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History: Technology for visual impairments

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  • 1266 - Friar Roger Bacon outlined the scientific principles behind the use of corrective lenses in his Opus Majus.[1]
  • 1282 - Nicholas Bullet, a priest, is known to have used spectacles when signing an agreement. This is one of the earliest known uses of spectacles.[2]
  • 1352 - The earliest depiction of spectacles in a painted work occurs in a series of frescos by Tommaso da Modena in the Chapter House of the Seminario attached to the Basilica San Nicolo in Treviso, north of Venice.[3]
  • 1401 - Nicholas of Cusa was born. He was a German cardinal and scientist, and was the first to use concave lenses to correct myopia.


  • 1809 (January 4) - Louis Braille, the inventor of the Braille code, was born in Coupvray, France. [4]
  • 1821 - Louis Braille meets a soldier who has shared his invention called "night writing" made of 12 dots which formed a code that soldiers could use to communicate at night. The code was too difficult for the soldiers to learn. Louis shortened the code to 6 dots and the Braille code was formed. [5]
  • 1829 - Louis Braille publishes the first book in his new Braille code, series of 6 raised or un-raised dots that are used by people that are blind or have low vision to read. [6]
  • 1885 (November 3) - William Perkins is awarded a patent for a "Writing-Machine for the Blind." The typewriter-like invention provided "an improved writing-machine for the blind, whereby writing in embossed characters by puncturing sheets of paper may be performed much more expeditiously than can be done with the usual hand-slate and stiletto, and whereby, also, the embossed characters will be formed in the order in which they are read and in accordance with the code of characters usually employed." This device preceded the more durable, easier-to-use Perkins Brailler by over 60 years. [7]
  • 1887 - Adolf Eugen Fick, a German physiologist, invents contact lenses.


  • 1921 - James Biggs of Bristol claims to have invented the white cane . According to Biggs, he became blind after a car accident and was becoming increasingly concerned with the amount of traffic outside of his home. He decided that painting his cane white would make him more visible to motorists, and thus, the "white cane" was born. He wrote to various organisations, Chief Constables and newspapers, explaining his idea.[8]
  • 1931 - Guilly d'Herbemont, a member of French high society who devoted much of her time and fortune to the welfare of the blind, began the "white stick" movement, which was taken up by the press and promoted by the British Broadcasting Company (BBC).
  • 1932 - The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) begins selling white canes as a wayfinding aid for people who are blind. [9]
  • 1958 (February 28) - Charles Strunk files a patent for "a writing guide for the blind, so that persons whose sight is affected to an extent that they cannot clearly determine whether the lines they are writing are parallel, may write neat letters in a ready and simple manner. [10]


  • 2003 (November 21) - The first mobile phone designed specifically for blind and partially sighted people, Owasys 22C, goes on show in the UK. [11]
  • 2007 (February 16) - US researchers are given the go-ahead for human trials for the Argus II 'bionic eye' system. The system connected an eye-glass mounted camera to electrodes in the eye. "'What we are trying to do is take real-time images from a camera and convert them into tiny electrical pulses that would jump-start the otherwise blind eye and allow patients to see,' said Professor Mark Humayun, from the University of Southern California." [12]
  • 2007 (October 2) - A California federal district court ruled in National Federation of the Blind v. Target Corporation that websites of public business and services, such as target.com, must be made accessible to all users under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The landmark class action suit was brought on behalf of blind Internet users. Previously, since the ADA was written prior to wide use of the Internet, only 'brick and morter' (physical) places of business were required to be accessible.
  • 2008 (May 20) - A U.S. Federal court rules that the country's paper money will need to be redesigned to have a tactile indicator. The current bills violate the Rehabilitation Act's guarantee of "meaningful access".[13]


References

  1. "The Invention of Spectacles." The College of Optometrists. 2005. Accessed on March 9, 2008.
  2. "The Invention of Spectacles." The College of Optometrists. 2005. Accessed on March 9, 2008.
  3. "The Invention of Spectacles." The College of Optometrists. 2005. Accessed on March 9, 2008.
  4. Louis Braille Biography. American Federation of the Blind. Accessed on January 30, 2008.
  5. Louis Braille Biography. American Federation of the Blind. Accessed on January 30, 2008.
  6. Louis Braille Biography. American Federation of the Blind. Accessed on January 30, 2008.
  7. "Writing-Machine for the Blind" U.S. Patent #329,675. November 3, 1885.
  8. "Sight Loss - FAQs." Royal National Institute of Blind People. January 21, 2008. Accessed on February 25, 2008.
  9. "Sight Loss - FAQs." Royal National Institute of Blind People. January 21, 2008. Accessed on February 25, 2008.
  10. Writing Guide for the Blind." U.S. Patent #2,913,836. November 24, 1959.
  11. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/3226314.stm
  12. Fildes, Jonathan. Trials for 'bionic' eye implants. BBC News. February 16, 2007. Accessed on February 1, 2008.
  13. "Paper money unfair to blind - court." CNN Money. May 20, 2008. Cable News Network. Accessed on May 20, 2008.