Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

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

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


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Purchasing Products From The APH Website Is Easy

  1. Take note of the APH Catalog number. If you are using a computer, you may wish to copy this number to your clipboard for easier reference. If browsing through a print edition of the APH Catalog, you may wish to write the number to a seperate piece of paper.

  2. Click this link to visit the APH Quick Order Entry page:

  3. Type or paste the item number into the first edit box.

  4. Enter the quantity in the next box.

  5. Repeat the last two steps for any additional items you wish to order.

  6. At the bottom of this page there are three buttons: "Cancel", "Verify Items and Add to Shopping Cart", and "Verify Catalog Numbers".

    If you are sure of your item number(s) and want to proceed to the Shopping Cart, click the "Verify Items and Add to Shopping Cart" button.

    Clicking "Cancel" will take you to the APH Shopping Entrance page at

    My personal favorite is the "Verify Catalog Numbers" button. Clicking this button will insure that you have the right product(s) before proceeding to the Shopping Cart.

  7. If you click the "Verify Catalog Numbers" button, you can check that the right item(s) have been selected, and can now click the "Add these Items to Shopping Cart" button.

  8. Please read over the information presented on the Shopping Cart page. When you have varified that all information is correct, click the "Proceed to Checkout" button or the "Continue Shopping" link to proceed.

  9. You will now be asked to login. If you have an existing account with APH, enter your Login Name and Password. If this is your first purchase from APH, click the "New customers click here." link to setup an account.

  10. New APH customers will need to fill out the New Account Setup pages. If you have any questions please contact us at:

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:

Teaching Science to Students With A Visual Impairment

Message: Fred, I am wanting to find some resources that explain the best instructional practices for teaching science to students with a visual impairment. I would also like to know about interventions that have worked in science classes and any research on their effectiveness. Any other literature along these lines would be helpful as well. Any information you have would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks, Sara.

location: Nashville,TN

I sent your question to my friends at APH. First, we have a question for you. Have you consulted with reference librarians at Vanderbilt? your email suggests that you are associated with Vanderbilt, and your school has truly excellent research libraries, librarians and programs that provide instruction to VI teachers in training. If you have, great, you're off to a good start.

This is the link to the online reference form at vanderbilt. The page also includes all the phone numbers, and it includes links to the many special libraries at vanderbilt. Please feel free to contact the Central Library reference service at: 615-322-2407 or 2-2407 on campus.

Now, I have a product from APH that you will be interested in. The product is called Adapting Science for Students with Visual Impairments: A Handbook for the Teacher & Resource Specialist. This title is in the APH Instructional Products Catalog. For more information, please call APH at 502-895-2405 and ask for the research department, or Elaine at Ext. 313.

The following is from Fred Gissoni:

When the late Dr. Emerson Foulk ran the perceptual alternatives laboratory at the University of Louisville, he did a report on adapting a chemistry course for blind students. It involved the use of conventional measuring equipment adapted for auditory and/or tactile output.

In the late 1960s, an Australian named Wexler or Wechsler wrote a short booklet about adaptations needed to teach science to blind students. I do not have a specific reference, but a reference librarian may be able to help pin it down. It was published in Australia.

APH has over a dozen science-related products, such as biology teaching kits, as well as many print and braille science textbooks. Our kits include manuals that outline science teaching techniques. Search or browse APH's Louis Database at or email to order a free APH Instructional Products Catalog.

60 Second Science from Scientific American

Here's another resource that may be helpful, accessible news, articles and daily 60-second podcasts from Scientific American. Search or browse the archive by category. Recent podcasts have tackled issues like brain sex differences, false memories, the Dover "Scopes Trial," "superdupernovas," etc. A great resource for science papers and other homework assignments.

Click this link to visit 60 Second Science at

If you have other resources, please send them to

Big Screen Games from Radica

Big Screen Hearts

This classic game with a big screen is so much fun players won't be able to put it down. Big Screen Hearts captures competitive play for a single player with three virtual opponents and easy to follow player icons. Automatic light, electronic card shuffle, and auto scoring are just some of the features. One reviewer had this to say about the game:

"When I bought this for a low price, I knew it was a Radica and I own several other of their handheld electronic games and really like them. I have a knee issue which requires me to challenge myself, off my feet, and all these games are perfect.

I didn't know how to play Hearts until I went back to the computer and practiced. I am so proud now that I can play this game ! Hearts is not difficult to learn. I am an adult and this is a card game. Play Hearts on your computer and if you like it, you'll love the take along ( about 4 x 6 in.) version of the game. The cards are big and easy to read. The controls are easy to use and the game is lighted. It has been fine for me to learn Hearts, but if you already know the game, you'll love it. Good for older people or low vision, too." Click this link to purchase Big Screen Hearts from

Big Screen FreeCell

Play thepopular computer solitaire game anytime, anywhere. Try to build four ascending stacks of each suit, using the four free cells as placeholders. But don't play yourself into a stalemate. This handheld game features a large LCD screen, game sound effects and auto-light for night and day.

Click this link to purchase Big Screen FreeCell from

Big Screen Solitaire

The classic electronic card game is better than ever with a larger screen, easy-to-move cards, an undo button and an auto backlight. Play Klondike or Vegas Solitaire, and for an extra challenge, turn on the electronic timer to race against the clock. Will the game bring you piles of stress or stacks of success? There's only one way to find out. Play Time of fifteen Minutes for one Person. Batteries Included.

Click this link to purchase Big Screen Solitaire from

Big Screen Slot

Slot fans will think they are at the casino with this lively, realistic five-reel nine-line betting handheld slot game. Four game modes: Original Slot, Double Spin, Change Up and Skill Stop will keep the action moving. If you like the popular penny slot machines in Vegas that have those exciting animated bonus rounds, then this is the game for you. Like the machines in the casinos, this game has five spinning reels and a large animated screen. Hit the right combination and you start the fast pace animated bonus round. Game also features nine line betting and credit per line betting.

Click this link to purchase Big Screen Slots from

Big Screen Sudoku

Challenge yourself with the ultimate puzzle - Sudoku. This electronic version features over 100,000 puzzles, doodle features, undo and hint buttons. There are three difficulty levels and a timer for challenging play. Choose from 6 x 6 and 9 x 9 playing boards. Requires two "AAA" batteries (included). Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 7.5 x 10.2 inches ; 8 ounces.

Click this link to purchase Big Screen Sudoku from

Big Screen Poker

Put poker right in your pocket! Now you can play LoBall, Deuces and Draw Poker on the go. This handheld device features a large screen for easy viewing and includes different betting options from Parlay bet, Ride, to Max bet (which automatically bets 50 points). Requires 2 "AAA" batteries, included. Measures 6"W x .8"D x 3.7"H. Features Multiple betting options and three ways to play: Draw, Deuces and Low Ball.

Click this link to purchase Big Screen Poker from

Big Screen Blackjack

This game of Blackjack is definitely the real deal! The sleek new big screen design with larger cards and auto light will be sure to entertain for hours on end. Players can hit, stand or double down as they try to beat the dealer's hand. Features Two game modes: Vegas or Face Up, smart photo cell light for night and indoor play and a larger screen and cards for easier viewing.

Click this link to purchase Big Screen Blackjack from

Big Screen Tetris

The world's most wonderfully addictive video game now comes with a bigger screen for better viewing. The hottest new addition to Radica's Big Screen line, this handheld game includes three variations of gameplay. Requires 2 "AAA" batteries, included. Measures 7.4"W x 1.038"D x 10.5"H. Features three Game modes: classic, speed and ultra and Smart photo cell offers automatic light for night and indoor play.

Click this link to purchase Big Screen Tetris from

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Walk in the Woods: Resources of Hiking Trails Designed for the Blind or Visually Impaired

It's a beautiful day: a pleasant breeze is blowing, the air is warm and dry, and the National Weather Service promises that it will be beautiful all day. All in all, it's a perfect day to be outdoors!

Walking outdoors, just for the sake of walking, is a transforming experience. The warmth of the sun on your skin, the breeze blowing through your hair, the sound of the breeze rustling through the trees and the songs of the birds, the scents of the outdoors-- freshly-cut grass, sweet wildflowers, and that musky smell of last year's leaves decaying on the ground-- being surrounded by this wonderful atmosphere puts you in touch with Nature, reminds you that you too are a natural being, reminds you that you are alive and connected to this wild and wonderful planet.

Nothing compares to hiking along a backcountry or forest trail miles and miles from civilization, but it requires lots of time and planning. For those people who can't spare the time and resources necessary to prepare for a trek on a wild trail through rough country, there are plenty of options, including interpretive trails that have been specially designed for the blind or visually impaired person.

One interesting example of this type of trail is the "Lion's Tale Trail" located on Virginia's George Washington and Jefferson National Forest. Originally known as the "Braille Trail" in the 1970's, washed out and destroyed by Hurricane Fran in 1996, the trail was reopened and renamed in 1999. This trail is only a half mile long, but it packs a lot of useful experiences into that space. Each interpretive stop has a sign printed with high contrast lettering and imprinted with Braille and a headset provides audio highlights of each stop along the trail. Sighted visitors are encouraged to wear darkened goggles as they walk the trail, in order to appreciate the sensory experience. The "hands on" interpretive stops include "sniff boxes" that feature samples of local vegetation and an opportunity to plunge one's hands or feet into cold running water of a stream. The audio descriptions about Virginia forest ecology also teach you interesting facts about plant life, what life exists in a rotten log, and why river stones are round. The trail itself is paved with gravel, with wooden treads embedded in the gravel to alert you that a stop is near.

Another example is located at the Plano Outdoor Learning Center, in Plano, Texas. This trail was specifically designed for students; the stops along the trail are called "learning stations" and there is a teacher's guide available to help design lesson plans tailored to this trail. The trail has sixteen of these learning stations which provide opportunities for students to gain an awareness of the variations of size, shape and texture of different types of trees, and to examine various small animal habitats. This trail also has an audio component for additional description. This trail features a low wooden edge on one side to allow students to navigate easily with a cane. Spaces in the edge announce that a stop is coming up.

There are two trails in the United States that came about as a result of young men seeking projects to become Eagle Scouts. Near Tampa, Florida, F. Robert Webb improved a trail at Hillsborough County Community College's Environmental Studies Center at English Creek. This trail uses a guide rope to assist with navigation. Knots in the rope alert you to an upcoming "sensory box." These boxes contain specimens for visitors to touch and smell, adding to the experiences from walking the trail. Hard and pointy pinecones, soft and feathery ferns, and fragrant examples of fennel and wax myrtle are placed in the boxes just before your visit. Call 813-757-2104 to make an appointment to visit this trail.

The other Eagle Scout project came about when Brad Stewart saw a need for a special trail in the town park of Vernon, Connecticut. Brad decided to create a trail that would allow the visually impaired to confidently hike unassisted. Vernon's Braille Trail features an 800-foot path through the woods. This trail also uses a guide rope for navigation, and eight of the rope's support posts have signs in both Braille and large-type print that tell of local history, with references to the local species of plants and animals. This trail uses knots in the rope to signal hikers that they were approaching one of the signs. Since the project's completion, many people-- including special-needs organizations, student groups, and individuals-- have all taken advantage of the trail. An ongoing project will extend the trail through larger sections of the park.

Another example of an interpretive trail is the Button Bush Trail located near Eastham, Massachusetts. This quarter-mile trail is a big loop that starts at the Salt Pond Visitor Center, runs through the forest and over Buttonbush Pond as it circles back to the Visitor Center. Located in the Cape Cod National Seashore Park, the trail's designers incorporated a nautical theme: they attached round floats to the guide rope to act as attention-getters for the information stations.

A different type of design is the "fragrance garden" concept. This is a much more tame and deliberate attraction than a walk in the woods, but is still a pleasant way to spend some time on a nice day. In a fragrance garden, aromatic herbs and textured plants are carefully selected and planted so that they are easy to reach with the nose and the fingers. Usually there will be a railing around the planting beds and braille identification for the various plants. Examples of fragrance gardens are found in the Meining Memorial Park in Sandy, Oregon, The Barnwell Cultural Center in Shreveport, Louisiana, and the Ramat Hanadiv Memorial Gardens in Jerusalem, Israel.

What are you waiting for? It's a beautiful day! Get yourself outside as quickly as you can! Need to know where to go and how to get there? Try the list of websites that follows this article. If what you need isn't there, call your local tourism bureau to get information about trails, parks and gardens in your area. They will either have the information you need or will direct you to the appropriate source. In the United States, each state has a Parks Department or Department of Natural Resources that administers the State Parks. National Parks in the U.S. are taken care of by the Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service. Don't delay! Get out into this wild, wonderful world today!

End of lecture. Here is a list of some useful websites:

LocalHikes at lets you search by state to find trails near your area. Each review gives basic info (distance, hike time, difficulty, etc.), ranger contact, and trail reviews where available.

USDA Forest Service. The home page of the United States Forest Service gives you access to information about any national park in the US.
Trailweb. This is a good source of information about trails in the US. It also has information about planning, equipment, and packing for extended hiking trips.

The American Hiking Society. In addition to helping locate trails, this website has a lot of information about preserving and maintaining trails, hiking clubs, and major hiking events. http://www.americanhik

Yahoo directory of websites about hiking: http ://

The following organizations assist people with disabilities with outdoor recreation:

National Parks

Most national parks ( have paved trails that provide a representative sample of natural attractions. The Staple Bend Tunnel Trail near Johnstown, Pennsylvania, part of the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site, has a 2.5 mile accessible trail with a number of scenic overlooks that leads to the first railroad tunnel built in the United States. A 4.5-mile accessible section of the New Portage Trail on the Altoona side of the historic site is also planned.

Free Disabled National Park Pass

The park pass that is given free, the America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass, is a lifetime pass to the National Parks. The pass is given in person to the disabled individual at the park they wish to access. The pass is given to all permanent residents of the United States and actual US citizens that have a permanent disability that is able to be documented.

  • A licensed physician statement
  • A Veteran's Administration statement (or by any Federal Agency)
  • A document by the State (like a vocational rehabilitation agency)
  • SSDI statement (Social Security Disability Income)
  • SSI statement (Supplemental Security Income)

The free access National Park pass will let the pass holder into any National Park free and will give a half off discount to the bearer for some of the "Expanded Amenity Fees". These fees can include camping and swimming. There are some cases where other fees may or may not be enforced; the pass holder will have to check with the National Park they would like to access to see what the pass will allow. Click this link to read a PDF document that includes a list of places that have the national pass. The free access National Park pass for the disabled cannot be transferred to another party or be sold to someone. It is specifically designed to be carried and used by the person that was documented to get the access pass. It will also not allow any discount to special recreation permit fees or to concession fees.

ADA Changes: The New Definition of Disability

By Tim Moore

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted in 1990 and became effective on July 26, 1992 to protect those with major disabilities in the workplace. Since then, much has changed, especially the definition of the term ^D<'disability^D>'. On January 1, 2009, the definition of ^D<'disability^D>' was changed drastically.

In the initial ADA, a disability was defined as a mental or physical impairment that ^D<"substantially limits^D>" a ^D<"major life activity^D>". Major life activities were activities such as walking, hearing, seeing or breathing. Due to this strict definition, many employers used the law to prove that their employees were not truly disabled ^D<'under the law^D>', even when the employee was experiencing a disability that limited work and life activities. One case in particular was Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. v. Williams. In this case, Ella Williams lost even though she had carpal tunnel syndrome because she could still perform activities such as bathing herself and brushing her teeth. In 2002 the court determined that the term disabled must be ^D<"interpreted strictly to create a demanding standard for qualifying as disabled.^D>"

In the new definition of disability, the ADA states ^D<"an impairment that substantially limits one major life activity need not limit other major life activities in order to be considered a disability.^D>" This new definition was created in hopes of providing greater protection for disabled employees.

There were other major changes as well, including an expanded list of major life activities. Now the list includes ^D<"major bodily functions^D>", including reproduction, excretion and digestion. In addition, applicants are now considered disabled even if their disability is in remission or episodic. They are considered disabled even if the use of medications, prosthetic limbs or hearing aids helps their condition. Now, applicants are considered disabled based on whether or not they need medication and other medical help. For instance, if someone has seizures but takes medication for this episodic condition that keeps it under control, they are still considered disabled because they have seizures even if they are not taking their medicines. The only amendment to this rule is a visual impairment that can be corrected with corrective lenses.

These changes will bring forth many changes in the workplace: more provisions for the disabled, more training for supervisors and managers, and more training and understanding for employees. Where once companies could question whether or not an employee was truly disabled, now they must focus solely on accommodating these disabilities. Finally, the focus is moved away from employers trying to prove that an employee is not disabled, to the employer taking care of their employees.

Reference: Tim Moore is a former Examiner for the Social Security Administration. He has a website that provides information on the SSD and SSI disability system and which also provides a Social Security Disability FAQ .

Friday, February 20, 2009


MagniTalk provides direct speech access to the Zoomtext Magnifier/Reader user interface, serving as a bridge between Dragon NaturallySpeaking Professional and ZoomText technologies. This means that users of the Zoomtext Magnifier & Reader from AI Squared can more easily benefit from the advantages provided by Dragon NaturallySpeaking Professional from Nuance Communications' continuous speech voice recognition software.

With these two programs working together, the dynamic MagniTalk interface can provide a computer system that can be used by individuals with varying abilities (and should be particularly helpful for low vision and learning different PC users). Dragon NaturallySpeaking Professional and Zoomtext can be used and configured separately or in tandem, which can improve overall computing possibilities and provide increased user independence.

MagniTalk pricing includes initial phone/email installation support; additional technical support may be provided by the distributor, and additional support units may be purchased separately (either as bundled units in advance, or at the time of need).

Click this link to purchase MagniTalk from the EnableMart website.

Magnify OutLoud

Magnify OutLoud is a robust screen magnifier that reads the text to you.

Unlike complicated software driven platforms that are difficult to master, all magnifying and reading functions are performed via the keyboard and mouse. The ease of use makes Magnify OutLoud ideal for the occasional user in a library, or those with minor computer skills. For the elderly with visual loss the simplicity of this system supports their computer use as well. Features include:

  • Move the sliding bar on the wireless keyboard to magnify pictures and text.
  • Use the scroll wheel on the wireless mouse to move the screen up, down, left, right.
  • Tapping the same scroll bar reverts to other open programs, documents and files.
  • Preset and programmable keys allow for access to the web, email, programs, files, folders and documents.
  • Other keyboard buttons overcome the finding and fetching of platforms on the toolbar.
  • Additional buttons shut down and log off, increase, decrease, and mute sound.
  • The Read Text feature is controlled with two keystrokes ("Ctrl" and "C").
  • Quality of the magnified text is much superior to the leading zoom-type screen readers.
  • Speech quality is provided by AT&T Natural Voices, the award winning digital voices.
Click this link to learn more about Magnify OutLoud from the Turning Point Therapy & Technology website.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Assemblies of God Center for the Blind

What do a wringer washing machine, a small farmhouse in Michigan, and a blind girl in Kansas City have in common?

Over fifty years ago, God put a vision in the heart of Mildred Whitney. That vision was to see the Gospel made available to the Blind. With that call of God in her heart, she began her Braille lessons. She hand-punched the "Adult Student Quarterly" into Braille, painted the sheet with shellac, and hung it up to dry to be used as plates. A soaked sheet of paper was placed over the plate and run through a wringer washing machine. These sheets were hung up to dry through out her small farmhouse in Michigan.

This was the beginning of what is now a dynamic ministry that has expanded to include evangelism and discipleship, community relations, convention outreach, and Christian advocacy and education for the blind.

In September 1999, the Adriene Resource Center for Blind Children became a reality. This ministry exists to help fill the nationwide void in Christian literature for blind children with quality, state of the art material. Adriene was born with an extremely rare genetic condition (only 40-50 cases in the history of the human race). She was born without eyes and other results of genetics. Adriene is vivacious! She is realistic about her blindness and does not let it or the misconceptions of others determine who she is. You can Read Adriene's story in the Pentecostal Evangel article, Through eyes of faith.

Their vision is that the blind may experience:

  • Freedom In Salvation
    • Book of Hope in Braille
    • Descriptive 'Jesus' Video
    • Assortment of tracts in Braille, large print and on cassette
  • Joy In Belonging
    • Resources and training packs to promote Blind friendly churches
    • Sunday School materials in Braille and on cassette
  • Fulfillment In Living
    • Periodicals, devotionals and other resources for discipleship and Christian living
    • Braille and cassette lending library
  • Honor In Serving
    • Berean University courses
    • Teacher guides
    • Leadership training materials

Their mission:

  • To produce quality, contemporary Gospel presentations for the Blind, and to find creative ways to make them available.
  • To promote Blind-friendly congregations through awareness, education, and training materials, and to help these congregations provide materials accessible to the Blind.
  • To increase the quality and quantity of Christian books, periodicals, and discipleship materials available to the Blind.
  • To provide Berean University courses, and leadership training material to equip the Blind for Christian service.
  • To develop and produce quality, contemporary Christian literature for Blind children and children of Blind parents using the latest techniques in Braille, combination medias (Braille and large print, cassette and tactile, etc), and tactile graphics (feelable pictures).

For more information, contact:

AG Center for the Blind
1445 N Boonville Ave
Springfield, MO 65802
Phone: 417-831-1964
Fax: 417-862-5120

Listserv now available for individuals who are blind and in ministry

The Assemblies of God Center for the Blind has created a listserv for individuals who are blind or visually impaired and involved in, training for or considering formal Christian ministry. Center for the Blind Director, Paul Weingartner describes the listserv as a connection point for encouragement, fellowship and learning among those who have shared similar ministry experiences and challenges. The group was created in response to many requests over the years.

Click this link to subscribe to the Center for the Blind's listserv.
Click this link to learn more about Sacred Texts and where to find them in alternative formats.

Making Facebook More Accessible

A tool to make Facebook more accessible to visually impaired users has been created by Project:Possibility (, a group of not-for-profit software developers in the US. The application allows visually impaired users to log in, navigate and use the site by combining screen reader technology with other coding techniques.

Facebook's popularity has risen dramatically in recent years, with more than 150 million users worldwide. However some users claim it does not fully support assistive technology tools, with several groups active on the site itself pressing for a more accessible service, such as The Official Petition for a More Accessible Facebook which contains almost 1,500 members. Some measures have already been taken by Facebook to accommodate the needs of disabled users, such as releasing screen reader-friendly versions of some of its applications.

Click this link to download the Facebook Accessibility application from

Article adapted from e-access bulletin, a free monthly email newsletter available for subscription at:

Lowering Screen Resolution Makes Vista Easier to See

Every now and then we have a tip just for the visually impaired readers of Fred's Head. This is one such tip.

Today's computer monitors with wide screens will in most cases shrink icons and websites to minimal size for better resolution, sometimes making everything very hard to see and read, especially for the sight impaired.

The easiest way to make everything a little bigger is by lowering the monitors screen resolution just a bit. These instructions are for the Windows Vista operating system.

  1. Right click on any empty area of your desktop (the first screen you see once the computer is turned on and booted).
  2. This will bring up a menu with several options, select the last one which is personalize, this will bring up a larger menu.
  3. Choose "Display Settings" where you will then find a slider bar with xxxx by xxx pixels.
  4. Hold the slider button with your mouse button pressed and slide it towards the left once.
  5. Select apply at the bottom left of the window, this will then make everything a little bigger. You may repeat as needed until you become comfortable with the screen resolution.

Tip: A good monitor resolution is when most websites fill your screen without having to scroll horizontally.

  1. Right click anywhere on your desktop.
  2. Select personalize.
  3. Hold the slider button with your mouse button pressed and slide it towards the left.

Monday, February 16, 2009

US Home Loans for People with Disabilities and Seniors

For people who have a disability and those with low income, finding a home loan can be a daunting task. Owning your own home is considered a fundamental right by most people, a natural progression into the world of independent living.

One in three Americans living with disabilities lives below or at the poverty level. That makes millions of people with disabilities living under socially and financially acceptable conditions.

Disabled World is trying to make finding a reputable home loan lender a little easier by listing both government public and private institutions that lend money for home purchases and down payment loans to people with disabilities and very low income earners. They have created a list of national, state, and local programs that offer mortgage assistance and other types of housing aid to help better serve those with disabilities. There are a number of organizations listed that can provide guidance and information about buying a home. Click this link to visit Disabled World's >First home owners guide to mortgages page. Helps People Find Needed Benefits

From the site:

"The disABLED have many needs which challenge their lives. People with disabilities face financial needs, mobility issues, lack of quality housing, as well as struggling with prescription medicine costs. There is help available. Government disability benefits, assistive technology devices, and special housing funds are all benefits which are available to the disABLED. I'll help you find those benefits."

Click this link to visit

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Online Diagram of the Eye

Have you ever wanted to see the eye up close? Well, if you have enough vision, you can visit the National Eye Institute website and check out a great diagram of the eye. "Drag the magnifying glass to explore the eye diagram. Click the targets to see definitions for parts of the eye."

Click this link to see the National Eye Institute's Diagram of the Eye.

Disability History Museum

The Disability History Museum's mission is to promote understanding about the historical experience of people with disabilities by recovering, chronicling, and interpreting their stories. The goal is to help foster a deeper understanding of disability and to dispel lingering myths, assumptions, and stereotypes by examining these cultural legacies.

The Disability History Museum is home to a searchable theme-based digital collection of documents and images related to disability history in the United States. These artifacts are drawn from public and private collections around the country. They exist as primary source materials in the Library, and may be interpreted in Museum exhibitions and Education resources.

The staff of the Disability History Museum works closely with a Board of Advisors and the site's Partners to identify goals, methods, and content. This collaboration is key to maintaining an interdisciplinary approach to interpreting, preserving, and disseminating resources related to the history of people with disabilities.

Few of us realize that people with disabilities have a rich and dramatic history that is relevant to all Americans. Disability can happen to any of us at any point in our lives regardless of race, class, or gender. Nearly all of us know someone with a disability, and this has always been the case. Despite changes in the past 25 years that have radically expanded the opportunities available to people with disabilities, traditional stereotypes about disability continue to be taken for granted as do the limited expectations that go with them. These attitudes affect the kinds of jobs people with disabilities get, where they live, and their social experiences. The Civil Rights movement taught us that laws alone don't change attitudes--awareness must be raised and assumptions challenged. The Disability History Museum provides tools that help all Americans, people with and without disabilities, develop a deeper understanding of human differences and how vital to our common life the historical experiences of people with disabilities have been.

Click this link to visit

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Online Sources for Accessible Computer Games for the Blind

For most gamers, the process of setting up a game and starting to play is pretty straight forward: install the game, skim over the instructions, and start playing. Unfortunately, people with disabilities find this process considerably harder.

The difficulty starts at the store. A disabled purchaser has no idea if a game is accessible to them or not. There are no ratings on the box that will indicate if the game is closed captioned or supports alternative input devices. In many cases, game ratings in the popular media do not address the accessibility issue, so for many purchasers, buying a game is very much a gamble.

After the game is installed, the player needs to often customize the settings to support their system and adaptive hardware. This is often not addressed in the documentation and most help desks have little experience dealing with these problems.

Once in the game, further problems can occur. The difficulty level may not be controllable, making it impossible for a person with mobility problems to play. Vital information may be given in cut scenes without closed captioning, making it impossible for the deaf to succeed in the game.

Unfortunately, many games fail to address the needs of a disabled gamer, and as a result prevent them from playing. The solution to this problem is to make games more accessible. The Wikipedia defines accessibility as "a general term used to describe how easy it is for people to get to, use, and understand things."

On a regular basis, the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) receives requests from individuals seeking sources of accessible computer games. We did some looking around and found various commercial suppliers, as well as Internet sources, from which these can be purchased--or, in some cases, downloaded for free.

The first place to look for games for the blind is This site keeps track of all the games that are accessible to the blind or visually impaired. This is also the place to find Audyssey, an electronic magazine that keeps readers up-to-date on the latest games.

Top 25 Sites for Blind Gamers

7-128 Software has published a list of the 25 best sites for blind gamers. The list is based on market research and is based on several criteria including number of games, site longevity, popularity, and informational value. Not surprisingly, PCS Games is number 1, largely due to their complete list of accessible game developers and games. Each site includes an annotated description.

Click this link to view the Top 25 Sites for Blind Gamers list from 7-128 Software.

Puzzle Daily Brain Teaser

I can be cracked,
I can be made.
I can be told,
I can be played.
What am I?


A Joke!

Click here to visit this game filled site:

The ADA Game

So, you're upset because your city just isn't with it when it comes to the ADA? How can you make a difference? Find out if you really can bring on changes to make the ADA stronger in your community by playing The ADA Game.

This free, online game is available to play at anytime and simulates how advocacy can promote positive changes in communities. Players take on the role of advocates for disability rights and work together to improve compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in their virtual communities.

After a successful login to the ADA Game, you can earn points by correctly answering questions about the ADA. The more points you earn, the more actions you can take to improve the accessibility of your virtual city. A maximum of five multiple-choice questions per day can be answered.

  • Work together with other advocates to improve ADA compliance and build a more accessible community
  • check your statistics to see how well you and your city are doing
  • visit the message board to chat with fellow advocates, plan strategies, and discuss ADA-related issues
  • take actions that promote disability awareness and advocate for accessibility.

Click here to visit the ADA Game home page, and good luck!

There are few software programs for the blind and some of them are cumbersome and difficult to use. But through a UNC computer science course called Enabling Technology, UNC students are developing programs for blind people from age 2 up. For the very young children, the programs help them learn directions and sounds. For older people, the programs can help them complete graduate research papers. Hark The Sound is a really simple sound game intended for young kids who are visually impaired, and is free for educational and fun use.

The object of the game is to name a sound or tune that is presented as a prompt. A typical round in Name That Animal goes like this:

  1. You hear "Can you name this animal?"
  2. Then an animal sound is played, for example a dog barking.
  3. You use the left or right arrow keys on the keyboard to move through and hear the possible answers. In this case they might be "Cat", "Dog", "Elephant", and "Horse".
  4. In some games, the down arrow key will give a hint about the correct answer.
  5. When you hear the correct answer, you press the up arrow key to guess.
  6. If the chosen answer is correct, you will hear a reward sound which might be a crowd cheering, or a musical fan fare. If the answer is incorrect, you will hear "Try again.".
  7. The process then repeats playing another one of the sounds for the four animals.
  8. When all the animals in the group have been played, the game begins another round with four more animals.

There are fifteen games that follow this same pattern of game play. These games include:

  • Braille Letters: The question is "Can you name this Braille letter?". The prompts are the dots of a letter. The answers are the letter along with a word that begins with that letter to make it easier to hear.
  • Braille Whole Word Contractions: The question is "Can you name this Braille whole word contraction?" The prompts are the dots in a Braille letter that is a whole word contraction. The word is the answer.
  • Counting: Counting repeated animal sounds for numbers one through nine.
  • Multiplication drills: The full multiplication table up to 12 times 12. The question is "What is this product?". The prompts are products like "2 times 3" and the answers are numbers from 0 through 144.
  • Name That Animal: Animal sounds are the prompts. The animal's names are the answers.
  • Name that capital's State: A challenging game of State Capitals. The question is "Can you name the state whose capital is...", the prompts are the names of capital cities. The answers are the names of the 50 states.
  • Name that Classical Tune: Midi versions of famous classical music are the prompts. The composer's name and the name of the work are included in the answer.
  • Name that color: The question is "What color is this?", the prompts are common objects, and the answers are their colors.
  • Name That Country Music Tune: Country music classics rendered in Midi. Composer and name are the answer.
  • Name that holiday: Identify holidays from hints.
  • Name that Kids Tune: Midi tunes like "Head Shoulders Knees and Toes".
  • Name that Rock and Roll Tune: Classic rock and roll tunes rendered in Midi with the artist and title for the answer.
  • Name that Sound: Environmental sounds, such as "clock ticking" and "glass breaking" are the prompts
  • Spelling Words: The prompt is a word spelled out. The answer is the word pronounced.
  • State Nick Names: A challenging game to identify the nick name for a state given its name.

To get more information about this game, including specific instructions on how to install and customize the game, follow the link below.

Click here to visit the Hark The Sound Information and Download page:

San Francisco's KQED Public Broadcasting completed a TV show on video games that are accessible for everyone for their multimedia series on the environment, science and nature entitled QUEST.

It's a very interesting look at accessibility issues in gaming, and the KQED people did a nice job with it. Check it out. Click this link to download an MP3 of the QUEST program.

Road to Independence: a Fun Approach to Learning how to Live with Low Vision

This educational program is designed to introduce low vision individuals, family members, and professionals to the wide range of strategies, approaches, and devices available to help low vision persons continue living independently. Its unique board-game approach helps to make learning fun, and engages its "players." It uses an oversized game board, with large, easy-to-recognize icons (one for each of the ten categories), and oversized dice and playing pieces.

This learning system is ideal for low vision support groups and outreach programs. It has also been used to train low vision professionals, case managers and home healthcare workers. It is currently being used by the Oklahoma League for the Blind, in their on-site, low vision outreach program for seniors living in retirement communities.

Road To Independence
Designer and Principal: Charles Schwartz
Phone: 847-269-5707
For an overview, please refer to the Vision World Foundation's website:

Friday, February 06, 2009

Cake Decorating with M&M's

Use M&M's for decorating cakes. They are much easier to handle than some of the cake decorating sprinkles and add nice touches of color. They can be used to spell names, provide trims, or make patterns. The M&M's can be used for braille messages. Apply these just after you ice the cake.

What's that? You want to know more about braille messages on cakes? Yeah, it is a cool idea where you could place a "secret" message in braille for that special someone. This could be fun for Valentine's Day or maybe a birthday. Let me guess, you don't read braille? No problem, thanks to this page from the American Foundation for the Blind's Braille Bug you can create your braille message, then place the candy in the right place on the cake!


If you want to make cupcakes with the M&M's as the decoration, make sure they stay together by traveling with the Cup-A-Cake.

Cup-A-Cake was designed and patented by mothers to solve the age old problem of sending cupcakes to school or outings with their children. Before Cup-A-Cake, taking cupcakes anywhere caused a mess.

This unique container will hold a frosted cupcake in place with protrusions positioned in such a way that the cupcake will not move within the container if bounced, jiggled, or turned upside down.

  • Made in the USA
  • User friendly, can be used by the smallest fingers
  • Practical and light weight
  • Air tight to insure freshness
  • Comes in a variety of colors
  • Available in a single, reusable model
  • Economical and fun
  • Keeps cupcakes intact while you travel

General Uses

  • School lunches
  • Field Trips
  • Picnics
  • Birthday celebrations
  • Parties
  • Sporting events
  • Boy or Girl Scout outings
  • Camping or work

Click this link to get your Cup-A-Cake:

Thursday, February 05, 2009

George Covington's Method for Using Photography to Enlarge Images

Sighted people tend to take photographs to capture an image of a loved one's face, to have a visual record of a person, place or event that they don't want to forget. For George Covington, a camera is more than a means to help him remember -- it's a tool that has helped him to see.

George was born legally blind with 20/400 vision in both eyes. Due to a combination of astigmatism, nastagmus, eccentric fixation and myopia, his eyesight was not optically correctable. His vision impairment was no match for a strong drive to succeed. After attending and graduating from college, and then from law school, George has worked as an attorney, a journalism professor, an author and as a Press Aide and Special Assistant for Disability Policy (1989-93) to the Vice President of the United States.

A Developing Interest in Photography

George "discovered" photography while helping a friend who was shooting landscape photos. While his friend prepared for the shoot, George wandered about the sites, experiencing the landscape on his own. Later that day his friend handed him four photos from the shoot. "I held her photographs in my hand and realized I did not recognize any of the scenes. What I had 'seen' was strictly in my mind," he recalls.

That moment led George to an inspiration: he could use photographs to enhance his limited visual abilities. As he explains in a self-penned article, "Faces I See: Digital Photography, a Tool for Sight":

"I can walk into a room for the first time and see almost nothing. As I learn the contents of the room, my brain interprets what I perceive as a visual image. When I have become familiar with that room, I can describe every object in it and its placement. I actually 'see' the contents of that room by interpreting small bits of information that upon first entry were totally confusing. My malfunctioning eyes are augmented by memory, imagination, and experience. I interpret as much as I actually see, and photography helps speed up and improve the interpretation."

George began taking his own photos, experimenting almost daily with photographs of friends, neighbors and family members. He learned to focus the camera by estimating the distance between himself and his subject. "Scale focusing", as this is called, and the use of a camera with a wide-angled lens enabled George to take sharp pictures.

As the prints were developed, George realized that the high contrast nature of a conventional print provided him with the information he need to "see" the picture. More often than not what George saw when he viewed the images surprised him. "I discovered that old friends had familiar faces, while new friends sometimes did not look anything like I thought they did," he explains. "Friendships made after the slow degeneration process (of his retina) began had faces created by imagination."

The first 20 years of his photography was conventional, chemical-based photography. For the past 5 years, as his eyesight has gotten progressively and rapidly worse, he has converted almost exclusively to digital cameras, scanners and computers.

George's opportunity to take control of the developing process came in the mid-1990s with the advent of digital cameras. Using a digital camera, George could take a photo and upload the image directly to his PC. Then he could manipulate the image, drawing out details or adjusting colors and brightness, using software programs such as Adobe Photoshop. This new level of control allowed George to alter the image until he could view it most clearly.

"A manipulated image allows persons with diminished vision to view the scene or object represented by the photograph in the best light and a distance from their eyes that compensates for their particular problem," he explains.

In essence, George had found a method for making the camera and computer his own "digital darkroom", a custom-tool for tailoring images to his unique visual capabilities.

The Process to Perfection

Over the intervening years, George has tweaked and honed the developing process until it produces the sharpest images for his remaining eyesight. Here's the process he uses.

Using Photoshop, George transforms his images into sketches using a variety of Adobe filters. The result is an "artistic sketch". In some cases he deletes a distracting or cluttered background in order to highlight a key area of the photograph. He prints out copies of the image after applying effects and uses these as guideposts that will lead to the final image. (George stresses that each person will need to experiment to find the process that works best for their specific visual requirements.)

When George is happy with the image, he prints out two final copies: one for himself and another, if the photo was a portrait, to present as a gift to the subject.

Today George takes pictures using both conventional and digital equipment. He especially enjoys working with digital images. "Digital photography has given me a much wider range of control than I had in my conventional darkroom."

Highlights and alterations to images that once took hours to perform in a chemical darkroom can now be accomplished in minutes and even seconds in his "digital darkroom." On some issues, however, George prefers low-tech over hi-tech. For example, while computer software gives George a palette of colors to work with, he prefers black and white or sepia.

George has taught photography to sighted and visually impaired students in North Carolina, Maryland, and a number of Museums within the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. Today he frequently hosts photography workshops for visually impaired students where he teaches the use of camera as an aid to seeing. In these workshops he introduces student photographers who are vision impaired and blind to the two main principles of his process, the manipulation of perspective and detail.

While George doesn't submit his work for gallery shows or art contests, he does exhibit his photos from time to time alongside those created by his workshop students. He says that the workshops have allowed him to re-live through his students a little of the excitement he felt that first time he viewed a photograph he'd taken.

Build your own "Digital Darkroom"

Fred's Head asked George Covington what equipment someone would need in order to build their own "digital darkroom." Here is his response:

"Beginning photographers need nothing more than a conventional camera and film to get started. To get your pictures into a digital format, ask to have the negatives burned on Kodak's picture CD, or use a scanner to digitize prints."

"My own ideal digital darkroom would consist of:
1) Apple iMac, 700 mhz with 256 MB of RAM
2) A digital camera of 2.1 megapixels or above
3) 2GB Jaz Drive
4) Scanner capable of scanning at least 600 x 1200 dpi resolution
5) Ink jet printer capable of at least 1440 x 720 dpi
6) A photography manipulation software in the caliber of Adobe PhotoDeluxe or PhotoShop"

Covington, George. "Let Your Camera do the Seeing: The World's First Photography Manual for the Legally Blind." National Access Center. Available free to all legally blind and physically disabled people through the Library of Congress National Library Service Division of the Blind and Physically Handicapped (cassette RC 17386).
Covington, George. "Access by Design." Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1996.
Covington, George. Photo Hero: A Satire of Photography. 1st Books Library, 2001.

The Kodak site has a biography and a virtual gallery of George Covington's photographs.

Vince's Parallax: A Guide to Blind Photography on the Web

"The pages referred to here are about blind photographers and their work, techniques that anyone could use to take photos, and ways of representing the finished images."

Vince is a blind photographer. You can see his work on flickr under his flickrname, vip_uc, and read about his process in Vince's thread, Seeing my images: vip_uc, in the Blind Photogrphers‘ project.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Experience History Through Sounds and Personal Accounts

To me, making history come to life for a student who is blind or visually impaired is the way to go. There are a few web sites that can bring sound to any history lesson.

BBC4 Audio Interviews A-Z

The BBC has built a wonderful site that includes excerpts from the BBC's extensive archives of interviews with authors, politicians, playwrights, architects, and other major cultural figures, from 1937 to the present. Among them: Albert Speer, George Bernard Shaw, Bob Marley, Werner Heisenberg, Alfred Hitchcock and many others. You will need the RealPlayer from Real Systems Inc. to listen to the audio on this site.

Click here to visit the BBC4 Audio Interviews site:

The History Channel

This cable network is known for its historic programs on a variety of topics, and now their videos come to the internet. On The History Channel - Video / Audio site, you can watch videos of PRESIDENT McKINLEY INAUGURATION, Funeral of John F. Kennedy, Sound barrier broken, and the Launch of space shuttle Columbia. The audio and video on this site stream in Windows Media (R) so you shouldn't need any new software.

Click here to visit The History Channel's Audio/Video site:

First person accounts of History

The Dalton Gang's Last Raid, 1892

It reads like a Hollywood script, but its all true: on October 5, 1892 the Dalton Gang rode into the small Kansas town of Coffeyville with the audacious objective of simultaneously robbing two banks. Unfortunately, they were recognized as they strode into town. The alarm was raised and the townspeople armed themselves.

An observer described the scene as the citizens opened fire through the banks' full length windows:

"...Just at this critical juncture the citizens opened fire from the outside and the shots from their Winchesters and shot-guns pierced the plate-glass windows and rattled around the bank. The battle then began in earnest. Evidently recognizing that the fight was on, Grat Dalton asked whether there was a back door through which they could get to the street. He was told that there was none^DEL Reaching the hall on the outside of the counter, the firing of the citizens through the windows became so terrific and the bullets whistled so close around their heads that the robbers and both bankers retreated to the back room again. Just then one at the southwest door was heard to exclaim: 'I am shot; I can't use my arm; it is no use, I can't shoot any more.'"

Most of what you read about historic events was written by someone who read what someone else wrote about it. Here is a diverse collection of short first-hand, eyewitness accounts of what proved later to be important events. Vivid, uncensored testimony from someone there at the time. Make up your own mind.

Click this link to visit the EyeWitness to History site:

JFK Video: The Dallas Tapes

This website is "a project to share historic video that aired on Channel 4 [in Dallas] after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The video includes exclusive television coverage -- most from the KRLD-TV/KDFW Collection at the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza." Includes video of Kennedy's arrival in Texas on November 22, 1963, Kennedy's breakfast speech in Fort Worth, Lee Harvey Oswald's death on November 24, and more.

Click this link to visit JFK Video: The Dallas Tapes.

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