Collaborative Projects and Research
World Access for the Blind is bringing the pieces together. We are taking a lead position to mobilize resources and expertise to move things forward for and with blind people. We are moving beyond hit and miss solutions to problems that either don't exist or are too little understood. We are drawing together people who really know about blindness, people who really know about human perception, people who really know how to build things, and people who know how to obtain the resources. Here are a few of our projects and endeavors.
These include organizational achievements that are of particular note in expanding our ability to serve more people more efficiently with better results.
World Access for the Blind, Alcon Labs Corporation, NEC Foundation, and J.R. Control Corporation have established a philanthropic partnership to address the needs of blind people whose vision cannot be preserved or restored. Alcon Labs leads the medical field world wide in the design and production of surgical instrumentation to preserve and restore vision. NEC Corporation is a leading manufacturer and distributor of computer accessories, best known for their exquisite monitors. J.R. Control is a lead company in circuit board manufacture. Alcon Foundation contributed a $50,000 grant, and NEC Foundation $20,000, to complete and distribute the next version of SoundFlash (our FlashSonar enhancement device), together with instructional materials. J.R. Control Corporation agreed to design and produce all prototype SoundFlash circuit boards, resulting in a potential savings of thousands of dollars. Dozens of Alcon volunteers from all expertise including engineers, graphics designers, communication technologists, and human resources have joined our ranks. Over twelve thousand dollars have been graciously donated by Alcon staff including donations in memory of Jack Prescott, one of our volunteer engineers.
As the result of providing a total of 3 weeks of instruction to blind students and instructors in México, World Access for the Blind has established a formal partnership with El Centro de Estudios para Invidentes A.C. - CEIAC - (Study Center for the Blind). CEIAC is the only nonprofit organization in México known to provide training and equipment to support mainstream education, recreation, and vocation for blind people. besides promoting much needed professional exchange between México and the U.S. regarding blindness, this partnership will spawn the first mobility certification preparation program in México. It will also open the Spanish speaking America's to innovative alternative perception approaches, and mobilize a long awaited campaign to bring the needs and strengths of blindness into the eye of the Hispanic public. This will be done by garnering press coverage and by disseminating information about blindness education, rehabilitation, and child-rearing to key agencies and service clubs throughout Spanish speaking America.
World Access for the Blind has aligned in partnership with the well established Oregon Research Institute (ORI) to exchange expertise in human sonar and virtual reality computer models. ORI has designed and put in place the only virtual environment that can be accessed nationally by children in wheelchairs - a system found effective in instructing and promoting recreation and mobility for children who face orthopedic challenges. Our long term objective is to design and distribute a comprehensive computer program to provide supplementary instruction in hearing and orientation using a virtual reality simulation. This program will accomplish the following:
- provide blind students and instructors with a powerful tool to expand options for delivering services in this severe shortage of instructors.
- improve access for blind people to computerized educational programs to which they currently have almost none.
- provide a means of exposing students to all forms of auditory based assistive technology (such as sonar systems with sonic feedback, Talking GPS systems, talking compasses, audible traffic signals, and Talking signs), as well as additional options for instruction in the use of this technology.
- provide a method of testing auditory based prototype technologies (such as alternative perception systems and modern way finding devices).
World Access for the Blind has joined forces with the Institute for Innovative Blind Navigation (IIBN) and the Cybernetics Research Center (CRC) of Toronto University to lay the ground work to design a fully functional, high definition alternative perception system.
IIBN, Directed by Dr. Doug Baldwin, Optometrist and Mobility Specialist, globally monitors advances in way finding for blind people and has faced the mobility profession nation wide with a modern and higher standard by holding the first way finding conferences, establishing the first listserves for mobility professionals and blindness product inventors, publishing prolifically in scholarly journals, and bringing together top experts to make good things happen.
The CRC is the first center to specialize in research and development of cutting edge micro-computing technologies that allow people to sense and process information far beyond the limits of the unaided brain. Prof. Steve Mann, Director, is known as the Father of Wearable Computing. He holds over 3 dozen patents, has authored several textbooks and hundreds of articles, and has presented keynotes and invited seminars throughout the world on every subject related to computer expanded consciousness.
Having established the feasibility of such an ambitious undertaking, this partnership is gathering an elete consortium of world class scientists, sensory specialists, and other experts to move dreams and science fiction into state-of-the-art reality. Alternative perception technology will stand as the crown jewel in a comprehensive approach to replacing an expanding vision with other ways of seeing - bringing the field of blind rehabilitation into its final frontier where blind people may see as they choose.
Our first undertaking has been to partner with the National Federation of the Blind, American Printing House for the Blind, Sendero Group, and Louisiana Tech University to stage the first annual World Congress on Blind WayFinding in Oct. 2005. Innovative pioneers and top experts related to the field of blindness across a range of disciplines including perception, engineering, funding, and information management and dissemination are coming together to exchange information and perspectives, and work toward a more focused union of efforts to revolutionize blind WayFinding.