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Showing posts from June, 2007

Guide Horses: An idea that's a hit with neigh-sayers

Do you need a service animal but are scared of or allergic to dogs? Why not consider a miniature horse? The Guide Horse Foundation in Kittrell, NC can provide you with one of these dependable service animals. At this point, you're probably thinking "A horse! Why use a horse?" On their website, the GHF offers these answers to that question:
"Why use a horse?There are many compelling reasons to use horses as guide animals.
Horses are natural guide animals and have been guiding humans for centuries.
Horses have been shown to possess a natural guide instinct. When another horse goes blind in a herd, a sighted horse accepts responsibility for the welfare of the blind horse and guides it with the herd.
Many blind people ride horses in equestrian competitions. Some blind people ride alone on trails for many miles, completely relying on the horse to guide them safely to their destination.
Through out history, Cavalry horses have been known to guide their injured rider to s…

Do You Have Unclaimed Money or Property?

Have you ever forgotten about a check that someone owed you? It sounds hard to believe, but it happens. Did you get your tax return from the state last year? Are you sure? Thousands of dollars of unclaimed property and checks go undelivered because the state doesn't have current information on the recipient. Someone could leave you money as part of a will and if you don't know about it, the money will sit in a state office until claimed by you or another family member. As blind and visually impaired people, we know it's easy to misplace a piece of printed mail or to have someone forget to read it to us. Mail can easily be thrown away without us even knowing about it. Most state treasury departments have online databases of unclaimed property that you can search for free. It only takes filling out a couple of pages of information, and sending a credit card bill that has an old address to claim most items. To check and see if you have any unclaimed funds, click on…

Tack-Tiles: Building a better braille instructional aid

Teachers and parents who are in search of a fun yet effective braille teaching tool might want to explore the Tack-Tiles Braille System--a growing collection of instructional aids for anyone interested in learning braille. Tack-Tiles owe their origin to a parent who was seeking a way to teach his young son braille. One day he noticed the similarities between a typical plastic Lego-like block and a braille cell. He modified a set of blocks to represent each letter in the braille alphabet and created a sheet onto which his new invention, Tack-Tiles, could be affixed.That moment of inspiration has become a multi-faceted instructional tool. A typical Tack-Tile is printed on the forward vertical surface with that Braille character's most commonly used visual code(s). For example, the Tack-Tile with dots 1,4 is labelled [ c/3 ]; Tiles bearing dots 3,4,5,6 are marked [number sign/ ble ]; those with dots 2,5,6 present are labelled [ dd/dis/.] and so forth. Every Tack-Tile Braille System …

How to Record Nature Sounds

By Jake Ludington Recording environmental sounds like singing birds, wild animal calls, water running through a streambed, or the chirp of baby birds is one of the more fascinating (and challenging) aspects of audio recording. Some of the same audio recording techniques apply when recording things like car noises, lawn mower engines and other man made sounds, but you don't always get a chance to do a second take with nature like you do with machines.Getting started in recording nature sounds requires three basic things:1) A recording device, like a MiniDisc recorder, Compact Flash recorder, or other digital audio recorder.
2) A stereo microphone or stereo microphone pair
3) Headphones for listening to what you're recordingThe big reason to use a digital recorder is to avoid the hiss that comes with using a tape recording medium. The stereo microphone or pair of microphones provide the listener with something much closer to what you'd hear in the real world than a single m…

Free Music Downloads at We7

Here's a legitimate, safe and legal way to download free music from the Internet, using the same concept Google made famous, ad-supported. We7, a UK based website, delivers free music downloads without any DRM, so users can play the tracks for free, when and how they like, and even share DRM-free music legally with friends. All with the small price of hearing an audio advertising message for up to 10 seconds or less on the tracks that are downloaded for free. If the business model of We7 can succeed, it's not short of a digital music revolution, which currently is haunted by a high degree of online piracy. Money spent on online music stores such as iTunes, Rhapsody, BuyMusic, MusicMatch, Urge, Sony Connect, Zune Marketplace, Urge, Emusic and Walmart Music can be saved. Backed by musician Peter Gabriel, British We7 works by offering consumers free music downloads tagged with 10-second advertisements, which are played before the music starts. Four weeks after downloading, We7 …

White Cane to help blind and visually impaired webmasters

White Cane Media is a website design and hosting service catering specifically to the blind and visually impaired. The founder of White Cane Media, David Goodwin, is himself blind. David has been involved in website design and management since 1995, and has a sound understanding of the needs and concerns of blind and visually impaired webmasters. Whether people want to promote their business, share news and information, express their thoughts through a personal blog, create an online discussion forum on their favourite topic, or share pictures through an online photo album, this service will provide the perfect opportunity. The service offers a range of hosting and web site design options that will cater for all levels of knowledge and experience. A basic hosting account is available for those who already have a good level of expertise, or are keen to learn for themselves. Additional options and features are provided for fledgling webmasters who require a little more help in getting …

AbilityOne: Employment Opportunities for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

AbilityOne, formerly known as the JWOD Program, provides employment opportunities for people who are blind or have severe disabilities in the manufacture and delivery of products and services to the federal government. As the largest source of employment of people who are blind or have severe disabilities in the United States, the AbilityOne Program taps into the abilities of nearly 47,000 individuals nationwide in coordination with over 600 nonprofit agencies. In 1938, the Wagner-O'Day Act was passed under President Franklin D. Roosevelt in order to provide employment opportunities for people who are blind by allowing them to manufacture mops and brooms to sell to the Federal Government. In 1971, under the leadership of Senator Jacob Javits, Congress amended this Act ( 41 U.S.C. 46-48c) to include people with severe disabilities and allow the Program to also provide services to the Federal Government. Over sixty years later, this extraordinary socioeconomic program provides Fed…

Help Bring Accessibility to XM Radio Receivers

I received the following email and wanted to share it with you. There come times when opportunities arise to bring accessibility to products. There are people out there who realize that things need to be useful to everyone and that no one is getting any younger. Vision issues are going to dominate the lives of many baby boomers. Please help by reading the following and emailing the address below.

by Jim Aldrich: http://www.vipconduit.com and http://www.accessible-devices.comHello all, I was speaking with Mr. Ralph Stewart of MyRadioStore.com. I was inquiring about which XM Radio Receiver was accessible to Blind people these days. A number of changes have taken place which necessitated some changes in XM receivers. The demodulator needed to be turned down to minimize interference to those listening to standard radio stations, especially in an automobile. Some people didn't like Howard Stern coming over their favorite religious station as an example. Many of the newer XM porta…

Protect Your Thumb and Clean Up Your Language While Hammering

In Fred's Head, we talk about devices that no blind or visually impaired person should be without because they improve their lives in some way or another. Well, if you work with wood or find yourself hammering nails into things often, I have another gadget for you. This one not only keeps you safe but prevents you from using the colorful language that often occurs when working with a hammer. The inventor of this intelligent gadget must have bruised his thumb many a times while using the hammer. He or she obviously got tired of this and created a device that will help you keep the hammer on the right target. The ThumbSaver was designed and tested by real tradesmen and lends a helping hand when driving nails, screws, fence staples, or just about any fastener. You can use ThumbSaver on nearly any job from fine trim or craft work to the largest framing jobs, building fences, decks or installing joist hangers. A strong magnet is machined into the durable ergonomically designed alumi…

Tips on Using and Reusing Old Dish Towels

When they get old and ratty, don't throw them away! Reuse old kitchen towels as cleaning cloths, cut the towels into sections, great for all-purpose cleaning and dusting.
Reuse old towels as cheap Swiffer Mop refills. When you're done, just shake the excess muck off, then throw the dirty cloth in the laundry.
Dish towels are also an easy alternative to a big, bulky dish drainer. Just put out a couple of tea towels on the countertop, and lay your dishes on them. Hang the cloth to dry when the dishes are finished drying. If you're looking for a truly durable and absorbent dish towel, try using flour sack towels. Your mothers and grandmothers (or maybe you yourself) used these years ago from the actual flour sacks, but now these amazing towels come in fun patterns and colors. So you get the beauty of a funky towel, while actually getting a towel that dries properly. What a concept!

OneDerWear: The Wear Once Disposable Underwear

I know, everyone's wondering, right now, why I'm writing an article about disposable underwear on a service about blindness. I haven't lost my mind, hang in there and let me set this up and I think you'll see my reason for this entry. Have you ever went to a national convention and, once at the hotel, discovered that you forgot to pack the stack of socks and underwear that you had sitting beside the suitcase before the cab showed up to take you to the airport? You thought you put it in with the shampoo and all the other necessities for the trip. Now, what are you going to do. Will you go to the giftshop and ask if they sell underwear? Maybe you'll get lucky and there will be a store near the hotel, but being a visitor to the city, how will you get there? Are you actually going to take a cab somewhere to buy socks and underwear? Maybe you just don't want dirty socks and underwear around until you get home to do the laundry. OneDerWear is an ultra-light…

Rated "A" for Accessible: Movie reviews for the blind and visually impaired

Movie Review Query EngineSo, you're thinking about going to the movies or maybe renting one, but you're not sure what would be good to see. Well, on this Website, you can find movie reviews that will help you decide if a film is worth seeing or not! Registration is free and it will give you access to premium features, such as extra reviews and to see if the film you're looking up is showing in your area. Only the blanks with "required" beneath them are necessary in order to register. The easiest way to use this site is to search by the title of the movie. It's awesome if you know what you are looking for. For instance, I wanted to look up the Superman films. I searched for Superman, chose it from a list of movies with Superman in the title and I got to read a ton of reviews on each movie. Don't have a movie in mind? No problem, you can search by Categories. This search engine is a drop down menu, so just choose what you want to search by and click Go…

Let's Talk Twango

Twango is a Website where you can upload and share your photos, videos, audio files and various other documents. Now, I know there are a lot of sites that allow you to do the same stuff, but Twango definitely has some cool features. Twango is completely free to use and there is no sign up required. To use Twango without signing up, click this link to visit their Website. The first thing you'll see is where you can start to upload your files. Just hit the Browse button and find what you'd like to upload. Select it and then hit the Upload button. Your file needs to be 10 MB or smaller, but other than that, you shouldn't run into any problems. If you do choose to create a free account, you can immediately upload files up to 100 MB in size, upload multiple files at once, work with your video and audio players, create slideshows, page tickers, etc. and even easily organize your files. Another great thing about Twango is that when you upload a file, you can opt to get links…

The XP Look in Vista

Have you recently started using Windows Vista? If so, are you having a little trouble navigating your way through the new setup of the operating system? At first, it can be quite confusing. Everything you were familiar with in Windows XP has been changed or moved to another location and that makes it really hard to get your work done, doesn't it? Well, lucky for all of us, there are a few things you can do to change everything back to the way it used to be. As I'm sure you already know, along with Vista came a whole new Start menu. And I'm guessing that some of you don't care too much for it. If that's the case, you can switch it back to the way it looked in XP. To do so, just right click on the Start button and choose Properties. Make sure you're under the Start Menu tab and tick the option for Classic Start menu. Click OK and then check out your new Start menu. Now, doesn't that feel better?! Once you switch back to the old Start menu, you can also cust…

The Mouseless Right Click

There are many people who are new to the right click menus and the options they contain in various Windows programs. Many people aren't remotely interested in trying to remember all the key combinations necessary to replace the features in a right click. These right clicks are great for everyone who's comfortable with the mouse, but what about the rest of you? The ones who have low vision and love to use the keyboard as much as possible, but still want to complete the same tasks found in these menus. Is there a mouseless solution for you? Take a look at your keyboard to the right of the space bar and just past the Alt and Windows keys. See it? That key is called the Applications Key and it replaces the right click of the mouse. Many screen readers use this key for totally blind computer users, but you don't have to be a total to get good use of it. Once pressed, you can use the arrow keys to navigate through the pop up menus and the Enter key to select your choices. If …

Elevator Etiquette

Apparently, the state of elevator etiquette has gotten so out of hand that the people at ElevatorRules.Com decided to lay the ground rules for proper elevator behavior. ElevatorRules lists the most important rules for different elevator-riding scenarios, so you'll always know what to do in every elevator-related situation. Sure, it's common sense, but you'll be surprised at what you can learn. I've summarized the top 5 tips for those of you who frequent elevators:

If you are going up or down one floor, use the stairs.
Stand away from the doors while waiting to board and wait until everyone has exited before entering.
Do not have loud, annoying conversations or sing while in the elevator.
If you are sick, consider boarding an empty elevator so you won't get others sick.
Here's one that is more difficult for those of us who don't see: do not re-press the call button or a floor button that someone else has already pressed.

Click this link to learn more elevato…

Two Screen Readers for Linux

The Linux Screen Reader (LSR) is an application that transforms the contents of the computer screen to other media, enabling non-visual access to the graphical Gnome desktop environment. The basic function of the screen reader is to report changes in the state of an application as a user interacts with it using the keyboard or other system input device. What is reported to the user and what commands are available for controlling the screen reader are determined by cascading scripts that completely define the user experience. The scripts can be loaded and unloaded by the user at run time, and custom scripts can be written to improve the usability of certain applications and interactions. How information is reported to the user and how the user gives input are determined by one or more configured input and output devices. Like scripts, devices can be loaded and unloaded by the user at run time, and custom device profiles can be written to support new methods of input and output (e.g. Br…

Craft Adaptations for Adults with Vision Impairments

People who have enjoyed making crafts at different times in their lives prior to vision loss may think they can no longer continue. Also, individuals who would like to begin making crafts for the first time may hesitate because of reduced vision. But we know, from years of teaching experience with individuals who have little or no sight, that it is very possible to continue the fun activity of craft-making. This book, with its extensive range of easy adaptations, will show you how it can be done! This is the first publication in VisionAWARE's Independence! series. It contains 17 favorite crafts, along with detailed instructions and adaptions for crafters who are blind or have low vision. The contents have been field-tested for many years by Vision Rehabilitation Therapist and author Stephanie Stephens Van, a highly qualified and experienced vision rehabilitation professional. This updated and expanded large print (18 point APHont) version includes five additional crafts, and a …

Blind Friends of Lesbian, Gay, Transgender and Bisexual People (BFLAG)

BFLAG, Blind Friends of Lesbian, Gay, Transgender and Bisexual People is a chartered affiliate of The American Council of the Blind. BFLAG is the only national organization dedicated to serving the special needs of individuals who are both visually impaired and part of the GLBT community. Education and information remain cornerstones of BFLAG's mission of improving the quality of life of those who are blind and lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Collaborating with PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), BFLAG has transferred a growing volume of literature into accessible formatted materials from which the visually impaired can benefit. BFLAG also advocates for this segment of the community by ensuring adequate services are made available by agencies and institutions serving the blind and by providing a forum for views and concerns of this often overlooked segment of the GLBT community. For more information about BFLAG and its services, contact:

BFLAG
4802 Holde…

reCAPTCHA That CAPTCHA

A CAPTCHA is a program that can tell whether its user is a human or a computer. You've probably come in contact with them, colorful images with distorted text at the bottom of Web registration forms that are totally inaccessible to screen readers and some screen magnification programs. CAPTCHAs are used by many websites to prevent abuse from "bots," or automated programs usually written to generate spam. No computer program can read distorted text as well as humans can, so bots cannot navigate sites protected by CAPTCHAs. About 60 million CAPTCHAs are solved by humans around the world every day. In each case, roughly ten seconds of human time are being spent. Individually, that's not a lot of time, but in aggregate these little puzzles consume more than 150,000 hours of work each day. What if we could make positive use of this human effort and make it easier for the blind to solve these electronic puzzles? reCAPTCHA does exactly that by channeling the effort spent …

The "Save All" and "Close All" of MS-Word

Have you ever had several MS Word documents open at once and want to quickly save or close them all? Maybe you're going to close the program and would like to avoid the continual pop up boxes, asking you to save each document. Maybe you're going to walk away from your computer for a few minutes and would like to quickly save everything "just in case." You know how those situations arise when you wish you would have saved everything before the machine "freaked out" or the power failed. I'm sure that when you save your files, you use either Ctrl+S, the Save button or you go to the File menu, Save choice. Any of those options are great, but remember, you have to repeat the process for each document. Feeling a bit frustrated? After all, you only wanted to walk away for a quick minute and it's going to take you five just to shuffle through all those open files to get them saved. Looking for a quicker option? Maybe one that allows you to save all the d…

Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (COAT)

COAT is a coalition of disability organizations, launched in March 2007, to advocate for legislative and regulatory safeguards that will ensure full access by people with disabilities to evolving high speed broadband, wireless and other Internet protocol (IP) technologies. The Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology, or COAT, consists of over 67 national, regional, and community-based organizations dedicated to making sure that as our nation migrates from legacy public switched-based telecommunications to more versatile and innovative IP-based and other communication technologies, people with disabilities will benefit like everyone else. Emerging digital and Internet-based technologies can provide people with disabilities with new opportunities for greater independence, integration, and privacy, but only if these are designed to be accessible. The guiding principle of this Coalition will be to ensure the full inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of daily…

Windows Vista Keyboard Commands

Do you have anything on Vista yet? (Vista being Window's new operating software.) Anna Dresner has compiled all the commands and tricks for using Vista without a mouse in one easy-to-use reference card. It's not too soon to see what's different!

To order online, visit http://www.nbp.org/ic/nbp/VISTA.html or to order, send payment to:

NBP
88 St. Stephen Street
Boston, MA 02115-4302
Toll Free: 800-548-7323
Phone: 617-266-6160 ext 20

Fred's Head in Space

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When we started the Fred's Head Companion, we wanted to push blindness-related information out to the millions of readers on the internet. Here's a service that takes our message and sends it even further. Some 60 years ago humans first began transmitting television signals powerful enough to reach beyond our earth's atmosphere. Since then the media has continued to broadcast messages from I Love Lucy to the five o'clock news into space, potentially reaching intelligent alien life forms beyond our solar system. Blog in Space is the first entity to allow everyday bloggers to transmit the news and thoughts of an everyday person into space. Simply put, they take your blog's RSS feed and transmit it out on a powerful deep space transmission dish.

Click this link to learn more or to send your blog into space: http://www.bloginspace.com

Free and Accessible Online Retail Store Price Comparison Service

SalesCircular.com announces the availability of an Internet service to help shoppers compare prices and features for products advertised at their local retail stores. This is a free service available immediately at their Website www.SalesCircular.com. One of the best features of Internet shopping is to compare prices and features. However, blind and visually impaired customers still do the majority of their shopping in local retail stores as they need to touch and feel the products before buying. SalesCircular combines the best of both worlds by presenting prices and features of products advertised at the retail stores. This information is organized in specific product categories to show at a glance and screen-reader friendly listings. Blind and visually impaired shoppers face three challenges to doing comparison shopping on their own:

The advertising information is fragmented in various circulars that are distributed as junk mail, newspaper inserts and E-circulars at store Website…

Tips to Prevent Child Drowning

Hanging out at the beach or the pool is a ton of fun, especially for kids. As the summer approaches, think of the following tips so you and your kids can play by the pool without worry: Never leave a child unattended or with a young sibling in a swimming pool, wading pool, bathtub or hot tub.
Pools should be fenced and gated with self-locking gates.
Always secure the safety cover on your spa or hot tub.
Do not leave empty containers in yards or around the house where they may accumulate water and attract young children.
Adults and teenagers age 14 and older who supervise children should know CPR. Studies have demonstrated that nearly drowned children given quick CPR suffered no brain damage.
Children should be given swimming lessons but should not be considered water-safe until they are 14 years old.
Keep small children out of bathrooms unless supervised by an adult or older child.
Older children and even adults should not swim alone in the ocean or fast-moving rivers.
Children should wear …

Read PowerPoint Presentations to Your Group with PowerTalk

Have you ever had to use PowerPoint for a presentation at work? You created the slides and had no problem reading them when they were on the computer, but now you can't see them on the large screen during your presentation. Maybe you are a sighted presentor and your audience is visually impaired or blind and you are uncomfortable reading all the text associated with your presentation. You want to make things accessible for your audience, you just don't like to read aloud. What can you do? PowerTalk will read aloud the text included in any Windows PowerPoint (2000 or later) presentation, at least through Windows XP. This is a great tool for anyone who is unable to narrate or read his or her own presentations. PowerTalk is straightforward to download and install, and it is just as easy to use. All you do is right-click on the shortcut to a presentation and then select "Narrate with PowerTalk". PowerTalk reads both the text that appears on the screen as well as hid…

The TEMO Talking Microwave

This is a great product that has shown up in stores like Best Buy and Wal-Mart. Imagine a talking microwave under $100. It's available and here's some of the features:

0.9 cu.ft. 900W Oven Cavity
10 Power Levels
Digital Display with Clock
Turntable
Instructive Talking Programmable Feature
Interchangeable Voice Language Feature (English/Spanish)
Eight Instant Settings for Common Foods
Five Express Cook One-Touch Settings
Five Memory Setting Buttons
Remind Signal

Specifications

Model: 87106 or 87108 (the difference is the color)
Turntable Diameter: 12.4 inches
External Dimensions: 20.1 x 17 x 11.2 inches
Net Weight: 30.5 lbs The buttons are totally accessible. They're easy to feel, and are much like the buttons on any other appliance or remote control. It also has a little knob that you turn to set the cook times, with a little notch you feel [tactile] each time you turn it so you can easily tell how far to turn it. You push a button on the knob and it'll ask you to set the minu…

Sloppy Joes

Got a pound of ground beef? Sloppy joes are a hit at my house, and they're simple to make. Here's what you'll need: 1 pound ground beef
1 small onion diced (pickier the kids, finer the dice)
1 small bell pepper diced (optional)
2 8 ounce cans tomato sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon Montreal steak seasoning
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon Worcestshire sauce Over medium heat, brown then drain the ground beef. Return to the heat and add diced onions and peppers, cook until soft. Add tomato sauce, paste, brown sugar, steak seasoning, and Worcestshire sauce. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and cook for an additional five - ten minutes stirring occasionally. Serve on toasted buns.

New Visions Network

The New Visions Network is an online chat site for people who are blind or visually impaired, irregardless of their race, religious affiliation or economic status. Everyone has an interesting story to tell and we can all learn from each other. "This site was created by a group of friends with a New-Vision. our dream has come to life, and we would like you to continue our dream by adding ideas of your own." "We see for the future, a place where people can come and share with others. We have brought to this site our ideas, and we can all help each other find a place for everyone. Join us, enjoy and have fun." "We have attempted to make navigation on this site as easy as possible. Every page has the same look and feel and has been designed with accessibility in mind. You can access practicly everything on the site from the menu and the footer links."

Click this link to visit http://www.new-visions-network.com.

Just Hurry Up and Listen

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By Chuck AyersI am certainly not a trained historian. But lately when I chat with elderly men or women and engage them in conversation about their early growing up experiences, I attempt to follow their personal chronicles with great interest. This is surely aided by my little pocket digital recorder. I have recently been able to harvest an abundance of colorful history from senior town's folks. And, usually the most unsuspecting common and humble person generally has the most interesting story to tell, people who often shy away from talking about themselves. People from the back streets of society. People such as: Farmers plowing with mules, oil field workers missing fingers, farmer's wives cooking with wood burning stoves, or immigrant mill workers, for the most part, have the richest accounts of life. All who had carried the weight while carving out hard earned history. Almost all these ordinary people have captivating stories. A spoken life's narrative Othe…

Paper Out!

By Chuck AyersI am certainly one dedicated to rational and thoughtful thinking. And, those of you who really know me surely respect my effort I spend in laboring with good reasoning and sound judgment. Nonetheless, A dedicated compulsion is what drives me to consider all angles while looking at each decision with a clear and unbiased mind. If I can possibly avoid making a wrong decision then I am the better for it. I consider myself a keen observer of reality and usually learn how things work with relative ease. Witnessing what is normal and consistent is a clear indicator of how things should work. If I can observe a regular pattern and duplicate that, then that's how things should and can work. However, others, with an odd sense of correctness, go against the norm. Eccentric is the best way to describe them. Seemingly almost always going against the proverbial grain just to point out their own opinion or presents. No matter what is said or done, they will take issue w…