Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

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

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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Fresh Look at McDonald's Through Podcasting

Did you know that McDonald's has a podcast? I was browsing through their website and came to a link that said "podcast" and I was really surprised at what I found.

"In order to share the real story of McDonald's, we have created a series of podcasts. We hope you enjoy the opportunity to see and hear first hand what McDonald's is all about".

You can use special software, called a podcatcher, to "subscribe" to individual programs so that new installments are automatically downloaded when they become available. RSS news readers allow you to automatically retrieve updates and stay current with new content soon after it is published. There are many readers available and most are free.

Apple's iTunes automates downloads and syncing with iPod players. Another free podcast program, Juice (formerly iPodder), works with a variety of portable players. Some popular RSS readers which also support podcasting include: My Yahoo!, Feed Demon, FeedReader and NewsGator.

Click this link to check out the McDonald's podcasts.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Underline in MS-Word

Frequent MS-Word users know that Control+U will underline text and spaces. What if you only want the text underlined and not the spaces? There is a keyboard command for this, Control+Shift+W. This command will underline the text, not the spaces between the words. How cool is that!

Friday, January 26, 2007

15 numbers: An Accessible Audio Puzzle Game for the Blind

In this game, you have 15 numbers, 1 through 15, on two game boards - the task board and the work board. The task board shows the 15 numbers arranged in a specific pattern that you must match by using the work board. The work board has the 15 numbers mixed up with one empty slot. You use the one empty slot on the work board to shuffle the numbers around to match the exact numeric pattern on the task board. Talk about a brain twister!

Click this link to download a demo of 15 Numbers from BSC Games.

Free Tetris Game Online

Here's a game for our low vision readers. You can now play a Tetris-style game online for free. The controls are simple and the resolution can be changed for easier viewing. Click this link to play Tetriss online.

1000 A.D. Strategy Game for the Blind

1000 A.D. is a free turn based strategy game. Vikings, Chinese, Monguls and other empires using Catapults, Spies, Armies, wage war to expand & become top ranked. You must train troops, build defences and buildings, feed your people, run your country wisely. Play at your own pace. Interact with hundreds of other players. If you've been waiting for a turn-based strategic war game, this is it. All that's required to play the game is a web browser, a free account, and possibly a screen reader. All graphics have appropriate descriptions, and the only aspect of the game which may pose a problem is that warning messages show up in red but are otherwise possible to miss if you're not paying attention.

Features of the game include:

  • 10 different civilizations to choose from, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Choices include Vikings, Mongols, Byzantines, Barbarians, and Franks.
  • 16 different types of buildings to construct including farms, iron and gold mines, weaponsmiths, markets, and forts.
  • 18 different types of research that you can conduct in order to improve your military strength, resource production, and much more.
  • Ability to buy and sell goods within your own empire and on the public market.
  • Ability to aid, attack,, or ally with other players.
  • 8 different types of units with which to build your army including swordsmen, horsemen, archers, and trained peasants, plus catapults, thieves, and towers.
Click this link to learn more or play 1000 A.D. online.

Using Scissors

To teach a student with visual impairment how to hold and use scissors:

  1. Put the scissors in your own hand and let the student feel the hand position and the cutting movement (hand-over-hand, student's hand on top).
  2. Let the student hold the scissors and put your hand around the student's hand to help guide while cutting (hand-over-hand, teacher's hand on top).
  3. Let the student practice cutting on raised line paper until the student is able to cut along the line.

Note: Some students' hands are too weak to cut through two thicknesses of fabric. Let these students cut one thickness at a time. Electric scissors are sometimes helpful.

These tips from Carol Woodward were published on the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired website and are made available by special permission of the author.

Laser Guided Scissors

If the student has some vision and can see lasers, consider scissors with a laser attached. Straight cuts every time! Simply follow the straight line projected from the on-board laser for perfect cuts from the stainless steel blades. Perfect for fabrics, signs, and anything requiring a long, straight cut.

Click this link to purchase the Laser Scissors from Amazon.com.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Dog Poop Freeze Spray

Any dog guide handler will tell you, there's nothing quite more disturbing than the feel of a fresh, warm, squishy pile of dog poop in your hand, through the barely-there protection of an inside-out plastic bag. But it doesn't have to be that way.

How about you freeze dry the poop before you pick it up? Who comes up with this stuff?

Anyway, Poop-Freeze is a poop freezer in aerosol form. I'm not sure just what chemical is contained within, but upon a short spray, will turn your dog's (or cat's) feces outer layer rock hard, lowering its temperature to a poop-chilling -62° F and making disposal more convenient. It's a great companion to a pooper scooper for clean, fast dog or cat poop disposal.

Click this link to learn more or to purchase some POOP-FREEZE for your guide: http://www.poop-freeze.com.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Navigate Web Pages with the Keyboard

Save some eye strain, take a break from the mouse and use these keyboard commands to navigate around web pages.

  • ALT+Home = Home page
  • ALT+Left Arrow = Back to the previous page
  • ALT+Right Arrow = Forward to the next page
  • ALT+Up Arrow = Scroll page up
  • ALT+Down Arrow = Scroll page down

Resources for Wounded Service Members and Their Families


Source: Department of Defense (DoD)

Wounded Service Members, Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines are returning everyday from deployment in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Yet, many of them are not returning to their duty assignments, instead, they are recovering at various Military Treatment Facilities (MTFs) because of injuries they sustained in the Global War on Terror.

CAP is committed to providing assistive technology and support to returning wounded service members. Accommodations are available for wounded service members with vision or hearing loss, upper extremity amputees as well as persons with communication and other disabilities to access the computer and telecommunication environment. CAP is available to provide accommodations to service members in the following phases:

Phase 1: Recovery and Rehabilitation

CAP has been working closely with key staff at MTFs to provide information and assistive technology to wounded service members and their families. By working directly with staff in the intensive care units, physical and occupational therapist, audiologist and ophthalmologist, they can begin to introduce service members to assistive technology and accommodation support, reducing frustration and providing encouragement. One example of this technology is an augmentative communication device which enables easy communication between the patient and medical staff as well as family members.

Phase 2: Transition

In their efforts to ensure a smooth transition from patient to independent living, CAP is working to integrate assistive technologies into housing facilities and employment training centers at the MTFs to support the reemployment process. This technology includes alternative pointing devices, assistive listening devices, voice recognition software and Closed Circuit Televisions. The technology is being introduced to wounded services members to use at their living quarters, allowing them to email family and friends, improve their quality of care and begin the process of finding employment opportunities.

Phase 3: Employment

CAP is working with the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans' Affairs to assist in the "reemployment process." If a service member remains on active duty or becomes a civilian within DoD or another Federal agency, CAP can provide the work related accommodation to the agency free of charge for internship and/or permanent employment.

The CAP staff is dedicated to ensuring all resources and assistive devices are available to assist our nation's service members in their rehabilitation process, successful treatment outcomes and future employment opportunities.

More information on CAP is available at: http://www.tricare.osd.mil/cap/index.cfm Government workers whose agencies have an agreement with CAP can apply for assistance online.

Source URL:
http://communitydispatch.com/artman/publish/article_3523.shtml

Buttering Bread Fast and Easy

If you are having a large get together and you need to make a large amount of bread that needs to be buttered you may not want to spend the whole afternoon buttering each piece.

Instead you can microwave the butter for about 20 seconds, stir it and if necessary microwave again at 10 second incraments until melted.

Now all you have to do is pick up a pastry brush and paint the bread! This idea also works great for folks who are totally blind, it's sure easier than dealing with a hard stick of butter. You may want to try this with corn too!

One Click Butter Cutter

Blind and visually impaired people love technology. We also love to occasionally put butter on things. It's always the simple yet elegant kitchen technology that impresses me the most. Like the One Click Butter Cutter. It's technology that is so simple that I can get the drift just by looking at the name, and what a useful product for those of us who have a little difficulty getting the butter to go where it should. The butter cutter holds a stick of butter or margarine and all you have to do to get exactly one "pat" of butter is click the cutter as if you are about to staple a plastic bag. Out comes a neatly sliced portion of butter that you could readily spread on your toast. 5 such "pats" of butter are equivalent to 1 tablespoon - so you could also portion the amount of butter with ease. Another plus, no more messy butter dish.

Portion control is an important part of staying healthy. 5 pats equal 1 tablespoon. It slices, serves, and stores one stick of butter or margarine. ABS plastic. Dishwasher safe. 2"W x 3"D x 8"H.

Click this link to purchase the One Click Butter Cutter from the Whatever Works website.

The Good Garbage Podcast

In this day of podcasting, I'm always looking for new sources of audio by the blind. A friend of mine wrote me an email to tell me about his podcast and I wanted to share it with you.

Hi Mike,

I'd talked to you several months ago about our intention to get a podcast going. Well, Kathy and I have started one and have posted about a dozen episodes (at the time of this letter). I don't know about anyone else, but I enjoy it immensely!

It's called Good Garbage, and the link is below. Check it out when you can, and if you think it's worth disseminating to any list groups you know of, please spread the message!

Good Garbage is the doings and beings of Fred & Kathy, including sounds of the world, how-to episodes about the house and garden, and conversations with people about esoteric religion. Thanks in advance for tuning in.

Fred

Click this link to listen or subscribe to the Good Garbage podcast feed: http://www.fredkate.libsyn.com.

Making Braille Erasers

Here's a great tip we received from Beth Newman on making your own braille erasers.

I make braille erasers by using a small golf tee and making the end less pointed by smoothing it out with sandpaper or a file.

I then screw in a hook or ring, the kind that is used with wire attached to the back of pictures to hang them.

The hook or ring is attached to the end and I then attach it to a key ring or to the handle of a Perkins braille writer. You could also wear it like a pendant on a leather strap with maybe a bead to make it look nice, or maybe on a plastic coil around the wrist?

Recognize Retinal Problems and Seek Immediate Care


Source: Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com

If you experience sudden vision changes -- many floaters or specks, flashing lights, blurred or wavy vision, a dark spot in the middle of your vision, or a sudden vision loss -- seek emergency medical care.

The symptoms could indicate a potentially serious retinal disorder. Seeking immediate care could save your vision, according to the January issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter.

Symptoms could indicate:

  • Age-related macular degeneration: This chronic disease occurs when macular tissue deteriorates with age. The result can be blurred central vision and possibly a blind spot in your central field of view.
  • Retinal detachment: Although painless, signs of retinal detachment include sudden flashes of light followed by what appear to be spots, specks, hairs or strings -- also called floaters.
  • Diabetic retinopathy: This serious complication of diabetes is marked by swelling of the retina and damage to the retinal blood vessels. Diabetic retinopathy can cause sudden vision loss, retinal tears or detachment.
  • Retinal artery occlusion: Blockage of an artery serving the retina may occur due to an underlying condition, such as high blood pressure, atherosclerosis or the autoimmune disorder giant cell arteritis. Lost vision results as retinal tissue dies in the area served by the blocked artery.

If you suspect a retinal problem, contact your eye care provider immediately. Time wasted could be vision lost.

Source URL:
http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/517422/

Free Legal Music Downloads for Students

While the folks at RIAA continue to do battle with P2P file sharing services, Ruckus Networks, Inc. http://www.ruckusnetworks.com, has a better idea. The legal downloading service announced on January 22, they would provide free, advertising supported media for all college students nationwide.

Through licensing agreements with major international record labels, as well as thousands of independent labels and artists Ruckus users have access to "more than 2.1 million high fidelity, virus-free music tracks," Click this link to read the company press release. Premium features include the ability to download unlimited movies and television shows for a monthly fee, and "Ruckus-To-Go," for transferring to portable devices of Microsoft format, including Creative and SanDisk.

Social networking also plays a large part in the Ruckus experience. Users can browse profiles, leave comments, and send playlist recommendations to friends and neighbors.

With a mostly-slick interface, the Ruckus media player looks impressive, but some users may find aspects of it counter-intuitive and clunky. The built-in search function must launch a separate browser window to download media, and ad displays are not subtle. I also experienced some difficulty with the player failing to recognize the default browser and had to copy and open links manually. The site may not be compatible with all screen readers, but I had no problems browsing the music or attempting a download.

That aside, the service has a lot of potential for starving students that love media but don't have the means or desire to pay for .99 cent downloads through iTunes or similar services.

Ruckus is available to anyone with a valid .edu email account, but is currently only compatible with Windows systems. Check your portible device for compatibility.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Foxit: An Alternative to Adobe for PDF Documents

We're all looking for ways to access PDF documents with assistive technology. Until the process gets figured out, why not use a program that can open PDFs but doesn't take up a lot of room or resources on your computer.

Foxit is a free PDF document viewer and printer. It is available for Windows 98/ME/2000/ XP and the 2003 version. It is mainly compatible with the PDF Standard 1.6 program.

The first thing I like about the Foxit Reader is that it's very small in size. The download is only 1.5 MB. Now, I don't want to downsize the Adobe Reader, but its download size is 20 MB. That's quite a difference! Foxit is also very fast. When you open the program, it launches in a matter of seconds and without any delays. You don't have to deal with a company logo, display names, or anything else that might prevent you from getting to the document.

Another feature is the text converter. This lets you transfer a whole document into a text file.

High security and privacy are also found in the Foxit Reader. It does not have any spyware or adware and it will never automatically connect you to the Internet unless you specify otherwise. How cool is that?! Other features include:

  • Interactive form filler
  • On-demand download of add ons
  • Self-upgrade options
  • Javascript support
  • Improved printing speed

As I said before, the Foxit Reader is a free program. Now, you can view and print your PDF documents, fill out PDF forms and save them, view PDFs as text files and take advantage of critical add ons without using up so much of the space on your hard drive.

Click this link to learn more about the Foxit PDF Reader.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Last Edit in Word

Ever find yourself editing a large document in MS-Word, jumping from location to location, only to realize that you should have done just one more thing at the last editing spot?

How annoying is that? To have to go back through the document and find that exact position again.

What if we could return with nothing more than a quick key combination, with no searching at all?

The next time you need to go back to your last point of editing, simply use Shift + F5. Actually, Shift + F5 will take you back to the previous three points of editing and then if used again, it will return you to where you started).

I just love a shortcut through those long documents, don't you?!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Lighted Lap Desk

The portable Lighted Lap Desk is meant to use almost anywhere - on a plane, on the train, or in bed. Covered in a soft foam microfiber base, you can rest your notetaker, laptop and mouse on it to work, or you can use it to write on when you don't have a surface near you. The Lap Desk also has a built-in cup holder, a convenient lamp, and it also flips open to reveal a built-in storage area for accessories.

Featuring a bright gooseneck lamp, plush leg rest, smooth desktop surface, and plenty of storage space, it's a great go-anywhere portable desk. The flip-top design latches securely and the powerful cold cathode fluorescent bulb automatically turns on when lifted. The built-in cup holder turns your portable desk into a relaxation center!

Lap writing desk measures 23 1/2" x 5 3/8" x 17 3/8" and the storage Approximately 18 1/2" x 11 1/2". Lamp uses four D batteries (not included).

Click this link to purchase the Lighted Lap Desk from Brookstone.

Water Warning Leak Detection Alarm

Do you have a basement with a pump to keep the rain water away from your valuables? Have you ever had the pump fail because of your electricity being out due to a storm? I have and let me tell you the results are not fun to deal with.

In my first home, my pump had been clogged with some debris and couldn't suck the water from my basement. The water levels continued to rise and it was only after the carpets were soaked that I checked the pump to find out what the problem was. If I had only had something that could have alerted me to the rising water I could have checked it earlier and prevented the water from getting to the carpet.

Now, there is an accessible solution to having to look down into the pump to see if the water is about to flood your home. In fact, you don't have to have any vision at all to use this product. It would be great for sighted folks as well.

Protect your home against costly water damage and dangerous toxic mold by catching water leaks early. The Water Warning Leak Detection Alarms are battery-powered sensors that can be placed almost anywhere. They emit a loud alarm the moment their stainless-steel sensors touch water, alerting you instantly that your home is in danger. This package of five can protect up to five different appliances or areas of your home.

Since each sensor can be placed upright or flat, a Water Warning Leak Detection Alarm can fit easily and discreetly at the base of water heaters, sinks, or toilets, as well as near plumbing connections or hoses, any water-using appliance or device that has the potential to leak and cause damage. Their stainless-steel sensors won't rust or stain your floors.

When a Water Warning Leak Detection Alarm senses water, it sounds its loud, 110-decibel alarm intermittently for up to 3 days, so even if you're not at home when it first senses water, you'll know as soon as you arrive. The Water Warning Leak Detection Alarms are powered by the included 9-volt batteries and are sold individually or in a pack of five. Dimensions: 3 1/8" x 2 5/8" x 7/8"

Click this link to purchase the Water Warning Leak Detection Alarm, single pack from the Smarthome website.
Click this link to purchase the Water Warning Leak Detection Alarm, 5 pack from the Smarthome website.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Matilda Ziegler Magazine For The Blind

The Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind is a free, general-interest monthly magazine that is circulated worldwide. Covering a wide range of subjects of special interest to the blind and visually impaired, it features a news section, along with a letter column where readers can seek or give advice--or express their opinions on any subject.

For subscription information, contact the magazine by e-mail or phone.

Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind
80 Eighth Ave. Room 1304
New York, NY 10011
Phone: 212-242-0263
Fax: 212-633-1601
Web: http://www.zieglermag.org

The Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind can now be read online. The current issue and a growing number of past issues can be read this way, and the magazine can be received via email as well as the traditional formats.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Nothing but The Fact Check Forum

Welcome to The Fact Check Forum, where you can find unusual factoids that are frequently updated and are always interesting.

On the main page, you will find the most recently added factoids. There is also a side menu where you will find the sections: Fact Check Forums, Latest Updates, Archived Updates, Contact Us and Search.

Fact Check Forums: Here you can chat with other folks about the facts presented here or other theories that people have submitted to be discussed.

Latest Updates: This link will take you to the latest updates or the main page.

Archived Updates: Here you can find all the other factoids that came before. The archive dates back to 2004.

Contact Us: This provides you with the forum to leave them feedback or to ask the site admin questions.

Search: This will allow you to search the site by keyword.

If you really enjoyed these factoids, you can get them delivered straight to your Inbox for free by signing up for the newsletter. Just scroll down the main page and the sign up box is on the side menu, near the bottom of the page.

Click this link to visit The Fact Check Forum website: http://www.gullible.info.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Learn Braille with the Pac Mate

FSBraille Coach is a series of lessons and reading exercises designed to help you learn uncontracted and contracted braille on your PAC Mate BX or QX series, using the PAC Mate's Braille Study Mode feature and a PAC Mate 20- or 40-cell braille display. It's a great resource for students or adults who are beginning to read braille and a comprehensive reference tool for users who read braille, but may not use it on a regular basis. To use FSBraille Coach, you must be running PAC Mate version 4.1 or later, as numerous enhancements have been made to Braille Study Mode.

Please note that FSBraille Coach is not intended to replace a certified braille instructer or curriculum. It is designed as an aid to enhance the braille learning experience.

The PAC Mate's Braille Study Mode is a unique feature that provides audible announcements regarding the meaning of the various braille symbols that appear on the braille display. For example, if you encounter dots 1-2-4-5-6, pressing the cursor router above that cell will cause the PAC Mate to say "er sign." Pressing the navrow button directly above the cursor router will cause the PAC Mate to speak and spell the word that contains this symbol. Braille Study Mode can be activated and used from anywhere in the PAC Mate as well as in both computer braille and contracted braille documents. In each FSBraille Coach lesson and reading exercise, you are instructed to turn on Braille Study Mode to study the various symbols presented in each lesson.

Teachers who use FSBraille Coach with students can easily create their own unique lessons and reading exercises using a word processing application, such as Microsoft Word. Once you have written the text of the lesson, be sure to save the file as a Word (.doc), rich text (.rtf), or plain text (.txt) document. Next, copy the file to the same location where you saved the original FSBraille Coach files. Students use a single keystroke to toggle between computer braille and contracted braille while reading the file.

FSBraille Coach is a free download. There is no charge for this tutorial.

Click this link to download FSBraille coach from http://www.freedomscientific.com/PACMATE-HQ/PACMate-hq.asp.

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