Posts

Showing posts from February, 2007

Feedealio: Your Personalized RSS Shopping Feed Creator

Feedealio Beta: http://www.feedealio.com is a free online service that helps you find good deals on the products you are looking for by building a personalized RSS shopping feed for you. There is no registration required, and set-up is as easy as entering a description of what you are looking for. There are no limits to how many feeds you can create. Whether it's the latest MP3 player or a Playstation 3, those hard to come by items can be super frustrating to chase around the web, and Feedealio can make your life a bit easier by letting you know when they are in stock at local and online stores.

Click this link to start shopping with Feedealio.

Filling Zipper-Style Storage Bags

A few days ago, I was filling a few small zip lock type bags. I was thinking there must be an easy way to fill them without getting them so full that they are hard to close and also a way to keep the zipper part clean so that liquids do not get in them. Then the thought came to me, why not just fold the opening down one turn. Not only did it solve the problem with the zipper getting dirty and not overfilling, it also helped to keep them open, making them easier to fill. So, the next time you use a zipper-type plastic bag, try folding the collar of the bag down one time (like you would a shirt sleeve or collar)!

Heard any good movies lately?

I know people who get bored at work sometimes. That's unfortunate - we spend most of our day at work, so it should be enjoyable. I suppose everybody and every job has its days. Well, I have some sites that will ease some of your pain on those boring days. Movies for the Blindenjoy films without looking at a screen. This site takes public-domain movies and adds audio description to them, making them available for free listening or download.

Click this link to visit http://moviesfortheblind.com. Listen to MoviesAt http://www.listentoamovie.com, you can select from a variety of popular movies and television shows. They range from comedy to drama to science fiction. There's a catch, though: You can only listen to a movie. That's right! There's perfect accessibility for the blind here because there's no video to distract you - or tip off your boss. Now, if your supervisor is really strict about these things, try the stealth mode. It makes the player window look lik…

The Princeton Braillists: Creators of Tactile Maps for the Blind

I'm going to let you in on a well kept secret. Have you ever wanted a map of your state? Maybe you're studying The Bible and want a map of the area as it existed in that time. I have a great resource for you. The Princeton Braillists is a small group of senior citizen volunteers whose goal is to make high quality but inexpensive tactile maps and drawings for blind people of all ages. Nancy Amick and Ruth Bogia, working as the Princeton Braillists, have been producing tactile maps for about 8 years. Before that, they were active for many years in making tactile drawings for textbooks being recorded by Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic. Nancy began making drawings about 40 years ago and was a pioneer in developing the metal foil technique introduced by Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic in 1964. Ruth, a former studio director of the New Jersey Unit of RFB&D and a certified Braillist, joined Nancy in making drawings about 25 years ago. She continues to brail…

Download Thunder for Free

For many years, blind and visually impaired computer users have struggled with the cost of a screen reader. As helpful as computers are, they are useless to a blind person without a screen reader, but the average price can run around $1,000. Solutions to this problem are now being developed and you can help! Thunder is the name given to a freeware screen reader that is available for download at http://www.screenreader.net. The inspiration for ScreenReader.net came from two blind people in Peterborough UK and Sensory Software Ltd in Manchester. "We see the talking computer as the gateway to literacy, learning, work and financial independence for blind people and our mission is to make the blind-friendly talking software available worldwide". Thunder won't speak everything in Windows, it works well with Microsoft Word, Outlook Express and Windows Explorer. You must install and use WebbIE, a free internet browser for people who are blind or visually impaired to enjoy th…

Find Long Lost Friends

Has an old friend crossed your mind recently? Maybe someone you've lost touch with and really miss. Have you tried conventional means of finding them, but to no avail? Well, now it's time to try Long Time Lost. It is a free Web site that allows you to post who you're looking for and when they do a vanity search (Google their name), it will show up in the search results. I had a friend named Derek. I have often thought about trying to contact him, but I don't have a clue where he is. I am going to try this and hope it works. The site is in beta form, which means there are going to be some kinks in the system and that your feedback is going to be extremely helpful in fine tuning this site. The first thing to do is to create an account. Fill out the information that's required, read the terms of agreement and sign up. Then it should automatically log you in so you can begin your search. You can search by placing an ad for that person on the site. Well, that'…

Yahoo! Groups

If you are blind or visually impaired, there's a good chance you've heard of Yahoo! Groups. You may already be a member of a group, maybe two or three. Yahoo! Groups is where people with a shared interest can meet and get to know each other, along with staying informed with day to day news. Being in a group allows you to view shared message archives, photos and photo albums, group event calendars, member polls and shared links. Not all groups have these features inabled, as the group moderator you get to say which ones are active for your group. You can create a new group for a fan club, share messages with your family and basically anything you can think of. If there's already a group that catches your eye, you can join it. The best thing about Yahoo! Groups is that they are completely free! Because there are a lot of blind and visually impaired folks that know how to use Yahoo! Groups, I thought I'd start this article with the creation of a group. In this exa…

Sayings and Phrases, Meanings and Origins

Have you ever thought about where phraises like "my bad" and "sue me" come from? Why do we say such strange things? Here's a website with browsable and searchable explanations and bulletin board entries on the origins and meanings of phrases from literature, folk usage, popular culture, etc. Now, when someone says that "Something's rotten in the state of Denmark" I'll actually know what it is!

Click this link to visit the Sayings and Phrases - Meanings and Origins website.

Detect Metal in Wood with the Lumber Wizard

My family purchased a farm when I was a teenager. I remember helping my father tear down an old milking barn. We used some of the wood to build a tool shed. I remember what a pain it was trying to find all the old nails and screws that were left in the wood after it was removed. If you weren't careful, it could really be a pain if you happened to find a nail with a finger. My dad was always careful when sawing the wood. He didn't want to hit an old nail and tear up a blade or have small pieces fly out and end up on the ground. The Lumber Wizard would have certainly been handy for scanning the pieces before cutting. Some of those small pieces of metal I just couldn't see, and my dad missed a few as well. Recycled wood is wonderful to work with, but you run the risk of damage each time you machine it. Old nails, screws, and fasteners will wreck expensive planer, jointer, and saw blades quicker than a wink, but the Lumber Wizard can keep that from ever happening in …

Easy Braille with Bluetooth

Handy Tech North America has announced the release of Easy Braille with Bluetooth. This 40 cell braille display represents the latest innovation in portable braille technology. If you are familiar with the USB version of Easy Braille, then you will appreciate the same easy access to your computer. Now you can control your computer from up to 30 feet away. Imagine being in an important meeting, class or at a critical point in a good book and suddenly your batteries go flat. Just recharge them by plugging in the power adaptor or replace the 4 AAA batteries that you can purchase anywhere and you are up and running again. Easy to exchange standard batteries are used for all of Handy Tech's portable Braille devices. No more shipping your display off to who knows where, for who knows how long and spending literally hundreds of dollars on shipping and repair charges only to find out that your battery needed to be replaced. Easy Braille works with your favorite screen reader, come…

How Do Blind People Type?

Here's an article for our sighted friends. Once a month, I help conduct disability awareness training for TARC our local bus company. This includes both the fixed route and paratransit drivers. It's my job to answer their general questions about blindness and how blind people travel with dog guides. Recently, a driver asked how I am able to type. Specifically, how do I know where to place my hands in order to find the home row. After I explained it to him, I thought his question would make a great Fred's Head article and here it is. I'd like you all to do something for me. Look down at your keyboard and locate the letters of F and J. By any chance, do you notice anything a little different about those two keys? Well, depending on the color of your keyboard, it may be a little hard to see, but those two letters happen to have a little "bump" on them. It's just a little line that goes across the key that sticks up a little like a bump. The two bumps …

The History of Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day has always been something I've celebrated in one way or another. From the days of my childhood when I made my parents Valentine cards with red construction paper, crayons, glitter and glue to today when I send an accessible Valentine's card and flowers to my wife and candy to my children. It's a day where we celebrate the ones we love, whether they are our significant other or our children. But, how did it all get started? Here's a site with all the answers. You'll find navigation to be very easy, it's all there on the side menu for those with vision. The sections are:

The History of Valentine's Day: Here you will learn the History of Valentine's Day in several ways. You'll learn about St. Valentine, Cupid and more.

Valentine's E-cards: Don't have the time or money to go get a Valentine's card for that special someone? Or do you want to send a sighted loved one a Valentine's message? Well, now is your chance! Cho…

Gmail for Everyone

Since Google introduced Gmail to the public back in 2004, it has been an invitation only service. This meant that you either had to be invited by someone who was already using it or you could sign up using your mobile phone. If you wanted an account, you could give them your phone number and they would text message you a code and "invite" you to create an account. What a pain for blind and visually impaired people who can't read text messages on most cell phones! Well, all of that is over now. Google has announced that anybody can get a Gmail account, no invitation required. Signing up for Gmail is now as easy as creating an account with, say, Hotmail or Yahoo! All you have to do is visit mail.google.com and create an account. You'll just need to fill in a couple pieces of information, agree to their terms and click on the "I accept. Create my account" button. You'll then be all set. With your Gmail account, you will have 2 GB of space for your messa…

Why eBay When You Can AT Bay?

AT Bay is a Florida-based website where people can buy, sell and trade assistive technology (AT for short). If your organization has used assistive technology devices stored for lending out or donating, list them on AT Bay. AT Bay is a program of the Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology, Inc. (http://www.faast.org) FAAST works with consumers, family members, caregivers, providers and agencies to ensure that individuals with disabilities continue to benefit from assistive technology as they move between home, school, work and the community.

If you are interested in listing equipment for selling or trading go to http://atbay.faast.org.

FAAST, Inc. · Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology
325 John Knox Road
Building 400
Suite 402
Tallahassee, Florida 32303
Toll Free: 888-788-9216
Phone: 850-487-3278
Fax: 850-487-2805
Email: faast@faast.org

eSpeak for Your Screen Reader

eSpeak is a Free and compact open source software speech synthesizer for English and other languages. It produces good quality English speech. It uses a different synthesis method from other open source TTS engines, and sounds quite different. It's perhaps not as natural or "smooth", but I find the articulation clearer and easier to listen to for long periods of reading. The program and its data, including several languages, totals about 450K. It can also produce speech output as a WAV file. Because this is a SAPI 5 voice, it is compatible with JAWS for Windows, Window Eyes, Text Aloud, News Aloud and any program that supports SAPI 5.

Click this link to download a sample of eSpeak reading The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe (compressed as .ogg).
Click this link to download eSpeak from its home page: http://espeak.sourceforge.net.

Handicapped Pets

There are over 130 Million pets in the US. 47% of them are considered, by their caretakers, "Members of the Family," receiving the same level of love and care as others in the family. 60% of these pets will receive a serious injury in their lifetime that can be helped by the products, services, and support on http://www.HandicappedPets.com. Even more, as they age, will be assisted by products for elderly pets like diapers, support slings, ramps, and more. HandicappedPets.com was created in 2001 to support the caretakers of Elderly, Disabled, and Handicapped Pets. We have all of the products, services, and support you'll need. The Site was created by Mark C. Robinson in memory of Mercedes, a slightly epileptic Keeshound who was put to sleep before her time because he Mark didn't know any better and had no way to find out more. Now there's a way. The site is overflowing with stories and photos about health and healing, love and commitment, and the unique connectio…

"Welcoming Students with Visual Impairment to Your School"

Perkins School for the Blind Publications has recently published "Welcoming Students with Visual Impairment to Your School": A guide for training public school personnel and families about the needs of students with vision loss. These multi-media modules, funded by a grant from The Gibney Family Foundation, have been developed to provide vision professionals with a user-friendly resource for sharing information about students with visual impairment. Modules include:

An overview of visual impairment
Social skills for children and youth with visual impairments
Orientation and Mobility
Low Vision

For more information about these modules or to place an order, click this link to go to http://www.perkins.org.

Exercise and Glaucoma

The following information comes from Johns Hopkins. For more information, click this link to visit their Vision and Eye Care Topic page. While the mainstay of glaucoma therapy remains lowering intraocular pressure (IOP) with medication, laser treatment, or surgery, some evidence does suggest that a regular exercise program can help support your medical therapy. But what kind of exercise is best? Is there anything in particular you should, or shouldn't do? Here's an overview of what's known. Overall, exercise has been found to lower IOP. Studies also have found that it improves blood flow to the retina and optic nerve. In one study, jogging for 20 minutes lowered IOP by 1 mm Hg to 8 mm Hg. In another, weight lifting also led to decreases in IOP, with IOP dropping by 14.5% after the third set of chest presses and 13.2% after the third set of leg presses. While the jogging and weight training studies were conducted in healthy, athletic people without glaucoma, exercise ha…

Tips for Cleaning Jewelry

Jewelry keeps us looking great, so what can we do to return the favor? As blind and visually impaired people, we can't see the little nasties that get trapped in our jewelry. You should get in the habit of cleaning your items on a regular basis. Here's a list of tips that will insure your jewelry (and you) continue to sparkle.

Amber Jewelry: Mineral oil on a soft cloth will do wonders for your amber pieces. Rub the oil on gently and then buff dry with a soft cloth.
Pearls, Cultured and Otherwise: Apply a little olive oil to a soft cloth to clean your pearl jewelry. Your pearls will shine!
Opals: Opals are very delicate and you must take special care when cleaning these stones. Never use soap or detergent. Give them a soft brush with warm water only.
Lapis and Turquoise: These beautiful stones can be easily cleaned with a soft cloth dipped in a little cool water and detergent. Rub gently and do not ever use soap.
Cameos: Mix a solution of ¼ teaspoon dish soap, 3 drops ammonia and …

Cranky Web Search for Boomers and Seniors

Here's a search engine dedicated to those over the age of fifty, but low vision visitors may find it useful as well. The only difference between this search engine and the more popular is that the search results are in larger type, and it shows only four results at a time (presumably because you old people get confused by too much information). Here's what the site's creator had to say. "My new company, Eons, is all about celebrating life that begins at 50. I want to invite you to start thinking about the unprecedented opportunity to travel and explore, to re-invent our careers, to nurture relationships, to give back to the community to live life to the fullest. With the longevity revolution, the 50+ generation has the potential to live nearly 20 years more than our grandparents did. This creates the longest, most unstructured and dare I say most exciting time of our lives". The site works great with screen readers and has additional accessibility features.

Cl…

FineTune Your Music Experience

Give FineTune a song or artist you like, and get a streaming playlist of forty-five songs you're sure to love in return. Make or browse "mix tape" widgets of your favorite songs to share the soundtrack of your life on your blog or website. You can even record an audio introduction for each of your playlists, shout out to your friends! Join the community and listen to over twenty thousand playlists created by other members and by professional DJs. This site is great for listening to new music and the classic hits you remember. They have over 2 million tracks! The audio quality is good and most of the site is screen-reader friendly. You will have some difficulties with the flash player because the buttons are not properly labeled. This is common for most flash-based programs but you can get around this by using the links at the top of each page. An Apollo based desktop client is also available but I haven't tested it for accessibility. If you enter an artist name …

Let Go of That Mouse, Navigate with the Keyboard

Sighted people often wonder how blind and visually impaired people get around on a computer. How do they move through menus and various programs? Have you ever noticed the underlined letter in the title of each menu at the top of your screen? (You know, the F, E, V, etc)? Ever wonder what that was all about? I mean, there has to be a reason, right? It's not like they're underlined because it just looks cool. Well, that's how it's done. The underlined letter is the "magic key" to access the menus. A screen reader tells the user what's represented on the screen and the user uses these keys to navigate. Here's the cool thing, it works for sighted folks too. To access a menu, simply hit the Alt key, then the letter for the menu you're trying to access. (For example, F is for the File menu, E is for the Edit menu, A is for the Table menu, etc). Use the up and down arrows to navigate through the menu choices. (When you come to a submenu, hit th…

Descriptive Video Service (DVS): Making Television And Movies More Accessible

Descriptive Video Service (DVS) is a national service that makes Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) television programs, Hollywood movies on video, and other visual media accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired. DVS was launched nationally in 1990 by the WGBH Educational Foundation (the producer of many prime time public television programs and a leader in the development of accessible media). DVS provides a narrated description of key visual elements without interfering with the audio or dialogue portions of a program or movie. The narration describes visual elements such as actions, settings, body language and graphics. To take advantage of DVS, a viewer must live within range of a PBS station that carries DVS and also must have a stereo TV or VCR that includes the Second Audio Program (SAP) feature. (This feature comes standard on most new stereo televisions and videocassette recorders.) Inexpensive receivers that convert TV sets to stereo with SAP also can be purch…

Adaptive Technology Resources Blog

If you like tracking blogs about assistive technology, here's another one to add to your aggrigator. The goal of the ATR Blog is to inform the reader of new products, give tips and tricks for current products, and to make other AT announcements as necessary. Constructive comments are always welcome, so please feel free to give your feedback.

Click this link to visit the Adaptive Technology Resources Blog at http://atrblog.wordpress.com.

Tomato Plant Care

Ask any blind or visually impaired gardener what they grow in their garden and the answer will most likely be tomatos. The tomato is actually a fruit even though most people think of it as a vegetable. At one time, people thought it was poisonous to eat and they were only grown for decoration. They were referred to as "love apples" then. There are literally hundreds of varieties to choose from for your home garden and all of them have different size, color, shape, season of maturity, disease resistance, and taste. Tomatoes can be either determinate or indeterminate. Determinate means that they develop a flower cluster at the terminal growing point. The plant will stop growing at this height. Indeterminate plants do not form this flower cluster and will continue to grow taller indefinitely. Indeterminate tomatoes also produce very flavorful fruit, but are usually late to mature. Most of the older varieties of tomatoes are indeterminate. Determinate vines are easier to contr…

When to Prune

I know what would happen if I did any pruning on the shrubs around my home. I'd be replacing them within a few days, what can I say, I don't have the green thumb. How about you? Do you know when to prune? When does pruning turn into damaging the plants you so adore. Here's some tips. Observation and an understanding of the ways in which a plant grows are useful when deciding if and when to prune. First it is important to check whether the plant "flowers" on wood grown during the same year or is it best on wood that grew in a previous year. This knowledge will dictate the best time to prune.

Trees do not necessarily have to be pruned. The reason for pruning them is to shape or keep a specimen that displays the finest features of a particular species. Any work carried out should be limited to encouraging or assisting the natural development of each plant as it grows from a young tree into a fully grown one and to avoid defects that might turn out to be harmful…

USB Battery Charger

I'll bet you spend a lot of time with your portible MP3 player. Can you count the number of books and podcasts that you've listened to? I'll also bet you've used a lot of batteries too? I know, we all thought that the long life that we get from these players would be enough, but what we didn't count on is that the longer life just meant that we spend even more time listening, still running down tons of batteries. Now think about how all those batteries find themselves in the dumpster, headed for land fills. Rechargeable is definitely the way to go. With the Apex USB charger, four batteries can charge in four hours by plugging into your computer's USB port. The unit is small, just four inches square and one inch high, perfect for traveling. You can choose whether to charge AA or AAA batteries in the pack. Not only that, it makes a great carrying case for your spare set of batteries; as you use one set, the other can be charging nicely or stowed and ready-to-…