In this new "Technology Q&A" column, we seek to answer questions related to technology submitted by JVIB readers. This month's question was submitted by a teacher of students with visual impairments who wrote:
"Anna" is a 9-year-old in an inclusion third-grade class. She is developmentally delayed, visually impaired (20/1000), and has emotional disorders. Anna recently transferred to our school. In her old school she would not participate in braille instruction. She is reading on a first-grade level. Anna participated in a low vision exam and was prescribed a + 20 hand magnifier, + 20 ClearImage microscope, 6X30 Selsi telescope, and a very basic CCTV [closed-circuit television]. Anna likes to use her low vision aids, and has been very cooperative with training to use such a close working distance. Anna cannot read her own writing. Once she becomes comfortable in her new school she will receive instruction in braille. Her teachers have two concerns that we would like the assistive technology specialist to address. What type of CCTV should we request that would allow Anna to participate in computer activities with projection magnification? Anna is not able to see the Promethean Activboards [interactive whiteboards that connect to computers and projectors] her teachers use in the classroom. She becomes frustrated using the telescope. Does the assistive technology specialist have any suggestions?
The question of what type of closed-circuit televisions (CCTVs) are appropriate to use in a classroom setting is in many ways a universal one, and we hope this response will not only benefit Anna, but also provide tips for other students and those who work with them.
KEY QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
A video magnifier, or CCTV system, uses a stand-mounted or handheld video camera to project a magnified image onto a video monitor, television screen, or computer monitor. Choosing the correct video magnifier involves a number of factors. When conducting an assistive technology assessment, key questions that must be answered include how much reading the student needs to do, how quickly can he or she read, and will he or she become fatigued. If the student becomes fatigued quickly while reading visually, a CCTV may not be the best answer. If she cannot keep up with the reading speed of her classmates, another method of reading may be required. Another question to ask is whether the student's eye condition is progressive. If it is, it may not be wise for the school district to invest a few thousand dollars in a video magnifier. However, the investment may still be worthwhile if there are other students in the district who could use the unit when the student in question can no longer use it.
One product that could help Anna is the STRIX from the Dutch company FOCI BV, distributed by Florida Reading and Vision Technology. The STRIX is a portable, handheld electronic CCTV with an adjustable angle and a 7-inch thin film transistor (TFT) display screen. A portable CCTV has the advantage of being able to be moved from place to place to accommodate various activities in the classroom and elsewhere. It has a display-freeze feature that allows you to take a temporary picture of what is on the screen, and a stand to facilitate short handwriting tasks. It also has adjustable magnification levels and various display modes.
The STRIX has an auto-focus camera, can be used for reading and writing, and can be held up to magnify images across the room. The device can magnify from 4 to 22 times. In addition to its full-color (photo) mode, it displays images in high-contrast black on white (positive) and high-contrast white on black (negative) modes.
The STRIX's Freeze mode freezes the image on the display screen, allowing you to save the image temporarily. You can then hold the screen closer to your face for a better view or take the image to another room to show it to someone else. The STRIX can be powered for 2.5 to 3.5 hours by its internal, rechargeable battery or by its external power adapter. It also has a Power Save feature that automatically turns off the device after 30 minutes of inactivity.
Another product that might help Anna is the View from Vision Technology. The View is a completely collapsible and portable tabletop system with an XY table (a table that moves around under the lens of the camera of the CCTV on which you place the material to be read) with a rotating camera for seeing near, intermediate, and far distances. This unit has a 15-inch monitor with both color and black and white viewing modes. A tabletop system is sturdy, stays in one place, and does not need any setup.
Both of these products could help the student in multiple ways. She can use them for reading and writing. She can aim the camera at the teacher and see what he or she is doing. She can use the Distance mode to read the blackboard or Activboard. (If she's bored, she can point the camera out the window and watch the birds, just like sighted students do.)
The teacher's description of the student's vision implies that it will be a struggle for this student to do her work using vision alone. The best solution may involve speech and braille. A good place to start could be a personal digital assistant (PDA) with speech output, such as the VoiceNote from HumanWare. In the long run, the student would be able to type faster than she now writes by hand. With such a device, she would also be able to review what she has typed more easily than what she has written.
I have suggested two products that could help the student described in the question do her work. These CCTVs are tools that will allow the user to read, write, and view objects at a distance. If the student has enough sight to use a CCTV productively, she will be able to participate fully in class and complete her schoolwork. The CCTV is just a tool, however. If the student's sight is not adequate, another solution, involving speech output or braille or both, will need to be found.
Manufacturer: FOCI BV, Tijs Van Zeventerstraat 29, 3062XP, Rotterdam, The Netherlands; phone: +31-10-7982405; e-mail:
Manufacturer: Vision Technology, 8501 Delport Drive, St. Louis, MO 63114; phone: 800-560-7226 or 314-890-8300; e-mail:
Manufacturer: HumanWare, 175 Mason Circle, Concord, CA 94520; phone: 800-722-3393 or 925-680-7100; e-mail:
Editor's note: In the fall of 2007, a representative group of JVIB subscribers were invited to participate in the 2007 Special JVIB Readers Survey. Among their responses, they indicated they wanted more practical information on assistive technology and how such products are being used in education and employment. As a direct result of this feedback, the editors of JVIB have developed a new "Technology Q&A" column, written by technology expert Jay Leventhal, editor in chief of AccessWorld: Technology and People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired. For this month's installment, JVIB invited teachers to submit their technology questions to the technology expert. In future columns, we hope to respond to questions received on the subjects of technology in the workplace and technology and seniors, to name a few of the concerns expressed. You are encouraged to submit your own technology questions to the column's editor by e-mail at:
HAVE A QUESTION FOR THE TECHNOLOGY EXPERT?
If you would like to submit a question to JVIB's technology expert for consideration for a future "Technology Q&A" column, please send an e-mail message to
Jay Leventhal, B.A., editor in chief, AccessWorld: Technology and People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired, Web Operations, American Foundation for the Blind, 11 Penn Plaza, Suite 300, New York, NY 10001; e-mail: