CES: Stevie Wonder pushes for gadgets for blind

At a show where the focus is more often about making devices skinnier, faster and bigger, blind music icon Stevie Wonder came to the Consumer Electronics Show with a more personal agenda: To convince electronics vendors to keep himself and other blind people in mind when designing the latest gadgets.

“One thing that’s always puzzled me is how I can have access to some of those great technologies,” he said in Las Vegas. “Our desire has been to be part of these technologies and be more independent.”

The musician, who uses a BlackBerry, said he was also happy to now be able to use an iPod (the nano can provide speech options that help navigation without vision). But he still had a wishlist of devices he would like to be able to operate by himself including a car, which he acknowledged could be tricky and a satellite radio, which should be less tricky.

Wonder appeared with other advocates for the blind who bemoaned the proliferation of touchscreen controls on devices as they are difficult for blind consumers to use.

Mike May, President of GPS maker Sendero Group, summed up his frustration saying that while he and other blind people had managed to overcome incredible challenges, difficulties with touchscreens seemed insurmountable.

CES: Technology for the blind and deaf

Technology is supposed to make life easier for everyone, and at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, we found some gadgets that are accessible by the blind and deaf.

Check out Sinead Carew’s story on how Stevie Wonder is at CES to make the case for tech that’s friendly to the blind. As she reports, with the popularity of touch screens, once simple consumer electronics such as televisions and stereos have become difficult for blind people to use as they often require navigation of multiple menus that need to be seen.

If you want to learn sign language, Krown Manufacturing will be rolling out a pocket-sized device that may help. Use a stylus to type a word on the Sign Language Translator’s touch screen and it will play a video clip of that word translated into sign language. The device has over 3,500 words in sign language, Krown says. It doesn’t do phrases yet, but may some day.