Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Obama Signs Landmark Accessible Prescription Drug Label Bill

On July 9, President Barack Obama signed into law the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act, which brings us a step closer to ensuring Americans with vision disabilities have access to the important information on their prescription labels. The Act includes provisions that establish national best practices for retail and other pharmacies to use in providing accessible prescription drug labeling to customers with vision disabilities. This includes proper dosage, the name of the medication, accompanying information about possible side effects, and more.

“We applaud President Obama and Congress for taking this important step,” said Carl R. Augusto, president and CEO of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). “AFB has been working on this issue for many years and we’re thrilled that this is now a reality.”

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) has long championed safe and effective ways to address the significant public health challenge of inaccessible prescription drug labeling. Past studies have shown the dangers posed by the inability to access necessary instructions that accompany prescription and over-the-counter medications, including illness, emergency room visits and the reliance upon sighted companions—or even strangers.

“The significance of this measure cannot be understated,” said Mark Richert, Director of Public Policy at the American Foundation for the Blind. “For the more than 20 million Americans living with vision loss, being unable to read drug container labels and package inserts is a scary reality.”

The provisions in the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act will serve as a valuable supplement to existing requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal and state laws imposing obligations on pharmacies to ensure effective communication and barrier removal for people with disabilities. Whether this new legislation entails that medication instructions and inserts be available in large print, braille, or via an assistive technology device remains to be seen.


Kurzweil Educational Systems Releases Firefly App for iPad

Kurzweil Educational Systems®, a division of Cambium Learning Technologies, announced on July 9 the release of the Kurzweil 3000® – firefly app for the iPad.

The Kurzweil 3000 - firefly iPad app provides mobile access to digital content and powerful literacy tools to enable individuals with the cognitive ability, but not the literacy skills, to achieve their academic and personal goals.

Kurzweil 3000 is a text-to-speech based technology solution that enables struggling readers to learn at grade level. Research has shown the program to be particularly appropriate for students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, those who require reading intervention, students struggling with reading comprehension, and English Language Learners (ELL).

“We are delighted to be releasing our first mobile app,” said Alex Saltonstall, general manager, Kurzweil Educational Systems and IntelliTools. “Individuals rely on Kurzweil 3000 every day to enable them to succeed at their level of academic interest.  Increasingly our customers have access to iPads, and the firefly iPad app will now give them even more access to the content they are reading and the literacy support tools they rely upon.  Whether downloaded to a school or personal iPad, we believe our free app will extend learning on this engaging and mobile platform.”

iPad app benefits for students and teachers:
  • Mobile access to instructional materials
  • Free to Kurzweil 3000 customers, the iPad app is simple to install and use
  • Modern and engaging user interface
  • Accessible to many students with physical disabilities
The firefly iPad app is free and can be downloaded from the iTunes App Store by searching the education category using “firefly Kurzweil”.

To learn more go to www.kurzweiledu.com/fireflyapp.
For more information, visit www.cambiumtech.comwww.cambiumlearning.com.
Source: Kurzweil Educational Systems; Cambium Learning Technologies, GAATES

New Device for Helping the Blind Learn Braille

Product Development Technologies (PDT), a leading product development firm, has worked with Perkins Products to equip the world’s most widely used braille writer with first-of-its-kind multi-sensory technology designed to make learning and teaching braille easier. Literacy through braille is critical to enabling people who are blind to find employment and achieve financial independence.

The new Perkins SMART Brailler® will start shipping to U.S. consumers in September and is expected to have a significant impact. It was developed in conjunction with the American Printing House for the Blind. Approximately 11.4 million Americans are blind or low vision, according to the World Health Organization, and one person goes blind every 11 minutes. Those numbers are expected to jump as the baby boomer generation ages, overall life expectancy increases, and medical advances make it possible for more babies to survive premature birth.

“We know that reading braille can be the difference between employment and unemployment for people who are blind. But there aren’t enough ways for people to learn braille,” said John Freese, PDT Program Manager. “What PDT did was bring new technology together with an established Brailler to make it easy to learn braille, with the goal of empowering people who are blind to lead full and fulfilling lives.”

Studies show that about 70 percent of people who are blind are unemployed or underemployed. Yet 80 percent of those who use braille are employed. Despite this, braille use has declined, in part due to a shift from specialized schools for people who are blind to mainstream schools where there are too few qualified teachers.

Current high-tech braille products only work if users already know braille. The new Perkins SMART Brailler® gets even new users connected instantly to braille. PDT worked with teachers, parents and consumers who are blind throughout the roughly two-year development process. The SMART Brailler® features instantaneous audio and visual feedback and Acapela text-to-speech (in English, and a range of other languages), plus downloadable lessons for braille beginners, and electronic document saving, editing and transfer capability via USB. Because it is built around a Perkins Next Generation Brailler®, the new device also generates hard copy braille as the user types.

The impact will be felt worldwide. John Godber, Head of Products and Publications for the UK’s Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), says, “This is the biggest step forward for learning braille since the invention of the Perkins Brailler” in 1951.

With this new assistive technology, sighted teachers, classmates and parents can also work alongside students, providing a new level of learning support and making the inclusion of students who are blind into mainstream classrooms far more possible than ever before. Perkins Products Vice President & General Manager David Morgan says, “We are convinced that this truly levels the playing field and de-mystifies the braille ‘code’ to allow a shared learning experience for all – student, parent, teacher, friend. Adults who are losing their sight get a big screen and large text to learn braille independently.”

In 2008, PDT worked with Perkins Products to develop a lighter, more efficient and durable Next Generation Perkins Brailler that is now actively used in classrooms and homes around the world. Because the Perkins Brailler is used globally already, adaptation to the SMART version will be seamless. Special training is not required. Learn more at http://www.perkins.org/smartbrailler/.

For more information, visit www.Perkins.orgwww.pdt.com