2016 CSUN Conference Highlights

March 31, 2016

The 31st annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference was held from March 21-26 at San Diego’s Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel. Organized by the Center for Disabilities at California State University Northridge (CSUN), the event showcases the latest in technology for people with all types of disabilities. The Chicago Lighthouse’s assistive technology team got the chance to check out the latest and greatest in products for people with vision loss. While there, they also spotted and got to spend time with none other than Stevie Wonder! Below are some of the highlights from the event.

Long time leaders in the assistive technology field showcased what they have in store for the near future. The American Printing House for the Blind introduced the OrbitReader, a portable and low cost Braille display. Among its many features, users will be able to take notes and access documents from SD cards. The device also includes various USB and Bluetooth connections. The OrbitReader will cost around $500 and is expected to be released in late 2016. HumanWare’s new BrailleNote Touch combines both a Braille display and Android based tablet. Users will be able to take notes in Braille and have access to thousands of Android apps in a single device.

Technology Startup companies also made their debut during this year’s conference. Dot Incorporation from South Korea developed the Dot Braille Smart Watch. As the name implies, this is a smart watch with a Braille display and is to date the world’s first device of its kind. Besides being able to tell the time, blind users will be able to read texts and other content from their smartphone. The company is currently working on the Dot Pad, a tablet with a built in Braille display.

Users with low vision got a chance to see a wide variety of new products. The Aumax-Touch is both a video magnifier and tablet made by Aumed Group Corp. This multi-purpose device includes a portable magnifying camera and an Android based tablet. Other companies like ESight and Orcam also showcased their newly released products, the ESight Reader and Orcam reading device. Both products, which are already sold here at The Chicago Lighthouse, are the latest in magnifying and OCR reading technology for individuals with vision loss.

Conference attendees also had a wide selection of sessions to choose from. Sessions ranged from topics like making websites and other devices more accessible to using ride sharing services as an alternative form of transportation for those with visual impairments. Companies like AT&T and Amazon gave presentations on their latest technology innovations and the steps they are taking to make products accessible to everyone. Attendees saw and heard presentations from both experts and individuals with disabilities, and learned how technology will continue to eliminate accessibility barriers in the near future.

All in all, the CSUN Conference had a lot to offer. People with all types of disabilities learned about what technology has in store and – in many cases – got a sneak preview of some of the products. I am always amazed at what technology has to offer for people with disabilities, and this year was not the exception! As someone who is blind, I always look forward to reading and listening to the highlights from this international conference, which seems to grow each year. Thanks to Tom, Luke, Meesa and everyone from our assistive technology department for sharing all the wonderful information! I’m already looking forward to next year’s conference – I would love to join all of you in sunny California!

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