Libraries and Blind People: Looking Toward the Future

As a blind person growing up in the 1950s and ’60s, I did not have real access to libraries. Instead I, like most blind persons, received borrowed books through a program known as the Talking Book program funded by the Library of Congress. Under this program professional actors and readers were hired to record books which were then transcribed onto records. If I wanted a book I could call my local talking book library, 65 miles away, and, if the book happened to be recorded, it would be sent to me. Also, often, library staff would send me what they thought I should get, especially if my requested manuscript was not available. Usually books I wanted were not recorded. Only a few hundred and then a few thousand books were transcribed nationally. Sometimes books were even made available in Braille, the only true reading and writing language available to blind persons. Continue reading

College freshmen: You Could Go Back To School With Aira

Dear Students:

The National Federation of the Blind is committed to exploring how technology helps blind students live the lives they want. Exciting new technologies are fundamentally altering the ways in which students succeed in and out of the classroom. If you’re an incoming college freshman, you could have the chance to try out a new technology from Aira that may help you as you start this important chapter of your life.

The National Federation of the Blind is partnering with Aira, a company that uses smart glass technology, live agents, and artificial intelligence to assist blind people in understanding and navigating their environment. You might use it to help you explore your college campus and new community, for example. Continue reading

Michael Hingson Joins Aira as Director of Strategic Sales

Hello My dear friends….I am pleased to announce that I have joined Aira and the Director of Strategic Sales!

aira technology helps guide the blind and the visually impairedHere’s a note from our CEO, Suman Kanuganti, on his relationship with Me:

“I’ve known Michael Hingson for about three years, now. In that time, he’s taught me a lot about subjects too numerous to list, but not least of which was blindness. He was instrumental in making Aira happen thanks to his love and excitement for the technology that we were building. He took me to a lot of meetings and introduced a number of advocates who would, over time become friends of Aira, board members and the like. Michael is always helping us seek responses to Aira from the community and find ways we can improve it. He is talented, funny, and more importantly a good friend. All the work we did together while he was an advisor led us to continue engaging him on more and more projects. I am super excited that he’s agreed to join Aira in a full-time capacity. Having someone like Michael believe in Aira means a lot to me and everyone on the team. Together, we’re going to get Aira in the hands of millions.” Continue reading

As Airlines Try To Monetize Seat Assignments, Are Disabled Passengers Being Left Behind?

I was mentioned in this blog post by BY | June 5th, 2017
 

Flying with a disability is never easy, but in the past, airlines have lightened the burden a little by offering passengers such as Scott Nold advance seat assignments.

Nold, a retired bus dispatcher from Madison, S.D., who has multiple sclerosis, travels in a wheelchair. “So he requires an aisle seat,” says his wife, Deb Nold.

But on a recent American Airlines flight from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Dallas, their airline balked when she requested one. He could have a confirmed aisle seat in the front of the aircraft, she was told, but he’d have to pay another $36.

Not so long ago, passengers with disabilities were practically guaranteed better seats at no additional cost — usually an aisle or bulkhead seat near the front of the plane in economy class. Continue reading

Blind Californians and Advocates Sue Greyhound

Lawsuit Alleges Blind People Cannot Use Greyhound Website or Mobile App

Greyhound’s new buses include the MCI D4505 (above) and Prevost X3-45. (PRNewsFoto/Greyhound Lines, Inc.)

San Francisco (June 12, 2017): In February of 2015 Tina Thomas, who is blind, was planning a trip from her home in Los Angeles to Las Vegas to visit family and friends. She tried to book the trip on Greyhound.com, but her text-to-speech software couldn’t interpret Greyhound’s website. She called Greyhound to book her trip, explaining that she could not use the website, but Greyhound still charged her a “convenience fee” for booking by phone. She tried to use the website again earlier this year, but the experience had not improved.

Ms. Thomas and four other blind Californians, along with the National Federation of the Blind, have now sued Greyhound in federal district court. The lawsuit alleges that Greyhound has designed its website and app so that they cannot be used by the blind. This violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and state laws, the lawsuit says. Continue reading

Aira Raises $12M to Expand Services for Blind and Visually Impaired

After beta testing technology that provides remote assistant services for the blind, San Diego-based Aira has raised $12 million in a Series B round that it says will enable the company to expand its service to thousands of visually impaired users this year.

Aira takes advantage of the gig economy by connecting online independent contractors (via dedicated wireless bandwidth provided by AT&T) to guide low-vision users equipped with a modified version of Google Glass, the Internet-connected eyewear. Like an air traffic controller, Aira agents talk to users through a speaker in the eyewear to guide them through their surroundings, read menus, shop, and provide other real-time assistance.

The company developed the service with the help of the AT&T Foundry for Connected Health in Houston. After raising $3.3 million early last year, Aira tested its technology with about 300 users, founding CEO Suman Kanuganti said Thursday afternoon. They include Erich Manser, who used Aira’s technology to help run the Boston Marathon in April. Continue reading

AMC Theaters Agrees to Improve Services for Blind Movie-Goers

AMC Theatres Logo

San Francisco, CA – April 28, 2017 – AMC Theaters (AMC) has reached an agreement with several blind individuals, the California Council of the Blind (CCB), and the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco (LightHouse) to ensure blind customers have reliable access to audio description services at AMC movie theaters nationwide.

Audio description is a verbal description of the visual events on screen, which plays between pauses in dialogue. Many movies come with audio description tracks, and customers who are blind or visually impaired can listen to audio description through special headsets that are available at the theatres. With audio description, people who are blind and visually-impaired can fully enjoy the important and beloved American pastime of going to the movies. Continue reading