12 mighty clever apps making smartphones work harder for blind users.

Making smartphones even more intelligent — and more inclusive.

When braille was invented in the early-1800s, it was world-changing and life-altering.

Louis Braille was only 15 when he invented the world's first written language for the blind. Inspired by a language of raised dots used by French army officers to communicate silently at night on the battlefield, Braille envisioned a simple series of tactile raised dots to help translate the written word into something that could be read by the blind.

His innovation helped bring the worlds of blind and sighted people closer than ever before. Now whip-smart mobile phone developers are building off his work to keep our world connected and inclusive with helpful mobile apps that assist people with visual challenges in their daily life.


Downloading these apps and using them regularly is one small — but meaningful — way everyone can make the world more inclusive and accessible for people with vision challenges. Dozens of apps abound online, but here are 12 of our current favorites:

1. Contribute to a blind person's experience of a neighborhood with BlindWays.

BlindWays is a navigation app for iPhone that picks up where GPS navigation leaves off. Through information provided by sighted members of the community, the app guides blind travelers to the closest bus stop sign with easy-to-understand navigational cues. Best of all, it's user-powered and updated regularly — so the next time you're walking around the block to the store, take a few seconds to open the app and share some information that will help a blind person get around. It's only available in Boston right now, but they're hoping to expand to other areas.

2. Be My Eyes connects sighted and blind people for momentary acts of kindness.

Want to help a blind person navigate a quick challenge? Be My Eyes is the answer. This iPhone app connects blind or visually impaired users with sighted helpers through a live audio-video connection. Blind users can point their phone camera at an object or place they'd like assistance with — like installing batteries correctly or checking expiration dates on food — and sighted users can lend their eyes. For sighted users, it's a lovely way to be generous with a few minutes of your time.

3. Access braille and audio versions of 50,000 books with the BARD mobile app.

The next generation of braille is here (and on your phone). Image via iStock.

Have an Apple mobile device? Load it up with more than 50,000 books, magazines, and music scores courtesy of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped and the Library of Congress. It works with Bluetooth-enabled braille keyboards too!

4. Listen to radio stations with content by and from blind and visually impaired people with Sero.

Finding community with people experiencing life in the same way you are is an important part of being blind or visually impaired. The Sero (formerly iBlink radio) app for iPhone collects radio stations, reading services, and podcasts of interest to blind people, their caregivers, and their friends. And every station is owned or operated by people with limited or no eyesight.

5. Ariadne GPS combines navigation and narration to help people find their way.

Raised crosswalk indicators are useful for finding intersections. Ariadne GPS takes navigating to the next level. Image via iStock.

This excellent talking map service was designed with the blind in mind. Users can navigate using their finger on the screen while Ariadne gives them verbal and tactile clues about the world around them. Crossing the street? The iPhone will vibrate. Need a bus or train stop? Ariadne will let users know.

6. Turn sunshine into sound with the Light Detector app.

Need to get changed and want to make sure the blinds are closed? The Light Detector app for iPhone and Android shows the source of light in a room by transforming it into a sound. Users simply point the camera at a light source (or where they expect one to be) and the app creates a sound that rises or falls in intensity depending on the brightness of the light.

7 & 8. Talking Goggles and the KNFB Reader help blind folks experience Google Glass (without the dorky hardware).

It's the Google Glass that Google Glass wishes it were! Image via iStock.

If there's text on something — a street sign, a poster, even a bottle of shampoo — text- reading apps like Talking Goggles and the KNFB reader can recognize it and read it out. Users can point the phone's camera at what they want to read, and the app does the rest. Even better? It works on both iPhone and Android, and it can read in different languages — with the correct accent.

9. Need to know what's in front of you right now? This iPhone app lets users Tap, Tap, and See.

What's in the pantry — a can of peaches or a can of baked beans? TapTapSee helps blind or visually-impaired users identify the objects around them with a quick click of their iPhone or Android device camera. Once a photo is taken, a voiceover will share what the object is. A useful app for blind and sighted folks!

10. Listen to music (and the rest of the world) with the Awareness! app.

It's every pedestrian's nightmare: You're walking outside, listening to Katy Perry roar, and you don't hear that oncoming train. Unsurprisingly, missing important auditory warnings is a very real concern for blind and visually-impaired people. Awareness! is a music-listening app for iPhone that helps users stay connected to the rest of the world while they rock out. Songs play like normal, but in the case of important sudden noises, Awareness! will silence the song and let the real world — and all its dog barks, car horns, and fire alarms — through.

11. Make sorting money easier with the LookTel Money Reader.

A woman going through her wallet. Image via iStock.

With or without a visual impairment, sorting through America's uniformly green bills can be a challenge when you're in a rush to pay. Fortunately, the LookTel Money Reader app for iPhone removes the chance of confusion. Turn on the app, point the camera at the bill, and LookTel will announce the denomination out loud.

12. Make sure your pants and shirt match with Color ID.

Searching for your lucky green tie? Want to know if the cat you're petting is a brown tabby or a silver one? Color ID can help. Like most of the apps on this list, all it takes is pointing the mobile phone camera at an object, and Color ID does the rest. Now you'll finally know if those pants your wife hates are khaki or just greenish-brown. It's available for iPhone and Android.

This is just a small sample of the mobile apps available to help make the world a little easier to navigate for blind and visually-impaired people — and there's more being developed all the time.

Here's to a digital world that makes the real world safer, more fun, and more inclusive for everyone!

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Perkins School for the Blind
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Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

Cities

The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

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via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

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