Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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


Thursday, August 30, 2007

IBM Home Page Reader

Home Page Reader speaks information as it is presented on the computer screen. Users hear everything from a description of graphics, to forms, frames and tables. Enhanced navigation features provide additional help in understanding complex tables and data input fields, and a simple search function provides the capability to look for descriptive text on a page or the entire Web.

In addition to being a Web browser, Home Page Reader includes a new desktop reader with keyboard navigation and speech output for the Microsoft Windows desktop and selected system applications. Compatible applications include Windows Explorer, Control Panel, Notepad, Media Player, WordPad and more.

Home Page Reader includes many features for users with low vision. Now those features and dialogs are on Home Page Reader menus so they are easier to access. Users with low vision can quickly change font size, type and color to customize the way information is presented to them. Windows and panes can also be resized to make the information easier to see, and a moving cursor that is synchronized with Home Page Reader's voice can help users maintain their focus while reading Web pages.

The View Zoom feature for Web page magnification enlarges everything on a Web page by a designated percentage to assist users with low vision to read information. Home Page Reader can also highlight words and characters on the Web page as they are spoken.

Text and links are read by different voices - a male voice speaks plain text while a female voice speaks links. Users may customize this and other speech and text settings according to preference.

Click this link to visit the IBM Human Ability and Accessibility Center.

Home Safety Tips for Low Vision: Live Independently and Avoid Falling

By Sharon OBrien

Low vision or blindness affects approximately 1 in 28 Americans over the age of 40, and the risk of low vision and blindness increases significantly with age—especially among people over 65.

Low Vision is a Growing Trend

Today, 6.5 million Americans over age 65 have a severe visual impairment, and experts predict that by 2030 the rate of severe vision loss will double along with the country's aging population.

Low vision can have profound and adverse effects on the overall health and well-being of older adults such as a greater risk of depression, drug-related errors caused by an inability to identify medications, and an increased risk of falls and fractures.

Low Vision Increases Risk of Falls and Fractures

Falls are the leading cause of death among people 65 and older, and people with low vision are at even greater risk of falls or fractures, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control.

The CDC study found that 1.8 million elderly not living in nursing homes reported difficulty with bathing, dressing and walking around the house in part because of a visual impairment. However, fewer than 2 percent reported using assistive equipment such as telescopic lenses and canes, which could improve their safety.

Preventing Falls and Other Injuries Related to Low Vision

In 2003, falls among older adults accounted for 12,900 deaths, 1.8 million emergency department visits, and 421,000 hospitalizations—but many falls can be prevented. [For more information about preventing falls, see 4 Simple Steps to Prevent Falling.

Safety Tips for People with Low Vision

To help people with low vision perform everyday tasks more easily while reducing their risk of falls and other injuries, the American Foundation for the Blind offers several useful tips:

  1. Keep rooms well lit. Good overall lighting is a must for safety.
  2. Use task lighting to make everyday activities easier.
  3. Use night lights in bedrooms, hallways, bathrooms, and the kitchen to make it easier for people with low vision to navigate in the dark.
  4. Make stairways safer by placing a brightly colored strip of tape along the edge of each step.
  5. Make door frames and light switches easier to see by painting them a color that contrasts with the walls around them.
  6. Cut light-colored items on a dark cutting board and dark items on a light cutting board. [Some companies now sell cutting boards that are white on one side and black on the other.]
  7. Place plates and food service items on placemats that are a contrasting color.
  8. Use pill organizers with raised markings or talking labels to help prevent serious medication mishaps.
  9. Eliminate clutter—dispose of unnecessary items, put things away as soon as you have finished using them, and always return them to the same place.
  10. Reposition television sets so that neither sunlight nor lamplight shines directly on the screen.

More Resources for People with Low Vision

For more tips on safety and independent living for people with visual impairments, see the this Senior Site, which is sponsored by the American Foundation for the Blind.

Search Public Radio for Live Streams and Podcasts

This database that can be personalized (favorite links, time zone, etc) is both a real time directory of what's airing on PUBLIC radio stations around the globe (WBUR, CBC, etc.) but also an excellent searchable directory of even more stations. What's also useful is that in most cases you can go directly from and open the stream of the station you want to listen to.

Click this link to visit
Click this link to check out their directory of public radio podcasts, over 1,000 to enjoy!

NPR Podcasts Directory

This 2007 Webby and People's Voice award-winner includes over 450 podcasts from member radio stations on a wide range of topics - Car Talk, Speaking of Pets, The 90-Second Naturalist, Sports with Frank DeFord, GeekSpeak, and more. Browse by topic, title, or provider.

Click this link to visit the NPR Podcasts Directory:

NPR Music

A service that National Public Radio calls "a free, multi-genre, multimedia Web site that presents the best of public radio music." Listen to or watch concerts, studio sessions, and interviews, and check out news and reviews.

Click this link to visit NPR Music:

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Stereotypes About the Blind and Visually Impaired

By Shari-Rae Tiilikainen

Being visually impaired and blind are actually two different terms. As a whole, the term visually impaired can mean anyone who has a classified visual disability; whereas, being blind, legally blind, has more scientific numbers attached to it. The great majority of those who have a visual disability can see something; it can be difficult to find someone who actually has no vision at all.

As a reader, you may be asking, well, what makes you an expert on how society treats visually impaired people? Who says we treat them differently anyway? Well, I should tell you that I have worked in the field teaching visually impaired individuals, but more importantly, I am visually impaired. I can tell you that people who are visually impaired really do get treated differently, and not always better. You can turn away and say, oh, I would never do that, but unfortunately, people do treat us differently because we have trouble with our eyes, even though you may not realize it or understand what is happening. A lot of times, people think that if you talk to or touch someone who has a visual impairment, that the condition is contagious, and they will catch the same eye disease. I don't know who helped to spread this rumor, but vision impairments are not catching or contagious.

With that being said, what are some of the other societal impressions/expectations that are incorrect or unfounded? One of the greatest of these is thinking that once someone has a visual impairment, their life automatically ends or it is the end of the line. Let me ask you this -if it is the end of the line, how could I be writing this article to you? You'd think that I would either be curled up in a ball in a dark room because I can't do anything for myself or maybe even commit suicide. Okay, yes, some people have a hard time accepting their limitations, but where do you find something that says, if you are blind, your life is over? Nowhere. Instead, there are many places that promote independence and quality of life. Another misconception is that, if you are elderly and have gone blind due to macular degeneration or other such age-related visual impairment, your family should put you into an assistive living facility or nursing home. Do you really think that losing your vision causes you to become helpless? I have taught myself and many other people how to lead independent lives and can live in their own home with no problem.

There have been many successful blind people who have made great impacts on society. They have been successfully employed, maintained a household, had advanced degrees, published books, made speeches, written music, had families, raised children, and participated in athletic and Olympic events, to name a few. As you can see, visually impaired persons are completely capable of leading fulfilling lives. Granted, they are unable to do things like driving, but more than make up for that in so many ways.

There are actually several benefits to being a blind person. Those who are visually impaired, because they can't see with their eyes, use their other senses, which happen to be quite developed. This allows them to read braille and use audio assistance. My favorite is that these individuals are much more able to see people with their heart and for who they are on the inside instead of judging them because they aren't wearing the right clothes or if the other person has a scar, for example. As a result, they are usually a great judge of character and people in general. Most importantly, they are able to use their unique life experiences to relate to others in ways that the general population cannot.

On the other hand, visually impaired people have many characteristics that make them very similar to the rest of society. They are people with feelings, dreams, and abilities; they have great children and are wonderful parents. More importantly, they should not be pitied or felt sorry for; our visual disabilities are not because we have been bad or a cause to be punished. Instead, as God blesses people without visual problems, He has blessed us that have them to be a special kind of people.

With that being said, what should someone do if and when they encounter a person with a visual impairment? First of all, use common sense. When someone loses their vision, it doesn't mean that they also lose their ability to hear, nor can they see someone signing to them. We can hear you just fine when you talk in a nonconfrontational, normal voice, which is unless they tell you otherwise. Offer to give us help, but don't force it or push it. For example, you don't need to grab their arm and pull them across the street. If we have a white cane, we do know how to cross the street safely, and only need your help if they ask for it. Just as you would like others to respect you needs and feelings, we need that very thing from you. Simply, we are a person; therefore, deserve your respect. So, next time you see someone with a visual disability, ask, how can I make that person's day better, not why are they walking on the sidewalk; they can't, their blind! Remember, being blind does not mean a lack of insight. We are like all people; we are just missing a physical part of ourselves, much like there is a part or two missing in everyone be it physical, emotional, or spiritual.

BrainBoost: An Answer Engine for the Net

Question: What is the difference between a search engine and an answer engine?

Answer: A search engine (like Google, Yahoo!, etc.) will find Web pages that have your search term somewhere in their text. An answer engine will find Web pages that actually answer your question directly.

BrainBoost is an answer engine that I'd like to introduce you to. Once you've tried it, you may never want to go back to a normal search engine again.

All you have to do is type in your question in plain English and see what happens! There's no need for quotes or question marks.

If you have some vision, you'll notice that clicking on the "read more" button opens up the result Web page in a scrolling box on the BrainBoost page you are viewing at the time. That way, you don't have to hit the Back button to get back to the search page. How cool is that?! Speech users should click on the "Click here to open in new window" link to see the result page.

In a case where there are just a few answers to a question, BrainBoost will offer you some related questions that you might like to consider.

When you get the answers to your question, and you find one that's really good, please click the "was this answer helpful" link to make BrainBoost even smarter. If you want to know how BrainBoost works and how to use it to the max, click on the "How is BrainBoost different from other search engines?" link, which is located on the Home page. Then be sure to read the comprehensive description.

I would like to give a word of warning: BrainBoost is addictive! Once you start using it, it's very difficult to stop. You can spend several hours looking up the answers to questions you always wanted to know, so just watch yourself!

Click this link to start searching with

Keyboard Shortcuts for Font Control in MS-Word

Ever wanted to change the font style or the size of the current font in MS-Word? Changing these attributes is not something just for sighted people, here are some keyboard commands that will help anyone who uses a screen reader.

First, let's address the font style.

To access the font type list, you'll need to use Ctrl + Shift + F. This will highlight the current font name in the list and it will allow you to have control over the list using the keyboard. You can scroll up and down with the arrows.

If you know the name of the font you're looking for, you can type in the name. But keep in mind, the spelling must be exactly correct and you must include the correct capital letters. If you know the name of the font, but not the correct spelling, you can just type the first letter of the name and it will take you to that part of the list. You can then use the arrow keys to find the correct font.

Whatever method you use to find the name of the font you're looking for, hit the Enter key when you're done.

Now, to move on to changing the font size.

To increase font size in increments, try Ctrl + Shift + > or Ctrl + ]. Decreasing the font size can be accomplished with Ctrl + Shift + < or Ctrl + [.

These methods work well and are very efficient. The key combinations using < and > will increase or decrease the font size, according to the sizes listed in the font size drop down list. The other combinations using [ and ] increase or decrease the font size one point at a time.

But, what about the times when you need to set a font like 14.5? (After all, who wants to be just like everyone else and use the regular font sizes? Let's be different!)

Use the key combination of Ctrl + Shift + P. This will highlight the current font size in the font size drop down list.

Now, all you have to do is type the font size you'd like and hit the Enter key. How cool is that!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Is That Movie Really Based on True Facts?

We've all heard those movie trailers that say that a movie is "based on a true story". Well, have you ever wondered if a story that is based on actual events was accurate? You can find out by visiting an interesting website with an interesting name, Chasing the Frog.

Navigation on this Website is pretty simple. On the main page, you will find the most recent entries in the center of the page, with a larger listing off to the left side. Or, you can click the link on the right hand side that says "Browse Our True Stories Section."

The movie 300 was a very popular movie, based on a real battle in history, but how closely did the movie follow history? I was actually very surprised by all the information I found about the Battle of Thermopylae and the Spartans and Persians. I was even more surprised to find that they included pictures, links to actual texts, video and more. Not only did they point out where the truth was stretched for good movie making, they even explained why. They also provide a link to the movie trailer for each entry.

Now, I'd like to draw your attention to the navigation strip at the top of the page. You will find these sections: Unmasked, Trailers, DVDs, True Stories, Posters, Based on Books, Classics, Box Office, News and Forum.

Unmasked: This section is devoted to unmasking movie villains. So far, they have unmasked Darth Vader and Michael Myers. You get to learn all about the different people who portrayed the villains, as well as, learn about their careers afterward.

Trailers: Here you can watch and listen to the trailers featured on this site, whether in the True Stories or Based on Books section. I thought this feature would be best used to confirm whether you want to actually see the flick after reading all about it. For example, while the story behind 300 is interesting, the movie was quite gory. So, you would know from watching the trailer that it might not be something you'd want to see.

Click this link to visit

Outlook Express Sends Messages Where There Are None

Do you use Outlook Express and even though your Outbox appears to be empty, it keeps trying to send a message? What's going on?

There are a couple of things you can check before you go off and switch email programs.

The first thing you'll want to check on is your Outbox folder. Go in there and click on the View menu and choose Current View. Once there, make sure the "Show All Messages" choice is selected. This ensures that you're able to see all of the messages that are contained in your Outbox folder. If you then see an email message appear, you can send it off normally or even delete it if you want.

The next thing you can check is within the Outbox folder itself. Go to File, Folder, Compact. If nothing happens, your folder is probably okay and you don't need to worry about it any longer. If you happen to get an error message, the Outbox.dbx file may be damaged. There are a couple of causes for this.

One could actually be an antivirus program that scans outgoing email. Unknown to some, the email scan isn't really necessary to protect your computer, especially if you have a regular antivirus program running as well. Go ahead and disable any email scans to prevent database file damage in the future.

If you did have a damaged Outbox file, the next thing you'll want to do is repair it (obviously!) To do this, you need to know where your store folder is for your emails. If you're not sure where it is, go to Tools, Options and click on the Maintenance tab. Toward the bottom is the Store Folder button. Click on that and a box will pop up telling you where your store folder is located on your computer. It will give you a drive letter. Write that down if you think you'll forget. You can also change the location at this point if you want to do that.

Once you have that, close Outlook Express and open up your store folder. Find the file titled "Outbox.dbx" and delete it. When you open Outlook Express again, a new Outbox folder will automatically be created, so you can continue to use it like normal.

Most of the time, the problem lies within an unsent message, but just in case that isn't so, it's good to know your options.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Share Your Folders With FolderShare

I've used all kinds of file-sharing programs, some primarily handle a particular type of file such as Hello the image sharing program, or Grouper used for sending huge files back and forth. Well this program also allows the sharing of files, and like the others, this has its own features and attributes, some of which are quite impressive. The best feature of all is that the program is totally accessible.

With Foldershare you can share, download and even synchronize folders on multiple PCs at the same time. Wow! In addition to this. the program has laid out a "Hold your hand" tutorial that will give anyone a sense of confidence with any chosen procedure.

"Sounds great," you say, "so how do you use it?" Well, to start off, you need to download the program. After you have properly installed it you will then need to create an account. This is a simple process which entails a name, email, and password, and presto, you're registered. One unique thing about Foldershare is that you can create more than one account for one PC and create the same account on multiple PC's. This helps you to take advantage of some of the procedures: there is an example or two of these towards the end of this article.

Once you have an account set up you may feel a little like a fish out of water, so, like I always say, go check out the HELP file. This will give you everything you'll ever need to know about the program. Since I know a lot of you have firewalls there is definitely some material that may be of interest to you in the HELP file concerning allowing certain services to pass. This shouldn't be too much of a problem for those of you who have your firewall set to prompt you when any new programs/services attempt to access the Internet.

There are also some considerations you may want to keep in mind as far as security goes with this program. With Foldershare you can potentially peruse through other's PC's (accounts you may become affiliated with by setting up or joining groups). This is only with certain options in place, but is a legitimate concern, so watch how you set Foldershare up-don't give anyone your password and maybe even shut it down when not in use. Follow these guidelines and you should be safe, and please read the HELP file for any clarification.

The same reason I warned you about the potential security risk, is also one of the coolest features of this program. What I'm talking about is the ability to log into two, three, four PC's with the same user account and have instant or manual folder synchronization. For example, let's say you're on vacation and you're running out of memory card space for your audio files, and you happen to have your laptop with you. If you left your PC on at home you could hook your portible MP3 recording device to your laptop, log on to your Foldershare account (if you have internet access at your hotel or are in a wireless hotspot) and Sync up the folders. You could even do it twice to two different folders for security through redundancy and then format your memory card/stick for more audio files.

Foldershare really is a cool program. Take a little time to get comfortable with it and you'll love it. You know this may also be nice for those of you who have two places where you stay throughout the year-you can keep everything up-to-date on both ends. This program, coupled with Deskman, a little imagination and configuration and you could really have a secure environment in which to transfer files from one location to the other no matter where you are. How cool is that?

Click this link to visit the Folder Share home page to get more information, or to download the application:

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Print Speaking to the Blind

Print Speaking to the Blind is a podcast service enabling visually impaired people to download The Glasgow Herald, Sunday Herald, Evening Times, Scottish Sun, Radio Times Scotland, Inside Soap, Earth Matters, SFX, Star Trek, Empire and More magazines/ newspapers, all for a membership fee. Don't know about podcasting? No problem, the service is also available on cassette and compact disc.

New members will need a username and password to access all the features they offer. To pay your membership fee and to get details of how to use the service either follow the instructions on the podcast site, email or telephone 0141-563-0306. The membership form can be downloaded at For more information, contact:

Alastair C McPhee
Managing Editor
Cue and Review Recording Service
Crowhill Business Centre
18 Crowhill Road
Phone: 0141-563-0306

Accessible Voting Technology For The Blind

The ES&S AutoMARK is a system designed to give people with disabilities more independence at their local poling place. The 40,000 polling places across 42 states that currently use or are considering the optical scan method of ballot-marking will be candidates for this state-of-the-art voting machine, which uses a touch screen, allows for an auditable paper trail and gives disabled Americans the option to vote privately and independently.

The addition of this technology to an existing optical scan system will bring those polling places into compliance with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 requiring all polling locations to be equipped with at least one voting machine for people with disabilities by January 2006. The ES&S AutoMARK offers a virtually fool-proof way for all Americans to vote accurately with a high level of confidence that their vote is private and secure -- and, since the Chad fiasco of 2000 -- gives polling places reliable and legal documents in case of a recount.

The ES&S AutoMARK prevents overvoting, accidentally marking too many candidates; and minimizes undervoting, skipping a race unintentionally. At the end, the votes are summarized on the screen, also via headphones, and voters have a chance to change selections. Once complete, the voter brings the ballot to an optical scan machine for tabulation.

The machine offers several features for disabled voters, including an audio ballot; a tempo control voice technology; directions and a touch pad with Braille; repeat key voice technology; sip/puff tube for paraplegics and quadriplegics; and zoom and contrast button for the visually impaired. It also features a full range of foreign language options.

This technology was created by Chicago-based AutoMARK Technical Systems (ATS) and is being distributed by Election Systems and Software (ES&S). For more information, call Ed Claffy, 630/291-0655 or go to the Automarks web site by clicking this link. You can also visit the ES&S - Election Systems & Software page by clicking this link:

Headquartered in Tustin, AccuPoll (OTCBB:ACUP) is the developer of a federally qualified electronic voting system featuring an intuitive touch screen input and a voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) that can be confirmed by the voter at the time the ballot is cast, creating a permanent paper audit trail as mandated in the "Help America Vote Act of 2002" (HAVA). AccuPoll's voter verified paper audit trial allows voters with visual impairments to audibly review the permanent paper audit trail as their ballot is cast.

A core component of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) is that all voting locations have a means by which voters with disabilities may vote unassisted by the first federal election of 2006. States across the country are currently evaluating voting systems that meet federal guidelines in order to comply with these new standards. AccuPoll System Scores High Marks for Accessibility, allowing many to vote unassisted for the first time.

For additional information: Click here to visit the Accupoll home page:

The Blind Doctor

In 1912, at the age of 24, Jacob Bolotin became the first totally blind physician fully licensed to practice medicine. By the time he was thirty, he was one of the top heart and lung specialists in Chicago. A new biography, The Blind Doctor: The Jacob Bolotin Story tells about the amazing life of a remarkable man who was born blind to poor Jewish parents in Chicago in 1888 and fought his way into and through medical school.

During the last years of his short life, Dr. Bolotin used his celebrity to give speeches around the Midwest to raise the awareness of the world to the plight of the blind. His words are as timely today as they were in 1922 when he said:

"I am blind, and I am a doctor. The fact that I am standing here before you is living proof of what we, the [blind], can achieve.. The major problem for us is not our affliction, but the wall of ignorance, injustices, indifference and misconceptions that separate us from you who can see. We must break down that wall, but we can't do it alone. We need your help.".

In this inspiring and entertaining book, Rosalind Perlman drew on the memories of her husband, Alfred, who was Dr. Bolotin's nephew, to bring "Doctor Jake" back into the spotlight. Alfred and his widowed mother had lived with the Bolotins for the four years preceding Dr. Bolotin's tragic death. When he died in 1924, 5,000 people attended his funeral.

After her own death in 2004, Rosalind left a bequest in the name of the Alfred and Rosalind Perlman Trust to the Santa Barbara Foundation to publish The Blind Doctor and to establish an annual award: The Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award for the Blind. This national award will be given out annually by the National Federation of the Blind and presented to blind people or organizations that have made a significant impact within the blind community.

Click this link to purchase The Blind Doctor: The Jacob Bolotin Story from

Copyright 2004-2005 - HealthCare Articles.

What is Academic Plagiarism?

Many students lack a clear concept of what plagiarism is, and why it matters, so this site will be useful for teachers trying to train them in academic honesty. It not only illustrates various forms of plagiarism, but in each instance shows how to use the misappropriated material responsibly.

Click this link to read the article Academic Plagiarism Defined by Professor Irving Hexham.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Braille Instructions for Over One Hundred Games

Have you ever found yourself halfway through a particularly engrossing game of chess, not sure if the really fancy move you've planned out is entirely legal? Or maybe a fellow card player has played a card you didn't think should have been allowed? Or are you just one of those game fanatics who strives to learn everything there is to know about a specific game? It definitely sounds as if all of you could use a booklet or two of game directions now and again!

With instructions available for over a hundred popular games, the Braille Bookstore's Game Directions series insures you'll be able to read up on any game of your choice. Plus, each book provides a detailed outline of the game, its objectives, how you win, rules and regulations, and so much more. In short, you'll never be left puzzling or debating at your next game night!

Click this link to visit the Family Games section of the Braille Bookstore's website. Once there, look for the "Game Directions" heading.

Have you ever been half way through an exciting game of cards when somebody made a move you weren't sure they should have? Or perhaps you've been all set to play that "winning card", but stopped yourself at the last minute because you weren't positive the play was legal? And of course, everyone always likes to try a new card game now and then ... But without a Braille book outlining the rules, blind players often find it takes longer to catch onto an especially complicated game.

Card Games for Everyone is a beautiful Braille book that will solve all these problems. It's filled with concisely-written (yet easy-to-read and understand) directions and rules for twenty of the most popular card games out there. With this book to guide you, you'll master twelve different traditional games: Blackjack, Poker, Rummy, Bridge, Hearts, Euchre, Solitaire, Cribbage, Pinochle, Spades, Pitch and Whist. Eight more family games are also described: Crazy Eights, Go Fish, Old Maid, Slap Jack, Cheat, War, Beggar My Neighbor and Concentration.

This lovely book will surely gain the place of honor on anyone's bookshelf. Bound with sturdy vinyl-plastic covers which can easily be wiped off, Card Games for Everyone is just the right size to fit into your backpack. So bring this book (along with a deck of playing cards) with you to Family Night, and you'll be all set for a fun-filled evening ... no matter what game everyone decides to play!

Click this link to visit the Family Games section of the Braille Bookstore's website. Once there, look for the "Card Games for Everyone (In Grade 2 Braille) heading.

Crayola Audio Ruler

Assistive devices can come from the strangest places, but we certainly don't mind when a company comes out with a product that can be used by both the blind and the sighted. Imagine my surprise when I came across this little product from a crayon company.

Measure out loud with this incredible talking ruler! Great tool for the blind and low vision - especially handy for students. Measures up to one foot in eighth-inch increments. Just roll a line and listen to your measurement. Built-in speaker clearly announces distance measured in female voice. On/Off switch conserves battery life. Contains 3 non-replaceable button cell batteries. For ages 6 and up. Weighs: 1.5 oz.

Easy to use: Just flip open protective cover and slide switch down to turn unit on, place pen tip at start of measurement line, hold down button and "draw" line. Measurement wheel rolls keeping track of measurement. Release button and measurement will be read aloud. Ink marks the distance measured then disappears in a few minutes.

Click this link to purchase the Crayola Audio Ruler from Affordable Speech Programs, a division of NextUp Technologies, LLC, provides award-winning Text-to-Speech software for consumers, business customers, educators, and those with visual or vocal impairment, or learning disabilities. markets innovative Windows software designed to save time and deliver vital information.

TextAloud reads text from email, web pages, reports and more, aloud on your PC. TextAloud can also save your daily reading to MP3 or Windows Media files ready for playback on your iPod, PocketPC, or even on your TV with Tivo's Home Media Option. Be more productive or just be entertained wherever you go with this text reader. Business people, students, educators, writers, lawyers, homemakers and busy people from all walks of life find TextAloud to be an essential tool they use every day. It's been featured in The New York Times, PC Magazine, Writer's Digest, on CNN and more.

NewsAloud is a talking personal "news agent" that finds the stories users want, and then reads them aloud or to portable MP3 files. NewsAloud is easy to set up and get started with right away. Select the categories for news you want and choose how you want to be notified when new stories are found. Select from several available voices to create your own personal information broadcast. The program can also convert Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds in to speech for immediate playback.

WeatherAloud is a weather application that lets users select and listen to personalized weather forecasts. These days you need to know more than just the weather outside your door, so WeatherAloud brings you forecasts from other cities and regions you select from around the world. You can build a personal list of forecasts that interest you, and customize each one to meet your needs. Wake up to your local forecast, listen to hourly temperatures from your favorite vacation spot, or hear conditions where your distant loved ones are.

StocksAloud reads stock updates and related news headlines aloud for specific companies of interest. Stock prices, changes, and trading ranges are updated at specified intervals so you can check easy to read summaries, or relax and listen as StocksAloud reads them to you. Choose automatic audio updates and you won't even have to open the program window. Stay on top of your bottom lineFor a really quick and more private update, just press your left mouse button for one second on the system tray icon and a convenient pop up window shows an instant summary of your portfolio while StocksAloud runs in the background. It's up to you to decide how and when you want your information, it can even be emailed to you if that's your preference.

For those who have lost their ability to speak, the gift of an easy, natural-sounding vocal alternative may prove to be a truly life-changing experience. It's a gift that's now possible, thanks to NextUp Talker, a computer program from NextUp Technologies. The latest program from one of the industry's leaders in the field of text to speech technology, NextUp Talker allows people who have lost their voices to use the latest in high-quality computer voices to communicate with others.

NextUp Talker is a Text-to-Speech application specifically designed for people who have temporarily or permanently lost their voices. With natural, human-sounding voices, as well as a host of quick and convenient shortcuts for conversational, commonly-used sentences and phrases, NextUp Talker allows users to easily communicate with others despite vocal impairments, using Windows-based Desktop, Laptop or Tablet PCs.

The use of traditional written communications may leave the newly voiceless with a feeling of disconnection, as it's still exceedingly difficult to write as quickly as others speak. NextUp Talker was created to help them regain an important part of their lives so they can once more "talk" with others. Unlike previous technology products that were too often prohibitively expensive for many, NextUp Talker offers an affordable solution -- and with a free 30-day trial that anyone can download and evaluate immediately! If they decide to purchase NextUp Talker, natural-sounding voices are available in a wide range of genders, ages, accents, and approaches for a truly "conversational" text-to-speech solution.

NextUp Talker Benefits at a Glance:

  • Specifically designed for use in conversation
  • Achieves a more pleasant, "conversational" result thanks to latest generation, high-quality, natural-sounding voices.
  • Works easily with either mouse or keyboard.
  • Easy-to-use shortcuts offer quick access to frequent, commonly-used phrases and expressions. This creates a smooth conversation flow with less delays for a more natural flow. Users can even enter their own individual phrases and special abbreviations as well.
  • Adapts to the user's own style and speed, with options to speak each word, each sentence, or each paragraph as typed (or on demand)
  • Offers the ability to insert actual sound files along with speech! These can help to make kids more comfortable talking with an adult using a computer.
  • Affordable, fast and easy to install

NextUp Talker is compatible with Windows 98, NT, 2000 and XP, or Tablet PCs. The program is available for fast, safe and secure purchase via also offers NextUp Talker with more optional premium voices from AT&T Natural Voices, NeoSpeech and Cepstral -- for the most natural-sounding computer speech anywhere.

Use the contact information below for more information on

NextUp Technologies
2668 Lewisville-Clemmons Rd
Clemmons, NC 27012

Monday, August 20, 2007

Digital Content at the Touch of a Paper Button

TouchSmart Publishing creates exciting and easy-to-use interactive books, and other printed materials, that connect to digital content when readers touch icons on pages in the books with just their fingers or with a pointer. Through use of a "touch user interface" (TUI) we help students get connected to digital content on the world wide web, and on DVDs, CDs, and hard drives. This content then can be shown on a television or computer.

TouchSmart Publishing is a digital divide solution for the K-12 and higher education community targeting all students in math, science, and with special needs.

Click here to visit the TouchSmart web site:

Accessible diabetes Tracking with SiDiary

SiDiary makes the control of diabetes much easier. Data capturing is a cinch and analysis will help to improve your therapy.

The key is a profile wizard that will ask a few diabetes related questions and will configure the software to best fit your personal needs and computer skills. Begin with the more simple screen and add features as you become more familiar with the program. Features include:

  • Suitable for all diabetes types (Type 1, 2, Lada, Pregnancy-/Gestational-diabetes etc.) with or without medication (Pills, Insulin) and for all therapy types (Basetherapy, CT, ICT, Pumper etc.)
  • Read data from almost all common blood glucose meters
  • Simple interface for data entry, use of different devices for entering data (Windows-PC, PocketPC, Cellphone) with automated sync-mechanism and merging of all data.
  • Automated sending of SMS messages to your doctor or a trusted person if you have tracked a critical blood glucose level.
  • Analysis, trends and graphical feedback for adjusting your diabetes therapy (available on all devices!)
  • Direct feedback for tracked values will increase your motivation drastically
  • Search the nutrition database (USDA Rev.17) for carbs, fat, protein etc. even on your Smartphone
  • Full text search for all tracked records
  • Send your data to your doctor or health-care professional with SiDiary's email wizard (compressed, crypted and password-protected)
  • Several import-, export- and print functionalities for archiving your data on paper or as a log for your doctor (Demo)

SINOVO has developed a special mode for SiDiary together with blind diabetics. This mode supports blind people with diabetes to work with SiDiary in combination with a screenreader (i.e. Virgo, JAWS, Window Eyes etc.) with optimized SiDiary screens. The user can activate a special "blinde-mode" which basically switches relevant screens into a special layout which is highly optimized for screen readers. All tracked parameters are composed with a compact layout and with the appropriate shortcuts you can navigate the days and edit the data. SiDiary also supports the relevant meter devices for blind diabetics: providing a driver for the GlucoTalk meter and can read (via Accu-Chek Smart Pix) the Accu-Chek Compact Plus meter which can be configured in an acoustic mode. The driver for the Deltec CoZmanager (Cozmo insulin pump) completes the package for this target group since the Cozmo is currently the only insulin pump which can be easily used by blind diabetics.

SiDiary will switch into the blind mode automatically on systems with an installed version of Virgo. If you are using another screenreader you can activate the special mode within the profile wizard on the initial startup of the software.

To make things even easier, blind users can use a USB-Stick version with SiDiary. This stick can be plugged into any desktop computer and does not need a setup or registration. Just plug it and start to track your data with SiDiary. Of course you can give your health-care-professional the stick since this media holds all your personal data.

Click this link to learn more about the USB version of SiDiary.
Click this link to download the 30 day free trial of SiDiary.

Please note: SiDiary will provide great help for your daily life with diabetes, it cannot replace consultations with health-care professionals. It can replace your paper log but it cannot give medical advice.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Trail Link: Your Guide To Summer Fun

"Welcome to TrailLink, the most robust source of FREE trail information on the Web. We invite you to search the TrailLink database for detailed information on surface types, access points, locations, distances, services, reviews, photographs and local links for America's 1,250 rail-trails, plus many other canal towpaths, greenways and non-rail-trails."

Who could create a better introduction than that? I hope it gets you fired up to go trail blazing this summer? I can't wait to investigate some of the local trails near me.

The greatest thing is that it's FREE. There is also the fact that it helps you find great trails near you or in places you may vacation to. You can search by keyword, state, or by activity. I used the state because I wanted to find what was nearest to me, but if you have a great activity in mind I highly recommend that option.

If you have someone you want to get out into nature that needs the use of the wheelchair-choose wheelchair in the activity option and find great areas that are wheelchair accessible. This search also works well for those of us who use dog guides.

If you are traveling out of the country and want to hit the trails in the country you are visiting why don't you visit the "Trails Around the World" section of the site. Makes planning things to do while you are out of the country a little easier, don't you think?

Click here to visit the Trail Link site:

Teaching Spanish To The Blind

Message: Dear Fred,

I am a teacher's assistant looking for tips on my student having to take Spanish next year. The teacher has approached me for guidance. Can you shed any light on this subject or direct me to sites that are applicable? I have tried to search the net but have not acquired any good info or was not able to access sites. Just some good basic info. Thank you!

First of all, you need to find out what book is going to be used to teach the class. Write down the following information:

  • The name of the book
  • The author
  • The date it was published
  • The ISDN number

Once you have this information, head over to The American Printing House for the Blind's web site: and look for the "Use Louis to search for and order APH products!" link.

On the resulting page, click the link that says "Search for Textbooks, Recreational Reading, and Downloadable Files".

If you have the ISBN number of the book, choose the search option "ISBN or Catalog Number", and complete the rest of the form. Click the "Search" button to get your results.

Don't forget to "Search the National Library Service Catalog", and "Search" from the Louis search page as well.

While searching for ways to help this student, I came across a site that has Spanish flash cards and lessons. These items can either be printed from the site, or downloaded for later printing. Both the cards and lessons come in black and white or color.

Time is always an issue, but the flash cards could be individually brailled for a blind student. Printing these flash cards may also give the user the opportunity to enlarge the cards for the visually impaired student. Again, it will take some time to print or braille the cards, but this is a good resource for creating study material.

Click here to visit

Hi Fred,

Do you know of a good English-Spanish translation dictionary for a braille student--more specifically speaking. I am thinking something like the Franklin Language Master, but has the ability to translate Spanish-English.

location: Greenville, SC

There is supposed to be a device called the "DICTIOMATIC". It is said to be made by a company called Dictionatic. At one time they had a listing in the St. Petersburg, FL area but I never got anyone to answer or return a call. It was given as a prize on more than one game show on TV some years ago.

There are some computer programs that do that sort of thing if one has a laptop. At least, you can enter simple phrases and have them translated by the computer.

I can't give you the name of anything specific in the way of a special program that does it. There are some language packs that can be installed onto a computer that can help. I know of nothing like the Franklin capable of doing anything of the sort with speech.

Can you help us answer this question? If you have any suggestions, please email

Listening To Podcasts With The Book Port


Back in February, I read an article in the New York Times about a way to use audio and RSS technology which is called podcasting.

Basically, its a way of getting mp3 files which other users create and upload to a server automatically downloaded to your machine/mp3 player as soon as they become available. Now don't let the "pod" in the name "podcast" put you off--you don't need an Ipod to take advantage of these files--your computer or any portable mp3 player (like the Book Port (TM) will work just fine. Not all podcasts are in mp3 format, but the vast majority of them are.

Now, you will need some software, or an aggrigator (frequently referred to as a podcatcher)! I knew immediately that this was the answer to my mp3 file prayers, and have been exploring the wide world of podcasts ever since. What a goldmine of audio! There are podcasts available on every conceivable subject from news, technology, sports, music, and comedy. You can find serialized books and dramas, programs for any musical taste, programs that make you laugh out loud, religious programs, and on and on it goes.

To help you get started in exploring this rich and varied world, I've put together a five-step guide to podcasting. I hope some of you will find as much enjoyment from this as I have.

Step One: Get An Aggrigator

So how do you find the right software? provides an excellent software page which is a good central point for finding the software you need. Click here to visit's Software Page.

Finding the best software to use with your screen reader will take a little experimentation. The program I use and recommend is Juice. Click to visit the Juice Development page at

Once you've downloaded and installed your aggrigator, take some time to familiarize yourself with the default options. You'll probably want to change the download directory to something that works for you, or at least find out what the default location is. You may also want to check a box to have scans done automatically when the program starts. Also take a look at the scheduling options, which are generally in a separate dialog box. Most programs will either allow you to set specific times or frequencies by the half hour.

Step Two: Find and Subscribe To Podcasts

The easiest way to subscribe to podcasts is to use the directories built in to most podcatchers. Most of these programs use a tabbed interface. You will use control+tab to change views with your screen reader. In Juice, simply hit control+tab once from the starting screen and you will land in a directory tree with several podcasts to choose from. Navigate the directory tree to locate categories and podcasts you are interested in. In Juice, simply press enter on any podcast you want to add. Hit shift+control+tab to cycle back to the subscriptions view, which shows a list of podcasts you are currently subscribed to. Be aware that most programs, including Juice start you off with a few default podcasts. If you aren't interested in these defaults, they can be easily removed. In Juice, highlight the feed, and press the delete key.

You can manually enter feeds by copying the URL and pasting it in to the program's new feeds dialog box. In Juice, use control-n to bring up this dialog box.

Podcast feeds often end with the three lettrs XML, or you may see a link on a web page marked with the letters XML. If you do find a link, you can either right click it to get the URL, or click on the link to bring up the resulting page in your browser. This page will look strange, but all you want to do is to get the URL from your browser's address bar. Use the back command in your browser to return to the original page that contained the XML link.

Step Three: Scan For New Shows

Once you've subscribed to some podcasts, start the scanning/downloading process. In Juice, you can do this by pressing f5. It is also possible to scan an individual show from the tools menu. Most programs will download just the newest show for each podcast. If you highlight a podcast in Juice, then press tab, you will be in a list of the available shows. If you want to download previous programs, use your arrow keys to highlight the episode you want, then press the spacebar. The status of the entry will change from "skipped" to "download".

The bottom of the screen will display information about the downloads in most programs.

Step Four: Transfer Your Files To The Bookport

Remember my earlier suggestion of how you should get to know your individual program? Did you find where your files are going to be downloaded to? If not, you'll need to locate your download directory. The files for each podcast you have subscribed to will be saved in its own folder. I move the files I want to put on my Book Port (TM) in to one combined folder (E.G. "current podcasts") and then do a send-to-Book Port on that folder. This technique has several advantages:

  1. I can easily check the folder properties to make sure the size of the files I want to transfer will fit on the card currently in the Book Port (TM).
  2. The files will transfer in alphabetical order
  3. It cuts down on the amount of folder navigating I need to do with the Book Port (TM)

The down side to this method is that where folder names are very descriptive, the actual file names are not as likely to be.

Wait, you don't have a Book Port (TM)? Well you'll have to read through your MP3 player's manual to find out how to transfer files to it.

Step Five: Sit Back, Relax, and Enjoy!

Below are some podcasting directories to explore, all of which are easy to navigate with speech. Remember, each podcast usually has a web site where you can manually download files to see if you want to subscribe to their programs. If you do, find the URL to the podcast feed, do a copy shortcut, and paste the URL in to the new feed dialog box of your aggrigator. Has Weather Podcasts by Zip Code has podcasts for every zip code in the US. The podcasts feature a short forecast "read" by a text-to-speech program.

You can get your local podcast by using a URL like this:

Make sure you replace YOURZIPCODE in the URL with your zip code.

PirateWeather is run by Robbie Schmelzer, and is based out of Boulder, Colorado.

In addition to offering podcasts by zip code, PirateWeather has plans for PirateWeather "reporters", using voicemail to MP3 and sorting calls by caller ID.

Click this link to visit the website.

The Cook's Thesaurus

Well, if you love to cook, personally I love the eating part, then you're going to love this site! It's a Cook's Thesaurus! What exactly does that mean? A thesaurus helps you find another word for something. Example:

Hot - the thesaurus shows that you can also use burning, sweltering, spicy, and it also gave me a list of other words for those words.

You can find entries for just about anything: vegetables, fruits, dairy, liquids, grains, baked goods, and so on and so forth.

This is a great site that may just save you from going to the grocery store!

Click here to visit The Cook's Thesaurus home page:

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Caps Lock Blues

Don't you hate it when you accidentally hit the Caps Lock key? What if you could set your computer up so it alerts you when you accidently turn Caps Lock on? With this tip, I'll show you how to make your computer beep & flash the next time it happens.

Let's get the computer to beep when you hit the Caps Lock key. Here's how:

  1. Click the Start button, or press your "Windows" key.
  2. Windows 95/98 users click on "Settings", or hit the letter "s" until you get to "settings" then press "enter". Click on "Control Panel", or hit "c" until you get to "Control Panel" and press "enter". (XP Users, hit the Start button, then click on "Control Panel" or hit "c" until you get to "Control Panel" and press "enter").
  3. Hit "a" until you get to "Accessibility Options", or click it with your mouse.

  4. Use control+tab to navigate to the "Keyboard" tab, or click it with your mouse.
  5. Tab through the options until you hear "Use Toggle Keys" and press "space" to check the box. Mouse users insure that this box is checked.

That's it for the beeping part. If you use a screen reader, you can tab to the "ok" button to exit this window. You'll also want to close the "Control Panel" screen as well. If you have some vision, you may wish to continue to have your screen flash when your Caps Lock key is pressed.

  1. From the Accessibility Options screen, click the Sound tab and check the "Use SoundSentry" checkbox.
  2. Next click the Settings button and select "Flash active window" from the "Warning for windowed programs" drop down box.

That's it. Hit OK until you're clear of property and settings screens.

Note to everyone. If you don't have an Accessibility Options icon in your Control Panel, you may not have it installed. To install, hit your Start button, Settings, Control Panel. Open the Add / Remove programs icon and click the Windows Setup tab. You'll be able to add components from there. Keep in mind you'll need your Windows CD!

Would You Please Brighten That Text!

Friends tell me that they hate visiting a web site that has dark text on a dark background. Even with a screen magnification program, they don't want to make a lot of changes to their configuration just to see a particular site. Is there an easy way to make these readable they ask? Yes, and it's very simple.

Sometimes a background doesn't load right, or maybe it's just bad design, plain and simple. Either way, some pages are just hard to read.

The next time this happens to you, hit CTRL-A.

All the text on the website will be selected (highlighted). The selection color is normally blue with white text. Much easier to read than, say, a dark red on a black background. This works with email in Outlook Express too!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Where Did That File Go?

Have you ever downloaded a file then couldn't find it? I usually download to my desktop or my downloads folder, but do occasionally change folders.

If you can't find a downloaded file in the usual place, try to download again and you'll see the location under the "Save in" field. Most browsers remember where your most recent download was saved. Hit "Cancel" once you know the location.

So, you still can't find that file? Let's go at this another way by using the search function in Windows.

Click the Start button and select "Find" or "Search" depending on your version of Windows. A screen will open up that allows you to search for files.

To do a search, just type the name of the missing file in the "Named" box. If you're using XP, you'll need to click the "All files & folders item" and type what you're looking for into the "All or part of a file name" box.

If you're not sure what the name of the file is, you can use wildcards.

For example, say you're looking for a text file, but you aren't 100% sure of the file name. Type *.txt in the "Named" or "All or part of a file name" box. The * is a wildcard, meaning that as long as a file has an extension of .txt, it will be displayed.

Don't worry. You don't have to know the file extension if you already know the name of the misplaced file. If you know the name of the file, just type it in the box and it will attempt to locate it. In fact, even if you only have a partial file name, that will work.

Once the file is located, just double-click it, or press enter while the file is highlighted, and Windows will open it.

I know that I've often found myself searching for the same file over and over again. You'd think I would learn where I put it. What a hassle to go to Search and put everything in again. Well, did you know that you can save a search?

After your search is complete go to the File menu and choose "Save Search". Give the file a name and choose a location. Be sure to choose a place where you won't have to search for it :-) I put mine in "My Documents". Click "Save".

Now when you want to redo that search just go to the location you saved it in and double-click the file (it has a .fnd file extension). All your search parameters are there and you can click the "Search" button to run it again.

This really comes in handy with more complicated searches, like when you scan for large files.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Nylon Gloves: The no-stick solution to reading Thermaform braille

Sweaty or sticky fingers can make reading Thermaform braille a slow and frustrating process. There's a simple solution: get yourself a pair of lightweight nylon gloves. The gloves are typically used by product inspectors and people who handle sensitive computer and machinery parts. The nylon keeps your fingers from sticking to the Thermaform plastic yet the material is thin enough to let you continue to read the braille dots.

You can find nylon gloves at many computer and photography stores, and at online glove dealers. Buy gloves in bulk for the best price.

If you are in a pinch for a quick, low-cost solution to this sticky situation, use an old pair of panty hose. Just cut some material to fit your hand. Your fingers will literally "run" across the page.

Contributor: fred gissoni

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sending Pictures with Outlook Express

So you've got this great picture of your new dog guide, and you want to share it with another visually impaired friend. Did you know that you can email the picture to them using Outlook Express? Follow these steps:

  1. First, Create a new message and make sure that you have Format set to "Rich Text (HTML)".
  2. Use ALT+I to open the "Insert" menu.
  3. Use your down arrow key to move to "select Picture", or click it with your mouse.
  4. A dialog box will come up that allows you to browse to the picture's location on your hard drive.
  5. Find your picture, hit OK , and you're all set.

Note that you can set a few other options before you hit OK. Here's a quick rundown:

  • Alternate Text - This will be displayed in place of the picture if the recipient's e-mail client is not able to, or not set to, display pictures.
  • Under Layout - Alignment - This lets you set your text wrapping. For example, if you set it to Left, the image should appear on the left of the message with your text wrapping around to the right. It's actually kind of cool.
  • Border Thickness - If you would like to have a border around your image, set the thickness using this box. The units are in pixels, so 2 or 3 is usually a good size.
  • Under Spacing - Your horizontal and vertical spacing sets the distance the text is from the image. By default, there is some space, but you can increase that area by entering values (pixels) into these two boxes.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Media Files and Players

OK, so you want to play audio and video files on your computer, but you're totally confused by all the different filetypes, what players you need to play them, and all that? Well, here's a listing of some of the most common filetypes you'll run into:

  • .wav - the oldest Microsoft type of sound files. Most sounds that you hear at startup and such, including "You've got mail" are waves.

  • .mid - Most instrumental music on web pages are MIDI files. Rather than representing musical sound directly, MIDI files transmit information about how a song should sound that is then processed by your sound card. WAV files represent musical sound directly.

  • .mp3 - these files started the current digital music revolution. Songs can be saved in near CD sound quality and they are compact, thus easy to share (much to the chagrin of the Recording Industry.

  • .mpg - usually MPEG-4 Video (MP3's big brother)

  • .ra /.rm - RealAudio/RealMedia (RealOne Player)

  • .mov -Quicktime Movie File

  • .asf - Active Streaming File. A Windows Media Audio or Video stream.

  • .avi - Audio Video Interleaved. A Microsoft multimedia format used for Windows Video clips.

  • .wma - Windows Media Audio File, similar to an MP3, but smaller

  • .wmv - Windows Media Video file

  • .ogg - Ogg Vorbis is a completely open, patent-free, professional audio encoding and streaming technology. It compresses to an even smaller size than MP3 without loss of quality. It was officially released July 2002 but it hasn't quite caught on.

There are many players that can be used to encode and play these file types. These are my favorites based on features, functionality, and accessability:

You can head on over to the individual sites for all these players and compare features yourself. They all offer free downloads, however, some of them (like RealOne) make it harder to find the free version.

If you have several players and you want different players for different media file types, you should go into the settings for each individual player. For instance: I can tell MusicMatch Jukebox to be the default for my MP3's, Windows Media Player to handle WAV's, and WinAmp to do MIDI.

In Windows Media Player go to Tools/Options (if you don't see "Tools" listed at the top of the window, right click the top bar and it'll be there). Click on the "File Types" then select the media file types you want played in WMP.

With WinAmp go to Options/Preferences then go to "General Preferences". Click "File Types" (you may need to double-click if it isn't listed). Select the file types you want associated with WinAmp. You can also click "All"

MusicMatch Jukebox users can go to Options/Settings then under the "General" tab check off the media file types you want it to be the default player for.

For RealPlayer go to Tools/Preferences then under "Content" select "Media Types". Check off the file types that you want associated with RealPlayer.

Other media players should have similar methods. Look for Tools, Options, Settings, or Preferences then File or Media Types.

One other option that I feel takes a bit longer is to associate each media file type with a player through Folder Options. From any file window, or the Control Panel, click "Tools" at the top. Select "Folder Options" then click the "File Types" tab. Scroll down the list until you come to a file type (for instance, MP3). Click the "Change" tab then select the player you want to handle those files from the recommended list or other programs.

If you have Windows XP (SP2) and want one player to handle everything go to Start and look for "Set Program Access and Defaults"(if it isn't there go to "Add/Remove Programs" then click "Set Program Access and Defaults" in the left side column).

Under "Choose a configuration" click "Custom". Scroll down to "Choose a default media player". From the list, select the one you want to handle all media files. Click "OK". Keep in mind that not all file types work in all programs-that means that some will still go to their dedicated player.

Now your MP3's, WAV's, etc. should all be handled correctly.

DECtalk for USB

Access Solutions' latest synthesizer; the DECtalk USB weighs only 9 ounces and measures 5.5x3.6x1.1 inches. Its features include a Motorola DragonBall 150Mhz processor, 32Mb SDRAM, 16Mb flash memory, a 2.50 inch built-in speaker for higher speech quality, 6 languages, and 7.5 times more processing power then the retired DECtalk Express for instant responsiveness.

The DECtalk USB is a serial text to speech synthesizer capable of being connected to a computer via a standard USB or RS232 serial port. Utilizing todays modern technology, the DECtalk USB is extremely responsive and delivers a quality of speech that you would only expect from DECtalk. Unlike most serial synthesizers, the DECtalk USB takes full advantage of the high speed transfer rates of the USB bus. In simple terms, start and stop speech commands to the synthesizer appear to be instantaneous.

As an added bonus, the DECtalk USB comes equipped with a standard RS232 serial port and is 100% backwards compatible to the retired DECtalk Express. That means you can unplug the DECtalk Express and plug in the DECtalk USB and continue without any drivers needing to be changed. With support for such programs as Dolphin, Window-Eyes, Jaws for Windows, kurzweil, OpenBook, Vocal-Eyes, jaws for DOS, asap for DOS the DECtalk USB synthesizer provides a reliable solution to your speech needs. Supported Operating Systems include Linux, Dos, DOS boxes, and Windows 9x/Me/2K/nt4/XP Home/Pro.

For more information please contact:

Access Solutions
4536 Edison Avenue
Sacramento, CA 95821
Phone: 916-481-3559
Fax: 916-482-2250

Pucker Up For A Blind Kiss

Blind Kiss is an internet radio program that discusses what it is to be blind, maybe the best thing to do is to simply quote the web site.

"If you're looking for traditional support or ideas on how to cope with this terrible affliction then, um, this may not be the place for you. We're here to explode some of those media notions that being blind is some kind of living death, a mystical twilight state or a call to bravely climb mountains". It's all going to be OK now"! Click here to visit the Blind Kiss home page. You will need an MP3 compatible player to listen to the Blind Kiss program.

Ability Hub

This web site will direct you to adaptive equipment and alternative methods available for accessing computers. It provides information on assistive Technology for people with a disability who find operating a computer difficult, maybe even impossible.

c/o The Gilman Group, L.L.C.
P.O. Box 6356
Rutland, VT 05702-6356
Phone: 802-775-1993
Fax: 802-773-1604

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Gardens for Every Body

p>The goal of this site is to show how to make gardening accessible to persons with physical limitations-thus the term "Every BODY" in the title. Not only is this site informative, but fun as well.. To navigate around this site choose one of the numbers on the pictures, or use the text links that follow.

1. Container Gardening - this section talks all about container gardening in it's many varieties, from window boxes to hanging baskets. The information you need to know about this type of gardening is all located here. On the main picture on the home page you'll have noticed that this section was by some window boxes-it's nice to have a visual of what they are talking about, isn't it?

2. Raised Beds - this talks about raised beds, that is, the garden is higher than the ground level and may be enclosed with decorative trim. This section goes into the four different types of raised beds, how to construct one, and how to take care of it.

3. Garden Pathways - this section discusses the many types of pathways that you can put in your garden, both hard surface and soft surface paths, as well as some basic rules for pathways to make them accesible.

4. Trellis Gardening - this section talks about trellis gardening for climbing plants and space saving options. There are some great links to some very helpful sites on trellis gardening.

5. Health and Safety - The emphasis of this site being gardeners with disabilities, this section goes into the safety measures that should be taken when gardening. If you follow the 15 guidelines in this section gardening should be a fun, and healthy exercise for you.

6. Special Considerations - This section will deal with specific health problems and give great tips for those who want to garden but have a disability, whether kids or grandparents, this section can make gardening easier and safer, as well as give you ideas you may not have thought of yet on your own. You will also find a link for the blind, or visually impaired gardener in this section.

7. The Tool Shed - this section is a number on its own so you can explore the benefits of having a tool shed. From sit down gardening to proper tool storage this section is a nice bonus for those just getting started or looking for alternatives to what they already have. This section also discusses ergonomically designed tools which keep the body in a neutral position and help to lower the stress on bones and joints.
Gardens for Every Body

Monday, August 06, 2007

Listen To Music From Around the World

Welcome to the World Music Network, where you can hear types of music from all over the world. I fell in love with this site, but when it comes to music I have pretty eclectic taste anyway.

The site is divided into four sections: News, Catalogue, Listen, and Network.

  • News - Here you can read interviews, take quizzes, and learn all about what's happening in World Music.
  • Catalogue - Here you could buy something if you wanted to.
  • Listen - the heart and soul of this page. Here you can listen to and watch music from around the world. You will need RealPlayer, Media Player, or QuickTime to use this section, and let me tell you it is well worth it.
  • Network - Here you will find links, and more information about the World Music Network.

A musical journey around the world that is well worth the trip. Click here to visit the World Music Network page:

Fidelco Facts

Occasionally, I get inquiries about Fidelco and their German shepherd dog guides from orientation and mobility professionals as well as potential clients and their loved ones. While searching the net, I found Fidelco at a Glance, which contains some pertinent facts about the organization.

  1. Fidelco is New England's only guide dog school. They have clients in 32 states and four provinces in Canada.
  2. Fidelco is a 501 (c) (3) and 509 (a) (1) public charity.
  3. Fidelco is dedicated to promoting increased freedom and independence for people with visual disabilities by providing them with the highest quality German shepherd dog guides.
  4. The Fidelco shepherd is a "breed-within-a breed" with the physical structure and temperament best suited for guide work.
  5. Fidelco pioneered "In Community Placement" in the U.S. Through this process, clients are trained with their guide dogs in the communities where they live and work. In 2006, their instructor-trainers traveled more than 100,000 miles to conduct In-Community Placements and for client follow-up.
  6. Fidelco has more than 100 foster families who care for and socialize pups. This on-going program means that they can meet the ever-growing demand for dog guides.
  7. Nearly half the dogs placed each year are successor dogs; dogs that follow in the footsteps of recently retired Fidelco guides or dogs from other schools.
  8. Fidelco is an accredited member of the International Guide Dog Federation.
To learn more about Fidelco, please visit You'll find a wealth of current information on the organization including FidelcoNews", a quarterly newsletter. You can also sign up for "Fidelco on Command", a monthly e-newsletter. For a copy of "Share the Vision", Fidelco's new DVD, please email
If you have questions regarding our admissions process, please email

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Finding Her Courage

By Lauren Elizabeth Rodriguez

Imagine living in a world where you don't feel safe, where you fear even the slightest bit of human contact, even if it is harmless. Imagine being afraid to speak, for fear of being punished. Imagine being trapped in your own mind, where your nightmares are as real as night and day. For eleven-year-old Julie Hartson, she doesn't have to imagine it because she's living it. Even though she and her sisters, Megan and Molly, are living with their aunt Abby and are starting a new chapter in their lives, it's still hard not to look over their shoulders sometimes. It's especially hard for Julie after she is involved in an accident that causes her mind to be trapped in the past. It all starts one afternoon when Julie takes their horse, Rose Petal, for a ride. Julie feels free and happy whenever she's taking rides with Rose Petal through the trails behind her aunt's house, but on one particular day, Rose Petal is spooked by a mysterious sound and throws Julie off. Julie is injured and is scared to ride Rose Petal or even be near the horse. Julie's even afraid of her own family-all except Megan, that is. Can Megan help Julie to overcome her fear? More importantly, can she convince her never to give up on herself or her love for their horse? Meanwhile, the girls' little cousin, Kassy, shows up on Abby's doorstep unexpectedly and she's all alone. Will Abby be able to help her?

Like many 20-somethings, Lauren Rodriguez knows her way around a computer. But her machine has a voice that acts as her eyes.

The 22-year-old uses a screen reader because she is visually impaired. She describes her vision as looking through a tube.

"Finding Her Courage" is about a young girl who injures her eye in a horse riding accident, some of which is based on her own experience. The book is currently available through

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