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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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Remote-Controlled Smoke & Fire Alarm

There are two very dangerous things we do with smoke detectors:

  1. We stand on something to fan them when they go off for no reason.

  2. We take out the battery because we're annoyed with them going off for no reason.

At my last house the builder, in his infinite wisdom, decided to put a smoke and fire alarm in our kitchen within five feet of our oven. Everytime we broiled something in the oven the fire alarm would sound which annoyed my wife and I to no end.

We really could have used the Remote-Controlled Smoke & Fire Alarm so we could use a remote to silence the fire alarm rather than stand on a chair and wave a towel in front of the alarm to disperse the "smoke".

Simply use the VOLUME or CHANNEL buttons on any infrared remote control to test or silence the smoke alarm from up to 20 feet away. It works with virtually any infrared remote control, regardless of the make or model, no special programming is needed!

This false-alarm-resistant smoke detector combines photoelectric and ionization sensors, helping it recognize the difference between non-threatening conditions and real emergencies. If there is a false alarm, you can silence it with the touch of a button, without having to pull out the ladder or stepstool. Since silencing the alarm is so incredibly easy and convenient, it eliminates the temptation to remove the battery and jeopardize your family's safety.

The Remote-Controlled Smoke & Fire Alarm also comes with a low-battery warning. If it starts chirping at 2:00 in the morning, you can silence it for up to eight hours, go back to sleep, and change the battery when you wake up. Just use the remote control test/silence feature, or press and hold the test/silence button for three to five seconds.

Although the Remote-Controlled Smoke & Fire Alarm can respond to remote controls, the unit still offers a physical test/silence button. Its microprocessor technology automatically runs a daily self-check test on every smoke alarm function (except horn sound output) to assure that it works properly. It's recommended you test the horn sound output at least once a week.

The Remote-Controlled Smoke & Fire Alarm would make a great gift for anyone with limited mobility.

Click this link to purchase the Remote-Controlled Smoke & Fire Alarm from the Smarthome website.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

KidSmart Vocal Smoke Alarm

This is a great idea for families with smaller children in the horrible case that you have a house fire.

The Vocal Smoke Alarm allows you to record your child's name as well as using the standard alarm tone and bright light flashes sending out three different triggers. In addition to your child's name you can issue instructions about leaving the house and gathering outside in the event of a fire as well as standard safety messages.

The KidSmart Vocal Smoke Alarm lets you record a message specific to your child. While a child might sleep through a high-pitched alarm, hearing his own name spoken loudly by his parent is a more likely trigger to awaken him. Since the Vocal Smoke Alarm includes an alarm tone, a vocal message, and a bright light ring that illuminates during drills and in case of an alarm, your child is three times more likely to respond.

Recording your message is easy on the Vocal Smoke Alarm. In addition to repeating your child's name, you can issue instructions about leaving the home in the event of a fire, reminding your child not to open a hot door or to cover his face if smoke is present. There's even a fire drill button on the Vocal Smoke Alarm so that you and your family can practice exiting the home as you would in the event of a real fire.

The Vocal Smoke Alarm is a battery-operated photoelectric smoke detector, which excels in detecting slow, smoldering fires. These fires produce a substantial amount of smoke before bursting into flame.

Kids can sleep through pretty much anything, which is often a blessing. But you certainly don't want them sleeping through the smoke alarm! Protect the youngest members of your family with a smoke detector directly targeted toward them.

Click this link to purchase the KidSmart Vocal Smoke Alarm from the Smarthome website.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Meeting a blind person with a guide dog

Guide Dogs are considered to be "on duty" when wearing their harnesses. It is a natural impulse for most people to want to stop and pet a guide dog, but the dog should not be petted or disrupted while working. An attempt to pet a guide dog in harness can distract the dog from its job, placing the owner's safety in jeopardy.

When a guide dog is out of its harness, permission should always be asked before reaching to touch or pet a guide dog.

Do not offer food or treats to a guide dog. This can be distracting, and handlers carefully monitor their dog's diet. A guide dog is able to do its job most efficiently when a recommended diet is followed.

Calling out the dog's name or making distracting noises can break a guide dog's concentration and ability to work. Guide dogs are friendly and they will want to respond to the attention you are giving them, but please remember: They are working as a blind person's eyes.

A person using a guide dog wants to be treated as an independent person. If you want to offer assistance simply ask, "May I help you?" If they respond yes, approach them on their right side and offer your left arm for assistance. You should not take hold of the guide dog's harness or leash; this will confuse and startle the individual.

Guide dogs enjoy playing and, when off duty, they are treated the same as most pets are. Southeastern recommends specific toys for play and, as with petting, you should always ask the handler's permission before offering any toys.

Guide dogs will make mistakes. The handler has received extensive training in giving humane and proper corrections and they will need to give a verbal and/or leash correction when a dog makes a mistake. Lots of praise follows once the dog has corrected its actions.

Lighted Message Board

How many of you remember the Light Bright? You know, the black paper that would go against a screen and all the little pegs of different colors that you could punch through the paper and make cool pictures?

Here's a way to have a more high-tech Light Bright, not using pegs, but a pen to write messages, draw pictures, do math problems, whatever you can imagine. Here are some of its features.

Write on the screen of this funky acrylic notice board with one of the 2 special pens provided, then switch on the LED lights. Select single color or multi-color mode, with changing or blinking lights. Hangs on wall like a picture. 12¼" x 9½" x ?" (31 x 24 x 1.6cm). 3 AAA batteries or electric adapter, not included.

Click this link to purchase the Lighted Message Board from Expert Verdict.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Eye Digest: A Resource for Age related Eye Diseases

Do you suffer from an eye related disorder? If you don't, more than likely someone that you know and love does.

Whether it be the development and or worsening of near sightedness or far sightedness; or more serious conditions that develop, due possibly to genetics, health disorders like diabetes, or even those caused by medications that we must take for other disorders, there's a good chance that many of us will suffer the affects of the aging eye.

I wanted to take a moment to tell you about a great resource called The Eye Digest. This is a publication created by the University of Illinois Eye & Ear Infirmary and it contains a wealth of information about the effects of the aging eye and serious disorders that may affect your vision as you age.

All of the articles that you'll find within the Eye Digest are in depth and well researched. Along with full discussions of major eye disorders, you'll see that there's a section called Vision Basics where you'll find information that discusses vision myths, nutrition and vision, flashes and floaters, 20/20 vision, medication and more.

One of my favorite articles in the Vision Basics section is called Did You Ever Wonder which contains answers to questions such as why do I see spots after looking at a bright light, Why your nose runs when you cry, twitching eyelids and many others.

Large sections of the digest are devoted to providing informative articles on disorders such as Dry Eye, Cataracts, Glaucoma, and macular degeneration.

All of the articles and sections on these major eye disorders are accompanied by diagrams, charts and in some cases video. Each disorder discussed on the Eye Digest has a section which discusses the disorder, the symptoms, diagnoses, medical and surgical treatments (if available) and new developments in the treatment and diagnosis of the disorder.

Along with major eye disorders, the Eye Digest also discusses a number of other problems that affect the aging eye, including a section on low vision and visual aids, and links to other eye and vision related sites.

You'll also find information on LASIK treatment. Lasik is becoming a viable and more commonly used treatment for some vision problems, especially myopia (near sightedness).

As you've likely guessed by now, I think this is an important topic as many of the diseases and disorders of the eye discussed on the Eye Digest could affect us or those whom we love as we age. If you are concerned about any vision related symptoms that you might be having, or know someone who has vision problems I strongly suggest that you visit and bookmark this site: http://www.agingeye.net.

Please let others know about the eye digest if you feel that the information and articles on the site might help them.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Braille and Large Type knitting patterns from Lion Brand

Did you know that many companies now print knitting patterns in a large type format for people who are visually impaired, and in Braille, for those who are blind? It makes sense, especially as many knitters will know, your sight is not necessarily the main sense used when knitting, which is what makes it a great social craft.

Lion Brand have been producing their patterns in large print or Braille since the beginning of 2006. They have also added colour descriptions to all their yarns, and added special features to their online patterns and directories to make them easier to navigate with a screen reader.

Click this link to visit the Lion Brand Yarn Company at http://www.lionbrand.com.

Unsealing An Envelope

Have you ever sealed an envelope only to realize that you forgot something, such as signing a check or including a rebate form? Normally you would have to open it and throw the used envelope away, right? Well here is a handy trick that you can use to save that envelope.

Put it into the freezer for a few hours. Take it out and then run a knife under the flap. It should pop open very easily. The glue will still be good, so you can seal it right back up again. This will also work with new envelopes that might have become accidentally sealed by humidity.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Rain is so inaccessible!

The following article was posted by Jemma Brown on the Ouch weblog in December, 2007. I thought about what the author has to say, and I must agree with her, rain truly is inaccessible.

It's true it really is! See today has highlighted all the issues I have with the wet stuff, its been raining pretty much all day; ranging from thin drizzle that's slightly pathetic but still manages to soak you right through, to really heavy fat rain that just pelts down on you.

Lets start with the blatantly obvious, everything is wet therefore slippery for someone with a condition that affects there balance the chances of falling over are very high. What's worse still is that if you fall over in the rain not only do you get the standard 'ouch that hurt' (or expletive) but you also get the 'great now I'm soaking wet' effect. There are also more outside risks; manhole covers are very slippery when wet.

The thing is that the slipperyness does not just apply to being outside on pavements for example, when you go inside everything's slippy too, or your footwear is wet and slippy, thus again increasing the risk of falling over in the dry!

Then there is the whole rain on glasses issue, not a good mix especially if you are already partially sighted. furthermore when you get out of the wet the glasses are not only covered in rain but then steam up.

In desperate attempts not to get soaked through one chooses to wear a sufficiently waterproof hooded coat. In the attempts to stay relatively dry this causes another issue, when wearing a hood it is very difficult to hear traffic and it significantly reduces the already somewhat sketchy field of vision.

Then there's the waterproof footwear issue, the problems with this particular coping strategy start early on while trying to purchase suitable walking boots. I will be the first to say I have VERY odd feet; this is due to my disability. My feet are very flat and very wide and for a woman very big (at least a UK size 9) add to that the fact that I have to wear supportive orthosoles inside my footwear of choice. It all makes finding walking boots very tricky!

As a long cane user there is also the 'ewww my cane is soaking wet I don't want to put that inside my bag now' reaction when you reach your chosen destination. Using a long cane in the rain also has other issues, a wet hand usually equals a cold hand, other people would perhaps wear gloves in such circumstances but I myself find that wearing gloves reduces the tactile feedback of my cane to much, so I have to put up with a numb blue hand.

As a future guide dog owner there is also the smelly wet dog issue and the necessary towels required to dry said disgusting but still loved small pooch. It is also a fact of life that a dog will run in to the muddiest possible puddle when off the lead but cannot stand getting wet on the lead so rain usually equals a sulking miserable dog!

Then there are even more issues when it finally stops raining, for example the sun comes out. I absolutely hate it when it has been raining and the sun comes out, I can't see a thing! People that know me are usually completely shocked by my sudden blindness and I am frustrated when it takes me an eternity to travel what should be a 2 minute walk from the bus stop into college and popping up every lamppost on the way.

See rain, its disabling and it does not make reasonable adjustments to include disabled people who can't drive, it makes our life harder.

It's completely inaccessible and I am seriously considering taking up a case under the DDA (ADA in the US>!

Friday, November 30, 2007

How to Chop or Peal Onions without Tears

Do you hate cutting onions because they make you "cry"? Here's some ways to prevent that.

  1. Put the unpeeled onion in the freezer.
  2. Leave the onion in the freezer for about ten minutes.
  3. Remove the onion from the freezer and peel it. The onion can now be sliced, chopped, or minced without tears.

Simply keep your onions in the fridge along with other veggies and you will never cry when chopping them - it's that simple!

You can freeze an onion, just prepare like you were going to use it. Pan fry it before cooling and putting into an airtight container and freeze. This stops the onion going mushy when defrosted. Use as you would any other onion.

If you use a sharp knife, there shouldn't be any tears. An onion makes you cry because acid is being released from the onion. Using a dull knife crushes the onion rather than cutting it, releasing far more of this acid into the air.

Onions that have been frozen raw may tend to be slightly mushy after thawing.

How to Peel an Onion Quickly

Try this method to cut and peel any sized onion in seconds!

  • Cut an onion in half vertically.
  • Place the two halves "cut side down" on the cutting board.
  • Cut off the unusable portions at the top and bottom of each half.
  • Peel back the top layer of each onion half. Your onion is now completely peeled!
  • Rinse the onion halves under cold water to remove any peel residue. Rinsing also reduces the amount of residue that causes your eyes to water when handling onions.

When an onion is halved, it is much easier to cut into thin slices.

Turn your cutting board ninety degrees after slicing, and you can easily dice your onion as well!

If you leave one of the ends attached from the beginning, it is much easier to dice. For slicing however, it is best to remove both ends. Don't forget to remove the end when you are finished slicing.

Always use care when using kitchen knives to avoid cutting yourself.

Always wash your cutting board when switching between cutting meat, poultry or fish and cutting vegetables to avoid cross-contamination of bacteria from one type of food to another.

Use a non-serrated knife: a serrated knife will twist in the onion as it cuts, and create uneven slices, and if you're not careful, can injure you!

Washing your hands along with the stainless steel knife after slicing an onion (or garlic) will remove the scent from your fingers.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

General Knowledge RSS Feeds

Not that you need it, but you can enrich your mind and impress people at cocktail parties by subscribing to daily feeds that send along a Word Of The Day (via Wordsmith.org), Quote of the Day (via Brainy Quote), or how about a bit of wisdom with a daily fortune cookie? Just look for the RSS or XML links on each page to get the feed to add to your news aggrigator.

RSS (Real Simple Syndication) is technology that allows certain programs called RSS readers to download new content from an RSS feed to your computer. RSS feeds are often found on blogs or forums and contain the latest posts to that blog or forum. An RSS feed can also be found on news sites and contains the latest articles found on that site. Just like an email program such as Microsoft Outlook saves you time by checking for new mail for you and downloading it so that you can view it, the RSS reader checks for updates for you and as soon as it sees an update, it will download it to your computer and can notify you by a popup message or dialog, etc.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Basic Toys for Blind Preschoolers

By Carla Ruschival

People always seem to think that the ideal toy for a blind child is one that talks or plays music. While it is true that such toys are fun and entertaining, it is also true that a blind preschooler needs many other types of toys as well, including those that build manual dexterity, encourage discrimination of shape and size through touch, and allow the child to learn problem-solving skills.

  1. Measure Up! Cups by Discovery Toys: There are many nesting cups and blocks on the market, but the Measure Up! Cups are terrific. The 12 brightly-colored cups have raised numbers in the bottom from 1 (smallest) to 12 (largest). Fit them inside one another or turn them over and build a tower. A raised ring around the bottom edge of each cup prevents towers from toppling too easily when touched. Use the cups to encourage the blind preschool child to reach, grasp, and build; to explore size; and to solve problems (which cup comes next).
  2. The Giant Pegboard from Discovery Toys: Even though a blind child may not be able to see the colors of this toy, he or she will have lots of fun putting the pegs in their holes. Pegs are arranged in five rows of five pegs each on a 10-inch square plastic board. Each round peg is easy to grasp, and has a hole in its top so pegs can be stacked. Use this toy to build hand and finger dexterity and problem-solving. Encourage counting and teach spatial relationships such as top, bottom, left and right. Teach basic shapes by placing pegs in a square or rectangle and asking the child to make the same shape. Turn the board over and stretch rubber bands around the raised bumps to make geometric shapes; allow the child to do the same.
  3. Shape-O Ball from Tupperware: There are many shape sorters on the market, but Tupperware's Shape-O Ball is head and shoulders above the competition. With 10 shapes, each with a raised number, quality construction (smooth edges), and no-spill storage inside the ball, this is the ideal take-along toy. Keep down frustration and build self-confidence by letting the child start out with only 2 or 3 distinct shapes, such at round, star, and triangle. Let him explore the ball and fit the shapes into their spaces. Let him shake the ball with the shapes inside and enjoy the sound and his success. Then help him open the ball, dump out the shapes and do it all again. Add more shapes as he gains skill and confidence. A great toy for building finger dexterity and encouraging exploration of surroundings.

With these three toys, your blind child will have hours and hours of educational play with no batteries needed.

Talking First Aid Kit

Carl Augusto of the American Foundation for the Blind Blog posted the following about this great product.

I think it's always important to keep safety in mind, so I thought I'd let you know about a new product from intelligentFirstAidT, the First Aid "talking" Kit. The Kit includes nine injury-specific packs to help treat common injuries, including Bleeding, Head & Spine Injury, and Shock. The packs are individually labeled and color-coded, which I love because it would help someone with low vision easily distinguish the packs. The best part, though, is that with the press of a button, the audio component attached to each card provides step-by-step instructions to manage the wound. Situations often become chaotic when a loved one, an acquaintance, or even you, experiences a minor injury. With this tool, people with low vision can remain calm and have an idea of how to handle things without worrying about reading any print.

Check out the intelli gentFirstAidT website to purchase the product or get more information. The site even allows you to listen to a sample of the audio component of the kit.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Digiscribble Hand Written Notes to MS-Word Documents

College students, just think of the possibilities! For the first time, handwritten notes, maps, sketches and signatures can all be captured remotely using a normal ink filled pen. Save them to your PC and then convert them to typed text and copy or import into MS Office applications like Word and Outlook. When connected digiscribble also has mouse functionality and you can use it with the 'digital inking' and 'tablet PC' features included with MS Vista.

Digiscribble works in 2 modes:

Pen Mode: As well as capturing your notes remotely away from your PC or notebook when connected digiscribble captures natural handwriting onto a PC or notebook in real time. Once you have captured & saved your notes in the note manager software included you can back up your notes and recycle your paper. Your notes can then be edited and converted to editable typed text with the MyScript recognition software included. They can then be exported straight into MS Word or Outlook or copied to any application. The MyScript software can even learn your handwriting and allows you to create your own handwriting profile & dictionary.

Mouse Mode: Mouse Mode turns the digiscribble into a mouse with hovering and 2 button functionality. In Mouse mode you can write directly into Windows Journal, and other Tablet PC applications such as MS OneNote, MSN Messenger, MS Outlook and snipping tool. When connected mouse mode speeds up the whole process of capturing your notes by switching effortlessly between pen & mouse mode. If you have Vista you have the extra feature of the 'digital ink handwriting software' feature included in MS Office, where you can handwrite directly onto office applications like MS Word & Windows Journal.

Minimum System Requirements: Microsoft Windows 2000 (SP4), XP (SP2) or Vista, 50Mb HD space, Min 32Mb RAM, Min 16 bit colour, 800 x 600 screen resolution, USB Port, and Internet explorer.

Click this link to learn more or purchase digiscribble from ScanningPens.co.uk.

Create Your Own Cookbook

Tastebook.com allows you to create custom-made recipe books by choosing from an array of available recipes on the website (thanks to Tastebook's partnership with Epicurius.com) and/or by adding your very own.

After registering with the site, you can start selecting the recipes that you would like to include in your very own Tastebook. Once you're done with your selection, you can pick a cover to customize, and, before finalizing the process, you can review the created cookbook page by page. Every Tastebook can include up to 100 recipes, which can be added at any time; this means that for all the unused recipe credits, you will get remaining credits to be incorporated afterwards. Its practical design makes it very easy to add and remove recipes from the book over time.

Tastebook is a great idea not only for organizing your own recipes but also for a very personalized present.

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

Monday, November 12, 2007

Talking CD Album

I'd love to be able to thumb through my CD collection as fast as my sighted son can. He has those books of CDs and he simply flips through the pages until he finds the disc he wants. It takes me forever to find the disc I want to play sometimes, but that's all about to change with this device.

The Voice Recording CD Album doesn't automatically recognize each disc, instead you have to record a custom 3 second message for all 20 CDs in the binder. But as you turn the pages your messages will be played back making it easy to find the album you're looking for. You'll need to be particularly careful about putting the discs back into the exact slot, otherwise this system becomes useless.

There are two CDs per page and it's easy to record your 3 second voice message for every CD. The Voice Recording CD Album is made of rugged plastic with a built-in speaker, recording button and secret closure.

Click this link to purchase the Voice Recording CD Album from Otherland.

ZoomIt Makes Presentations Easier to See

ZoomIt is a free utility that allows you to capture an image of your computer screen (via customizable hotkeys). Then, in real time, you can draw, type or zoom directly in on the captured screen image. The really handy part is that the capture process is seamless, as no external program is opened. By pressing the Esc key (escape) on your keyboard, you can "unfreeze" the screen and all the mark-ups you made will disappear. This is extremely handy for doing presentations, especially if you use a tablet PC. ZoomIt also offers a timer function where you can assign a countdown to your computer. That would be useful if you wanted to do a presentation with interactive user exercises. Either way, this is an extremely handy utility that doesn't even need to be installed to run. Just double click it and go! ZoomIt works on all versions of Windows and you can even use pen input for ZoomIt when drawing on tablet PCs.

The screen magnifier is one of the best out there, but it's the annotation tool that I think would be handy when giving presentations or even showing someone your computer screen, one on one. The countdown timer is off-topic and rather silly, but you're not forced to use it. ZoomIt is just a typical Sysinternals program in that it is tiny, functional, handy, unobtrusive and free.

For those of us with limited vision, this program will simply amaze you! It has the draggable quality of Google Maps, combined with a magnificent zoom function. It shows a much bigger area of your screen than most magnifiers. It is also a presentation aid with a draw feature that allows the presenter to circle or highlight part of the screen display. Then, with a simple push of the E key, the drawings are erased again. There is a screen break feature too, but it seems to be the opposite of what I would use it for. For example, I want to use the PC for, say, 45 minutes and have the screen change to tell me to take a break. This feature works more like a countdown timer in that the screen is replaced by a large digital display that counts your time down.

The first time you run ZoomIt, it presents a configuration dialogue box that describes ZoomIt's behavior. It also allows you to specify alternate hotkeys for zooming and for entering the drawing mode, without zooming. Plus, it lets you customize the drawing pen color and size. ZoomIt also includes a break timer feature that remains active even when you tab away from the timer window. It then allows you to return to the timer window by simply clicking on the ZoomIt tray icon.

This is definitely a program you have to see to believe, so check it out today! To download Zoomit for yourself, just visit this Website.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Switchit: The Dual-Ended Long Spatula

Can there ever be a perfect spatula? This dual-ended spatula provides exceptional convenience in the kitchen. Its two-in-one design offers one end that's great for broad, sweeping strokes, while the other, smaller end offers a bit more control and finesse. Using either end, the ingenious asymmetric design reaches any angle in any pot, pan, or bowl. The kitchen tool features a hard stainless-steel 18/10 core with a 650-degree-F heat-resistant silicone exterior. The stain-resistant spatula won't scratch nonstick cookware and is dishwasher-safe for fast easy cleanup. The spatula measures 11-1/2 by 2 inches and carries a limited lifetime warranty.

Click this link to purchase the Switchit Dual-Ended Long Spatula from Amazon.com.

Tag Items with Tag Alert

Tag it or leave it! Don't you hate it when you misplace or forget personal items like your cell phone or wallet? With the Tag Alert you can make sure you never walk away from your personal belongings (or that they don't walk away from you.) Just tag your item and keep the monitor on hand. When your item strays beyond 30 or 100 feet (depending on the setting) an alarm sounds.

Click this link to purchase Tag Alert.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Follow That Mouse!

Have you ever been working away on your computer when all of the sudden, your mouse pointer disappears? You try moving your mouse around as fast as you can to try and find it, but it just seems like it went away forever. Well, if this has ever happened to you, I have something you might be very interested in! You can add a trail to your mouse pointer so that it's easier to locate. To do this, go to Start and open up your Control Panel. Once you're in there, click on either Mouse or the Printers and Other Hardware link and then choose the Mouse option. This will open up the Mouse Properties box and you're going to want to choose the Pointer Options tab.

Next, go down to the Visibility section and checkmark the line that says "Display pointer trails." You can then decide how long you want the trail to last. It can either be short, long or somewhere in the middle. When you're done, click OK.

Now, you will have a trail following your pointer every time you move your mouse. Keep in mind that it might take you a little while to get used to the trail, but you will. And just think how fast you'll be able to find your mouse pointer if it ever happens to "disappear" on you again!

Gift Girl: Helping the shopping-challenged men of the World

OK guys, if you have no clue what to buy for your lady, Gift Girl is here to lend you a helping hand. It aims to be an online destination that dishes out shopping advice to help men eliminate wrong choices by delivering the perfect gift selection. This solution-based site integrates the latest technology with fashion expertise for the time- and taste-challenged male.

The site boasts thousands of designer items that hover between $100 to more than $100,000 in terms of price, with new content being added on a daily basis in order to keep the site and its selections fresh. All you need to do is fork out a $20 subscription fee - a small price to pay considering you run the risk of getting the wrong present yet again on your anniversary, having to spend the night on a cold, concrete floor for the umpteenth time.

Gift Girl content includes:

  • Gift Girl Collections: Ranging from New York City Girl to Lazy Sunday Girl, Nantucket Girl and more., complete ensembles are suggested to match many moods, looks and occasions.
  • Gift Girl Says: Candid advice on how and why the item would make a perfect gift and for whom.
  • Gift Girl Don'ts: Take it from the experts at Gift Girl; your girl really does not want another kitchen appliance.
  • Gift Girl Tips: Straight from the expert eyes of the Gift Girl team, a wealth of tips for dodging potential shopping disasters.
Click this link to start shopping with http://www.giftgirl.com/.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Dragnifier

Have you ever had to squint at the screen to see what's there? Do you create graphics for a living, and need accuracy? Do all those tiny icons get lost on your desktop?

The "Quick Dragging Magnifier" (or Dragnifier) is just what you need. One click or keypress will bring up a computerized lens, which lets you see every last detail on your screen at 2x, 4x, even 8x the original size. Whe

n you're not using the magnifier, you won't even notice it. An icon rests next to your system clock, ready to hop to service whenever you need the Dragnifier.

Dragnifier has been demonstrated as an excellent tool for those with sight disabilities. Sometimes a website will include very small print, or sometimes the icons on today's programs are too small to see clearly.

If you're laying out web pages or other graphic arts, having a measuring tool can be handy. Dragnifier's reticule helps you line up items or compare their sizes quickly.

Click this link to learn more about the Dragnifier.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Online Banking: Is It Right for Me?

A reader recently asked: Can you give me some advantages and disadvantages of doing online banking? Is it accessible? I'm not sure if I should start using it or not.

That's an excellent question! I'm sure you all know that you can handle your banking on the Internet now. It's been around for awhile, but more and more people are taking advantage of it every day. But, as with anything else on the Internet these days, there are myths of it being of a bad interest, while others say it's the greatest thing in the world. Below, you'll find some pros and cons for this banking method and I'll just let you decide for yourself!

Before I go any further and just for your information, most banks and credit unions offer some form of online banking these days. It's also known as PC banking, home banking, electronic banking or even Internet banking. The banks who offer this service have been working for several years to find the best possible way to provide online banking to their customers so that they will be able to use it easily and more importantly, trust it. Feature accessibility will vary so if you do decide to give it a try, log onto your bank's website and check that the features you want are compatible with your screen reader/assistive technology.

Pros

- One of the big advantages of online banking is that it's a big time saver. It doesn't try to change the way you handle your money, but it does save you time from sitting down and writing out all those checks. It also speeds up the amount of time it takes for a transaction to process. It sometimes even gets it done faster than an ATM. As a totally blind person, you don't even have to fool with writing a check, or getting someone to assist you!

- Online banks are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so you never have to worry about the bank closing, having transportation to the bank or not being able to get your transactions done in time. It's all just a mouse click away!

- If you're out of state on vacation or even out of the country, you can still do your banking. If a money problem comes up, you just have to either find a computer or use the internet features of your notetaker and it can be taken care of any time of the day.

- Without having to keep track of paper checks, you save money on buying those and you're able to handle your banking more efficiently. Along with efficiency, you can access and manage all of your bank accounts from one secure Website, no more having to memorize long strings of numbers to get to your account.

- Online banking sites are starting to offer more banking tools that you can use to get your business done easier and faster. Some of these tools include account aggregation, stock quotes, rate alerts, portfolio managing, etc. These help you complete your banking in a more effective manner.

Cons

- Now, even though online banking is supposed to be timely, sometimes the site can take awhile to load or even come up on your computer. If the site is having any type of trouble on any given day, it could prevent you from handling your banking. You always have to be prepared for something like that to happen.

- You do have to register on your bank's Website before you can begin any banking. You will probably have to provide a user ID and a password, which you may have to get from your bank's branch office. This could take some time, which is a big disadvantage if you're in a hurry to get started. Also, if you're married and want to manage your account along with your husband or wife, you may have to go through a power of attorney type of thing to be able to access the same account. This just depends on the bank you work with.

- You have to take some time to learn your bank's Website. This can take a little while, depending on how easy or difficult your bank makes the site design. You'll definitely need to sit down and learn the site before you do any transactions. You may need to run through the tutorials as well, which can take up your time. Remember, not all features may work for you.

- Banks like to change their site design without any prior notice. If this happens, you'll have to learn it all over again. Also, if they do this, it's possible you would have to sign up again and re-enter your information.

- One of the biggest things with online banking is the trust issue. Should you jump right in and trust the world of online banking? You may often wonder if your transaction really did go through or not, did you happen to do it more than once on accident, etc. You can always print your records each time you visit the site, but it's still a trust issue you have to handle yourself.

Well, there you have it. What do you think? Will you do online banking or not? It's all up to you, but at least you know both sides of the issue!

Special Function Keys

Message: I just bought a new keyboard and I love it, but I can't figure out what the keys across the top are for. Can you please help me with this? Thanks!
location: Kentucky

Sure! I know exactly what you're talking about. The keys you're referring to are called special function keys. They are small buttons that run along the very top of the keyboard. Different keyboards have different keys, but the most common ones are an email button, a search button, a connect button (for the Internet) and a calculator button. Some even have a sleep mode function, a volume control right on the keyboard itself and multimedia keys.

These extra keys are nice to have, if you want to get into your email or use the calculator, for example, you can just hit that button one time and the program will pop right up on your screen. It's like your wish lies right at your fingertips.

If you've already been using the special keys, that's great and you should keep doing so. If you have the buttons, but don't know how to use them, you should refer to the software that came with your keyboard. Look through the manual as well and there should be instructions on how to configure the buttons so you can start to use them.

Every keyboard is different, so it's hard to tell you how to make these work without skipping over someone's model, but all the answers should be right there in your manual. Once you get them working, I don't think you'll ever want to stop. Check them out today!

Monitoring Illnesses

Don't get rid of that baby monitor when the babies are grown. Hang on to them and use them around the house.

If your kids get sick leave one in their room and carry the handset around with you. Now you will know instantly if your kids need you.

This works great for kids of all ages, including spouses and seniors.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Download Complete Music Albums for Free

It's time to open your mind to music that's not on the Billboard charts or on the radio. I'm not sure if you're going to like all the music this site has to offer, but it's free and certainly worth a listen.

What makes Free Albums Galore special? Four things, as I see it:

  1. They post only complete albums, not individual or scattered tracks.
  2. They post only albums with permanent off-site hosting, unlike "album of the week blogs.
  3. They post only legally free albums, instead of blindly hoping copyright owners won't mind them distributing their music.
  4. They post at least one complete album per day, that's a lot of music!

An RSS feed is available to keep you current on the latest posts and who knows, you may find some great tunes here. Give it a try!

Click this link to visit Album Galore at http://freealbums.blogsome.com.

It's a Library Thing

Have you ever bought a book only to find that you already had a copy? Or, have you been in a book store or library at any time, looking through books and wondering if you already had copies of the same titles at home? Or maybe you took all afternoon to look for a particular cookbook that you know was around there somewhere?

If any of those things have happened to you, or if you just like to be organized, Library Thing is for you.

Library Thing makes it easy to enter all of the books in your library and keep track of them. You can enter books by author, title or the ISBN. The site keeps track of your inventory for you.

There are some extra features, which are really nice. You can search your books, sort your books or edit the book information. view your list online of course, or view your catalogue on your notetaker, which could come in really handy when you are out at the store or library.

Library Thing is also a community, linking you with others who share your book interests and providing forums to chat. Algorithms are in place, so Library Thing can give you book recommendations based on what you already have in your catalogue of books.

Library Thing is free to users who register, at least for the basic service. You still get all of the standard features, but you are limited to listing 200 books. If your collection is larger than that, you'll need to pay a $10 fee for the year, or $25 for a lifetime membership.

To visit Library Thing, click this link: http://www.librarything.com.

A Weekly Test For Your House

You know the drill. Something eventually stops working and you know you could have prevented the breakdown if you had only paid better attention. You can set yourself on a simple schedule to check a few items to help prevent a larger disaster.

Set a day, once a week, to walk down the hallway and check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. (if you have any gas appliances you'll really want one of those)

Now walk in your utility room and take a peek at the hot water heater. Is there any water dripping out of the faucet? Did you find a puddle on the floor? These small drips or puddles can become big trouble if you don't notice them early enough.

Don't forget each time you do laundry to clean out the lint trap. This will help your clothes dry faster, your drier will be more efficient and you will reduce the risk of fire.

Protect Your Pipes From The Big Freeze

You have heard people talk about pipes breaking under their houses during the winter and causing lots of damage. You have a well insolated house so you shouldn't have to worry about it, right?

Wrong! This can happen to anyone in an old or new house. Before the hard freezes of winter hit you need to detach any sprinklers from hoses and then the hoses from the house.

Store your hoses and sprinklers in a shed or on a porch, but not attached to an outside spigot.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Braille On Walls, the Latest Form of Art?

We're all looking for new ways to promote the use of braille and this guy, "The Blind", "L'aveugle t'a vu" certainly has his own ideas of how this can be accomplished. Apparently, he puts braille on walls, in the streets, on the museum's facades or churches. He has a braille dictionary on his MySpace page to help sighted folks decode his work. He's a young 24 year old guy, living in Nantes (France). Click this link to view the artwork of L'aveugle t'a vu.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Power Text to Speech Reader

Power Text to Speech Reader is an inexpensive program that lets you listen to documents, email messages or Web pages instead of reading on screen. It uses voice synthesis to create spoken audio from text with natural voices.

What I like most is that you can listen when you have the time. For example, you can listen on your PC or save text to MP3 or wave files for listening later. Even better, if you have a portable audio device you can take your text as MP3 files to the gym, the classroom or anywhere you need to go. It can directly open Plain Text files , Microsoft Word files, PDF files, email files, Rich Text files, and HTML files. For low vision Microsoft Internet Explorer users, Power Text to Speech Reader supplies a handy toolbar plug-in for Internet Explorer and for Microsoft Outlook. It supports dozens of male, female, and robotic voices and more than 11 languages.

Power Text to Speech Reader can monitor the Windows Clipboard and automatically process its contents. This feature makes it easy to read Web pages, email messages, documents, and much more. System requirements: A PC running Windows XP or Windows Vista. Give it a listen.

Click this link to learn more or to purchase Power Text to Speech Reader.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Intro to Visual Impairment

By Carla Ruschival

About 10 million people in the United States are blind or visually impaired, according to the American Foundation for the Blind. Approximately 5.5 million of these are elderly, age 65 or older. Of the 75-and-over age group, one of every four people in the country has a significant vision loss, most often caused by age-related macular degeneration or diabetes.

The American Foundation for the Blind estimates that 93,600 children are blind or visually impaired, with 55,200 being legally blind (seeing 20/200 or less with best correction).

Blind and visually-impaired people come in all shapes and sizes. They come from all races and ethnic backgrounds. They may have a Ph.D. or a high-school diploma.

Britni is a beautiful baby. But she doesn't reach for her rattles until they make a noise. She doesn't look at her hands or smile until someone speaks. Britni is blind.

Bob is a successful salesman. He just wrecked his third car yesterday. Bob knows why, but he can't tell his family. Bob is losing his vision.

Mary's grandkids look forward to receiving personalized handmade quilts from Grandma. But lately Mary's been making excuses; she's just been too busy to get all that work done by the holidays. But the real reason is that Mary can't see to thread the needle or make straight stitches any more.

Is there a future for Britni? Is life on a fast track to nowhere for Bob? Will Mary have to give up her lifelong hobbies, with no hope of any substitute?

Yes, there is a future for Britni. And of course Bob and Mary don't have to give up the things they love. But this is true ONLY if they and their families find help and learn to accept, and cope with, their vision loss.

A world with little or no vision is a different world, but it is not a hopeless and bleak world. It is a world that can be filled with opportunities, activities, and good times.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Online Conversion of Documents to Speech

SpokenText.net allows you to record PDF, Word, plain text, PowerPoint files, ,RSS news feeds, emails and web pages, and converts them to speech automatically. You can download your recording as an iPod book or mp3 file. And every member gets a personal podcast URL , which you can use to download recordings to iTunes or your iPod. You can also easily share your recordings on your web site or blog using SpokenText Badges or individual recording players. And best of all it's COMPLETELY FREE!

Click this link to visit http://spokentext.net.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

What About AudioForBooks

Launched by an avid reader who understands that day-to-day demands make it a challenge to find time to read, AudioForBooks.com specializes in meeting audio book demands for children and adults alike, providing titles for all ages. The site is updated regularly and also provides an array of supporting tools and services, including news, book reviews, an article library, a member's blog and more.

Saving time, money and frustration by helping users quickly and easily tap into affordable used books on eBay, and linking directly to Apple.com where the Apple iPod can be purchased with just a quick click of a mouse and used to listen to audio books on-the-go, AudioForBooks.com provides users with options that simply don't exist elsewhere on a single site.

Additionally, the expanded AudioForBooks.com blog has created a dialogue among users who can now share information about audio books and discuss titles, etc. from anywhere in the world. Also, the site's Article section continues to be updated regularly and now supplies engaging book reviews, information on Mp3 players, how to tips on downloading audio books and more, with new topics discussed frequently.

Site visitors will also be happy to find that they also have access to robust speech recognition software, which turns spoken words into written words, and the leading text-to-speech software, which reads emails, lengthy documents and reports, etc. to users in voices they choose.

Both software options can be counted on to address a variety of concerns, especially for those who may be unable to type or those who are blind or visually impaired who struggle with reading, or even those with little free time on their hands to respond to emails or type out needed reports.

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

Be the DJ at BlueBeat.com

BlueBeat.com is an accessible, free digital radio offering over 500,000 tracks of CD-quality music in over 100 genres and 350 channels, covering more than a century of music, and streams secure MP3s at 320kb/s.

BlueBeat.com's website boasts customizable website styles and streamlined player skins. Users can mix and match their Bluebeat page and player to suit their taste with selections like the refined "Blues In Orbit" or the quirky "Tiki Lounge." Also added is a personalized history of the songs, albums, and channels users hear, as well as postings of the latest music updates. In order to stay connected and attentive to their listeners, Bluebeat.com has also developed public forums for music discussions and channel requests.

BlueBeat.com maintains its easy navigation: listeners simply choose between the Time Machine, musical history organized by genre and decade, and the Killer Playlists, such as the popular "1 Hit Wonders" and the eclectic "BlueBeat Cafe." Guests looking for information about specific artists or albums will find it a click away via BlueBeat's powerful search feature or the extended biographical and historical vignettes. Others will appreciate BlueBeat's Roll the Dice feature, which delivers a channel based on artist, album or genre choice.

Don't like what you hear? You can change that by creating your own BlueBeat.com station with three hours of music that you choose, you can even add your station to your personal website.

BlueBeat.com invites everyone with a taste for music to visit www.BlueBeat.com and sign up for a free account.

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Blind Have TypeAbility

TypeAbility is a program that teaches typing in 68 user-friendly lessons. By the end of the lessons, the student will have mastered all the letters, numbers, punctuation, as well as basic navigation of text documents. In addition, the student will learn special characters that are used in computer applications, such as the @ symbol that is required in e-mail addresses.

TypeAbility is compatible with the latest versions of JAWS for Windows from Freedom Scientific. It is also compatible with the screen magnification program MAGic. So the partially sighted can not only listen to, but also see their typing lessons.

Learning how to startup, run, choose lessons and tasks, and how to close TypeAbility is very simple. After a few lessons with an assistant, a blind non-typing child will be able to use the program independently. TypeAbility is fun and appropriate for students of all ages.

There are User Preferences that allow TypeAbility to conform to each students needs. However, there are not such a bewildering number of esoteric options that learning how to use TypeAbility would be a mystery and chore. It's a cinch!

Click this link to learn more or download a demo of TypeAbility from the YesAccessible website: http://www.yesaccessible.com.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Online Church Communities and Services for People with Disabilities

Do you find it hard as a blind or visually impaired person to get to church for lack of transportation? Has someone slighted you for your visual impairment, and refused to be around you and fellowship with you? The answer to this problem is simple.

On Thursday nights at 9:00 P.M. Eastern, 8:00 P.M. Central, an internet church service is the answer. Come in to this church service via computer and listen to songs, testimonies, and a preached message. With a microphone, you can share with others your story of salvation, ask for prayer, and give praise reports.

This is an e-church. After service, there will be a period of fellowship. Come and be filled with God's Presence.

Click this link to learn more about this online church service: http://www.cjoyinternetradio.com.

First-time users will have to download a chat client. Upgrades are automatic. Audio quality is good and the software is safe. Just type in your name and disregard the password prompt. Enter on your name or tab to the OK button to enter.

This service is free to the blind, visually impaired and physically handicapped. Our sighted counterparts are welcome to join as well.

MyChurch: a Christian Social Network: Find, Connect and Grow Your Church Community

Here's an easy way for churches to create their own online community and an accessible for blind and visually impaired people to find a church. Start by exploring what's already online here: over 10,000 churches, and over 40,000 blogs.

Click this link to visit http://www.mychurch.org.

Online Prayer Requests

Prayerit.com allows people of all faiths to submit a prayer and then have others pray for them. In this fast-paced world, people don^D>'t always have time to go to Church everyday and so a service that allows them some spiritual release is very helpful. The service is very easy to use, just go to the site, click ^D<"submit a new prayer^D>" and then type in your thoughts and images if desired. Your prayer will be immediately viewable online and others can pray for you by simply clicking ^D<"prayer it^D>". The more people that pray for you, the higher up on the page your prayer will be. So if you would like others to pray for you, perhaps the fastest solution is by going to http://www.Prayerit.com.

A Light in the Darkness

A Light in the Darkness is a community for blind and visually impaired Christians! "It's a place where we can discuss our faith, submit prayer requests or just share inspiring stories with one another. Anyone who wants to join is welcome! Just go to the link below or look in my profile for it. The only rule in the community is RESPECT. Other than that, have fun!"

Click this link to join A Light in the Darkness: http://community.livejournal.com/eyes_4god/profile.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Nexus Radio

p>Nexus Radio is a free full featured radio player for listeners who want to record their favorite radio content for playback on their PC, or any portable device that supports MP3s. With over 6000+ radio stations and support for thousands more, Nexus Radio delivers the content radio listeners yearn for. Search through a rich variety of radio stations with a straightforward interactive guide that can be updated daily with more content than XM and Sirius radio combined.

Whether you are at home or on the road, Nexus Radio can record your favorite songs or radio shows automatically with TiVo style recording for later playback. MP3s recorded with Nexus Radio can be automatically named and tagged with ID3 tag information, and transferred to your iPod or any other multimedia device effortlessly.

Simply download the Nexus Radio application to your computer and listen or record the stations presented on the Nexus Radio website. Screen reader users will find most of the buttons to be properly labeled and most functions are accessible, but as with most of these media players, some experimentation will be required.

I especially love the automated song naming feature of your downloaded music. Click this link to visit http://www.nexusradio.com.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

LazyLibrary: Read Less, Get More

Ever strained your eyes reading a book that was a few hundred pages longer than it needed to be? Yeah, so have we. Fortunately, there are authors out there that would rather have a concise and effective book than a lengthy and diluted tome, and that's where LazyLibrary comes in.

Welcome to the LazyLibrary, where you can find print books on any topic without having to worry about high page counts. If it's over 200 pages, you won't even see it. Scan and read all about anything, in less time, for (usually) less money.

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

The Power-Failure Light

Winter, at least where my parents live, means always having to say "The power just went out." Enter the Power Failure Light, which sits innocently charging on your lamp most of the time. During an outage, it kicks in and gives you a bright light for up to 8 hours. Useful to most of us; invaluable to seniors and people with low vision.

This clever little device will keep you from stubbing your toe while going for a flashlight next time the power goes out. Fitting between a lightbulb and your lamp, the Power Failure Light sits dormant and juices up while the power is flowing. When you get an outage, the six built-in LED lights automatically turn on. Compatible with incandescent and compact fluorescent bulbs. 5" H x 5" W x 3" D. (3 1/2 lbs.

Click this link to purchase The Power-Failure Light from Hammacher Schlemmer.

PawPlunger Cleans Your Dog's Paws

The PawPlunger is the latest in pet cleaning products, designed to help you keep your dog's paws clean.

When "Mimi" is ready to come into the house, you "plunge" each foot into the PawPlunger, and the soft bristles and water cleans off all the dirt and mud. All you have to do is fill it with water, and it's ready to use.

Click this link to learn more about the PawPlunger: http://www.pawplunger.com.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Lite-A-Switch

Lite-A-Switch is a set of face-plates for wall-mounted switches and outlets that have LED lights on them. The Lite-A-Switch night light retrofits existing wall switches or outlets and using zero space, can be installed in minutes with only a screwdriver, and attaches securely to a wall switch or outlet making it kid friendly and adult convenient.

Ever come home at night, with the lights off, and find yourself feeling around for the light switch? The Lite-A-Switch solves that problem by allowing you to see the switch in the dark.

Probably a good idea for the guest room and guest bathroom.

Available in four stylish colors: Crystal Blue, Diamond White, Emerald Green and Pearl Pink.

Click this link to Lite-A-Switch in your home: http://www.liteaswitch.com.

Santa's in the Building!

After several meetings, and a lot of coffee, your group/organization has decided to have a Christmas party this year. Who gets to play Santa? Let me guess, you got the job? Now you get to purchase the suit without getting a second mortgage on your home to finance it. Don't worry, you came to the right place to find the perfect costume.

You can purchase a variety of Santa Suits from the Oriental Trading Company. The suit includes the jacket, drawstring pants, 11" Santa cap, beard with elastic strap and boot covers, pipe and glasses. One size fits most adults.

Now, there's no reason you should have all this fun by yourself. After all, you'll need someone to guide you to the front of the room. Get your wife involved with her own Miss Claus Suit. The felt dress has an elastic waist with an attached belt. Includes a 11" x 18" felt santa cap. One size fits most adults.

Won't you guys look great? Who knows, you may be asked to do this every year! Click this link to learn more about the Delux Santa Suit from the Oriental Trading Company. You may also wish to call them toll free at 800-875-8480.

Bible Audio Via Email

The audio files on this page have been highly compressed so that you can easily send them to your friends as e-mail attachments.

Right click the files and save them to your computer. Then you can attach them to your emails.

When your friends open the attached audio file it will play for them if they have the RealAudio or Windows Media player.

Send an audio Psalm, Prayer, Scripture or Blessing to someone Today by clicking this link: http://www.audiotreasure.com/smallaudio.htm! All quotes are from the WEB or KJV and are provided in both RealAudio and Windows Media formats.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Crafting Patterns Website For The Blind and Podcasts to Get You Started

DRG, publisher of books, magazines and pattern booklets in a number of special interest areas, recently received an e-mail from an avid knitter, Eileen Scrivani, who also happens to be blind. Scrivani expressed concern that the company's FreePatterns.com Web site lacked vision-impaired access.

As a result, the company researched vision-impaired accessibility and made the necessary technological changes. Now, all of its free patterns are tagged to enable screen readers to translate them into audio.

Every pattern on FreePatterns.com is now tagged to enable screen reading. This is a great resource for visually impaired crafters because there are nearly 2,000 craft and needlecraft patterns to download from the site.

FreePatterns.com is available to the general public at no charge, and includes patterns in knit, crochet, paper crafting, quilting, sewing, tatting, plastic canvas, woodworking and general crafts. Members can download patterns from the Web site at www.freepatterns.com.

DRG Publishing encompasses leading brands, including Annie's Attic, American School of Needlework, House of White Birches, Clotilde and The Needlecraft Shop. DRG publishes 15 magazines in the quilting, crochet, plastic canvas, knitting, nostalgia, woodworking, paper craft and cooking fields. It also publishes hardcover consumer books and instruction books that are sold direct to consumers and through wholesale and trade channels.

Knitting Podcasts and Books from APH

All these great patterns do you no good if you don't know how to knit. Here's a few podcasts to get you started.

Kids Knitting: Projects for Kids of All Ages

by Melanie Falick

In 15 easy projects, knitting expert Melanie Falick teaches kids of all ages through step-by-step instructions. (Grades 4-7 +)

Braille -- T-N1179-70

Click here to purchase this book through our Quick Order Entry page: http://shop.aph.org/quickentry.asp

If you need assistance, click this link to read the Fred's Head Companion post "Purchasing Products From The APH Website Is Easy".

American Printing House for the Blind, Inc.
1839 Frankfort Avenue
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 6085
Louisville, Kentucky 40206-0085
Toll Free: 800-223-1839
Phone: 502-895-2405
Fax: 502-899-2274
E-mail: info@aph.org
Web site: http://www.aph.org

Planet Patchwork: The Ultimate Address in Quilting

Another site that may be helpful is http://planetpatchwork.com. This site includes a quilt gallery, a Beginning Quilters Resource Page, reviews of books and videos, product reviews of tools and software, info on international techniques, info on quilting discussion groups, and more.

Be Punctual and FutureMe.org

Have you ever missed an important meeting or doctor's appointment? Maybe you've forgotten to eat lunch?

http://www.FutureMe.org is a site that two fellas started so that you could write yourself a letter to be delivered at a later date. we've all had to do them in high school and college. it's sorta cool to receive a letter from yourself about where you thought you'd be a year (two years? more?) later. FutureMe.org is based on the principle that memories are less accurate than emails. They strive for accuracy.

The letter will be delivered from the email address: mailer (then the at sign) futureme.org. so you may want to tell your spam guard to allow mails from that address.

Click this link to visit http://www.FutureMe.org.

The Children's Nursery and its Traditions

This site is about Children's Books for the young, and for the not so young. It provides an unashamedly nostalgic trip into the magic lands of lost childhoods as depicted in classic books of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

A feature of books of the Victorian period is that it was not uncommon for them to attempt moral tuition as well as telling a story. This is perhaps why many of our traditional family values are popularly thought of as having their utmost expression during this mainly Victorian period. Although, realistically, there were many problems with life in that period, there were also many good things well worth preserving. I hope that you as a parent or grandparent, may think like me, that the world can be improved by passing on some of these traditions, values and magic to your children.

Click this link to visit The Children's Nursery and its Traditions: http://www.childrensnursery.org.uk.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What is Beta Software?

Occasionally the American Printing House for the Blind will offer software under a beta release. No, you don't get a cute fish with your programs, but you do get to check out some great programs before they are released to the general public.

A beta release of any program is a version that has been through extensive in-house testing by the company who made it and has been released for public use, usually with very minimal support.

Beta testing is an advanced phase that tells the company how well their program works for real-world users with all the possible different operating systems, settings, and other programs on their machines. The company usually encourages these beta users to give feedback so they can fix any little wrinkles before the general release of the "real" version and answer the most common questions in the help files and guides.

In the case of beta software from APH, you should not expect to receive phone support from our Customer Service department. Many programs have an email list where beta testers communicate with one another about the software they are testing. Please refer to the APH website for more information on any beta release: http://tech.aph.org.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Resource for Homeschooling Your Blind or Visually Impaired Student

Nothing But the Best
by Sarah J. Blake
Book Review by Margaret Mary Myers

(This book review was written several years ago, but the ebook is still available today.)

How would you like to have a friendly, knowledgable person in your living room any time you wish, telling you all about how to homeschool your blind or visually impaired child? Imagine her speaking to you conversationally over a cup of tea, telling you of her own experiences as a blind child and a blind adult, making complex explanantions about the eye simple to understand, sharing with you what methods various people have used in homeschooling their children.

Now imagine that in her Mary Poppins type carpet bag, she has a limitless supply of resources of all types about homeschooling, blindness, and the education of blind children. And sometimes when she comes, she brings guest speakers who are experts on various related subjects. This is the virtual reality of Sarah J. Blake's electronic book, "Nothing But the Best."

If you've never bought an ebook before, now is the time. When you buy this user-friendly ebook, you follow the prompts to download it to your computer, where you can read the author's ample explanations and illustrations, print pages as you wish for your own use, and connect to countless other resources.

Each link opens in a new window; you never have to worry about losing your place. The text also boasts a search feature, so if you are interested in a particular topic, you can type it into the search and it will quickly give you the page or pages where you can find that topic.

Although the book was designed and designated particularly for homeschoolers, other parents may also find much useful information, including the chapters on blindness, low vision, social skills, college preparation, career planning, music, art, and other subjects. Teachers of the visually impaired may find the abundant resources for all the academic subjects helpful in their planning. And homeschooling parents, as well as prospective homeschooling parents, will gain insight on making the decision to homeschool, getting started, where to find supplies, books, organizations, and other resources, besides all the valuable information on teaching children who are blind.

You can skim the table of contents, the layout, the features, and get a feel for this book in a day or two. You can spend many an enjoyable evening perusing its contents. You can use it as a resource for many years to come. But I believe the benefits will be with us and our children for a lifetime.

To download yours, go to Sarah Jane's website: http://sarahjanes.growingstrong.org.

Kester Braille

Kester Braille
by Louise Johnson
Review by Margaret Mary Myers

Would you like to start teaching your child to read - using braille? If you homeschool, these books would be an ideal place to begin. Or if you are a teacher of the visually impaired who has learned Braille, but you don't have a lot of experience with it yet, these books could be very helpful for you in teaching your students.

You don't need to have prior knowledge of braille in order to use these books, which enable you to teach your children both Braille reading and Braille writing. The Teacher's Guide provides all the information that you need, including how to teach your student tracking. All you need is the books, a few minutes a day, and a Perkins braillewriter (which - as a homeschool parent or as a teacher - you can probably borrow through your state resource center).

Even for an older child who already knows how to read in print, and now must learn braille, I feel these books are worthwhile as a starting place. They helped me get my then-nine-year-old started on Braille after he experienced vision loss.

Level One introduces the letters of the alphabet and beginning sounds. Level Two introduces three-letter words with short vowel sounds, writing sentences, and the numbers 0 to 20. These books are one of the best buys you are going to get...both as far as the cost and as far as getting your young child started on the road to literacy.

Click this link to visit the author's website: http://www.kesterbraille.com for more information.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Little Red Alphabet Book

For years teachers have used The Red Letter Alphabet Book as a complement to the Sandpaper Letters, integrating touch, sight, and sound to help blind and low vision children in the first stages of reading. This book uses greeting card felt (flocking) to make velvety, touch-sensitive letters, which invite children to touch and trace the shapes of the letters. Letters have specially designed ascenders and descenders for clarity. Three realistic drawings of everyday objects feature the red, textured letter opposite them.

First use the pictures for sound games and later for word recognition. Includes a pronunciation guide of phonetic sounds and suggestions for use. Spiral bound cardstock; 5½" x 8½", 56 pages. Ages 2 and up.

Click this link to purchase The Little Red Alphabet Book from the Montessori Services website.

Small Wrists Need a Smaller Talking Watch

One of my biggest gripes about talking watches is that they are huge and often don't fit the small wrist of younger girls. Thanks to Independent Living Aids this problem has been solved.

This ladies'/junior watch is small (1.12 x 1.5 inches) and delicate. Alarm function offers 3 different sounds. Hours and minutes are verbally announced while setting the watch. This is a pink watch also good for teenagers and women with smaller wrists.

Click this link to purchase the Junior Style Talking Watch from Independent Living Aids.
Also available in black.

Vision Impairment in Children Website

This website, sponsored by Comeunity Parenting Support: http://www.comeunity.com is a great resource for information about blindness as it relates to children. The site features a section of Books for Parents of Children with Vision Impairment and lots of Vision Impairment Resources.

Vision impairment is one of the more common long term impacts of prematurity. Many children born prematurely experience ROP (Retinopathy of Prematurity) during their hospital stay. As they mature, myopia, amblyopia and more severe vision impairment (including blindness) occur in many children born premature. Children at risk due to ROP or who have visual disability should be followed by a children's opthomologist throughout their lives. To learn more, click this link to visit the Vision Impairment in Children website at http://www.comeunity.com/disability/vision.

For general articles and Resources for Parents of Children with Disabilities and Special Needs, click this link to visit http://www.childrensdisabilities.info.

Handbook for Itinerant and Resource Teachers of Blind and Visually Impaired Students

Handbook for Itinerant and Resource Teachers of Blind and Visually Impaired Students
Author: Doris M. Willoughby and Sharon L.M. Duffy Reviewed by Margaret Mary Myers

Don't let the long name and the 1989 copyright of this book fool you as this is a treasurehouse of practical advise and instruction for teachers and homeschooling parents. Some of it is specifically for the itinerant or resource teacher, advising her how to deal with parents, staff, and IEPs. But much of it teaches you step-by-step how to teach!

The book includes, among other things:

  • Hints and tips about teaching braille, note-taking, handwriting and keyboarding.
  • Techniques for independent living, cooking, sewing, and industrial arts.
  • Discussions of social life, dating, marriage, and the family.
  • Cane curriculum with instructions and illustrations.
  • Guide to the Nemeth Code.
  • A "paper-compatible" abacus method.

In this book there is a strong slant toward NFB (National Federation of the Blind) philosophies. Even if you happen to be one of the people who doesn't agree with some of the particular philosophies of this organization, this handbook contains loads of good information and ideas that I think you will find extremely useful.

Click this link to find this and other books about educating the blind at Amazon.com.

Blindness Etiquette Tips

The following piece on "Disability Etiquette" is an excerpt from the United Spinal Association "Tips On Interacting With People With Disabilities." These tips are designed to help you understand what to do and what not to do when in the company of a person with a disability.

People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

People who are blind know how to orient themselves and get around on the street. They are competent to travel unassisted, though they may use a cane or a guide dog. A person may have a visual impairment that is not obvious. Be prepared to offer assistance-for example in reading-when asked.Identify yourself before you make physical contact with a person who is blind. Tell him your name-and your role if it's appropriate, such as security guard, usher, case worker, receptionist or fellow student. And be sure to introduce him to others who are in the group, so that he's not excluded.

If a new customer or employee is blind or visually impaired, offer him a tour of your facility.

People who are blind need their arms for balance, so offer your arm-don't take his-if he needs to be guided. (However, it is appropriate to guide a blind person's hand to a banister or the back of a chair to help direct him to a stairway or a seat.)

If the person has a guide dog, walk on the side opposite the dog. As you are walking, describe the setting, noting any obstacles, such as stairs ("up" or "down") or a big crack in the sidewalk. Other hazards include: revolving doors, half-opened filing cabinets or doors, and objects protruding from the wall at head level such as hanging plants or lamps. If you are going to give a warning, be specific. Hollering, "Look out!" does not tell the person if he should stop, duck, or jump.

If you are giving directions, give specific, non-visual information. Rather than say, "Go to your right when you reach the office supplies" which assumes the person knows where the office supplies are, say, "Walk forward to the end of this aisle and make a full right."

If you need to leave a person who is blind, inform him first and let him know where the exit is, then leave him near a wall, table, or some other landmark. The middle of a room will seem like the middle of nowhere to him.

Don't touch the person's cane or dog. The dog is working and needs to concentrate. The cane is part of the individual's personal space. If the person puts the cane down, don't move it. Let him know if it's in the way.

Offer to read written information-such as the menu, merchandise labels or bank statements-to customers who are blind. Count out change so that they know which bills are which.

If you serve food to a person who is blind, let him know where everything is on the plate according to a clock orientation (twelve o'clock is furthest from them, six o'clock is nearest). Remove garnishes and anything that is not edible from the plate. Some patrons may ask you to cut their food; this can be done in the restaurant's kitchen before the meal is served.

Keep walkways clear of obstructions. If people who are blind or are visually impaired regularly use your facility as customers or employees, inform them about any physical changes, such as rearranged furniture, equipment or other items that have been moved.

From Summer 2007 Newsletter
Volume 2, Issue 3

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Pup Cups, Water for Dogs On The Go

How many times has your dog spent the day panting and sweating in need of a refreshing drink of water? If you're like me, then you're always wondering where you will find the next source of water for your thirsty dog. Whether you are on your way to the park, taking a ride on the bus or off on a trip around the world, the accessibility of water is a common concern.

Even when you do find water, it's nearly impossible to serve without spilling it all over the place or carrying around some clunky, messy device. That's why Pup Cups was created.

Pup Cups are small enough to fit anywhere and filled with ultra-purified water in a cup your dog can drink right out of. They can be purchased individually, or in packs of twenty-four.

Pup Cups incorporate your dog's thirst for life and your need for convenience. So from now on, if you want to water your lawn, buy a sprinkler. If you want to give your dog a drink, get some Pup Cups: http://www.pupcups.com.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The BiblioVault Scholars' Portal

The BiblioVault repository contains a growing collection of older, recently published, and new books from participating scholarly presses. The Scholars' Portal, now in its beta-test phase, enables you to pinpoint books that are of interest to you.

You can do full-text searches over the BiblioVault collection and learn which books contain the search topic. To do a quick search, select a book element-full-text, title, author, copyright year, or ISBN-from the pull-down menu and then enter a word or phrase in the box. Finally, click on the Quick Search button. A list of the book(s) that are consistent with that search will result. Clicking on the title for a book will take you to that book's page in the Scholars' Portal. From there you can go to the publisher's home page and even order the book.

Clicking on In-Depth Search will enable you to do a complex search. Or you can browse the collection by title, author, or publisher by clicking on the appropriate button.

It's not a large collection as yet, but an interesting one that can shed light on current issues. Click this link to visit The BiblioVault home page: http://www.bibliovault.org/BV.index.epl.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

High-Tech 007 Devices

Do you consider yourself to be a blind 007 type of guy? Maybe you're a smooth, visually impaired operator like Agent 99 on Get Smart?

You know to be cool you have to have the latest spy gadgets. Things like hidden cameras and listening devices are standard in your line of work. Where can you go to find the latest high-tech survailence equipment?

For the latest in Nanny cams, covert cameras, bug detectors, hidden cameras, spy cams, gps tracking, wireless video cameras, home security systems and more, click this link to read the Surveillance Products blog at http://spyassociates.blogspot.com.

This phone "listens" for intruders

The TeleSpy is an economical intrusion notification system, built into a working telephone. With the internal hidden motion detector and microphone this plain telephone is now your DIY way to install a home alarm. Simply enter the number you would like the TeleSpy to call in the event of an intrusion and turn the power switch on. When the motion activated sensor is triggered the TeleSpy will call the number and the internal microphone will allow the call recipient to hear what is happening!

Has these features.

  • Slim Line" type standard telephone
  • Stores one number
  • Plugs into standard RJ-11 phone jack
  • 30 seconds of listening - after 30 seconds the TeleSpy call disconnects and re-arms
  • Built-in passive infrared motion sensor
  • 45-degree wedge beyond the sensor origin
  • Amplified condenser microphone
  • Includes: Telespy, coil phone cord, phone cord, AC adapter, print instructions


Click this link to purchase the TeleSpy Intrusion Detector from ThinkGeek.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Global Restaurant Guide

So, you're in a new place and you're hungry. What do you do? Well, for someone who is blind or visually impaired, the first thing you do is to search around until you find someone to ask about the local establishments. How many times has someone told you about a place that they said had really good food, and when you got there, it smelled horrible and tasted worse! Wouldn't it be nice to be able to find things yourself, without having to ask anyone for assistance?

This restaurant guide will make it easier for you to find a great place to eat. This is an excellent tool for vacation planning, business trips and even to check out what's good in your own town!

The main page is broken down into sections and those are: United States, Canada, Australia & New Zealand, Asia and Europe. You'll also find a search engine sandwiched between the United States and Canada. At the bottom of the page, there is an international guide and world map as well.

Since I can only wish about going on a vacation, I thought I'd check out a restaurant near me. I typed in my zip code and it found some results. The search goes fifteen miles away so you know the results are in your immediate area.

You'll receive the name of the establishment, the address, phone number, type of Cuisine served, and a map if you have enough vision to make use of it. You'll also see ratings and comments from people who have eaten at the Restaurants in your area and you can write a review after sampling a place. Just fill in your email address, name, choose whether you want your name to be displayed and then confirm your review when you get the email in your Inbox.

This site is easy to use and it is filled with helpful reviews so you can get the most out of your dining, in any town. Bon Appétit! Click this link to visit http://www.restaurants.com.

Picking Pans for Baking

You are getting ready to bake and you have several different types of pans to pick from. But which one do you use?

When you are baking pies and breads, use a dark pan. This will aid in browning the crusts better.

When baking cookies or cakes, use a shiny pan. This will help prevent over darkening of the bottoms and sides.

If you decide to use a glass pan, don't forget to reduce your oven temperature by 25º. You may also want to check for doneness a few minutes before the timer goes off.

Accessible World of Coca-Cola

I love soft drinks, specifically Coke. I even enjoy collecting Coke stuff, you know, jukeboxes and Coke Christmas tree ornaments, stuff like that? Well, when I heard that recent improvements to their museum makes things easier for us, I knew it was a great write-up for Fred's Head and a place I have to visit.

The New World of Coca-Cola opened a few weeks ago in Atlanta, Georgia. It offers several interactive theaters, a full history of Coca-Cola, and an actual working bottling plant! It also offers Durateq handhelds featuring an Assistive Listening and Captioning engine by Softeq.

Guests can listen to amplified audio, view closed captioning for the shows and exhibits, or listen to content in multiple languages. Descriptive narration is also offered for the blind.

The handhelds are free to guests and can be checked out at the Guest Services station in the main lobby.

To learn more about the New World of Coca-Cola, click this link to visit them online at http://www.worldofcoca-cola.com.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Sunblades Are More Than Sunglasses

Here's a new type of eyewear that might really take off, and may prove to be benefitial for some of us.

Sunblades are not really sunglasses, in that they don't block out light. Rather, they create a band of shade around your eyes to block out glare, allowing you to see more clearly.

You can get all kinds of shapes and sizes to enhance that "look" you're trying to create. They even have batman style Sunblades.

Recently, the maker of Sunblades came out with a line of products called, "Sunblade Shades" which attaches a set of removable sunglass lenses to the Sunblades. Apparently, the producers of Master Blasters, a sci-fi television show, thought Sunblade Shades were so cool, they had their characters wear them.

For more information, or to purchase, click this link: http://www.sunblades.net.

Serial Numbers and Their Locations

Have you ever been asked for your computer's serial number? How about for some of your other electronic devices? If you have, you probably already know what I'm talking about, but if you haven't, allow me to fill you in!

These days, every computer, every device, has its own serial number. The serial numbers are mainly used for inventory purposes, but they also help with identification. For example, if you're having trouble with your computer and you are talking to your manufacturer's technical support, they may ask you for that number, because it helps them to identify what type of computer you have. They can then use that information to help you in a more detailed manner. Your manufacturer can also use that number to order replacement parts, or a new computer if necessary. The same goes for other devices you may use with your computer as well.

For most pieces of hardware (including your computer, printer, etc.), the serial number can be found either on the bottom or on the back of the device. For most PCs, it's usually on the bottom of the computer tower or on the bottom of a laptop. Of course, each computer is different, but you should be able to find your number in that general area. Now, most software programs also come with serial numbers, which you are probably more familiar with. Those numbers can usually be found on the actual CD or on the CD's casing.

So, the next time you have a sighted person around, have them look for your serial numbers and write them down in an accessible format. Remember too that these numbers are usually very small, it may be helpful to have some kind of magnification device around to help your sighted friend.

The Mouse That Soared: Modifying Windows for Better Visibility


The Mouse That Soared: A Guide for Customizing the Mouse for People with Low Vision

"Redoing Windows: A Guide for Customizing Windows for Users with Low Vision," in the May 2005 issue of AccessWorld, provided a no-cost, step-by-step guide to modifying your Windows operating system and the appearance of the computer screen. This article provides a no-cost solution for customizing the mouse for users who have low vision. Most computer users who have low vision can relate to the challenges of locating and tracking that darn rodent. For users who love the mouse, this guide provides instructions for controlling features on the mouse and changing the size, color, shape, and look of the mouse pointer.

Because of Windows XP's advanced features for customization, all instructions are based on this operating system. However, most of the same features are also available in the Windows 2000, Windows ME, and Windows 98 operating systems. Features exclusive to XP are noted.

What Is the Mouse?

For most users, the term mouse is used to refer to the physical mouse, as well as the image that is displayed on the computer screen. In this article, the mouse refers to a physical piece of hardware that is connected (either by cable or wireless) to the computer. The mouse can take many shapes and sizes, from a standard mouse to a track ball. Features vary by mouse and may include roller balls, multiple buttons, or ergonomic designs. The mouse on a laptop can also range from a touch panel to a flexible nub that resembles an eraser head. The mouse can even be personalized by color and design.

The mouse pointer is the image that appears on the computer screen and is controlled by the physical mouse. As you move the physical mouse, the mouse pointer moves on the screen. Actually, the mouse pointer is driven by software in your computer that defines the size, shape, and features of the mouse pointer.

Before You Begin

Since changes to the functionality of the mouse and appearance of the mouse pointer are immediate, you can test a change before you move on. As you will learn in this guide, it is fairly simple to customize the mouse and the mouse pointer. Have fun and try different pointer shapes and colors until you find the one that best works for you.

If you use assistive technology, there are a few things you need to be aware of before you begin. Most of the more current versions of screen-magnification programs (with or without speech support), such as ZoomText or MAGic, offer many features for customizing the appearance of the mouse pointer. Changes that are made in Windows may not apply when the screen-magnification program is running and, in some cases, may even conflict with your screen-magnification program. Check with the manufacturer of your screen-magnification software before you make any changes. If you are using screen-reading software, such as JAWS for Windows or Window-Eyes, changes to the appearance of your mouse pointer may interfere with the screen-reading software. Again, consult the software manufacturer before you make any changes.

The May 2005 "Guide for Customizing Windows" provided instructions for accessing the Windows Control Panel, as well as a list of Key Terms, which explains some of the commands and elements that you may encounter when you customize your Windows operating system. In the interest of simplicity, this information will not be repeated here; please refer to that article for as necessary.

In most Windows operating systems, the Accessibility Options and Mouse Properties dialogue boxes offer options for customizing the mouse and mouse pointer. However, the Accessibility Options dialogue box offers the ability to control the mouse pointer only through the numeric keypad on the keyboard and related settings for this option. Since this article focuses on customizing the mouse for low vision users who prefer to control the mouse pointer using the mouse, the Accessibility Options mouse features will not be addressed.

The Mouse Properties Dialogue Box

The Mouse Properties dialogue box is located in the Control Panel window. First, open the Control Panel window. In the list view, select Mouse (double click on Mouse or move the Up or Down arrow to Mouse and press Enter).

The Mouse Properties dialogue box is a multipage dialogue box. The page tabs are (from left to right) Buttons, Pointers, Pointer Options, Wheel, and Hardware. Each of the pages is addressed separately.

To select a page from the Mouse Properties dialogue box, click on the desired page tab listed horizontally across the top of the dialogue box or press and hold down the Control key and press Tab until the desired page is selected.

Buttons Page

The Buttons page enables you to customize the ways in which the buttons on the physical mouse operate. These buttons, often referred to as the left or right mouse buttons, control different features. For example, single clicking the left mouse button on an item in a list view selects the item, while double clicking the left mouse button on the same item may open the selected item. The right mouse button is often used to open the Applications, Context menu, which provides many shortcuts to standard operations, such as cut, copy, and paste, in a word- processing program.

The first option in the Buttons page dialogue box is the Button Configuration: Switch Primary and Secondary Buttons check box. This feature is useful for left-handed users of the mouse because it allows them to switch the functions of the left and right mouse buttons. Select this check box to make the button on the right the one you use for primary functions, such as selecting and dragging. Select this feature by clicking once with the left mouse button in the checkbox or tab to the box and press the spacebar.

The next option in the Buttons page dialogue box is Double Click Speed. This option controls how fast or slow you want the mouse buttons to respond when you double click. This is a track bar. To increase or decrease the Double Click Speed, click and drag the bar to the left or right or tab to the track bar and press the Up or Down arrow key. You can test the new setting by clicking on the icon (picture) of the folder to the right of the option. If the folder does not open or close, slow down the speed setting.

The last category in the Buttons Page dialogue box is the Click Lock: Turn on Click Lock check box. This feature enables you to highlight or drag items without holding down the mouse button. Once this feature is turned on, simply press the left mouse button once to engage, perform the task, and then press the left mouse button once again to release. To turn this feature on, check the check box by clicking in the box once with the left mouse button or tab to the check box and press the space bar.

The Click Lock Settings button opens a dialogue box that enables you to adjust how long you have to press the left mouse button before Click Lock is engaged. Open the dialogue box by clicking on the button once with the left mouse button or tab to the button and press Enter. In the dialogue box, set the speed for the Click Lock feature using the track bar by clicking and dragging the bar to the right/left or tab to the track bar and press the Up or Down arrow. Once you have set the speed, select the OK button by clicking on the button or tab to the button and press Enter. You are returned to the Mouse Properties Button Page dialogue box.

Once you have made all the changes in the Buttons Page dialogue box, select the Apply button (click on the button or tab to the button and press Enter).

Pointers

The Pointers page dialogue box is where you will make the majority of changes to the appearance of your mouse pointer. This is where you can change the shape, color, size, and effects of the mouse pointer. Have fun picking the mouse pointer, but remember to pick one that works best with your visual needs.

The first category on the Pointers page is Schemes. This is a combo box that allows you to select the size and shape of the mouse pointer. In Windows XP, 20 schemes are available, including an option to make your mouse pointer look like a dinosaur! Some favorite schemes for users with low vision include Magnified, Windows Black, Black Large and Black Extra Large, Windows Inverted, Inverted Large, and Inverted Extra Large. (Inverted means that the color of the mouse pointer changes, depending on the background color. For example, the mouse pointer changes to white when on a black background and to black when on a white background.) As you move through the different selections, a sample of the mouse pointer appears to the right of the combo box.

To select a scheme, click on the Up or Down arrow on the right of the combo box to open the list of schemes and then click on a scheme. Or tab to the combo box, move the Up or Down arrow to the desired scheme, and press Tab to select.

To try different pointer schemes, select one from the combo box. Select the Apply button by clicking on the button or tab to the Apply button and press Enter. The new pointer is now visible, and you are returned to the Pointers Page dialogue box in the Schemes combo box.

The next category is the Customize Pointers List Box. This option enables you to customize the appearance of the pointer when it is performing other tasks, such as when the pointer changes to the shape of an hourglass. The following is the list of the different mouse pointers with a brief explanation of their functions.

  • Normal: the basic pointer shape for performing most tasks; the default is an arrow.
  • Help Select: the pointer when the Help feature is selected; the default is an arrow with a question mark.
  • Working in Background: the pointer when the computer is performing a task, such as opening a program; the default is an arrow with an hourglass.
  • Busy: the pointer when the computer is engaged and the pointer is unavailable; the default is an hourglass.
  • Precision Select: the pointer when it is used for tasks like working in Microsoft Excel spreadsheets; the default is crosshairs.
  • Text Select: the pointer when typing or selecting text; the default is an I-beam.
  • Handwriting: the pointer when used for handwriting; the default is a pen shape.
  • Vertical Resize: the pointer when used for dragging the vertical shape of an item; the default is an up-and-down arrow.
  • Horizontal Resize: the pointer when used for dragging the horizontal shape of an item; the default is a left-and-right right arrow.
  • Diagonal Resize 1: the pointer when used for resizing the shape of an item from right to left and up to down; the default is a right diagonally pointing arrow.
  • Diagonal Resize 2: the pointer when used for resizing the shape of an item from left to right and up to down; the default is a left diagonally pointing arrow.
  • Move: the pointer when used to move an item around the screen; the default is two crossed arrows pointed up and down and left and right.
  • Alternate Select: an alternative to the normal pointer; the default is a thinner version of the selected normal pointer.
  • Link Select: the pointer when used to select a link for a web site or an e-mail address; the default is a hand and cannot be modified.

You can customize the appearance of each of the pointer options except Link Select. Select the one you want in the Customize list box by clicking on the item or tab to the list box and arrow up or down to the item. To open the list of different pointer shapes, select the Browse button (click on the button or tab to the button and press Enter). The Browse dialogue box opens. This dialogue box resembles the Open or Save dialogue box in a word-processing program. In the List View box, approximately 184 pointer shapes are listed with a picture of each shape preceding the name. Select the shape that you want for the specific mouse pointer, such as a dinosaur shape for the Busy pointer. To select an option, click on the item in the list box and then click the Open button or tab to the list box, arrow to the item, and then tab to the Open button and press Enter. You will need to go through this process to select a new pointer shape for each of the pointers in the Customize list box.

The next option on the Pointers page is the Select Default button. This button resets the pointer's appearance back to the Windows standard. If you have customized several pointers in the Customize list box, you will need to select each one separately in the list box and then select the Select Default button. To select the Select default button, click on the button or tab to the button and press Enter.

The last option on the Pointers page is the o check box to enable the pointer shadow option. This option places a shadow around the mouse pointer. Some users who have low vision may find that a shadow makes it easier to track the mouse. To select this feature, click in the check box or tab to the check box and press the spacebar.

Once you have made all the changes, select the Apply button and see how the new pointer looks. If you want, you can save the new scheme and appearances of the pointer under a custom name. Select the Save As button by clicking on the button or tab to the button and press Enter. In the file name edit box, type a name for your new pointer scheme, such as your own name. Click on the OK button or tab to the button and press Enter. Your new scheme will now appear in the Schemes combo box. To open your new scheme or another scheme, simply click on the item in the Schemes combo box and select the Apply button.

Before you leave the Pointers page, make sure that you select the Apply button (click on the button or tab to the button and press Enter).

Pointer Options

The next page in the Mouse Properties dialogue box is the Pointer Options page. This page enables you to customize the functionality of the mouse pointer.

The first category on the Pointer Options page is Motion. This category allows you to change the speed and precision of your mouse pointer.

The first option under Motion is to select a pointer speed, or how fast or slow the pointer responds to your movement of the physical mouse. Most users with low vision prefer a standard or slower speed, usually between 25% and 50% of the maximum. To increase or decrease the pointer speed, slide the bar on the track bar to the right (faster) or left (slower) by clicking on the bar and dragging it to the right or left or tab to the track bar and press the up (faster) or down (slower) arrow.

The other option in the Motion category is the Enhance Pointer precision check box. If selected, this feature improves the accuracy of the mouse pointer when it is placed on an item for selection. To turn this feature on, click in the check box or tab to the check box and press the spacebar.

The next category is Snap To. This feature automatically positions the mouse pointer on the default button of a dialogue box, such as the OK button. To turn this feature on, click in the check box or tab to the check box and press the spacebar.

The final category in this dialogue box is Visibility. There are three options under visibility:

  1. Display pointer trails. This feature places trails or visible dots as the mouse pointer is moved around the screen. Some users with low vision may find this feature beneficial in tracking the mouse pointer, while others may find it visually distracting. To turn this feature on, click in the check box or tab to the check box and press the spacebar.
  2. Hide pointer while typing. This feature hides the pointer while you are typing, such as in a word-processing document. It can be useful if the mouse pointer consistently gets in your way while you are typing. To turn this feature on, click in the check box or tab to the check box and press the spacebar.
  3. Show the location of the pointer when I press the CTRL key. This is a handy feature for users with low vision. If it is turned on, simply pressing the Control key on your keyboard will place a large red circle around the pointer, making it easy to locate visually. To turn this feature on, click in the check box or tab to the check box and press the space bar.

To apply all the changes you have made on the Pointer Options page, select the Apply button (click on the button or tab to the button and press Enter). You can now test some of the features, such as mouse trails and locating the mouse pointer, by pressing the Control key.

Wheel

The Wheel page allows you to change how the wheel on the physical mouse (if you have one) responds. The wheel, usually located on the side of the mouse or between the left and right mouse buttons, rolls forward and backward in clicks or notches. This feature is used to scroll the page up and down, rather than to use the scroll bars on the side of the program's window.

The first category on the Wheel page is Scrolling. This sets the wheel to how much you want to scroll as you roll the wheel one notch at a time. There are two choices listed as radio buttons:

  1. The following number of lines at a time. If you select this option, you will be prompted to enter a number in the edit box just below the radio button. You need to specify how many lines at a time you want the wheel to scroll with each roll. To enter a number in this edit box, you have several options. You can click in the edit box and type a specific number, such as 3 (click in the box and type the number or tab to the box and type the number). Or you can select a number from the list that is provided (click on the Up or Down arrows on the right of the edit box until the number you want is displayed in the box or tab to the edit box and press the Up or Down arrow until the desired number is selected). The default number of lines is 3 and is a good rule of thumb.
  2. One screen at a time. This option will enable you to scroll one screen at a time with every roll of the wheel.

To select the radio button, click on the button or tab to the field and press the Up or Down arrow until the one you want is selected. Select the Apply button (click on the button or tab to the button and press Enter).

Hardware

The final page in the Mouse Properties dialogue box is the Hardware page. Unless you are using multiple mouse devices on the computer, it is recommended that you leave this option in the default settings. The Windows operating system has defined the mouse that you are using and has configured the proper settings.

Once you have completed all the changes in the Mouse Properties dialogue box, select the OK button (click on the button or tab to the button and press Enter). You are returned to the Control Panel window. Close the Control Panel by clicking on the "x" in the upper right corner of the window or by pressing Alt+F4.

Your New Mouse Friend

If you followed the steps described here, you should be viewing a new mouse pointer that is easier to see and track. If you are still having difficulty locating and tracking the pointer or using the mouse features, try different options. Have fun, but remember that usability is the most important element. You can personalize your mouse and mouse pointer, but make certain you can still use both effectively.

If you are enjoying this series of articles on low vision technology solutions in AccessWorld or have suggestions for future articles, let us know by sending an e-mail to <accessworld@afb.net>. Upcoming issues will include articles on customizing Internet Explorer, Outlook, and other programs that are commonly used by people with low vision.

For More Information

For more information on low vision access for the computer, check out the following resources:

American Foundation for the Blind

Visit the American Foundation for the Blind web site for a variety of information on technology at <www.afb.org>. The Technology section of the web site also offers information on customizing the computer for low vision users.

Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

The web site of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired <www.tsbvi.edu> offers a variety of information and articles for users of low vision technology. It also offers a link to download alternative mouse pointers for Windows 95 and NT users. This download offers a variety of pointer options that have been found to be more accessible for users with low vision. To download this program, visit <www.tsbvi.edu/technology/other.htm>.Once the program is downloaded to your Desktop, open the Read Me.txt file for specific instructions on how to install the new mouse pointers. If you are using a Windows 98, ME 2000 or XP operating system, these mouse pointers are included in the dialogue box on the Mouse Properties Pointers page under Schemes.

Contributor: American Foundation for the Blind: http://www.afb.org

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