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The Electronic Curb-Cut Effect

Developed in support of the World Bank Conference: Disability and Development

By: Steve Jacobs

A Belorussian translation is now available




Unusual things happen when products are designed to be accessible by people with disabilities. It wasn't long after sidewalks were redesigned to accommodate wheelchair users that the benefits of curb cuts began to be realized by everyone. People pushing strollers, riding on skateboards, using roller-blades, riding bicycles and pushing shopping carts soon began to enjoy the benefits of curb cuts. These facts are good examples of why sidewalks with curb cuts are simply better sidewalks. These same types of benefits occur when developing information products with accessibility in mind. This phenomenon is often referred to as the "Electronic Curb-Cut Effect (ECE)."

Television manufacturers in the U.S. will tell you that their caption decoders for the deaf wound up benefiting tens-of-millions more consumers than originally intended. Televisions with decoders wound up being televisions. For example, close captions can enable:

Business to "word-search" and "data mine" video content stored in data warehouses;

  • People to "Listen" to programs, in silence, while someone is sleeping or in noisy environments like sports bars;

  • Children to learn to read more effectively by displaying words as they are being spoken;

  • Adults to learn a second language more effectively by displaying words as they are being spoken; and,

  • Theater goers to understand foreign language movies through the use of native language captions;

What follows is a list of innovations developed by, or in support of, people with disabilities that became electronic curb-cuts that benefited us all.

You are probably aware that the telephone resulted from Alexander Graham Bell's work in support of children with disabilities (deaf).

The same holds true for the following products:

1808: Typewriter

Photo of one of the first typewriters.Typewriter patents date back to 1713, and the first typewriter proven to have worked was built by Pellegrino Turri in 1808 for his blind friend Countess Carolina Fantoni da Fivizzono. He wanted her to be able to write love letters legibly.


Alexander Graham Bell (1847 - 1922)Photo of Alexander Graham Bell.

Bell was born into a family specialising in elocution: both his father and his grandfather were authorities on the subject, and before long he himself was teaching people how to speak. Largely family trained and self-taught, in 1863, at the age of 16, he and his brother Melville began researching the mechanics of speech. Starting with the anatomy of the mouth and throat, they sacrificed the family cat in order to study the vocal chords in more detail.

In 1864 Bell became a resident master in Elgin's Weston House Academy in Scotland, where he conducted his first studies in sound and first conceived the idea of transmitting speech with electricity. His idea was to make a device that could mimic the human voice and reproduce vowels and consonants. His father had already spent years classifying vocal sounds and had developed a shorthand system called Visible Speech, in which every sound was represented by a symbol, with the intention of teaching the deaf to speak by putting these sounds together.


1872: Alexander Graham Bell, at age 25, seeks to make speech visible to people who are deaf.


After spending some time in Boston, lecturing and demonstrating the Visible Speech system, he chose to settle there in 1872. He opened his own school to train teachers for the deaf, edited his pamphlet Visible Speech Pioneer, and continued to study and teach, becoming professor of vocal physiology at Boston University in 1873. The idea of transmitting speech along a wire never left him, and after considerable research and many false dawns, by 1875 he had come up with a simple receiver that could turn electricity into sound.

This focus led to the invention of the microphone, speaker, telephone, speech recognition, speech synthesis, stereophonic recording and the transistor [see below]:

 1876: Telephone

Rough sketch of the first telephone. A patent for the telephone (No. 174,465) is issued to Alexander Graham Bell. The telephone was one of the many devices Bell developed in support of his work with the deaf. From this early drawing of the first telephone, sketched out by Alexander Graham Bell, a new technology that many considered no more than a curious toy blossomed into one of the most ubiquitous forms of technology ever conceived.

 1886: Computer

 Photo of Hollerith's Difference Engine.

It is often said that necessity is the mother of invention, and this was certainly true in the case of the American census. Following the population trends established by previous surveys, it was estimated that the census of 1890 would be required to handle data from more than 62 million Americans.

Herman Hollerith, a man with a learning disability, designed a system that processed information so that human beings would not have to. He used punched cards to develop the first computer to process information. This device was constructed to allow the 1890 census to be tabulated. This construction meant a great improvement as hand tabulation was projected to take more than a decade. Twenty-eight years after Hollerith [1896] founded the Tabulating Machine Company it becomes known as International Business Machines (IBM).

 1890: Alexander Graham Bell founds Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Logo of the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.The Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing is an international membership organization and resource center on hearing loss and spoken language approaches and related issues. The association offers members a wide range of programs and services and provides to all inquirers information on a vast array of issues pertaining to hearing loss. The Association's strength is in its diverse, collaborative membership of parents of children with hearing loss, educators, adults with hearing loss, and hearing health professionals.

 1916: Condenser Microphone

Patent drawing of the Condenser MIcrophone.1916 - E.C. Wente at Bell Labs developed the condenser microphone to translate soundwaves into electrical waves that could be transmitted by the vacuum tube amplifier. His patent 1,333,744 entitled "Telephone Transmitter" was filed December 20, 1916 and granted March 16, 1920. The device used two condenser plates, one of which was a very thin steel diaphragm .002-inch thick, spaced .001-inch from a large backplate. The condenser microphone to translate sound waves into electrical waves that could be transmitted by the vacuum tube amplifier in support of making hearing aids for children who were deaf.

1918: Loudspeaker

1918 - Henry Egerton patented on Jan. 8 the first balanced-armature loudspeaker driver, based on the 1882 balanced armature telephone patent of Thomas Watson, and used in the Bell Labs No. 540AW speakers developed by N. H. Ricker Oct. 6, 1922.

1926: Moving Coil Speaker

In 1926 Wente developed the moving coil speaker, the Western Electric No. 555 Receiver (Horn driver) is described in patent 1,707,545 entitled "Acoustic Device", filed August 4, 1926 and granted April 2, 1929 . . . ." An object of the invention is to receive and transmit sound with high and uniform efficiency over a wide frequency range." Wente employed a moving coil/diaphragm mechanism moving in a strong magnetic field. It was designed to drive a theater horn and was rushed to the August 6 premier of Don Juan. The important feature was a conical plug in front of the diaphragm which shaped the expanding sound passages from an annular opening at the periphery to a circular aperture at the exit where an exponential horn was to be attached. This provided a fairly efficient transfer of sound from driver to horn with good fidelity at levels required in the theater. The development of the "555" receiver is shared with A. L. Thuras who filed on other aspects as described in patent 1,707,544 with simultaneous dates.

1928: Moving Coil, or "Dynamic," Microphone

Wente and A. C. Thuras developed a moving coil, or "dynamic," microphone described in patent No. 1,766,473 entitled "Electrodynamic Device" filed May 5, 1928, and granted June 24, 1930. Thuras filed patents 1,847,702 and 1,954,966 and 1,964,606 in 1931 and 1932 for commercial models of this microphone.

1932: Stereophonic Recording

In March of 1932 several test recordings were made at the Academy of Music using two microphones connected to two styli cutting two tracks on the same wax disk. On March 12 Stokowski recorded his first binaural disc, Scriabin's "Poem of Fire." This recording is the earliest example of stereophonic recording that has survived, although it was not called "stereo" at that time. Keller had apparently made similar dual recordings in New York in 1928 but were lost; Alan Blumlein made his "stereo" recording of Thomas Beecham and the London Philharmonic in January 1934.

1933: Public Stereo Transmission Over Telephone Lines

The first public stereo transmission over telephone lines of a concert conducted by Alexander Smallens in Philadelphia to an audience in Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. on April 27, using a 3-channel system of microphones, amplifiers, loudspeakers and telephone lines. The test was a success , but FM would be used for high-fidelity music broadcasting, not telephone lines.

1934: 33-1/3 RPM Record

The Readophone, an invention which reproduced literature and music on long-playing discs was invented. This "Readophone Talking Book", was demonstrated to Dr. Herbert Putnam, librarian, and to Dr. H.H. B. Meyer, director, Project, Books for the Blind, Library of Congress, The Readophone disc had two hours and twenty minutes of recording time, the equivalent of twenty-eight thousand words.

1935: Book on Tape

The American Foundation for the Blind publishes first issue of Talking Book Bulletin.

1936: Speech Synthesis

Photo of the Voder.Since its earliest days, Bell Labs had been concerned with the properties and analysis of human speech, originally developed to help people who were deaf learn to speak intelligibly. Because of this work it was inevitable that a Bell Labs scientist would invent an artificial talking machine and, in 1936, H.W. Dudley did. It was the world's first electronic speech synthesizer, and it required an operator with a keyboard and foot pedals to supply "prosody" - the pitch, timing, and intensity of speech. Dudley called his device the "voice coder" though it quickly became known as, simply, "Voder." It was a hit at the New York and San Francisco World's Fairs of 1939.

1947: Transistor

Photo of the first transistor.In support of manufacturing more reliable, smaller and less power-consuming hearing aids, John Bardeen along with his fellow associates William B. Shockley and Walter H. Brattain, all Bell Labs scientists developed the transistor. This famous invention earned Bardeen and his associates the 1956 Nobel Prize for physics. Needless to say, this marvelous invention became the primary technology responsible for fueling a revolution in the telecommunications industry that continues today. Sony was the first company in Japan to license the transistor patent from Bell Laboratories in 1953. At that time, the transistor was only being used in hearing aids.

1948: Tape Recorder

National Bureau of Standards develops specifications for a low-cost reliable talking-book machine for the blind.

1952: Speech Recognition

For Bell, whose invention of the telephone created the telecommunications revolution, the original goal of easing the isolation of the deaf remained elusive. His insights into separating the speech signal into different frequency components and rendering those components as visible traces were not successfully implemented until Potter, Kopp, and Green designed the spectrogram and Dreyfus-Graf developed the steno-sonograph in the late 1940s. These devices generated interest in the possibility of speech recognition because they made the invariant features of speech visible for all to see.

1954: The First Transistor Radio

Photo of the first transistor radio.The first commercial transistor radio hit the consumer market in October, 1954. The Regency TR-1 featured four germanium transistors operating on a 22.5-volt battery that provided over twenty hours of life (tube radios with batteries only lasted several hours at best-ref).

1968: Volume Control for the Telephone

Schematic diagram of volume control for the  telephone.United States Patent Number 3395255.





1968: Sound to Light Converter

Schematic diagram of a sound to light converter.A loudspeaker is closed by a resilient membrane mounted across its mouth and at least one reflective surface is attached to the membrane. The reflective surface receives a beam of light from a stationary source and reflects a spot of light onto a screen positioned in front of the resilient membrane. Sound waves emanating from the speaker cone cause the resilient membrane and attached reflective surface to vibrate in response thereto, thereby causing the reflected light spot to trace visible different patterns on said screen. These patterns help deaf persons learn to vocalize much sooner than they would with conventional therapies.
United States Patent Number 3572919.

 1969: Coin Operated Telephone Cubicle

Schematic diagram of a coin operated telephone cubicle.In a coin telephone facility designed for use by both physically handicapped persons and the general public, a vertical wall mounted portion supports a forwardly sloping shelf portion. For easy access, the telephone handset, the pushbutton dial and an oversized coin return lever are mounted on the shelf portion. A mechanism below the shelf operated by the coin return lever raises refunded coins and delivers them into a shelf-level receptacle.
United States Patent Number 3598920.

971: Telephone-Actuating Apparatus for Invalid

Schematic diagram of a telephone-actuating apparatus for an invalid.The first voice actuated telephone was developed in support of persons who are paralyzed.  A telephone-actuating apparatus adapted to be controlled solely by the voice of a person, and particularly an invalid, including an electrical control circuit connected to the receiving and transmitting circuits of an existing telephone and adapted to actuate the telephone receiver contact switch element and the dialing mechanism. The control circuit includes gating, relay and timing elements, adapted to close the receiver contact switch element by a voice signal during an initial period and to open the switch element by another voice signal during a subsequent termination period. The control circuit also permits actuation of the dialing mechanism by another voice signal after the termination of the initial period and prior to the commencement of the termination period.
United States Patent Number 3612766

 1971: Conversion of Printed Text into Speech

A system is disclosed for converting printed text into speech sounds. Text is converted to alpha-numeric signal data, for example, by a scanner and dictionary lookup. Syntax of the input information is then analyzed to determine the proper phrase category, e.g., subject, verb, object, etc., of word intervals, and to assign pause, stress, duration, pitch and intensity values to the words. From these data a phonetic description of each word is found in a stored dictionary, modified by the accumulated data, and used to prepare synthesizer control signals.
United States Patent Number 3704345 

1972: E-mail

Vinton Cerf developed the host level protocols for the ARPANET. ARPANET was the first large-scale packet network. Cerf, hard-of-hearing since birth, married a lady who was deaf. Cerf communicated with his wife via text messaging. According to Cerf, "I have spent, as you can imagine, a fair chunk of my time trying to persuade people with hearing impairments to make use of electronic mail because I found it so powerful myself." Had it not been for this experience Cerf may not have used text-messaging to the extent that he did and may not have integrated e-mail as part of the functionality of ARPANET, the precursor to Internet.

1972: Personal Digital Assistant

The first "Personal Digital Assistant" was developed in support of enabling persons who are deaf to send and receive messages through the use a SMALL hand-held, alphanumeric communications device attached to a modem and a telephone.
United States Patent Number 3746793

1972: Flatbed Scanner

CCD, "Charge Coupled Device" flatbed scanners, which are ubiquitous today, did not exist back the early 1970s when Ray Kurzweil and his team at Kurzweil Computer Products created the Kurzweil Reading Machine and the first omni-font OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology for the blind. The Kurzweil team created its own scanner using the first CCD integrated chip, a 500 sensor linear array from Fairchild. They did this work in support of the blind.

1972: Vibrating Pager

Schematic diagram of a vibrating pager.The first vibrating pager was developed in support of enabling persons who are blind to receive messages wirelessly. A warning device particularly useful for the deaf or partially deaf comprising a mechanical vibration generator responsive to signals produced by a trigger signal generator to which it is operatively connected, the trigger signal generator being responsive to various external sources of different natures, such as an alarm clock, a door bell or a car horn.
United States Patent Number 3786628 

1975: Alphanumeric Pager

The first alphanumeric pager was developed in support of enabling persons who are deaf to receive messages wirelessly. The miniature digital communicator is a compact communications device intended for use where conditions are noisy, where no noise at all is permitted or where privacy is desired. It is a portable device with a series of alpha-numeric display elements. Radio-transmitted, digitally formatted data is displayed on the miniature digital communicator in the form of alpha-numeric characters which march or ripple across the display from right to left at an advancing rate of two characters per second. The entire package is small enough to be carried on the person, perhaps in a pocket, like the smallest electronic calculator.
United States Patent Number 4038651 

1975: High-Speed Reading Display

Schematic diagram of a high-speed reading display. The first high-speed reading display was developed in support of enabling children with dysmetric dyslexia to read. The within method recognizes that although a dysmetric dyslexic child is unable to properly perform sequential scanning, he nevertheless is capable of performing as well as a normal person in static vision exercises, i.e. in an exercise which requires his identification of stationary objects of fixed height at specified distances. The within method thus calls for the presentation of reading material in letter or word-sized units, one at a time and in reading sequence, at a fixed location, so that the child reading is not required to sequentially scan the reading material. That is, the material is presented in temporal rather than spacial sequence or relation. As a result, there is only slight or minimal eye vibration or nystagmus imposed upon the child which results in minimal ocular overshooting and undershooting and avoids blurring and scrambling. The manner in which the reading material is presented thus does not contribute to, i.e. avoids or minimizes, a failure in the child to properly focus and perceive the material being presented for reading. It also makes use of a heretofore unknown compensatory mechanism existing in dysmetric dyslexic children, namely functional narrowing of the visual field so as to avoid blurring.
United States Patent Number 3906644 

1976: Talking solid state timepiece

The talking timepiece which, in one form, will have all the same characteristics and appearance of an ordinary wrist watch, but with the read-out a spoken tone, which will actually give the time to the nearest minute, in a voice composed from sufficient information bits to be reasonably faithful reproduction of either the owner's voice, or the voice of a person of his selection, this done in any language with or without extraneous other information.
United States Patent Number 3998045

1978: Telephone Headset Amplifier

Schematic diagram of telephone headset amplifier.The first public telephone amplifier was developed in support of persons who are hard-of-hearing. This telephone earphone amplifier is turned on automatically when the telephone handset is taken off-hook. To this end, the dc bias provided to the microphone from the telephone line is used to turn on a semiconductor switch that connects dc power to the amplifier. The amplifier itself is connected to amplify the incoming audio, so as to provide greater volume e.g., to aid persons of impaired hearing.
United States Patent Number 4160122 

1978: Chiming Wristwatch

To enable persons who have handicapped eyesight to know the time with hearing sensation by enabling the time to be recognized from a fixed scale or the number of sound signals. This involves correspondence of sounds such as Do, Re, Mi, Fa... and numbers 1, 2, 3..., etc. of thetiming in pairs, or 3 numbers of bi, bi, bi, and the number 3 of the time, wherein if, for example, the correspondence of Do-0, Re-1, Mi-2...Si-6, Do-7, Re-8, Mi-9 is provided, 12 o'clock 56 minutes may be known by the order Mi-Re-La-Si of sound production.
Patent Number: JP54153070A2 

1979: Television Captioning System

Schematic diagram of a television captioning device.Captioning of television presentations is achieved by transmitting digital data superimposed on the normal FM sound signal by modulation of an ultrasonic subcarrier and receiving the digital data at a viewer's television receiver by picking up the ultrasonic signal from the television receiver's loudspeaker; the received digital data being demodulated and applied to the television receiver as readable alphanumeric captions.
United States Patent Number 4310854 

1980: Voice Dictation System

To enable a deaf person to have a conversation with many and unspecified persons by telephone by analyzing a voice signal from a party-side telephone set in terms of voice, encoding it into characters, and by displaying them on a CRT, and by speaking to the party side by using an ordinary telephone.  A voice signal, twhen sent from a party-side telephone set B, is inputted to the coupler 1 of a telephone set A for a deaf person through an exchange C. The coupler 1 sends the voice signal to a voice analyzer 2, which converts the voice signal into an encoded digital signal and sends it to a CPU3. This signal is collated with codes stored in a memory 4 to be encoded into charactes, which are displayed on a CPU5. The deaf person, when speaking to the party side, uses a handset 6 as well as ordinary telephone conversation.
Patent Number: JP57055650A2 

1981: Audible output device for talking timepieces, talking calculators and the like

Schematic diagram of a talking timepiece.An audible output device useful in timepiece or calculator devices, features a prestored and preselected order of digital codes representing speech words and pauses, to be outputted through gate circuitry responsive to the pause codes.
United States Patent Number 4266096 


1982: Television captioning system

Schematic diagram of television captioning system.Captioning of television presentations is achieved by transmitting digital data superimposed on the normal FM sound signal by modulation of an ultrasonic subcarrier and receiving the digital data at a viewer's television receiver by picking up the ultrasonic signal from the television receiver's loudspeaker; the received digital data being demodulated and applied to the television receiver as readable alphanumeric captions.
United States Patent Number 4310854

1982: Noise-Canceling Microphone

Schematic diagram of a noise cancellation microphone.A circuit for suppressing background noise of a continuous nature while enhancing speech signals, or signals having the transient temporal qualities of speech, includes a signal multiplier which, in the preferred embodiment, receives the composite audio signal along with a control signal present only when the speech component of the audio signal is present. The control signal may be derived from an AGC circuit having a slow attack, fast decay characteristic to establish a quiescent output level from the AGC amplifier in the absence of speech. An envelope detector is biased to provide a zero output amplitude in response to the quiescent amplifier output level. Speech components appearing in the amplifier output signal are then envelope-detected and filtered to provide the control signal. Alternatively, the control signal can be derived by envelope-detecting the audio signal, filtering the detected signal to remove its d.c. component representing the continuous noise, and then detecting and filtering again. In still another embodiment, the control signal acts upon a constant amplitude instead of the audio input signal in order to provide a speech-responsive tactile vibration for the deaf.
United States Patent Number 4461025 

1982: Auto-Dialer

Schematic diagram of an auto-dialer. To attain a call even for blind personnel, by connecting a paging receiver to an automatic dial adapter and coupling it to a telephone set to transmit automatically a calling subscriber number from the paging receiver to the telephone set. A memory 6 is connected to a reader 12 via a contact 18, when an informing tone is generated from a received signal to be selected and the paging receiver 32 storing a calling subscriber number into the memory 6 is inserted to an opening section 35 of the automatic dial adapter 33. In coupling a transmitter 19 of a telephone set hooking up to a coupler 15 of the adapter 33, a switch 7 is closed and the reader 12 is started by a switch 16. The number memory read out from the reader 12 with a clock of a timer 11 is converted 13 into a tone dial signal of the calling subscriber number, amplified and transmitted from the transmitter 19 to an exchange via the coupler 15.
Patent #: JP59066234A2 

1983: Screen Magnification

Schematic diagram of a screen magnifier.An adapter apparatus which is connected between an image generator and a display device. The image generator generates image signals representing an unmodified image to be displayed. The adapted stores the generated image signals and forms transformed image signals representing a portion of the unmodified image. An output device receives the transformed image signals and provides a transformed image for human sensing. The transformed image can be a magnified image, a tactile image or a speech image.
United States Patent Number 4644339

1984: Talking Electronic timepiece

A timepiece has a time set mode and another time-related mode. It comprises a logic circuit for recognizing the time set mode and an electroacoustic transducer responsive to the logic circuit for providing a particular sound in succession when the timepiece is in the time set mode. The present timepiece makes it easy for the user, especially a blind or weak-eyed person, to recognize that the time set mode is in effect.
United States Patent Number 4448542

1984:  Talking Multimeter

Schematic diagram of a talking multimeter.An instrument for indicating variations in an ambient condition, such as temperature, atmospheric pressure or weather wherein such indications are given by means of synthetic speech. Control signals generated by the memory comparator are employed to selectively activate a speech synthesizer generating selected synthetic speech signals which are fed to a digital-to-analog converter and the analog signals generated thereby are transduced to speech sounds in a speaker. In one form, the instrument is supported in a hand held housing containing electronic circuits and a sensor for sensing temperature as well as a battery, controls, on-off switch, display, speaker and synthetic speech signal generator. In another form, the sensor is supported at the end of a tubular housing to be inserted into a body cavity or the mouth for sensing body temperature and generating signals indicative thereof which signals are transmitted to electronic circuit means via flexible cable to a hand held or table top supported unit containing such other elements. Temperature is both displayed and indicated with sounds of speech.United States Patent Number 4428685 

1984: Musical Keyboard

The first music keyboard, with accoustic sound, was developed by Ray Kurzweil. The inspiration for having done this came, in part from a conversation he had with Stevie Wonder, who had been a user of the Kurzweil Reading Machine for the blind! http://www.kurzweiltech.com/techfirsts/techfirsts.htm

1989: Temperature talking indicating device

Schematic diagram of a temperature talking indicating device.The ornamental design for a combined talking calendar and thermometer, as shown.
United States Patent Number D304342




The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) released their Web Content Accessibility Guidelines specification. These guidelines focused on how to develop web sites that are accessible, usable and useful to persons with disabilities. Following these Web accessibility guidelines also delivers the following "electronic curbcuts:"

Accessibility Guideline:

Provide a text equivalent for every non-text element

Mainstream Business Benefits:

  • Makes it faster and less costly to transcode HTML web pages into wireless protocols.

  • Makes it possible to word-search and data-mine pictures, videos and graphic images

  • Makes it possible to surf with a browser's graphics turned off and not lose important content. This mode of surfing is much faster.

  • Enables browsing with graphics off which can free-up corporate bandwidth.

  • Enables browsing within low-bandwidth infrastructures.

Accessibility Guideline:

Use the clearest and simplest language appropriate for a site's content

Mainstream Business Benefits:

  • Reduces ambiguity;

  • Improves understanding for people whose first language is not English;

  • Makes translation into other languages cheaper and easier;

  • Makes it easier to read using the small display of a wireless Internet appliance

  • Reduces the cost of accessing and reading information from within charge-by-minute services.

Accessibility Guideline:

Provide keyboard shortcuts to important links, forms controls, and groups of form controls

Mainstream Business Benefits:

  • Enables the accessing of Web sites through the use of standard telephones, Mobile Cellular Telephones and other Personal Digital Assistants.

 1993: Talking caller ID


1995: Talking Building Signs

Schematic diagram of a talking building sign.An interior building sign for assisting sighted and visually impaired or blind persons to locate an escape route from point A to point B includes a first planar sheet printed in a first color with a floor plan corresponding to a building floor on which the sign is to be posted. The floor plan is also printed with two dimensional marks in a contrasting color indicating a route from point A to point B. A second planar sheet of substantially transparent material overlies the first planar sheet, the second planar sheet having three dimensional marks machined or routed thereon in substantially overlying relationship with the two dimensional marks to thereby provide a tactile representation of the route. Signs of similar construction have application in non-emergency situations and in other environments including, for example, convention centers, parks and the like.

United States Patent Number 5438781

1996: Apparatus and method for selectively viewing video information

Schematic diagram of a video search engine based on close captions. Abstract: A television presentation and editing system uses closed captioning text to locate items of interest. A closed captioning decoder extracts a closed captioning digital text stream from a television signal. A viewer specifies one or more keywords to be used as search parameters. A digital processor executing a control program scans the closed captioning digital text stream for words or phrases matching the search parameters. The corresponding segment of the television broadcast may then be displayed, edited or saved. In one mode of operation, the television presentation system may be used to scan one or more television channels unattended, and save items which may be of interest to the viewer. In another mode of operation, the system may be used to assist editing previously stored video by quickly locating segments of interest.
United States Patent Number 5481296

1997: Accessible automatic teller machines for sight-impaired persons and print-disabled persons

Schematic diagram of a talking ATM.Systems which comprise (a) an automatic teller machine which includes a plurality of customer interfaces such as a bank card reader, a banking record dispenser, a cash dispenser, and a receptacle for receiving bank deposits; (b) infrared remote communication emitters and (c) individual short range infrared communication emitters located in the teller machine. The emitters (b) are adapted to provide repeating, directionally sensitive frequency modulated message signals identifying the direction to and location of the teller machine. Thus a person having a portable receiver for such signals is led to the machine and is enabled to position himself/herself in front of the machine in order to operate it. The respective emitters of (c) provide a separate repeating, directionally sensitive frequency modulated message signal which at least identifies the location of the respective customer interfaces on the teller machine so that by movement of the portable receiver in front of the machine, the location on the teller machine of the respective customer interfaces can be determined. Feedback concerning the transactions can also be provided from the system to the customer through the portable receiver.
United States Patent Number 5616901

1998:  Talking Glucose machine

Drawing of a talking glucose machine.A device for reading the labeled contents of an insulin container and then providing an audible message informing the user of the labeled contents. The device includes a recessed surface, such as a cylindrical well, into which an insulin container is insertable by a vision impaired person. An optical scanner or reader reads a code furnished as part of the labeling on the inserted insulin container. A microcomputer compares the read code to known code patterns and a speech output is generated as to the type of insulin within the container. The speech output is broadcast over a speaker so as to be audible to a listener. The device may be integrated into a blood glucose sensor, or furnished in a unit that may assemble to an existing blood glucose sensor.
United States Patent Number 5786584

1999: Captioning glasses

Drawing of captioning glasses.Abstract: A wearable display device displays a sequence of words into the field of view of a person wearing the device in order to communicate information to the person, such as captions for hearing-impaired persons or translations of speech spoken by another person. Various embodiments of the device include an eyeglass frame configured to be worn by the person, a housing mounted to the eyeglass frame, including a circuit for receiving a signal containing the sequence of words, a display for displaying the sequence of words received by the circuit, a mirror mounted to reflect the displayed sequence of words downwardly through the housing, and a lens disposed in the path of the mirror to magnify the displayed sequence of words downwardly reflected by the mirror, and a partially reflective beamsplitter, mounted to the housing and extending downwardly over an eye of the person, for receiving the downwardly reflected sequence of words and projecting them into the field of view of the person. The display itself may be moved along a recess in the housing to focus the words onto the beamsplitter. A curved beamsplitter may be used instead of a lens to magnify the words and provide optical correction.
United States Patent Number 6,005,536

2000: Automatic bank teller machine for the blind and visually impaired

Drawing of a talking ATM.An automatic bank teller machine (ATM) that uses a combination of simple visual cues, large-type visual displays, audio, and a touch-sensitive display screen to facilitate use of the ATM by the blind and visually impaired, while still being useful for the sighted. In particular, the ATM uses a touch-sensitive display screen that has a fixed, easy to locate touch scanning zone. The display screen operates by contacting the screen, with a fingertip, for example, and slidingly moving to a location on the touch scanning zone corresponding to an item to be input, such as one of the numbers 0 to 9, for example.
United States Patent Number 6061666

2001: Accessible automated transaction machines for sight-impaired persons and print-disabled persons

Schematic diagram of a talking ATM.Systems which comprise an automated transaction machine which includes one or more customer interacting means such as, in the case of an integrated circuit card terminal, at least an integrated circuit card reader; infrared communication emitters and individual short range infrared communication emitters located in the machine. The emitters are adapted to provide repeating, directionally sensitive frequency modulated message signals identifying the direction to and location of the machine. Thus, a person having a portable receiver for such signals is led to the machine and is able to position himself/herself in front of the machine in order to operate it. The respective emitters provide separate repeating, directionally sensitive frequency modulated message signal which identifies the location of the respective customer interface on the machine so that by movement of the portable receiver in front of the machine, the location on the machine of the respective customer interfaces can be determined. Instructions on use and/or feedback concerning transactions can also be provided from the system to the customer through the portable receiver. The signal transmitters may also be adapted for highly efficient use in the presence of a wide range of levels of ambient light energy, e.g., sunlight.
United States Patent Number 6186396


Copyright 2000 - 2002 by NCR Corporation. All rights reserved.
 Last updated: Monday November 22, 2002
Developed by: Steve Jacobs








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