The UCB Flier
A publication of
Utah Council of the Blind
For the latest news updates call the Utah Connection 801-299-0670 or 1‑800-273-4569. (You may also leave a message at the end of the announcement.)
Mail correspondence to: UCB, PO Box 1415, Bountiful, UT 84011-1415. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The UCB Flier is available in large print, Braille, audio CD, as a data (Microsoft Word and a plain text file) CD, and by e-mail. If you would prefer to receive your newsletter in a different format, please call the Utah Connection or send an e-mail to email@example.com and let us know.
In This Issue
Wednesday Technology Forums Resume in February............................... 5
Recipe Contributions Invited for UCB Cookbook........................................ 6
Save the Date!!!.......................................................................................... 6
Greatest Paws on Earth............................................................................. 8
Thanks to the Christmas Party Committee................................................. 8
Braille Writers for Sale.............................................................................. 10
A Little About the UCB in 2017................................................................. 10
Looking Back, Looking Ahead, ACB Overview of 2017............................ 13
Microsoft's Seeing AI App for the Blind Now Reads Handwriting............. 26
SmartVision 2 -the Smartphone for the Visually Impaired........................ 27
Lyft App More Accessible......................................................................... 29
Wayfinding System for Visually Impaired Installed at Louisville Airport.... 33
Firefox Alert.............................................................................................. 36
Facebook’s Facial Recognition Now Finds Photos You’re Untagged In... 38
FDA Approves First Gene Therapy Targeting Rare Form of Inherited Blindness.................................................................................................. 41
Driverless Cars Can Transform Lives — If We Change the Rules and Let Them........................................................................................................ 45
General UCB Information......................................................................... 50
Upcoming Board Meetings...................... 51
Articles and announcements included in this publication are presented for your information and interest. They reflect the opinions of the respective authors and are not necessarily endorsed by the UCB.
Well, this is it, my last President’s message. As I look back over the years, I have many fond memories of the blessing of being in this position. I am a bit saddened to pass the baton on; but I feel I am doing it with no hesitation, because it will be going to an incredible leader. Tina Terry is your new president. If you have not met her, yet, you are in for a treat. She is kind, brilliant, compassionate and, not to mention, a hard worker. You can expect to see great things to come. Thank you all for your love and support during my time as president. I will not forget you. I will still be around, so don't hesitate to find me and say “hi” at any of the activities you come to. Also, don't stop being involved. This organization is great because of the great people who are willing to do the work. Keep moving forward; I know we can do great things together!
Signing off for now, but not forever,
Anna Jeffery, Past President
The Wednesday afternoon technology forums sponsored by the UCB Team Teacher Program will be resuming in February. Join Tina Terry and Vicki Flake at DSBVI, 250 N 1950 W, Salt Lake City, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. Check with Donni in the UCB Office for the exact location each week.
The fun will kick off on Wednesday, February 7, with a demonstration and discussion of pressure cooking, featuring the popular Instant Pot and the Power Pressure Cooker XL. We will be sampling various dishes prepared in the pressure cookers, and one lucky participant will take home an Instant Pot of their own.
The great array to topics for the balance of the month include:
· February 14: High- and Low-Tech Solutions for Everyday Living.
· February 21: The Expanded and Improved Seeing AI and updates on other smartphone apps
· February 28: Echo, Echo Dot, Google Home Mini, and the New Microsoft Invoke (which does not require pairing with a smartphone)
If you have recipes you would be willing to share in a UCB Cookbook, we would appreciate hearing from you. Please email your recipes to Tina Terry at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would rather send your contributions in print, they can be mailed to: UCB, PO Box 1415, Bountiful, UT 84011-1415. Thanks for your participation in this fun project.
Utah Legislative Coalition for People with
Reception with Legislators
Thursday, January 25, 2018
4:30 to 5:45 pm in the State Capitol Rotunda
Invite your Legislators to come to the reception to meet you and join in an afternoon discussion of disability issues and concerns!
To locate the names and contact information for your State Senator and House of Representative Member, go to the Internet website http://le.utah.gov/GIS/findDistrict.jsp, enter your address, and click on the links provided.
Call them and ask them to meet you at the Reception!
Please RSVP by contacting Brooke Wilson at the Utah Statewide Independent Living Council by Friday, January 19th by phone at 801-463-1592 or email email@example.com
Thank you to our Sponsors:
The Utah Statewide Independent Living Council (USILC)
Greatest Paws on Earth is an independent group of people interested in guide dogs and issues concerning them. They meet each month on the 3rd Thursday via conference call to talk about a different topic in which dog guide users may be interested.
Our next meeting will be on January 18, and the topic will be “Guide Dog Retirement and Beyond”. For more information on the organization contact its President, Sandy England at firstname.lastname@example.org. The call-in number is 800-835-8395, access code 1623768.
More than 120 people attended the UCB Christmas party at the Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Twenty-five of those attending were children who were wild about seeing Santa. An exceptional turkey dinner with all the trimmings, including pie, was served, with lots of seconds. The Madrigals from Jordan High entertained the adults, while the children were gathered to make crafts. The singing was full of Christmas cheer and anticipation. Of course, the arrival of Santa was the highlight for most. Lots of pictures were snapped as children received bags of candy and a present.
Four different groups helped set up and decorate, serve, and clean up. It was a pleasure to feed these folks as well as the guests. Gift cards, water bottles, humorous gifts, and chocolate were handed out as everyone departed. The decorations were especially attractive.
During the party, crafters sold their lovely handmade items, while donated baked goods were offered to the party goers. As usual, the organization benefited from the baked good sales. It goes without saying that all of this could not happen without the generous volunteers who donate their time and talents to bring about such a successful event. Merry Christmas to all from everyone at the UCB.
If you are looking for an affordable dependable Perkins Braille writer, you might want to call Dero at 801-292-1156. He has available several refurbished machines for $150. As you may be aware, a new braille writer sells for well over $700. There is no better way to learn and practice braille than by using a Perkins Braille writer. They are also very nice for making notes and keeping phone numbers for your reference. The UCB has technology grants which can help you purchase a braille writer if the cost is still too high for you. Learn more by calling the UCB and learning about these grants.
As 2017 draws to a close, it is remarkable to consider what services the organization has provided during the year. One of the most popular programs is the subsidized transportation service. More than 700 people have benefited from either cab coupon discounts or from the Driver/Guide Program. The teacher/trainer teams have made more than 1400 training visits throughout the state. Members have received 11 newsletters in one of six different formats and have been able to use the WATS line (the Utah Connection) in order to keep informed. They have also received news from the American Council of the Blind each month.
More than 150 people with sight loss attended a training conference on the latest developments in technology for people losing their vision. Members were able to attend activities which included a presentation by Mrs. Cavanaugh’s Chocolates, along with lots of chocolate; an Easter Egg Hunt with beeping eggs; a play; a Utah Symphony sing along; and the Utah State Fair. Other events included a game day, a concert in the park, and a tour of the Cedar City LDS temple. All of these events were either free or greatly discounted for members. It is also important to note that all of these services and activities have been provided largely due to volunteer work. It is estimated that volunteers contribute more than 12,000 hours each year to carry out the work of the UCB.
The ceramics class sponsored by the UCB has been in existence since 1987. People of all ages are invited to participate in creating beautiful and useful ceramic items on Wednesdays at DSBVI in Salt Lake City. People with sight loss have won blue ribbons for their work in this class, and many have contributed their work to the Festival of Trees.
The Reader Program has served nearly 300 people during the last year, while the Braille Literacy Program has provided more than 500 print documents in braille. The Adaptive Technology grant has helped seven low income individuals acquire much needed pieces of adaptive technology in order to maintain their independence.
The UCB Board of Directors has met monthly to review programs and oversee the operations of the organization. Without their dedicated service, the simply amazing programs and services would not transpire. All of these programs and services, along with others which may not have been mentioned here, are dependent on your donations and the generous grants of foundations. If you have the opportunity to express your appreciation in letter form, it would be great to share them with these generous folks.
As always, it is a pleasure to serve you,
Leslie Gertsch, Executive Director
by Eric Bridges
What a year we’ve had! The year 2017 brought many triumphs and challenges.
In January, ACB commended the U.S. Access Board for releasing revised guidelines encompassing Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The guidelines require the federal government to further assure electronic communications are accessible for both internal and external purposes for individuals with disabilities, and allow for government to lead by example toward breaking down electronic access barriers.
It’s been almost two decades since the Access Board refreshed its guidelines on electronic communications, and the need for further revisions has been years in the making. The role the Internet and mobile communications play in our lives today wasn’t even conceivable the last time we had a major refresh of the 508 regulations, and we’re glad that government will now be able to lead by example on making electronic communications accessible for all.
The Access Board also more clearly defined the scope of Section 508 regulations in light of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, covered under the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and created greater harmony with standards set by the European Commission and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
In late January 2017, the ACB board, staff and several state and affiliate leaders met in the Washington, D.C. area to develop a new plan for the organization. ACB’s new Strategic Action Plan will guide the organization in the future across five critical focus areas, including:
• advocacy, policy, and legislation;
• affiliates and membership;
• convention and meetings;
• and marketing and communications.
The five focus areas were identified by the board of directors as having the highest potential impact for our organization moving forward. Each focus area has a set of goals, associated action steps, timeframes, and accountable leaders to help drive change and ensure completion of the objectives. The plan also identifies any resource requirements such as people needed to work on the task, funding to get the job done, or outside resources needed, measures of success, and an evaluation process for each goal to ensure that the organization is moving in the right direction to get the job of the ACB Strategic Action Plan completed.
In developing and executing the ACB Strategic Action Plan, we hope to achieve some ambitious goals. The top ten goals are:
1. Use our advocacy, policy, and legislative efforts to “actualize the backbone of our organization.”
2. Ensure our advocacy efforts are improving our ability to function in a society “where we all win in the future.”
3. Carve out key focus areas that will allow ACB “to find a prominent place in revolutionizing the way the world works.”
4. Support and strengthen affiliates and their membership through a variety of actions designed to increase affiliate health and effectiveness, and increase membership engagement.
5. Develop a stronger network and sense of community for ACB members through ACB conventions and meetings, including for those who attend virtually.
6. Use the ACB Convention to broaden membership and participation, especially among younger and more senior populations.
7. Utilize continuing education credits at the convention to benefit our members, attract high visibility guest speakers and increase ACB’s brand recognition.
8. Increase awareness of, and help shape attitudes towards major issues for blind individuals within the sighted community.
9. Reach out and engage the broader community of blind individuals who are not currently affiliated with ACB or a similar organization.
10.Standardize and professionalize ACB’s communication channels to ensure key messages reach their intended audiences in the most effective way possible.
A few weeks later, ACB members and staff attended a reception at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in celebration of a new audio-described tour of two key museum areas, the Hall of Witness and the Hall of Remembrance. Thanks to ongoing generous support from the Aid Association for the Blind of the District of Columbia, ACB’s Audio Description Project received full funding for the development of this tour. Following the reception and a short presentation on the new audio guide by museum staff, visitors launched the new tour.
In April, Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), and Steve Cohen (D-TN) reintroduced the Medicare Demonstration of Coverage of Low-Vision Devices Act of 2017 (H.R. 2050). This legislation would establish a national demonstration/research project tasked with identifying the impact to Medicare and Medicare recipients who are prescribed low-vision devices over a certain threshold cost. Through this demonstration, eligible participants could be prescribed assistive low-vision devices through a licensed eyecare physician. These are the types of devices that might be too costly for someone on Social Security, but the kind of things that could have dramatic improvements in their daily life, like being able to read their mail, keep track of their medications, or fill out important forms with personal information.
More good news! In July, the Federal Communications Commission adopted new rules increasing the number of hours of audio-described programming available on top-rated broadcast and cable networks. ACB played an active role in the passage of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA), which paved the way for video-described programming.
The new FCC rules, effective July 1, 2018, require audio-described programming be available from 6 a.m. to midnight, maintaining the 50 hours of prime time and children’s programing and adding 37.5 hours of additional audio-described content. The networks that must currently comply with this rule are ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, Disney Channel, History, TBS, TNT, and USA. ACB sees this as a step forward for equal access. We’ll continue to seek out new pathways forward for further expansion of audio description wherever possible.
In August, Reps. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA) introduced H.R. 3457, which calls for the Controller General of the United States to investigate the government’s systemic failure to provide materials in accessible formats for recipients of Medicare and Medicaid. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is required under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to provide materials in an accessible format for recipients who are blind and visually impaired. According to the National Institutes of Health, roughly 24 million Americans experience some significant degree of vision loss even after the use of corrective lenses like glasses or contacts. However, it has been difficult to track the number of blind and visually impaired individuals covered under CMS programs, making it difficult to track CMS’ effectiveness in meeting the requirements of Section 504.
A few weeks later, researchers at the University of Hawai’i worked with Google, ACB, and the National Park Service to audio describe print brochures at 15 park sites throughout the state of California. This phase of the UniDescription project focused on description of the brochures available in California’s national parks, including Yosemite. The funding was shared between UH and ACB, with the National Park Service adding significant in-kind support at each of the involved sites.
Shortly after that, ACB’s Audio Description Project, along with the Mid-Tennessee Council of the Blind, the Tennessee School for the Blind and the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, offered a rare opportunity for blind people worldwide to experience the total eclipse of the sun. How? Through the use of audio description.
Prior to the eclipse, Dr. Joel Snyder hosted “A Total Eclipse — Audio Described!” on ACB Radio. Snyder, the director of ACB’s Audio Description Project, presented an hour of songs, interviews and special guests — with the main event described live from the Tennessee School for the Blind between 1:15 and 1:45 p.m. Nashville-based audio describer Julia Cawthon described the eclipse as it happened and provided a vivid “translation” of the visual event into words.
This summer saw many natural disasters: hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, and the wildfires out west. Many people in the ACB family emailed and called our offices, asking what they could do to help. So ACB developed a relief fund to assist members in the affected areas. Financial contributions to the ACB Disaster Relief Fund may be made at http://donate.acb.org/relief. If you prefer to pay by check, send to: American Council of the Blind, 6300 Shingle Creek Parkway, Suite 195, Brooklyn Center, MN 55430. Be sure to write in the memo field on your check that your gift is for disaster relief. Gift cards can also be sent to the above address. If you would prefer to donate via phone, call 1-800-866-3242.
In October, the national office staff and a number of ACB members in the D.C. area heard oral arguments at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in American Council of the Blind v. Mnuchin, also known as the currency case. In 2016, the government moved back the target date for the next currency redesign involving the $10 note from 2020 to 2026. ACB then sought an order from the district court requiring that the $10 bill be made accessible by 2020, and all the remaining denominations be made accessible by 2026. While this order was under consideration, the Treasury secretary advised the court that he has already complied with his legal obligation to make currency accessible by furnishing external currency readers to people with visual impairments. While the secretary indicated that he still intended to proceed with adding a tactile feature in the next major redesign, he was doing so as a matter of policy, as opposed to fulfilling a legal requirement.
The district court denied ACB’s motion in January 2017, and ACB appealed. We asked the appeals court to do two things: 1) to order that the $10 bill be made accessible by 2020 and all the remaining denominations be made accessible by 2026, and 2) we are asking that the court issue a ruling that external currency readers do not provide meaningful access to currency. We expect a ruling shortly. To hear ACB’s arguments, visit http://acb.org/currency-case-audio.
More recently, a coalition of blind and visually impaired individuals and advocacy groups has filed a nationwide class action against Hulu to end the video streaming company’s ongoing exclusion of blind and visually impaired Americans. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, challenges Hulu’s violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The company fails to provide audio description for any streaming videos. In addition, Hulu’s website and applications are not accessible to blind and visually impaired individuals who use screen readers to navigate the Internet.
Over the course of the past year, ACB has also been engaged with key partners and stakeholders in the airline and automotive industries. ACB participated in a working group to develop accessible in-flight entertainment and communication systems for commercial aircraft, presenting consensus guidelines to the Department of Transportation in November. ACB has also worked closely with auto manufacturers, tech companies, and disability advocates toward the implementation of autonomous vehicles, assuring that Americans who are blind will have access to such vehicles, and that safety on our streets for pedestrians remains a top priority.
While great progress has been made on many of these issues, they are not fully resolved. We may need your assistance and advocacy on some of these issues. Stay tuned to the Washington Connection and future issues of the Forum for further information!
The updated iOS app is available in 35 countries.
Article Link: https://www.engadget.com/2017/12/14/microsoft-seeing-ai-app-update/
Artificial intelligence took center stage at Microsoft's AI Summit in San Francisco on Wednesday. Aside from announcing AI smarts for a range of software — from Bing to Office 365 — the tech titan is also ramping up its Seeing AI app for iOS, which uses computer vision to audibly help blind and visually impaired people to see the world around them. According to Microsoft, it's nabbed 100,000 downloads since its launch in the US earlier this year, which convinced the tech titan to bring it to 35 countries in total, including the EU.
It's also getting a bunch of new features. The app now boasts more currency recognition, adding British pounds, US dollars, Canadian dollars, and Euros to its tally. Going beyond the color in a scene, it can also spot the color of specific objects, like clothes. Plus, it's no longer restricted to just short printed text, with handwriting recognition now part of its skill set. You can also customize the voice that it uses to speak its observations out loud, and set how fast it talks.
Finally, a musical light detector alerts you to the light in an environment with an audible tone — Microsoft claims the tool will save users from having to touch a hot bulb or LED battery to check if it's on. Despite the big update, there's still no word on an Android launch.
Announcing the new SmartVision2!
Smartphones too difficult to see or too confusing to use? SmartVision2 could be for you.
SmartVision2 is the only smartphone designed specifically for people with visual impairments. Complete with a high-contrast display, speech input and feedback and even a tactile keypad and buttons, SmartVision2 can adapt to your needs. And SmartVision2 is very easy to learn and use.
SmartVision2 isn’t an app, it’s an entire Smartphone built from the ground up. The ergonomics of the device, buttons and keypad are all designed and located to maximize ease-of-use for visually impaired people. And all menus and functions are made to be easy to see and simple to navigate. Plus, full tactile and voice controls are in place for non-visual users and for the convenience of visual users.
Need GPS navigation, book reading and OCR/scan & read? SmartVision2 Premium boasts the addition of all of these great features! Guide yourself with voice commands with speech feedback using Kapten GPS, read books, and even scan your printed reading materials to have them read back to you.
SmartVision2 Standard – $599
SmartVision2 Premium – $889
For more information, call 888-308-0059 or email email@example.com
Lyft is making their app more accessible for visually impaired riders, and here’s why it’s important.
Lyft has made accessibility a priority in 2017. First, in April, it announced its partnership with the National Association of the Deaf, along with changes to the app that would make it more accessible for deaf and hard of hearing riders and drivers. Now Lyft is embracing its visually impaired riders by announcing its new partnership with Aira, which will make Lyft more accessible for visually impaired riders.
Aira "develops transformative remote assistive technology that connects the blind with a network of certified agents via wearable smart glasses and an augmented reality dashboard that allows agents to see what the blind person sees in real time." Folks who sign on with Aira receive a pair of sleek silver glasses equipped with Aira technology. If they need assistance, they simply tap the side of their glasses, and one of Aira's trained agents will be able to assist them, through microphones and cameras set into the glasses, with tons of tasks, including navigation, reading everything from restaurant menus to books, and, thanks to the new partnership, calling and taking a Lyft.
A December 19 press release from Aira explains that Aira agents will now be able to initiate Lyft rides for Aira users — called "explorers" — as well as "convey important information about the ride, including the location of designated pick-up spots, estimated time of pick-up, and the estimated fare." Aira agents will also be able to tell explorers their driver's name and vehicle information, "provide navigational information to users as they walk the last 50 feet to their destination," a Lyft rep tells Bustle, and will be able to track the ride from their Aira dashboard to ensure the rider arrives safely.
Finding reliable transportation is one of the biggest challenges facing people with visual impairment, and though some cities make navigation easier for the blind and visually impaired, ridesharing has been an independence-boosting game-changer for folks who are blind or visually impaired. Considering Lyft is available to 95 percent of Americans, and Aira serves 300 million blind and visually impaired folks around the world, according to a press release from Aira, the partnership is set to help millions of people access rides they can count on.
Suman Kanuganti, Aira founder and CEO, said in a press release that "Lyft is committed to be a model for the type of community we want our world to be: diverse, inclusive, and safe. Aira’s mission is to give people who are blind or low vision the power of information. I am psyched about this partnership as it's designed to provide an end-to-end enhanced experience that makes traveling more accessible to the blind and low vision community, anytime and anywhere."
Aira operates using Wi-Fi data powered by AT&T, so users have widespread access to agents through plans starting at $89 per month for 100 minutes of agent help time (glasses included). The only limitation is that Aira agents are not available 24/7; instead, they're available from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. CST, seven days a week.
Gyre Renwick, vice president of Lyft Business, tells Bustle in an email that Lyft is excited to partner with Aira "to reach a new population of underserved riders." Renwick added, "Our mission is to improve people's lives with the world's best transportation, and to better connect communities, and our work with Aira enables us to do just that."
Renwick calls this "another very important step in our efforts to provide better transit solutions, and ultimately better experiences, for those who are hard of hearing or low vision."
While plenty of companies talk up their commitments to diversity, it's absolutely vital they make useful, quantifiable changes to their apps that will make them equally as accessible to disabled folks as they are to abled folks. Lyft has pledged to continue making changes that will add to its accessibility, opening transportation opportunities for more and more people in the months to come.
Article Link: https://www.bustle.com/p/lyft-is-making-the-app-more-accessible-for-visually-impaired-riders-heres-why-its-important-7640659
Article Link: https://insiderlouisville.com/business/technology-business/wayfinding-system-for-visually-impaired-installed-at-louisville-airport/
Louisville International Airport is the “first fully accessible airport” in the nation (and possibly in the world), according to Craig Meador, president of the American Printing House for the Blind.
On Tuesday, the APH introduced wayfinding mobile technology that uses Bluetooth and beacon technology to help blind and visually impaired travelers navigate the airport.
The system, which was created with funding support from the James Graham Brown Foundation, uses more than 140 beacons placed every 30 or so yards to give users turn-by-turn directions and describe to them what is nearby.
“Every concourse is mapped, every gate, every restaurant, every bathroom, every ticket counter, baggage carousel can be found and identified using a navigation app such as Nearby Explorer,” Meador said at the unveiling event Tuesday. “We believe that a compassionate city is an accessible city.”
People can use the new technology by downloading the Nearby Explorer mobile application. There is a free version as well as one for $79.99. The paid version of the app offers additional features including the ability to save information.
Users can either get directions to a specific location or use the compass feature to identify places in a given direction. The application uses the beacon’s latitude, longitude, floor number and signal strength to figure out where the user is.
Meador said that one person told him that they didn’t even know the Louisville airport had a Smashburger until he used the new technology.
Larry Skutchan, director of technology products research for APH, is blind and said he had successfully navigated his way to the security checkpoints and his gates in the past but never knew which airline counter was which or what restaurants were there.
“Independence is bigger than most people can realize,” Skutchan said.
The Louisville airport is piloting the program, and if it goes well, then it could be expanded to other airports across country.
“Our goal is pretty simple. It’s to create an impact on the world by creating products that allow students and adults to fully access their world,” Meador said.
The American Council of the Blind Information Access Committee, VFO and NV Access would like to call your attention to the latest update of the Mozilla Fire Fox web browser Firefox 57. Because the update is a total rework of the popular browser (now to be called FireFox Quantum), the leading screen readers will not work well with the update. All parties recommend that Fire Fox users who use a screen reader upgrade to FireFox Extended Service release (ESR) to incorporate the latest security patches without negatively effecting the screen reader user experience.
For your convenience, you can download Firefox ESR at https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/organizations/all/ and read the statements of VFO at Freedom Scientific Statement on Firefox Quantum at http://blog.freedomscientific.com/2017/10/25/important-information-for-users-of-mozilla-firefox/ and that of NV Access at NV Access statement on Firefox Quantum at https://www.nvaccess.org/post/in-process-halloween-2017-edition/
"To make sure Firefox doesn't update automatically, do the following:
1. In Firefox, hit alt+t to go to the tools menu, then, press o to bring up the options menu.
2. Tab until you hear 'Install updates automatically (Recommended) radio button checked.
3. Down arrow once to 'Check for updates but let me decide to install them'.
4. Press ctrl+tab to close the window and save changes.
For now, rest assured that the ACB Information Access Committee is keeping track of these kinds of issues and will alert you about them as they arise.
Facebook wants to make sure you know about and control the photos of you people upload, even if they don’t tag you. So today, Facebook launched a new facial recognition feature called Photo Review that will alert you when your face shows up in newly posted photos so you can tag yourself, leave it be, ask the uploader to take the photo down, or report it to Facebook.
The feature should give people confidence that there aren’t pics of them floating around Facebook that they could see but just don’t know about. It could also help thwart impersonation. But Facebook tells me it has no plans to use facial recognition to enhance ad targeting or content relevancy sorting, like showing you more News Feed posts from friends who post untagged photos of you or ads related to locations where you appear in untagged photos.
If you’re in someone’s profile photo which is always public, you’ll always be notified. For other photos, you’ll only get notified if you’re in the audience for that photo so as to protect the uploader’s privacy and not alert you about photos you’re not allowed to see. A Photo Review section of the profile will keep track of all your untagged but recognized photos.
Facebook’s applied machine learning product manager Nipun Mather tells me the feature is designed to give people more control, make them feel safer, and provide opportunities for nostalgia.
Facebook is also adding a new overarching photo and video facial recognition opt out privacy setting that will delete its face template of you and deactivate the new Photo Review feature as well as the old Tag Suggestions that used facial recognition to speed up tagging when friends posted a photo of you. These will all roll out everywhere over the next few weeks except in Europe and Canada where privacy laws prohibit Facebook’s facial recognition tech.
Facebook is also using the feature to assist the vision impaired. Now Facebook’s machine vision-powered feature that describes what’s in a photo will also read aloud the names of untagged friends.
“Over time our goal is to make these features available everywhere ... but right now we’re focusing on markets where tag suggestions are available” says Facebook’s Deputy Chief Privacy Officer Rob Sherman.
While Tag Suggestions might be seen as weakening privacy, Photo Review could be perceived as enhancing it and might get a pass from regulators. Whether it’s an unauthorized photo of you that you want taken off Facebook, an embarrassing pic you don’t want tagged but want to monitor comments on, or someone trying to pretend to be you, Photo Review gives people more visibility into how their likeness is used.
Demo Video: https://www.facebook.com/facebook/videos/10156892036321729/
Article link: https://www.statnews.com/2017/12/19/gene-therapy-blindness-fda-approval/
A first-of-its-kind gene therapy received approval from the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday to treat a rare, inherited form of childhood blindness.
The FDA marketing clearance of Spark Therapeutics’s Luxturna is historic for scientific and financial reasons. Luxturna is the first gene therapy approved in the U.S. that targets a disease caused by mutations in a specific gene.
A Spark spokesman said the company will not disclose the Luxturna price tag until early January. Wall Street analysts expect the gene therapy to command a $1 million price tag — another first, but not necessarily a welcome one. At a time when drug prices are coming under intense scrutiny, Spark will need to convince insurers, politicians, and pharma critics that the benefit to patients offered by Luxturna justifies its high cost.
The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER), an influential non-profit that studies the cost effectiveness of new drugs, is holding a meeting to review Luxturna on Jan. 25.
Spark CEO Jeffrey Marrazzo called the FDA announcement a landmark moment “decades in the making for the field of gene therapy.”
“This one-time gene therapy for an inherited disease represents a first-of-its-kind breakthrough that may lay the groundwork for the development of gene therapies for other conditions that are not adequately addressed today,” Marrazzo said in a statement.
Like other gene therapies, Luxturna inserts a functional piece of DNA into cells in order to replace or override a defective, disease-causing gene. For Spark, the injection site is the eyes of people, mostly children and young adults, who have a type of inherited retinal disease caused by a mutation in a gene called RPE65. People born with mutated RPE65 genes suffer from severe vision problems, including night blindness. As the disease progresses, people lose all functional vision and can eventually become totally blind.
Luxturna is not technically a cure. The surgical injection — one in each eye — aims to halt disease progression and restore some functional vision.
Wall Street analysts, on average, are forecasting 2018 Luxturna sales of $78 million, growing to $238 million in 2019 and peaking at $445 million, according to Bloomberg. These estimates carry a higher-than-normal degree of uncertainty, however, due to the uncertainties about Luxturna’s price and reimbursement.
Based in part on the Spark approval process, the FDA plans on unveiling a “modern, comprehensive framework of how we’ll advance the field of gene therapy” in the coming year, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told reporters.
The agency will release a series of guidance documents, he said, that will give companies a better idea of how to create safe development pathways, optimize clinical trial design, and develop meaningful clinical endpoints. The documents will focus in on areas where there’s already a lot of interest in gene therapy — particularly single-gene disorders — and help companies better use expedited regulatory pathways, such as the FDA’s breakthrough designation.
Beyond inherited disease, gene therapy is showing a lot of promise in autoimmune disorders, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and HIV/AIDS, said Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.
“Still, we also have a good deal to learn about how these products work, how to administer them safely, and whether they will continue to work in the body without adverse side effects,” Marks said.
Spark shares were up 4 percent to $50.82 following the FDA’s announcement.
California, Michigan and Florida are leading the way. We need policies to unlock a self-driving future for all, including seniors and the disabled.
Many Americans think of driverless cars as a futuristic technology that will revolutionize travel in cities and along state highways. But recent experiments are proving that autonomous vehicles also have the potential to improve the quality of life for millions of Americans who are underserved by traditional modes of transportation, such as the elderly and disabled, so long as lawmakers embrace smart policies that pave the way for innovation.
A retirement community in San Jose, Calif., that has been transformed by a small fleet of driverless taxis illustrates the potential of self-driving cars to transform people’s lives. Built by a tech start-up called Voyage, the modified Ford Fusions are currently confined to a two-mile loop, but residents are already reaping the benefits of these autonomous vehicles, which allow them to participate in social activities they would otherwise be unable to enjoy simply because they could not get to them.
When the trial run ultimately expands to 15 miles of road, these residents — whose average age is 76 — will also have a convenient and reliable new way to run errands and get to doctors’ appointments.
This kind of testing is possible because the retirement community is built on private land. But as these cars continue to serve residents there, it is easy to understand why California is moving to streamline regulations for the industry. Right now, state rules stipulate that autonomous vehicles can only be used on public roads for research and require companies to have a human in the driver’s seat. The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles recently proposed revisions to these rules to not only let companies test autonomous vehicles without a human driver, but also to allow the general public to ride them.
California is following the example of states like Florida, which is home to the highest population of residents older than 65 and has emerged as a leader in the race towards a driverless future. The City of Orlando has partnered with local universities, private sector businesses and government agencies to establish the Central Florida Automated Vehicle Partnership, which will support efforts to ensure that Florida plays a significant role in shaping the future of mobility and transportation. The U.S. Department of Transportation has taken notice of the state’s bold driverless initiatives. The agency announced in January that Central Florida will be a pilot site for testing driverless technology.
In Michigan, forward-thinking policies have the potential to unlock other hidden benefits of autonomous vehicles, especially for those with physical disabilities. The Michigan Disability Rights Coalition has strongly advocated for the development and rollout of this technology, saying that it could give people with disabilities greater opportunities in the workforce and enable them to lead more fulfilling, independent lives.
Lawmakers there have heeded the coalition’s call and have made the state a hub for innovation. In 2015, legislators, business leaders and universities partnered to create Mcity, 32-acre testing ground on the University of Michigan’s campus in Ann Arbor, where researchers are testing connected-car technologies and collecting data that will help autonomous carmakers to build these vehicles as safe as they can be.
Many recognize that autonomous vehicles will be the future of transportation, but it is too often overlooked that this future cannot arrive fast enough for millions of Americans who are forced to depend on others for day-to-day travel. Policymakers in cities and states around the country should follow the lead of places like California, Florida and Michigan, and pass sensible rules and regulations that will unlock more of these hidden benefits of driverless cars.
Article Link: https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/11/21/driverless-cars-can-transform-lives-if-states-cities-change-rules-let-them-joe-rinzel-column/880541001/
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