Friday, November 27, 2009

GM Teams With National Federation for the Blind to Develop Safe Sound Alert For Electric Vehicles

Electric cars are silent-running which for many people is a very good thing. It can potentially lead to some risk to the visually-impaired and other pedestrians however as some studies show.

A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published in September reveled bicyclists and pedestrians are struck at a significantly higher rate by hybrid as opposed to conventional cars.

GM has created a special pedestrian alert signal for the Chevy Volt. ”It is an active system,” says Chief engineer Andrew Farah, meaning the driver must activate it. Passive systems produce a sound at all times. The Volt pedestrian alert sound is a light volume horn-like sound similar to the chirp of some cars keyless entry indicators. ”It has to be automotive,” says Farah referring to the quality of the tone.

The fist generation Chevy Volt will not be equipped with a passive alert system. Competitor Nissan has reportedly developed a system for its upcoming LEAF EV which sounds like a floating car from the Bladerunner movie. GM is looking at the possibility of passive alert for future Volt generations. Other electric automakers such as Tesla remain uncertain.

Today GM has announced that they formed a partnership with the National Federation for the Blind to identify what will be a “safe level of sound” for alerting visually impaired and other pedestrians to the approach of a silent running EV.

Meetings have begun earlier this year and are also aimed at protecting runners, cyclists, and children.

“We have significant background in the area of pedestrian alerts dating to our work on our first electric car, the EV1,” Farah said, “The most important thing is to listen to the people who will interact with these vehicles in everyday life.”

Deborah Kent Stein, who chairs the NFB’s Committee on Automobile and Pedestrian Safety, said, “A recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) demonstrated that the silent operation of hybrid vehicles is an issue for all pedestrians, not just the blind. In certain situations, electric or hybrid vehicles are twice as likely to be involved in collisions with pedestrians. The NFB looks forward to working with the safety agency in the crafting of appropriate standards establishing an acceptable level of minimum vehicle sound.”

“The National Federation of the Blind appreciates the opportunity to work with General Motors on this problem,” said Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind. “We urge all automobile manufacturers to work with the blind in designing vehicle sounds to alert us to the approach, speed and direction of vehicles so that both drivers and pedestrians can safely use America’s roadways.”

A low-level low-speed vehicular sound for EVs may be inevitable, though no formal federal regulations currently exist. Future legislation may arise in concert with input from the Society of Automotive engineers to develop a national standard.

A lack of consensus and standards among automakers could conceivably result in a virtual cacophony of discordant sounds once streets become filled with EVs from various automakers. Thus all cars should produce similar sounds, likely ruling-out the possibility of customizable “car tones,” as some pundits have speculated about.

Like it or not, the sound of silence appears to be on its way.

Below is GM’s video on the sound of the Volt:

Article Courtesty:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Health Alerts: Macular Degeneration

10:55 AM CST on Tuesday, November 24, 2009
The New York Times


Therapies can help prevent vision damage

Cases of age-related macular degeneration are expected to rise significantly by 2050, but better use of therapies is expected to lower the percentage of cases that result in vision loss and disability.

Scientists at Research Triangle Institute International analyzed existing data and projected the disease's future prevalence based on various treatment scenarios. Their study, published in the Archives of Ophthalmology, concludes that cases will increase from 9.1 million in 2010 to 17.8 million in 2050. They attribute almost all of the increases to aging of the U.S. population.

The disease causes deterioration of the macula, the main area of the retina, a thin tissue at the back of the eye where light-sensitive cells send signals to the brain. Damage to the macula results in blurred or distorted vision and blind spots.

Study authors say existing therapies could cut visual impairment by as much as 35 percent. One cost-effective way to delay the disease, researchers say, is through antioxidant vitamin therapy.

SOURCES: American Health Assistance Foundation; Archives of Ophthalmology

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Carroll Center for the Blind Tech Fair

Jack Sheehan
Director of Marketing
Vision Dynamics

November annually provides many things for the visually impaired to be thankful for.

Thanksgiving Day and the Carroll Center for the Blind Tech Fair are two of them

Cheshire, CT – November 17, 2009.

There have been some really great fall days lately and that means Thanksgiving Day cannot be far off. Actually this year it happens to be November 26th, and that means the annual Carroll Center Tech Fair will be on Tuesday, November 24th, from 10:00 AM to 3 PM. in the Exhibitor Hall at The Carroll Center for the Blind, 770 Centre Street, Newton, MA.

This event provides an opportunity for all to come and see the many vision aids available for those who need help with any of the many forms of vision impairment. It also is a chance for the professionals in this field and the caretakers to learn about what they can use to help others. Vision Dynamics will be joining the many exhibitors in presenting products and explaining services.

We at Vision Dynamics really look forward to this event every year. It is an opportunity for our staff to shine! We get a chance to show all the many vision aids we carry and really emphasize all the changes and improvements. Our staff will be available to explain the features of these tools and advise on selecting the proper aid for each individual.

We have a couple of items to put the word out on this year. We have made some additions to our staff. Vision Dynamics is expanding our field staff to meet the commitments to our long term goals of extending our services in Southern New England.

We have added Marion O’Donnell in Eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island and the Cape area. Marion will be using her 26 years of experience in the health care industry and her personal experience in caretaking for her Mother and Father. Both were visually impaired and Marion devoted many years to helping them and learning firsthand how to provide that help.

We have also added Dr. Rick Ely to the Western Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire area. Dr. Rick, visually impaired himself, brings a wealth of knowledge of our industry and a strong background in teaching people with vision impairments. Once again, a person able to share his personal experiences to those who need help.

Fall is traditionally harvest time for all. Come to the Tech Fair and harvest all the information there to enjoy a better life for you and your loved ones. What a great way to remind us of all of what we have to be grateful for on Thanksgiving Day!

Vision Dynamics is Southern New England’s premier company serving the needs of the Low Vision and Blind population. Its mission is to empower and inspire people with low vision, blindness, and learning difficulties with the hope, desire and ability to lead happy and independent lives. Discover more at