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, December 31, 2008

Babies and Toddlers: Tips for the Early Years


Parents and workers with vision impaired people have a great opportunity to help a young vision impaired child towards good mobility and orientation. The following are a few basic suggestions of areas in which a child could be helped. As a result of this basic work, mobility training is easier and more meaningful, as many mannerisms and postural faults do not arise in later life.


  1. When a sight disorder is first diagnosed in a young child, parents often can only think of all the things that their vision impaired child will be able to do. It is important to encourage positive thinking. Begin by assessing the situation. Long delays in diagnosis, difficulties in understanding medical terms and long separation due to hospitalisation can make this hard. However, having constructive tasks to do helps to overcome some of these problems.
  2. Try to assess how much the baby can see. Is there any residual vision? Can the small baby follow it's mother or father's face or movements at all or is it relying entirely on a sound stimulus? For the vision impaired baby, the overall shape of the face will be more important than the detail. For example, a mother with a bushy hairstyle approached the baby's crib with wet hair after a shower. The baby cried because he thought it was a stranger. The overall shape was what the baby was recognising.
  3. As the father carries the baby over his shoulder, does the baby react to the light coming in from the window? If the baby seems to show some response, then tell the baby each time the window is passed and interpret other sources of light within the house.
  4. "Normal" sight in babies is not at all precise at the beginning. Like everything else, it needs practise. Babies in the early stages make a crude performance at focussing and co-ordination. Objects cannot be seen clearly. Vision too can fluctuate in the vision impaired baby. A child with Albinism can be blind at birth, have the appearance of normal vision at two years but by school age the vision may be subnormal. Some eye disorders present at birth may show some improvement and others not.
  5. A baby who is vision impaired can and must feel and hear the love of others for it. Premature babies who start their days in an incubator experience very little touch from others. They may have to be taught to like to be held. Such babies may first show displeasure when handled but this gradually turns to joy. Early mother/child relationships can be at risk, as eye contact is lost and there may be no smiling response to the mother's presence.

Parents should try to design a programme of a few tasks that they can do together with their baby to help it learn about its environment and become physically fit.


  1. Begin by putting the baby on its stomach on a mat on the floor. From about 4 months the baby may be able to raise its head clear of the ground. Parents should get down on the floor too and talk to reassure the baby very near to its face. Put the baby on its stomach for a little while at least twice a day. This strengthens the back and develops the hands to be useful feelers. Objects of interest - a bell, toy, brick, and teaspoon - can be placed in front of the baby who will soon learn to reach out and find what is there. When a new physical activity is introduced the baby will usually cry against the activity, but do persevere. It is just the strangeness of the activity that the child doesn't like in the beginning.
  2. Parents should try and sing and talk to the baby as much as possible. If a parent is very pressed for time, one suggestion could be to use the nappy changing time for a useful purpose. Language development depends on clear speech. The parent's face is near to the baby's during this activity, which means that a child with limited vision will be able to see their parent's lips as well as hearing very clearly. Make all the sounds of the alphabet, sing little rhymes, speak loudly and softly, in a high and low voice. The parent can take the baby's hand and put onto their mouth. Turn the baby's head towards the sound. Let the baby know its own name and commands like "Yes" and "No". Games with the child on the parent's lap and songs with repetitive actions are good also. The child will need to be shown the movements, as they cannot learn by imitation.
  3. When dressing, changing or washing the baby, take a little extra time to run hands over the different parts of the baby's body, talking about all the different areas - e.g. "this is your foot, here is your other foot". Smooth the baby with talc, cream or oil - all different experiences of touch and smell. Relate different parts of the baby's body to the parent's body - e.g. "this is your hand; this is Daddy's hand".
  4. When feeding the baby with a bottle, place the baby's hands on the bottle too. The baby will learn where the milk is coming from and will gradually be able to hold the bottle itself. The baby should be held in the mother or father's arms when feeding so that a warm relationship develops. When drinking from a cup, show the baby the cup empty first, then fill with liquid so that the baby can hear it filling and then drink it. Let the child experiment with feeding itself. Don't worry is the child is getting messy. A child must be able to find out and experiment with touching and feeling.
  5. Do little physical exercises with the baby from very early on - of course, supporting the baby as much as possible. Totally blind babies often do not crawl, as the baby soon learns that this activity brings its head into contact with too many solid objects. As this part of development is missed, the baby may not flex its ankle and foot correctly when it begins to walk. Perhaps some part of the house and garden could be made safe, with no obstacle and piles of cushions for the baby to have some rough and tumble play.

Vision impaired children often have a diminished drive and lack opportunities to take risks and be daring. Children's reasons for moving around are to see friends and play games. Blind children may only move when they feel it is really necessary.


  1. A parent and baby swimming class can greatly help. Begin by taking the baby into the water in your arms. Don't worry if the child cries for the first few visits to the pool; it is a new experience and very noisy. Progress the child to holding your shoulders, faces in contact, talking all the time to reassure.
  2. Some toys can be great help to mobility. A slightly weighted wooden truck to push means that the toy reaches obstacles first. Other toys in this group might include - a baby walker, a hula-hoop, a sweeping brush.
  3. Try not to develop a preoccupation with the physical safety of the child. Provide circumstances in which movement can be encouraged safely. All children get bumps and have little accidents - try not to be over-protective. Fear is natural for the child and parents, but this has to be overcome by repetition and practice.
  4. Take a little time with the child to learn the dangers around the house. What sounds and smells mean danger and which sounds and smells are harmless, eg. the sounds of frying and of water boiling, the odours of cooking and the significance of smoke and fire. It is important for parents to help a blind child to monitor its behaviour.

Babies and toddlers constantly adjust their behaviour by the effect that it has on others. Does mother notice when we do something? What happens as a result of that behaviour? Approval or disapproval?

Here is an illustration: An integrated blind toddler in a pre-school group had a habit of pinching any child that came near during play activity time. As a result all the other children would avoid the vision impaired child leave him alone. As the aim of the parents was for integration, this situation could not continue. The adults explained that pinching hurt, even a little demonstration was needed. In this particular case, the teacher was very reluctant to scold the blind child, and the support worker had to provide support, advice and reassurance for the teacher.

Small children love helping around the house and doing tasks, which they know other members of the family, are managing themselves. Many early mobility skills can be incorporated in this type of play experience. Strengthening fingers and thumbs, for example, can be achieved when dressing oneself. Begin by taking clothes off, as this is easier then putting clothes on. Buttoning and zipping take practise and take time to learn. Always arrange clothes in an orderly fashion. The blind child needs a place of its own, with its own coat and hat peg, a place in the cupboard for its clothes, a box for its toys and its own bed. Get the child to put away his things and to make decisions about what to wear. When choosing clothes try to pick articles that are distinctive to feel and talk to the child about the features, design and colour combinations of his clothes.

Let the child help with the clearing and setting of the table, getting the mail, bringing in packages, washing a small quantity of dishes and washing its own body. Begin by first washing face and hands and build up in easy stages. In play, the child can wash dolly's clothes, or give dolly a bath - lego, plasticine, play-dough, putting on bottle tops, all help to strengthen hands and fingers.

Practise listening to sounds around the house, locating and identifying them. For example, listen to the bathroom sounds, tap dripping or running, toilet flushing, shower and wash basin. Lounge sounds - clock ticking, T.V., radio, fan heater, telephone ringing. Identify the sound, and talk about and discover the exact position of the source of the sound. Listen to sounds outside as well as inside. Can the child begin to recognise voices and footsteps of regular visitors to the house, different car engines that come up the front drive, milk bottles rattling, traffic sounds in the street. The child can practise following mother around the house by sound alone - audible hide and see! Play 'hide and seek' with other sound sources also.

Take a little time to think about the baby's feet. If possible have the feet bare. The feet give another tactile, information gathering surface. Loose socks are better than tights or baby-grows because they do not pull on the toes altering the natural position of the soft toe bones. Try and do little exercises to strengthen and mobilise the feet - moving the toes independently, picking up objects with the toes.

Hopping, skipping, bouncing and jumping should be encouraged and activities that include these skills are of great benefit e.g. Jumping from the last stair to the ground, firstly into parents' arms, then onto a soft large cushion and then on the ground, all of these activities accompanied by plenty of verbal encouragement.

Stairs will have to be shown to a vision impaired child. Begin by going up stairs on all fours and coming down sitting on its bottom, taking one step at a time. Progress to both feet on one stair at the same time using the rail as a guide to indicate the beginning and end of the stairs.

If a child has no guiding sight, there will be occasions when a small child will need to be guided by a parent or friend. It is best to let the child take the elbow of the guide and for the child to remain slightly behind the guide. This position is preferable to holding hands. The steady point of reference of the elbow held against the body of the guide provides warning in advance. Baby reins are useful for an active young toddler together with the elbow hold. Normally, the child should be led rather than push from behind.

Parents have the opportunity to cover many of the basic mobility skills that are needed by a young vision impaired child.

Copyright (c) NCBI 2006

About NCBI

The National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI) is a not for profit charitable organisation which offers support and services nationwide to those experiencing difficulties with their eye-sight.

NCBI provides a range of services to almost 10,000 vision impaired people living in Ireland. These services include the provision of information, advice and support via a nationwide network of over 70 rehabilitation, mobility and community resource workers and training in the use of adaptive technology. They also provide an employment support unit and job seeking skills programme.

NCBI is committed to offering people the choice of services in their own homes or in a centre based setting. To facilitate this they have 10 regional resource centres and run low vision services throughout the country.

As well as services administered by their community based staff, NCBI's Libraries in Dublin and Cork provide a national talking book service, as well as a wide range of newspapers, popular Irish magazines and journals on tape to over 4,000 subscribers.

As well as providing services to vision impaired people and their families, NCBI also provides a range of services to public and private organisations in relation to technology, access and awareness and media conversion services.

Click this link to visit the National Council for the Blind of Ireland website:

Making The Idea Of Using A Cane More Appealing

The decision of using a white cane as a mobility tool is quite a tough decision for some blind or visually impaired individuals. It is part of the process of accepting that one is blind, and realizing that being seen using a cane is a sign of being independent rather than something to be embarrassed about.

The following are points that some mobility instructors and Brain Waves participants shared with us when we asked them for ideas on how to make the use of the cane more appealing for their students and clients.

1. The younger, the better...

A mobility instructor suggested trying to get the cane in people's hands as early as possible. The earlier they start using it, the more natural it will be for them, and they will learn to regard it as a part of their every day life.

2. The more, the merrier...

Another suggestion is to get students or clients to go out in pairs, or in a small group. This will make them feel more confident, as they won't be the only ones using a cane to travel. They will just be part of the group.

3. Give them a reason to use it...

A very effective way for people to want to use the cane is to try to make each class meaningful to them. During their lessons, try to take them to those places where they want, or need to go. For instance, instead of walking around the block, teach people how to get to a ballpark, a friend's house, or their favorite restaurant.

4. Let them experience...

Some instructors believe that people will choose to use a cane after showing them its benefits over personally meeting doors, and experiencing drop-offs or other obstacles.

5. Give them praise and more praise...

Give cane users positive reinforcement. Praise them a lot when they accomplish a task. Positive reinforcement raises confidence and self-esteem.

6. Encourage a positive attitude...

A positive attitude and letting the person realize that he or she is just using an aid to become more independent is important. Let them know that using a cane is the equivalent to wearing glasses, hearing aids or any other tool. The blind person's attitude will be reflected in the way other people respond to them.

7. Customize the cane to be unique and really cool...

If people get the opportunity to personalize and fix up their cane to their liking, they will be more inclined to want to use it. Here are some ideas on things that you can use to customize your cane!

For the grip:
A steering wheel cover, a golf club grip, a tennis racket grip.

For the rest of the cane:
Decals, key chains, braille name tags, neon Colors, Racing Stripes, Braille labels of fun things to do when using the cane, Bright colorful mini-stickers, reflective tape, contact tape resembling wood, camouflage or any other pattern.

A Brain Waves participant shared with us that she fixed up her cane like the American Flag after the tragedy of 9-11, and it was a hit!

Also, you may use different kinds of cane tips depending on your own travelling style.

To end this record with a fun note, below we have included the full text of an entry of one of our Brain Waves participants. She likes to "use her cane for a few amusing, and otherwise very serious reasons."


10. If you know the specific length of your cane, you can use it as an approximate measuring stick to determine the size of other objects;
9. If you put a small piece of doublesided tape on the end of the tip, you have a tool for retrieving dropped items from tight skinny spaces, e.g. from behind bookshelves for instance (I'm not kidding, this one really works, if you are careful!);
8. When walking slowly through grass, you can provide much amusement to a young kitten while gently moving your cane back and forth to find your way, as it chases and bats at the tip (yup, this one's happened to me, too!);
7. Use your cane, instead of your toes, to find the edge of the swimming pool, and to avoid a rather unexpected dive into it;
6. Make cane tracks in the sand, to be later washed away at the beach, or in the snow, as a warmer alternative to snow angels;
5. To be covered under the White Cane pedestrian laws;
4. To find unexpected curbs, steps, or bunched up sections of carpet, and avoid tripping over them;
3. To dig through snow, in order to determine where the sidewalk is, in the middle of winter;
2. To avoid those big metal poles, ouch!, between open double doors at school; and finally,
1. To have a ready explanation, and a way to minimize your embarrassment, if you accidentally walk into the wrong, tactually unlabelled restroom, if no one's around outside of it to ask!

Thanks to all who contributed to this record!

Martial Arts for the Blind

I'd like you to imagine you're walking down a deserted street.--It's late at night.--You hear footsteps following yours.--Has the person following you decided you are easy prey because you are blind? Are you able to defend yourself?

I invite you to learn judo. I know what judo has meant to me, and I hope to share some of those benefits with you. As most of you know, it isn't easy growing up as a blind child in the public school system. Your peers can be pretty rough. I remember being punched in the face by the school bully as a way to test my vision. I also remember attending gym classes for many years before I was given a permanent waiver because I couldn't participate in the classes.

I recall, there was field hockey, volleyball, tennis, soccer, softball and ping-pong. Come to think of it, I wish someone had told the gym teacher that there are other sports besides chasing after a ball, but I didn't understand that at the time. I just felt totally incompetent at sports.

When I was older, I decided I was going to change all this. That's what brought me to the Federation and to judo. When I first heard about judo classes, I was hesitant. Based on my past experience, I didn't think the judo instructor would consider me as a student.

Happily, I was wrong. The instructor didn't care if I couldn't see, he was more interested in what I could do--and I could do judo. I sincerely mean it when I say that my life hasn't been the same since that day.

Judo is a full contact form of self-defense that includes throwing techniques, joint locks, pins, and chokes. These techniques range from simple foot throws that trip your opponent, to dramatic techniques that involve picking your opponent up and throwing them over your shoulder.

The basic principle of judo is that you can throw someone by using the motion of that person. Let me give you an example: Imagine someone is standing in front of you with their hands pushing on your shoulders. If you defend yourself by pushing back, then you'll have to push with a greater force than that of your opponent to overcome their force. This could be impossible if the person is larger and stronger then you are. Instead, by using judo, you take hold of the person's arms and when they push you, you pull them, using their force to throw them. These techniques are done with balance and leverage. They don't require strength at all.

You don't have to be a great athlete to start judo training. If you would like to get back into shape, then judo is a great exercise program for physical fitness and weight control. One thing I like about judo is that you exercise your body and your mind at the same time. So many exercise programs can be boring and you can lose interest in them. Judo literally keeps you thinking on your feet.

Judo is like ballet and gymnastics and one of the benefits of training that you will notice is an improvement in your balance, coordination, and orientation.

Unlike other forms of martial arts, judo needs no adaptation for blind people. Blind players have been active in judo for many years, practicing with sighted players on an equal basis. Judo is part of the United States Association of Blind Athletes program and is included at the Braille Institute in Encino, California, and at Perkins School.

Although these programs show the involvement of some blind players in judo, my emphasis has been to mainstream blind players with sighted players for the benefit of all. This equality embodies the philosophy of judo and the philosophy of the NFB as well.

My students and I have attended many tournaments and clinics, both large and small, and we have never been excluded or shown any favoritism. I remember one tournament we attended at West Point. One of the club instructors wanted to present my student with the Best Player trophy based on her blindness. The tournament director's reaction was to say "It's no big deal that she's blind. I'll give her the Best Player trophy when she comes here and wins."

Well, she won a lot more than a trophy that day. On the way home from the tournament, she told me that it was the first time in her life that she felt like she was "just one of the kids." And for the first time, I began to realize that I was giving back some of what judo has given to me.

The philosophical benefits of judo are as important as the physical benefits. As you challenge yourself, you gain a feeling of accomplishment that carries over into every aspect of your life. The knowledge that you can handle a physical conflict makes a verbal confrontation much less threatening.

You develop strength of mind to stand up for what you believe in and strength of mind that will allow you to step back when it is wise. You actually become less defensive and more relaxed. In twenty years it has never been necessary for me to use judo for self-defense, but I have used this strength of judo every day in all types of situations.

Part of this strength comes from a feeling that you are in control. You carry this control with you and demonstrate it with confident body language in the way you walk and communicate with people. When you project confidence, you are less likely to be confronted.

The self-confidence that can be gained from judo is so important to children. The blind child who is frustrated by his limitations in mainstreamed gym classes--or who is segregated in classes for disabled students--can feel less capable than his classmates. Judo gives the blind child the opportunity to participate in a mainstreamed activity on an equal basis with his peers.

When the other kids are talking about their sports and club activities, the blind child can join in with their accomplishments. This equality is important to the blind child, but it is also very important to their sighted peers as well.

The focus is on what you CAN do, not on what you can't do. It becomes less important that you can't play baseball when there is something unique you CAN be proud of. "I CAN" is what becomes important.

Self-defense is important to everyone nowadays, but as blind people, we are perceived by some as being more vulnerable than others. Judo is a balance to this misconception. Each of us should learn to defend ourselves, not just for our own benefit, but as a means to change society's image of blindness.

Self-defense can be as simple as being sure of who is at your door before you open it, or as involved as defending your life. The ability to think on your feet that you learn from judo can be important in preventing a dangerous situation from taking place.

Some Tips For Staying Safe:
You should avoid short cuts through less traveled areas and stay in areas where there is safety in numbers. Also, avoid walking along buildings since doorways and alleys are places where someone might hide. Stay in the central area of the sidewalk, so you can be clear on all sides.

When I walk down the street, I try to identify the age, gender, number and location of the people around me. This is kind of a game, but it is also a way of training yourself to be more aware of everything around you, so you can anticipate a situation before it develops.

As you learn judo, your skills and attitude will develop. The school bully will be less of a threat. You can walk down that deserted street and be a lot less vulnerable than some might think. Those people who attempt to dominate you will not be successful.

The unsolicited helper who attempts to take you across the street or the airline employee who attempts to load you into the airliner will both be surprised to find that you are in control of the situation.

Judo is a way to "even the odds" and change what it means to be blind. I have made judo my ultimate alternative technique and I hope you will make it yours as well.

This article is reprinted by special permission of the author.

Check the Web!

The judo information site,, has everything you need to know about judo. A major section of the site deals with judo for blind athletes, including coaching tips and rules for judo with blind participants (which primarily remind the referee to use vocal directions in addition to the hand signals). Judo for Blind Athletes is located at the following URL:

This website was written by Neil Ohlenkamp, a Judo instructor at the Encino Judo Club and at the Braille Institute. He has been the coach of the Braille institute's judo team since 1976. He has also been the coordinator of training camps, national and local tournaments, and other training opportunities for the visually impaired. Many of his blind students have become national and international champions. He also served as the US Representative to the International Blind Sports Association Judo Technical Committee from 1988 to 1993 and was instrumental in creating the international rules for visually impaired competitors.

Blind Zen

Stefan Verstappen is a writer and martial arts instructor with over twenty-five year's experience. He spent four years studying martial arts throughout Asia and writes and lectures about his experiences. Verstappen is also the author of, The Thirty-Six Strategies of Ancient China, The Little Warriors Street Safety Manual. He has also written for a number of publications including Black Belt, Inside Kung Fu, and Jade Dragon magazines.

Stefan is the author of "Blind Zen A case Study in Sensory Enhancement for the Blind and Vision Impaired", which tells the story of how a blind woman's efforts to learn self-defense led to a unique experiment to adapt martial arts and eastern philosophy to develop new skills and increase self-confidence.

The book is guide written for the blind, vision impaired and the people that live and work with them, but also for martial arts instructors and sports trainers to provide insights and ideas for developing athletic programs for the blind in their communities.

The book includes descriptions and scientific explanations of the unique Zen inspired exercises that anyone can learn and provides a new approach and exciting possibilities to improve the quality of life of the vision impaired.

The book also provides practical easy-to-learn exercises that teach how to:

  • Become more physically fit and active
  • Improve your sense of balance
  • Improve your sense of proprioception
  • Refine the sense of hearing
  • Train the sense of smell to gather information from your environment
  • Overcome the numerous fears associated with blindness
  • Become more aware of the unconscious sensory information known as synesthesia
  • Defend against an attacker
For more info on the book and how to order see website at: Blind Zen: A case Study in Sensory Enhancement for the Blind and Vision Impaired Size: 7.5" X 9.25" Trade Paperback high gloss soft cover 165 pages, Over 85 Illustrations Includes Bibliography, End Notes, and References. ISBN 1-891688-03-0 Library of Congress Control Number: 2004095543 Red Mansion Pub, SF, 2004 Blind Zen Blog for Blind Martial Artists

Are you a blind or visually impaired martial arts practitioner? Are you looking for contact information for other practitioners?

Martial arts training for the blind is still a pioneering effort and the few teachers and students there are, are scattered throughout the world.

The Blind Zen Blog is an open forum where students and teachers can exchange advice and training tips, personal stories, information on seminars, classes, and competitions.

You can post any article, up-coming events, announcements for seminars and workshops or personal writing that you feel would be of interest to this group. Click this link to visit the Blind Zen Blog:

Interested in the martial arts? Read Ron Peck's book, Parents Guide to Judo from the Blind Judo Foundation at

An Introduction to Music for the Blind Student: A Course in Braille Music Reading, Part One

By Richard Taesch
Published by Dancing Dots

This is a new, flexible curriculum which equips the mainstream educator with no prior experience with braille to teach and learn music braille. The author, Richard Taesch, is a life-long music educator and guitarist who is certified by the Library of Congress as a braille music transcriber. He heads the Braille Music Division of the Southern California Conservatory of Music and chairs the guitar department.

Description of Curriculum

Braille music reading has traditionally been taught as a translation process from print music as the sighted musician views it. This course differs from the norm in that it is a true instructional course-curriculum in music fundamentals, music reading, sight singing, theory, and ear-training using the international Braille Music Code as the medium. Print music is considered secondary, and included for the convenience of the sighted teacher or tutor.

It is, therefore, possible for a sighted (or blind) musician to administer or to study this work without prior knowledge of the braille music code. It is also intended that a sighted teacher, parent, or tutor with little or no knowledge of braille or conventional print music, may guide a blind student through this course. Teacher training is also a natural application for the course. Much testing by correspondence has been conducted, and the course has been the official curriculum at Southern California Conservatory of Music - Braille Music Division for many years.

Content Description

The course is divided into two Parts. Part I (Phases One through Four) is "ground level," and covers rudiments through intermediate melodic interpretation and key signatures. Part I is written into three separate print volumes- Lessons; Lesson Exercises; Supplemental Exercises. The braille edition exists in 4 braille volumes. All three print volumes are integrated and used simultaneously, however, each may also be used separately depending upon individual application.

The course is intended to teach the essentials of music reading regardless of the student's chosen instrument. The piano is considered as a basic tool common to all instrumentalists. Separate instrumental Supplements will eventually become part of the course.

First Volume: Lessons

Each Phase concludes with a lesson summary as an outline. This is intended to give experienced music teachers the option of flexibility, while guiding them through critical essentials specific to the braille Music Code. There are eighty-six print pages in this volume.

"Phase One" addresses rudiments of music in five separate lessons. General content covers introductory ear training, and an introduction to solfege (sight singing) by reading braille scale step numbers only. Structural concepts of scales and intervals in the form of Musical Arithmetic is also a part of Phase One.

"Phase Two" introduces true braille music notation and the braille Music Code. Notation covering the first five notes of the C Major Scale is taught in four lessons. Lesson 4 introduces the concept of Melodic Dictation, whereby the blind student is required to write the notes on the braille writer as they are played by the teacher or tutor.

"Phase Three" introduces the braille melody line incorporating such concepts as time signatures, note duration, repeat signs, piano fingerings, notes in the third & fifth octave, accidentals, major and minor scales, and other essentials needed at this level.

"Phase Four" covers key signatures and other musical devices such as ties, phrase marks, use of the braille music hyphen, and composition and formatting techniques.

"Appendix" contains Theory Examinations pertinent to all four Phases, and concludes with a detailed Index of the text.

Second Volume: Lesson Exercises

This volume includes the Lesson Exercises that are assigned in the Lessons text. A "facsimile" of the braille page as the braille reader sees it is shown on the left page with equivalent print music on the right page. Each braille facsimile page includes print fonts that point out each new braille sign as it is introduced in the lessons. The sighted teacher uses these fonts to reference their place on the braille page.

Third Volume: Supplemental Exercises

This volume is composed of graded supplemental material intended to expand exercise opportunities, and serves to illustrate concepts presented in the course. It may be used independently of the rest of the course, however, it functions as an extension of the curriculum as it is written. There are sixty-seven print pages and one braille volume. All exercises have been composed by the author with the exception of a section called "Duets and Classic Themes".

Some exercises are used for sight singing and playing, others are for singing only or playing only. Duets are common, and right and left hand fingered versions are plentiful. The text concludes with a section of scale exercises for comprehensive note study and review. Each print music exercise is immediately followed by simulated braille print dots.

Part II will be a continuation and expansion of Part I. It completes the discussion of all keys, scales, and key signatures. It introduces students to the concept of key modulation and other music theory issues.

For more information contact:

Dancing Dots
Phone: 610-783-6692

Alfred's Basic Guitar Method I

by Alfred Dauberge

Beginning guitar instruction from the popular music training series.

Enlarged Print (14 point) -- L-90001-00

Click here to purchase this book through our Quick Order Entry page:

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

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

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Differences Between The Abacus And The Calculator

When comparing the abacus and the calculator, it is important to outline the differences between the two. The abacus, for example, requires the user to have knowledge of the processes of arithmetic--and the ability to move counters (beads) in proper sequence to obtain a desired result. This being the case, unless one is a skilled abacus operator who has spent countless hours in practice, chances are the use of an electronic calculator will yield results more quickly than that of an abacus. This is especially true in areas such as root extraction, vector analysis, trigonometric calculations, etc.

Additionally, abacus calculation helps to develop mental concepts concerning numeric relationships, which is not the case with a calculator. For example, it is possible to demonstrate place value by adding a digit, or set of digits, to itself or themselves ten times. This shows movement to the left by one place--and the presence of "0" at the end of the total.

Another difference from a calculator is that the abacus does not require electrical power and can be used under most physical conditions. Further, the abacus does not require programming to perform trigonometry or other functions--as does a calculator. However, the limitation of the abacus is based on the knowledge and ability of the operator.

Abacuses can also be connected in series. This means that if large numeric values need to be calculated, two or more abacuses can be joined and treated as one abacus. This cannot be done with a calculator.

There are certain testing situations in which those being tested are not permitted the use of calculators. This usually results from the concern that calculators can be programmed with formulae that make problem solving automatic--and no longer dependent on the knowledge of the person being tested. The abacus, however, offers no more aid and comfort than a pencil and a piece of paper--and is in no way programmable.

Contributor: Fred Gissoni

Low Vision Research Group (LVRG)

The Low Vision Research Group (LVRG) is an organization whose members have an interest in low vision issues, research and resources. Its mission includes: the fostering of communication among low vision researchers (especially those with different professional credentials); encouraging critical and frank discussion and review of low vision research produced in both formal and informal settings; and increasing the attention that is paid to low vision within the vision research community.

The group's website - LVRGNet - offers information that may be useful to researchers, clinicians and others with an interest in low vision. Follow the General Information link for info on eye disorders, services, support groups, discussion groups and assistive technologies.

Click this link to visit The Low Vision Research Group on the web at:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The American Council On Rural Special Education (ACRES)

The American Council on Rural Special Education (ACRES) is an organization comprised of general and special educators, related service providers, administrators, teacher trainers, researchers, and parents who are committed to the enhancement of services to students and individuals living in rural America. ACRES was founded in 1981 by a group of individuals interested in the unique challenges of rural students and individuals needing special services.

The American Council on Rural Special Education (ACRES)
Utah State University
2865 Old Main Hill
Logan, Utah 84322-2865
Phone: 435-797 3728
Email: Web:

Council For Exceptional Children (CEC)

The non-profit Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) is an international organization that supports special education professionals and others who work to improve educational outcomes for students with disabilities. CEC advocates for appropriate governmental policies; it sets professional standards and provides continual professional development opportunities; it advocates for under-served individuals with exceptionalities; and it helps professionals to obtain conditions and resources necessary for effective professional practice.

For membership information, visit the CEC website or contact their offices.

Council for Exceptional Children (CEC)
1110 North Glebe Road, Suite 300
Arlington, VA 22201-5704
Toll Free: 888-232-7733
Phone: 703-620-3660
TTY: 703-264-9446
Fax: 703-264-9494

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Convert Microsoft DOCX Files to HTML or Older Versions of Office

Have you noticed that Microsoft Word 2007 has added a new file format? DOCX is the new version of the more familiar DOC filetype and has some new features. A problem occurs when you try to open a DOCX file in an older version of Word, you can't do it.

DOCX Converter is a simple utility that lets you convert DOCX files to a simple HTML format so that it can be opened and read on all computers. The process is straight forward and quick, with no hassles.

  1. Click "Browse" button and locate your .docx file.
  2. Enter your email address and click "Convert It!".
  3. Wait for the email with the HTML file.

Keep in mind, DOCX Converter strips out most of the formatting, except bold, italic, underline, left/right/center alignments, Unicode characters and tables. You can also download a widget to convert documents right from your desktop.

Click this link to visit

Microsoft has released the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for users of older versions of Office, to let them view and edit Office 2007 formats like docx, pptx and xlsx. If you're one of those who owns or has to use a previous version of MS Office, this is probably the easiest way to go. The compatibility pack is a free and small (30MB) download from Microsoft.

The Victor Victrola and Turtle's 78 RPM Jukebox

The Victor Victrola Page

Look at how well written their introduction is, they say it all so concisely. It's amazing!

"This website is dedicated to Victrola Phonographs made by the Victor Talking Machine Company from 1906 through 1929. Victrolas are acoustic phonographs with the sound-reproducing horn "built-in" (internal) to the cabinet. While the earliest phonographs used large external horns to amplify the sound, it was the invention of the internal horn Victrola in 1906 that literally launched the phonograph into millions of homes. No longer was the phonograph a strange machine with a huge horn that stood out so awkwardly in a room; the new Victrola looked like a piece of furniture that fit perfectly in the parlor. "Victrola" is a brand name, and not a generic term for all old wind-up phonographs".

Scroll down to the bottom area of the page. This is where you'll find the navigation. You have a bevy of options available to you: History of the Victrola, Basics of the Acoustic Phonograph, Victrola Phonograph Design Details, How Can I Identify a Victrola?, Look Inside the Lid, Woods and Finishes, FAQS, Technical Articles on the Victrola Phonograph, and much, much more.

The "History of the Victrola" section is well laid out, comprehensive, and even has pictures. Learn about the victrola from 1901 to 1925. It's an interesting read!

Look Under the Lid - this section is about the Victrola Decals that you would find under the lid. There were five total, and there are pictures of them all here.

Woods and Finishes - I found this section interesting too. There was a lot of variety used in the types of woods that were used to make the cabinets, and there were even some expensive hand painted custom finishes too. Filled with pictures and tips this section was really neat!

Well I'll leave you to rummage through the rest of the site on your own now. It's well worth a look.

Click this link to visit The Victor Victrola Page:

Turtle's 78 RPM Jukebox

Make Your Selection.
No Nickel Required!
(Put a new needle in, and crank up your MP3 "talking machine")

This site is a collection of MP3s made from old 78s. The music is from Popular Victor, Edison, and Columbia Recordings from 1900 to 1930. Each record is now a CD quality MP3, they really sound great! If you are a fan of old-time radio, you'll love this site too. They even have a technical section so you can read how the recordings were made. Click this link to listen to the Turtle's 78 RPM Jukebox:

How Vinyl Was Made


Interesting documentation you can watch in two parts on how they used to make records at RCA Victor.

Video Link: Part1 - Part2

Tape Findings

When was the last time you dropped a box of cassette tapes off to your local thrift store? Did you remember to erase them first? This site may make you think twice about dumping tapes that haven't been erased.

Tape Findings is a collection of found audio recordings. The finds rang from songs sung by anonymous crooners (no real American Idol contenders there) to hilarious outgoing answering machine messages. The recordings are sometimes profound, sometimes awkward, but always entertaining. They also have links to similar sites.

Click this link to visit tape findings at

Friday, December 12, 2008

How to find or become a Braille Transcriber

Computers equipped with speech synthesizers and screen enlargement features have given people who are blind and visually impaired access to vast libraries of printed materials that might otherwise be inaccessible. Yet many people either don't have access to these technologies or else prefer the act of reading with paper in hand. And as vast as the World Wide Web is, there remains a mountain of printed materials--such as textbooks, brochures, sheet music, government documents, records and manuals--that have yet to cross the digital divide.

It's the job of braille transcribers to make these materials available to people who are braille readers.

A braille transcriber turns print, sound, computer file and other materials into braille. The transcriber does this using a slate and stylus or a mechanical device called a braillewriter (such as the Perkins Brailler). Some transcribers use software programs (such as Duxbury, MegaDots and ED-IT PC) to translate printed and electronic materials into media that can be printed using a braille embosser. The advantage of using a software program is that the braillist can save his or her work as a data file from which multiple-embossings can be made.

Braille transcribers work in a variety of environments. They may work as independent contractors, for a school system, non-profit associations and organizations and for government agencies. Many braillists choose to work as volunteers, transcribing materials for friends, community groups or family members.

Anyone with the desire and inclination can become a braille transcriber. According to the Braille Authority of North America (BANA), an association that advocates for braille standardization, some 23,000 braillists have chosen to become "certified" transcribers. This means that they have submitted work for review and received accredition from the National Library Service (NLS) for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, a department of the Library of Congress (LOC).

Having certification means that the braillist will provide transcription that meets LOC standards for formatting and adheres to the rules for the use of braille letters, contractions and other braille signs. The NLS offers certification in three distinct areas: Literary Braille, Mathematics Braille, and Music Braille. Each course is composed of at least sixteen lessons and a final exam. It's a graduated system: the student must pass and receive certification in the previous area before applying for certification in the next.

The Braille Development Section of the NLS administers the braille transcriber certification courses through a network of volunteer groups across the United States, and via correspondence courses for people who live in rural areas, have difficulty travelling or prefer this method of study.

Braille Proofreaders

Another role in the process of transcribing printed materials to braille is held by the braille proofreader. Proofreaders carefully compare the braille manuscript against the original printed material, checking for accuracy, adherence to pre-established format conventions, and errors. They note any irregularities, and report these to the transcriber so that he or she can make the necessary changes. The proofreader's job is an important one: he or she is "last line of defense" before the braille manuscript is made available to the public.

The NLS also offers certification programs for proofreaders. The NLS Literary Braille Proofreading course is a five-lesson program that provides instruction in the techniques and rules needed to proofread literary braille transcriptions. The NLS Mathematics Braille Proofreading program is a 16-lesson course focusing on the unique signs, rules and concepts used in Mathematics braille transcriptions. A person interested in becoming a certified proofreader must meet NLS eligibility requirements. For more information about these requirements, visit the NLS web site (see contact information below).

Resources for Additional Information

Want to learn more about finding or becoming a braille transcriber? Start with the following resources. They have been organized into categories: Courses and Certification Resources, Professional Organizations, and Sources for Finding a Braille Transcriber.

Courses and Certification Resources

  • Braille Development Section, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

    The Braille Development Section of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped offers programs leading to certification in braille transcribing and proofreading. They offer the programs through a network of volunteer agencies and groups across the country, and by correspondence courses for individuals in remote areas or who have need for this service. The program for Braille Transcribers includes courses in Literary braille, Mathematics Braille, Music Braille. Courses in Literary and Mathematics Braille are offered for proofreaders.

    There are prerequisite requirements for all courses. And because these courses are designed to prepare students for the "Certificate of Braille Competency", people who are interested in learning braille reading and writing strictly for personal use are encouraged to contact their state's rehabilitation agency.

    Contact Info:
    Braille Development Section
    National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
    The Library of Congress
    Address: 1291 Taylor Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20542
    Phone: (202) 707-5100
    Web: National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped:

  • Braille Through Remote Learning (BRL):

    BRL offers three online, self-paced instructional programs for people interested in learning braille and braille transcription. The courses are: Introduction to Braille, Braille Transcribers (which emphasizes brailling of textbooks), and Specialized Codes. As of April 2000, the BRL courses are being offered free of charge pending additional funding. However, the courses are unsupported: there are no instructors to grade or assess students' work. To register, complete the online form provided at the BRL website.

    Contact Info:
    Braille Through Remote Learning
    Web: Braille Through Remote Learning:

  • Hadley School for the Blind:

    The Hadley School offers more than 90 distance education courses free of charge to eligible students. The Hadley catalog of courses includes a lengthy list of braille courses, from introductory reading and writing to more advanced courses in musical notation and Mathematic codes.

    Course materials are sent on cassette tape to students via mail. According to the school, the courses are meant to give students a solid foundation for reading and writing braille. Those students who are interested in becoming professional or certified transcribers are then encouraged to take the NLS transcribers course. For eligibility requirements, visit the Hadley website or use the following contact information:

    Contact Info:
    The Hadley School for the Blind
    Address: 700 Elm Street, Winnetka, IL 60093-0299
    Phone: 1-800-323-4238
    Fax: 847-446-0855
    Web: Hadley School for the Blind:
Professional Organizations

These professional organizations provide career and guidance services for certified and volunteer braillists.
  • The National Braille Association has a twofold mission: to provide continuing education to people who prepare braille, and to make braille materials available to persons who are visually impaired.

    The NBA offers braille transcription services: it finds qualified volunteer braillists to fill requests for textbooks and other technical materials. These transcriptions are kept in the NBA's Braille Book Bank and Braille Technical Tables Bank for use by other transcribers and braille readers. The NBA holds regional and national training meetings to help transcribers develop and improve their skills.

    Contact Info:
    National Braille Association
    Address: 3 Townline Circle, Rochester, NY 14623-2513
    Phone: 716-427-8260
    Fax: 716-427-0263
    Web: National Braille Association:

  • Braille Authority of North America (BANA)

    The Braille Authority of North America promotes the standardization of braille, its use, teaching and production. It publishes rules, interprets and renders opinions pertaining to braille in all existing and future codes. The board of directors of the BANA includes representatives from various organizations that serve people who are blind and visually impaired, such as the American Council of the Blind, the American Federation of the Blind, the National Federation of the Blind, The Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and APH.

    Contact Info:
    Braille Authority of North America
    Contact: Eileen Curran
    National Braille Press
    Address: 88 St. Stephen Street, Boston, MA 02115
    Phone: 888-965-8965, ext. 17
    Fax: 617-437-0456
    Web: Braille Authority of North America:
Sources for Finding a Braille Transcriber

  • American Printing House for the Blind

    APH manages two online databases that can be consulted to find individuals and groups who transcribe materials into braille.

    • Accessible Media Producers Database (AMP)

      The AMP database includes the names, locations, and qualifications of producers of accessible materials for visually impaired and blind individuals.

      Contact Info:
      Accessible Media Producers Database (AMP)
      American Printing House for the Blind
      Address: 1839 Frankfort Avenue, Louisville, KY 40206
      Phone: 502-895-2405
      Fax: 502-899-2274
      Web: Accessible Media Producers Database:

    • Louis Database of Accessible Materials

      A List of Contributing Agencies to The Louis Database of Accessible Materials, many of which produce materials in braille, can be accessed via the APH web site.

      Contact Info:
      Louis Database of Accessible Materials
      American Printing House for the Blind
      Address: 1839 Frankfort Avenue, Louisville, KY 40206
      Phone: 502-895-2405
      Fax: 502-899-2274
      Web: Louis Database:

  • Accessible Textbook Initiative and Collaboration Project (ATIC)

    The goal of ATIC is to provide accessible textbooks in braille and other media to students who are visually impaired in as efficient manner as possible.

    Contact Info:
    Accessible Textbook Initiative and Collaboration Project (ATIC)
    American Printing House for the Blind
    Address: 1839 Frankfort Avenue, Louisville, KY 40206
    Phone: 502-895-2405
    Fax: 502-899-2274
    Web: ATIC:

  • Volunteers Who Produce Books

  • Braille-Trans

    Braille-Trans is a listserv for people interested in discussing issues relating to braille transcription. For more info, visit the group's web site at Braille-Trans: or join the group today by sending an email to .

American Foundation for the Blind and Verizon Communications' Braille Textbook Transcriber Program

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) and Verizon Communications are partners to develop and promote the careers of Braille Textbook Transcribers, and improve literacy for America's blind and low-vision schoolchildren.

The $200,000 grant from Verizon Reads assists AFB in the continued development and launch of the online community college-level courses designed to train transcribers to produce textbooks and instructional materials in braille. AFB is working on this effort in collaboration with Northwest Vista College in San Antonio, Texas, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and 35 of the leading national organizations and associations in education, literacy and service to the blind and visually impaired U.S. population. Northwest Vista College is the first campus in the nation to offer its students the opportunity to achieve the credentials and certification for this career. The classes will be available by the end of 2006.

It is estimated that the U.S. needs 380 full-time transcribers now, will need 735 additional transcribers in five years, and 1,020 additional transcribers in 10 years. Because of this national shortage, blind and visually impaired schoolchildren go weeks and sometimes months, without textbooks that their sighted peers have for their core and elective classes.

Since 2002, AFB's partnership with Verizon has propelled the lack of timely and appropriate textbooks and instructional materials for schoolchildren with vision loss into the forefront of education and policy discussion. Current transcribers are dedicated but unpaid volunteers who cannot meet the current demand for brailled textbooks and learning materials. This national effort has forced policymakers to look at what access truly means for students with visual impairments.

Verizon, through its national literacy program Verizon Reads, works with literacy organizations to create programs that promote the need for a more literate America, with a cadre of noted celebrities serving pro-bono as Literacy Champions for these programs. Erik Weihenmayer has served as pro-bono spokesperson for the past three years, and will continue to promote the new career of Braille Textbook Transcriber, and improving literacy for blind schoolchildren across America.

Verizon Reads is a national campaign to increase community awareness and to generate additional funding and support of literacy programs for adults, children and families. In 2004, Verizon Reads awarded 900 grants totaling more than $18 million to such programs as Reach Out and Read, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) and LULAC National Education Service Centers. In addition, through a company incentive program, Verizon Volunteers, employees are encouraged to volunteer for literacy efforts in their communities.

For more information on this career opportunity contact:

Dawson duncan, Dallas
Anna Marie Johnson Teague, 214-520-7550


American Foundation for the Blind
Carrie Fernandez, 212-502-7674

Monday, December 08, 2008

Math Flash

Software helps elementary students sharpen math skills with talking electronic flash cards. This self-voicing program uses the computer's sound card to communicate instructions, drills, practice sessions, and games. Students can select their favorite fun Math Mentor character. Teachers can modify the number of problems, degree of difficulty, and insert custom problems. Recommended ages: 6 years and up.

Requirements to Run

  • Windows 98 or 2000 or later including XP
  • Pentium or compatible 300 MHz processor or better
  • Sound card with speakers
  • CD-ROM drive to install program
  • From 15 to 25 MB of hard disk space
  • Internet Explorer 4.01 or later

Math Flash

Catalog Number: D-19910-00

Electronic Distribution:
Catalog Number: D-19910-ED

Download APH Software Demos:

Click here to purchase this item through our Quick Order Entry page:

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

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

T.V. Raman: Blind engineer and Mathematician

T.V. Raman, blind engineer currently with Google, was asked to write an article describing what it is like to be a mathematician who cannot see. the article, thinking of Mathematics, and a commentary written to address subsequent questions, can be found online. The author hopes that it encourages blind math students and serves as a resource for their teachers.

"The world is too full of factors to discourage students who cannot see from pursuing a career in science and math."

Click this link to read thinking of Mathematics from

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Free Braille Children's Book Program

The American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults sponsors a program to make Goosebumps® and Baby Sitters Club® braille books available on a monthly basis to blind youngsters and their teachers as well as to the schools and libraries that serve them. After registering, those who are eligible to participate in the program will receive a free Goosebumps ® and/or Baby Sitters Club® title in braille.

American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults
1800 Johnson St.
Baltimore, MD 21230
Phone: 410-659-9315

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Reviews and Sources for Screen Magnification Software

Screen magnifiers are a very useful software option for increasing the accessibility of computers to the low vision computer user. They are widely available for all operating systems, and range in complexity from basic magnification to multi-featured software packages that incorporate magnification, text scanning (with Optical Character Recognition), synthesized speech, and support for braille displays. They range in price from freeware to over $2,000.

The needs of a low vision computer users vary greatly from individual to individual, so the software programmers have made a wide variety of features to better serve the community. What follows is a description of several types of features found in magnification software.

There is a wide range in the amount of magnification available, from simple 2x programs to programs that offer 2x, 4x, and 8x to programs that offer 2x to 32x and anything in between.

There are four basic display types available in these programs. The most basic type is to magnify the entire display, which means that the image no longer fits on the screen and the user must scroll through the display to see everything.

The next type of display involves using the mouse cursor as a sort of magnifying glass ; this type has two options. In the first option, the mouse cursor becomes a virtual magnifying lens and magnifies what is found under the cursor. In the second option, the area around the mouse cursor is magnified and displayed in a stationary window elsewhere on the screen. Many programs offer the user both of these options.

The third type of display is similar to the last one, except that the area around the mouse cursor is displayed in a resizable window, allowing the user to adjust the display area to suit his or her needs. The last type of display is the split screen, where a portion of the screen is divided off of the main display and devoted to displaying the area around the cursor. This can be either a vertical split or a horizontal split, as defined by the user.

The more complicated programs usually offer the user the choice of any of these display types, while the basic programs usually use one of the first two types.

Because extreme magnification settings distort the characters displayed, most packages include "font smoothing" to compensate for the distortion. The quality of this effect varies from package to package.

Another tool available with some magnification software changes the screen display colors so that the user can adjust the display to her or his liking.

The producers of these software packages offer free trial or "demo" versions to give consumers a chance to try the software out (for a limited time) before paying for it. This allows you to experiment with the different packages for free until you find the one that suits you the best. These "demos" are available either by download from the Internet or on disk by mail from the manufacturer.

The prospective user should visit The Screen Magnifiers Homepage,, a great website with product reviews, a fairly comprehensive product list, and links to manufacturers' websites.

Virtual Magnifying Glass

Virtual Magnifying Glass is a free, open source, cross-platform screen magnification tool. It is simple, customizable, and easy-to-use. Runs on Microsoft Windows Vista, XP, 2000, NT, ME, 98 or 95. Also runs on a UNIX system running X11 (any Linux Distribution, FreeBSD, etc) and Mac OS X 10.4 or superior.

Click this link to learn more about the FREE Virtual Magnifying Glass at

How to Hang Pictures and Shelves

How to Hang a Picture

You've finally gotten that fantastic print or photograph framed. Now, how to hang it on the wall? Just follow these instructions.

  1. Decide where to hang the picture. Avoid hanging one small picture on a huge expanse of wall - art looks better when it seems to extend the lines of furniture, windows or doorways or when several small pieces are grouped together.
  2. Check that you are not hanging a heavy picture on wallboard only. Hang heavy objects only from a wall stud or beam.
  3. Hold the picture up and make a small pencil mark, or use something to make a small scratch on the wall where the top edge of the frame will be.
  4. Choose an appropriate hook. You might want a two-piece nail-and-hook, or a hollow-wall anchor for heavier objects.
  5. Holding the picture's wire taut, measure from the wire (or from the hanging tab if that's what the picture has) to the frame's top edge. Measure down that distance from the pencil mark, or scratch you made on the wall and mark that spot - that's where the hook will go.
  6. Nail the picture hook into the wall where you've just made a mark.
  7. Hang the picture and adjust it so it's straight.

You can hang wide frames using two hooks spaced about a third of the way in from each side. Use a level to make sure that the two hooks are correctly aligned.

Very lightweight pictures can hang from hooks that stick with adhesive to the wall.

Picture-hook packages usually indicate how much weight the hooks can bear.

Tips for the Blind

  • Put a dab of toothpaste on the hanger of the picture. Place it exactly where you want it on the wall and then push so that toothpaste stays on the wall. Then you know exactly where to put your nail/screw.
  • A little trick to hang a picture that requires multiple nails: Just get some masking tape. Lay a strip of the tape along the back of the frame to be hung. Poke holes in the tape to mark where you want the nails to go. Then pull off the tape and stick it to the wall. Then you can mark those holes on the wall.
  • To prevent your fingers from getting smashed by a hammer, try using a spring-loaded clothespin to hold the nail in place while you hammer it in to the wall. This keeps your fingers far away from any danger.
  • Heavy pictures or mirrors should always be hung from wall studs to support their weight. Use a stud finder that can be purchased at your local hardware or home improvement store. But if you find yourself without a stud finder, run an electric razor over the wall. The tone will change when the razor vibrates over the stud.

How to Hang a Shelf

Adding storage or display space in your home can be a snap. Here's how to mount a simple wooden shelf and two brackets to a wall.

  1. Buy a wooden shelf from a home-improvement store. Buy shelf brackets - simple L shapes or something more decorative - making sure that the top leg of the bracket is no longer than the shelf is deep.
  2. Buy screws if you don't have a supply at home or if they don't come with the brackets.
  3. Find the wall studs; you'll fasten the brackets to them.
  4. Determine where you want the bottom edge of the shelf to sit, then mark the position, using a carpenter's level, or audible level as a guide.
  5. Line up the top of each bracket with a pencil line or scratch and mark the attachment holes on the wall. Set the bracket aside.
  6. Test-drill the holes to make sure they are going into wood rather than wallboard. If there is no stud in a convenient place and the shelf is not going to carry more than a few pounds, you may be able to settle for using hollow-wall anchors.
  7. Attach the brackets to the wall, lay your shelf on top, and screw the bracket into the shelf.

Choose screws that will penetrate the wallboard and go into the stud about 1 inch. Choose shorter screws for mounting the shelf on the bracket, so they won't penetrate the top of the shelf.

Before you buy a precut shelf, check it carefully to make sure there are no dents, scratches or chips in it. And make sure all the hardware and brackets are included.

Closet Garment Rail with Light

Have you ever been met with the comment "Closet lights out?" when you have shown up at work or at some party?. Neither have I, but there must be something behind this, since it's almost a saying. The idea as far as I know, is to make a friendly comment to a person's lack of clothes coordination and style. If the closet light is out, it's difficult to find matching clothes, unless you're totally blind. This lack of coordination can be caused by other things, for instance being fashion illiterate, in such a case this invention will not help, but for everybody else who lacks cool lighting in their closets, here's a product that is both smart and stylish.

The illuminated garment rail creates attractive lighting inside of closets. Illuminating the closet's interior offers practical convenience. This rail uses LED light, which has the advantages of low heat build-up, long life, constant light output, robustness and minimum spatial requirements. Because "Lite inside" is battery operated, the cordless lighting is quick and easy to install, and can be retrofitted by the end user. The garment/coat rail is available in different lengths to meet individual needs.

The light in the garment rail makes it easier to see clothes inside the closet. After a short time, the light automatically switches itself off again.

Click this link to learn more about the Lite Inside illuminated garment rail from Hettich International.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Braille and Large Print Beverage Brochures at Starbucks

Did you know that there are over 87,000 beverage combinations at Starbucks? To help you order, Starbucks has made their popular brochure, "Make It Your Drink," available in both Braille and Large Print. Ask your barista for it the next time you visit your local Starbucks.

The input from customers, partners (employees), and disability organizations helped guide this effort. Starbucks would specifically like to thank the American Council of the Blind, the American Association of the Deaf-Blind and the Seattle Lighthouse for their input. Thank you also to Easy to Read Documents for producing the Braille and large print.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Accessible Nutritional Content Information Websites

Most will agree that eating is one of life's greatest pleasures. There are many foods and many ways to fix them. There are packaged foods, meats, fresh fruits, vegetables, and fast foods. Some are better for us than others. The trick is to know how to combine them in order to build a healthy diet and lifestyle.

But how do we go about learning which foods are better for us than others, and the kind of nutrients they offer? By law, packages are required to have labels specifying the nutritional content of the food they contain. For fast foods, fruits and vegetables there are a number of charts and tables available in books, health magazines and grocery store billboards. However, none of this information is readily accessible to blind individuals.

Although the Internet has become a great resource for blind people to acquire information, most of the sites that list nutritional content of foods are not accessible. Most of them use a variety of charts and tables to list the nutritional content of foods. While this is an effective way to visually convey information, charts and tables are very difficult or impossible to follow for people relying in screen access software.

Since nutritional information is as essential to blind individuals as it is to anyone who wants to have a healthy lifestyle, we did some research for you. In this record we have found some speech friendly Internet sites for nutritional contents.

Do You Really Want to Eat That?

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) has an article by Janet Ingber titled Do You Really Want to Eat That? Accessibility of Nutritional Information on Restaurant Companies' Websites. Taken from the article:

"Did you ever wonder how many calories and how much fat are in a fast-food burger or latte? Some cities now have regulations that require restaurants to post the nutritional information for the food they serve. However, if you are blind or have low vision, you may not have access to this information. Before you drink that latte or eat that burger, you may want to check out the nutritional information for these and other items. This article reviews a variety of fast-food websites to determine whether nutrition information for their products is accessible... An accessible website can help consumers with visual impairments make informed decisions about what food they choose to eat. The restaurant websites that I reviewed are Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, Taco Bell, Subway, Papa John's, Domino's, Baskin-Robbins, and TCBY."

You can read the entire article at

Chow Baby

At Chow Baby you can check out the nutritional content of those delicious fast food tacos, burgers, cheese sticks and fried chicken. Although the site is not specifically designed for blind users, it is speech friendly and easy to use.

Looking for new "Restaurant Experiences"? If you're tired of frequenting the same old restaurants or can't find that specific "something" you are craving, is the place to visit. Their dining directory hosts restaurant websites from all over the nation and your next perfect dining experience is likely among them. Use the search tools to find the "type of restaurants" you like and then read among the results before clicking on the website links. The websites offer you virtual tours or photographs of the restaurants interior, a list of the services they provide, the hours of operation, all their menus including wine and cocktails, what it costs to dine there, what methods of payment are acceptable, if they have a dress code, what specialties they offer and how to map the drive from where you are to the restaurant. Did you say you're looking for a restaurant? is the go to Restaurant Guide!

Click this link to visit the Chow Baby homepage:

To retrieve information about a particular fast food place, you need to select one of the choices listed in their combo box, and do a search. For instance, you may want to check out "Burger King". Your search results will retrieve a list of those items in their menu, for example, the "whopper", "fries", etc. Each item will link you to its corresponding nutritional content analysis.

Click this link to visit Chow Baby's Fast Food Calories and Calorie Counter page.

Food and Nutrition Solutions

The University of Illinois' Food and Nutrition Solutions Series website offers tips and guides on food preparation, preservation, safety and storage, and tools for nutritional analysis. Particularly useful: Its "Is it safe" guides for a number of questionable-appearing foods, its suggestions for reducing cholesterol, fat and sugar. Start your search with these three topics:

  • Food Preparation - Help with selecting and preparing a variety of foods
  • Food Preservation - Guides to canning, drying and freezing foods
  • Nutrition & Analysis - Tools for analyzing and improving your diet
Click this link to visit the Food and Nutrition Solutions website.

Calorie Calculator and Diary at aims to help users maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle through informed nutrition and exercise. It is a database of information about how many calories are in the foods you eat and how many calories are burned when you exercise. You can also create a personal calorie diary to track your caloric intake and your exercise, and even print weekly reports. Any visitor to the site can check the food or exercise calorie calculators, but only registered users can create a diary or participate in discussions in the ^D<"clubhouse,^D>" a general bulletin board for discussion. The clubhouse also features a page of YouTube videos about fitness and nutrition topics. At last count, listed 8,932 foods in its database, with new foods being added regularly. One way the database is expanded is when users add a new food by entering information off the label or copying a recipe into the site. When users add a new food or recipe, it becomes accessible to the entire community.

We all know that if you burn more calories than you take in, you should lose weight - but that can be easier said than done. could be a really helpful resource for people who want to get serious about tracking their calorie intake and exercise to lose weight or stay healthy. Even users who do not choose to keep a calorie diary on the site could find the calorie calculators for food and exercise quite helpful.

Click this link to visit


"Healthy Dining Menu Choices from Fast Food to Upscale Restaurants." Input your location, price range, and other options, and get recommendations from the restaurants participating in the Healthy Dining Program. Click on the restaurant names to get recommended menu selections from each, along with nutritional information about each entry.

Click this link to visit HealthyDiningFinder at

Calories Per Hour

I really like the approach this Website takes for weight loss. They're not telling you to go run a marathon tomorrow, only drink water or give up all the foods you love. No, it's much easier than that!

  • Diet and Weight Loss Tips: In this section, you'll find practical tips for diet and weight loss. Each tip discusses something different and gives you a link to a related article with more information on the subject.
  • Tutorial: The purpose here is to give you a solid foundation that will help you put an end to the dieting cycle.
  • Calories Burned Calculator: Here you'll find calculators for your BMI (Body Mass Index), BMR and RMR (Basal and Resting Metabolic Rates), an activity calculator and five advanced calculators tuned for specific activities. Each calculator has a tutorial article linked at the bottom of the section, so you'll learn exactly how everything works in conjunction with weight loss. This is one of those sections that we as blind people can really benefit from because this information is typically inaccessible.
  • Food Calories & Nutrition Calculator: I suggest starting by clicking on the Help button for this calculator, because it will give you clear instructions as to what you need to do. Basically, what it does is allow you to input food items and calculate the calories for them. If you check out the food lists, you'll find fast food information and some stats on frozen foods and prepackaged foods as well, really cuts down on trying to scan the side of a box with the computer.
  • Weight Loss Calculator: This section provides three calculators for you. One that lets you calculate the time to reach your weight loss goal, one that lets you calculate the daily calorie deficit to reach your weight loss goal and one that lets you calculate your weight loss over time.
  • Weights & Measures Converter: Here's another great section for us, it helps to convert weight, height and food measurements to the metric version and back again.
  • Weight Loss Forums: Here you'll find people who will support your weight loss efforts, who you can ask questions or even give answers to. The forum has topics on eating disorders, dietary supplements, surgery, diet plans, training and more!

This accessible Website will educate you on how to live healthy and lose those extra pounds! Again, it's great because a lot of this information is found in formats that are not easy for us to access.

hClick this link to visit

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

National Federation Of The Blind (NFB)

Founded in 1940, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) has over fifty thousand members, with affiliates in all fifty states, plus Washington DC and Puerto Rico, and over seven hundred local chapters. As a consumer and advocacy organization, the NFB is one of the leading forces in the blindness field today.

The NFB offers information and referral services, advocacy services, and works to protect civil rights. Further, it provides aids and appliances and other adaptive equipment for the blind.

Additionally, Newsline for the Blind offers the complete text of leading national and local newspapers with the use of only a touch-tone telephone. Literature and publications about blindness include the Braille Monitor, which discusses activities in the blindness field, and Voice of the Diabetic which focuses on the special interests and needs of diabetics.

Use the contact information below to learn more about the National Federation of the Blind.

National Federation of the Blind (NFB)
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, MD 21230
Phone: 410-659-9314

I Can't See But I Can Imagine

Patty asks her grandmother, "What is it like not to be able to see?" Grammie says, "I can't see, but I can imagine!"

Patty's grandmother is blind, but together they share adventures as Grammie imagines things around her and composes songs for her five grandchildren. They laugh when they hear frog conversations in The Frog Song; hold their breath as they ride in a rocking chair, chariot with delightful ponies going to Rock-A-Bye Town; giggle when they meet Pepper in Patty's Puppy Pepper; stare in wonder at things below when Grammie's rocking chair turns into a swing and she is Swinging From a Star; and grin when they meet Mary Lou with her hair standing on end.

Wrapped inside a beautifully illustrated and colorful children's book with an accompanying CD, one family's priceless history has been forever preserved. Patricia's book I Can't See, But, I Can Imagine is a sixty-four page hard-bound book featuring colorful illustrations by Sharon Bean. The CD includes the entire story and five children's songs written by Patricia's grandmother, Persis Beach Bennett.

About the Author:

Patricia Wilson was born and raised in New England, and now lives in Central Oregon. As a child she was captivated by the songs her grandmother, Persis Beach Bennett, wrote. In 1915, about the time her last child was born, Persis began to have trouble seeing. By 1925, she was almost completely blind. Her blindness, however, never stopped her from enjoying life. She loved music and spent much of her time playing the piano and composing songs, recorded on 78 rpm records in 1949. Most of her music was Christian based and ballads, but she delighted her grandchildren by writing five songs for and about them. When Persis passed away in 1954, Patricia began worrying, "What will become of Grammie's music?" In 1994, she retrieved the records from a basement in New Hampshire. They were terribly scratched and nearly impossible to understand. She says, "With God's help and the assistance of many talented people in Central Oregon, all the music has been reproduced. I am delighted to share some of Grammie's music and stories with other people, especially children."

The book contains a CD with the story and children's music by Patricia's grandmother, Persis Beach Bennett, first recorded on 78rpm records in 1949, updated and reproduced in the 1990s.

Click this link to learn more about the book, hear samples of the songs, and to read the blog:

Fire Safety Tips For The Visually Impaired

A Clear Fire Safety Message

Over 10 million Americans are visually impaired. During a fire emergency, the senses that visually impaired persons rely upon have a high probability of being overpowered.

The United States Fire Administration (USFA), a directorate of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), encourages the visually impaired population to practice the following precautionary steps to help protect themselves, their home and their surroundings from the danger of fire.

Install and Maintain Smoke Alarms

  • Make sure working smoke alarms are installed on each level of your home. You may want a family member or friend to assist you.
  • Remember to test smoke alarms monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. You may want a family member or friend to assist you.
  • Audible alarms should pause with a small window of silence between each successive cycle so that blind or visually impaired people can listen to instructions or voices of others.

Don’t Isolate Yourself

It is important that older adults speak up - 55% of the visually impaired population is over the age of 65.

  • Speak to your family members, building manager, or neighbors about your fire safety plan and practice it with them.
  • Ask emergency responders to keep your special needs information on file.
  • Contact your local fire department’s non-emergency line and explain your special needs. They will probably suggest escape plan ideas, and may perform a home fire safety inspection and offer suggestions about smoke alarm placement.

Live Near an Exit and Plan Your Escape

You’ll be safest on the ground floor if you live in an apartment building. If you live in a multi-story home, arrange to sleep on the first floor.

  • Being on the ground floor and near an exit will make your escape easier.
  • If necessary, have a ramp available for emergency exits.
  • Unless instructed by the fire department, never use an elevator during a fire.
  • If you encounter smoke, stay low to the ground to exit your home.
  • Once out, stay out, and call 911 or your local emergency number from a neighbor’s house.

Be Fire-Safe Around the Home

  • When cooking, never approach an open flame while wearing loose clothing and don’t leave cooking unattended. Use a timer to remind you of food in the oven.
  • Don’t overload electrical outlets of extension cords.
  • Never use the oven to heat your home. Properly maintain chimneys and space heaters.
  • Keep a phone near your bed and be ready to call 911 or your local emergency number if a fire occurs.

Know Your Abilities

Remember, fire safety is your personal responsibility …Fire Stops With You!

Article Source:

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Guidelines for Described Educational Materials

The Described and Captioned Media Program has partnered with the American Foundation for the Blind to forge "guidelines" to equal access for students with vision loss: the Description Key: Guidelines for the Description of Educational Media.

The Description Key guidelines are complete and are posted online. The guidelines are intended for new and experienced describers, description agencies, media producers and distributors, and others who want to make educational media more accessible.

Go to at AFB for this valuable resource. And to connect with DCMP, visit

DCMP may be a new resource for you. To learn more about their extensive description resources available to teachers and parents , check out the DCMP Website for your free-loan educational accessible media needs.

Homework Helping Sites On The Net

Let's face it, we all need help with homework from time to time. Parents often don't know how to help their children with the assignments they bring home today. Problems only increase when the parents are blind and the child is sighted. Where can you go to find educational sites that are fun for your children?

The following websites will help you find the answers that will bring you closer to an "A".

Homework Spot

A free homework information portal that features the very best K-12 homework-related sites. With the help of students, parents and teachers, their team of educators, librarians and journalists has scoured the Web to bring you the best resources for English, math, science, history, art, music, technology, foreign language, college prep, health, life skills, extracurricular activities and much more.

Click this link to visit Homework Spot:

InfoPlease Homework Center

Find useful information by subject area, develop better writing, note-taking and study skills, and search through previous questions and answers from other students.

Click this link to visit InfoPlease:

The Kids On The Web

This is an excellent site maintained as a labor of love by Internet luminary Brendan Kehoe. Kids on the Web has links for Homework Tools, Educational Sites and much more. You could spend days exploring all these links, and Brendan adds new ones every month.

Click this link to visit The Kids On The Web site:

Website Features Free Science Fair Projects for Kids

Students looking for free science fair projects can find them at, which includes award-winning projects from students all over the world. Among them is one that demonstrated the effects of fertilizer on algae growth in pond water. In another, a student isolated, incubated and then harvested indoor allergens.

Homework Center

Welcome to Fact Monster's Homework Center. This is a fabulous Web site to bookmark for your kids or grandkids. Here they can find help on specific subjects, along with an added bonus of a huge reference section. The Search Engine will search the almanac, atlas, dictionary, encyclopedia and even biographies for the information you are looking for. What a great homework tool!

You will also find links to the following subjects: Geography, Mathematics, History, Science, Language Arts and Social Studies. The Skills section includes Writing/Research Skills, Speaking and Listening, as well as, Studying skills.

The Tools for School section includes calculators, chemistry help, the periodic table and sun, moon and stars. If you look just below that, there's an accessible Math Flashcard section as well.

On the side menu, you've got great sections like World & News, U.S., People, Word Wise, Science, Math & Money, Sports, Cool Stuff, Games & Quizzes and if you scroll down just a bit, Fact Monster Favorites.

With all this at your disposal, your kids can rule the school! Well, at least the homework their teachers give them. Check it out!

Click this link to visit the Homework Center at

This site's name isn't all that original but it offers free lessons and help with everything from addition to geometry, algebra, and more.

Click this link to visit


From the site:

"Welcome to We have many math help resources available, including math lessons, math games, and a math help message board. You may navigate this site using the subject links, or search for something specific with the search box."

Site includes: Algebra, Geometry, Trig, Calculus, and Statistics. See Also: drop-down menu under "Other".

Click this link to visit


Starfall is geared more toward younger children who may still be learning how to read. The site starts off with teaching a simple concept of learning letters and how to pronounce them. It then goes on to offer some interactive reading, word search puzzles and it even has some school plays you can watch. And even better, it does all of that without charging you for any books, videos or anything. How great is that?! Starfall also has free teaching journals that all of you parents and grandparents can use to follow right along with the kids!

Check Starfall out for yourself by clicking this link:

This Website is good for children of any age. It's basically an information portal that was created with kids in mind. The site consists of different links you can click on to visit both U.S. government and non-government sites. The sites are categorized by age groups and different subjects, so it's very easy to find exactly what you're looking for. On, you'll find links for over 1,200 Websites with subjects ranging from government agencies, schools, organizations and so on. The site offers up art projects, games, math and so much more for younger children and for older children, it has links to technology, health and fitness, science and more. It's a perfect resource for all those school projects your kids will have to do this year as well!

Check out today by clicking this link.

Family Fun

School should be fun too and that's exactly what this Website offers! Here you will find some non-school related topics, but they are still educational and helpful for children. For example, you can find ideas for cooking, planning parties, travel, arts and crafts and so on. This site also has a lot of games your children can play that will help them learn as well. There are also several how to videos on this site that you all can watch together to learn how to do some pretty fun stuff!

Click this link to visit the Family Fun website today!


Are your children or grandchildren way into science? If so, this site will be perfect for them. SciVee is sponsored by the National Science Foundation, along with SDSC's Supercomputer Center, and it basically aims to encourage students to publish their science fair papers and videos. So, if your little one comes up with a mind blowing science fair project idea in the near future, make sure they check out this site to enter it in for even more recognition! SciVee really has a cool thing going here.

Click this link to visit

AOL Reference

If your children or grandchildren have to do a lot of research for their homework projects, they'll definitely want to check out this site. AOL Reference offers a dictionary, thesaurus, translator, world atlas, as well as, plenty of additional information on such subjects as science, history, space and global warming. It also takes Web searching to a whole new level. It's so simple to use and I just know your students will fall in love with it right away.

Click this link to visit


By the name of this site, I bet you've already figured out that this one is geared more toward younger children, but either way, it definitely deserves a look see. Seussville calls in Dr. Seuss to aid in your children's learning. On this site, your children can play games, print out coloring sheets and they can even create their own book. This one is even good for children who cannot yet read. It's so cool, you've just got to check it out.

Click this link to visit


This Website is the perfect search engine for grade school aged kids. This search engine features over 600 sources and with it, you can search under different themes and subjects. It even allows your children to search under the reading level they need, which definitely helps them to understand the material much better. With KidsClick, you can find results for reading, writing, arithmetic, computer learning, sports and recreation and so much more. This site was developed by librarians, so you know it's good!

Check out by clicking this link.

Homework Hub

Homework hub is where students can get help and direction in completing various assignments from doing research, improving skills, and organizing their work. Site includes study aids, test preparation guides, and term paper guides and resources.

Click this link to visit Homework Hub:

SqoolTube: the YouTube of Education

SqoolTube is a video resource designed for K-8 teachers and students. It offers ten categories of videos and dozens of sub-categories of videos. Visitors to SqoolTube can find videos for everything from learning to count to Algebra lessons and from basic spelling lessons to Spanish lessons. The only problem that teachers might encounter in trying to use SqoolTube is built upon videos hosted on YouTube so if your school blocks YouTube you will have to download the videos away from school to use them. You can read more about what to do when YouTube is blocked by clicking here.

Click this link to visit

Remember that not all of these sites will be 100% compatible with screen readers. If you run into problems, contact the individual webmasters and tell them the problems you're having.

Do you have a favorite homework helping site? Let me know by sending an email to

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