14 tech tools that enhance computing for the disabled

Getting work done on a computer is easily within reach of the blind and physically disabled with the help of these new and updated tools

Braille on the go: Braille+ Mobile Manager and BrailleNote Apex

Many blind people take notes in Braille, the nearly 200-year-old alphabet that's made from a series of raised dots. But most Braille devices are too cumbersome to carry around.

That's where the Braille+ Mobile Manager from the American Printing House for the Blind comes in. With a 60GB hard drive and a powerful processor, it weighs just 7.4 oz. and can go anywhere. The $1,395 device has a Perkins-style Braille keyboard so users can type in notes, appointments and contacts; there's also a voice recorder for oral memos.

Anything held in the Mobile Manager's memory can be read to the user with the device's synthetic speech engine or sent to a computer via built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It synchronizes with a Windows PC (according to a company representative, third parties are working on Linux and Mac software), is compatible with Word files and can surf the Web, play music and read books aloud. Plus, with several third-party apps and games available, Mobile Manager is

evolving into a computing platform for the blind.

A larger, more powerful option (more like a laptop than a PDA) is HumanWare's BrailleNote Apex. Based on 's Windows CE 6.0, the Apex is available with either a QWERTY keyboard (the QT model) or a standard eight-key Braille keyboard (the BT model).

In place of an LCD screen, the Apex has a 32-cell Braille display. A series of pins are raised above the surface in the distinctive Braille pattern that are felt and "read" by the user. The Apex offers 8GB of internal memory, a high-capacity SDHC card socket, three USB 2.0 ports, a GPS receiver, and Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and Ethernet connectivity. The device is less than an inch thick and weighs 1.8 lb.

The included KeySoft Suite can help the visually impaired type a memo or paper, do online research, send instant messages or record a meeting to keep up with a typical day at work or school. It's easily the best-equipped system for the blind, but at $6,200, it's going to take a bite out of your budget.

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