Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Monday, October 31, 2005

The Key To Access

The Key to Access enables you to take your Assistive Software with you on a portable USB MP3 Player. By just inserting the MP3 Player into any USB Port, the floating tool bar will appear, you just click on any of the eight different tools. The software NEVER needs to be installed on your computer. All your personal settings are saved on your Key to Access so that no matter which computer you use, your access will be the same.

The built-in voice recorder allows you to dictate notes or record lectures and listen to them later. You get 8 powerful tools. Plug it into the USB drive and you have access to a 250,000-word Talking Dictionary. The Universal Reader is ideal for reading emails and web pages and E-Text Reader is a tremendous study tool that allows you to highlight, bookmark, search and extract text from a document. The Talking Word Processor has talking word prediction and the world's most powerful talking grammar check. Scan and Read Pro is compatible with most flat bed scanners. Just place a book on the scanner and within a few seconds Scan and Read can be reading it to you. PDF Magic is outstanding for converting inaccessible PDF files to accessible formats. Text To Audio application will take documents from your computer and convert them to MP3 and put them right on your Key to Access player so that you can listen to them away from your computer.

Since the tools are built into the 1 Gigabyte USB MP3 Player, you will always have ample space for your files. The built-in Plus each Key to Access even comes with its own personal set of earphones.

Live Update technology keeps your software up-to-date with the latest software features and functions. - Never wait for your IT staff again. The key to Access is self updating, just plug it into a computer that has internet access and the ability to download files.

Click this link to learn how you can have The Key To Access:

Where Does The Braille Plus Sign Go?

Message: When doing nemeth addition or subtraction with dollar signs, where do you put the operation indicator? location: CT

If you are writing the problem horizontally, the operation sign goes between the numbers, an example would be $45+$32.

If the problem is written vertically, the operation sign goes out under the dollar sign. In print, the sign is actually a space to the left of the bottom number. Not sure that is a rule in braille, but often there is at least one space between the plus sign and the last addend, or between the times sign and the bottom factor.

Contributor: Carla Ruschival
BellaOnline's Sight Loss Editor

Science Lab for the Visually Impaired

What do you want to be when you grow up? A doctor, a scientist, an astronaut, a veterinarian?

If you've ever dreamed of pursuing a career in the Sciences but have been discouraged by a variety of accessibility issues, we have good news for you! The VISIONS Lab at Purdue University in Indiana may be a way to pursue your dreams.

VISIONS Lab stands for Visually Impaired Students Initiative on Science. It is a unique facility, a laboratory for students who are blind or visually impaired. This laboratory was created to give blind and visually impaired individuals access to information about complex and high-tech fields such as Chemistry, Physics, Engineering, Biology, and Mathematics. Fields that, traditionally, had been inaccessible to those students with visual impairments.

The VISIONS Lab not only produces educational materials for visually impaired students, but it also serves as a research lab for developing new adaptive technologies in the field of blindness.

Since 1995, the VISIONS Lab has been instrumental to Purdue students taking courses in the following departments: Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics, Engineering, Computer Science, Psychology, Biology, Agronomy, and Spanish.

If you would like more information on how to get started in a career in the sciences, please contact:

Purdue University
1393 BRWN Box # 725
West Lafayete, IN 47907
Phone: 317-496-2856
Fax: 317-494-0239

Contributor: Maria Delgado

"Finding Wheels: A Curriculum for Non-Drivers With Visual Impairments for Gaining Control of Transportation Needs"

"Finding Wheels" is a curriculum designed for adolescents in middle school and high school who have visual impairments (or other disabilities) and who would benefit from exploring what their options are as non-drivers. The curriculum was written by Dr. Anne Corn of Peabody College of Vanderbilt University and Dr. L. Penny Rosenblum of the University of Arizona.

"Finding Wheels" is very flexible in how it is used - teachers, O&M specialists, or parents can use it with teens in either a home, school, or summer program setting. A teen can move through the curriculum individually or in a group. Not every teen will need to explore all 10 of the units. Each individual's needs and interests will determine what parts of "Finding Wheels" are appropriate.

The curriculum contains four sections. In the first, users meet four travelers, some of whom are more successful than others. Next, teens explore who they are as travelers (e.g., rites of passage, knowing about their own visual impairment as it relates to travel). In the third section, teens are introduced to the variety of transportation methods (e.g., walking, public transportation, paratransit, drivers). The last section focuses on how to be an independent non-driver (e.g., budgeting, planning, what to do when a ride is late).

Throughout "Finding Wheels" there are suggested activities for teens to do in order to learn about themselves and local resources. One popular activity is for teens to interview adult non-drivers. A teacher who has used the curriculum with her high school students commented about the interviews, "It is good that they hear from people who have actual experiences in planning and using resources to meet their transportation needs."

If you are interested in ordering "Finding Wheels", please contact:

Pro-Ed Inc.
8700 Shoal Creek Blvd.
Austin, TX 78757
Toll Free: 800-897-3202
Fax: 800-397-7633

Contributor: Maria Delgado

Leo: A Braille Display Calculator from Sensory Tools

The people at the Sensory Tools division of Robotron have developed a new type of miniature Mechanotronic Braille Cell that is small enough to make the creation of a Braille display scientific calculator a reality instead of a dream. Unlike a talking calculator, this product allows the visually impaired user to work mathematical calculations quietly. This gives Leo a clear use in classroom, office, library and other settings where noise can be disruptive.

Besides standard arithmetic functions, Leo can perform square root, sine, cosine, tangent, and logarithm operations and their respective inverse functions, conversions, financial functions and more. The display area has 8 cells and can accurately display to 10 significant digits.

The unit is 4.75 by 3.75 by 0.8 inches, and weighs about 10 ounces, including batteries. Rechargeable Nickel-Metal Hydride batteries and a charger are included.

Sensory Tools Division of Robotron PTY.Ltd.
222 St. Kilda Rd.
St. Kilda
Phone: +61-3-9525-530
Fax: +61-3-9525-3560

Contributor: Malcolm Turner

Friday, October 28, 2005

Accessible Graphing Calculator software sounds just right

In the market for a truly accessible graphing calculator? Then check out a product from ViewPlus Software.

AGC is a scientific calculator that provides voiced feedback for computations, as well as audio representations of graphs. The versatile AGC can import data from Excel® or a host of other applications. AGC allows you to quickly and easily create tactile copies of your AGC graphs by printing directly to any ViewPlus Embosser.

In addition to its ability to graph and display functions, AGC has features typical of a good hand-held scientific graphing calculator. It has a standard on-screen keypad scientific calculator as well as an expression evaluator which permits the user to save, define and recall constants such as those used in the physical sciences and engineering.

ViewPlus Technologies
1853 SW Airport Avenue
Corvallis, OR 97333
Phone: 541-754-4002
Fax: 541-738-6505

Contributor: Bill Brymer

Mountbatten Braille Writer and Braille Literacy Website

Quantum Technology has created a website devoted solely to the Mountbatten Braille Writer and braille literacy. The Mountbatten is recognized around the world as a tool for helping young children achieve braille literacy and the technical literacy they will need to compete in our increasingly electronic world. This site contains a world of information and resources for parents and educators, as well as stories from people who currently use the Mountbatten.

The site contains links to research work undertaken using the Mountbatten at SET-BC in Canada and at the Texas School for the Blind, copies of papers and presentations, links to sources of curriculum materials, information that may help in fundraising and much more.

You can visit the site by clicking this link: and they welcome your stories and ideas.

Based in Sydney Australia, Quantum Technology has developed a wide range of assistive technology tools over the last 30 years. One of their foundation products was the Braille-n-Print which helped usher in the age of integrated education by providing a means of translating braille into print immediately. The Mountbatten Brailler has been developed and manufactured under license from the Mountbatten Memorial Trust.

Quantum Technology Pty Ltd
5 South Street (PO Box 390)
Rydalmere NSW 2116
Phone: 61 2 8844 9888
Fax: 61 2 9684 4717

Remember the Milk

I make lists for everything, from what I need to get done for Fred's Head to house chores to grocery lists. When I found this site I was delighted! So after checking out the Learn More link, I readily signed up. It's free!

This is a very thorough planner and list maker. The first screen you see when you sign up and log in is the Overview area. You'll have one task already assigned to you. That task is to "Try out Remember the Milk". I headed over to the Tasks section next.

There you can check off your first task and click complete. This will make "Try Out Remember the Milk" go away. To add tasks, just click the link Add Task. Before you start adding tasks, check out the Inbox, Personal, Study, Work, and Sent tabs.

The Inbox is like your e-mail inbox, but instead of getting e-mail you can receive lists from other users. This could be really fantastic to use for family chores, or tasks from your boss at work. You can send lists to other users in the Sent area. I keep my grocery, and general to-do lists in the personal area, but you can use it for whatever you need. There are also Study and Work areas for organizing those lists.

You can even set some items to repeat or to have due dates. This allows you to focus on the really important things without forgetting about little things like lunch. (Yes, I often forget to eat lunch.) You can tell at a glance if you have a project that is overdue, due today, or even due tomorrow.

In the Contacts section, you can invite people to join, manage the other users you may already have, and so on. In the Settings section, you can edit your user information, like what country you are from and your time zone.

If you have a question check the site's Help section to see if it has already been answered. This section also lists keyboard shortcuts to help you use this site more easily.

I can't wait to put this site to work. I'm going to be very organized, and it will be much easier to multi-task the millions of things I need to get done.

Click this link to Remember The Milk:

VisAbility: Low Vision Reading System

VisAbility turns a PC computer and scanner into a magnification and reading system. You can scan any printed or handwritten material and display it at up to 32 times its original size. It allows instant access to any portion of the image, including books, magazines, letters and pictures. Its features allow continuous reading through the entire image or within columns of text, and to fill in and print completed forms.

For more information contact: Ai Squared
Phone: 802-362-3612
Email: Web:

Contributor: Maria Delgado

The Many Windows of Zoomtext

ZoomText is an Accessibility application that combines a screen magnifier with a screen reader. ZoomText includes support for all Windows platforms, including Windows 95/98, NT, 2000, and XP Home and Pro .

The ZoomText family of software consists of two product levels: Level 1 is the most advanced screen magnifier on the market. Level 2 offers a fully integrated magnifier and screen reader designed specifically for the low-vision computer user. Both product levels have a reading module called The DocReader , a full-screen environment for reading text from any Windows application. DocReader automatically reads through complete documents, including web pages and email.

ZoomText users are diverse in many ways, from their type of vision impairment, to the computer applications they use, to their preferences on how the screen is magnified. One of the ways in which ZoomText accommodates this diversity is through its eight zoom window types: Full, Overlay, Lens, Line and four Docked positions. Each of these zoom windows provide a unique way of viewing the screen.

The most popular zoom window is Full zoom. In Full zoom, the entire screen is magnified, thus allowing you to see the maximum area possible. Many users don't venture beyond this choice because it's both functional and comfortable.

The Overlay zoom window displays a magnified view that can be sized and positioned to occupy any area of the screen. This zoom window is convenient when you need to park the zoom window in a specific location.

Using Lens zoom is like moving a hand-held magnifying glass in front of the screen, where only the material directly beneath the lens is magnified. As you move the mouse, type in text, and navigate menus and dialogs, the Lens automatically moves across the screen to keep the focus in view.

The Line zoom window displays a band of magnification across the screen. Similar to the Lens zoom window, the Line zoom automatically moves up and down keeping the focus in view. When a blinking text cursor is present, the height of the Line zoom window automatically resizes to the size of the current line of text.

ZoomText also offers four Docked zoom windows. These split screen zoom windows allow you to view magnified and unmagnified views of the screen in a side-by-side or over-and-under layout. The magnified view can be at the top, bottom, left or right portion of the screen , and in each case the unmagnified view is opposite. Both magnified and unmagnified views scroll, allowing you to view any area of the desktop.

Choosing a zoom window

Switching between zoom window types is quick and easy. On the Magnifier toolbar, select Type button, then select the desired zoom window type. You can also cycle through all of the zoom window types by pressing the Zoom Windows hotkey: CTRL + SHIFT + Z.

Adjusting a zoom window's size or position

With the exception of Full zoom, all of ZoomText's windows can be sized and moved to show more or less of the magnified view.

  1. On the Magnifier toolbar, click the Adjust button, or press the Adjust tool hotkey: CTRL + SHIFT+ A. Sizing handles will appear on the zoom window frame.

  2. To size the window, drag any handle.

  3. To move the window, drag inside the frame.

  4. To exit the Adjust tool, right-click or press the ESC key.

Zoomtext Can Read

Zoomtext also has the ability to read sections of the screen through four reading tools: AppReader and DocReader, which are best for reading documents (including web pages and email); and the SpeakIt Tool and Mouse Echo, which are useful for spot reading in any application.

AppReader allows a user to hear entire documents or emails. Reading can easily be stopped, and restarted by pressing the enter key, reading will begin from the position of the cursor in any document or email message. The following simple steps will get you reading with AppReader.

  1. Open an email or document that you would like to read.
  2. Position the text cursor where you want to start reading (if a cursor exists).
  3. Press ALT + SHIFT + A to start AppReader.
  4. Press the ENTER key to start, pause and resume reading.
  5. Press the ESC key to exit AppReader.

Next on the list of ZoomText reading tools is DocReader, which is a fantastic choice for reading messy documents. DocReader strips away all of the cluttered formatting, and presents only the text of the document in your choice of font style, size and color. Using DocReader is just as easy as using AppReader. In fact, the steps are the same, except that you press ALT + SHIFT + D to start DocReader. Oh yes, I should mention that both AppReader and DocReader highlight each word that's spoken, so it's really easy to see where you're at in your document.

In some ways, I think the SpeakIt Tool is the most versatile, because it allows you to read a selected block of text anywhere on the screen. Using the SpeakIt tool is easy. Just press ALT + SHIFT + I, which will turn your mouse pointer into a SpeakIt pointer. Then click and drag to highlight the text you want to read. When you release the mouse button, ZoomText immediately reads the selected text. When you are finished using the SpeakIt tool, press the Esc key or right click to restore your normal mouse pointer. I find the SpeakIt tool is great for reading information in tables, as it allows a user to read one particular row or column at a time.

Finally, there's ZoomText's Mouse Echo feature, which automatically reads the word or line of text beneath the mouse pointer. Just move the pointer over any text and ZoomText reads it automatically.

ZoomText's zoom window types and its ability to read full documents and sections of the screen are sure to accommodate every situation. Why not experiment today to see which zoomtext features will work best for you. Click this link to learn more about Zoomtext and other products from Ai Squared:

Ai Squared
P.O. Box 669
Manchester Center, Vermont 05255
Phone: 802-362-3612
Fax: 802-362-1670

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Liberty and Liberty Plus

The Liberty and Liberty Plus Portable Magnification Systems are practical for students on campus and for mobile professionals.

Liberty offers 4.5x-9x continuous zoom lens magnification. Liberty Plus offers 8x-16x zoom lens magnification with extended magnification up to 64x with its unique digital zoom feature. Both offer built-in roller tracks that help guide the user smoothly across the text.

Their screen features high-brightness, low flicker flat screen technology with a wide range of monitor brightness adjustments. The user can choose Positive (black letters on a white background), Negative (white letters on a black background), Photo view, or a variety of text and background color displays to accommodate contrast sensitive low vision users.

For more information contact:

Freedom Vision
Toll Free: 800-961-1334
Email: Info@freedom

Contributor: maria delgado

Magnify and Enlarge Your World With Freedom Vision

Freedom Vision is a nationwide distributor of products for people with low vision that specializes in accessibility and portability. Their products meet special interests for education from K-12, colleges, and universities, as well as rehabilitation job placement and job retention, Some of their products include: The Prisma, Liberty and Liberty Plus portable magnification systems, the TVi Zoom hand-held Video Magnifier, and the VisAble large display scientific calculator. For more information contact:

Freedom Vision
615 Tami Way
Mountain View, CA 94041
Toll Free: 800-961-1334
Phone: 650-961-6541
Fax: 650-968-4740
Email: Info@freedom

Contributor: Maria Delgado

Keeping braille paper in its place

Do sheets of braille paper keep slip slidin' away from you as you move your hand across the page? Here's a handy tip to help keep your braille paper in place.

Place your paper on a ½ inch thick or thicker piece of packing foam. The foam grips the paper just enough to keep it from slipping, and, if you like to place your reading matter in your lap, the foam's thickness keeps the paper from folding or bunching.

A good source for packing foam is in boxes used to ship electronics equipment and computers. Ask your local electronics dealer or computer store to set aside a piece if you don't have any foam at home. You might also find foam remnants at carpet and rug dealers, department stores and merchants who ship or receive fragile goods.

Contributor: Fred Gissoni

Putting the "sense" into cinema: DVS Theatrical® in-cinema narration service

A descriptive narration service is receiving thumbs-up from blind, visually impaired and sighted movie fans alike. The service, called DVS Theatrical, lets blind and visually impaired moviegoers hear key descriptive narration--such as actions, settings, and scene changes--over headsets, thus eliminating the need to ask for narrative assistance and risk disturbing other audience members.

DVS is the narration service pioneered by the Access Division of WGBH public television. For years, WGBH has offered the service to make its shows and other public television programming accessible to blind and visually-impaired viewers. Now, the Media Access Division of WGBH--comprised of The Caption Center, Descriptive Video Service Theatrical and the National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM), is spearheading an effort to introduce DVS Theatrical into movie houses across the United States.

DVS Theatrical and The Rear Window Captioning System (a sister-technology for deaf and hard of hearing moviegoers) made their debut at the General Cinema Theatre in Sherman Oaks, California during the 1997 presentation of the The Jackal, a thriller starring Richard Gere, Bruce Willis and Sidney Poitier. Since its introduction, DVS Theatrical has been permanently installed at General Cinema Theatres in a dozen cities, including: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia and Seattle.

Motion Picture Access Project
125 Western Avenue
Boston, MA 02134
Phone: 617-300-3400
Fax: 617-300-1035

Canes and Cane Accessories from AmbuTech

AmbuTech carries a variety of canes and cane accessories. Products include aluminum, fiberglass, and graphite rigid and folding mobility canes, adjustable and fixed-length support and orthopedic support canes, Kiddie mobility canes, and identification canes. In addition, they carry cane accessories such as cane pouches, holsters, clips and cane tips. AmbuTech can manufacture custom products or sizes. They also repair and refurbish canes, and make every effort to return all canes within five working days of receipt.

AMBUTECH (A division of Melet Plastics Inc.)
34 DeBaets St.
Winnipeg, Manitoba R2J 3S9
Toll Free: 800-561-3340
Phone: 204-663-3340
Fax: 800-267-5059 or 204-663-9345

Quick and Easy SearchingWithin Braille Books

Index tabs can help reduce the amount of time spent searching through braille text and reference books, such as glossaries and appendices. To make your own tabs, follow this simple procedure:

  • Cut several 1 by 3/4-inch strips from poster board.
  • Apply braille letters to the tags by using laminating sheets, dymo tape, or some other medium.
  • Attach the tag to the right-hand side of the page, matching the letter with the appropriate section.
  • For pages that are brailled in interpoint, the brailled tags are turned toward the back of the book for a section that begins on the back of the page.

To use the index, simply locate the correct letter and track across the page from right to left to begin a search.

Contributor: Marlene Culpepper

National Braille Association (NBA)

The National Braille Association (NBA) is a volunteer, non-profit organization that provides continuing education opportunities to people who prepare braille. It also provides braille materials to persons who are blind and visually impaired.

The NBA's referral service links interested organizations with qualified independent contractors who conduct seminars on braille transcribing, aduio tape recording techniques and tactile graphics. It hosts a national membership conference every two years and publishes the NBA Bulletin, a quarterly newsletter available in accessible formats that contains technical advice for the braille transcriber and or reader.

The NBA's services for the blind include transcribing and duplicating services. There are approximately 2,300 titles in the group's collection, all listed in one of three NBA catalogs: NBA Textbook Catalog, NBA Music Catalog, and NBA General Interest Catalog. Catalogs are free upon request.

National Braille Association
3 Townline Circle
Rochester, NY 14623-2513
Phone: 716-427-8260
Fax: 716-427-0263

Idea Box: Early Childhood Education and Activity Resources

The Idea Box is an interesting Web site that provides a wealth of tips, projects and concepts to stimulate and educate young imaginations. The content of the Idea Box is categorized as follows:

  • Activities
  • Seasonal
  • Games
  • Music and Songs
  • Recipes
  • Craft Recipes
  • Crafts

Many of the ideas posted in this site use craft materials that are commonly found in any classroom, and most of these projects can easily be adapted for children with multiple disabilities. This site provides a good resource for games and projects with holiday themes.

Click this link to see what's in The Idea Box today:

Contributor: Maria Delgado

Lesser Known Screen Readers for Windows and Speech Synthesizer Manufacturers

We all know of JAWS for Windows and Window Eyes, but did you know there are others out there to choose from? Here's a list of some alternatives!

Artic Technologies International Inc.
Screen Readers: WinVision
Synthesizers: Synphonix, Trans
55 Park Street
Troy, MI 48083
Phone: (248) 588-7370
Fax: (248) 588-2650

Syntha-Voice Computers Inc.
Screen Readers: Window Bridge 2000
304-800 Queenston Rd.
Stoney Creek, Ontario L8G 1A7
Phone: (905) 662-0565
Fax: (905) 662-0568
Toll-free: (800) 263-4540

Alva Access Group, Inc.
Screen readers: OutSPOKEN
436 14th Street, Suite 700
Oakland CA 94612
Phone: (510) 451-ALVA (510) 451-2582
Fax: (510) 451-0878

EconoNet International, Inc.
Screen Readers: Simply Talker
14211 W. La Sedona Circle
Delray Beach, FL 33484
Phone: (561) 638-0926

Dolphin Computer Access Limited
Screen Reader: HAL for Windows
Synthesizers: Orpheus
60 East Third Avenue, Suite 130
San Mateo, CA 94401
Phone: (650) 348-7401
>Fax: (650) 348-7403<>BR> Toll-free: (866) 797-5921

RC Systems Inc.
Synthesizers: Doubletalk External, Doubletalk Internal
1609 England Ave
Everett WA 98203
Phone: (425) 355-3800
Fax: (425) 355-1098

Is-sound Corporation
Synthesizers: WebHEARit
P. O. Box 66068
Lawrenceville, New Jersey 08648
Phone: 609-773-0007<>BR> Website:

Speechworks International, Inc.
Synthesizers: Speechify, ETI-Eloquence
695 Atlantic Avenue
Boston, MA 02111
Phone: (617) 428-4444
Fax: (617) 428-1122

Synthesizers: iSPEAK
180 W Election Rd
Draper, UT 84020
Phone: (801) 553-6600
Fax: (801) 553-6707

Contributor: Maria Delgado and Mario Eiland

My Address Bar Is Gone!

The address bar is a great way to quickly check out the current URL of the page your currently viewing. If you use a screen reader you can hit ALT+D to jump directly to it to copy a url or to type in a new one. I'm not sure how this happens, but now and then the address bar will disappear. Restoring it is pretty easy.

With Internet Explorer go to View, choose Toolbars, and click on Address Bar.

In Netscape navigator go to View, Show/Hide, then click Navigation Toolbar.

See, that wasn't so hard. Now you should have your address bar back.

What Is a Screen Reader, and Basic Points to Remember When Choosing One

A screen reader is a piece of software that turns the text in your computer screen into speech or braille. If the text is to be turned into speech, the screen reader requires the use of a speech synthesizer. If the text is to be turned into braille, the screen reader requires the use of a refreshable braille display.

There are 3 kinds of speech synthesizers. A synthesizer can be a card that is inserted into the computer, an external device attached to the computer by a cable, or software that functions with the computer's sound card.

A braille display is an external device. This device operates by electronically raising and lowering different combinations of pins. These pins reproduce the text on the computer screen into braille.

When choosing a screen reader, there are some basic important factors to consider depending on your individual needs:

  1. What kind of operating system will you be using?
    There are a variety of screen readers in the market. Some are specifically designed to work with either DOS or Windows.
  2. Consider the type of software applications you will be using with the screen reader.
    For instance, will you be using Microsoft Word, WordPerfect, spreadsheets etc? This is important to know, since different screen readers function better in different environments.
  3. Consider the screen reader's compatibility with other assistive technology you may choose to use.
    For instance, will it work well with screen magnification programs? Will it support a specific Braille display? Or will it support a specific hardware or software synthesizer? Consider all possible options, including those accessories you may be thinking of acquiring in the future.
  4. Make sure your computer meets the minimum requirements to have a screen reader.
    Every screen reader calls for its own specifications, precise RAM and drive space recommendations may vary. However, most currently available screen readers require from 5 to 30 MB of available hard disk space. Most screen readers also require at least a 256-color display in order to read correctly. As with most systems, the faster the processor and the more memory the computer has, the better the performance.
  5. Consider the availability of technical support and learning materials.
    For instance, do they offer unlimited tech support? Do they have an 800 number? Is the manual available in a specific language? Do they offer the instructions in alternate media? Most companies also may offer support over the Internet.

Finally, if one screen reader does not meet your needs, consider the option of having two screen readers. There are some computer users that use more than one screen reader to meet all their needs.

Contributor: Maria Delgado

Finding Your Way Around a Cafeteria

Cafeteria settings are always a challenge. Not only because the lines are so long and go around and around, but also because cafeterias are crowded and noisy, making it more difficult to orient yourself.

If you always go to the same place, like your dorm dining room or your high school cafeteria, you may try the following techniques:

  • Start by learning the layout of the place.

    A good way to learn is to explore the cafeteria at a time when it is not busy (2:00 in the afternoon, after lunch rush hour, or at night, before it closes). Ask a friend to accompany you, and ask him or her to tell you where the drinks are, how the silverware is organized, where the salad bar is, how to operate the machines, and so on.

    If the cafeteria has multiple lines, it may take a little longer to learn where things are, but it can be done. Once you are familiar with the place, you should be able to do well on your own, since you now have an idea of where to start.
  • Finding the end of the line and keeping your place:

    A good way to find the end of a line is to simply ask. When you feel you are near the line you are seeking, ask people if they are the last in line. The people in line will be glad to direct you to the end since they are probably hungry and will appreciate that you are not cutting them off.

    Once you make it to the end of the line, there are a couple of ways to keep your place in line. If the cafeteria is too noisy and it is hard for you to know when the line moves up, ask the person in front of you to let you know when he or she moves up. Another technique is to slide your tray along the cafeteria tray rails, and move up slowly every time the person in front of you moves. In both cases, keep the hand on the side towards the direction the line is moving with some of your fingers out. This allows you to feel the person's tray in front of you, and may prevent you from bumping into them.

  • Finding a seat in the dining room

    After you've gotten your food, one of the biggest challenges is finding a seat. These are three suggestions on how to deal with the situation:

    1. Walk carefully around asking if people are sitting at various tables.
    2. Ask someone in the cafeteria to help you find a seat.
    3. Before leaving the line, ask the cashier or someone from the staff to help you find a seat.

  • Finally, when carrying your tray in search for a seat, put most of your fingers under the tray to hold it. However, leave a couple of them in the tray making sure you are holding on to your drink. If you are walking with someone you know, you can stick your arm under his or her arm, and try to follow.

The situation and techniques change if you are totally unfamiliar with the cafeteria you are visiting. In this case, you may want to use the following techniques:

  1. You may want to stand by the door and wait for someone to come in. When they get to the door ask them if they might assist you through the line as you follow them. Then ask someone from the cafeteria staff to help you find a seat.
  2. You can always ask someone from the staff to assist you from the beginning. In this case, you may want them to take your tray while you hold on to their elbow.

In a familiar place there is always a chance of finding a friend who may recognize that you are looking for a place to sit and offer to share his or her table. In any case, you should feel free to indicate to the people assisting you whether you want to sit with someone, or if you prefer to sit alone.

Skills for Access

Skills for Access is a comprehensive Web guide to multimedia, e-learning and accessibility, developed by the Learning Development and Media Unit at the University of Sheffield in the UK.

This web site is a comprehensive resource on issues relating to multimedia, e-learning and accessibility. Whether you're new to e-learning, want to know more about specific accessibility issues, or are an expert multimedia developer, I think you'll find information relevant to your needs.

This is not a site full of accessibility guidelines! It is a place where good ideas can be shared, where problems can be identified and discussed, and where the potential of multimedia to make the learning experience accessible to as many people as possible can be realised. They want to hear from anyone who has a contribution to make - e.g. through a Case Study that focuses on a specific topic relating to multimedia, accessibility and learning. For more information on Skills For Access, visit their home page at

Skills for Access

Skills for Access is a comprehensive Web guide to multimedia, e-learning and accessibility, developed by the Learning Development and Media Unit at the University of Sheffield in the UK.

This web site is a comprehensive resource on issues relating to multimedia, e-learning and accessibility. Whether you're new to e-learning, want to know more about specific accessibility issues, or are an expert multimedia developer, I think you'll find information relevant to your needs.

This is not a site full of accessibility guidelines! It is a place where good ideas can be shared, where problems can be identified and discussed, and where the potential of multimedia to make the learning experience accessible to as many people as possible can be realised. They want to hear from anyone who has a contribution to make - e.g. through a Case Study that focuses on a specific topic relating to multimedia, accessibility and learning. For more information on Skills For Access, visit their home page at

Medicare Rights Center

Calls itself "Your Guide through the Medicare Maze." Has FAQs, info on Choosing an HMO, Appeals, Coordinating Care, etc. It currently features lots of info on the confusing Medicare Prescription Drug benefit.

Click this link to visit the Medicare Rights Center:

Window Eyes: Screen Reading Application

Window-Eyes is a screen reader manufactured by GW Micro Inc. It provides general compatibility with all versions of Windows and supports Microsoft's Active Accessibility (MSAA) and all video systems. This application is also compatible with many popular voice or speech synthesizers and most popular Braille displays. Window-Eyes automatically labels many graphics and provides a drop-down menu system for control and setup.

For more information contact:

GW Micro Inc.
725 Airport North Office Park
Fort Wayne, IN 46825
Phone: 219-489-3671
Fax: 219-489-2608

Did you ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes at GW Micro? Do you want to know more about the people behind the technical support team and how it works? Are you generally interested in assistive technology? If any of these questions peak your interest, then you are in luck. Every first Tuesday of the month, you can listen to a 30-minute radio show with GW Micro's own Jeremy Curry as the host of the show. In cooperation with On The Move and with Chicago Radio Information Service (CRIS) radio located at the Chicago Lighthouse for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired; GW Micro is pleased to announce this exciting show.

This show is one of the first of its kind, where one of the leading assistive technology (AT) manufacturers discusses the latest advances in AT, and talks about what goes on behind the scenes. Topics that are covered include everything from what's going on with GW Micro products and people to some of the latest innovations in assistive technology. You can check out the radio show at by clicking this link. Then, select the CRIS Radio link to start the audio stream.

CRIS radio broadcasts the span of a 55 mile radius from the John Hancock building to 40,000 listeners, thousands of cable subscribers, hundreds of students in classrooms, and hundreds of patients in area hospitals. CRIS radio broadcasts 24 hours per day, and streams live on the web at

For questions, comments, or topic suggestions regarding the show, email them to You can also contact On The Move at, and you can also check out the archives of the show at

GW Micro has launched a blog to convey company information and behind-the-scenes tidbits. It is advertised as a companion to their official news feed and Email discussion list. Registered users can leave comments, and the blog is available via RSS.

Click this link to visit the GWMicro Blog at

Jordy: Magnification System for Low Vision

The Jordy system is a portable device that enhances low vision. It is a multi-purpose aid that can be worn to watch TV or a movie, view a church service or wedding, or monitor grandchildren playing. It has a 44 degree field of view. The system may also be slipped into a special stand connected to a television and it becomes a full color, white on black and black on white MV (electronic magnifier).
Some of its features are:

  • Light weight: under 10 oz.
  • Wide field of view: 44 degrees
  • Distance, intermediate, and near viewing
  • Full color with auto-focus
  • Magnification range IX - 24X
  • Magnifies TV viewing
  • Battery operated system (including power supply and charger)
  • Preset magnification
If you would like more info on the Jordy (TM) system please contact:

Enhanced Vision Systems
Toll Free: 800-440-9476

Contributor: Maria Delgado

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Maxi-Aids: Independent Living Products

Maxi-aids is a company that offers thousands of independent living products for people with disabilities. Some of their product categories for the blind and visually impaired include:

  • Computer Alternatives and Adaptations: screen readers
  • Watches and Clocks: talking, large print and braille
  • Electronics: Tape Players, Calculators, VCR's, Organizers, Dictionaries
  • Games: Scrabble, Monopoly, Chess, Checkers, Large print playing cards
  • Medical Products: aids to measure insulin, take your blood pressure, or sort your medication
  • Telephones and Telephone Accessories: large print buttons
  • Kitchen and Household Accessories: Talking microwave, Talking Timer, Talking Weight Scale
  • Books and Videos/Large Print: address books
  • Sewing Aids: tools to help thread a needle or cut fabric
  • Writing, Labeling and Identification Aids: guides, dymo magnetic and teflon tape.
  • Magnification Aids for the Visually Impaired
  • Lighting and Magnifier Lamps
  • Canes

Maxi Aids
42 Executive Blvd
Farmingdale, NY 11735
Toll Free: 800-522-6294
Phone: 631-752-0521
TTY: 631-752-0738
Fax: 631-752-0689

Contributor: Maria Delgado

Making Your Own Headphones That Support Input From 2 Different Sound Sources

When using voice output and either multimedia output or taped lessons on a single computer, it's hard to manage 2 sets of headphones for private listening. Specialty headphones can be purchased to provide one sound input coming in through one side of the headset, and the other sound input coming in through the other side -- however, these can be very expensive. Another option is to build your own, using the following parts available at Radio Shack for roughly $12 plus the price of the headphones:
* One pair of Stereo Headphones, with a 1/8-inch mini plug, e.g., Walkman-style
* One 1/8-inch Minijack Coupler (catalog #274-1555), for mono-to-mono or stereo-to-stereo use
* One 1/8-inch Y-adapter (catalog #274-375), which combines or splits a stereo mini 1/8-inch circuit into two mono 1/8-inch circuits
* Two Audio Cables (catalog #42-2420), 1/8-inch miniplug to 1/8-inch mini plug.
The Coupler connects the headphones to the Y-adapter. One of the audio cables connects the Y-adapter to the one of the sound sources. The other audio cable connects the Y-adapter to the other sound source.

This article by Betsy Walker first appeared in V.I. Guide and is reprinted with permission.

Image Minimizer and Field Viewer, magnifying systems for people with restricted visual fields

Ocutech makes available some products for individuals with restricted visual fields.

The Image Minimizer (IM) increases field awareness by reducing the image size, so that more is seen in the same amount of space. It reduces the image size enough to enhance the visual field awareness, but not so much as to reduce visual acuity or to produce excessive barrel distortion.

The Field Viewer, is a handheld device intended to be used by individuals with restricted visual fields as an aid in mobility and in other visual activities. It enhances the peripheral visual field by reducing image size, and placing more visual information into the available visual field. Since it is handheld, it can be readily positioned and manipulated for a variety of visual applications.

Toll Free: 800-326-6460

Contributor: Maria Delgado

Flipper: Magnifying System

Flipper is a portable low vision system that magnifies images. Its camera design enables people with low vision to perform daily tasks more effectively. Images can be magnified in any surface and/or position because the camera turns a full 225 degrees. Flipper can be connected to any TV, and may be purchased with glasses that are equipped with built-in screens that display magnified images. The use of these glasses may facilitate its uses at school, at the library, etc. For more information contact:

Enhanced Vision Systems
Toll Free: 800-440-9476

Contributor: Maria Delgado

Enhanced Vision Systems, manufacturer of Max, V-Max, MaxPort, Flipper, and Jordy.

Enhanced Vision Systems (EVS) is a manufacturer of low vision solutions. It offers low vision products that may enabled the partially sighted to see better and read again. Some of these products include:
Max, V-Max, MaxPort, Flipper, and Jordy. EVS Vision Aids are available through doctors, clinics, and distributors throughout the world. For more information contact:

Enhanced Vision Systems
2130 Main Street, Suite 250
Huntington Beach, CA 92648
Toll Free: 800-440-9476

Contributor: Maria Delgado

Voice of the Diabetic: Newsmagazine Publication

The Diabetes Action Network, a division of the National Federation of the Blind, publishes the newsmagazine "Voice of the Diabetic". Voice of the Diabetic is a quarterly publication available in print, on cassette tape, or online at the website. It approaches all aspects of diabetes and blindness. It emphasizes good diabetes control, diet, and independence. It also addresses current medical and scientific news in the diabetes field, health and diet news, and discusses options for living with many of the complications of this disease.
To subscribe, contact the organization at the following address or phone number. Or, fill out the subscription form available at the Web address below.

Diabetes Action Network, National Federation of the Blind
1412 I-70 Drive SW, Suite C
Columbia, MO 65203

Contributor: Andrea Peak

NFB Diabetes Resource List

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) has created an online comprehensive list of information for blind diabetics called Diabetes Resources.

Diabetes Resources is a compilation of companies and organizations offering products and/or information to help diabetics, especially blind diabetics, self-manage their diabetes.

Some of the categories in this Web site include:

  • Insulin Measurement Devices
  • Insulin Magnifiers
  • Insulin Injection Systems
  • Diabetic Foot Care
  • Blood Glucose Monitoring Systems
  • Insulin Pumps
  • Products for the Blind
  • Food and Diet
  • Literature and Information
  • Distributors of Diabetes Equipment and Supplies Medical Assistance

Click this link to visit the National Federation of the Blind's Diabetes Resources page:

Contributor: Andrea Peak

Did You Remember Your Checklist? was launched on May 26, 2000 with the goal of greatly improving the lives of people everywhere by providing a wide variety of checklists which are very easy to use and concise, yet fairly comprehensive. They believe everyone should use these checklists to help avoid early death, injuries, frustrations and disappointments, and, to create, and take advantage of, opportunities for a better life.

For example, if you're going to build a campfire go through this checklist:

  • Don't take firewood from a live tree
  • Clear burnable material for at least 10 feet from your campfire site
  • Place tinder (e.g., dry grasses, shredded bark), kindling (e.g., small sticks) and firewood near your site
  • Arrange kindling over the tinder
  • Shield it from the wind
  • Light the tinder

Some things are very easy. For example, here's the complete checklist that you should consult before getting off an air mattress:

  • Take plug out

Click this link to visit, who knows, you may find a very helpful list of important things to remember.

AccessWorld Magazine focuses on Technology for Consumers with Visual Impairments

AccessWorld is a publication of the American Foundation for the Blind. It is a comprehensive resource for obtaining the latest information on adaptive technology for the visually impaired. The magazine's writers cover all areas of the industry: from releases about new and upcoming products, books and videos, to practical tips and techniques for using specific devices. One extremely helpful feature is the product review column in which devices are rated for usability, help features, and other standards.

AccessWorld is published bi-monthly and can be requested in the following media:

  • On-line (World Wide Web)
  • Large print
  • Audio cassette
  • Braille

AccessWorld/AFB Press
Subscription Services
450 Fame Avenue
Hanover, PA 17331
Toll Free: 888-522-0220
Phone: 518-456-2538

Microsoft Office Reference Cards

The National Braille Press has created an Office 2000 Reference Card. Written by Dean Martineau, the reference card lists keyboard commands for Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook and Access 2000. It also contains JAWS for Windows and WindowEyes commands specific to the programs, as well as information about the Office 2000 Clipboard.

They have again come through with needed Keyboard Shortcut Guides, this time for Office 2007 programs. Each is available in paper or electronic format, and each costs $5, with the package costing $16. Guides are available for Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Word 2007.

Click this link to learn more about the Office 2007 guides. National Braille Press
Toll Free: 888-965-8965

Narrative Television Network

The Narrative Television Network provides the service of making movies and television programs accessible to blind and visually impaired people.

This service adds narration to describe the visual elements of the story. NTN started providing its service in 1988, and has narrated hundreds of hours of movies and television series, Broadway theater productions and museum tours.

NTN programming is available seven days a week, and provides over 20 hours of accessible programming each week. It is available throughout the United States on Nostalgia Television and Kaleidoscope Television. In Canada it is available through the Family Channel. In addition to its cable affiliates, NTN is available throughout North America via its unscrambled satellite signal on Hughes G-1, Transponder 22. NTN offers a free Program Guide to anyone who writes requesting one from the Network at the address below. The NTN Web site also provides free narrative programming on the Web.

Click this link to watch free, narated movies for the blind from NTN and Yahoo! Please note that you will need the RealPlayer from Real Systems Inc. A link is provided if you need to download the RealPlayer.

Want to know what programs are currently being described for television? Click this link to find Described TV Listings from

Narrative Television Network
5840 South Memorial Drive, Suite 312
Tulsa, OK 74145-9082
Toll Free: 800-801-8184
Phone: 918-627-1000
Fax: 918-627-4101

Contributor: Andrea Peak

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Proper Sighted Guide Technique

  • NEVER push the person in front of you.
  • Have the person hold onto your arm just above your elbow.
  • Have the person positioned closely to you - 1/2 step behind you, so that you can still talk without turning around.
  • Walking:
    • Walk at a speed comfortable enough that the person can easily follow without dragging or pulling on your arm.
  • Narrow passageways (church aisles or any hallway when the normal technique is not possible):
    • Move your arm behind you and toward the small of your back.
    • The person who is blind responds by extending his arm and moving directly behind the guide.
    • After going through the passageway, return your arm to the normal walking position.
  • Doorways:
    • Inform the person that there is a door ahead and whether it will be on the right or left when opened.
    • If the door is on the right and the person is on your right side, the person uses his free hand to slide along the door to find the door edge and holds the door for himself and the guide to go through.
    • If the door is on the left and the person is on your right, the person holds your arm with his right hand and frees his left hand to grasp the door and hold it for himself and the guide.
    • After passing through the door, assume proper walking position.
  • Stairs:
    • Inform the person that there are stairs, curbs, drop-offs, etc., and whether they are going up or down.
    • Stop briefly before taking the first step up or down, then take one step.
    • WAIT for two things: (1) the person to find the rail and align himself with the first step, and (2) the person to indicate that he is ready to proceed.
    • Go up or down the stairs together, remaining one step ahead of the person.
    • When you get to the top or bottom, stop and wait for the person to come up or down to your level before moving on.
    • Treat each flight of stairs as if it were the only set you will be going up or down.

    Contributor: Maria Delgado
  • Adjusting to Blindness and Visual Impairment

    Robert Leslie Newman is a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired . After being blinded in a car accident as a teenager in the 1960's, he had a rough time adjusting to his blindness. Combining his writing hobby with his twenty-seven years of experience as a counselor, he has created this website as a resource for helping newly-blind people adjust to their vision impairment. The content is useful for blind or visually impaired individuals, as well as vocational rehabilitation counselors or therapists, teachers and educators, and families and friends interested in issues relating to adjustment to vision loss.

    This multifaceted site features short stories about dealing successfully with blindness and a section Newman calls "Thought Provoker." This is an email forum which is archived on the website and it consists of a short story, the "Provoker," that presents an aspect of blindness or a situation designed to inspire discussion. The discussion and responses are archived along with the story, resulting in a unique listing of many individuals' thoughts on each specific issue covered. Newman hopes that both readers and writers will learn from each other through this sharing of information and experience. Here is a partial list of "Thought Provokers":

    1. TO BE OR NOT TO BE- Who needs a cane and can a blind person teach travel?
    2. DEAF OR BLIND- Which would you rather be and why?
    3. WHAT'S HELP- When is it too much or not enough help?
    4. GUESS WHO'S COMING TO VISIT- When a blind person dates or marries a sighted person, does blindness effect the family?
    5. A BEAUTIFUL VIEW- What is the value in a beautiful view?

    Click this link to visit the Adjusting to Blindness and Visual Impairment website:

    Contributor: Bob Brasher

    Pouring Liquids

    Liquids can be poured into a cup or glass without spilling by using one of several methods:

      Use weight as a guide by judging the weight of the container when empty and then when full.
    1. Place your index finger in the glass up to the first knuckle. When the liquid reaches your fingertip, stop pouring.
    2. When pouring very hot or cold liquids, place your hand on the outside of the container to feel the level rise.
    3. For hot liquids, measure while cold, pour into saucepan, heat and return to the cup.
    4. Purchase a "Say When". A "Say When" is a small battery operated device that hangs over the rim of a cup and buzzes when the poured liquid rises to the top. Note: Companies featuring special devices such as Ann Morris Enterprises, Inc. carry liquid sensors.
    5. Toss in a ping pong ball. When it floats to the top, it's full! Rinse it off, put it in your silverware drawer and it's ready to go again.
    6. >When you are pouring from a large container such as a brand new gallon of milk or orange juice, it may be a good idea to position or hold the empty container over a sink. This levels both containers and makes pouring easier.

    Contributor: Oregon Commission for the Blind
    535 SE 12th Ave.
    Portland, OR 97214
    Phone: 503-731-3221
    Fax: 503-731-3230

    Points to Remember When Accompanying a Person Who is Blind

    When walking with a person with a visual impairment, never try to push them in front of you. Always use proper sighted guide technique. This technique is not only the safest, but is also the easiest method of travel for both the guide and the person with a visual impairment.

    If the person with a visual impairment has a cane, has been trained in its use, and is capable of traveling safely and independently, do not discourage them from doing so. Encourage them to take their cane when they go out, even if they will be primarily traveling with a sighted guide. The presence of a white cane informs the public (sales clerks, bus drivers, restaurant workers, etc.) of a visual impairment. This can prevent some embarrassing situations and misunderstandings. Also, many people with visual impairments are somewhat uncomfortable about carrying their cane in public until they get used to it. Your support of their decision to carry their cane can be very helpful at this time.

    It is often helpful to give the person with a visual impairment a description of their surroundings. This could include the layout of an unfamiliar room, the location of rest rooms, etc. When walking or shopping, ask if they wish to be informed of objects of interest.

    When describing the environment to a person with a visual impairment, do not forget to include the people present if the person is unaware of them. For example, if you are attending a party or dinner, you should tell the person who is in the room and especially who is seated near them and where they are located. It is also helpful to tell them when people leave or enter the room.

    Be aware that the person with a visual impairment may have some difficulty in certain social situations. For example, you may need to inform the person that people are addressing them, particularly in crowded, noisy places. Also, you may need to tell them the identity of the speaker if they do not recognize the voice or do not get the opportunity to ask, such as someone speaking to the person with a visual impairment briefly and then suddenly leaving, someone speaking to them as they hurry past, etc.

    Contributor: Maria Delgado

    Interacting With a Newly Blind Person

    As much as possible, try not to be over-protective of the person with a visual impairment. They should be allowed to do as much for themselves as they possibly can.

    You should not do something for them just because it is easier or faster for you to do it. Do not take over a task because they are struggling with it or assume that the person needs help with simple, everyday tasks. Don't be afraid to let them make mistakes.

    If the person's visual impairment is a fairly recent occurrence, be aware that they may have to relearn many everyday tasks. Because of this, they may do things more slowly than they once did, and occasional mistakes are inevitable.

    Remember that mistakes are a natural part of the learning process. If they complete a task and ask for your opinion of their work, be honest. If they have made mistakes, they need to know about them in order to do the task more correct1y the next time. At the same time, be tactful and try to avoid being unduly critical, as this will only lead to frustration.

    If they are having problems with a task, try to offer suggestions that might make it easier for them to complete the task successfully rather than taking it on yourself. If they continue to struggle, offer your assistance, but do not force it upon the person. If they accept your offer of help, ask them specifically what they want you to do. If at all possible, give them only minor assistance or share the task, but do not take it away from them unless they insist that you do so.

    As much as possible, try to let your life go on as it did before the onset of the visual impairment. For instance, if the person with a visual impairment used to take out the trash, balance his or her checkbook, or washed the dishes, they should continue to do so. If the person was very active socially or was involved in several recreational activities, you should encourage them to try to continue with as many of these activities as possible as soon as they are emotionally ready.

    Contributor: Maria Delgado

    Interacting With a Visually Impaired Person at Home

    The following are points to remember when interacting with a blind or visually impaired person at home:

    If possible, the home should be organized in such a way that everything has a place. This will ensure that the individual with a visual impairment can find things without assistance, and that their surroundings are as safe as possible. Randomly scattered objects can be a hazard. It is important to make sure the person with a visual impairment knows the location of personal items: clothing, food, and objects necessary for independence and safety, such as grooming articles, first aid supplies, etc. It is important to remember that the person with a visual impairment needs a clear, unobstructed path throughout the house.

    The following are things you should remember to do:

    • Inform the person with a visual impairment of the location of any new objects or furniture around the house.
    • Inform the person about temporary obstacles such as children's toys or ironing boards.
    • Inform the person of the location of potentially dangerous objects such as hot pans of food on the kitchen counter, hot bowls of food on the table, or hot curling irons on the bathroom counter.

    Finally, these are some things you should remember NOT to do when interacting with a visually impaired person at home:

    • Do not move objects or furniture without informing the person with a visual impairment.
    • Do not set objects on the edges of tables or counter tops where they can be easily knocked over.
    • Do not leave cabinet doors or drawers open
    • Do not leave room doors partially open. Keep them all the way open or totally shut.
    • Do not leave chairs pulled out from a table or objects on the seats or chairs.

    Contributor: Maria Delgado

    Interacting With a Blind or Visually Impaired Person at Meal Time

    The following are points to remember when interacting with a blind or visually impaired person at mealtime:

    When the person with a visual impairment sits down to eat they should be informed of what is on the table, especially those objects near them which may be easily knocked over or be hazardous to them such as a glass of water, a pitcher of tea, hot bowls or pans.

    Also, they need to know what is on their plate and where it is located. One method often used to accomplish this is to think of the plate as a clock, and the location of each food as a time on the clock. For example, you might say "Your meat is at 6 o'clock, your potatoes are at 2, and your peas are at 10." Another method is to simply use directions such as top, bottom, upper right (or left), and lower right (or left).

    When dining out always inform the person with a visual impairment of the location of unusual objects on the table like large centerpieces, lighted candles, etc.

    Many restaurants have made available menus in braille or larger print. However, if the menu is not available in accessible media, or the person can't read braille, ask if they would like the whole menu read or perhaps only one section.

    It is a good idea to let the person know when the server comes and goes. Finally, you should inform the person with a visual impairment when the server places food, pours coffee, or takes up empty plates, as the server may have to reach across the person's space to do so.

    Contributor: Maria Delgado

    Friday, October 21, 2005

    Common Ways Of Making Braille Labels

    Using Braille as an organizational tool most often requires labeling or writing down a few simple directions. Either a slate and stylus (a metal guide and a punching device equivalent to the pencil or pen) or a Braille writer (comparable to a typewriter) can be used. Labels are perhaps most commonly made with Dymo Transparent Labeling Tape, made by 3M. This vinyl tape, with a self-adhesive back protected with an easily removable strip, comes in a twelve-foot roll. The half-inch width accommodates both standard and jumbo Braille. The Braille labeling gun, as well as the Dymo tape attachment for the Perkins Braille writer, are designed for this width. Moreover, many slates on the market today now have a half-inch Dymo-tape slot. However, the experienced Braillist can easily center the narrower 3/8th-inch width in this slot and produce labels in standard sized Braille. For cosmetic reasons and for the convenience of any sighted members of your household, you may prefer the almost transparent tape, which does not obscure what is underneath the Braille label. Since transparent Dymo tape is often not readily available commercially, you may have to purchase it from a supplier specializing in products for the blind.

    These labels can be directly affixed to the desired object after the backing is peeled off, or they can be attached with a rubber band threaded through a hole punched with a one-hole punch. The latter type has the advantage of being reusable.

    Whether you are a whiz at Grade II Braille, just know Grade I, or use jumbo Braille, you will discover that with a little imagination Braille can serve you in countless ways. If you follow some of these suggestions and are stimulated to implement your own ideas, you will soon wonder how you ever managed without Braille.

    This excerpt is from "101 Ways To Use Braille" by Ellen Waechtler. The article first appeared in the Summer, 1998, issue of the Braille Spectator, a publication of the NFB of Maryland, and is reprinted with special permission from the author.

    An Easy Way to Flip Foods on the Stove

    Have you tried to cook an omelet or pancakes and they break into pieces as you try to flip them over to cook on the other side? A way to manage turning over these types of foods is by using two skillets at the same time. I usually use a smaller one and a bigger one. First, pour an individual portion of the egg or pancake mix into the smaller skillet. Once it is cooked on one side, you can easily pick up the small skillet and flip over its contents into the bigger one, already pre-heated. Then you can let your food cook on the other side. You may have to wash an extra skillet, but your food will be in great shape!

    Contributor: Maria Delgado

    A Method For Measuring Hot Liquids

    If a recipe calls for a measured amount of boiling water, we suggest that you measure the water before heating it. If you use the water immediately when it begins to boil, the evaporation loss will not be significant.

    Note: This method will work for measuring other hot liquids.

    This excerpt from an article by Ruth Schroeder and Doris Willoughby first appeared on the National Federation of the Blind's website and is reprinted with special permission.

    How To Organize a Braille Recipe File

    Ink-print recipe files usually have the front of each card facing toward the user, with the title at the top; most braille readers prefer a different arrangement. If you insert the braille cards top down, with the brailled side of each card away from you, your fingers will reach the braille most comfortably. Because of this, the title of each recipe should be placed below the recipe as it is written; the titles will then be easily accessible, as the bottoms of the cards appear at the top of the file box. Similarly, labels on file dividers should be placed upside down on the backs of the tabs.

    A frequently used recipe will last longer if a plastic page or card is used. It is also helpful, while using a particular recipe, to tape it to the inside of a cupboard door, or in some other way support it so that it is not lying on the mixing surface, and thus keep it as clean as possible.

    This excerpt from an article by Ruth Schroeder and Doris Willoughby first appeared on the National Federation of the Blind's website and is reprinted with special permission.

    Thursday, October 20, 2005

    What Do You Do When Coping with Vision Impairment

    A few years back, I suddenly woke up to the fact that I was having trouble reading newspaper, magazine and book print and that my distance vision was somewhat hazy (not clear & sharp). Naturally, I thought I needed new glasses.

    After a series of tests with my optometrist, I was sent to an ophthalmologist for another series of tests. The results indicated that macular degeneration had set in to a point where the verdict was "No further visual improvement can be gained through optometric or medical/surgical channels; you are legally blind!"

    Anyone hearing these words goes through an emotional series of shock, distress and disbelief. Then comes depression and feeling sorry for yourself--or the "why me" factor. At least this was my reaction.

    One day, I sat down and had a long talk with myself, saying, "This is ridiculous; you can cope with this situation, so do something about it." And so, with the help of friends, I started to investigate where help could be found.

    I discovered that every state offers rehabilitation services that are supported by state and federal funds. These are provided through counselors, teachers and caseworkers and include in home teaching. Sources of service are often local offices of state vocational rehabilitation services. I contacted the nearest office in my region and made arrangements for an in home counselor.

    The first step is to accept that one is legally blind. Then, you can take charge and help yourself. Beginning with the identification of voices (tones), I discovered everyone has a distinctive voice that I can use to identify them. Eventually, I learned to identify all types of sounds and to operate a talking clock, to use a magnifier lamp, etc. The counselors were marvelous, concerned and devoted people. Mainly, they worked to instill confidence.

    One day, my counselor said he had gone as far as he could and suggested that I apply to a Blind Rehabilitation Center to further develop my skills. (Incidentally, do not let that word "blind" stop you--and don't be afraid to contact an agency that includes the word "blind" or "braille" in its name. Almost all such agencies work with the totally blind and the partially sighted/visually impaired.)

    I did apply to one of these agencies and was accepted. What an eye opener it was (no pun intended) when I discovered that almost 90 percent of persons who are visually impaired still have some remaining, and often very useful, vision. Here is where the use of peripheral vision comes in.

    In my case, when looking straight ahead like a sighted person with normal vision does, I found my central vision area to be a blank spot and that my vision was extremely blurred. Learning how to "look around" the central blind area took some doing. You have to retrain the eye completely, but when the art of sliding beyond the blind area is learned, a whole new world opens up to you once more and what a glorious feeling that is!

    You are also trained to use a cane as a mobility aid. Communication skills are also taught and I learned to use a computer along with handwriting aids, digital recorders, signature guides and check templates. When necessary, reading and writing skills using braille is also covered.

    After an evaluation of usable vision is made, you receive recommendations regarding helpful optical aids. Not knowing that such aids even existed, I was fascinated and delighted to discover them. Using small, magnifier lens reading glasses has enabled me to read regular small print. Of course, I had to hold the article being read practically up to my nose and learn to use the peripheral technique and to "read" very slowly, but it works!

    For viewing television, there is a binocular aid which is worn the same as a pair of glasses that magnifies screen characters and print. Also, you can purchase vertical overlay magnifiers that are set in front of your TV screen. The two combined make TV watching quite pleasant.

    Another item is a pair of fairly large magnified lenses for viewing distant items and a small hand monocular that enables me to locate and read street signs. These items are handy in stores to help me locate the aisle for a needed item and to read labels and prices.

    Centers and clinics for the blind give you so much that it is hard to describe. Their programs usually are scheduled five days a week and last for two months or more depending on your visual impairment. They offer group discussions, usually once a week, which are most helpful and when I heard others who had been in the program longer than I talking about how they were overcoming problems, I came to believe "if they can, I can, too." With this new confidence I pushed and tried a little harder each day.

    I went into this program feeling incompetent and helpless--but I came out bursting with confidence and ready to take on any challenge that came my way. I now do household and yard chores with ease and I have gone back to my favorite sport of bowling. Of course, my scores are not high, but it is wonderful exercise and being back with a social group is a delight.

    In addition, other types of instructional programs are available; for example programs exist to teach the blind or visually impaired how to golf, ski or fish. Personally, I chose to experiment with knitting, crochet and other types of needlework, and I even tried painting. I find I do them quite well (of course, I still may need some help from family, friends or neighbors when I do certain things, such as getting to the market, or whatever.)

    Sometimes, it is a little difficult to "train" helpers. Their first reaction is to either push or pull you, or they are constantly telling you to step up, down, or around or to turn this way or that. This can be corrected quickly by simply advising them of what works best for you; that is, by saying something like: "Let me walk a step behind you and I will lightly hold your arm just above the elbow. This way, I am guided by the movements of your body."

    In fact, I taught this procedure to my best friend. We worked together so well that we took off on a trip to Europe and roamed the countryside of Turkey. What I could not "see" with my visual aids, she described. It was a wonderful experience.

    This article by Joy M. Harris first appeared in Dialogue 36 (Spring 1997) and is reprinted with permission from the publisher. Dialogue magazine is published in braille, large print, 4-track cassette and IBM compatible 3.5-inch diskette.

    What Do You Do When You Can't Read

    For many years the Hadley School for the Blind, a correspondence school offering free courses to those with visual impairments, included one called Independent Living for the Visually Impaired. One of the introductory discussion questions asks the student which limitations he or she finds most difficult to accept. The answers are overwhelmingly NOT DRIVING and NOT READING. For not being able to drive, there are few solutions; but there are certainly many for not being able to read, and they are increasing in number and diversity.

    The first reading source recommended to just about everyone in the United States with a sight problem is the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), which has with regional and sub-regional libraries throughout the country that distribute an amazing array of books and magazines. Information about this service is readily available. Just call the NLS at 800-424-8567 for the nearest location.

    There are two, long-established magazines of general interest using mainly articles that are drawn from major publications enjoyed by the sighted. The Matilda Ziegler Magazine is the oldest, continuously published magazine for the blind in this country. It is produced free-of-charge monthly in braille and on cassette. Choice Magazine Listening is another that is published free-of-charge on two cassettes bi-monthly. It is an anthology of unabridged articles, poetry and fiction from 100 magazines such as Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker and Smithsonian. Many of the source magazines are also published in their entirety by NLS; but for people with limited time for reading, Choice Magazine Listening offers an astonishing breadth of material.

    What may not be so widely known is the large number of facilities offering other types of reader services. Most prominent are organizations circulating material for various religious groups, including those produced by specific Christian denominations (Assembly of God, Baptist, Christian Science, Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist, Episcopal, Jewish, and Mormon). A few of these periodicals are distributed by NLS, but most must be secured from a specific publishing source. The vast majority is circulated free-of-charge with the medium varying between braille, large print and cassette.

    There are also periodicals covering special interest areas such as business, children, computers, current affairs, health, hobbies, farming, home, gardening, law, literature, nature, science, sports and travel. Most of these require payment of a nominal fee to subscribe.

    Where can one secure information about these many periodicals? The National Library Service publishes and distributes to anyone interested, Magazines In Special Media, a reference circular that lists and describes all magazines distributed in any medium available to the blind and visually impaired. In addition to a basic list, it offers an appendix listing magazines by title, subject and medium. It is a great piece of reference material to keep on hand. Libraries serving the blind and visually impaired supply information about the list which is available in braille and in print.

    Many people who have read with their eyes all their lives have difficulty reading by listening to recorded books. To assist in counteracting this problem, the Hadley School offers a free course called Effective Listening on cassette.

    In addition to the Internet, there are many other ways of reading and gaining knowledge that are accessible in various parts of the country. International Association of Audio Information Services (I.A.A.I.S.)--formerly Radio Reading Services--has offices in many metropolitan areas like New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Minneapolis. Volunteers read local newspapers every day and some additional magazines and books. There are an increasing number of news services accessible by telephone. Callers can select from various menus any subject of interest and articles are read from newspapers in the area. For more information about these services, call Blindskills, Inc. at 800-860-4224.

    Effective Listening can be secured by writing to the Hadley School for the Blind, 700 Elm Street, Winnetka, IL 60093 (800-323 4238).

    Choice Magazine Listening, 85 Channel Drive, Port Washington, NY 11050 (516-883-8280).

    The Matilda Ziegler Magazine For The Blind, 80 Eighth Avenue, Room 1204, New York, NY 10011 (212-242-0263).

    Hadley School for the Blind, 700 Elm Street, Winnetka, IL 60093 (800-323-4238).

    International Association of Audio Information Services (I.A.A.I.S.)-- _ National Association of Radio Reading Services, 1430 Confederate Avenue, Columbia, SC 29201-1914 (800-580-5325 or 800-734-7555).

    This article by Winifred Downing first appeared in Dialogue 36 (Spring 1997) and is reprinted with permission from the publisher. Dialogue magazine is published in braille, large print, 4-track cassette and IBM compatible 3.5-inch diskette.

    Guidelines For Helping Visually Impaired Customers from the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB)

    A visually impaired customer is different from other customers in only one respect; he or she can't see very well. Apart from that, visually impaired people cover the same wide range of intellectual attainments as everyone else.

    Talk to them and discuss things exactly as you would with anyone else. Some help may be needed in finding their way in unfamiliar surroundings, and to deal with many matters that a sighted person takes for granted. For instance, an insurance policy and a mortgage agreement, or a tin of peaches and a tin of cat food, feel identical.

    A few hints to help you serve visually impaired customers:
    1. Remember that no two visually impaired people see the same amount.

    2. A high proportion of blind or visually impaired people do have some sight, and considerations such as lighting, colors and size of notices can make all the difference to the ease with which they can conduct their everyday business.

    3. Logical floor layout is helpful to a visually impaired customer, particularly if it doesn't change too frequently. Variations in color or floor texture can aid movement from department to department, or floor to stairs.

    4. Information labeling should be clear. Large raised initials are greatly preferable to symbols.

    5. Sounds can be an important aid to orientation, and therefore loud background music can be very frustrating.

    6. Low overhead signs, knee-high displays and free standing signs or merchandise displays outside the premises can present an embarrassing or even injurious hazard.

    7. Glass doors should carry some indication of their presence and edges of stairs could be marked in white.

    8. Touch the visually impaired person's arm when first talking to him or her.

    9. Tell them before you move away.

    10. Should you have to guide a visually impaired person, always walk slightly in front allowing them to hold your arm.

    11. Give advance warning of steps, saying whether they are up or down.

    12. If you offer a seat, put their hand on the back or arm of the chair and let them sit down by themselves.

    13. Make sure all purchases have been picked up.

    14. Count any change given out aloud, coin-by-coin.

    Permission to reproduce this article was granted by the Royal National Institute for the Blind United Kingdom.

    Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB)
    224 Great Portland St.
    London, W1N 6AA
    Phone: 020-7388-1266
    Fax: 020-7388-2034

    Simply Store with SimpleTins (TM)

    Here's a neat idea, SimpleTins (TM). These are metal cannisters with magnetic bottoms that will stick to your refrigerator door. You can store stuff inside them like rubber bands, twist-ties, doggie treats, or any other small items you might keep in the kitchen or office.

    They can stick to anything metal, like filing cabinets, toolboxes, use your imagination. Each container has a clear lid for quick peeks, and they come in two sizes.

    Click this llink to order SimpleTins (TM):

    Changing Punctuation and Special Character Settings In JAWS

    You can limit the amount of punctuation symbols and other special characters echoed by JAWS for Windows through:
    1. the JAWS for Windows application window
    2. the Configuration Manager utility.

    The following are instructions to make the adjustments from within the JAWS for Windows application window:
    1. Press INSERT and J to open JFW.
    2. Press ALT to get to the menu bar and select Voices.
    3. Press the Down-arrow key or press Enter to locate the Global option.
    4. Press ENTER to open the Global Voice Settings dialog.
    5. Press TAB to move to the punctuation combo box.
    6. Use the arrow keys to browse through the list and select a punctuation setting that is best suited for you. You can return to this setting at any time and make adjustments as necessary.
    7. Press ENTER to save your changes and close the dialog. To close the dialog without making any changes, press ESCAPE.

    Using the Configuration Manager Utility

    Because JFW is an application specific driven screen reader, using the method above may not always work for your particular program. Therefore, using the configuration manager is another option.

    Since JAWS is an application driven screen reader, your application must be opened in order for the JAWS settings of your application to take affect.

    The Configuration Manager contains a Set Options menu. When you choose a Set Options menu item, a dialog opens.

    1. Press INSERT and 6 to start the Configuration Manager after you open the application you want to customize.
    2. Press ALT and S to get to the User Option.
    3. Press the up-arrow once to get to the Synthesizer Option. Press Enter.
    4. Use the up and down arrows to choose your selection from the combo box. Press Enter.
    5. To save your settings simply press CTRL and S.
    6. To exit the configuration manager press ALT and F4.

    Changing Default Settings
    If you want all the changes to take place for all applications, open the Default file before making your changes. This is done by pressing ctrl and shift and d, which automatically brings up the default.jcf file. You can also press CTRL and O to open the default file. Simply type "default" in the edit box without the quotes and press Enter. Fffollow the steps above to make your appropriate changes.

    As you get more comfortable with utilizing JAWS' utilities programs, you will be able to use more advance features.

    Contributor: Mario Eiland

    US Institutional Accreditation System

    How can you make sure the college or university in which you are about to enroll is truly legitimate and not just another diploma mill? The United States government offers a free, online database of about 6,900 postsecondary educational institutions and programs, each of which is accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education as a "reliable authority as to the quality of postsecondary education." You can find the database at

    Once you have found an accredited school, you need to make sure you [or your kids] have the necessary skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college. Most high school students and returning adult learners have no clue what college is like and most new college students are shocked and surprised by the breadth of knowledge and skills university professors expect of their students.

    Back in 1998 the Association of American Universities with the assistance of the Pew Charitable Trusts decided to identify what students need to know and be able to do in order to succeed in entry-level university courses at America's research universities. The results were published in a free booklet and CD-ROM titled "Understanding University Success." Included in the booklet is something called "Knowledge and Skills for University Success", a listing of what university faculty expect from students in entry- level courses in English, mathematics, natural sciences, social sciences, second languages and the arts. You can view it here:

    If you don't want to read the booklet online, you can download it for free in Adobe Acrobat PDF format. You can also have the booklet on a CD for a small charge.

    The Basics of Ironing and Some Steamy Alternatives

    The Touch and Glide Iron (TM)

    Oliso, Inc., has an iron that solves the problem of burning your fabrics.

    This iron has a safety feature incase you accidentally leave the heated surface on your fabric. What makes this iron different from all the others is that it has a couple of legs on the ironing surface. When you grab the handle, it senses your touch, and automatically retracts the legs. When you let go, the legs come back out, so that the heated surface stays away from fabrics.

    Now, you don't have to worry about burning something when you answer the phone, or drop the iron on the carpet.

    The company says the initial design work started as a Stanford University graduate school project with prototypes built in a basement of a San Francisco Mission Street building, and took three years of research.

    Click this link for more information on the Touch and Glide Iron:

    Ironing Basics

    A. Safety Techniques
    Teach the student how to turn the iron on and off, the positions of basic temperature settings, how to add water to steam irons, how to set the iron down when it is hot, and which parts of the iron get hot. With a cold iron, show the student how to hold the iron correctly. Teach students to put the iron down by keeping the forearm straight out with the elbow next to the body. To find the iron again after putting it down, trail up the ironing board on the side closest to the body or find the cord and go up the cord to the handle.

    I have heard many blind people ask how to fill an iron with distilled water. I have found it helpful to use a kitchen baster. Pour the distilled water from its container into a cup or pitcher with a spout. The spout comes in handy when you need to pour the unused water back into its original container. Use the baster to fill the iron from the pitcher or cup.

    Note: A baster can be purchased at almost any store that sells kitchen utensils. A baster works on the same principle as an eye dropper but it is much larger. It has a squeeze bulb at one end that allows you to fill the baster with liquid and then expel the liquid. Its main use is as a meat baster that a cook uses to baste meat with hot juices.

    B. How to Iron a Shirt
    * Iron the collar first by putting the collar wrong side up on the ironing board with the seam on the outer edge of the ironing board (side away from body). Hold it in place with your hip and pin the corners of the collar down with straight pins, then iron. Remove the pins.

    * Iron the shoulders and, if applicable, yoke by inserting the tip of the ironing board. Hold at the collar and at the bottom of the yoke or pin the yoke down (with the collar closest to your body). Remove the pins.

    * Iron the sleeves by finding the underarm seam and folding along that seam. Pin the sleeve to the ironing board and iron. Push the iron sideways toward the collar to feel when the side of the iron reaches the armhole seam (and avoid ironing the collar again). Remove the pins.

    * Iron the body of the shirt, starting with the button side of the front. Pin the tail of the shirt down and hold onto the collar as you iron. When finished ironing a section, unpin it, slide the far edge of the shirt at top and bottom toward the edge closest to your body to position an unironed section. Pin this unironed section down and iron. Continue in this fashion around the shirt.

    When ironing the body of the shirt near the armholes, slide the shirt so that the end of the ironing board is sticking inside the top of the sleeve. This will keep the shirt flat on the ironing board.

    These tips from Carol Woodward were published on the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired website and are made available by special permission of the author.

    Whirlpool Fabric Freshener

    Now, if you're the kind of person who doesn't feel comfortable with an iron, Whirlpool may be able to help with a product called Fabric Freshener. This device uses steam to remove wrinkles and bad odors from clothing.

    Simply hang your clothes in the Fabric Freshener, and then pour some water into the base, and push the start button. It then creates steam which removes the wrinkles, and takes out odors. Distilled water is recommended for this unit.

    It's like a way to wash clothes without actually washing clothes.

    The Fabric Freshener also comes with a collection of "Cotton Performance Weight Packs", which are a set of weights that you hang from the bottom of cotton clothes, causing them to stretch out heavy-duty wrinkles while the steam does its work.

    For more information about the Whirlpool Fabric Freshener click this link:

    Tips For Putting In Hems

    Mark the length desired with a pin. Measure the fabric to be turned up with the notched seam gauge and pin up the entire hem. Press the pinned up hem.

    Sewing Hems with the Sewing Machine

    Whenever possible, use the sewing machine to sew in hems. Use the metal seam guide or pinhead guide, placing it as far from the needle as the depth of the hem, and stitch.

    Ironing Hems with Stitch Witchery

    This is an iron-on adhesive, mesh-like material available in strips or by the yard. The strips are easiest to use for hems. After pressing the hem up, remove the straight pins and place the Stitch Witchery between the fabric and iron.

    Sewing Hems by Hand

    Thread a needle using a double thread. A single thread comes off the needle too frequently. Hold the hem in one hand with the thumb on the pinned hem edge. With the other hand, put the needle through the fabric until the point just touches the index finger and then push the needle back up through the fabric. Position the thumb so that the first stitch is on one side of the thumb. Now take the second stitch on the other side of the thumb. Continue around the hem, using the thumb as a guide for the size of the stitch to make.

    These tips from Carol Woodward were published on the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired website and are made available by special permission of the author.

    Machine Sewing

    Pinhead Guide

    The use of a pinhead guide helps the blind student sew straight. Place a row of straight pins horizontally onto the sticky side of a piece of masking tape. Let the heads of the pins extend over one side. Place another piece of masking tape with the nonsticky side directly over the pins. Stick the pinhead guide to the metal slide plate on the sewing machine.

    The placement of the pinhead guide may vary depending on the task (regular seam at 5/8-inch, staystitching at 1/2- inch, topstitching at 1/4- inch). A notched metal seam gauge, similar to a 6-inch ruler, but with indented notches at each half-inch mark, can be used to aid the placement of the pinhead guide. Most sewing machines come with an etched line on the metal slide plate that marks the 5/8 inch regular seam line. Most students can feel this line and place the pinhead guide on it. When beginning to sew, the fabric is lined up with the first pin on the pinhead guide (which is even with the machine needle).

    Metal Seam Guide

    Most sewing machines have a screw hole to the right of the needle for a metal seam guide that functions like the pinhead guide. These metal seam guides are also available in a magnetic form. I prefer the screw on type because the magnetic ones tend to move out of position. Some of my students use a combination of the screw on type seam guide and magnetic guide (or pinhead guide) in order to make a longer edge for the fabric to move against.

    Needle Finger Guard

    This is a small 3-sided metal bar attached to the sewing machine on the same bar as the presser foot near the needle. It is a safety device to warn the user that the needle is close by. The finger guard is pulled down in front of the needle when sewing and pushed up to the left of the needle when threading. Most new sewing machines have a finger guard.


    Have your students pin the pieces of fabric together with straight pins parallel to the fabric edge with the points of the pins pointing toward the needle of the sewing machine. This makes it easier for the student to pull the pins out of the fabric and it gives the student a better idea of where the stitching line will be. I recommend using pins with large colored plastic heads. Beginners should practice sewing two pieces of braille paper together first, using the metal seam guide to sew straight.


    If the darts were marked with safety pins, fold the dart in half by making the safety pins even. Replace the safety pins with straight pins and put a straight line of pins from the wide end to the point by using the seam gauge or ruler as a straight edge. Place the pinhead guide directly in front and in line with the needle and presser foot. Start at the wide end of the dart (at the fabric edge) and begin stitching, holding the pins in the fabric flat against the pinhead guide and remove the pins one by one to the point of the dart.

    These tips from Carol Woodward were published on the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired website and are made available by special permission of the author.

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