found out about a company called Texthelp Systems, which provides a number of different software solutions for people with learning disabilities, low vision and print-related disabilities. This company provides literacy software solutions to help those individuals who have difficulty with reading and writing.  

I did have some personal interests to pursue while I was at the conference.  As a blind individual I am always looking for new solutions to the challenge of navigating unfamiliar environments.  It would be practically impossible for me to get advanced mobility instruction for every new location I have to travel to, so I am very interested in learning about alternatives such as GPS navigation, auditory directions, and tactile maps.  I was very impressed with the work that the company Click and Go Wayfinding Maps is doing for visually impaired travelers.  I was able to listen to a sample narrative map which this company has created at the CSUN conference.  Basically the narrative map provides the traveler with step-by-step instructions for how to get from a particular starting point to the traveler’s destination.  The maps are set up in a similar fashion as instructions from an orientation and mobility instructor who is teaching a student a new route.  I just hope that Click and Go Maps will start creating narrative maps for the Sacramento region very soon, which is where I live, work, and travel.

Finally, I used some of my time during the CSUN conference as an opportunity to conduct some research of my own into what solutions are available for portable scanning systems.  I wanted to check out these devices since I am in the market for something which I can use to scan and read printed text wherever I go.  At the conference, I was able to check out the Pearl scanner, a camera-like device which works in conjunction with a laptop and Open Book scanning software, and the Sarah scanner, which is a stand-alone reading machine.  Both of these scanning devices are sold by Freedom Scientific. Also, I tried the scanning system from Humanware that is manufactured by Intel.  I also stopped by the Sendero Group booth and got more information about the KNFB Reader Mobile I had the opportunity to speak with the different vendors and get hands-on experience with the various scanning devices at the conference. This helped me get a clearer idea of which device would best suit my personal needs.

I definitely had a very interesting experience at the CSUN conference, and I learned a great deal.  This conference is worth attending if you are interested in assistive technology.

Did you attend the CSUN conference this year? If so, please feel free to share what you learned in the space below. 

1 comment:

  1. Nice post.Just like translation company which offers a Braille translation which helps the impaired person the ability to acquire information and communicate with others.It is important to hire a Braille translator who can effectively convert Braille messages to print for a sighted person who can read it but it is not easy.It isn't just translating a language to another, but also it requires a high knowledge and professionalism in translating the Braille system.