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.

(See the end of this page for subscribing via email, RSS, browsing articles by subject, blog archive, APH resources, writing for Fred's Head, and disclaimers.)

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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

StrapTrap traps runaway bra straps

As a guy, I'm glad I don't have to mess around with a bra each morning. I don't see how you gals do it! How uncomfortable it must be.

Having a wife, and her having friends, I have come to understand two basic problems when wearing a bra.

  • You can't keep the straps up on your sholders.
  • The straps can be easily seen when wearing a top with a large neckline.

I know some women take safety pins and pinned the straps to the inside of their top, but that would seem to be a time-consuming project. To me, it would be hard to place the pins in just the right place so that the pins don't show. This would be even more difficult if you couldn't see what you were doing.

Some women move their straps closer to the ends of their sholders in order to hide the straps. That could cause all kinds of problems later on in the day. Talk about restrictive motion!

Well ladies, I have two products and a website you'll be interested in. The first is called StrapTraps. Described simply, a StrapTrap is: "A small fitment which is attached to [the] shoulder seam of a sleeveless blouse etc... into which a bra strap can be placed. The fitment stops the bra strap slipping in to view." They come in white or black, and are available in retail packs of six pairs as well as in multi packs. If you can sew on a button, you can sew on StrapTraps.

The other item is called Brabuddy. This is a simple clip that converts a regular bra into a crossback-style bra, by pulling the two straps together. Not only does it prevent the bra straps from falling off the shoulders, but it also allows the wearing of racerback tops without the bra straps showing. The maker also claims that it is cleavage enhancing.

The Brabuddy is available in packs of three, with one each of clear, white and black.

The LG Accessories website at http://www.strapmate.com offers a variety of products to help women hide their straps.

The Doorganizer

OK, so the name is a little corney but the product is cool.

How many times have you been ready to leave your home and realized that you had no idea where your cane was? You search frantically while your ride waits outside and right as the driver returns to the door to tell you that they're going to leave, you find it. Why put yourself through all that?

The Doorganizer is a hanging reminder and organizer for the doorknob. Ideal for keys, eyeglasses, cell phones, palm-held devices, music players, envelopes and yes, your cane can fit into the strip at the back!

  • Constructed of stitched heavyweight canvas-like fabric
  • Three open pockets and clip on the front; open loop strip on the back
  • Hang on the doorknob where you exit the house to hold often-forgotten essentials


Click this link to purchase The Doorganizer from The Container Store.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Weekly Script

Here's a great companion to any described movie. "Most all screenwriting experts agree on this piece of advice: "The best way to learn to write screenplays is to read screenplays." I have been collecting screenplays and scripts for over 25 years because I love movies. I wanted to make a site for movie lovers as well as screenwriters to come and read scripts in their proper formats. Because of this, you won't find any transcripts (well... maybe a couple) on this site." "Some of the scripts that you will find on this site can be found elsewhere on the Internet but they will be presented here in their proper formats. I have, if needed, reformatted these scripts using formatting software (Final Draft, Movie Magic, Sophocles, etc...) but punctuation, spelling and grammar are unchanged from the original."

The scripts are presented in text file (.TXT) format. This way they can be imported into almost any viewing or editing software.

Click this link to visit The Weekly Script website at http://www.weeklyscript.com.

GoodSearch for a Good Cause

GoodSearch is a search engine that's a bit different than all the other search engines we've been using for the past several years.

When you search the Internet with GoodSearch, you can help a charity. What a great concept! Every time you search for something online, GoodSearch will donate money to the charity of your choice. Click this link to check out goodsearch.com. Simply type in the name of the charity you want to help in the "Who do you GoodSearch for"? box. Then just click on the Verify button and you'll be all set to start searching.

After you're done with that, just go up to the Yahoo! search bar and type in something you would like to find. With every new search, $0.01 will be donated to your charity. That may not sound like a lot, but when you think about how many searches you usually do in one day, it equals out to a good amount. Plus, if you spread the word about this search engine to your friends and family, even more money will go to a good cause.

Of course, the charity you want to support has to be signed up with GoodSearch before anything will happen, so if you have one in mind, register them today! Either way you look at it, things don't get any better than this. Give it a try and do your part!

Skype and Your Home Phone

VoIP stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol, also known as Internet Telephony. If you have high-speed Internet (cable/DSL, LAN) on your computer, you can connect your phone to your computer and make calls. You must have a special adapter for this to work, you simply plug your phone line into the adapter instead of plugging it into the wall jack. The adapter is then plugged into your Internet modem, which allows VoIP to convert the voice signal from the phone line into data that travels over the Internet.

The cool thing is, you still use your phone the exact same way. You will hear a dial tone and you dial out just like normal. With VoIP, everything is combined into one function. Incoming calls will also ring just like normal.

The main reason you might decide to invest in this new technology is to save you money in the long run. VoIP services cost approximately $20 to $30 a month, plus you're not paying for a phone line and Internet connection separately anymore. The VoIP plans also include local and long distance calling, while some even provide international calling.

You may be wondering about sound quality. In most trials, it's excellent. Sound quality is determined by the reliability of your Internet connection. If you don't have problems with disconnections, this could be a good way to go. If you do have frequent stops or shut downs with your connection, VoIP may not be right for your home.

The quality also depends on what you're doing on your computer at the time a call comes through or when you're making a call. If you're downloading a huge file off the Internet or doing several things at once in different programs, you're going to get a "choppy" sound result.

Another thing to consider is that when you have a power outage, your phone won't work. If you're computer doesn't work, your phone won't either. If you have a cell phone to use as a backup, you shouldn't have any problem, but the power thing is definitely something to keep in mind. Also, VoIP services don't normally work for 911 emergency calls.

If you're interested in learning more about VoIP or getting the service hooked up, you can call your ISP and they can help you. You may be able to bundle your phone service with your current Internet service so you will save some money.

As you can see, VoIP has some pros and cons, but it's definitely something to consider as today's technology continues to expand.

Skype Calls with Your House Phone

One of the most popular applications in the VoIP world is Skype: http://www.skype.com. Skype allows you to make free computer to computer calls as well as free calls to any land-line phone in the United States and Canada. With the Skype-Certified VoIP Stick, you can connect your home phones to your computer and use Skype or your regular phone service to help save you money.

You don't need to upgrade all the phones in your house in order to take advantage of VoIP technology. Turn your existing phones into Internet phones with the Skype-Certified VoIP Stick, which blends VoIP access with your existing landline phone service to optimize your call options without changing normal calling habits.

The Skype-Certified VoIP Stick is a control switch that converts analog phones into VoIP phones without losing analog features. The software program runs on your PC and acts as a "decision engine" that can access either your VoIP provider or the landline, depending on your settings.

One of the major concerns with VoIP technology is the processing of emergency 911 calls. The Skype-Certified VoIP Stick provides you with landline access in the event of a 911 call, power outage, or service outage. The control switch defaults all calls to the landline during these events, ensuring the traditional access to 911 call centers.

Click this link to learn more or to purchase the Skype-Certified VoIP Stic from the Smarthome website.

NOTE: The included software may not be compatible with screen readers and screen magnification programs. Be aware of this before purchase and save purchase receipts in case of compatibility issues.

A much less-expensive route is the USB Skype Phone. It comes in black or white, features a bright LCD screen and keypad, is fully compatible with Skype functions such as Skype titles, dial, and contact lists. It even supports the Skype speed dial function.

Click this link to purchase the USB Skype Phone from the ThinkGeek website.

What? You don't like being tied to a cable, even if it's a USB cable? Well, click this link to check out the Skype Cordless Phone.

Super-Sized TV Remote

How many times have you lost the remote control to the TV? How long did it take you to find it again? Maybe you're one of the lucky ones with a built-in beeper that helps you find it when it falls inside the recliner.

How would you like to have a remote that you're sure not to lose? A remote that is accessible to everyone in your family? Brookstone may have the answer with their Super-Sized TV Remote.

With giant buttons, this extra-large remote is easy to use and impossible to lose. Simple to program, this 6-in-1 remote controls your TV, VCR, DVD player, satellite, cable and auxiliary A/V device. It even features glow-in-the-dark buttons, so you can easily find the remote in the dark. Features 296 codes for most popular brands of A/V devices. Uses two AA batteries (not included).

Click this link to order the Super-Sized TV Remote from Brookstone.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Alphabet Annie Knows Her Braille

Doll collectors be on the lookout, we've got a star on our hands!

Alphabet Annie features Braille letters and numbers with the regular alphabet and Arabic numbers on her sweater. This interactive doll is the first of its kind to use Braille so children | who are blind or have low vision can play with it the way that other kidscan. Alphabet Annie is on ``back order status at J. C. Penney annie is also becoming harder to | find, if not already sold out, at Wal-Mart Stores nationwide. For a new toy, especially one made by a privately held company without a | multimillion-dollar advertising budget, that spells success -- in any alphabet.

The public's response to Alphabet Annie shows the demand for cool toys, available from mainstream retailers, for children who are blind, have low vision | or other special needs, such as cerebral palsy or problems with coordination.

In fact, the need is so great that the Toy Industry Foundation and the American Foundation for the Blind, publish the annual ``Guide to Toys for | Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired'' and distribute it for free. To get a copy, click this link to visit http://www.afb.org. Click this link to visit the Toy Manufacturers Association website to read it online: http://www.toy-tia.org.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Rifftrax: Adding New Audio to Old Movies

Imagine this lonely scenario: There's nothing on TV, you've listened to every XM station you can think of and Sirius isn't being too serious when it comes to entertainment. All you have is a drawer full of old DVS movies, many of which you are embarrassed to even own. Fear not! It's time to take that dusty, non-described Top Gun DVD out of the closet! Just pop in the DVD and download a hilarious MP3 of accompanying commentary from Michael J. Nelson, head writer and star of the cult classic Mystery Science Theater 3000 from http://www.rifftrax.com.

Do you feel that some of the movies coming out of Hollywood are just, well, missing something? At RiffTrax, you can download Mike's running commentaries and listen to them along with your favorite, and not so favorite DVDs. It's like watching a movie with your funniest friend, and it's easy to do.

You can listen to RiffTrax on an MP3 Player with only one headphone in, or play them on your computer with your choice of audio software, or burn them to a CD and play that at the same time as the DVD. An iPod docking station would also work. Balancing the sound is not terribly difficult, and most folks have had very little problem keeping the tracks in sync. I encourage you to experiment with and adapt the experience to your specific tastes and needs.

Don't just sit back and take whatever Hollywood throws at you. Transform the DVD experience with http://www.rifftrax.com.

Ten Ways to Use Soap Pieces

Everyone has soap leftover at the end of a bar. Often they are tiny slivers, still more often than not they are pieces or chunks that are too small to use properly. So what do you do when you have the last few slivers of soap left and you really don't want to waste them? Here are ten great uses for soap leftovers.

  1. You can place them into a pot on the stove with some water. Either shave them or drop them by chunks. You can use different colors and scents to create a whole new bar of soap. Melt the pieces stirring often and pour into a muffin pan to mold.
  2. Cut a slice into a sponge and you can put some of the soap slivers into the slot you created. You now have an already soaped body scrubber. You can purchase these at the stores for around $5 and think, you just made one for less than half the cost!
  3. If the soap slivers are scented, you can put them in bowls with potpourri for a nicely scented room. They work well in the bathroom because of the small size.
  4. Create sachets with scented soap bits and shavings to scent drawers, closets and anywhere else (including the car) that might need a fresh pick up.
  5. Keep small bits to rub on sticky zippers to help them slide easier.
  6. Great for advertising a car for sale or something else. The soap goes on, but the next rain it comes right off. Recommended only on windows, as there is no telling how harsh it might be on the paint of the car.
  7. You can sprinkle some soap shavings into running bathwater for a nice relaxing bath.
  8. Sprinkle some soap shavings in a bucket or bowl, add hot water and swirl around. You now have a terrific cleaning solution for cleaning surfaces, toys, kitchen items and even clothing. Also a great idea for craft clean up. Gentle on hairbrushes too!
  9. You can soak several chunks in hot water to soften them and then press them into molds, cookie cutters or whatever to create tiny bath soaps for the bathroom.
  10. You can rub soap shavings on anything that is sticky and needs to loosen a bit. Works well on door hinges to stop the squeak. You can use them on sticky sliding glass doors or closets by dropping shavings down into the cracks or rubbing a bar or chunk along the runner.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

BBC OUCH!

Ouch is a website from the BBC. Its aim is to reflect the lives of disabled people right here and now in the third millennium.

It's not a help and support site. If we were to give it a label, it would probably be closest to lifestyle. They pride themselves on not being a resource for useful information, though I'm sure you'll find most things you're looking for here. There are many help and support sites out there that do a fantastic job, so the folks in the BBC Learning and Interactive department felt it would be good to do something completely different. OUCH! is about personal stuff, minutiae of everyday life and that fantastic dark sense of humour and inevitable cynicism that we disabled people tend to have. Oh, and they don't shy away from subjects that other people might be a bit wary of.

Now, you may be curious about the name. The site's editor, Damon Rose , came up with the name Ouch! one morning in the shower. He says: "It reflects everything, perhaps from that pain of first becoming disabled right through to the looks you get on the street. Disability matters = Ouch. People see disability as a minefield or a problem, but we know it's not - so there's a bit more Ouch for you."

Click this link to visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/ouch/.

Paul Crichton has written the latest blog for BBC Ouch! Access 2.0. "The point of this blog is to look at all the things happening on the web now and in the future; the good, the bad and the ownright fugly. But we'll be looking at it from the point of view of inclusivity. En route, we'll be looking at real disabled people, how they use the net, how they want to use the net, and throwing in things that fascinate and interest us."

Click this link to visit Access 2.0 at http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/access20/.

Protect the People You Love with MedicAlert

Have you ever considered what might happen if your child had a medical emergency and you weren't around? What if your child couldn't speak due to a disability or because he was unconscious, how could he get help?

Any chronic or persistent condition warrants a MedicAlert necklace or bracelet. The emblems are easily recognizable by medical personnel, and simple to use. When your child becomes a MedicAlert member, he or she gets an identifying number. By calling the clearly engraved 1-800 number and giving your child's identifying number on the back of the emblem, professionals at the scene of an emergency can find out your child's pertinent medical information-like current medications and dosages, allergies, chronic conditions, disorders, and other issues. And it's very easy to update the information when it changes. MedicAlert has your contact information and will immediately notify you in the event of an emergency involving your child. If they can't reach you, they will attempt to reach relatives or friends on a list which you have provided.

MedicAlert tags can be ordered with decorative sports bands in a variety of fun patterns, or on a bracelet with beads (lots of styles and colors to choose from), as a shoe band, or other options. Emblems come in gold, silver, bronze, and other styles. The old-standard metal necklace is still available, but your child might be more inclined to wear a MedicAlert emblem in a fun, stylish new way.

MedicAlert has been in business for 50 years, and has saved numerous lives. Get your child his own special emblem today, and you'll have peace of mind.

To contact MedicAlert, take a look at their website: http://www.medicalert.org/kidsmart Or, call 888-904-7630. MedicAlert is great for the senior members of your family as well.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Exubera: An Alternative to Needles

The alternative is an inhaled insulin device called Exubera, made by Pfizer and approved by the Food and Drug Administration earlier this year. A small blister pack of fine-powder insulin is inserted into the tube. The patient inhales it deeply into the lungs three times a day before meals.

Patients have to take a pulmonary function test to make sure they can take the drug this way, and those who smoke or have asthma or lung disease may not qualify. However, for those patients who are fearful or tired of injections like Sickler, it's a great invention.

For more information about Exubera and on-going studies involving inhaled insulin, contact the Diabetes & Glandular Disease Clinic in San Antonio at (210) 615-5555. You can click this link to visit their website at http://www.dgdclinic.com.
Click this link to visit the Exubera website at http://www.exubera.com.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The KidsKnowIt Network

From its humble beginnings as an elementary teacher's classroom website, on through the present, the KidsKnowIt Network has always had one goal, and that is to make learning free. Founded in 1998 in order to provide his student's with a fun and educational way to spend their free time, educator Hiram Bertoch's classroom project has grown into a worldwide platform attracting several million visitors every month.

Mr. Bertoch and others remain dedicated to the project, donating thousands of hours every year in order to continue to develop fun, and age appropriate learning opportunities for children everywhere.

Every website developed is pain stakingly researched for accuracy, and appropriateness. This process begins with the planning and development of materials, activities, and articles by parents and educators, and ends with the final editing and approval of experts in the field being explored.

Click any of the following links to begin exploring your world!

The main website for the KidsKnowIt Network is http://www.KidsKnowIt.com.

The KidsKnowIt Network
6057 West 3500 South
West Valley City, Utah 84128

NOTE: Some sections of these websites may not be compatible with all screen reading and screen magnification technology.

The Piano Boutique

I am always looking for businesses owned by blind or visually impaired people. I also love piano music. Not necessarily the classics, but modern songs that highlight the sounds of a piano are wonderful. I wish I knew how to play. How cool would that be? To sit down in front of a grand piano and play like a pro. I guess I'll just have to settle for a toy piano or music box from the Piano Boutique instead.

William Benjamin, "piano tuner extraordinaire" welcomes you to this site. For those of you that love music, there will be something that will catch your eye. Just look at the links on the site and feel free to have something that reminds you of music.

The Piano Boutique sells: Ceramic Mugs, Kitchen Accessories, Apparel, Music Boxes, Crystal, Gold Jewelry, Silver Jewelry, Sun Catchers, Bathroom Accessories, Key Chains, and Toy Pianos all with a musical theme. How would you like to have a set of matching towels, wash cloths and shower kertains with musical notes on them? You could, and the Piano Boutique is the first place to look!

The Piano Boutique is an authorized dealer for Hallet & Davis Pianos. These pianos are of the highest quality and can be delivered to your door. In certain cases William will deliver the piano personally. People have been ordering pianos for more than a century and with the advent of the web, choices and prices are better than ever.

Though coasters for the piano have been available for years, now we offer clear caster cups. These pieces let the floor show through but offer strong support for the instrument. They also save floor coverings.

You can count on the Piano Boutique to have the thickest and most fluffy bench covers. All royalty deserves their throne and you do too. They will make you sit taller and play better.

Piano Boutique
2625 Mahan Drive
Tallahassee, FL 32308
Phone: 850-297-1861
Web: http://pianoboutique.biz

Are you blind or visually impaired and own your own business? Click this link and tell us about it and we'll add it to the Fred's Head Database!

CinemaAudio Productions

Jeff Willoughby and Rebecca Lynn think they have a better way to tell stories. Their products from CinemaAudio Productions are billed "the next step in the evolution of the audio book," and are called a "mind-movie," "movies for the blind," and even a savvy, smart, contemporary take on old-time radio plays.

What is a CinemaAudio Production? Take all of the elements of a film; actors and actresses in character, sound effects and music, take away the picture and add a narrator to describe the action and you've got a CinemaAudio Production.

CinemaAudio Productions' motto, "every voice should be heard," translates into their searching for undiscovered talent of every type. Their productions feature local musicians, writers, web designers, actors and many others. And it's a never-ending supply of talent.

For more information about CinemaAudio Productions, visit them on the web at http://www.cinema-audio.com.

CinemaAudio Productions
P.O. Box 325
Danville PA 17821
Toll Free: 866-836-0804
Web: http://www.cinema-audio.com

BookMooch: A Community for Exchanging Used Books

if you're passionate about books, you know how emotionally difficult it is to throw a book away, even if you will never read it again. You want to find a good home for your books, have them find someone who appreciates them. Also, you may be interested in trying some books, but keeping only the ones you like.

BookMooch lets you give away books you no longer need in exchange for books you really want. Check out these features:

  • Every time you give someone a book, you earn a point and can get any book you want from anyone else at BookMooch. Once you've read a book, you can keep it forever or put it back into BookMooch for someone else, as you wish.
  • There is no cost to join or use the site: your only cost is mailing your books to others.
  • You'll receive a tenth-of-a-point for every book you type into the system, and one point each time you give a book away. In order to keep receiving books, you need to give away at least one book for every five you receive.
  • You can request books from other countries, in other languages. You receive 3 points when you send a book out of your country, to help compensate you for the greater mailing cost, but it only costs the moocher 2 points to get the book.
  • You can keep a "book wish list" that will automatically arrive to you when you have the points and/or the book becomes available in the catalog.
  • Each time you receive a book, you can leave feedback with the sender, just like eBay. If you keep your feedback score up, people are most likely to help you out when you ask for a book.
Click this link to visit http://bookmooch.com.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Accessible Games for People with Low Vision

We've talked about accessible games for the blind in several posts. What makes an accessible game? Do you remember the low-resolution graphic games of DOS? Do you remember when you could actually see the enemy blob that you were about to blast to dust? What if there was a way to get those old games to play again? Imagine the fun you'd have reliving the days of those classic games!

Here's a guide that will show you how to get your old DOS/3.1/Win95 games working on your newer Win2000/XP machine and how to 'emulate' them if needed. It also shows you where you can find and download your favourite old games legally, for free.

Click this link to read the guide Free Old Games for Your New PC.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Assistive Technology WIKI

The Georgia Tech Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access (CATEA) - caretakers of the National Public website of Assistive Technology has put up a Wiki devoted to all things Adaptive, Assistive and otherwise having to do with Access Technology!

Articles contributed to this site will be viewable from the assistivetech.net website and also published as RSS feeds on catea.org.

The intended audience of ATWiki includes all assistive technology users, relatives and caregivers of those that use assistive technology, rehabilitation professionals, educators, and researchers in assistive technology.

Click this link to visit This Day in AT History on ATWIKI.

How to Turn Off Hyperlinks in MS-Word

Have you ever been frustrated with MS Word while putting together a document that contains e-mail or Web site addresses? As you navigate the document your screen reader keeps saying "hyperlink" before each email or website address. This can really get annoying!. It's not any better if you can see the screen because Word changes the color of the hyperlinked text and underlines it too. If you're creating a document to be printed, this probably isn't exactly what you're looking for because Word will print the text in a color other than black. If you happen to have a black and white only printer, the text won't show up at all. What can you do?

Here's the deal. That wonderful little feature known as "AutoCorrect" has some options for items that Word can "AutoFormat as you type." The result of one of them is that your addresses are automatically turned into hyperlinks. That's a good thing if you need them as hyperlinks, but a bad thing if you don't.

So, to turn off the feature that automatically makes these changes, just follow these simple steps:

  1. Go to the Tools menu, AutoCorrect choice.
  2. On the AutoFormat As You Type tab, you're looking to deselect the "Internet and network paths with hyperlinks" option.
  3. Click OK.

Now, when you type an e-mail or a Web site address, it will stay as normal text (no underline or color change). Yeah!

However, you also may notice that any hyperlinks you've previously created are not affected. They stay the same, thanks MS-Word! Don't worry, all you need to do is remove the hyperlink that's associated with the text. You can do this in several different ways.

In Word 97, one way is to right click on the hyperlink and choose Edit Hyperlink from the Hyperlink submenu.

Another way is to place the cursor in or highlight the hyperlink and go to the Insert menu, Hyperlink choice.

And yet another way is to place the cursor in or highlight the hyperlink and use the key combination of Ctrl + K.

Either way, you get there and the Edit Hyperlink window will open.

You're looking for the Remove Link button in the bottom left corner. Click it.

If you're using a newer version of Word, you can simply right click on the hyperlink and choose Remove Hyperlink from the menu. (You can also go the long route and use the Insert menu or Ctrl + K option, but why bother?!)

No matter what version or which method you use, you're returned to your document where you'll happily discover that the text is back to normal. No links here!

Some of you may be thinking "That's fine and dandy, but what about when I really do want a hyperlink? What then"?

Just highlight the text to be linked and go to the Insert menu, Hyperlink choice. (You could avoid the menu by using the Ctrl + K option).

Now, simply enter the site address in the top field and click OK. (If you want it to be an e-mail address link, just use "mailto:" followed by the e-mail address).

The link will be created without all the hassle of turning the AutoCorrect feature on / off / on / off!

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Keyboard Lover's Guide to Internet Explorer

Many are content to spend all day clicking fancy looking buttons or menu items in order to get their tasks accomplished, but those who know the correct keyboard and mouse shortcuts can often get around applications more efficiently: Browsing the web with Internet Explorer is no exception.

The IEBlog has a great post of useful shortcuts already available in IE6 that will help you get around the web. The post also lists some great shortcuts for IE7.

Click this link to read The Keyboard Lover's Guide to IE from the IEBlog.

Keyboard Guides for Internet Explorer 7.0

I thought I would post to links of keyboard changes to Internet Explorer. They come from the Internet Explorer Blog. The first is a post from Kelly Ford on keyboard changes from Beta 3 of IE7. The second is the Keyboard Lover's Guide to IE7.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Rain Report for Hams

"From his home studio/ham shack in suburban Chicago, Hap Holly, KC9RP, produces this 10 to 15- minute weekly amateur radio program service, featuring timely interviews, occasional thought-provoking commentaries from other hams, excerpts from Hamvention Forums and other items of general interest to the ham radio community at large. Ham radio is traditionally an aural - as opposed to a visual - medium; we meet and recognize fellow hams primarily by voice, seldom seeing them in person. RAIN programming is also an aural medium, listened to by thousands of Internet users and hundreds of repeaters across the country at http://www.therainreport.com, as well as via the RAIN telephone dial-up line 847-827-rain. Vern Jackson, WA0RCR, has carried the RAIN Report since its inception in the late 1980's on his 160 meter Gateway Radio Newsletter AM bulletin service from Wentzville, Missouri, on 1.860 Mhz, Saturday afternoon/evenings. Those aforementioned repeater groups and others replay the weekly RAIN program over their local repeater systems on their regular "net night" gatherings, permitting thousands of hams to hear Hap's offerings for that particular week. It's all done with volunteer help and - in the best of amateur traditions - without profit to anyone involved."

Click this link to visit the Rain Report website: http://www.therainreport.com.

The American Council of the Blind has an email list for HAM operators to discuss accessibility and other issues. Click this link to subscribe to the ACB Radio Amateurs email list.

Email List for Blind Entrepreneurs

HOME-WORKERS was created to promote discussion between those who already have, or who may be interested in, starting a small business. The focus of HOME-WORKERS will include, but not be limited to, issues pertaining to small business entrepreneurship by the blind and disabled, so any equipment, resources, business ideas, etc. which assist the blind or disabled entrepreneur will be entertained on HOME-WORKERS. To subscribe send a message with a blank subject to:

listserv@softcon.com

In the body of the message type, "subscribe home-workers Firstname Lastname".

Teaching With A Disability Email List

DATEACH is a discussion group for teachers with disabilities. The purpose of the discussion is: to share information about problems and solutions regarding teaching with a disability, give and receive support, and to provide some guidance for disabled persons who wish to pursue a teaching career. To subscribe send a message with a blank subject to:

listserv@listserv.montana.edu

In the body of the message type, "subscribe dateach Firstname Lastname".

How to Play Blink

No, I'm not talking about a bunch of sighted people pretending to be blind, I'm talking about a great card game for children.

Blink is a great two-player game that can help teach children (with enough vision) about shapes, colors and how to count.

There are four colors of cards with different amounts and types of shapes on the cards. Each player starts with half of the cards in a pile in front of them and two cards lying face up in the middle. Then each player picks up three cards to hold in their hand. Players try to get rid of the cards in their hand by matching either the shape, color, or number of shapes to the top card in the piles. The game goes quick because if any part of the card matches one in the pile you can lay it down.

The object of the game is to get rid of your cards as fast as you can. If younger children are playing the pace of the game will need to be slowed down so they have time to match the cards. Younger children usually rely on the shapes and colors since counting the shapes is more difficult. But the game is still fun for them as well.

Please, No Tech Talk, Just Help Me!

Computers. What can you say about them? We all have one and are still trying to figure out how to use it. The more you learn, the more there is to learn!

It's difficult to find a source of information about the computer that doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand what the information is actually trying to tell you. You know what happens when you try to ask a question of that know-it-all computer friend of yours, you ask, he/she responds, and you're lost with all their tech talk. There should be a place where you can go to browse accessible articles at your own pace and actually learn something about this thing that the world says we can't live without.

There is and it's a website called The PC Guide. This is a comprehensive guide of detailed PC reference information that includes buyers guides, system management, troubleshooting, and repair guides. It's a great resource and it's available 24 hours a day!

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

Clear Type for Windows

Do you ever find that the characters on your screen are difficult to read. They are either not dark enough or a little fuzzy? Is there anything you can do?

Indeed there is. There is a very simple process you can undertake so that the fonts on your screen are readable. And the best part? The price is free!

Browse over to the Microsoft web site and click on the ClearType Tuner PowerToy download.

Once it has downloaded, click on Setup and let Windows install it automatically for you.

Check the "Launch the program" box before you close the installation program.

When the program opens, you will notice there are two tabs at the top: Introduction and Advanced. We will stick with Introduction here and return to Advanced at the end of the article.

The first thing to do is make sure the box Turn on Clear Type is selected.

Then click on Start Wizard to walk you through the rest of the process.

Have a look at the two samples displayed there and click on the one that looks the nicest to you and then click Next.

You can fine tune your option a little more with the next screen where you have six choices. Again, choose the one you like best and click Next.

Now you will see the final result previewed for you. If you like it, click Finish. If you don't, click Back and select another option from the previous screen.

Now, I did mention the Advanced tab on the earlier screen. You might want to look at this if you are still not happy with your finished results. This enables you to accomplish some even finer fine tuning.

You will see four optionsyou may like to take and those are:

  • Enable Font Smoothing - Use this to get rid of the jagged edges on fonts.
  • Apply all the settings to the defaults for new users or a new system - In other words, do you want to keep these changes for everyone who uses the computer and for any messages that Windows gives you?
  • Set Sample Font - Maybe the font that has been used to show you the options is not the one you regularly use. Well, you can change it here (click on the button to get the font selection) and select what you like.
  • Clear Type Contrast Settings - Anything you want between dark and light can be set here. Work your way to the "perfect" display for yourself.

Protect Your Identity While Surfing the Web

Whenever you visit a Web site, information about you and your computer is often released to the owners of that site. This information might contain your IP address, your geographic location, e-mail address, the ISP you are using, etc. This information may be used for marketing purposes, logging users (usually to protect against hackers) and possibly for spamming. With the increasing amount of businesses and the government tracking Internet users, many have turned to totally hiding their identity while online.

One of the steps you can take to protect your online privacy is to use Proxify, which can be found at http://proxify.com.

Proxify uses a proxy, which is a server that sits between a client computer and the actual server to hide the identity of the client computer, which in turn, hides your identity. Proxify can even hide your computer's IP address, so you are always surfing the Web anonymously. All you have to do is type in the address of the Web site that you wish to visit and Proxify will hide your computer's identity.

If you want more features, such as blocking advertising, protecting your operating system and Internet browser information, you can subscribe to their premium service. Just remember, when you surf anonymously, you are not only protecting your personal and computer information, but you are also preventing spam and possible scams from coming your way!

Click this link to visit the Proxify website at http://proxify.com.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Share Your Music with TuneFeed

Australian photo sharing site Faces.com has a service called TuneFeed, that makes it easy for anyone to upload a few tracks from their personal collection of MP3s and share them via an online player. The beauty of this process is the sheer simplicity in uploading and sharing files. You can upload a handful of tracks or your entire music library. Sort tracks into playlists based on whatever your mood happens to be and post the playlists to MySpace, a blog, or any personal Web page.

Ideally the company would love for you to send people to your Faces.com account, but there's nothing forcing you to stay in their universe. All file hosting is handled by TuneFeed meaning you never need to worry about running out of bandwidth. A future method for purchasing tracks you find in other people's playlists is promised and a revenue split for making the introduction to other listeners might be in the works as well.

All TuneFeeds are fully RSS enabled, so listeners can subscribe to your own personal online "radio station" and automatically hear your latest music as you upload it!

To share your music, you must first upload some songs in MP3 format to your Locker. Your Locker is a secure online storage area for your photos and music. Once your songs are in your Locker, you can add them to TuneFeeds for sharing.

The only catch here is a monthly upload limit for free accounts - a healthy 500MB of storage and 10GB of data transfer is available for free. The company claims this is 100% legal, presumably because they are paying royalties to the record companies who own rights to the music, although I couldn't find the fine print that spells out how they are doing this. One thing's for sure, there's no way to download the MP3s so you're in good shape for sharing.

Click this link to start sharing your music with TuneFeed: http://www.tunefeed.com.

How to Choose Flattering Eyeglasses

Lloyd Boston, chief style officer for LensCrafters helps you pick out the perfect pair of frames for your face.

  • Pick a frame that off-sets the shape of your face; if you have a square-ish face, soften it with round or oval frames. For a round face, lengthen it with rectangular frames.

  • Keep the frames in proportion to your face: your frames should never extend beyond your eyebrows or touch your cheeks. Plus, you don't want your glasses to take up more than one-third of your face.

  • If your skintone is warm, try a gold or coral frame. For a cool skintone, go for black or blue-gray tone. (A quick way to figure out if you have a warm or a cool skin tone is to have someone look at the veins in your arm. If they look blue, chances are you are a cool; if they have more of a greenish tint, you're probably a warm).

Monday, October 09, 2006

PC Audio and Video Answers

Jake Ludington has compiled the most common questions on PC audio and video problems into a 200-page downloadable PDF collection. If you have a PC-Related audio or video frustration, chances are there's a solution in these pages that will point you in the right direction.

From finding the right codecs, to finding the right settings for converting between file types, this guide steps you through solutions to dozens of audio and video problems. The table of contents and Adobe Reader Bookmarks provide helpful navigation for searching on your computer, or you can print out the entire guide to step through problems. The questions and subsequent answers fill 200 pages with a painkiller for your audio and video headaches.

Click this link to download Audio and Video Answers.

GotVoice Helps You Manage Your Voicemail Messages

GotVoice is a service for capturing voicemail messages from your telephone provider's messaging system, and making them available as handy mp3s. It means no more punching keypads to get to that vital message you saved two weeks ago, and always having a web accessible method for listening, trashing, and saving voicemail messages.

GotVoice offers a free package with basic functionality. It will automatically sync with the voicemail system a maximum of three times a day, and allows for the automatic deletion of old messages once a week. That's perfect functionality for simply using their service as a voicemail archive. The free versions are heavily supported by advertising, but that's par for the course when discussing great online services that are free to use.

The initial setup is very straightforward. GotVoice only needs a phone number and the appropriate PIN to access your voice mailboxes. GotVoice supports many of the most popular phone service providers whether the number is a cell phone, a landline voicemail service, or a VOIP provider; but they don't yet support all of them.

GotVoice was designed to work with automated Telco systems and can check your home voicemail, but only if you're using the services provided by your telephone provider. If you're using an external answering machine then GotVoice won't be able to check your messages.

There are four ways to check your messages with GotVoice. Their website has an interface for manually retrieving messages, and a flash based player for listening and downloading. All accounts have access to the web interface, and a great complement to the website is a handy Windows utility that runs in the system tray. The GotVoice Message Center can also be used to manually check for messages, jump straight to the account pages, and retrieve all the saved messages. If you really need to have your voicemail checked more than three times a day on the free account this is the easiest manual way.

The subscription plans offer notification emails with the messages attached as heavily compressed mp3s. The file sizes are small and the audio quality is definitely good enough. The top tier of service offers a personalized RSS and podcast feed of all your messages.

There are no limits on the number of messages, and no limits on the total recorded time. That may change at some distant point in the future.

If you're an always on the go worker bee having to juggle multiple voicemail systems, then this service will be great. Give the free account a shot to test it out for yourself.

Click this link to visit http://gotvoice.com.

Personalize Cell Phone Greetings with YouMail

YouMail is a voice mail system for cell phones. Among many features, it allows you to record unique voice greetings for anyone who calls you, based on their caller ID. Individualize your voice greetings for friends, family or important callers while maintaining a standard greeting for work and unknown callers.

Check your voice messages from any phone or via the web and forward favorite messages to anyone via email. Have fun with the already infamous DITCHMAIL feature that hangs up on unwanted callers after your custom greeting for them is played.

YouMail works with your existing phone and carrier and is easy to try without risk. YouMail is free for users who sign up now while there are still beta accounts available and easy to change back and forth between your current voice mail and YouMail.

YouMail is compatible with the following phone services:

  • Verizon Wireless
  • Cingular Wireless
  • T-Mobile


NOTE: Some features may require sighted assistance. The service is in beta so please report any accessibility issues.

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

The musical Mouse Pad

For most totally blind computer users, the mouse pad is just something that sits on their desk taking up space. If you use a screen reader to access Windows you don't really have a use for the old mouse and certainly not the mouse pad.

Well if you're into audio and recording things with your computer, I'm about to change your mind about the good old mouse pad, this one really can be a benefit to any computer user.

One of the most annoying things to do around the computer is to try to find those small audio jacks on the back of the computer's case. (I know, some computers have audio jacks on the front panel, but many don't). The Musical Mouse Pad solves this problem by adding jacks to the mouse pad. Think of it! Your audio jacks are always next to the keyboard. Check out these features:

  • USB Connector (4 Port), for video, MP3 and other USB digital equipment
  • Internal stereo speaker for listening to music and chatting
  • Internal microphone for direct talk
  • Connector for headset and audio output
  • Microphone Connector for Output
  • Mini LED Indicator

What more could you want from a mouse pad?

Click this link to purchase the Music Mouse Pad from The Gadget Box.

How to Play Bridge

Contract or rubber bridge is a partnership bidding game emphasizing communication between two sets of two partners. The object of the game is to win the largest number of tricks.

Setting Up



  1. Agree upon partnerships. Designate the scorer.

  2. Draw a cross in the middle of a piece of paper, and write the words "we" and "they" on either side of the cross at the top of the page.

  3. Seat partners at the table opposite from each other. North and South are partners versus East and West.

South deals first and East cuts the cards.

Playing the Game



  1. Shuffle and deal in a clockwise direction a standard deck of 52 playing cards, starting with the person to the dealer's left, until each partner has 13 cards.

  2. Sort your cards into suits.

  3. Evaluate your cards. Determine if you have a good or bad hand (see "How to Bid in Bridge" below).

  4. Bid on your hand. The dealer is the first to bid, with bidding continuing in a clockwise rotation.

  5. Determine the declarer.

  6. Lay down all your cards face-up on the table arranged in suits with the trump suit on the right if you're the declarer's partner. Make no further play of any kind during that round and allow the declarer to play the hand.

  7. Lay one card on the table if you're the person to the left of the declarer. Play the next card from the dummy hand, and allow each partner to lay one card on the table.

  8. Pick up the trick if you're the winner.

  9. Continue in this fashion until all 13 tricks have been played.


Scoring

  1. Score 20 points below the line, if you're the declarer, for each trick bid and made above book in clubs and diamonds.

  2. Score 30 points below, if you're the declarer, for each trick bid and made above book in spades and hearts.

  3. Score 40 points below, if you're the declarer, for the first trick bid and made above book in notrump. Score 30 points for every notrump trick bid and made after that.

  4. Score 20 for each unmade trick in clubs and diamonds, 30 for each unmade trick in spades, hearts or second notrump, or 40 points each first unmade notrump for your opponent below the line if you did not make your bid contract.

  5. Score 700 points above the line if you and your partner won the first two out of three games.

  6. Score 500 points above the line if you and your partner won two out of three games.

  7. Score 500 points above the line if you made a small slam while not vulnerable.

  8. Score 750 points above the line if you made a small slam while vulnerable.

  9. Score 1,000 points above the line if you made a grand slam while not vulnerable.

  10. Score 1,500 points above the line if you made a grand slam while vulnerable.

A game is made when one side scores 100 points.

Points scored above the line don't count for the game.

How to Bid in Bridge

The purpose of the opening bid is to describe the contents of your hand to your partner.

  1. Set your hand. Organize your hand by suit, with the ace of each suit as the highest card and the two as the lowest.

  2. Count the points in your hand. (See below.)

  3. Determine whether you have a No Trump hand.

  4. Look for your longest suit. Make sure it is at least five cards in length.

  5. Bid in the first round if you have 13 to 21 points in your hand.

  6. Open with one of your major suits if it's five cards in length.

  7. Bid one of your major suits if you hold a major and a minor each five cards in length.

  8. Bid one spade if you hold two five-card majors.

  9. Bid two of your major suit if you have 22 or more points and it's at least five cards in length.

  10. Bid pre-emptively at the three level if you hold less than 13 points and are long in one suit, but have few high-card points.

  11. Bid no trump if the suit distribution of your hand warrants it. Note that you should not have a five-card run of any suit.

  12. Bid one No Trump if you have 16 to 18 points in high cards only.

  13. Bid two No Trump if you have 22 to 24 points in high-card points.

  14. Bid three No Trump if you have 25 to 27 points in high-card points.

  15. Have at least 33 points between you and your partner to bid a small slam (12 tricks).

  16. Have at least 37 points between you and your partner to bid a grand slam (13 points).

Suits are ranked from highest to lowest as No Trump, Spades, Hearts, Diamonds and Clubs. Spades and Hearts are major suits; Diamonds and Clubs, minor suits.

In high-card points, each ace is worth four points; each king, three points; each queen, two points; and each jack, one point. In distribution points, each void is worth three points; each singleton, two points; and each doubleton, one point.

Pre-emptive bidding is used to disrupt the oppositions bidding dialogue.

Game bids are bids of three No Trump (9 tricks), four Hearts (10 tricks), four Spades (10 tricks), five Clubs (11 tricks) and five Diamonds (11 tricks).

Your partner will take these opening bids into account when bidding on his or her own hand. Your partner is bidding for the two of you using the information you supplied in your opening bid.

For lots of tips on playing bridge, click this link to visit Karen's Bridge Library: http://www.prairienet.org/bridge/.

Accessible Computer Bridge

By The Clan Hopewell

Introduction

This document describes how I use the program Bridge Baron with the WindowEyes screen reader or the JAWS screen reader to play the card game bridge against my computer. It includes links to download the relevant WindowEyes or JAWS screen reader support, and to download MP3 sound files containing demonstrations of Bridge Baron running with JAWS or WindowEyes.

Overview of bridge

I have recently taken up the popular card game bridge after an absence of some 30 years. I play in a bridge group with sighted people using Braille cards. As a blind person this is quite challenging as I have to remember the cards in my hand and the cards in the dummy hand in addition to the bidding and the card play which everyone has to remember. I thus needed to enlist my computer to hone my skills in amore relaxed environment.

Bridge is one of the most enduring and popular games in the world. The normal game requires four players in two partnerships North-South and East-West. A full deck of cards is shuffled and each player is dealt thirteen cards. Card play is the same as whist, you have to follow suit if you can and the highest value card wins the trick. If you cannot follow suit you can take the trick with a card from the suit designated as trumps. Ace is the highest value card followed by King, Queen, Jack and then the numbered cards in descending sequence. Before card play you have the auction. Players bid in turn for the contract, that is how many tricks their partnership will take. A bid of one club means the partnership will take seven tricks with clubs as trumps. A bid of three no trumps means the partnership will take nine tricks with no suit designated as trumps. Each successive bid must overcall the prior bid with suits ranked in the order clubs, diamonds, hearts, spades, and no trumps. Thus a bid of one diamond overcalls a bid of one club, and a bid of two clubs overcalls a bid of one of any suit or a bid of one no trump. You can pass rather than make a bid, and the auction finishes when all remaining players have passed. The player in the winning partnership who first bid the winning suit is the declarer and the player to the left of the declarer plays the opening card. The declarer's partner then places all their cards face up on the table to form the dummy hand which the declarer then plays. Your partnership wins points which count towards the game score if you make your contract, and you win bonus points for each over trick. If you fail to make your contract the opposing partnership wins bonus points for each under trick.

A key function of the auction is to convey information about your hand to your partner. Thus some bids have conventional meanings depending on the prior bidding. In the ACOL bidding system, which is widely used in the UK, an opening bid of two clubs means you have a very strong hand but not necessarily a lot of clubs, and a bid of two clubs in response to your partner's opening bid of one no trump asks your partner whether they have good hearts or spades.

Look at Acol.info - the home of acol bridge for information on how to play bridge using the acol bidding system including a set of free lessons with interactive questions and answers.
Look at Warren's free bridge workshop for information on how to play party bridge using Standard -American Goren bridge techniques.

Overview of Bridge Baron

To improve my bridge skills I needed a bridge program which would work with my screen reader allowing me to bid and play one hand while the computer bids and played the remaining three hands. I downloaded the free trial versions of several such programs and eventually found Bridge Baron. This is the product of over 42 years of research and development and is a five-time winner of the world computer bridge championship. You can download a free trial version of Bridge Baron from Great Game Products - Bridge Baron 16 - patches and demos.

You can purchase Bridge Baron 16 from several dealers in the UK for around £50 and from dealers in other countries at an equivalent price. Try using Google with search term "Bridge Baron" to locate a dealer.

Bridge Baron accessibility

Bridge Baron provides accessibility through the following features:

  • Standard menus and dialogues. All Bridge Baron menus and dialogues obey Windows standards and are thus accessible to screen readers.

  • Newspaper style hand display. You can optionally choose to have each hand of cards displayed in its own fixed four line area of the screen using notation like "S: A K T 8" for the Ace, King, 10 and 8 of spades. You can easily overlay the screen areas for each hand with a screen reader user window and set up hot keys to read the hand.

  • Bidding and card play keystrokes. You can enter bids using keystrokes like 2h for two hearts, 3n for three no trumps, d for double, r for redouble, and p for pass. You can select cards to play from your hand or the dummy hand (if you are the declarer) using keystrokes like ca for the Ace of clubs, d3 for the three of diamonds, st for the ten of spades, and hq for the queen of hearts. Alternatively you can use the simulated mouse function of your screen reader to review the hand content and then do a simulated left mouse click to play the card under the mouse pointer.

  • Verbal announcement of bidding and card play. You can set Bridge Baron to announce bids as they are made and cards as they are played. You can also review the bidding and card play via menu options. Here Bridge Baron uses a different graphic icon for each of the card suits of clubs, diamonds, hearts and spades. You will have to label known icons, such as those from previously announced bids, using your screen reader graphic labeling function.

  • Verbal announcement of bidding and card play hints. At any time you can press the F2 key to get Bridge Baron's recommendation of what bid you should make or what card you should play. You can set Bridge Baron to announce these hints. The hints help build confidence as you can work out what bid you would make or what card you would play and then see whether Bridge Baron agrees with you. You should not, of course, slavishly follow Bridge Baron's suggestions as your choice is sometimes better than his!

Bridge Baron also includes the following functions unrelated to accessibility which have greatly helped improve my bridge skills:

  • Support for a wide range of bidding conventions. You can separately set the bidding conventions used by the North-South partnership and the East-West partnership from a list of 19 conventions including three flavours of the ACOL system which is widely used in the UK, and all the American systems used in other parts of the world. You can create your own conventions by editing one of the standard conventions, and you can also separately set the skill level for the two partnerships, remembering that a higher skill level means that your computer takes longer to think.

  • Take back key. During the auction or card play you can press the F9 key to backout your most recent bid or card selection and then make a different choice. This is a good learning tool as you can correct mistakes or explore the consequences of different choices. You can repeatedly press the F9 key to go back as far as you like.

  • Auction interpretation. During the auction you can view an accessible display of Bridge Baron's deductions about the contents of each hand. You can compare this with your understanding of the various bids, and thereby improve your bidding skill.

  • Support for duplicate bridge. This is used in tournaments to remove the effect of the deal. Different players play the same hands, and their achievements are compared and appropriate points awarded. When you have completed a deal you can ask Bridge Baron to replay all four hands of that deal. You can then compare results and thereby see how you could have better played the hand, or feel pleased that you did better than Bridge Baron!

There are many Bridge Baron functions which I have not yet explored, including support for multiple human players. Thus you and your regular bridge partner could play North-South and have Bridge Baron play East-west. I have found Bridged Baron fully accessible for all the functions I have so far used. It has helped improve my bridge skills and has been great fun.

Downloads

You can use the following links to download Bridge Baron support for the WindowEyes and JAWS screen readers:

In both cases unzip the downloaded zip file, and read the file baron.doc for information on how to configure Bridge Baron and how to install and use the screen reader support. If you do not have Microsoft Office the file baron.doc can be read with WordPad which is standard on all Windows computers.

You can use the following links to download MP3 sound files containing demonstrations of Bridge Baron release 16 running with the JAWS or Windoweyes screen readers. In both cases the files are each about 3.5 MB in size.



Click this link to contact the Clan Hopewell at hopewell@hopewell.org.uk

Article Source:
http://www.clanhopewell.f2s.com/bridge/AccessibleComputerBridge.html

Friday, October 06, 2006

Mirror on the wall

By Gordon C. Cardona, Paola, Malta

It's now about 3 years since I looked at myself in the mirror. But because I have now a visual impairment, I don't know exactly how I look on the outside. I know that I have left my hair to grow long and unless I have mutated my eyes remain brown. But apart from that, I'm sure there are changes that I'm unaware of.

But what about the inside? There I notice so many changes that I sometimes really am surprised when I read things I've written some time ago on my computer. For instance, I know longer feel that being different or a wheelchair user with low vision is something that I shouldn't be proud of.

After all, it's now part of who I am. And if things should change or my eyesight improves I'm still the same person inside. But would I rather be 'normal'? Would I wish my impairments on someone else?

These questions have troubled me since I was younger and became more pressing as I got my extra impairment. The intention people put these questions is usually to demonstrate that in reality there is an ideal human being who has all body parts in good working order and that both communication and intelligence are intact. Some years ago, I would have agreed that people who couldn't walk were in some ways less fortunate than others. And to think that I myself had walking difficulties does make me wonder.

In truth, the reality of my impairments has served to open up a new world and was a learning experience. It still is. The sad thing is that people who do not have impairments assume that I should be really unhappy with myself for being so, well, 'faulty'. And to confess, I do get very annoyed when these people are the first to talk on TV programmes that only aim to cause emotional reactions.

People may find it crazy if I tell them I'm proud to be disabled. Why? Because I have learned to do new things and got to explore myself in more ways than I ever thought possible. Except for the physical pain, being impaired can mean finding yourself again. For in fact, what people see on the outside is nothing more than an image.

A Deaf friend of mine recently told me how he agreed with me when I stated that other people see people with impairments as either 'poor' or 'unfortunate' creatures. None of such people considers that signing instead of talking, or wheeling around instead of walking or even hearing text instead of reading it are all different ways of expressing one's humanity.

Would I wish my impairment on others then? I would put another question: would you have chosen to be black or white, tall or short, black or blue eyed? The answers are that this is all hypothetical stuff. I believe we should find value in who we are regardless what labels society might wish to ascribe to us. Besides, many disabled people may find themselves unhappy mainly because they are excluded from society and not because they have impairments. To me, that was a revelation to say the least.

There may come a time when my vision improves through surgery, but I feel that there is something that is inside that will continue changing and developing further. Until people realise that the life of disabled people like myself (even if it appears foreign or alien) is part of society and reality, our structures will still brand us as outcasts. True, I can no longer see my image in the mirror on the wall. But my vision of life and society is increasing and maturing.

Article Source:
Gordon's D-Zone Blog
http://gd-zone.blogspot.com/2006/10/mirror-on-wall-its-now-about-3-years.html

Your Ear Can Help You Read

Well not exactly but the device sitting on your ear can. Here's another way of lighting up a page.

With no jumbled wires or heavy clips that can get in the way of reading, this over-the-ear book light settles gently on you instead of precariously on your book. The LED shines wherever you look for complete hands-free convenience. The tight beam is focused by a light guard for glare-free illumination with no spillover light. Provides 100,000 hours of light and does not heat up. High-impact polystyrene ear piece. Requires one AAA battery for over 25 hours of intermittent use. 2" H x 1 1/4" W x 4" L. (1 oz.)

Click this link to purchase the Over-Ear Book Light from Hammacher Schlemmer.

Delicious and Nutritious Meals with Hadley

Thinking About Holiday Feasts? With a holiday around every corner, you will soon be planning your feasts with savory food and good nutrition in mind. Hadley's Foods series can help you do so. Now available in large print, in braille, and on cassette, this tuition-free series can help you plan delicious yet nutritious meals in no time.

The series is based on the textbook Guide to Good Food. Four of the series' mini-courses each focus on a particular food group: "Meat, Poultry, and Fish," "Eggs and Dairy Products," "Fruits and Vegetables," as well as "Grains and Sweets." The fifth mini-course, "A Social Perspective," describes how food enhances entertainment. This series features a unique handbook that includes adaptive techniques and tips to help you confidently handle food-related tasks. Enroll in any of the courses that appeal to you and learn to plan healthy and satisfying dishes that you can enjoy on your own and with others.

Hadley instructor Patti Jacobson notes, "If you'd like to learn how to select, store, prepare, and serve foods while preserving their nutrients, flavors, textures, and colors, then this course is for you!" This series is open to students in the Adult Continuing Education and High School Programs. So why not contact Student Services today to enroll? To do so, just call 800-526-9909.

Student Services
The Hadley School for the Blind
Toll Free: 800-526-9909
Phone: 847-446-8111
Fax: 847-446-0855
Email: student_services@hadley.edu

Founded in 1920, The Hadley School for the Blind is the single largest, worldwide distance educator of persons who are visually impaired. Hadley offers over 100 tuition-free courses to eligible students. The school's 10,000 annual enrollments are from all corners of the United States and more than 100 countries. Courses are available to students who are visually impaired, family members, and professionals. Visit them on the Web at www.hadley.edu.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Blind Gamers Boggle

BG Boggle or Blind Gamers Boggle is the accessible version of the popular word game where you make as many words as you can from the sixteen letter cubes arranged in a four by four grid. You have to search for words that can be constructed from the letters of sequentially adjacent cubes. Adjacent includes the horizontally, vertically, and diagonally neighboring cubes. Words must be at least three letters long, may include singular and plural (or other derived forms) separately, but may not use the same letter cube more than once per word.

BG Boggle is suitable for both blind and visually impaired players, and like all Spoonbill games in the Blind gamers series, it is self-voicing. The game let's you generate random games, or enter a game manually. Manual entry is useful if you are playing with a sighted friend who is using a regular Boggle set. You can also save your game to resume later.

Copies of BG Boggle are only provided by email request only. To request a copy of the game, email Ian Humphreys at Spoonbill Software : irhumph@omninet.net.au.

Ear Muff Headphones

I'm so glad someone finally thought of this.

This headset combines three layers of all-weather protection with a high-quality pair of mini-speakers, allowing you to enjoy your iPod or any other portable audio device without exposing your ears to the cold. Layers of lightweight polyester fleece, Thermolite, and Polartec insulate the soft nylon-wrapped ear warmers (which can be stretched and adjusted to fit most heads), keeping your ears and neck warm even in sub-freezing temperatures. The ear warmers can be used by themselves when the detachable 5' audio cord is removed, and the around-the-neck design avoids ruffling your hair. The built-in speakers developed by JVC deliver crisp audio with an internal neodymium magnet and 40 mm driver. For convenient in-pocket or purse storage, the y can be folded flat upon themselves, taking up very little room while not in use. Spot clean. 3" W x 5" Diam. (1/4 lb.)

Click this link to purchase the Ear Muff Headphones from Hammacher Schlemmer.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Wireless Doorbell System

Do you live in an apartment? Would you like to have a doorbell? You can install a doorbell anywhere in your house or apartment with the Plug-In Wireless Chime. Mount the battery-powered doorbell at your front door, and when a visitor presses it, it transmits wirelessly up to 100 feet to the receiver, which can be plugged into any outlet. Ideal for use in your workshop, laundry room, garage or patio, the Plug-In Wireless Chime allows you to hear the doorbell chime ring out in any room in your home.

If you need to hear the doorbell in a location that doesn't have a convenient outlet, a Battery-Operated Wireless Chime is also available. If your guests arrive at both your front and back door, you can set up the 2-Entry Plug-In Wireless Chime. This system comes with two transmitters and a single plug-in chime that rings different tones to indicate where your guest is. An Additional Wireless Chime Transmitter is also available: Pick up as many as you need for doorbells at each entrance to your home.

Click this link to purchase the Plug-In Wireless Chime from the Smarthome website.

Read Selected Text From Any Application

Our kids frequently ask us to read something aloud. However, the adults often need somebody to read for them too. That is why 1st Read It Aloud! was created. Windows users are able to make their documents, email, web pages, books and written thoughts speak with the voice they prefer and with the pitch, speed, and volume they like. 1st Read It Aloud! doesn't require text to be copied to the clipboard, saving the content. The program supports numerous voices in more than twenty different languages. It also supports both SAPI4 and SAPI5 speech synthesis technology.

1st Read It Aloud! can use a variety of voices with text or applications. For example, you may prefer the female voice Julia to read your email and the male Sidney voice for Word documents. The program has Voice Slots which contain voice settings; pitch, speed, and volume and can be activated with hot key combinations.

Unlike other programs, 1st Read It Aloud! will read selected text from any Windows application, not just from popular text editors and browsers. 1st Read It Aloud! has several tools which can correct the mispronunciation of words and prevent unwanted characters like slashes, brackets or dashes from being read.

Key features

  • Select text in any application and enjoy listening.
  • Choose over ten different voices.
  • Use different voices for different hot keys.
  • Change voice speed, pitch and volume with one click or keyboard shortcut.
  • Correct the pronunciation of any word.
  • User-friendly interface.

1st Read It Aloud! will run under Windows 98, ME, 2000 or XP,. The program requires 32MB of RAM, 5MB of disk space and a sound card.

Click this link to download a demo or purchase 1st Read It Aloud!

What Color is That Caller?

I'm a big fan of the "don't call me, I'll call you" mentality so when the phone rings I know it's either some telemarketer or a piece of bad news. Unfortunately the talking caller ID phone that we had stopped working and the base station, which has a large print display, is too far away for my wife to see who's calling. That's why I like this Color-Call caller ID system, it tells you who's calling at a glance. It won't help me (I guess I'll have to break down and purchase another talking unit) but it will be a great help to my wife.

The Color-Call Caller ID System uses ColorSmart technology to assign one of four colors red, green, blue or purple to a particular phone number or group, so you can see who's calling from across the room. Scrolling colors indicate an unassigned, unknown or blocked call. One-button operation to store numbers by color. Holds 100 numbers. Missed-call log for 30 numbers, new call counter and total call counter. Three-line LCD display shows telephone number and caller. Features a high/low dimmer.

When calls come in, the system illuminates a different color, so you know if it's a specified group, like family, friends or coworkers, or a particular phone number. Scrolling colors when the phone is not ringing indicates there are missed calls on the call log.

NOTE: **In order for Color-Call to work, you must have your phone company's caller ID service activated on your phone line

Click this link to purchase the Color-Call Caller ID System from the Brookstone website.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

"In Celebration of Grandparenting"

This book is the result of listening about the joys and frustrations of being the grandparents of a child with visual impairments, who may have additional disabilities. It can comfort, reassure and answer some questions for those who are starting the journey. Above all, it demonstrates that a grandchild with a disability is really not that different from a typical grandchild. All have special qualities to be treasured and shared. Also available in Spanish. This book is a joint publication of the Delta Gamma Center for Children with Visual Impairments and NAPVI, and is available for purchase through NAPVI.

Click this link to purchase In Celebration of Grandparenting from NAPVI.

"Beyond the Stares: A Personal Journal for Siblings of Children with Disabilities"

Beyond the Stares was written by a group of children and young adults from St. Louis, ages nine to fifteen, with brothers and sisters who are blind or visually impaired, many have other disabilities as well.

Beyond the Stares is a collection of their stories, and their messages to other brothers and sisters throughout the country who have a sibling with a disability. These young writers came together through a sibling group sponsored by the Delta Gamma Center for Children with Visual Impairments. Their dream was to share what they know about growing up with a brother or sister with a disability.

Throughout the process, they learned about themselves and their families. At the end of each chapter, there is a page for readers to write their own stories. The young authors are: Tyler Adolphson, MaRissa Baker, Paul Fields, Kathryn Jacob, Lauren Jacob, Emily Sartorius, Mac Slone, Elizabeth Vaughan and Rachel Vaughan.

Excerpts from the Chapters



Pride

Each of our brother's and sister's successes makes us proud and gives us hope that other people will learn what we already know - that our siblings are worthy of respect and love just like people without disabilities.

How Others React

It seems that many people cannot see beyond our siblings' differences to what makes them special. One advantage of growing up with a sibling who has a disability is that we may be more accepting of differences than most people.

Guilt

We understand that raising a child with disabilities is a big job, and we are proud when we can help ease our parents' loads. But sometimes, the job is almost too big for us.

Responsibility

We have more responsibilities than many other kids our age. While it can be a drag, it can also be a source of pride. Our parents trust us with extra responsibilities and give us an opportunity to show them what we can do.

Click this link to purchase Beyond the Stares: A Personal Journal for Siblings of Children with Disabilities from The Delta Gamma Center website.

For pricing for orders over ten books, please call 314-776-1300, ext. 102.

"In Touch with Your Baby's Development"

By Jo Russell-Brown, M.Ed.

The shock of hearing that your baby is blind is a feeling that lives long in the hearts and minds of those parents who experience this news from their doctor. In Touch With Your Baby's Development is a booklet written for parents of infants and young children diagnosed with significant visual impairments. Inspired from 29 years of experience, this booklet will provide parents hope and guidance beyond the diagnosis and will become a valuable resource as their baby grows.

Click this link to purchase In Touch with Your Baby's Development from The Delta Gamma Center website.

For pricing for orders over ten books, please call 314-776-1300, ext. 102.

"A Look Into Our i's"

By A group of young people with visual impairments

This compilation of introspective writings gives readers a glimpse into the lives of some extraordinary teenagers who share their perspectives on issues related to growing up with a visual impairment. The twelve authors, ages 13 through 19, all participated in a GRADS group through The Delta Gamma Center in St. Louis, MO. They discussed their concerns and wrote their stories at monthly meetings over a two year period. Their stories give us a look into the "i's" that they feel are most important to them:

  • independence
  • inclusion
  • intelligence
  • inspiration
  • idealism
  • imagination

We are confident that their book will demonstrate to readers that you do not need perfect vision to achieve the important things in life. "Looking through another's eyes can be scary but it must be done. For that is how bridges of friendship and understanding are raised from the depths of fear and pity." - Sierra Gregg, age 14

In Braille and large print. For pricing for orders over ten books, please call 314-776-1300, ext. 102.

Click this link to purchase A Look Into Our i's from The Delta Gamma Center website.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Clearer Vision for the Children of the World

The U-SPECS (universal spectacles) can be used by everyone, but is primarily meant for children in developing countries. It is easy to use: simply adjusting the knob on the spectacles changes the refraction for each eye from -6 diopter to +3 diopter. Because the focus of the glasses can be adjusted, no optician is needed and the cost for the adjustable glasses is less than 4 euros. The concept of these adjustable spectacles was developed at the VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

U-specs lenses are formed from two saddle-shaped parts mounted together. These parts can slide in opposite directions changing the lens power from -6D to -1D. This makes U-specs truly universal.

The U-specs concept was developed by a team of VU Medical Centre in Amsterdam led by Dr. Rob van der Heijde. The shifting lenses were invented by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Luis Alvarez. Dr. Van der Heijde converted his theoretical concept into universal spectacles.

Click this link to learn more about the U-SPECS (universal spectacles): http://www.u-specs.org.

Gift Idea: Braille & Large Print Calendars

By Carla Ruschival
Whether you want some attractive decor for your home or office or a great gift for that someone who has everything, a calendar is just the answer.
But locating a calendar useful to a blind or visually impaired person may be a problem. These specially-formatted items aren't always available at your local Wal-Mart or bookstore.
The calendars described here make great gifts for people with low vision. Some are braille, some are large print, and some even have both braille and large print on the same page! Products may sometimes be available from more than one source. Product names and prices may vary; scroll down to find links to purchase featured items.


  1. The Insights Art calendar features art from blind and visually impaired children and adults on each durable page. The calendar is 8.5 by 11 inches, is spiral-bound, and has braille and easy-to-read 36-point large type on each page. Includes holidays and moon phases. Suitable for desk or to hang on the wall. Available from the American Printing House for the Blind

  2. Seuss-isms Wise and Witty Calendar: A wonderful calendar in braille and large print featuring Dr. Seuss quotes and scenes on each page. The braille is on clear plastic sheets that fit right on top of the print pages. Each calendar comes with a sheet of 60 stickers of Dr. Seuss characters; super for marking birthdays and other important occasions. Available from National Braille Press

  3. One Week at a Time Calendar: 8.5- by 11-inch large print calendar. Bold lines separate the days; one week per page. Suitable for desk, wall, briefcase or backpack. Available from the See World Store

  4. Jumbo Print Wall Calendar: 17.5 by 22.5 inches when fully open. There's a box for each day, the numbers are 3/4-inch high, and the lines between the days are thick and easy to see. Hang on a wall or use on a desk. Available from the See World Store

  5. The EZ Track large print calendar comes in a binder, and each page holds four days of activities. There's room to write notes and appointments. Available from the American Printing House for the Blind

  6. The Braille Datebook from APH is a planner/organizer especially for braille users. 4- by 6-inch pages are stored inside a burgundy padded vinyl binder with an hook/loop material closure. Pages can be removed for brailling in a braillewriter or with a slate and stylus. The binder has pockets for storing slate and stylus, and there is a tabbed braille calendar for appointments. Comes with filler paper and organizer tabs. Available from the American Printing House for the Blind.

For more information on these calendars, visit:

American Printing House for the Blind or call APH at (800)223-1839

National Braille Press or call NBP at (800)548-7323

The See World Store or call See World at (800)346-2115



Heated Blanket for Your Guide

Make sure your beloved guide is warm and toasty on chilly nights. The Heated Pet Blanket may prevent your dog or cat from taking over your comfortable bed by keeping him warm all night long. This electric pet blanket comes with a low-voltage AC adapter as well as a car adapter for pet comfort on long trips, and its removable cover is even washable.

There's no danger of burning or overheating with the Heated Pet Blanket: With an average temperature of approximately 12 degrees above room temperature, this electric blanket produces a low-level heat that will feel warm to your pet, not hot. The Heated Pet Blanket's low-voltage power adapter has a chew-resistant cord.

Click this link to purchase the Heated Pet Blanket from the Smarthome website.

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