March 30, 2011

WBRC Alumni Email User Group

Photo image of silver @ symbol to note the WBRC Alumni e-mail group.

Are you a WBRC Alumni that wants to stay in touch with other WBRC Alums and keep up with WBRC news? Join the WBRC Alumni e-mail group at and start receiving e-mail postings right to your e-mail inbox. Simply send your request to:

March 23, 2011

Software Updates Now Available for Trekker Breeze GPS

Humanware, maker of the Trekker Breeze GPS, has released new software updates

Humanware has released Trekker Breeze version 2.0, a software upgrade to the Trekker Breeze talking GPS. The newest Trekker Breeze version has several additions to the capability of the GPS including:

Guidance to a destination address: The new Trekker Breeze version offers a new destination address entry feature. When entering an address, the Breeze’s keys are used like a cell phone keypad to enter the address. The entered address is kept in the destination list as a landmark. A route can then be created for guidance to that address with pedestrian or motorized turn instructions.

Importing addresses from a PC: Trekker Breeze users can now use a PC to convert addresses into Breeze landmarks using specialized websites that convert addresses into GPX files. The GPX files can then be imported into the Breeze as landmarks or Points of Interest. A route can then be created for guidance to that address with pedestrian or motorized turn instructions.

Improved backtrack: The Breeze will now remember the previous pedestrian track even after turning Off the device. Once the Breeze is turned On again, the Backtrack Previous Session is an available option to be guided back to the last point of origin.

Reverse a pre-recorded route: It is now possible to reverse a recorded route. When activating a route, if the Confirm button is pressed and held down, Breeze will activate the route in reverse direction.

The software update is available for free for all current Trekker Breeze users via the Humanware Website.

CLICK HERE for full details on the software upgrade

CLICK HERE to for a LINK to the Humanware Trekker Breeze Website

Veterans who are interested in learning more about GPS programs available through the WBRC should contact their VIST Coordinators for more information.

March 16, 2011

WBRC Tours New RFBD Recording Studio

Interior of a recording booth at the newly located Recording
for the Blind & Dyslexic offices in Palo Alto, CA

Ten staff from the Western Blind Rehabilitation Center (WBRC) toured the newly located Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic (RFB&D) offices in Palo Alto, CA during the RFB&D ‘Record-A-Thon’ in March 2011. The staff participated in a tour of the new facility as well as education regarding the RFB&D services, membership, and technology. RFB&D, originally founded for wounded veterans, works to bring accessible materials to individuals with visual and learning disabilities, free of charge. Materials ranging from fiction novels to advanced subject textbooks including science and mathematics are voice recorded by volunteers and are made available via the RFB&D website. This can be extremely valuable as volunteers are able to explain charts and graphs that are not ‘translated’ when scanning documents.

WBRC staff got a chance to take a look at books marked with
notes prior to recording to guide the volunteer reading the materials

Currently the RFB&D has 20 recording studios throughout the United States and has recorded approximately 78,000 books. Members are able to download these recorded books free of charge using their computer and can also request the RFB&D to record books not currently available for download. RFB&D has also recently published an iTunes application which allows users to use an iPad, iPhone, or iPod to access the RFB&D data base and download books without using a computer.

For a LINK to the RFB&D website CLICK HERE

March 9, 2011

WBRC Staff Assist with BART Tactile-Audio Map Project

WBRC staff, Paula Wood and Summer Beasley-Hoffman,
participate in training to learn how to document
information for the project.

Several Orientation and Mobility Specialists from the WBRC joined with other volunteers to assist in the creation of accessible station maps for the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system stations through the LightHouse for the Blind Accessible BART Station Map project. The project supports development and publication of a set of booklets of tactile, large-print, and audio-enabled maps of BART stations to assist transit users with visual impairments in navigating the BART system. For a transit user with visual impairments, the information necessary to plan a trip extends well beyond the need for BART schedules and transfer stops. Prior knowledge of station layouts, landmarks, and important features within stations greatly enhance the efficiency and confidence with which people with visual impairments navigate through unfamiliar stations.

BART station features such as stairs and elevators
were documented on templates of each station level.

The maps, which will eventually be available through the Lighthouse for the Blind, will combine high contrast tactile symbols as well as ‘Smartpen’ audio technology. These tactile-audio maps, in booklet form for each station, will allow persons with visual impairments ‘explore’ the station layout at street level, concourse level, and platform level before ever stepping foot at the station. The tactile-audio maps will have representations at each of these levels which will provide information about layout including symbols noting the locations of ticket machines, stairwells, escalators, elevators, station agent booths, bus stops, taxi stands, etc. Persons that own a ‘Pulse Smartpen’ will also be able to use an application which will provide additional audio information when the pen is placed over various parts on each of these maps.

An example map with high contrast raised tactile symbols of BART station features.

Volunteers, consisting of Orientation and Mobility Specialists, Architects, and Interior Designers, convened at the LightHouse for the Blind in San Francisco on Saturday for training. Volunteers were split into teams of two, usually consisting of an Orientation and Mobility Specialist and an Architect or Designer. Supplied with the necessary tools and station templates, each team of two traveled to 2-3 assigned BART stations to locate and record the designated elements of the street, concourse, and platform levels on the provided templates. The information collected by volunteers will be incorporated into prototype maps and given to the developer for smart pen programming prior to publication. This is the first known audio-tacile mapping project to complete an entire public transit system in the world.

March 4, 2011

VAPAHCS Website Posts Rendering and Details of Future WBRC

Rendering of the New Polytrauma and Blind Rehabilitation Center Front Entry

The VAPAHCS is sharing some pictures and details about the new Polytrauma and Blind Rehabilitation Center scheduled to begin construction in 2011. The Center will consist of:

- 24 Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center beds
- 32 Blind Rehabilitation Center beds
- 12 Polytrauma Transitional Rehabilitation Program beds
- Outpatient PT/OT Clinic
- Outpatient PM&R Clinic
- OEF/OIF Program

CLICK HERE to see more details and drawings on the VAPAHCS Website

March 1, 2011

WBRC's Dr. Gregory Goodrich Recognized Internationally

Photograph of Dr. Goodrich accepting the 'Tiresias' Award at the
2011 ISLRR 10th Annual International Low Vision Conference

Dr. Gregory Goodrich, Supervisory Research Psychologist and Optometric Research Fellowship Coordinator, received the 'Tiresias' award from the International Society for Low Vision Research and Rehabilitation (ISLRR). The award was presented in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, during the 10th International Low Vision Conference. The award, the first time it was given, recognized Dr. Goodrich’s major role in the development of the field of rehabilitation and research on visual impairment.

The award will be given every three years and is named after the mythical character Tiresias, who was blinded by Hera. To compensate him for his loss of vision, Zeus gave him the gift of prophecy. Tiresias is mentioned in the Odyssey, when Odysseus was sent to the underworld to consult him. All in all, an interesting bit of mythology is attributed to him.

Dr. Gregory Goodrich is also the recipient of the 2009 Olin E. Teague Award, a national award that recognizes contributions in an area of utmost importance to VA’s mission: the rehabilitation and improvement in the quality of life of war-injured Veterans. He received the award in conjunction with Dr. Glenn Cockerham, for their ground-breaking efforts in the care of Veterans injured in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.