Equipment for Deafblind People

This describes pieces of equipment which are used by, or are particularly suitable for use by, deafblind people. Many of these devices are aids to communication. Some are still being developed.
Alphabet Glove
This is a white glove with letters of the alphabet written in various places on it. This allows someone who does not know any of the manual alphabets to communicate with a deafblind person wearing the glove, touching letters in succession. The deafblind person simply feels where they are being touched to know what letter is being sent.
Block Letter Communicator.
This portable device is designed for people who are not able to read braille. The characters that you can feel on the device are a type of blockletter (one character at a time). However this device works only one way, so the deafblind person must be able to answer by speech. Delivered with cover, rechargeable batteries and charger. It takes some practice before the deafblind person is able to feel and recognize the characters. Price: £1,040.00.
For more information you can Contact:
C.Lagarde
Beeksestraat  42
4841 GC    Prinsenbeek
Netherland
Tel/fax +31 (0) 76 5420463
E-mail: clagarde@xs4all.nl
Braille lite
This is like the Braille 'n' Speak made by Blazie Engineering but it has a refreshable braille display on it as well as speech. The speech can be turned off. The Blazie site also has an article reviewing it. Blazie Engineering now have UK Site.
Braille Closed Caption Decoder
Converts American closed captions off TV into grade 1 or 2 braille. This is made by Dewtronics. Nelson Dew <ndew@cwv.net> has supplied me with the README file for this product, which I have put here as I received it.
The contact details for Dewtronics are:
DEWTRONICS
Nelson R. Dew
206 Bob Vines Rd.
P.O. Box 308
Ghent, WV 25843-0308
Phone +1 (304) 787-9712
E-Mail ndew@cwv.net
Braillephone
I have no description of this device. It can be obtained from:

Audio Visual Mart
P. O. 23020
Harahan
LA 70183-0020
USA
Phone +1 504 733-1500
(800) 737-6278 -- that may be a free call number in the USA??
Fax + 1 504 733-1662
Brailletalk
This is a small, black, plastic box, about the area of a postcard and about 1 cm thick. It opens up like a book and has braille symbols for A-Z, THE, and AND, above which are printed the meanings in Roman type. (It may have other symbols in, it is a while since I have seen it.) The sighted person guides the deafblind person's finger to the appropriate cell, spelling out the message. Malcolm Matthews <malcolmm@ash.win-uk.net> dug about for me to remind me of the name. It is available from Electronic Services for the Blind and from .
Brian And Jance Payne
28 Crofton Avenue,
Orpington,
KENT,
ENGLAND,
BR6 8DU.
United Kingdom.
Tel: +44 1689 856118.
CUPID Computer Use by the PrInt Disabled
is a system which is designed for people who use touch, sight or sound to access information. It is an organiser, word processor and communication aid developed by Cloudworld Ltd. The novel tactile output is not braille based, and it is claimed to be quicker to read than braille. Outputs in large print and clear speech are also possible. The unit is not yet in production as I write this (June 1998). Cloudworld Ltd was founded by John Nissen <jn@tommy.demon.co.uk> in 1996.
Finger Braille Supporting Device
'Yubi-Tenji' or finger braille system involves touching the opposite persons fingers (3 on left and 3 on right hand) to express the characters of the braille system. This allows fast and reliable communication but is limited to conversations between 2 people. The Finger Braille Supporting Device has been developed to allow several persons to take part in a conversation simultaneously. In response to the touch of the sender on the sensor, the message is transmitted to the back of the fingertips of the receiver by means of motor actuators. The sensors and actuators are connected by a cable which may extend to the length of the room. Since the device has 6 sensors and 6 actuators, two way conversation is possible between 2 people. By connecting several devices in a cascade, simultaneous conversation between several people is possible. The principle of the device is that if one person touches the sensor, the signal will be received by all acuators and vice-versa for the reply. the device has 6 sensing switches and 6 actuators driven by a gear motor. The case contains a one-chip microcomputer. If any switch is on the computer will send the code to both serial ports simultaneously. The code is similar to that used in a MIDI sound system with the exception that the Baud rate is slower.
Sadao Mazuka
224-3 Nishigasaki,
Hamamatsu 431-31,
Japan.
E-mail: HQF01603@niftyserve.or.jp
Amateur Packet: JA2BUZ@JI2YFS.18.JNET2.JPN.AS
Flashing (Large print) timer[This page seems to have gone]
A person has developed this timer and is seeking a manufacturer for it.
Flat Magnetic Stainless Steel Speakers.
A supplementary device to aid morse code reception on the radio frequency for deafblind persons. The FO of this device (lowest resonance frequency) is about 800 cycles. It gives maximum power on this frequency. These magnetic speakers
can be substituted for an existing 'dynamic' audio speaker to provide a lower frequency which is more appropriate for morse code. The stainless steel plate on these speakers also give a harder vibrating tone for morse code reception. Price: ¥440
FDK Corporation
Industrial Sales and Marketing Division,
6-1-11,
Shinbashi,
Minatoku,
Tokyo 105,
Japan.
Tel: +81 3 5473 4666
Fax: +81 3 3434 4325
Email: senri@fdk.co.jp
Web: http://www.fdk.co.jp/
Hand Tapper
This allows a deafblind person who uses the British Manual alphabet to use the telephone. There is a handshaped indentation in the top of the unit, and the person rests their hand on this. "Buttons" are pressed up against the fingers to form (slightly modified) British Manual characters. This project is very much still under development, and is being held back by funding problems. Hasicom (Hearing And Sight Impaired Communication), whose project this is, are now part of the Deafblind UK, in Peterborough, England. They can be contaced by email at hasicom@dbuktechnology.demon.co.uk. BT used to have a page about this, but it seems to have gone.
Large Print Display for TTY
Ultratec make a large print display which plugs into the printer port of their textphones (Minicoms, or TTYs). This is not available in the UK as Ultratec cannot justify the cost of BABT approval.
Lightwriter
Lightwriters are designed to allow deaf people who don't sign, or aphasic people, to coomunicate using text. There are various models of lightwriter, and some of them have vacuum flourescent displays, which makes them particularly easy to see -- they are bright blue characters. I don't think they have a large print display though. They can have one keyboard, or two keyboards back to back, or they can have a scanning system with a switch for people with motor disabilities. They are produced by Toby Churchill Ltd of Cambridge, England (Email 100701.446@compuserve.com), and are also described on an Australian WWW page.
Nurion Industries

Station Square,
Building 2,
Paoli,
Pennsylvania 19301,
USA.
Tel: +1 610 640 2345
Fax: +1 610 647 2216
Laser Cane N-8
The N-8 is a laser cane mobility aid designed to assist blind or deafblind individuals. Two invisible light beams are emitted from the cane. The high light is for head-height protection; the second is directed forward for straight ahead information. When the light beam strikes an object within range it is reflected back to a receiving unit built into the cane. A vibrating unit signals the userís index finger and a high or low pitched sound is given off. N8 has a 12-foot range and can also be used as a standard cane. The user may receive audible and tactile warning simultaneously, or turn the sounds off. Rechargeable power source.
Weight: 1 lb (450g)
Price: $2,650.00
Wheelchair Pathfinder Navigating device for wheelchairs and scooters,
consisting of a set of small rectangular boxes which mount to the front of the mobility device. Lasers point downward while ultrasonic beams are transmitted in front and to the side of the wheelchair. When the beam contacts an object, it bounces back to a receiver, causing both a tactile signal and an audible warning signal. The device has a range of 8 feet (2.4m) forward, above head height or 4 feet (1.2m) when selected; 12 inches (30.48cm) to the side and 4 feet (1.2m) in front of a step, curb or other dropoff. Ref: SFD-200 Price: $4,500.00
Polaron
Lightweight, compact mobility aid for deafblind and blind people. The unit utilizes ultrasonic technology to detect objects within four, eight or sixteen feet. When an obstacle is within range, the Polaron either vibrates or emits a sound. User selects either of these with a small switch on the device. Other controls include the range switch and the power switch. The unit allows the user to choose between hand-held and chest-mounted positions. When in the chest mounted position, a miniaturized vibrator located behind the neck in the neck strap indicates if there is an obstacle. At 8 to 16 feet (2.4 to 4.8 metres), the vibration is steady; within 8 feet (2.4 metres) it becomes more pronounced and within 4 feet (1.2 metres) it is very intense. The unit requires a commercial alkaline or rechargeable 9 volt battery. The sensor angle is adjustable for chest-mounted use. Colour: black; Material: durable plastic housing. Length: 162mm Width: 275mm Height: 50mm Weight: 270g Ref: PN-2 Price: $892.00
Omni Page
This paging system is designed for people who need to communicate to another person - or need to be aware of a signal from an electronic device, such as a smoke detector, telephone, sound monitor, or doorbell.

The wireless receiver unit is attached to a belt or pocket and sends an audible sound (beeper) or vibration to summon the wearer when a transmitter is activated.
The receiver is notified of a 'page' from one of the optional transmitters sent by another person, either from a pendant pager transmitter, body activated switch, or hand-held pager transmitter. Or the receiver unit can receive a signal from a specially designed electronic device, such as a smoke detector, doorbell transmitter, sound monitor, or telephone transmitter. The device has a 100 foot range. A specially designed body activated transmitter is available for physically challenged persons.
Thank you to PETER TARRANT <ptarrant@OZEMAIL.COM.AU> for this information. He got it from the USA.
RALPH (Robotic Alphabet)
This is a robotic fingerspelling hand which interfaces to any serial (RS232) device. It converts the ASCII to American fingerspelling for use by a deafblind person who is unfamiliar with braille or who does not have the sensitivity to feel it. It is still under development.
Screen Braille Communicator
This is a portable unit about the size of a text telephone, but it only weighs 900g (2 lb). It has a QWERTY keyboard and LCD display on one side, and on the other (where a text phone would have its rubber cups) is a braille keyboard and a display. The braille display can be 1 or 8 cells of 6-dot braille. What the braille user inputs is seen on the LCD display, and what the typist inputs is beld in a buffer and can be scrolled through by the deafblind user. The braille is grade 1 with no group contractions (OU, ING, AND, etc are not available). When the deafblind person has finished reading what is in the buffer an LED lights up. The Screen Braille Communicator is designed for face-to-face communication, so the buffer holding the text is only 512 characters long, but this can be expanded up to 1 or 2k. There is no connector for a computer or printer; this is for reasons of simpliciity and cost. It is powered by a rechargeable battery. The unit can be obtained from:
C. Lagarde
Beeksestraat 42
NL-4841 GC Prinsenbeek
The Netherlands
Voice: +31 76 5420463
Fax: +31 76 5420463
Email: lagarde@freemail.nl
Speaking Hand
This is based on a dataglove, and allows a deafblind person to send the British (2 handed) manual alphabet to a computer. In the future it is hoped the computer can send back to the user by inflating small balloons in the glove to produce pressure on the fingertips like that from another person. It was invented by Robert Kleine. It has been shown on the BBC's television programmes "Tomorrow's World" and "See Hear!" and exhibited at the London Science Museum.
Speech to braille Project
Krista Caudill <caudill@ASEL.UDEL.EDU> is working with Beth Finn at the Applied Science and Engineering Laboratories ASEL, University of Delaware on a project to produce a portable communications system for deafblind people, based on translating braille to and from speech. There is an article about it .
SuperBraille 2000.
Eight navigation keys provide for screen reading and editing. An autopoint system - with up to 44 programmable push button pointers integrated with each Braille cell - is used to activate menu items and to move the cursor and mouse pointer to a specific cell's displayed character.
A separate Braille display computer processor features an online reference manual and notepad available for reference or note taking independent of any actively running PC application. The standard keyboard includes a hardware-based, 8-dot Braille keyboard emulation capability.
The SuperBraille may be a good laptop for use with a Deafblind person because of it's portability, it may help Deafblind people to communicate to non Deafblind Manual alphabet users when out and about.
SuperBraille(TM)-LT features:
11.3 inch x  9 inch footprint
standard QWERTY keyboard
8-dot, 40-cell Braille display
7 pounds
MS-DOS and Windows pre-installed
Advanced Access Devices
Contact Person: David Mansoir
2066-C Walsh Ave.
Santa Clara, CA 95050
Tel: (408)970-9760
Fax: (408)970-0808
E-mail: aadbrl@aol.com
TACTAID
The TACTAID II+ and the TACTAID 7 convert sounds to vibrations on small pads which can be attached to the body. The difference is that the TACTAID II+ has 2 channels and thus 2 pads, while the TACTAID 7 has 7 channels. Each channel reponsds to a frequency band. The unit consists of a small box much like a body worn aid, and wires running to the pads. If the pads are attached to areas where long bones are prominent E.g, by a ring to the fingers, or on a wrist band, it becomes easier to feel the vibrations. These are manufactured by Audiological Engineering Corporation, 35 Medford Street, Somerville, MA 02143, USA Thank you to Dona Sauerburger <sauerburger@mindsprint.com> and Jim Boardman <JBoard1952@aol.com> for this information.
Tactiwatch
This is a vibrating clock, available from RNIB. It cannot be set by a deafblind person. It "displays" the time by pulses of vibration, the user counts the pulses to get the hours and minutes.
Talking Disc -- NO LONGER AVAILABLE
This was a disc with braille and print characters on it, and a pointer. The pointer was moved to the print character, and the deafblind person feels the corresponding braille character. It was available from RNIB.
Talking Glove
A Cyberglove virtual reality gove has been used in the recognition of the american one-handed fingerspelling alphabet.
TDDs for the Deaf-Blind
A short list from Computer Technology for Persons with vision impairments resource list at the Washington Assitive Technology Alliance site.
Telebraille
The Telebraille is made by Telesensory in California. The telebraille does not have a computer communications modem but it does have a TTY (TDD) modem. It was designed as a TTY for deafblind people and is also very useful for face to face conversation. It has two components. The sighted component is a modified SuperCom TTY device. It has a qwerty keyboard and a single line LED dislplay. The display is regular size and is not particularly suited to people with low vision. The SuperCom TTY can be connected directly to the telephone line using conventional telephone jack or the telephone receiver can be coupled to the SuperCom on a cradle on top of the device. Text flows past the display, in a continuous stream, like tickertape The SuperCom is connected to the Braille portion of the device by a cable that is about two feet long. The Braille display is about 15 characters in width, although there is a knockout to allow additional characters to be installed, at considerable additional cost. The Telebraille is able to communicate in ASCI mode but it is not compatible to conventional computer modems. There is what looks like a RS232 socket on the back of the Braille component, but the instructions for the Telebraille state that this jack is for 'future use' and that no computer devices should be attached to it! This conversation reminds me that I have not been in contact with Telesensory for over two years and further developments may have been made since then. They have a WWW page about the Telebraille III.

Thank you to Robert Froom <arch@intacc.net> for this description. Another description of the Telebraille is available from the A-Z to Deafblindness site.
Telephoning with Deaf-blind people over the PC,
The Award winning Project "Telephoning with Deafblind people (also very useful for only hearing-impaired persons) over the PC". With the aid of Ulrich Greve's project, a Deafblind person can telephone with a sighted hearing person with the computer, the specially developed software (chooseable with a DOS or Windows program) and modem. With a vibration signaling unit at the deafblind person or optionally at the sighted hearing persons PC speaker, a call is signaled - in the Windows version e.g. also during working with a word processor. The simplicity of the user interface (DOS/Windows) makes it possible that the programs can be also operated with a Refreshable Braille Display. After the telephone connection is established, both interlocutors can, e.g. in the Windows version, communicate with each other with a window, which is divided into two parts. In the one part, the whole conversation is shown, and in the second part the partner writes the text which he wants to send to the other interlocutor. The program offers several setting possibilities, e.g. of the modem, how should the telephone call be signalled (vibrator/PC speaker) or the language of the user interface, which is German or English.  The Deafblind or deaf can multiply their very restricted communication facilities enormously, e.g. by equipping relatives, acquaintances or authorities, who have a PC with a modem, with the software, or connect the software with a notebook computer (also with a Refreshable Braille Display), PCMCIA modem and a wireless telephone.
In 1998, this project was Awarded a prize by the Christoffel Blindenmission which tries to help blind and other disabled people (independently of their religion) internationally.
The programs are free of charge. If you are interested in them, you can request the programs for $10 US dollars expenses from Ulrich Greve, or download as a compressed file (ZIP format) (size of the DOS version: about 30 KB, size of the Windows version, about 90 KB). If you want to download the programs, please send Ulrich Greve, a message, then he will give you the address for downloading the software, And if required, also an address where you can find an unpacking program for files in the ZIP format.
  • Contact address.
  • Ulrich Greve,
  • Birkenfelder Str. 12,
  • D-75180 Pforzheim,
  • Germany.

  • E-Mail Ulrich Greve at, blindsoftware@tichnut.de. For more information about the Telephoning with Deafblind people software visit, Telephoning with Deaf-blind people over the PC. This site is available in two languages.
    Telephoning with Deaf-blind people over the PC, Web site in English.
    Or the Telephoning with Deaf-blind people over the PC, Web site in German.
    Teletouch
    The teletouch is a mechanical device the size of a small portable typewriter. It has a combined qwerty/Braille keyboard on one side and a single Braille cell on the receiving side. The sender must type slowly and precisely because the receiver must read one letter at a time. This machine has been out of production for some time and is hard to get, but it does have the advantage of being light and portable and it does not require a power supply.

    Thank you to Robert Froom <arch@intacc.net> for this description.
    The Touching Solution to Medication Independence for Deaf-Blind Individuals: A Vibro-Tactile, Multi-Alarm, Wearable Medication Reminder.
    There are some devices on the commercial market which can remind people when to do something, and some even target the medication-taking issue. These devices, however, are not usable by deaf-blind persons for two reasons: (1) they require vision to set the alarm times, and (2) they require hearing to detect the alarms.
    Versabraille
    this is like a text telephone (or TTY) but the display is in braille. These are no longer made and are hard to get repaired.
    Vibrating Alerting Devices
    There are a number of suppliers of such things including
    Vibrating Doorbell
    A modified doorbell button transmits signals to a vibrating (and audible) alarm worn by the user. This is available from RNIB.
    Vibrating Pager VP1
    This pager is part of the Connevans Personal Pager System (PPS). This pager is carried by the user and will vibrate when triggered by one of the trigger units alerting the user. Ref: 50PVI Price: £110.00
    Trigger Units
    These trigger units are part of the Connevans Personal Pager System (PPS). Sensing trigger units are placed near the sources of sound and the user carries a PPS vibrating unit which vibrates when a trigger unit has been set off. Types of trigger units available are: fire alarm; telephone; doorbell; baby alarm; external switch; call alarm; alarm clock and an intruder alarm.
    Price: £60.00 Standard Range
    Connevans Ltd
    54 Albert Road North, Reigate, Surrey RH2 9YR, UK.
    Tel: +44 1737 247571
    Fax: +44 1737 223475
    Connevans Ltd
    Electronic Engs
    54 Albert Rd
    Reigate
    Surrey
    RH2 9YR
    Tel: (01737) 247571
    Fax: (01737) 223475
    Vibrating Liquid Level Indicator
    Designed principally for milk, and tea or coffee in a cup, this has long prongs (for the milk) and short prongs (for the drink) and hangs over the side of the cup. It vibrates when liquid touches the prongs. Available from RNIB
    The Vuphonics Home Page.
    "Vuphonics" is an experimental sensory-substitution system that is being developed for use by blind and deafblind people, and this site describes "work-in-progress". The Vuphonics system highlights the features of visual images that are normally perceived categorically, by substituting with coded sound effects and their tactile equivalents. It attempts to reproduce the "instant recognition" of objects and properties that occurs in visual perception, by using the near-instantaneous recognition of phoneme sounds that occurs in speech. By listening to coded phonetic sounds (and feeling corresponding tactile/braille effects), the user can instantly understand the colours, textures, distances and "identified objects" that are present in an image. The non-categorical details are filled in via variations in volume, to produce a "texture" effect. The system also conveys shape, location, "change", and, where possible, recognised objects. I am not sure about this myself but I thought it may be of interest to others so I have added it on the equipment Page.


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    Last Modified on 28-APRIL-2000 by James Gallagher <James@deafblind.co.uk>.