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A Very Touchy Subject!!

A Very Touchy Subject!!
by Gary Woods

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to use a handheld computer if you were blind? It would definitely be tough trying to navigate through the world without the ability to see what was on your screen, or what your options were for a particular task. Well two companies, HumanWare ( and VisuAide (, have taken a very long look at this issue, and interestingly enough have come to two different conclusions on the problem.

VisuAide's Maestro (no list price available) is a specially modified iPaq with a Braille-enabled display overlay for simple notes and other short data input. More elaborate text entry can be accomplished using an external Bluetooth-equipped Braille keyboard. The device makes extensive use of text-to-speech technology and voice recording to complement Braille input. VisuAide also offers Trekker, a GPS-based navigation system that can interface with Maestro, as well as the Victor Reader line of hardware and software audio book players.

The BrailleNote PK (list price $4995) from PulseData/HumanWare uses a much larger Braille interface with both input and output sections that mimic the standard layout of a conventional PDA. This PDA also features Bluetooth connectivity for external devices and synchronization. Add to that the fact that the BrailleNote PK offers built-in WiFi networking plus the Internet Explorer-based KeyWeb browser, and the KeySoftmedia player than can simultaneously play audio and synthesized text reader at independent volumes needed and you've got a very special package.

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Gary Woods is the Computer Trainer for the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors. And he is a Broker/Associate at Home Realty & Investments, Inc