Of Note

Veterans Eye Care Focus of New Site


The nation’s largest group of ophthalmologists have launched a new website dedicated to providing quality eye care information and resources to America’s veterans.

The site, www.veteranseyecare.com, is a service of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and began operating on November 2. The initiative grew out of the organization’s commitment to ensure that all veterans receive superior eye care and that all veterans know where and how to find it. The association’s membership was concerned that both old and young veterans receive superior eye care and that all veterans know where and how to find it.

Contents of the site include a one-stop reference designed to connect veterans to top physicians for all aspects of eye care, from preventive medicine to eye surgery.

New Search Engine for Blind


Google recently unveiled a web search site designed to help the blind find results that are compatible with their text-to-speech software. The site is available at http://labs.google.com/accessible.


According to T.V. Raman, research scientist in charge of the service, the site prioritizes the list of search results based on the simplicity of the various page layouts listed.

“A user searching for ‘weather’ will very often locate pages with a great deal of other content on them,” he said. “To a user who can see, that might be fine, but such information via screen reader software might overload the users and prevent them from finding what they are looking for.”

Raman characterized the service as an “early-stage experiment” out of Google Labs. The innovation looks at a number of signals by examining the HTML markup found on a web page. It tends to favor pages that have few visual distractions and that are likely to render well with images turned off.

K-NFB Reader Now Available


The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) unveiled the world’s first handheld reading machine at its national convention on July 6.

The K-NFB Reader, named in part after co-developer and renowned inventor Ray Kurzweil, enables users to take pictures of and read most printed materials at the click of a button. Users merely hold the “camera that talks” over print. Within seconds they hear the contents of the printed document played back in clear, synthetic speech.

The Reader is the result of a joint venture of NFB and Kurzweil, the latter of which is Chief Executive Officer of K-NFB Reading Technology, Inc. He is often dubbed the “Thomas Edison of the 21st century” as an inventor, entrepreneur, author, and futurist.

“No other device in the history of technology for the blind and visually impaired has provided a quicker access to more information,” said NFB President Marc Maurer.

For detailed information about the Reader, go to www.knfbreader.com. The site contains an overview of the technology, extensive documentation, links to articles about the product, and information for people interested in purchasing it, or call 800-894-5374.

ID Card Gets New Push


VA has announced a more aggressive campaign to assure that enrolled veterans with old versions of its ID cards are issued the new and improved Veterans Identification Card (VIC).

Unlike prior versions of the card, VIC does not display sensitive information such as date of birth and social security number on the face of the card. The campaign demonstrates VA’s commitment to securing the confidential personal information of all enrolled veterans.

Since first introduced in March 2004, VIC has been distributed to approximately 2.4 million enrolled veterans. Another 3-4 million are awaiting issuance of the cards. VA hopes to complete the massive replacement program within the next 12 months.

For more information about VIC, contact the nearest VA Medical Center’s Eligibility & Enrollment Office or visit the VA’s eligibility website at www.va.gov/healtheligibility.

Research to Examine Sleep Disorders


Sleep and body clock disorders in individuals with no light perception is the subject of a research study presently being conducted at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, in Boston.

The study, which commenced in early 2006 and which will accept inquiries and participation until the middle of 2008, seeks to understand how light and stimuli other than light affect the body clock. An ultimate objective is to help blind individuals sleep better.

Some 60 percent of the totally blind have cyclic sleep problems because their body clocks are not set to the 24-hour day. In such cases, the body clock reverts to its own timing, which is slightly different from 24 hours. It is believed that a small percentage of blind individuals can still utilize light information from the environment to reset their body clocks.

Blinded veterans interested in participating in the study will be asked to collect information for eight weeks while at home. They will then need to live at the laboratory in Boston on two separate occasions for up to five weeks total. There is a sizable stipend for taking part. For more information, contact Joe at 617-278-0857.

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