Whirlwind Roughrider Wheelchair for Rough Terrain

Last updated: March 15, 2015

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Whirlwind Wheelchair International at San Francisco State University serves as the hub of a network of wheelchair manufacturing shops and related disability organizations around the world. Whirlwind is a nonprofit organization that designs wheelchairs for production and use in developing countries and by homeless people in the Bay area with accessibility problems such as stairs, rough terrain, unpaved roads, and lack of curb cuts. The Wheelchair Diffusion Blog notes that

Their latest development, the Roughrider, was designed to take some of the "rough" out of wheelchair use. While most USA wheelies crave shorter and lighter wheelchairs, a longer wheelbase and even a heavier wheelchair in general are often a very good trade off in places where it can make the difference between being a usable wheelchair or an ornament.

Whirlwind offers consulting services to private wheelchair manufacturers and individual designers and inventors. The University Corporation San Francisco State, a 501(C)(3) non-profit auxiliary to SFSU, provides Whirlwind with shop and office space and support services such as accounting, public relations staff and fund development assistance. Each semester, Whirlwind gives a hands-on wheelchair design and construction class in the classroom and shop adjacent to their office to students and interested members of the community. Students can also volunteer in a variety of capacities for Whirlwind and apply for internships. Once every other month students can participate with Whirlwind in San Francisco's Project Homeless Connect repairing wheelchairs of homeless San Franciscans. Whirlwind is a program of SFSU's Institute for Civic and Community Engagement (ICCE). See the Whirlwind Web site for a video about the wheelchair building class.

See Provider Resources for their design and construction standards based on the World Health Organization (WHO) materials for appropriate and responsible service provision and service provision planning. Whirlwind supports the work of the World Health Organization on its service provision training and strongly encourages partners and customers to provide wheelchairs in compliance with the World Health Organization's guidelines.


Last updated: March 3, 2015

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Visual accessibility problems involve blindness, low vision, and color-blindness.

Reference Books and Resources

There are several excellent books related to vision. See the suggested reading list for general information and detailed reference books for your library.

Sight / Vision Loss Resources

Find more resources using the Areas of Focus Vision category search.

Relevant News

Macular Degeneration

"Quality of Life Improves in Patients with Macular Degeneration: Duke Ophthalmology, Duke University School of Medicine, "Researchers at the Duke Eye Center have determined that patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) experience significant improvement in their quality of life following a surgical procedure called "macular translocation with 360 degree peripheral retinectomy" (MT360). AMD is an eye disease that may lead to vision loss in the central region of a person's visual field, a defect that can seriously impact a patient’s quality of life."

"UCSB Studies Link Alzheimer’s Disease, Macular Degeneration," by Josh Braun, Staff Writer. Published Wednesday, May 28, 2003. Issue 135 / Volume 83

Accessible Technology

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) Tech's product evaluations offer objective, comprehensive accessibility reviews of products for people who have lost some or all of their vision. AFB Tech has evaluated a wide variety of products, including cell phones, blood glucose meters, insulin pumps, insulin pens, blood pressure monitors, office copiers and faxes, kitchen and home appliances, voting machines, and others. Their reports are available online at the AFB AccessWorld® Magazine. For example, see their many reports on accessible cell phones.

Making Documents Accessible to the Blind

The American Council of the Blind (ACB) has a page about "Best Practices and Guidelines for Large Print Documents used by the Low Vision Community" that is authored by the Council of Citizens with Low Vision, International (CCLVI), an Affiliate of the American Council of the Blind in Arlington, VA. These guidelines were compiled by persons with low vision to assist in the production of the large print documents that they, themselves read.

Zoom for Low Vision

Wednesday, 15th June 2005 – By Gez Lemon. An article about creating alternative stylesheets for people with low vision. This discusses zooming text and color contrast. "Zoom for Low Vision"

Blind engineering student 'reads' color-scaled weather maps using Cornell software that converts color into sound

January 21, 2005: Victor K. Wong, a Cornell University graduate student from Hong Kong who lost his sight in a road accident at age seven, is helping to develop innovative software that translates color into sound. "Color is something that does not exist in the world of a blind person," explains Wong. "I could see before, so I know what it is. But there is no way that I can think of to give an exact idea of color to someone who has never seen before." The inspiration for using image-to-sound software came in early 2004 when Wong had problems reading color-scaled weather maps of the Earth's upper atmosphere—a task that is a necessary part of his doctoral work in "space weather," which attempts to predict weather patterns high over the equator for use by Global Positioning System and other satellite communications. Read more… Blind Engineering Student Reads Color Sound

Library Services for the Blind

State libraries for the blind in Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, New Hampshire, and Oregon, along with the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), the National Library of Congress, other regional and state libraries, and the CNIB Library in Canada provide free audiobook library services to the visually impaired; requested books are mailed out (at no cost) to library patrons. Founded in 1996, Assistive Media of Ann Arbor, Michigan was the first organization to produce and deliver spoken-word recordings of written journalistic and literary works through the Internet to serve people with visual impairments.

The Blind Can See with Their Tongues

Update: Source: University of Montreal news release, June 2, 2004: An eye on the tongue. More…

2001—A Danish study found that people who were born blind can learn to see by having electrical impulses applied to their tongue. This research may also benefit other groups of disabled patients with brain injuries or diseases such as epilepsy, dementia, blood clots in the brain or patients who have had surgery where a portion of the brain has been removed. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are developing a tongue-stimulating system that translates images detected by a camera into a pattern of electric pulses that trigger touch receptors. That people can decode nerve pulses as visual information when they come from sources other than the eyes shows how adaptable, or plastic, the brain is, says Wisconsin neuroscientist and physician Paul Bach-y-Rita, one of the device’s inventors. "You don't see with the eyes. You see with the brain," he contends. An image, once it reaches an eye's retina, "becomes nerve pulses no different from those from the big toe," he says. To see, people rely on the brain's ability to interpret those signals correctly. More… [this article is continued but only available to subscribers to ScienceNews. See https://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20010901/bob14.asp] (no longer available as of 28 February 2014) See also November 28, 2004: BehindTheMedspeak: BrainPort – See with your tongue and hear and touch as well.


Last updated: May 16, 2016

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Speech accessibility and communication aids enable people who are unable to talk, or to talk clearly. These users may have acquired brain damage, autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, intellectual impairment, or strokes. Many speech recognition systems are unable to recognize the speech of these users because they are based on average speakers. Because of the inconsistency of most impaired speech, speaker dependent systems do not have a high rate of accuracy. Speech recognition should not be the only form of input. In addition, some users with impaired speech may have additional motor skills accessibility problems because of impaired dexterity.

Speech accessibility includes difficulties with language and meaning, and difficulty producing intelligible speech. Language and meaning difficulties can also be related to Cognitive impairment. See the tags list below for related resources.

Reference Books and Resources

There are several excellent books related to speech. See the suggested reading list for general information and detailed reference books for your library.

Speech Resources

Learning and Speaking

Find more resources using the Areas of Focus Speech category search.

Recent and Relevant

Advances in Converting Text to Speech

  • Apple® Accessibility Features Vision built into all Macintosh computers provides adjustable keyboard, an ergonomic mouse, CloseView screen magnification software, Easy Access system software (StickyKeys, SlowKeys, MouseKeys), electronic documentation, key-repeat disable, text-to-speech synthesis and voice recognition (PlainTalk), sticky mouse, and visual alert cues. The VoiceOver spoken English interface for Mac OS X is a fully integrated, built-in screen reader technology providing access to the Macintosh through speech, audible cues, and keyboard navigation.
  • NaturalReader a powerful Text To Speech reader: Listen to PDF files, webpages, e-books, e-textbooks, office documents, and printed books.