Archive for the ‘Visual Impairment’ Category

Jeff Owen Hanson: Investing Painter

By 14 years old this young man not only defied the odds against an optic tumor he named “Clod Cloddhopper”, he also owned multiple money making stocks and through his art and entrepreneurship had raised and donated $15,000 for multiple charities. To date, Jeff has donated over $200,000 to charity and continues to lead the way in disability advocacy with the sale of his brilliant abstract paintings.

Jeffrey Owen Hanson story.

For more on Jeff, to view his gallery, or to find out how you can contribute to his cause, visit

Miniature Horses the New ADA Service Animal?


Ramouni and Cali

Mona Ramouni rides a SMART bus to her job with her guide horse, Cali, in Lincoln Park, Mich., Thursday, April 9, 2009. Ramouni lost her sight soon after birth, but she can't use a guide dog. Many Muslims consider dogs unclean, and Ramouni respects her parents' aversion to having one in their home. The solution, she hopes, is Cali, a miniature horse who stands 30 inches tall and is being trained to help Ramouni through her daily routine. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

e new Americans with disabilities Act guidelines have been shaking up the industry, and this particular news story demonstrates that perfectly — if a bit on the extreme side, but new and different nonetheless.

Most people who require the aid of a service animal use dogs. In some cases trained assistance monkeys have been used, but assistance dogs are the “norm”. But new federal guidelines in ADA also permit the use miniature horses!

Currently, five miniature horses serve as assistance animals to the blind.

The article mentions some of the benefits and some of the difficulties of using minis as assistance animals, such as, they don’t attract fleas but they do get other parasites like ticks. A mini is about the size of a Newfoundland dog so physically they aren’t larger than a dog, but they do require more physical space for living, a stall, and an environment in which they can move about and interaction with other horses. Both a dog and a mini can be houstrained, though dogs are fed and walked a couple of times a day whereas horses eat hay and grass and produce waste all through the day. Minis can be fed grass and hay in the form of pellets, though experts cautiuon that this can cause ulcers.

Overall, the choice to use a miniature horse as a service or guide animal is probably not going to be something that everyone opts for, and experts don’t believe that this is going to be a sudden trend that individuals in need of service animals will rush out to join. Though a few experts are worried that some individuals may rush into choosing a mini for a service animal and then leave them homeless if things don’t work out.

You can read the full Washington Post article here.

The article also introduces you to Michigan State University student Mona Ramouni and her miniature guide horsel, Cali. Ramouni chose to use a mini because of her family’s devout Muslim upbringing which consider dogs to be unclean. Ramouni has pushed hard for the acceptance of using miniature horses as service/guide animals, petitioning the Department of Justice to include minis in the new ADA law.

If you’d like to know more about Ramouni and her mini Cali, a blog has been set up to document their lives together, at

Associated Press. “Miniature Horse Is Lone Exception to Dog in Federal Law Governing Service Animals for Disabled.” The Washington Post. Associated Press, 31 Mar. 2011. Web. 04 Apr. 2011.

Braille Polaroid Camera

One of the members of our DSS staff is a huge photo journaling junkie. In fact, the journaling junkie happens to be the one who writes these posts. In any case, photos are a huge part of this junkie’s life and imagines that to some degree its a large part of everyone’s life. Even if you’re the “only on holiday’s” convert or the “I will photograph every minunte of my entire day’s life, of every day, for every day of my existence” fanatic (you know who you are and now thanks to Facebook so does everybody else), photos convey the moments of our life in visual representations. How we then catalog, archive, and view those moments is creatively individual.

Braille Polaroid Camera

Braille Polaroid Camera. Image via red-dot design.

But what do the blind do for photographs? Is the art of scrapbooking lost to them? Do they take photographs and let others around them recount each one in detail to them? Do they make descriptive pop-up bubbles brought to textual life with braille instead of handwriting? And lets say with all that solved, is the art and beauty of the photograph still unattainable if you can’t actually see the image?

Now, what if that photograph could be seen…only…in braille.

Braille Polaroid Camera

Braille Polaroid Camera.

The Braille Polaroid Camera, by designers Son Seunghee, Lee Sukyung, and Kim Hyunsoo, has a built-in braille printer, and is designed for the visually impaired to record and print the world around them in braille!

The camera itself has been designed to resemble most other cameras, only the built-in printer immediately prints the image after the shot in braille. The images then recorded can be felt by the visually impaired individual, allowing them to “see” the world around them and the moments they have captured. It is also safe to collect the braille photographs in albums.

Currently the Braille Polaroid Camera is a concept design and was the 2008 winner for the reddot design award.

Sign Voice Language Translator

So a blind man and a deaf guy walk into a bar…

Sound like a bad joke? It probably was. But designers Han-na Lee and Sang Hyeon saw it as an opportunity.

Their brilliant idea turned into a developing concept for a communication device that helps both the hearing impaired and the visually impaired to communicate with one another. Dubbed the Sign Voice Language Translator (SVLT), the device helps a blind and deaf persons interact by acting as a translator that converts gestures to voice and audio signals/voice into written text.

Sign Voice Language Translator

Sign Voice Language Translator. Images via Yanko Design

The concept gadget is a portable device that incorporates a camera to record the sign language gestures and an LCD touch screen that displays text to the hearing impaired, and speakers in the other device that delivers in audio the converted version of sign language gestures to the visually impaired. The gadget, which is actually two gadets (one for each user) work together as a system, each connected to the other via Bluetooth.

The images below are more product model images displaying the gadgets and demonstrating how they work:

Sign Voice Language Translator

Sign Voice Language Translator. A small camera records the sign language gestures and converts them into written text on an LCD touch screen.

Sign Voice Language Translator

Sign Voice Language Translator

They can be aware of each other and receive language sign by using Bluetooth.

Sign Voice Language Translator

When the hearing impaired communicate with the visually impaired.

Sign Voice Language Translator

When the hearing impaired interact with the hearing. All images used in this post via Yanko Design.

Picture of the day: Braille map of Paris metro

Braille map Paris metro

Person touches a braille map of the Paris metro, 11 June 2008. Image via

Braille Wallpaper

Braille wallpaper

Braille wallpaper by Ilias Fotopoulos. Image via

Can you guess what the image to the left is? If the image reminded you of Braille, then you’re half way there. If you thought, “Hmmm…that would look fantastic as wallpaper,” then you, my friend, have a designers’ heart.

The image is actually both braille and wallpaper. Simply named “Braille wallpaper,” from designer Ilias Fotopoulos, it is part of the Braille Project, which aims to collaborate with culturally diverse and visually impaired artists and writers to publish their work in braille as 3-dimensional, readable wallpaper using a varity of 3-dimensional media.

But that’s just the project’s physical properties. The project’s deeper meaning is to question notions of decoration, publishing, accessibility of design and interaction of the observer through the universal language of 3-dimensional braille. The project itself questions “is design really accessible to all?”

As Fotopoulos explains:

It will examine design accessibility through role reversal — a visually impaired person will be able to touch the wallpaper and read the story where as sighted observers will remain observers of a tactile pattern that they will touch and feel through its 3 dimensionality. It will be sighted people who are excluded from the language of the design created — a role they are usually unaccustomed to and which visually impaired people must deal with on a daily basis. [Source]

Braille wallpaper

Image via Google search.

From an artist’s stand point, the project also examines the process of design itself. Normally, the artist controls the content of their art; they control the design, the effect, the properties, their interaction with space and form and the elements around the piece. In the Braille wallpaper, the braille is an entity unto itself; it breathes a life of its own through which the only control the artist actually has is the coloration of the dots themselves. Apart from that, there can be no other manipulation. So, like the pattern the braille constructs in telling the story or not, it really is of no control by the artist. Essentially, the designer and observer may like the story but hate the pattern, or may even like the pattern but dislike the story.

Fotopoulos has an unerring hope that the project will “raise the profile of visual impairment and of visually impaired people as members of society, as artists, writers, musicians etc. And to ultimately create a system of mass produced braille signage and labelling for store fonts, supermarkets and the like.”

And, in case you were wondering, the Braille wallpaper does actually tell a story; it is “Listen and Record” by writer Juro Osawa.You can read the short story here.

Fotopoulos is currently holding a competition for the next story to be published in his Braille wallpaper. Those interested in entering the compeition may submit their story in the form provided here. There is a 300-word limit, but the story may be as short as one word.

Laser Walking Stick for the blind is perhaps one science fair away from existence

Covert Affairs

Scene from Covert Affairs featuring Auggie (played by Christopher Gorham) using a laserpoint walking stick. Image via, ph. by Steve Wilkie/USA Network

Last week’s post on the Braille Sense Plus QWERTY Notetaker was inspired by its use on the new USA Network series “Covert Affairs”. In the show, the technology used by Auggie, a CIA agent blinded during his tour in Iraq. But this certainly isn’t the only cool bit of technology that Auggie (played by Christpher Gorham) has used on the show, and writers and producers of the show promise it won’t be the last.

Another assistive device that Auggie uses is a laser pointer walking stick. This nifty piece of gadgetry is a laser ranging system (like radar but using lasers). Lasering out in a grid pattern, the laser detects objects, obstacles, stairs, curbs, etc., and relays the information to the user with audible tones and tactile information, such a vibrations. The laser ranging system works by sending out a pulse of beams that time how long it takes the pulses to reflect back [Source].

Sounds like quite an amazing little bit of technology doesn’t it? Well, it is…or, at least it would be if it existed. As Christopher Gorham reveals in in this interview with Media Blvd Magazine. That is to say, Auggie’s cool laser walking cane doesn’t exist, but the technology is there.

Laser Cane

The Laser Cane, available at

For instance, the Laser Cane (shown left) is one of the first types of walking canes to begin utilizing laser technology. Designed specifically to adress the walking needs of individuals with various neurological conditions, such as: Parkinson’s, ALS, Stroke, PSP, Multiple Sclerosis, Brain Injuries, Balance Disorders, and MSA, the Laser Cane utilizes laser technology to provide a target to step over, helping to overcome freezing episodes. What this means is, the beam creates a visual “obstacle” which forces the individual to life their foor up and over the beam, reducing the individuals tendency to drag, shuffle, or otherwise teeter on their feet.

But this Laser Cane doesn’t provide any assistance for the blind and certainly isn’t anything like the device that Auggie uses, right. So where’s that good stuff? Its existence is perhaps in the very near future with the laser walking cane developed by three Palestinian teenagers from the rufugee city Nablus. Their incredible invention can be seen in the news story below:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Braille Screen by Danny Greenfield

Braille Screen by Danny Greenfield

Braille Screen, 3 screens of 1 inch Baltic Birch Plywood, lacquered and finished, by Dannye Greenfield. Featured at

Design for disabilities doesn’t just have to be all about function or for the disabled, as these room dividers prove.

As its designer, Danny Greenfield, explains:

“Based in the Braille system for binary coding, they function as a double entendre between the original, conceptual logic driving the piece and its architectural double. Spelling out “If these walls could see”, the matrix of dots which characterizes the nature of the screens are entirely subtracted from the width of the plank, so that the effect is no longer a haptic sensation but a remarkably visual one.

This perceptual game of seeing through the “blind man’s script” is an exercise in subtle exposure of space beyond (or space within), and act as a commentary between the notion of spectatorship and voyerism. A sophisticated addition to any contemporary interior, these screens fold up to alleviate crowded urban living.”

See more and detailed images of the Braille Screen by designer Danny Greenfield here at

Covert Affairs show a blind eye in USA Network’s characters to watch

Braille Sense Plus QWERTY

Braille Sense Plus QWERTY Notetaker and MP3 PLayer

USA Network’s newest Fall drama, Covert Affairs, features yet another of the networks trademark interesting “characters,” though it’s his technology we’re coveting.

A former CIA agent special operative, Auggie (played by Christopher Gorham) was blinded during a mission. He is now heading up the tech ops department within the DPD. Now, the system we’re featuring here [above] isn’t as sexy as the one that Auggie uses (after all, the CIA doesn’t share information so why would they share the sexy), but it is the same type of technology. The Braille Sense Plus QWERTY Notetaker and MP3 Player is the first notetaker with a computer style keyboard that can perform notetaking, word processing, email, web browsing, MP3 player, and digital audio recorder all in one powerful device. The device gives the blind and visually impaired the flexibility to type on a standard keyboard and also have a Braille display in a compact, portable notetaker. To see this bad boy in action, watch this PSA from Chris Gorham celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA):

Vodpod videos no longer available.

In case you’re interested in the Braille Sense Plus QWERTY Notetaker and MP3 Player, the device features an easy user interface with a menu structure similar to Microsoft Windows, built-in Bluetooth plus wired/wireless internet, various software programs, including File manager, word processor, schedule manager, address manager, e-mail, MSN messenger, FM radio, Daisy player, media player, scientific calculator, alarm clock, and more. There is also VGA interface so that you may have a converstaion with a large group using the VGA port with an external monitor or projector. More specifics on the Braille Sense Plus QWERTY can be found here.

Canine Companions for Independence

Tommy and Service Dog Hiley

For Tommy, help is a four legged word ~ Tommy and service dog Hiley

Founded in 1975, Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) is a non-profit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing support to ensure quality partnerships. Headquartered in Santa Roas, CA, CCI is the largest non-profit provider of assistance dogs, and is recognized world-wide for its excellence in dogs, and quality and longevity of the pairings it makes between dogs and people.

For more information on how to apply for a CCI assistance dog, visit, or call 1-800-572-2275. CCI trains four types of assistance dogs: Service Dogs, Skilled Companions, Hearing Dogs, and Facility Dogs.


Canine Companions for Independence

If you are interested in volunteering, the organization is always looking for volunteer breeder caretakers who provide homes for the breeder dogs and whelp the puppies, returning the puppies to CCI in Santa Rosa, CA, at age eight weeks. Volunteer puppy raisers accross the nation then work with the puppies to socialize and obedience train between the ages of fifteen and eighteen months.

Donations are also always needed and CCI offers several programs for donations including In Memorium, Planned Giving, Monthy Giving, and simply charitable gifts.

Visit fro information on any of the programs described above.