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Person operating an Optacon. Thirty years ago the possibility of competitive employment through the use of access technology began at Sensory Access Foundation (SAF) with the invention of the Optacon. Stanford University Professor John Linvill developed the Optacon, the first electronic information-technology device for the blind. The Optacon converts hard copy and electronic text into tactile representations of letters and symbols, allowing individuals to "read" alphanumeric characters with their fingers. Thus, the Optacon provided direct access to information. John and his wife, Marjorie, founded the "Optacon Fund" to provide long-term, low-interest loans for persons who were blind and who needed assistance in purchasing Optacons.

John and Marjorie Linvill, founders of the Optacon Fund. In the late 1970's, SAF began its first program to use access technology to open jobs for persons who were blind or visually impaired in California. SAF also began training clients on the use of equipment as well as educating rehabilitation professionals about access technology for people who were blind. During the 1980's, SAF continued its on-going programs as well as inaugurating major research projects exploring new speech output technologies and their applications for students and workers who were blind. In 1991, the organization changed its name to Sensory Access Foundation, or SAF. Since then, we've expanded the use of information technology and broadened the range of available job opportunities. Current SAF services include: Employment Preparation, Job Development, Placement, Accommodation and Retention, Occupational Skills Training, Information and Referral, Equipment Loan Program, and Access Technology Training Services.

Although, there are many agencies throughout the United States that provide services for people who are blind or visually impaired, SAF is the only agency in the nation whose services are totally dedicated to employment. When working with people who are blind or visually impaired, it is not just a matter of placing them into a job. It is having the knowledge about visual impairments and how they manifest themselves in regards to functional vision, and how that functional vision relates to a realistic job opportunity. It is also having the expertise and knowledge of state-of-the-art access technology and the ability to test and interface it with existing mainstream technology. Other agencies do not have this expertise.

SAF 2004 Annual Report (PDF, 672KB)

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