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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Friday, September 29, 2006

A Flashlight with Legs

The Inferno Flexi-Light from Gerber looks and functions like a normal flashlight until you realise that the 7 LED bulbs each have their own hidden articulating legs. When extended the LEDs can then be pointed in multiple directions illuminating different areas all at once. The Flexi-Light can be used as a task light, table-top lantern, tent chandelier or flashlight. It gives users total control of how and where they use light in the field.

The Inferno also has 5 different lighting modes including a focused white flashlight, a diffuse white area light, a red night vision area light, a red night vision focused light and a flashing red emergency beacon. On 3 AAA batteries the flashlight will run for about 40 hours which isn't that bad considering it's powering 7 seperate lights at once.

Click this link to purchase the Gerber Inferno Flexi-Light from the Edmund Scientifics' website.

Learn how to build with cardboard

Here's a post for you teachers and rehab specialists out there with the ability to think out of the box. Maybe that should be think about the box?

Adaptive Design Association, located in New York City, ADA is a non-profit whose mission is to make customized equipment for people (and especially children) with special needs. They use and reuse inexpensive material like cardboard, fabric, brown paper bags, wood, plastic, and basic electronics to make chairs, toys, and physical therapy equipment which can be custom designed for a person's exact dimensions and needs.

They hold workshops, where you can learn basic skills in cardboard carpentry. There's enough time in one class to build something you can take home and use.

ADA envisions a day when adaptive design services are widely recognized as an indispensable resource for children and all people with disabilities and customized equipment is being produced quickly, affordably, and locally.

To learn more, contact:

Adaptive Design Association, Inc.
313 West 36th Street
New York, NY 10018
Phone: 212-904-1200
Fax: 212-904-1700
Email: info@adaptivedesign.org
Web: http://www.adaptivedesign.org

Thank God and Greyhound He's Home!

By Donnie Parrett

Those of you who may be Country Music fans, may remember a hit song by Roy Clark from the 1960's entitled, "Thank God, And Greyhound, She's Gone!" A few minor adjustments to this song title made it a perfect headline for my story.

Our oldest son, Brad, was in last week for a few days from Native American Bible College, which he attends in Shannon, North Carolina. When he got ready to return to school last Thursday, I decided to make the trip back to North Carolina with him. It is about a 10 hour trip, and I wanted to ride along and keep him company. Before heading out for North Carolina I called Greyhound to see about a bus ride from Lumberton, North Carolina to London, Kentucky. My bus would be leaving Lumberton at 8:30 am on Saturday morning and would arrive in London, Kentucky at 3:00 am on Sunday morning. For most of you this would be no big deal, but for someone who has been legally blind for 37 years, this was quite a challenge. I had never attempted to do anything like this in my life, but for some reason, I felt it was time to try. What normally would be a 10 hour trip by car turned into an 18 ½ hour bus trip. I left Lumberton, NC at 8:30 am, and after brief stops in Dillon, SC, Florence, SC and Sumter, SC, arrived in Columbia, SC at 11:30 am. After a 2 hour and 40 minute layover in Columbia, I boarded another bus at 2:20 pm for Charlotte, NC. After a brief stop in Rock Hill, SC. We arrived in Charlotte at 4:00 pm. We had a 1 hour and 30 minute layover in Charlotte. I left Charlotte, NC at 5:30 pm and after brief stops in Gastonia, NC, Spartanburg, SC, Hendersonville, NC, Asheville, NC and Waynesville, NC, I arrived in Knoxville, TN, at 11:45 pm. I had a 1 hour and 30 minute layover in Knoxville, before heading down the home stretch.

The last leg of my trip turned out to be the best part of all. I found myself on a bus full of African American folks from Detroit, Michigan, who had been to a Church Crusade in Florida, and were on their way home. When the bus driver found out that I was a Pastor, he asked if I was one of the preachers who could sing too. So, you know me, I jumped at the chance to tell someone about Jesus. I got about halfway through the first verse of Amazing Grace, when the driver turned his mic on and asked everyone to join in with me. If you have never heard African American folks sing, you don't have any idea what you're missing. We had that old Greyhound rockin'!!! All I can say is that for about an hour, we had CHURCH ON WHEELS!!!

I finally arrived in London where my wife and mother picked me up at 3:00 am. It was a wonderful trip. I want to thank all the nice people who assisted me along the way, and Greyhound for providing such wonderful care and compassion. This trip has really meant a lot to me. Sometimes handicapped people feel like they can't do very much, but if you set your mind to it, you can do anything that anyone else can do. Sometimes, it just takes a little longer for us to do it. I'm definitely going to be doing this again. The next time you see a big Greyhound going down the road, just look real close because I might be waving at you!!!

Are you blind or visually impaired and have a story to share? If so, send it to fredshead@aph.org and we'll add it to the database and blog. Be sure to include your full name and website if applicable.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Crayola Color Wonder Products: Great for Blind Parents

Everyone knows Crayola as probably the most popular brand of crayons, constantly coming out with new colors and even larger boxes. But Crayola has come up with this amazing product that is almost totally mess-free and perfect for blind parents with sighted children.

The trick to the Crayola Color Wonder products is that the special markers and finger paints only show up on special Color Wonder paper. Your child can color on anything else to his or her delight, and the only thing that may show up is a wet spot. This works great for blind parents because you don't have to worry about your sighted child marking on the walls or furni?ture.

Visually impaired children can color without worrying about missing the edge of the page or messing up clothes. Nothing is damaged if they color in the wrong place!

Crayola Color Wonder products are available just about anywhere. Sets often include finger paints and markers. There are also themed packages, like Dora the Explorer or Cars, which come with a Color Wonder notebook and four to six markers or a set of finger paints with colors that are relevant to the notebook's theme. You can even buy a set of markers or a set of finger paints by themselves as refills.

QVC sells another Color Wonder product called the Color Wonder Sprayer. This is an airbrush kit that works with special Color Wonder sprayer cartridges that look like markers. It works the same way as any other kids airbrush machine, but it makes less mess because the colors can't be sprayed on everything. It comes with stencils and some cartridges. You can also buy the cartridge refills and other kits that come with stencils and one Color Wonder marker.

For more information on Color Wonder products, please visit Crayola.com.

The symptoms of cataracts

Is your vision blurry, especially at night or in very bright light? It could be an early symptom of cataracts.

A cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye that interferes with clear vision. Unlike a healthy, transparent lens, which focuses light rays precisely onto the retina, a lens clouded by a cataract loses its ability to focus light rays. The light that reaches the retina is scattered and diffuse, causing blurry vision. The amount of vision impairment depends on the size and density of the cataract and where it is located in the lens: the nucleus, cortex, or posterior lens capsule. A cataract in the periphery of the cortex, for example, has little effect on vision because it does not impede the passage of light through the center of the lens. On the other hand, a dense nuclear cataract causes severe blurring, interfering primarily with distant vision (at first). A cataract that develops in the posterior capsule has a greater effect on near vision and also causes sensitivity to glare.

Cataracts form painlessly. The most common symptom of a cataract is cloudy or blurry vision. Everything becomes dimmer, as if seen through glasses that need cleaning. Most often, both eyes are affected, though vision is usually worse in one eye than in the other. Other cataract symptoms include glare, halos, poor night vision, a perception that colors are faded or that objects are yellowish, and the need for brighter light when reading. In some cases, double vision occurs. This is caused by the passage of light through a lens that has irregular areas of opacity, which can split the rays of light from a single object and focus them on different parts of the retina.

Another symptom of cataracts is the need for frequent changes in eyeglass and contact lens prescriptions. These cataract symptoms can develop rapidly (in a matter of months) or almost imperceptibly, over many years. In the early stages of a nuclear cataract, some people may temporarily have an improvement in vision. For example, a person who previously needed reading glasses for presbyopia is able to read without them. This change, which is referred to as second sight, occurs because the cataract alters the shape of the lens, making it better able to focus on nearby objects. Over time, however, this improvement in vision is lost, and progression of the cataract impairs vision.

Individuals with cortical or posterior subcapsular cataracts often have worse vision in bright light; for example, they may have problems with night driving because of the brightness of oncoming headlights. Bright light causes the pupils to contract and restricts the passage of light to the center of the lens (the part that may be most severely affected by the cataract).

Article Source:
Johns Hopkins: Vision|Eye Care on symptoms of cataracts:
http://www.johnshopkinshealthalerts.com/alerts/vision/JohnsHopkinsHealthAlertsVisionEyeCare_468-1.html?CMP=OTC-RSS

Dura-Bull Dog Bedz and Guide Dogs

The visually impaired achieve ease and freedom of mobility largely through the use of guide dogs, a common and costly solution that allows special challenges to be overcome. However, the cost of training for both the animal and the handler can be prohibitive for many, which is why the nonprofit organization Guide Dogs for the Blind has provided comprehensive services of more than 10,000 dogs to eligible handlers since 1942. Dura-Bull Dog Bedz, a leading pet bed supplier, has taken up the cause to donate a portion of all proceeds to Guide Dogs for the Blind, which operates entirely on private donations.

The washable dog beds sold by Dura-Bull Dog Bedz are resistant to pests, odors, dirt, water and urine and are covered with marine quality, rip-stop vinyl, essential for making the bed weatherproof. The bed provides premium ergonomic support and was constructed out of strong, easily cleaned materials. Before the creation of Dura-Bull Dog Bedz, there had never been a bed on the market that could simply be wiped clean.

An indestructible dog bed from dura-bulldogbedz.com can also be purchased with an optional, machine-washable fleece cover.

For a water-resistant dog bed that is built to last and provides essential ergonomic and skeletal support, click this link to visit dura-bulldogbedz.com.

Audiobook Cutter

I love listening to Star Trek audiobooks. It's so cool to hear the actual stars of the series reading the books. The only problem I have is that the MP3 files are often an hour or so in length and my bus ride into work is only 35 minutes.

Because I'm afraid of dropping my portible MP3 player, I often use one of those mainstream MP3 players, the ones that cost around $30, so if I drop the thing it's not a great loss. These MP3 players don't offer the ability to stop an MP3 and pick up where you left off. This means that I have to start over and try to fast forward through the file. Some players don't offer the fast forward feature, which would make listening to an audiobook almost impossible. I was sure happy to find a program called Audiobook Cutter.

Audiobook Cutter is an easy-to-use tool which splits large MP3 audiobook files into smaller ones without re-encoding. The split points are determined automatically based on silence detection. Because of this feature, long audiobook recordings can be cut into manageable albums with just a few clicks. The main purpose of this MP3 splitter is to make audiobooks more manageable in a user-friendly way: The split files can easily be used on mobile MP3 players because of their small-size and their duration allows smooth navigation through the book.

Audiobook Cutter is free software, licensed under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL) , which, among other things, means that the source code is available to the public.

Features:

  • Fast MP3 cutting without re-encoding
  • Splits large MP3 audiobooks with only three mouse clicks
  • Automatic split point detection (silence based)
  • User-friendly interface
  • Management of audiobooks which consist of multiple files
  • Average track length between 1 and 60 minutes
  • Custom track name
  • 'Silence Detection' threshold is selectable
  • MP3 file drag and drop
  • Audiobook Cutter is free software
  • Automatic language detection: English, German and French
  • Simple *.exe file, ready to run, no setup needed
  • Runs on Windows 9x, ME, NT, 2000, XP
  • Compatible with JAWS and Window Eyes


Click this link to download Audiobook Cutter: http://audiobookcutter.sourceforge.net.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Toy Guide Helps Shoppers Find the Best Gifts for Children with Disabilities

a disability can be challenging, which is why the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) teamed up with the Toy Industry Foundation, Inc. and the Alliance for Technology Access to produce Let's Play: A Guide to Toys for Children with Special Needs. The Guide helps parents select toys that will have the most positive experience for children who are disabled - whether they are dreaming of Swing 'N Score Baseball or hoping to find the My Little Pony Celebration Salon beneath the wrapping paper.

Let's Play features toys reviewed by more than 100 children with a variety of special needs, including children with visual and hearing impairments. The Guide offers descriptions of why certain toys are more appropriate and fun in addition to labels indicating who may find specific toys most enjoyable. All of the toys in Let's Play can be found in stores throughout the country.

Toys like the Lullaby Gloworm, which is soft and plush and sings seven lullabies with one squeeze or the Laugh & Learn Learning Phone, which allows children to hear their ABCs and 123s while promoting tactile exploration, are just two of the many toys recommended by the guide for children who are blind. For children with low vision, the guide also suggests toys like the Lite-Brite Illuminart Easel, which brings pictures to life with a lit screen and stimulates available vision.

For a fully accessible guide for visually impaired readers please visit http://www.afb.org/toyguide.asp. Free print copies can also be obtained through the AFB bookstore at http://www.afb.org/store/product.asp?sku=toyguide&mscssid=.

"Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids"

Toys R us has published a free guide that features toys designed for children with special needs. It will be available at Toys R Us stores and online at http://www.toysrus.com/differentlyabled.

The 85 toys in the guide are sold nationally, with just six available only at Toys R Us stores. Each toy in the 52-page guide includes a detailed description of how it can be used, along with icons indicating whether the toy can stimulate development in such areas as creativity, self esteem, vision or hearing. The criteria include toys that are easy to handle or manipulate, and don't have a "right way" of being used.

Toys R Us started the guide in 1994 and will print 600,000 copies of the "Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids" in 2006, about 100,000 more than previous years.

Click this link to view the Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids from Toys R Us: http://www.toysrus.com/differentlyabled.

Creating Accessible Web Pages for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Blind people surf the Internet. They have special software in their computers that reads the screen to them, and they use the keyboard controls of their Internet browser to navigate. If you are creating a Web site, you want to be sure to make your site accessible to blind surfers. Maybe you are a teacher putting a lesson or two on the web, maybe you are a student creating a site about your hobbies or your favorite band, or maybe you are a business hoping to generate sales over the Internet. Whatever your motivation, you want people to visit your site. If you fail to make it accessible, people will be frustrated by the lack of accessible content and leave. They probably won't return.

This can be avoided simply by making your Web site's content accessible to anyone, and that is very easy to do. In fact, if you use HTML as it is intended-- for structural markup and not for graphic design-- you are already most of the way to having an accessible page. This article will point out several important things you need to know and to keep in mind while designing your pages; at the end we will have some links to sites where you can find more detailed information.

Item One: A picture is worth a thousand words

But if you can't see the picture, you need some words to let you know what's there. Use alt-text to describe all graphic elements on your page. This is particularly important if the graphic is used as a link to another page. Don't use a thousand words; keep it short and simple with the most important information first. For example, you have a graphic of your company logo at the top of the page. Use the <alt> attribute in your <img> tag to describe the image. Your code may look something like this: <img src="logo.jpg" alt= "Company logo: Black flag featuring a white tree with seven stars surrounding it">. This allows not only blind and visually impaired surfers to appreciate your Web site, but also anyone who uses a text-based browser or who has deliberately disabled their browser's graphics. Another example: you have an image of a magnifying glass that is a link to your search page. Use the <alt> attribute to describe the image and its function: "Click on this magnifying glass to go to our search page." If you use a graphic with text in it, or if you have text in a graphic form, you should include that text in your <alt> description. "Enter" or "Back" or "Next" buttons need to be identified to prevent confusion in navigation.

Item Two: Turning the tables on inaccessibility

Tables have long been used as a convenient tool for page layout. Technically this is improper use of HTML, but if you must use tables this way, here is something you need to keep in mind. Many screen readers, especially older versions, have trouble with tables and with columns of text. Screen readers read the text on the screen from left to right, top to bottom. Unfortunately, they do not always recognize the fact that there are separate columns, so they just ignore the space in between and read the screen one line at a time. This applies to any circumstance where text is aligned side-by-side. The following example is from the AFB Web site, where they describe a site that has two sections of text arranged side-by-side. The first section is a navigation column:

Automotive
Baby Shop
Books
Cameras
Computers
Garden Center
Health and Beauty
Home Electronics
Home Fashions
Home Improvement
Household Goods
Housewares

and the second section is information in paragraph form:

After listening to your suggestions, we're revamping our online store to serve you better. You may notice some temporary changes in our merchandise selection as you shop. We appreciate your business while we strive to meet your needs. If you'd like us to keep you posted on the changes we're making, enter your email address by clicking here. We'll send you an announcement when we've finished our next stage of remodeling -- plus a special offer you can use during your holiday shopping!

However, because these sections are arranged next to each other, side-by-side, most screen readers are going to read the following:

Automotive After listening to your suggestions, we're baby shop revamping our online store to serve you books better. You may notice some temporary cameras changes in our merchandise selection computers as you shop. We appreciate your garden business while we strive to meet your center needs. Health and beauty if you'd like us to keep you posted on home the changes we're making, enter your electronics email address by clicking here. We'll advanced home send you an announcement when we've store finder fashions finished our next stage of remodeling home plus a special offer you can use during improvement your holiday shopping!

The easiest way to prevent this from happening is to avoid placing separate text sections on the same horizontal line.

The same thing can happen with text blocks contained within tables of data-- if one cell of the table contains enough text to wrap into a new line, the screen reader will jump to the next cell rather than following the wrapped text. You can use the <nowrap> attribute to prevent line breaks, but then you may not be able to keep the table from running off of the screen to the right, which is awkward for your sighted visitors.

Item Three: Hyperlinked text needs to make sense when taken out of context

A blind person will often tab from link to link on a page to see what it is about. If you have a link that merely says "Click Here," it makes no sense. Even "Enter" is vague: enter where? Why should I? Use descriptive text in your links, such as "For more information, click here to go to Fred's Head." This lets the reader know where the link goes and why they want to go there.

Item Four: Incorporate a way to skip over repeated features

It is quite common to put a navigation bar at the top of every page within a Web site. This is a convenient feature, but you need to make a slight modification to improve its accessibility. A sighted person will look at the navigation bar, recognize it and skip ahead to the main page content. A blind person would have to sit there and listen to the entire navigation menu, which can be quite large, before finally getting to the content. Many might just give up, frustrated, and go elsewhere, especially after hearing it several times as they browse your site. A simple remedy is to add a link at the start of the navigation bar that goes directly to the page content. A "Skip Navigation," or "Skip to Content" link will provide the blind surfer the ability to recognize that navigation bar and skip to the content just like your sighted visitors do.

Item Five: Don't require the use of plugins, especially Java and Flash

JavaScript, Most Java applets and many multimedia plugins are inaccessible to the blind surfer. Any information you present with these will most likely not be picked up. If you can't avoid using them, make alternatives available that can be accessed. Before you decide to create a "text-only" version of your site, remember that it is easier to update and maintain one site than two. It might be better to just avoid the inaccessible features.

Item Six: Frames

Some people have difficulty navigating within frames, either because the frames are confusing or because the software they are using simply cannot read them. The best way to avoid problems is to not use frames. If you must use frames, make sure that each frame has a <title> describing the content. This will prevent confusion. You should also be sure to provide relevant <noframes> content for those people who cannot read framed information. The <noframes> section should contain useful information and links to the other pages in your site so that they can be accessed without frames.

Low Vision Surfers

Many legally blind people have some useful vision. Because the nature of this useful vision varies from person to person, individual surfers with low vision have unique accessibility needs. Generally they maximize their useful vision by customizing their browser to display their own personal settings. All you, the designer, need to do is be certain that you don't define fixed font sizes (relative values are fine), and that you don't define fixed colors for background and text.

Some other suggestions: avoid large blocks of italic or underlined text - these are difficult to read, and underlined text without an associated hyperlink is confusing. Avoid, if you can, using graphics in place of actual text. The size and color of ordinary text can be changed by the user's browser settings, but a graphic is inflexible to browser adjustments. If you must use a graphic, be sure to use <alt> text to present the information.

In general, your best bet is to use HTML for defining structure and to use Cascading Style Sheets for defining the display parameters. Use current HTML, avoiding using deprecated elements such as <font> and <fontsize>-- these definitions are covered by the style sheet. A low vision surfer's browser can then override your style sheet in favor of their customized settings.

Some Odds and Ends



  • If you use a server-side image map, provide matching text links elsewhere on the page. That allows keyboard users to access the links.
  • If you use color to convey information, be sure the information is available either from context or from your markup text.
  • Make sure you have sufficient contrast between your background color and your foreground color.
  • Identify the natural language of the document, and identify changes of natural language. Screen readers are getting more and more multilingual-- by identifying the language, you allow the screen reader to read the text with the correct pronunciation.
  • Make sure your content is well-organized so that it can be understood even if style sheets are aren't used. Many people are still using older browsers that don't support style sheets.
  • Make any scripting multi-modal: define keyboard equivalents for actions requiring a mouse.

Section 508

In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act to require Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. Section 508 was enacted to eliminate barriers in information technology, to make available new opportunities for people with disabilities, and to encourage development of technologies that will help achieve these goals. The law applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology. Under Section 508 (29 U.S.C. ' 794d), agencies must give disabled employees and members of the public access to information that is comparable to the access available to others. (The previous text was excerpted from the Section 508 Web site: http://www.section508.gov).

Testing for Accessibility

A useful tool you should look into is an accessibility tester. This is software that checks your HTML and gives you a warning about anything on your page that might cause an accessibility problem, such as graphics without accompanying alt-text. There are a number of these available on-line to test single pages, or you can download the software to check an entire site at once. Many of these are particularly aimed at helping Web sites comply with Section 508. A list of these is available in the Internet Resources section at the end of this article.

Internet Resources

Accessibility Testers

  • Bobby
    Bobby was created by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) to help Web page authors identify and repair significant barriers to access by individuals with disabilities.
    Bobby: http://www.cast.org/bobby/.
  • A -Prompt Toolkit
    This software is a product of the joint efforts of the Adaptive Technology Resource Centre (ATRC) at the University of Toronto and the Trace Center at the University of Wisconsin. This software can be downloaded free from:
    A -Prompt Toolkit: http://aprompt.snow.utoronto.ca/.


Tutorials for FrontPage and Creating Accessible Web Pages

The following FrontPage Workshop Tutorial, from West Virginia University, will teach you how to use several important features of developing a web page using FrontPage 2000. This workshop contains illustrated explanations and examples of the features being taught, followed by detailed learning activities. When completed, you will have learned the basic skills for using FrontPage functionality.

I have also linked to West Virginia University's Creating Accessible Web Pages tutorial handout and data files.

Click this link to view the FrontPage 2000 Workshop Tutorial

  • FrontPage environment
  • Page Properties
  • Tabs
  • Insert and Edit HyperLinks
  • Create a bulleted list of links
  • Tables
  • Importing Files
  • Adding ClipArt and Image files

Creating Accessible Web Pages Workshop Tutorial

This workshop covers Section 508 requirements for WVU web page accessibility and gives you tips on how you can make your web pages compliant.

Text to Podcast

MagneticTime.com has announced that MT-Podcast is available for free to hobbyist bloggers.

Bloggers interested in using MT-Podcast can email press@magnetictime.com. Instructions will then be emailed to eligible bloggers.

Traditional podcasting is expensive and time consuming. MT-Podcast allows anybody to produce professional sounding podcasts without hiring actors or specialist speakers. With MT-Podcast, the sound quality is consistently high with MagneticTime's natural voice producing the podcast for the user and is completed in a time-effective manner - with lengthy podcasts produced in just a matter of minutes.

MT-Podcast simplifies the process by automatically and accurately converting written scripts to MP3 podcasts without needing a recorded voice. MT-Podcast is a web-based service, thus enabling users to manage individual podcasts, add/edit/remove podcast episodes and manage their own accounts.

For more information on MT-Podcast or to become a partner of MagneticTime, contact Laura Bourke, Marketing Executive, email press@magnetictime.com.

MarvelSoft: The Future of Sound

MarvelSoft has some easy-to-use talking software, completely narrated with pre-recorded human speech.

Their flagship product is Talking Typing Teacher, an interactive program for Windows that teaches keyboarding skills. All directions, posture tips, drills and games are narrated entirely with pre-recorded human dialog (as well as shown on-screen). This means that students never listen to hard-to-understand synthesized speech when learning to type with TTT. Full support for large-print users, multiple student access, and the ability to create customized lessons makes TTT an invaluable teaching tool for individuals and professionals alike.

Talking Toolbox is a collection of powerful, easy-to-use tools you'll find yourself using every day. Once you have Talking Toolbox on your computer, you'll enjoy using a talking email client (known as Post Office), a calendar to help you plan your week, month and year, a feature-packed word processor, a lightning-fast address manager, a phone dialer, a calculator to make balancing the books a piece of cake, a fully-functional CD player, and an amusing alarm clock to ensure you always get everything done on time! Naturally, all these tools are entirely self-voicing with their own built-in speech, making this package a must-have if you're a fan of getting work done in a snap.

Moving right along, Marvel Math is a multi-media program to teach and reinforce math skills. If you're working from a written curriculum, Marvel math can turn the printed page into an interactive E-test that's easy for you to design and lots of fun for students to work through. Otherwise, just tell Marvel Math how challenging you'd like math problems to be, and it will make them up in an instant!

Similarly, Speaking Spelling will make it a breeze to teach spelling skills to kids of all ages.

Last but not least, Quality Quiz can make any kind of quiz or exam come alive with just a few keystrokes. Not only will the program encourage and help students as they work through their quiz, but it will automatically mark every question as soon as the quiz is completed. No more spending hours in front of sheets of paper grading tests, Quality Quiz can do it for you! And because this program makes each quiz so easy to take, and adds so much visual and audio feedback, students might actually look forward to exam time!

For more information on any of these programs, contact:

MarvelSoft Enterprises, Inc.
33222 Lynn Ave.
Abbotsford, BC V2S 1C9
Canada
Toll Free: 800-987-1231
Fax: 800-985-1231
Email: info@marvelsoft.com
Web: http://www.marvelsoft.com

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Premier Predictor Pro

Message: Are there any screen reader accessible word prediction or composition writing programs?
Location: California

Word Prediction is a technology developed to assist people who have difficulty spelling and writing. As a person types, word prediction will display a list of the most probable words allowing the typist to select the word from the list. This technology can significantly reduce the number of key strokes and individual needs to make. The built in talking dictionary lets the typist hear the definition to make sure that the word they select is the right word. Whether, and weather can be very confusing to some writers.

Predictor Pro has many of the features you would expect in a word prediction program, but there are just a few things that really set it apart.

  1. It works with every application, not just Microsoft applications or a single program.

  2. It has a network addition that lets one teacher manage all the users. Teachers no longer need to add words to every workstation. They just add them to the master list on the network and all students have access to them.

  3. It has a revolutionary new technology called the Document Digester that can read files on your computer and quickly customize the prediction list for you or your class. If you want to have a customized word prediction for your Welding class just use the Document Digester to read the manual and it will generate a list of all words that are in the manual that are not in the prediction list.

  4. It offers word search capabilities. Sometimes word prediction is too much and some times it is not enough. The word search lets you search for any word in the dictionary and then inserts it directly into your document. The exciting part about this is that Predictor Pro has built in Text To Speech so when users click on a word they will hear it, most people can recognize the word when they hear it.

One of the biggest problems for new writers is using the correct word or form of the word. Many educators call these words confusable. That may be true, but every word that a person does not know is confusing, that is why the program has a powerful talking dictionary. Just use your mouse to right click on any word in the prediction or word search list and the definition will be displayed and can be read aloud to the user.

Predictor Pro has 3 built in languages, and is provided with 20 additional libraries, many are focused on those difficult medical terms. Many of the words used in the medical dictionary are not found in Microsoft's spell check so for many medical students this is the only way they can verify that their spelling is correct.

is available as a standalone product, but it is also part of the Literacy Productive Pack and the Accessibility Suite. You will also find it as part of the Key To Access.

Premier Literacy
1309 N. Williams St.
Joliet, IL 60435
Phone: 815-927-7390
Fax: 815-722-8805
Web: http://www.readingmadeeasy.com

Monday, September 25, 2006

Address Labels: Here's What To Do With Them

Do you have piles of those little print address labels that companies send out to get you to donate money to their causes? I have found some great uses for those little address labels, so they don't go to waste.

  • Business Card/Calling Card: Store a sheet of these stickers in your purse or wallet at all times. This way when someone asks for your name and/or address you have it handy. You could write your phone number on the stickers as well.

  • School Supplies: Place the stickers on your child's school supplies to keep them with the correct child. Yes, I realize they are in your name, but your child will think that's cool, and if you're like me, you probably have at least one sheet with their name on it too!

  • Lost and Found: Put an address sticker on your camera, cell phone, MP3 player, notetaker or eyeglass case. Anything that can be lost that you carry with you frequently. If you ever lose your item, it can be easily returned.

  • Trick or Treat: We've used our address labels on little goody bags we made up for all those trick or treaters. This often gives the parents a sense of security knowing which house the candy came from.

  • Address Labels: Well of course they are expected to be used on envelopes that you mail out to friends and family, and even bills, but there are other ways to use them as address labels. You can use them when you are filling out applications, forms, postage paid order cards, when you drop off an item to be repaired, or place on a film canister to prevent your photographs from being lost. Really, use them any place you would fill out your address. Works great, easy and practical.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Living Blind

By Julie Johnson

http://www.livingblind.com/guidedogs.html is where you can find links to On The Go guide dog harnesses, leashes, relieving harnesses and other guide dog related equipment. I personally make the On The Go equipment myself to meet your exact specifications and needs. It is the equipment that I personally use daily.

I am blind and a guide dog user myself. I understand the need for quality information and a friendly, helpful smile! You'll find both at http://www.livingblind.com.

If you're blind or visually impaired, a friend or family member of someone who is, a teacher, or just interested, whether you have some useful vision or not, if you're looking for helpful information and energetic discussion, head over to http://www.livingblind.com.

Living Blind is an online community of blind and visually impaired people sharing ideas to create a friendly, and informative site so that we can learn and grow together! It offers information and helpful "how to" tips as well as a place to just relax, soak up some knowledge about Living Blind and gain some moral support and much encouragement.

At Living Blind a "blind" person is anyone whose vision is limited so that the way in which you accomplish daily tasks, like cooking, going to the store, using the computer or organizing your finances is done a little differently than the way sighted people accomplish these tasks. Perhaps you use Braille, cassette tape, a reader, a cane or a guide dog, it doesn't matter.

Living Blind welcomes everyone in every walk of life, employed or at home, in the city or on the farm, cane users and guide dog handlers, with some usable vision or none at all, and sighted people too.

The site contains informative articles on various topics about every day living, from finding a job to what to wear to the interview, from relationships to parenting, from canes to guide dogs! so you might want to visit often to see what's new!

Cleaning Up After Animals

Four-legged family members don't make nearly the mess that the other two legged ones in our homes make. But their messes tend to stain and smell more than the others, and that simply won't work. So here are a few suggestions and some "whys" about cleaning up after them. The biggie, of course, is "accidents". Bear in mind that uric acid crystallizes, but the crystals still smell. If it's on your carpet, you don't want that liquid to crystallize down in the pad. That's why it's so hard to get the smell out. The best solution is to sop up the wet immediately, getting it as dry as you can. Don't push on it (as in stepping on the wad of paper towels you threw down on top of it) until you're sure that all of the surface moisture is sopped up. This will help prevent the carpet from becoming a giant urine sponge. When it's as dry as possible, sprinkle salt (kosher salt is especially good), on the stain to absorb even more wetness. After this is dry, vaccuum it up. Clean the spot with pure vinegar, and this will help deodorize it.

Solid accidents can be easier to deal with. But some of them aren't so solid. This goes for when an animal gets sick as well. Start by dropping several sheets of paper towels. Those blue shop type paper towels seem to be most absorbent. Worth it if you clean these types of messes a lot. Let that sit a couple of minutes till most of the liquidy portion is sopped up, then use a clean paper towel and rubber gloves or a plastic bag over your hand to scoop up the rest. Follow through as above.

Finally, pet hair may not be the most disgusting mess, but it's certainly the hardest to clean. Quite by accident the other day I discovered a marvelous, if aerobic, way of cleaning up even the most matted-in, messiest, hairiest messes. Don a rubber glove, at least one as thick as a dishwashing glove but if you can find a thicker one it will protect your hand from the heat you're about to generate. Saturate a sponge so it's really wet and don't wring it out much. Place it on a plate or something and carry it to the mess. Squeeze the sponge with your gloved hand. Now, rub the glove across the place where the hair is stuck to the carpet or upholstery. This is utterly amazing. The dampness from the glove is just enough to keep hair from flying everywhere. The rubber causes the hair to pull loose and roll up. It makes sense if you think about it. I hate it when the beautician washes my hair wearing rubber gloves, because you bet it pulls! This is the same principle. Every so often, if the hair starts flying again, squeeze the sponge to get the glove wet. I usually keep my small vac handy and suck up the hairballs as they come off. You could catch them on a lint roller or a piece of masking tape if you don't have a small vac.

As I said, I discovered this by accident the other day. A client has mostly hard floors and short-napped oriental rugs. One of those rugs has been a pain since the day he put it down! You couldn't even see the design anymore for the cat hair stuck to it, and no amount of vacuuming I did got it up. Lint rollers wouldn't touch it, brushes or those special sponges did so little it wasn't worth the waste of time. When I discovered this technique, I tried it on that little rug. AMAZING! He came in and asked if I'd replaced his rug, and it did look new again!

Stick it! Rip it! Done!

StickySheets are giant pieces of sticky tape, designed to remove pet hair from your furniture and car seats. Instead of using lint rollers, or smaller pieces of tape, use one large sheet, and pull everything off in one rip.

Each sheet measures approximately 3ft x 2ft, and you get 15 sheets for $19.95.

Click this link to play a demo and to order StickySheets: http://www.stickysheets.com. This site uses Flash to play an advertisement for their product. This Flash presentation may not be compatible with screen readers.

Message: I have a black lab Seeing Eye dog guide who has chosen my living room rug for his own. The rug has some white pattern and those white areas are now gray from the oils in his fur. What would you suggest for cleaning the rug?
location: Connecticut

I had a similar issue with my former guide. She liked to lay on the landing at the bottom of the stairs that went up to my son's rooms. She would lay with her back against the wall and both the carpet and the wall became dengy.

My wife and I tried a variety of cleaners on the carpet and found that the Resolve Carpet Foam did the best. You'll have to purchase the foam, the liquid didn't seem to get the job done.

The instructions say to let it sit on the carpet and work in, I found this to be accurate. You'll know when to continue cleaning because the foam will completely disappear into the carpet.

As for the wall, we found that good old Mr. Clean did the job.

Our animals are special members of the family. They are worth the extra trouble. And at least they don't make piles of dirty laundry or use 16 glasses a day. Isn't it nice to know that it's now that much easier to clean up after them?

Email Music

Have you ever found a song that you liked so much, you just had to share it with someone? Well, wouldn't it be cool to do that by placing it as the background music to an email you send out? While your friends read your email, they will hear the song.

If you use Outlook Express, you can add background music to your e-mails with ease. Go ahead and create a new e-mail like you normally would and then go to the Format menu. Next, choose Background and then Sound. A new box will pop up and you can either type in the name of the file or you can browse for it. Just hit the Browse button to navigate to where you have the file saved.

When you find it, select it and then you can choose if you want the song played continuously or if you just want it played a certain amount of times. Just choose the correct number for your preferences. When you've made all your decisions, hit OK and then send the email as usual.

Note: People who use screen reading technology sometimes find the automatic playing of music very annoying because it drowns out their speech while the song plays. It may be best to ask before sending music in this way. You could always attach the song to the message, giving your friends the option of clicking the file to play it.

This Website is a Real Trezr

The one thing about being blind is that you miss out on all the great deals that are plastered in print newspapers and magazines. All those great coupons that sighted people clip to save a dollar or two here and there would be nice for blind people too.

I came across a site that has some really great deals, chosen by folks like you and me. It's truly a Trezr.

Trezr (pronounced "treasure") is an accessible social-bookmarking site, but devoted entirely to bargain hunting! The site combines Digg-style voting with the latest deals on travel, digital cameras, clothing and accessories, and more. The most popular deals are "Trezr"-ed by users, so it's easy to find the best ones, and there are some really great budgeting and money-saving tips as well. I especially liked this tip on the best times to buy everything from airplane tickets to baby clothes. They even have RSS feeds. Definitely worth checking out!

Click this link to visit http://www.trezr.com.

Optical Aids to Help You Cope with Low Vision

By Maureen Cook |

Low vision aids come in all shapes and sizes and serve a multitude of different purposes. A one-size-fits-all approach just won't do when it comes to choosing these devices, especially when you consider that a very wide range of eye problems can cause low vision.

Age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, cataracts, head trauma and stroke can all result in reduced visual acuity, reduced contrast sensitivity and glare sensitivity. It should be remembered that these eye conditions often involve impaired color vision, and that the majority of sufferers are over 60.

This is why many of the more high-tech low vision aids now coming on to the market offer customised viewing modes (magnifiers, for example, which allow material to be viewed in black and white, blue and yellow or black and yellow) or adjustable image brightness.

Customisation need not always be high-tech, however. It can be as simple as fitting a magnifier with a flexible, adjustable arm so obviating the need to look upward at an uncomfortable angle. The tilting screen of a video magnifier or simply a stand magnifier can make for greatly increased ease of viewing when arthritis is as much of a problem as low vision.

Of course, not everyone requires a high-tech solution to their eye problems. Various small, hand-held magnifiers are available from your local drug store which can often be of some assistance in the early stages of failing eyesight.

With hand magnifiers it is usually the case that practice makes perfect. Often a bit of a struggle at the outset, best results can be achieved by holding these low vision aids straight. Your eye, the magnifier and the particular material you're looking at should all be exactly aligned. Distortion will result from tilting the magnifier.

If you use a stand magnifier, keep the magnifier on the paper and break yourself of the habit of raising the magnifier to your eyes. Again, distortion of the material and the need to constantly refocus, will tire even more aging eyes with a low vision problem.

A professional consultation should be sought, though, if and when they prove to be less helpful in reading and writing. Specialists in low vision will assess the degree of your visual impairment. They might prescribe special lenses which incorporate a miniature telescopic unit. These will enable you to resolve fine details through the telescope while using the regular lens for peripheral vision.

Or, perhaps, they will show you precisely the type of lighting you need to use in order to maximise the vision that remains. Reading lamps are now available which filter out damaging, blue light radiation and deliver optimal contrast for sufferers of low vision.

When greater magnification is needed, the newest low vision aids offer features which will give you a true independence in carrying out daily tasks. Many combine portability with choice of viewing modes to suit your individual needs.

One of the more popular high-tech aids is the video magnifier or closed circuit television. Free-standing units consist of a stand-mounted video camera which projects magnified images on to a video screen. They are very useful for reading and writing, as well as doing craftwork. For many people, with hobbies requiring intricate, close-up work, this is a quality of life issue.

However, CCTVs, which are portable, provide you with the greatest flexibility of all. Advances have been made on the older type of portable video magnifiers. These could be plugged into a television, and by rolling a device about the size of a computer mouse across the reading material, you would see a magnified image appear on the TV.

Today, truly portable CCTVs are now being designed where a similar mouse-like device is used, but no TV is needed to view the magnified image. Instead it appears in a pair of goggles you wear.

More convenient still if you're out and about, the wonders of miniaturisation have made it possible to develop a new generation of very small, light-weight video magnifiers. These are ideal for letting you read grocery labels, restaurant menus and receipts. Some also come complete with a folding writing stand which will allow you to write as well.

For distance viewing, portable telescopic devices allow you to follow the game better at sporting events or to watch a theatre production. These aids carry many features which promote ease of use - low light compensation, high levels of magnification and contrast enhancement, for example.

Many people, though, prefer to use another sense for reading: their hearing. They use reading machines (scanners with voice output) to transform written material into the spoken word. For avid readers, and those who want the ultimate in comfort, these low vision aids offer an ideal solution to their low vision problems. Hooked up to a computer, and using specially-designed software, your PC can instantly be turned into a "reading machine".

Unfortunately, whatever you choose, you will not be able to turn back the clock. Low vision aids will not replace vision that has already deteriorated or been lost. Fortunately, however, we live in a world where new devices are being designed all the time enabling us all to optimise the vision we have left and enjoy life to the fullest.

Copyright 2006 ArticleAttack.com All rights reserved.

Stop, Look, and Listen: Quiet Vehicles and Pedestrian Safety

By Deborah Kent Stein

The following article appeared in The Braille Monitor in June of 2005 and has been edited for Fred's Head.

Twenty-five years ago I read a futuristic article about technologies that might some day free the world from dependence on fossil fuels. Among the developments we could expect by the twenty-first century, the article proclaimed, was the electric-powered automobile. Electric vehicles would be powered by a rechargeable battery rather than the traditional gas-burning combustion engine. They would be safe and efficient. Furthermore, such vehicles would alleviate noise pollution along our roads and highways. Electric cars would be virtually silent.

I read the prediction about electric cars with deeply mixed feelings. I applauded the idea of cleaner air and a reduction in greenhouse gases, a benefit to the entire planet. Yet, because I am blind and travel using a long white cane, the thought of silent vehicles filled me with apprehension. Like countless other blind people I walk safely and confidently, judging traffic patterns by sound. Whether I'm crossing a suburban parking lot or a busy avenue in the Chicago Loop, sound gives me the information I need about the vehicles in my environment. How could blind people travel independently in a world filled with silent electric cars?

Troubled, I raised my concerns to a number of blind friends and colleagues. Nearly everyone agreed that silent cars would pose a devastating threat to independent travel for blind people. But again and again I heard the comforting refrain, "They won't let that happen.... They'll figure something out.... If they develop that technology, they'll be sure to make it safe for us." Such thoughts were very heartening. Besides, I had faith in my capacity to find useful cues in my surroundings, no matter how subtle those cues might seem to others. I was convinced that I would be able to hear even the quietest electric car if I paid close attention.

More than two decades have passed since I first read about electric cars, and the future is upon us. Fully electric-powered vehicles have not become popular yet, but a number of cars and pick-up trucks now operate using a combination of electricity and gasoline. These vehicles are known as hybrids because they blend combustion-engine and electric-motor technologies. Excess energy from the combustion-engine energy, which is wasted in conventional vehicles, charges the battery that runs the hybrid's electric motor. When it is in operation, the hybrid vehicle shifts automatically from one power mode to the other. How often and when the vehicle uses electric power varies widely according to model and design. In keeping with those long-ago predictions, the engine is silent when operating in electric-power mode.

I encountered my first hybrid car when Jim, a family friend, dropped by one morning driving a brand-new Toyota Prius. He explained that the Prius uses electric power when running at speeds up to about twenty mph and periodically switches to electric power at faster speeds as well. He added that the car is extremely quiet in its electric mode--so silent, in fact, that car dealers have affectionately dubbed it a stealth vehicle. "It'd be a great burglar's car," Jim said. "You could glide down the street in the dead of night, and nobody would hear a thing."

Eager to prove to myself that I would be able to hear the Prius, no matter what the dealers boasted, I asked Jim to conduct an experiment. He agreed to take the Prius for a short test drive while I listened from the sidewalk in front of my house on a quiet side street. I heard him climb into the car and slam the door on the driver's side. Then I waited, listening for him to start the engine. Nothing happened. I heard only the sparrows chirping in the trees and the distant roar of a lawn mower. At last the car door opened again and Jim asked, "Could you hear it?"

"Hear what?" I demanded. "Why didn't you start up?"

"I did start up," he said. "I drove to the end of the block. Then I backed up and went about three houses past yours. Then I drove back and parked here in front of you again."

I went to the curb and rested my hand lightly on the passenger door. Again Jim started the engine. I felt the car move forward. Uncannily, eerily, it did not make a sound. With horror I realized that I could easily step straight into the path of an oncoming Prius with no hint of peril.

Since that unsettling experiment I have become very aware of the sounds that help me locate the cars in my environment. When a gasoline-powered vehicle is idling, accelerating, or moving at a speed of less than twenty to twenty-five mph, the sound of the engine predominates. On some surfaces, such as a gravel driveway or a rain-spattered street, sound from the tires is also audible at low speeds. When a car moves faster, most sound comes from the tires on the pavement and the rush of wind. At high speeds, therefore, a hybrid such as the Prius can be heard as easily as any other vehicle. The problem arises when a hybrid car, powered by its electric motor, is traveling at slow to moderate speeds--as when it moves along a side street, emerges from a driveway or parking lot, or starts up after a red light or stop sign. Under these circumstances the engine is silent, and there is little or no sound from tire friction or wind resistance. In addition nearly all hybrids come to a full stop at red lights or stop signs, shutting off the engine completely. The engine does not idle, emitting a low, telltale purr. It makes no sound at all. A blind traveler has no indication that a car is present and preparing to move forward at any moment.

Hybrids are not the only vehicles that pose a challenge to blind pedestrians on today's streets. Throughout the automotive industry manufacturers are seeking to make cars quieter. Many gasoline-fueled engines are now almost as quiet as those that use electric power. Manufacturers are even developing tires that produce less friction with the road surface. Such tires will increase fuel efficiency and at the same time cut down on noise.

The increasing prevalence of quiet vehicles may seriously affect the ability of blind people to travel safely. Low-noise vehicles are also likely to affect the safety of sighted pedestrians and cyclists. Sighted people rely on sound to alert them to the presence of vehicles outside their line of vision. Hearing the approach of a car, they can glance in its direction to gauge its speed and location. It is no accident that generations of schoolchildren have been taught to "stop, look, and listen" at every intersection.

Perhaps hybrid vehicles could be engineered so that the radiator fan switches on whenever the car is operating in electric mode. The fan would emit a hum audible to pedestrians. Perhaps a device built into the axle could make a sound as the wheels rotate.

It has also been suggested that blind travelers carry a device that would indicate when a hybrid or other quiet car is in the vicinity. The signal could be auditory or tactile. A tactile signal would have the advantage of not blocking other important sounds in the environment. In addition, it could be of great help to blind people who also have impaired hearing. We question whether any device, however sophisticated, could give us all of the information we are able to gather from listening to traffic sounds. By listening we can tell where a car is, how fast it is moving, whether it is accelerating or slowing down, and whether it is turning or traveling straight through an intersection. Furthermore, we can collect all of this information about several vehicles simultaneously.

We fervently hope that one or more relatively low-tech, inexpensive solutions to the quiet-car problem lie in the future. However, it will require a highly focused and concerted effort to make such solutions a reality. At this stage we are just beginning to raise public awareness that quiet cars pose a safety hazard. Whenever we discuss our concerns with someone for the first time, the response is invariably the same: "It never occurred to me that quiet vehicles might be a problem. The quieter the better, right? But what you're saying makes sense. We need to think about this " Such exchanges are usually followed by a set of crucial questions: "What sort of figures do you have? Have pedestrian injuries increased since cars have gotten quieter? How many people have been killed or injured by quiet cars so far?"

Right now we have no answers to these questions. Extremely quiet cars such as the Toyota Prius still comprise only a tiny fraction of the vehicles on the road. It is currently difficult to isolate lack of sound as a critical factor in pedestrian casualties. We suspect that a link between pedestrian injuries and quiet cars will be more discernible as low-noise vehicles become more common. But in the real world mere suspicion is a fragile basis for policy decisions. We must support logic and intuition with facts and figures.

Before government agencies and the automotive industry will give weight to our concerns, we need data to prove that quiet cars pose a serious problem. We also need to collect accounts of pedestrians and cyclists who have been killed or injured in accidents involving hybrids or other quiet vehicles. We must document as many instances as possible in which a vehicle's low sound level has contributed to an accident. If quiet cars are shown to be involved in more accidents than so-called noisy vehicles, we can build a case for nonvisual safety measures. Tragically, casualties must occur before any steps will be taken to insure safety.

Years ago my friends and I told each other that "they" would protect the safety of blind travelers if electric-powered cars were ever developed. So far "they", whoever they may be, have done nothing of the kind. As blind people, we cannot stand by while our ability to travel safely and independently is whittled away. We must gather the facts, make our voices heard, and take an active role in the quest for viable solutions. We have met countless challenges in the past, and with resourcefulness and perseverance we will meet this one as well.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Telegraph Office

Welcome to a site that is a "Tribute to Morse Telegraphy." You'll find navigation on the side menu or in the middle of the page. Let's explore the great sections of this site.

Main Page - This link will always bring you back to the front page of the site.

There are several sections devoted to information for collectors. They are: References, Topics for Collectors, Histories of the Key Makers and Topics for Advanced Collectors.

There are also several sections devoted to the history of the telegraph.

Telegraph and Wireless Inventors - Here you can learn all about the people behind the invention from Morse's patent in 1849 to the experiments of J.C. Bose. You can find an interesting section here called Heroes of the Telegraph where you can check out biographies of telegraphers.

History of the Code - Here you can learn not only about the codes, but how they were sent. You can also check out telegrams and radiograms and how they were coded. Pretty neat, huh?!

You can also find a vast array of information on the keys of the telegraph machines, those are photo galleries unfortunately for us totals.

Click this link to learn the history of Telegraphy: http://www.telegraph-office.com.

Gardening In A Square Foot

By Michael Russell

If you havent heard of square foot gardening, you're about to learn one of the most useful and versatile gardening techniques ever created. Conceived by Mel Bartholomew, author of Square Foot Gardening, the techniques have been enthusiastically adopted by gardeners all over the world. Square foot gardening is eminently suited for container gardening, patio and roof gardening, backyard gardening, organic gardening, herb gardens, vegetable gardens, flower gardens and more.

The basic concept is to start small; the unit of measure is the square foot. Although Bartholomews original square foot garden was four feet square, many schools, community gardens and home gardeners start even smaller; a couple of one square foot containers is plenty to get you started. According to Bartholomew, a four square foot garden provides just enough harvest for one person.

How to Create A Square Foot Garden

Creating your own square foot garden is as easy as building (or buying) a box in which to garden. My own first square foot garden was a two square foot garden on the cement apron outside my back door in a city apartment. I used four square wicker plastic lined wastebaskets bought for a dollar apiece at the All-for-a-Buck store. Any container that can hold 6-8 of dirt, and has drainage holes in the bottom will work. The biggest requirement for location is sunlight. Choose a nice, sunny spot to place your garden.

Did I say dirt? Amend that. Bartholomew recommends what he calls Mels mix instead of soil. Mix 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss and 1/3 compost to fill the squares of your box or container. A 10 pound bag of each was plenty to fill my little 2 square foot garden.

Choosing and Laying Out the Plants for Your Square Foot Garden

The most important factor in laying out your garden is the one-square-foot grid. You'll be planting one type of plant in each square how many of them depends on the recommended spacing between plants which you'll find on the back of the seed packets. Depending on the needs of the specific seedlings, you can plant 1, 4, 9 or 16 plants in each square. To break it down if the recommendation on the seed packet is 1 foot apart, you can plant 1 in a square. If they need six inches between plants, you can plant 4. Two inches gives you room for 9 plants, and one inch spacing means you can fit 16 plants into one square foot.

My own first square foot garden was a spaghetti garden with this layout:

1 Basil Plant 4 Tomato plants
1 Oregano Plant 16 Onion plants

After You Harvest Your Square Foot Garden

Harvest the crop in each square foot when its ready, and continue harvesting until its no longer producing fruit/vegetables. At that point, uproot the plants in that square (use them for compost!), and plant another crop. By refilling and rotating the crops, you avoid depleting the natural nutrients of the soil, and keep the space productive throughout an entire growing season.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Battery Powered Candles

Here's a great idea for people who are blind or visually impaired and love the smell of candles in their home.

This Flameless Wax Candle adds instant atmosphere to your home. Whether you're hosting a gathering of friends, a quiet dinner for two, or just soaking in the tub, the illumination of candlelight is a perfect way to set the mood. Enjoy the warmth and ambiance of candles anytime, anywhere, with this scented, flameless wax candle.

This battery operated flameless candle adds color, light and drama without an open flame. It's safe around children, pets, furniture, at the office - even out on your deck. It will infuse the air with a pleasant, subtle aroma. You'll love the quality and realistic design of this flameless wax candle.

Dual LED lights simulate the gentle flicker and light of a candlewick. LED bulbs last for 100,000 hours of continuous use. Four AA batteries give your flameless candle 100 hours of life. 6" pillar flameless candle is made of 100% real wax.

Order this battery operated flameless candle from Brookstone.com today and give your house a cozy warm glow.

Battery Powered Tea Lights

Create the mood you desire without worrying about burning down the house. LED Tea Lights look just like a conventional tea light, but give you a safer, longer-lasting light source. They harness the brightness and efficiency of light emitting diodes to give you up to 60 hours of light on a single battery. Turn the light on and off with the push of a button. The LED Tea Lights are versatile since they can be used in tea light and votive holders alike. The battery is included and is easily replaceable. Sold as a set of 2.

Click this link to purchase from the Modern Motive website.

Rechargeable LED Votive Lights

If you like the mood set by candlelight but are uncomfortable with the potential danger presented by actual firelight, you can easily simulate beautiful flickering candlelight with the Rechargeable LED Votive Lights, a six-pack of rechargeable, battery-operated candles that will never blow out or burn out and won't create a smoke or fire hazard. Six frosted vote candle holders are included with the set, but these rechargeable votive candles will fit inside any standard-size votive candle lamp, so you can enjoy the light of a flickering candle indoors and out, on your mantle, in the bathroom, or in a centerpiece at your next dinner party.

The included base automatically begins recharging the six candles' built-in batteries as soon as they're placed in it, and each candle can remain lit up to 12 hours on a single charge. Unlike standard votive candles, which can be expensive and burn quickly, the Rechargeable LED Votive Lights use LED bulbs that never need to be replaced, so these may be the last votive candles you'll ever need to buy!

Specifications

  • Dimensions: Votive holder: 4 1/4" x 2 1/4" diameter; candle: 2" H x 1 11/16" diameter; base: 7" x 4 7/16" x 1 3/16"
  • Light Time: 12 hours
  • Initial Charge Time: 24 hours


Click this link to purchase a six-pack of Rechargeable LED Votive Lights from the Smarthome website.

The Pizza Fork

Myself, I eat pizza with my bare hands. There's no need to bring anything between me and my pizza. Maybe you are the kind of person who likes to cut off a bite before cramming it into your mouth.

However you do it, this device will certainly be a conversation piece and may solve my problem of not looking like a pig while enjoying a Meat Lovers pizza.

The Pizza Fork has all the poking functionality of a standard fork but incorporates a pizza cutting wheel, simply roll over the pizza to cut off a mouth sized portion. You obviously recognize the significance of this invention. You must have one for yourself. Better buy a few because everyone at the table is gonna wanna try yours, and that would just be gross.

Click this link to purchase the Pizza Fork from the Stupidiotic website.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Newspaper Radio

PressDisplay.com by NewspaperDirect, Inc. has launched "Newspaper Radio", a unique service that allows people to listen to newspapers and magazines on either their computers or mobile smart phones.

Hundreds of newspapers and magazines are available on http://www.PressDisplay.com for online viewing, offline downloading and now, for listening.

Newspaper Radio offers commuters, business travelers, expatriates and the visually impaired access to news that has previously been unavailable to them. It is simply a matter of copying their favorite newspapers' URLs from the PressDisplay.com website and pasting them into Microsoft Windows Media Player. Once stored in Window's Media Player, listeners can tune-in to the latest edition of their newspaper or magazine at any time.

Atari Retro: Games for People with Low Vision

Do you remember playing Pong? Did you have it on your old ATARI 2600? I can remember my visually impaired friends gathering around the floor model TV to play. We'd play that thing for hours! I can remember how easy the graphics were to see because most games were set against a black background.

Those days of fun aren't over. You can purchase an updated Atari 2600 for your children and bring back the memories. That's right, you get all the retro action without having to store all those silly cartridges.

It definitely looks retro, right down to the dark wooden panels and the terrible color scheme. You even get two of the classic joystick controllers, with improved mechanics inside, of course. The included 7 foot A/V cable will hook up to just about any TV. The AC adapter is also included.

All your favorite old games are built in, along with some new ones:

  • Adventure
  • Adventure II
  • Haunted House
  • Return To Haunted House
  • Secret Quest
  • Wizard
  • Asteroids
  • Asteroids Deluxe
  • Pong
  • Battlezone
  • Centipede
  • Lunar Lander
  • Millipede
  • Missle Command
  • Space Duel
  • Caverns of Mars
  • Quadrun
  • Saboteur
  • Space War
  • Yars' Revenge
  • Yars Return
  • 3D Tic-Tac-Toe
  • Aquaventure
  • Climber
  • Combat
  • Combat 2
  • Dodge'em
  • Frog Pond
  • Hangman
  • Human Cannonball
  • Maze Craze
  • Off the Wall
  • Outlaw
  • Pitfall!
  • Radar Lock
  • River Raid
  • Save Mary
  • Video Checkers
  • Video Chess

The Atari Retro would be a great gift for someone with low vision. Click this link to purchase the Atari Retro from First Street. I purchased mine at Wal-Mart in the Small Electronics section.

ATARI 2600 Games Online

Even now, with all of our current technology, it still amazes me that I can go online and once again relive the adventure of pixels versus pixels. And if you are feeling nostalgic, you can do the same. Here are some websites where you can get immersed in some of the classic Atari 2600 games of the past.

At Play.vg, there are lots of classic games you can play online, including one of my very favorite ones, Adventure. Adventure was the first ever video game to have an Easter Egg, that is a little secret message that could only be revealed when you found the secret dot and brought it beyond the wall. Other classic games such as Dig Dug and Tetris can be found as well.

To visit Play.vg, click here: http://www.play.vg.

At AtariTimes, you'll find great online versions of many of the popular classics, both the ones produced by Atari and the ones produced by third party creators. Demon Attack, Circus Atari, Carnival, Chopper Command, Pitfall and more are all here. There are even some titles that are rare or new, so you'll be able to experience it all again. Of course, instead of a joystick, you'll have to make due with the arrow keys and the spacebar. But it is still a lot of fun. You will need to install JAVA before these games will play.

To visit the AtariTimes section of online games, click here: http://www.ataritimes.com/jstella/index.php.

OldFunGames.com

Now if ATARI wasn't your thing and you'd rather play the versions that were in the arcades, this site is for you! Play old fun games like PacMan, Tetris, Donkey Kong, Duck Hunt, and more. Man, that's a blast from the past...

Click this link to visit http://www.OldFunGames.com.

Stir your sauces without hands? It's possible with the Stir Chef

Whether you are too busy, too tired or too distracted to stir, the Stir Chef will prevent you from burning your stovetop masterpiece! It's great for people with weak arms, busy Moms or for the aspiring chef!

Do you find yourself wishing for an extra helper to stir the simmering gravy, soup or pudding while you read the braille recipe? The cordless Stir Chef hands-free pan stirrer may be the answer you've been looking for!

  1. Insert the appropriate size stirring paddles.
  2. Place the Stir Chef unit over the sauce pan, stretching the arms to the edge of the pan.
  3. Turn the Stir Chef on and adjust the settings for either a continuous stir or an occasional stir.

When the task is done, lifting one of the support arms will release the Stir Chef from the pot edge.

Details:

  • Spring-loaded 'arms' adjust to fit a 1½ to a 4½ quart saucepan (6" to 8½ " wide and at least 3 1/2" deep).
  • 3 assorted sizes of heat resistant, dishwasher safe stirring paddles (6", 7" and 8" wide)
  • Operates on 4 AA batteries (included).
  • Recipe and instruction booklet (included).
  • Stir Chef is small enough to fit in your kitchen gadget drawer.

Note: The paddles supplied with the Stir Chef are plastic, and are not intended for projects like candy making.

This utensil requires some coordination to place properly on the pot edge. It is possible to do singled-handed, but may require some practice to master. We found it easiest to align the arm close to the pan handle so the handle could be used for leverage.

Click this link to purchase the Stir Chef Dynamic Living.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Resource Guide for Parents who are Blind or Partially Sighted

I had the pleasure of working with this lady for about a year. She's great, and I'm sure the book is as well.

Through the Looking Glass and its National Resource Center for Parents with Disabilities are proud to announce the first comprehensive resource guide for parents who are blind or partially sighted. The 212 page Hands-On Parenting: A Resource Guide for Parents who are Blind or Partially Sighted provides a wide range of practical information, adaptations and resources for parents who are blind or partially sighted.

The Resource Guide addresses many situations a parent who is blind might face, such as: If you are a parent who is blind, how do you diaper, feed or give medications to your baby? How will you know where your toddler is? How do you choose the colors for your child's clothes? How can you help your children with homework? What types of toys or games are available for a parent who is blind to use with their child? How can a parent who is blind educate the general public about how they manage parenting tasks? This guide is one of several projects of the National Resource Center for Parents with Disabilities. This National Center is funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), U.S. Department of Education.

The Resource Guide was developed by blind parent specialist Debbie Bacon, who is also a blind mother of three adult children. Ms. Bacon compiled the resources and suggestions from discussions with parents who are blind and partially sighted across the U.S. as well as in several other countries. Parents of a wide age-range of children describe their parenting experiences -- especially noting any barriers, strengths, adaptations or suggestions for other blind and partially sighted parents. Because parents who are blind or partially sighted are often geographically isolated from each other, many parents explained how they had to figure out a variety of routine parenting tasks on their own. This Resource Guide is intended to pass along successful adaptations and strategies so that new parents don't have to keep re-inventing the wheel. The topics covered in the Resource Guide include such issues as: newborns, when your child is sick, feeding, toilet training, transportation, monitoring your child, child safety, toys and games, and working with professionals. Each of the 14 chapters includes parent discussions as well as contact information for a wide variety of resources (many of which are available through the Internet).

The Guide is currently available in regular print, Large Print or CD-ROM (text version, Word format). This Resource Guide can be ordered directly from Through the Looking Glass for $40 (includes shipping and handling for orders within the U.S.). To order this Resource Guide or other publications regarding parenting with a disability, please call 800-644-2666. You can also go to Through the Looking Glass' web site: http://www.lookingglass.org.

For additional information, please contact:

Debbie Bacon
Project Manager
National Resource Center for Parents with Disabilities
Through the Looking Glass
2198 Sixth Street, Suite 100
Berkeley, CA 94710-2204
Phone: 510-848-1112, Ext. 103
Toll Free United States: 800-644-2666
United States TTY: 800-804-1616
International TTY: 510-848-1005
FAX: 510-848-4445
Email: dbacon@lookingglass.org
Web: http://www.lookingglass.org

Voice Activated TV Remote Controls

A frustrating fact of life for many blind or visually impaired people is that consumer electronics continue to get smaller. While this is great for portability, it makes finding and pushing various buttons on these devices more difficult.

The InVoca voice activated TV remote control is a hands-free device that goes against the push for smaller electronics, reminding us that buttons are not always necessary to do things. This remote changes the channels, controls volume, and more with just the sound of your voice. It's a great solution for anyone who has difficulty seeing or dealing with small buttons.

Use the InVoca voice activated remote control for all your audio-video electronics. Simply speak into the universal remote to command your TV, VCR, DVD, cable and satellite with the sound of your voice. It's easy to set up and accepts up to 54 voice commands! You can even perform multi-step functions with a single command-e.g., switch the TV to channel 3 and press "play" on the VCR all at once.

The InVoca voice activated remote control recognizes up to four voices. It remembers your favorite stations and includes rechargeable batteries and a charging base.

Click this link to purchase the voice activated TV remote control from Brookstone.

SurfBoard Remote Control

The SurfBoard Remote Control lets users control their TV by the sound of their voice with a voice recognition system. The voice operation system can also be "trained" to associate channel numbers with such voice commands as "HBO," "ESPN," or "surf."

Other features of the SurfBoard Remote Control include: A voice-response system that tells users what button they have pushed (The voice response may be turned on and off.); a "HELP" button that guides users through set-up; and a "SURF" button can be used to go back to the previously tuned channel or to surf through "favorite" channels.

The "HELP" button uses voice prompts to talk the user through setup and command training.

The SurfBoard Remote Control includes a code library that includes the remote control codes for all popular TV, VCR, Cable, DSS, and other home entertainment products.

Click this link to learn more about the SurfBoard Remote Control: http://www.innotechsystems.com.

How to Play Blackjack

Entire books can be, and have beenwritten about playing and winning blackjack. The following is only a basic blackjack education. Review the steps below to learn the basics of the game.

The Elements



  1. Know the object of the game: to get a hand higher than the dealer's without going over 21.

  2. Know how to score a hand: a king, queen, jack and ten are always worth 10 points each; the ace can be either 11 points or 1 point; and the other cards are their face value - an eight is worth 8 points, for example.

  3. Increase your hand's value by asking the dealer for more cards, one at a time.

  4. Try to stop taking cards before your hand exceeds 21 points. You automatically lose if you go over 21 - "go bust."

  5. Notify the dealer and the other players immediately by showing your cards if you get a natural 21 - one using only 2 cards, an ace and either a face card or a 10 - a "blackjack."

  6. Win the hand by not going over 21 and by having the same number of points or more points than the dealer has when he or she stops taking cards.


At the Casino



  1. Scope out the available blackjack tables. Each table will have a sign showing its minimum and maximum bets. Look for house rules written on the table's surface.

  2. Find a blackjack table that has a minimum bet in your price range, sit down and place your bet. If a hand is being dealt as you sit down, wait until the next hand to join the game.

  3. Wait until all players have placed their bets and the dealer has given two cards to each player and himself. One of the dealer's cards will be shown face up.

  4. Consider placing an insurance bet if the card the dealer is showing is an ace. An insurance bet is a bet that the dealer has been dealt a 21. If the dealer has 21, the insurance bet pays 2 to 1 and all other bets are cleared from the table. If the dealer does not have 21, the insurance bet is lost.

  5. Ask for another card when the dealer comes to you by saying "Hit me," scratch the table with your hand, or simply responding "Yes".

  6. Pass on taking another card by waving your hand above the cards in a censoring manner or simply responding "No" to the dealer's query.


Cool Lingo

"Surrender" if you are unhappy with your hand and don't want to continue playing. Some casinos will allow you to "surrender" the bet - leave the game by giving half your wager to the house rather than staying and losing the entire wager. Tell the dealer, "I'm out," or, "I'd like to surrender my bet." This is the only verbal command given to the dealer.

"Double down" to bet that you will win the hand with only one more card dealt to you. Doubling down doubles the amount of the original bet. Simply tell the dealer that you'd like to double down.

"Split pairs" when you are dealt two cards with the same face value. Splitting a pair gives you the option to create two separate hands. Indicate to the dealer that you wish to split the pair by separating the cards face up on the table and placing another bet equal to your initial wager in front of one of the cards. The dealer will then deal a new card for each hand, and each hand will be played individually against the dealer. Some casinos will only allow doubling down when the initial cards equal 10 or 11.

Other Tips

Think carefully before standing when the dealer shows a 2 - while it's possible that he'll pull two pictures and bust, it's more likely that he'll end up with 19, 20, or 21. To the dealer, a 2 is almost as good as an ace.

Always split a pair of aces or pair of 8's; never split a pair of 10's or 5's. In general, doubling down is best done when you have a 9, 10, or 11. If you have a 9, double down if the dealer has 3, 4, 5, or 6. If you have a 10, double down on any card the dealer is showing except a 10, face card, or ace. If you have an 11, double down on every card the dealer may have except an ace.

When your hand adds up to 13-16 and you don't know whether to stay or to hit, these two rules generally apply: 1) If the card the dealer shows is a 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King or Ace, then hit. 2) Otherwise, stay. Chances are the dealer will "bust."

Get the chair that lets you be dealt last. This gives you control over the next card the dealer will get. So if the dealer shows a 6, you can control his busting and prevent someone on the end hitting, taking the key face card.

Accessible Blackjack Games for the Blind

There are some accessible blackjack games that hyou can try your luck on.

Tiflo 21 is an accesible Windows version of the popular Blackjack card game. The game can be played either in the english or spanish language.

The game starts when the dealer gets two cards, one face up, one face down. You are dealt two cards face up. You can either stay or take more cards to try and get closer to 21 without busting. The dealer will turn up the down card when you've finished with your turn. By rule, on counts of 17 or higher the dealer must stay; on counts of 16 or lower the dealer must draw. If you make a total of 21 with the first two cards (a 10 or a face and an Ace), you win automatically, unless the dealer also has Blackjack, in which case it is a Tie. The first to reach five wins is the winner of Tiflo 21.

Click this link to download Tiflo 21.

Jim Kitchen has developed a package of casino games which has a black jack table a craps table, a 5 card draw poker machine, a slot machine and a roulette wheel table.

Click this link to visit Jim Kitchen's website to download his accessible casino program: http://www.kitchensinc.net.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Easy Outlook Express Repair

Easy Outlook Express Repair is a utility for restoring damaged folders in Outlook Express. If Outlook Express cannot find your messages in its folders, you can use Easy Outlook Express Repair to get your messages back as well as to recover the damaged Outlook Express folders.

If Outlook Express data files (dbx files) are somehow damaged and you cannot use Outlook Express to view the messages stored in its folders, Easy Outlook Express Repair will help you to extract messages from the damaged folders and save them to the disk. The saved messages can be viewed in Outlook Express and/or imported to any other mail client. Using the program does not require any special skills. You will recover your lost messages just in 2 steps. To recover messages from a damaged folder, you only need to specify the file to be recovered and the location on the disk to save the recovered messages and do not forget to press the "Start Recovery" button. Easy Outlook Express Repair will read the specified dbx file, extract messages from it and save them to the disk (in the Demo version only the last 10 messages are saved).

Easy Outlook Express Repair is an easy-to-use wizard having 2 pages. On the first wizard page the user should select an Outlook Express dbx file to be recovered.

On the second Easy Outlook Express Repair wizard page, you should specify the location to save the recovered messages to.

To start the process of recovering Outlook Express files, you should press the "Start Recovery" button. During the recovering process, the number of recovered messages, the number of saved message and the percentage of the overall progress in the recovering process is displayed in a special window.

When the recovering process is over, the folder with the saved recovered messages is opened in Windows Explorer. The messages will be saved to the disk as files with the eml extension.

Click this link to download Easy Outlook Express Repair: http://www.mail-repair.com.

This article courtesy of
http://www.ezhomerepairsite.com.

Keyboard Basics

The keyboard is the primary text input device of your computer. Learning to master its use should be one of your first priorities. There seems to be a lot to learn about the computer's keyboard, even if you were proficient on the earlier manual or electronic typewriter keyboards. The time (and practice) that you invest in mastering computer keyboard skills will be well worth your effort. Learning to use the unique keys and mastering the special functions of the computer keyboard can save you a lot of time. Make close friends with keys such as CTRL, ALT, Windows, TAB, and Shift. You'll be glad you did.

Although a computer keyboard is based on the old typewriter layout, there are some major differences in the ways that keys are used. Computer keyboards also have additional keys. Learning to use the unique keys and special functions of the computer keyboard can save you time and make you more comfortable with your computer.

  • Most computer keyboards have a row of Function keys at the top of the keyboard. These keys are marked F1 through F10 or F12. While they were widely used with older DOS programs, they are not as popular today. However many programs, including most of Microsoft's products, support use of the function keys. As a throwback to DOS days, you will find that the F1 key will often bring up a help menu. The function keys are frequently used in combination with other keys such as the CTRL key, the ALT key, and the Shift key. This results in a plethora of possible keyboard shortcuts. Look in the help menu of the program that you are using to find a list of the function keys and their uses.

  • Return or Enter Key, sometimes labeled with a large arrow, is used to enter commands or to move the cursor to the beginning of the next line. Also, in every dialog box or alert on both the PC and the Mac, there is a default button or box, which is recognizable by its bold or segmented outline. Pressing the Enter key will select that choice. (There is sometimes a second Enter key on the numeric keypad. This functions exactly like the larger Enter key near the alphabet keys.)

  • The Escape key, which is marked ESC on most keyboards, is basically used to exit or escape from programs and tasks. In many cases, it will have no effect at all. However, it can sometimes get you out of trouble by making the computer go back or escape to a previous screen.

  • The Ctrl key is used in conjunction with another key. Holding it down while pressing another key will initiate a certain action. Ctrl key combinations are defined by the application that is being used. Some, however, have become a standard that most programs follow. For instance in most Windows programs, Ctrl+S will save the current file or document, and Ctrl+P will print the current file or document. Macintosh keyboards have a Control key that is used only sparingly in Mac programs. It is included on the Mac keyboard basically for users who may run Windows and DOS-based programs on their Macs.

  • Like the Control Key, the Alt key is used in combination with other keys. In most Windows programs, each of the menu choices at the top of the screen has one letter underlined. Holding down the Alt key while pressing the key corresponding to the underlined letter will open the menu just as though you had clicked your mouse on that menu choice. For instance, if the menu shows the choice File, you can open that menu by clicking the mouse on the word File or by pressing the Alt key and the F key simultaneously.

  • On a Mac, the Command Key or Apple key, labeled with either the cloverleaf symbol, the Apple symbol, or both, is the equivalent of the PC user's Control Key. Again, certain key combinations are fairly universally accepted. For instance, Command-Q will quit a program, Command-W will close the current window, and Command-S will save the current file or document.

  • The Option Key (Mac only) is the Mac equivalent to the PC Alternate (Alt) key.

  • The Caps Lock key is a toggle key. Pressing it once turns it on. Pressing it again turns it off. Some computer keyboards have a light or indicator that shows when the Caps Lock is on and when it is off. When Caps Lock is on, every letter that is typed will be a capital letter. Unlike a typewriter, the Caps Lock key on a computer keyboard affects only letters. It has no effect on the number or symbol keys.

  • Many, but not all, computer keyboards have a numeric keypad usually located on the right side of the keyboard. This keypad has a group of number keys with additional markings like arrows, PgDn, End, etc. The numeric pad is controlled by a toggle key marked Num Lock. When the Num Lock key is on, this pad can be used to enter numbers. When the Num Lock key is off, the functions listed below the number will be activated. These functions usually include arrow keys that can be used to move the cursor around the screen. Likewise the keys marked PgUp and Pg Down will move the cursor a page up or down on the screen. The Home and End keys will move the cursor to the beginning or end of a line or document, respectively.

    Numeric keypads often include other keys as well. Many include useful symbols such as the period, slash, and plus and minus signs. The Macintosh keyboard includes a Clear key that can be used in many programs to clear or undo the last number that you typed. You may also find a helpful Help key on a Macintosh numeric keypad.

  • The Windows key can be found on some, but not all, keyboards that are used with Windows computers. The Windows key is marked with a small Microsoft Windows symbol and is usually found on the bottom row of the keyboard. There may be two Windows keys, one on each side of the space bar. Pressing the Windows key will bring up the Start menu. The Window key can also be used in combination with other keys for some very useful shortcuts. One of my favorites is to use the Windows key +D to minimize all the open windows and quickly return to the Windows desktop. Pressing Windows +D again will restore all windows to their previous location.

  • If you have a Windows key on your keyboard, you will also see a key with a design that looks like a list of words on a piece of paper, usually to the right of the space bar. This is called the application key. It is a shortcut for right clicking. It will display an item's shortcut menu.

  • The Backspace key will remove the character to the left of the cursor. The key is sometimes labeled with only a left-pointing arrow.

  • The Shift key in combination with an alphabetical key will type an upper case letter. The Shift key in combination with one of the number keys on the row above the letter keys or one of the symbol keys will type the symbol that is pictured on the upper part of the key. The Shift key can also be used in conjunction with other keys as a shortcut to a task or can be pressed at a certain time to perform a task. For instance, holding down the Shift key while inserting a CD-ROM will skip the auto-run process, allowing you to insert the CD without having it play automatically.

  • The Insert key is found only on PC keyboards. It is a toggle key that determines what happens when you type new characters within an existing line of text or numbers. When the Insert key is on, the new text that you type is inserted at the cursor location and the text already in place is moved to the right. When the Insert key is off, new text overwrites the text that is on the screen to the right of the cursor. There is usually no visual indication of whether the Insert key is on or off. People who use screen readers also use the Insert key in combination with other keys to perform screen reader specific functions.

  • The Tab key is used to move from field to field and is very useful when filling out forms. Pressing the Shift key and the Tab key simultaneously will usually tab you back to the previous field.

  • Whereas the Backspace key will remove the character to the left of the cursor, the Delete key will remove the key to the right of the cursor. The Delete key can also be used in Windows to remove a highlighted or chosen file or shortcut.

  • In the old DOS days, the Print Screen key on a PC keyboard performed just as you would expect. When the Print Screen key was pressed, a paper copy of whatever was on the screen was printed. Unfortunately in Windows the Print Screen key sends an image of the screen to the Windows Clipboard instead of the printer. In order to actually print the screen image, you must then paste that image in the Clipboard into a program, like a paint program, and print the screen from that program. (On some keyboards you have to hold down the Shift key while pressing the Print Screen key.)

  • The Pause/Break key was previously used in programming and debugging applications. In most current programs, it has no function.

  • Scroll Lock is a toggle key that changes the effect of the cursor movement keys. In most current programs the Scroll Lock key is disabled and pressing it has no effect. In programs that support this key, when the Scroll Lock key is on, pressing the arrow keys makes the display appear to scroll while the cursor stays in its original position. When the Scroll Lock key is off, the cursor moves as far as it can before the display starts scrolling.

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