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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Friday, August 29, 2008

Accessing Foreign Language Materials as a Blind or Low Vision Student

For people who are blind or low vision, learning a foreign language and getting the resources needed just became easier. The National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange (NCDE) encourages people who are blind or have visual impairments to learn a foreign language and pursue international travel with a purpose. Towards this goal, the NCDE published an informational guide to support blind and low vision students to take a broad range of foreign language courses, from Arabic to Turkish, by providing the tools needed so that course materials can be accessed.

The document "Accessing Foreign Language Materials as a Blind or Low Vision Student can be read online or downloaded in various formats for free and includes information on:

  • The capability of commonly used assistive technology and software to handle foreign languages
  • Guidance for locating audio, braille or large print materials in foreign languages
  • Tips on transcribing braille textbooks in foreign languages or using readers and scribes

The primary emphasis of this informational guide is on accessing the reading and writing components of critical need languages, such as Arabic, Chinese, Hindi/Urdu, Japanese, Korean, Persian/Farsi, Russian and Turkish, although information is also applicable to more commonly taught languages such as French, German, and Spanish.

Click this link to read or download Accessing Foreign Language Materials as a Blind or Low Vision Student.

Thee National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange (NCDE), which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and administered by Mobility International USA, works to increase the participation and inclusion of people with disabilities in international exchange programs. For more information, contact:

Mobility International USA
132 E. Broadway, Suite 343
Eugene, Oregon 97405 USA
Phone: 541-343-1284

Ask Kids: the Search Engine for Any Classroom

Think about this. How many times have you went to the net to search for something? How many times have you been totally confused by the thousands of results you received? Ever noticed that most of the results have absolutely nothing to do with what you searched for?

Now think about our kids? They go to the net to find something for a research paper and get results that are above their heads. Now there's a search engine that wants to change this, and it's just for kids.

Ask Kids is the kid friendly, kid safe version of the popular search engine The first thing that new visitors to Ask Kids will notice is the notebook paper theme and five search categories. Then visitors will notice the drawing tools in the lower right hand corner of the home page. The drawing tools will be totally useless for blind students using screen readers, but may be fun for your low vision students who want to customize the Ask Kids home page. Clearing your browser cookies will reset the home page. On the other hand, the five search categories are very useful and easy to navigate.

Ask Kids is divided into five categories of which one is a general search option. The five categories are School House, movies, games, images, and video. The School House category provides students with suggested topics and links to resources for those topics. The School House also serves as a general search tool. In the other search categories Ask Kids makes suggestions for search refinement. A great aspect of the search results that Ask Kids provides is the option to refine searches based on a student's age.

Ask Kids is a great search tool for elementary school and middle school students. The suggested search refinements are a great model for teaching students how to alter their Internet search terms to find the information for which they are looking. The "filter by age" option is useful for parents trying to help their child find information appropriate for their grade level. The only negative thing I see about the site is that the graphics on the home page are not labeled correctly, so screen readers can't tell the student what section they would be in if they clicked that link. I have sent feedback to the site and hopefully they will fix this issue.

Click this link to visit

Plastic Sheets: Great for Braille Labels

There are so many things that need to be labeled around a house. CD and DVD cases, boxes, electronics, document folders and binders, frozen foods, picture albums, the list goes on and on. The following products are designed to be rolled into a braille writer and feature a removable backing that will make it easy for you to cut out your own braille labels in whatever size you need. Note that some are of a lower quality and would be good for temporary use, while the ones sold by APH are thicker and designed to hold up to read after read.

Braillable Labels and Sheets from APH

These clear, blank self-adhesive labels can be brailled and used to label items around the home, school, and office, such as: household appliances; canned goods; greeting cards; books; CDs; folders. The labels come in a variety of packages and sizes for convenience. The pre-cut, peel-off Large and Small labels accommodate braille lines that are 15 cells wide, with four lines fitting on the large and two on the small labels. Full-Size and Pin-Fed Sheets offer more room for brailling and can be cut to the desired size. A printed SimBraille sheet is included with each package to assist in determining size and placement.

Assorted Label Pack (5 Large Sheets, 5 Small Sheets, 10 Full-Size Sheets, 30 Pin-Fed Sheets):
Catalog Number: 1-08871-00

Small Label Pack (10 Sheets, 18 labels (3.87 x 0.95) per Sheet):
Catalog Number: 1-08872-00

Large Label Pack (10 Sheets, 10 Labels (3.875 x 1.75) per Sheet):
Catalog Number: 1-08873-00

Braillable Sheets

15 Sheets (8 1/2 x 11, full-size):
Catalog Number: 1-08874-00

30 Continuous Sheets (8 1/2 x 11, pin-fed):
Catalog Number: 1-08875-00

Click here to purchase these items 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:

Cleer Adheer

This product is sold by Amazon and works great for putting braille on household items. The description says, "Laminate documents without heat or special equipment. Super-strong, transparent Mylar gives waterproof, tear-resistant, permanent protection. Easy to use, just peel off backing and apply. Can be cut to any size - grid pattern on back makes trimming easy." It's sold in packs of fifty pages, 9 x 12 size.

Click this link to purchase Cleer Adheer from

Fellowes Self Adhesive Laminating Sheets

Another product at Amazon is the Fellowes Self Adhesive Laminating Sheets. I have not tried this product, but the descriptionn says that they are great for "laminating heat sensitive materials. Convenient self-adhesive sheets are easy to use and do not require a laminating machine. Use one sheet for single-sided lamination or two sheets for double-sided lamination." While we're not looking at laminating items, the sheets Can be trimmed to fit various sizes and may be good for braille. Sold in fifty sheets a box, 9 x 11 1/2 in size.

Click this link to learn more about the Fellowes Self Adhesive Laminating Sheets from

Be sure to check these pages for similar products from

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Outdoor Genga and Paper Bag Building Blocks for Children with Sensory Impairments

This game looks a lot like Jenga, but it's actually called The Giant Outdoor Building Block Game. I'm totally intrigued by this giant-sized version. I know how satisfying it is to see a normal-sized Jenga tower come crashing down so this version that starts out at 20 inches tall must be even more impressive when it topples. What a great idea for children who can't manipulate small pieces because of a disability. Blind children may find this easier to work with than the smaller version as well.

This outdoor version of a classic tower building game is more than twice the size of the traditional model, and will test your manual dexterity as you attempt to remove blocks one at a time without collapsing the tower. When all 56 pieces are stacked, the tower reaches 20" high, with the giant blocks and outdoor elements ensuring a more challenging game of structural integrity than the original. Made from pine, the wooden pieces are durable enough for outdoor use yet light enough to be easily maneuvered by children eight years and up. 20" H x 8" W x 12" L. (29 2/3 lbs.)

Click this link to purchase The Giant Outdoor Building Block Game from Hammacher Schlemmer.

Build Your Own Building Blocks

Now, if you're one of those crafty types, here's a way to a "do it yourself" building block game. I got this tip from a preschool teacher and I thought it would be great for teachers of the blind or visually impaired. She said that she was always being told to watch her budget. She created building blocks of various sizes from paper bags.

Begin by laying the paper bag flat and folding the top over about 6 or 7 inches. Crease the bag on the fold. Open the paper bag to it's full capacity, and fill it with newspaper or crumpled paper. Once it is filled, fold the bag on the crease line and tape or staple the bag shut.

These are fun to build with, and when they do topple over, nobody gets hurt! What a cool way to recycle.

If you're really feeling creative, I've got something even more challenging. At FoldSchool, brainchild of a Swiss-based architect, you can get a number of free, downloadable instructions for cardboard furniture for kids. It's virtually free stuff to furnish their rooms, but even better, it's a perfect crafty project to share with someone little in your life. Foster design, playfulness and skills that don't require batteries by folding up some cardboard to make something pretty and useful out of it. Click this link to visit FoldSchool and start by folding a stool, chair or rocker:

Monday, August 25, 2008

Do You Know Your Chat Lingo?

If you send and receive a lot of instant messages (IMs), emails and text messages or if you visit chat rooms, message boards or discussion boards on a regular basis, this tip is just for you! When you're dealing with those kinds of things, you may not realize how much Internet shorthand is going on, but it's everywhere these days. And if you are not up to par on your shorthand game, you could get lost in all the madness. At the same time, you may not be able to be a part of the action or excitement if you don't know the shorthand lingo.

Let's go over the most popular shorthand words that you may come across from time to time. If you use any of the things I mentioned above, you will really benefit from this! Plus, using Internet shorthand can save you time, it's a lot of fun to do and you still get the same point across without using up so much time and space.

Chat Room and Internet Shorthand

The most common and easy ones to remember are:

  • BRB = Be Right Back
  • Thx = Thanks
  • TLC = Tender Love and Care
  • ILU = I Love You
  • XOXO = Hugs and Kisses
  • NM = Nevermind
  • TTYL = Talk To You Later
  • LOL = Laugh Out Loud
  • ROTFL = Rolling On The Floor Laughing
  • 2moro = Tomorrow
  • 2nite = Tonight
  • BTW = By the Way
  • B4N = Bye For Now
  • BCNU = Be Seeing You
  • BFF = Best Friends Forever
Click this link to visit for more chat room, message board and discussion board shorthand:

Text Messaging Shorthand

These are the most common and easy ones to remember:

  • C - P = Sleepy
  • BB = Be Back
  • AAMOF = As A Matter Of Fact
  • ASAP = As Soon As Possible
  • Gratz = Congratulations
Click this link to visit for more text messaging shorthand:

You can also use this link to receive the latest and up to date shorthand terms as they become available.

Now that you know that with shorthand, you can use less space, you can save yourself some time and maybe even some money on all your text messages, what are you waiting for? Go and use some shorthand today. B4N


From the site:

"transl8it is simple to use. Just type in your SMS, text, emoticon, smiley, slang or chat room lingo and let transL8it! convert it to plain English -- OR -- type in your phrase in English and convert it to SMS TXT lingo slang!"

Click this link to visit

Accessible Software for Preschoolers

Message: I am a teacher for visually impaired children in upstate New York and am looking for computer software for a blind preschool student that I teach. I have had trouble finding software that is accessible and am not sure where to look now. I thought you might be a good person to ask!

Unfortunately there are not many places that carry software specially designed for blind preschoolers. However, there are pieces of software that are more accessible than others, as well as some others that, with some creativity, can be easily adapted for blind kids.

One of the few companies that offers items for young blind children is rj cooper: In their Web site they have a special section for blind children.

RJ Cooper
27601 Forbes Rd. Suite 39
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
Phone: 949-582-2749
Toll free: Phone: 800-752-6673

Don Johnston Inc: is a company that carries learning intervention software. They have cause and effect software that with small tactile adaptations, may be used with blind preschoolers. Their contact info is:

Don Johnston Inc.
26799 West Commerce Drive
Volo, IL 60073
Phone: 800-999-4660

Another option to check out is Stickybear software: Their software is manufactured by Optimum Resource, Inc., a company that carries educational products. Stickybear may be used with low vision preschoolers. You can contact them at:

Optimum Resource Inc.
18 Hunter Rd.
Hilton Head Island, SC 29926
Phone: 1-888-784-2592

Finally, a place you can visit to get ideas about software for preschoolers is the VI Web Site: This site is a guide to Internet resources for parents and teachers. They rate commercially available software for its accessibility to blind individuals. The following is a transcription of a list of names and reviews of commercially available software for preschoolers found in their Web site:

Lamb Chop Loves Music

This software Is available at Toys R Us and most software retailers. It runs under Windows95, Windows 3.1 or on the Mac. It is aimed at children in preschool through grade 3. This CD features the "Bremen Town Musicians" story read aloud, plus several musically oriented games. It also has a Store where kids can learn about and listen to a wide variety of instruments. It has tremendous auditory appeal.

Living Books series

This software is available at most software retailers. The titles in this series, such as Dr. Seuss's ABC, Berenstain Bears and Arthur Books, run under Windows95 or on the Mac. They are typically aimed at children in preschool through grade 3. These are books that are read to you and, while they are read to you, the words are highlighted on the screen. They also offer some degree of interactivity. With sighted assistance to "drive", a young child could find these quite appealing.


This software is available from most software retailers, this game runs on Windows95 and Windows 3.1. Age level is approximately preschool through kindergarten. In this CD, there are 2 components. The first, called Tuneland, is several scenes, where the user clicks on various hotspots to see animations and hear music. No keyboard accessibility except for Shift-___ combinations to move from one scene to another (Shift-M to go to the Mountain, Shift-T to go to the train station).
In the other component, Tuneland Tune Player, just the music is played. While the music is terrific arrangements of about 40 nursery rhymes, the player is not keyboard accessible at all.

Software for Kids is a blog looking at what software is easily (and freely) available for use by children, specially the very young. This could be a great resource for children who have low vision, or for blind parents who are looking for programs for their sighted children.

Check it out at

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Braille Map Making

Message: Do you know of the best software for simple mobility mapmaking using >Windows, Mac or both platforms?

Only a few software packages can create graphics to be embossed on a standard braille embosser. Two of them are by Duxbury:

TGD Pro: I have seen its work but don't know much about the software itself because it is not free and most tactile graphic artists, at least the ones I know, don't recommend it. Click this link to learn more about TGD Pro by visiting the Duxbury website.

QuickTac: A free software package by Duxbury lets you draw simple line graphs and geometric figures and import them to a Duxbury file and emboss at once. The newer version has some very impressive enhancements in functionality. Click this link to learn more about QuickTac by visiting the Duxbury website.

Another freeware program is called Braille Paint (BrlPaint), developed by an Eastern European guy. It is similar to QuickTac in functionality. Click this link to visit the BrlPaint download page.

All the programs mentioned can create drawings that can be embossed directly. The resolution is pretty low and everything is assembled by braille dots, which is generally not recommended, but good enough for quick mobility map or classroom activity, etc.

Karaoke for blind people

A karaoke sing-along machine for the blind, the first of its kind in the world, has been developed in Japan.

A Tokyo-based venture business and a karaoke equipment maker jointly developed the machine.

When a song begins, a personal computer connected to the karaoke machine translates the lyrics into Braille, and sends them to a special display attached to the PC.

Up to 40 Braille characters appear on the display slightly ahead of the music, to make it easier for the singer to follow the lyrics.

A karaoke fan that tried the machine said he would now be able to sing more songs, because he would no longer have to memorize the full lyrics or carry around lyrics in Braille. The machine will soon be on sale for commercial use, such as in karaoke boxes.
br> Click this link to watch the braille karaoke in action.

For more information, contact: Nippon Telesoft, Co., Ltd
Hanzoumon MK Bud., 1F, 1-8-1 Koujimachi, Chiyoda-Ku, Tokyo
102-0083, Tokyo, Japan.
Phone: +813-3264-0800 Fax: +813-3264-0880

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Free Canes for the Blind

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), has launched an initiative to ensure that any blind person in the United States and Puerto Rico who needs a long white cane will have one, regardless of their ability to pay. The NFB will provide a free cane to anyone in the fifty states, the District of Columbia, or Puerto Rico who is blind or has low vision and who uses or desires to use a white cane in order to travel independently. This historic initiative is the largest effort ever of its kind to provide white canes to individuals who are blind or have low vision.

The long white cane provides an effective means for blind students to get to school, blind adults to get to work, and blind seniors to remain active.

It is estimated that 109,000 of the 1.3 million legally blind people in the United States use a white cane. By supplying canes free of charge, this program provides the opportunity for all blind Americans to have a white cane and to participate fully in society.

The National Federation of the Blind will provide a straight, light fiberglass cane to any blind individual in the United States or Puerto Rico who requires the cane for personal use. Canes are available in the following lengths: 53, 55, 57, 59, 61, or 63 inches. Individuals may only request one free cane in any six-month period.

Click this link to apply for a FREE cane from NFB.
For more information on the National Federation of the Blind free cane program, click this link to visit, or contact:

Chris Danielsen
Public Relations Specialist
National Federation of the Blind
Phone: 410-659-9314, extension 2330

Famous People with Disabilities

Do you have a disability or medical condition? You are not alone. Many people with disabilities have contributed to society. These include actors, actresses, celebrities, singers, world leaders, and many other famous people.

A disability is often used to refer to individual functioning, including physical impairment, sensory impairment, cognitive impairment, intellectual impairment, mental illness, and various types of chronic diseases.

Disabled World has created a list of pfamous people with disabilities. Info on the disease, the famous person and how it affected his or her life is included.

Click this link to read the article Famous People with Disabilities from the Disabled World website.

Now, if you think that article is cool, Click this link to read about visually impaired celeberties.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Braille Works: Providing Printers That Enable the Blind

Braille, raised dots on paper specially positioned to follow a language system, gives blind people the ability to read and write. Braille documents are created by Braille printers or embossers that produce the raised dots by pushing the paper up with hammers in the pattern dictated by the Braille transcription file.

Braille Works was founded in 1994 and offers a full range of Braille and alternative format transcription products and services. Whether you need a desktop embosser and the Braille software to communicate with clients or an industrial size embosser that can handle large volume jobs, Braille Works can meet the need.

The real magic of braille translation happens when you need to make a user manual intended for the sighted understandable for a blind person. If the manual tells you to press the red button, that does not help the blind user. The text must be interpreted to direct the blind user to where the red button is located without the color reference. Braille Works helps customers meet that challenge.

The company also provides other alternative formats in addition to Braille, including large print, audio recording and electronic or computer accessible formats. New technologies are being developed everyday to assist the blind and visually impaired, and Braille Works is one of the companies working for an accessible future.

Braille Works is dedicated to Braille literacy and making the world a more readable place. Client projects are given careful consideration to make every page easy to read and handle, giving readers the respect and independence they so rightly deserve. From the layout of a Braille document to the brightness of the paper for a large print document or utilizing professional readers for audio projects, the organization strives to meet the needs of client customers with visual and reading impairments. Braille Works consists of top-notch Braille technology and people with Christ-centered standards.

Click this link to visit or Click this link to email

Monday, August 18, 2008


Are you having trouble getting students to turn in their homework regularly? This free bulletin board game from TeachNet will solve the problem faster than they can say "the dog ate it."

The game, based on MB's Monopoly, includes a printable game board and Chance Cards; students can choose clip art images or something more tactile to use as game pieces. Simply download and print the 35-inch-square Homeworkopoly game board and assemble it on a classroom bulletin board. Don't forget to label the items in braille for students who are blind. Play the game according to the rules posted at the site. (Note: Only kids who have completed their homework are allowed to play!) The game board is available in two versions, with street names and without. Chance Cards include Sit at the Teacher's Desk, Be First in Line, Get a Homework Pass, and many more. Blank cards allow you to create your own Chance Cards as well. You can print the cards and then braille larger cards for accessibility.

Click this link to get a Homeworkopoly board for your classroom.Entertainment, Recreation, Games, Interaction, Tutorials, Adaptation, Teaching, Teaching aids, Educational aids, Parents, Homework helpers, Web sites

Singing Science Records

Jeff Poskanzer is a software developer, apparently with a nostalgic bent.

"When I was a kid," he says, "my parents got this six-LP set of science-themed folk songs for my sister and me. They were produced in the late 1950s / early 1960s, The Singing Science lyrics were very Atomic Age, while the tunes were generally riffs on popular or genre music of the time. We played them incessantly."

"In February 1998 I found the LPs in my parents' basement. I cleaned them up, played them one last time on an old turntable, and burned them onto a set of three CD-R discs. In December 1999 I read the songs back off the CDs and encoded them into MP3, so now you can hear them on the web. They are available at either 32 Kbps (about half a megabyte each) or 160 Kbps (about two megabytes each)."

The songs are arranged in five categories: Space Songs, Energy and Motion Songs, Experiment Songs, Weather Songs, and Nature Songs. Topics include "Why Does the Sun Shine?", "Who's Afraid of Thunder?" and "How Does a Bird Sing?" All are great sources of fun and information for elementary aged kids.

Click this link to visit Singing Science Records at

Friday, August 15, 2008

Slow Down Your Dog Guide's Eating Habbits with

Most dog guides simply wolf down their food the moment they are given permission to do so, but with the DogPause, all that will change.

Introducing DogPause, the first dogbowl with proprietary SlowZones and integrated portion control. You know how you feel when you eat too fast (or eat too much)? Same thing with your dog - it's not healthy for him or her to inhale the food. DogPause is the only dog bowl clinically proven to slow down dogs' eating. In clinical tests run by professional vets, DogPause slowed down dogs by an average of 50% vs. standard dog bowls. As vets will confirm, a slower eating dog is a happier, healthier dog with less risk of experiencing (or doing) all sorts of yucky things like vomiting, gas, belching, gagging, life-threatening bloat, etc. Which makes life better for you and your dog.

The DogPause dog bowl works to slow down the pace of eating and aid with portion control in the following ways:

  • Divides the bowl into 4 feeding zones
  • Each feeding zone is 1/2 cup in capacity and designed to "block" the dog from putting his full snout into the bowl; this slows down eating pace as your dog needs to use his tongue for each bite
  • After your dog finishes each zone, he must re-position himself for the next zone
  • The bowl is designed to slide a little on the floor, further slowing down the dog as he needs to re-position for each bite
Click this link to visit

How To Use A Compass As An Aid To Orientation

When we think of using a compass, (if we think of it at all), we may think of boy or girl scouts on hikes, sailors on a vast expanse of ocean, or explorers trying to map an uncharted wilderness. Few people would think of using a compass in order to find a room in a hotel or the entrance to the hotel itself. Yet, tasks such as these, orienting oneself to a meeting room or exhibit hall, finding the direction in which to turn when going from elevator to dining room or dining room to elevator often can be made easier with the help of a compass.

There are several compasses on the market that can be read by a blind person. Some can be read by touch while others have speech and/or braille readout. Because of its basic simplicity I like the Silva Compass. Made in Sweden, it is offered by several vendors of vision products. It is physically small, about 2 by 3 inches and just under an inch thick. It feels like a small makeup compact with a flange that extends toward you when you hold the compass in the operating position.

To operate it, hold the compass flat with the flange toward you and the hinge of the case away from you. Hold it level and wait a few seconds to allow the magnetic dial to stabilize itself. Gently open the lid of the case. This forces a platform in the bottom of the case upward, locking the dial in position so it can be read by touch. When the lid of the case is open, you will be able to feel a raised mark on the bezel (rim) of the compass. This mark consists of two raised dots like the braille letter "b". The dial has raised letters e, s and w at three main directions. The direction NORTH is indicated by a smooth line. When this line is pointing toward the marking on the bezel, you are facing north. There also are raised dots at 30 degree intervals around the dial--like the hour markings on a clock or watch.

When you open the lid of the case, if the raised mark on the bezel is lined up with the letter w, it means that you are facing west. If the raised mark lines up with a point about halfway between the two single dots between w and s, it means that you are facing southwest. Actually, it is easier (after some practice) to think in terms of numbers of degrees instead of direction names. North is zero (or 360) degrees. East is 90, south is 180 and west is 270 degrees. In the case of our example of facing southwest, the direction south (6 o'clock) is 180 degrees. The first single dot on the way toward west is 30 degrees more or 210 degrees. The second single dot is at 240 degrees. Our halfway point between these marks is at 225 degrees.

Suppose we want to go from point a to point b. We begin by facing southwest (225 degrees). When we make our return trip, assuming it is a straight line course, we will want to turn halfway around, or 180 degrees from our original heading. Subtract 180 degrees from 225 and you get 45 degrees. That is halfway between the two single dots between north and east, or northeast. If a course has many turns it is useful to know your heading at point of departure (your room, the elevator, the front desk) and your heading at point of arrival, your table in the dining room, the elevator, the front entrance, etc. With these two headings in mind, it becomes relatively easy at least to start out in the right direction when heading for a goal.

In many buildings, elevators are along more than one row. They may be in banks facing each other. Some buildings are designed like tennis ball cans and elevators might be in a horseshoe bank. When you arrive at your floor, if there are no other cues to give you position, a compass can be a valuable tool.

I do not mean to imply that the use of a compass is limited to hotels and convention centers. In farm land where there may be significant distances between main house and out buildings, a compass can be useful in at least getting you started in the right direction. In areas of cities where checkerboard square layouts have been replaced by winding, twisting lanes, a compass again can be a useful ally in keeping you on course.

Contributor: Fred Gissoni

Click this link to purchase a English or Spanish speaking Digital Talking Compass from
Click here if you'd rather have a Braille Compass from

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Traveling with a Baby: Tips from a Blindness Perspective

by Lori Miller

Lori Miller, an O&M specialist who is blind, experienced traveling in a new light when she became a mother! Her son Khareus was born on May 4, 2005. She wrote the following article for From the Field: Tips and Strategies, Winter 2006, Volume 12 Number 2, pages 18-19 and agreed to share it with Fred's Head.

Traveling with a baby has certainly had its challenges, but it can be tons of fun for baby and parent. One essential aspect is to find a method or form of travel that works best for both adult and child. There are many variables that factor into the process and I will attempt to share what has worked for me, which may or may not work for others. The following information is based on my personal experience and likes and dislikes.

Selecting the right stroller:

I have discovered, after going through several different types and styles of strollers and literally going around the block several times and up and down store aisles that there are a number of features that are very important if you intend to pull the stroller instead of pushing.

In the typical stroller, the wheels closest to you are fixed and the others swivel, creating a fishtail effect when you pull it, and the baby is facing backward, looking away from the adult. Working with the fishtailing requires a whole lot more effort and caution when navigating narrow sidewalks and close confines, and for safety reasons I don't like the baby facing away from me. My first stroller operated this way and after a 3-mile walk with it I was exhausted!

So I like a stroller that has a reversible handle which allows baby to face forward or backwards, and wheels that have the option of being fixed or rotating (this makes it travel more like a standard stroller if you decide to push it, although some people do not like how it feels at first). Over all, even when pushing, we have found that when all the wheels are rotating, the flexibility is a plus because you can turn the stroller in close areas like elevators and hallways. Minimal height adjustment for the handle is also helpful to me, as I'm not very tall.

Another wonderful feature to look for in a stroller is what is called a boot -- a cloth covering that zips over baby, providing warmth and protection from weather. This makes me feel like the baby is safer because it lessens the risk of small objects (like blowing leaves) from falling in on the child, and it may discourage toys being thrown out while on the move.

The harness should be fairly simple and easy to operate, especially if you have to frequently remove the child while riding on public transportation.

One stroller that has all the features and more (and is baby and mommy's preferred choice for travel) is Peg Perego's Venezia stroller ( This particular stroller is rather pricey but in addition to having all the features, (the adjustable-length handle can be reversed and each set of wheels can be fixed or swiveling), it is easy to fold and unfold and has handles on both sides for carrying. It isn't the lightest stroller on the market, but I am able to manage carrying baby in one arm and guiding the stroller up or down the 6 steps outside of our home. I also like the fact that the seat back can fully recline so baby can sleep, which helps when you need to figure out what to do with baby while eating in a restaurant. My baby has been content to sit or lay in his stroller and play with toys while we eat -- of course, this was a solution before he reached the stage of wanting to sit in a high chair!

I am constantly back and forth between environments ranging from semi-rural (streets without sidewalks), to the narrow hilly streets of San Francisco, maneuvering on and off Muni and across street car tracks, and I have found this stroller to fit my lifestyle of travel.

Tips when traveling:

While in transit and in public places I have found that a pacifier clip to keep the pacifier attached to the child has been a big plus. I choose pacifiers that have swinging handles because you are more likely to hear them if they are thrown to the ground. I also choose toys that make a sound when they contact something, such as interlocking rings, etc.

When flying, I've found it helpful to place an infant car seat in the stroller and push or pull it to the gate. You can take the stroller on the jet way and the flight attendants will check it at the last minute and bring it back to you when you deplane. It is a real plus when transferring through gates because you can use the stroller to transport baby instead of carrying.

Next steps:

My baby Khareus is almost ten months now and crawling! We just did another cross country trip, and traveling with an infant convertible car seat this time was much more of a hassle. So, I've invested in a Sit & Stroll which is a car seat and stroller in one. It is supposed to be superb for public transportation and flying, I saw another woman using it on one of my flights and realized that she was having much less of a struggle to juggle everything. So, after I actually get it and use it, I'll have more to share.

Audio Described Movies at the Blind Mice Mart Movie Vault

The Mice have a collection of audio described movies for you to download Free! The movies are audio files that contain the original audio of the movie and the descriptive track. Files are provided in the mp3 format for ease of use.

Download Instructions

  1. Press enter on the link for the movie you want.
  2. You will be taken to's download page for the movie.
  3. Navigate to the bottom of the page and tab up the page until you hear the name of the movie. That is the download link.
  4. Enter on that named link.
  5. The box that opens will ask you to "open" or "save" the file or "cancel" the entire operation. Enter on "Save".
  6. The next box that opens will allow you to select the location on your computer of where you would like to save the movie. Note: I suggest creating a folder named "Movies" on your hard drive so all your movies can be saved in the same location.
  7. Once you have selected the location for your download, enter on the "save" button.
  8. Your download will start.

Download time will vary depending on your connection speed and the size of the file. These movies are provided solely for the entertainment, the Mice expect everyone to enjoy them in the context they are provided. The Mice are not responsible for quality or errors within the downloads, the movies are provided to Blind Mice Inc through an outside source that is not affiliated with Blind Mice Mart.

Click this link to visit the Blind Mice Mart Movie Vault.

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