Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Intel® Reader is Friendly

A great benefit of working at the Lighthouse is that I get to try out new items that fall into the category of “vision-friendly technology.” Recently, I had the luxury of borrowing one of the newly released Intel® Readers.

I am pleased to report that I find the Intel Reader is as user-friendly as it claims to be. This, I know, is no small feat, because just about every device I come in contact with makes this same assertion, and way more often than not, I don’t make it past “Step 2” or “3.”

The key to my success…the relative simplicity of good design, along with the quick-start guide built right into the Reader. The user manual is also built in, eliminating the anxiety I usually feel upon encountering an instruction book that I will never be able to read. The buttons are tactile, each unique in its shape and position.

I’m feeling pretty proficient and I know that if I can operate this little machine…anyone can. (In fact, it feels kind of like one of those things you’ve borrowed from a friend but really don’t want to give back.)
Its function and assistive nature have grown on me, and it will be interesting to see what happens when I have to return it. Until then, I am discovering new ways to use it every day, and I am going to share my experiences in coming posts to talk about how the Intel reader works for me. Stay tuned.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Freedom of Speech

This week, Intel made a big, bold move, stepping squarely into my world with the launch of the Intel Reader. Frankly, I could not have dreamt up better company, and I applaud their interest in changing the world a little bit by creating a product that just might take the sting out of reading for millions who have difficulty with print due to dyslexia and declining vision.

The mastermind behind the Intel Reader is Ben Foss, a kid from New Hampshire (now 36), who managed his way ― all the way ― to, through and beyond Stanford Law School with severe dyslexia. While reading print, admittedly, was not one of his strengths, strategy clearly was! He knew early on that if he could get all those words past his dyslexia, the rest might be easy.

Last week, I had the great pleasure of participating in a number of press briefings on the Intel Reader, serving as an advocate for people with low vision, as well as sharing my perspective as a person in need of a “reading machine.”

The Intel Reader is coming home with me this weekend ― and we have big plans! First, I’m going to read my mail, which has been piling up. Then, I’ll break open a magazine or two, maybe Vogue first, then The New Yorker. And on Sunday, my plan is to take some of my favorite cookbooks off the shelf and try a new recipe. These things are suddenly possible again because the Intel Reader has a camera that photographs pages of text and converts it to speech. The technical aspects are of little interest to me; I just want to know if it will help me get back to things that I enjoy but have been unable to continue to do with less and less vision.

Everything happens for a reason. I’d like to think that Ben Foss was very successful at overcoming the challenges of dyslexia. And his endeavors may save millions of children and adults the embarrassment of having to say, “Sorry, I can’t read this.” Not to mention the unfortunate misperception that lack of intelligence or illiteracy is to blame.