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College Students Create Device that Helps Legally Blind Students Take Notes

Assistive technology brings classroom notes back to low-vision and legally blind students.

Remember the days of sitting in class, copying down what your teacher scribbled on the board? Now imagine the frustration you'd feel if you couldn't see that board. That's the situation San Diego State University student Jeremy Poincenot found himself in almost three years ago after contracting an extremely rare disorder called Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy. As Poincenot shares in the above video, he'd lost his love for the college experience due to his inability to fully follow what was going on in class. That is, until he connected with Note-Taker, an assistive technology that helps "low-vision and legally blind students take notes in class as quickly and effectively as their fully-sighted peers."

The designers of this innnovative technology, Team Note-Taker, are four Arizona State University students—Michael Astrauskas, David Hayden, Shashank Srinivas and Qian Yan. Hayden, who is himself legally blind, inspired the team's development of the technology, which "combines a portable, custom-designed camera and a touch-screen tablet PC to allow the user to simultaneously view live video and take typed or handwritten notes on a split-screen interface."

Last week, Team Note-Taker placed second in software design in the Microsoft Imagine Cup, a technology competition for socially conscious high school and college students. With the learning capacity of countless students around the globe affected by vision loss, the development of this technology is life-changing. It's inspiring to see how it's transformed Poincenot's life by giving him the ability to fully participate in an academic experience again.

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