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

Making smartphones even more intelligent — and more inclusive.

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Perkins School for the Blind

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!

Joy

Nurse turns inappropriate things men say in the delivery room into ‘inspirational’ art

"Can you move to the birthing ball so I can sleep in the bed?"

Holly the delivery nurse.

After working six years as a labor and delivery nurse Holly, 30, has heard a lot of inappropriate remarks made by men while their partners are in labor. “Sometimes the moms think it’s funny—and if they think it’s funny, then I’ll laugh with them,” Holly told TODAY Parents. “But if they get upset, I’ll try to be the buffer. I’ll change the subject.”

Some of the comments are so wrong that she did something creative with them by turning them into “inspirational” quotes and setting them to “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton on TikTok.

“Some partners are hard to live up to!” she jokingly captioned the video.

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

The mesmerizing lost art of darning knit fabric.

For most of human history, people had to make their own clothing by hand, and sewing skills were subsequently passed down from generation to generation. Because clothing was so time-consuming and labor-intensive to make, people also had to know how to repair clothing items that got torn or damaged in some way.

The invention of sewing and knitting machines changed the way we acquire clothing, and the skills people used to possess have largely gone by the wayside. If we get a hole in a sock nowadays, we toss it and replace it. Most of us have no idea how to darn a sock or fix a hole in any knit fabric. It's far easier for us to replace than to repair.

But there are still some among us who do have the skills to repair clothing in a way that makes it look like the rip, tear or hole never happened, and to watch them do it is mesmerizing.

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Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
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