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.)


Friday, April 30, 2010

WGBH Helps You Find Movies on DVD with Audio Description

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment announced in the fall of 2009 that it would include the descriptive narration track created for theatrical release in theaters equipped with WGBH's MoPix systems on DVD and Blu-Ray versions of those films. Universal Pictures has committed to the same practice.

Now, WGBH has created a page on their website with links to mainstream movies that have been released on DVD with descriptive narration and captioning. Most of the titles are also available on Blu-ray with access features. All can be purchased wherever DVDs are sold, or by following the provided links to the product on

WGBH's Media Access Group is an Amazon Associate, which means that when you click through their site to purchase movies from Amazon, they receive a small portion (4%) of the revenue. As a nonprofit organization addressing media access barriers of all kinds, I know they would appreciate the financial support you would be providing through your purchases.

Click this link to find Accessible DVDs for Sale via the WGBH Media Access Group website.

UnknownDevices: Recognize Hardware When Device Manager Can't

When Windows' Device Manager just can't seem to give you information about a piece of hardware, free, open-source utility UnknownDevices will point you in the right direction, allowing you to find the necessary drivers to get it up and running.

Generally, when you install a new device, you know what it is and where to find drivers, but if you've just done a clean install of Windows, for example, it can be difficult or time-consuming to determine what your many "unknown" devices in Device Manager actually are. Luckily, UnknownDevices is a portable app that can quickly give you more information about the manufacturer and model of those unknown devices to help you on your hunt for the necessary drivers.

UnknownDevices is a free download, Windows only.

Click this link to download or learn more about UnknownDevices.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

TinyEyes: Discover How Your Baby Sees the World

Have you ever wondered how baby sees the world? Many people believe that babies see in black and white, while other people think they don't see at all. Fortunately, TinyEyes is a simple online image manipulation tool that simulates what a baby sees during the different stages of their development.

To use TinyEyes, click the “Try it!” link at the top section of the homepage. You can select the age of the child’s vision that you want to see from the drop-down menu. You can also enter the viewing distance in inches.

Once set, upload an image file from your computer and hit the “Run Tinyeyes!” button. The original image and the image as seen by the child will appear side by side.

TinyEyes can process most images but recommends using PNG or JPEG formats for faster conversions. This is a fun app for new parents to know what their baby is exactly seeing.

Click this link to visit the How Baby See website at

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Keep Your Children Safe with K9 Web Protection

K9 Web Protection is a FREE Internet filtering and control solution for the home. K9 puts YOU in control of the Internet so you can protect your children. You can configure the software to block or allow categories of websites or enter specific URLs to be blocked.

For parents who are blind or visually impaired, K9 lets you know when your child has tried to visit a protected site by playing a barking sound when the blocked website screen appears. You'll instantly know when something's going on by the K9 sound effect.

The interface is web-based, so everything's accessible for those using a screen reader. I really like this software and use it in my home with my two teen-age sons.

Installation is very easy.  Start by heading to the website and clicking on “Download K9 today for free.”

Next you are given some instructions and a short form to fill out.  You need to give your name and email address so they can send you a license key.  Don’t worry because even though you will be given a license key, it is still free.

Once you have the email message, you will have the download link, the license key and some further instructions.  You will need to enter the license key and a password during the installation process.  Do not, under any circumstances, forget your password.  Being security software, getting around without the password will be quite impossible. You will need it to make changes and even to uninstall the software, should you ever need to.  Once the installation is finished, you will be asked to reboot your computer.

In the setup menu, you have several areas to deal with.  Let’s begin by choosing what kind of content to block. You can block anything such as pornography, security threats, social networking sites and illegal activity.  You can choose one of the categories on the list, set up your own custom settings under “custom” or even set K9 to just monitor the sites being visited.  It’s all up to you.

Another area of settings you may find helpful is the time restrictions section. K9 Web Protection can help you manage what times of the day the Internet can be accessed.  Either set it to unrestricted (Internet is always accessible), NightGuard (blocks access every evening between the times you choose), or custom (choose access times throughout the day allowing different times for different days).

There is also a section to have some websites as exceptions to the rules you have set up. For instance, you can choose sites to always block or always allow.  Also, when a restricted site comes up that you want to allow, you’ll be given the option (provided you know the password).

You can also choose what happens when a page is blocked. You can choose to have a barking noise sound, have some options to change the settings, and you can even enable a timeout of internet access if restricted site access is attempted too many times in a row. Click this link to protect your family with K9 web protection.

Is There an Age Limit?

by Donna J. Jodhan

For some time now, I have wanted to write about this but for some reason I have put off doing it because I wanted to make sure that I am not the only one who thinks this way. I have heard from many with their similar experiences so I know now that I am not the only one and for once in my life, my imagination has not gotten the better of me. What am I focusing on today you may be asking? Well, here is the question of the day.

Is there an age limit when it comes to how doctors view their patients? I mean: Does a doctor's attitude change towards their patients as they grow older? I used to think not but after some time of pondering this and hearing from others, I have to say that sadly! The answer may be a yes.

In the city of Toronto where I live, there are doctors who seem to believe that treatments for their older patients may not be needed or necessary because of their age. I have personally heard of doctors telling some of their senior patients things like: "Well, you have lived a long life so now that you have been diagnosed with cancer, it's time for you to accept it. You're going to die anyway." Or: "You're 80 years old and why would you want to prolong your life anymore if you are sick?" I personally have had a doctor tell me that I should not bother trying to find a medical solution for my loss of vision because in my lifetime I will never see any type of medical break through for my problem. The sad thing about this particular doctor is that he has served on the board of a prominent agency for the Blind and he has a cousin who is blind.

I have friends who have expressed to me that not only there seems to be an age limit on how doctors treat their patients but it also seems to extend to how they view their disabled patients. I can speak first hand to how some doctors view their blind and vision impaired patients; many of them do not believe that it is worth their time to work towards finding ways to improve the vision of their patients.

Now, one could easily put forward the argument that here in Toronto, doctors as a whole are over worked and under paid or that the health system is just too cluttered and overloaded for doctors to be able to perform adequately. These two arguments may be contributing factors but it still does not change my opinion that there seems to be a definite age limit when it comes to how doctors view their patients.

One final question: I wonder out loud whether or not there is an age limit for doctors when it comes to treating their own parents or other family members? Would their attitude carry over when it comes to their attitude towards older or disabled persons?

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day. If you'd like to learn more about me, then you can visit some of my blog spots at:
Donna Jodhan! Advocating accessibility for all:
Weekly Saturday postings on issues of accessibility:
blogs on various issues and answers to consumers concerns:

My Mission with a Passion

by Donna J. Jodhan

When I lost my vision a little over six years ago, I decided that I would follow through on a commitment that I made to myself up until then. A commitment that I had made to myself but never really did much about. A commitment that I made shortly after graduating from university so many years ago.

When I lost my vision, I decided that it was time to start making my commitment worth something. I decided that I would work to help ensure the future of blind and visually impaired kids. I would work with others to ensure that they could claim their rightful inheritance. I would work with others to ensure that governments and society as a whole would become more aware of the rights of blind and visually impaired persons. Too many times, both government and society fail to realize that we have rights like anyone else. That it is our God given right to be able to access any and everything that mainstream persons can access. It is definitely not a nice to have to be able to access websites and information on the Internet. No, definitely not! If the sighted world is able to access the Internet, then blind and visually impaired persons must also be given the same opportunity and ability.

As an advocate speaker, this is the message that I spread to my audiences. As a conduit for change, I am constantly telling my fellow blind and visually impaired brothers and sisters that if we do not work to ensure the future of our blind and visually impaired kids, no one else will do it. I am constantly telling governments that as long as blind and visually impaired persons are made to pay taxes, then they must be treated like anyone else and that their rights as Human Beings must be respected. Are you hearing me? Do you copy?

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day. If you'd like to learn more about me, then you can visit some of my blog spots at:
Donna Jodhan! Advocating accessibility for all:
Weekly Saturday postings on issues of accessibility:
blogs on various issues and answers to consumers concerns:

Five Foods That Sabotage Sleep

Many blind and visually impaired people have unusual sleep patterns. If you're having trouble sleeping, what about a midnight snack? Think twice. Here are five foods that can prevent you from getting a good night's rest.

  • Preserved and smoked meats. Slap your hand away when it reaches to make a ham sandwich as an evening snack. Ham, bacon, sausages and smoked meats contain high levels of the amino acid tyramine, which triggers the brain to release norepinephrine, a brain stimulant that makes us feel alert and wired.
  • Chocolate. Love an evening cup of cocoa? That sundae in front of the TV? Be careful of chocolate in all its disguises. Many people are increasingly sensitive to caffeine as they get older, and even the little chocolate chunks in chocolate chip ice cream could zap you just enough to prevent ZZZZs. Chocolate also contains tyrosine, a stimulating amino acid.
  • Energy drinks. Red Bull and other energy drinks are high in caffeine as well as the amino acid taurine, which boosts alertness and adrenaline. Recent studies have shown that even if you drink energy drinks early in the day, the combined high dosage of taurine and caffeine can make it hard to sleep, or to sleep well, later on.
  • Tomato sauce, chili, pizza and spicy foods. Digestive disturbances are a common source of sleep problems, but many people fail to make the connection. Acidic and spicy foods can cause reflux, heartburn, and other symptoms that interrupt sleep.
  • The nightcap. A drink or two may make you feel more relaxed after dinner, but it comes back to haunt you a few hours later by preventing you from achieving deep sleep. And because alcohol both dehydrates you and makes you have to pee, it wakes you up, too. Wine is high in the stimulant tyrosine as well.

Take The AdOut

Here's a very simple and effective tool. Type in a URL and get a link via their site to the appropriate page, which is then advertisement free. Great if you want to link to resources that sometimes do the scantily clad women dating agency thing, but the content is otherwise great. May not work 100% of the time but certainly worth trying.

Click this link to visit

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The National Arts and Disability Center List Serv

As a National Arts and Disability Center list serv member, you can post messages to a national group of artists, professionals, and others interested in the arts and disability field. We encourage you to share events, news, and resources about careers in the arts.

To join, go to

The mission of the NADC is to promote the full inclusion of audiences and artists with disabilities into all facets of the arts community. You can learn more about the NADC at or search for us on FaceBook.

Beth Stoffmacher
Data Coordinator
Tarjan Center
National Arts and Disability Center
Semel Institute
760 Westwood Plaza, Suite 67-467
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1759
Phone: 310 825-5054

Friday, April 23, 2010

Kids Audio Stories

I remember, as a student at the Kentucky School for the Blind, that our library had tons of audio books on cassette. They weren't Talking Books necessarily, just audio books on standard cassettes. Teachers could use them in the classroom or we could come into the library and listen to them during a time when a teacher was out or we found ourselves with some extra time. I was happy to find a website with audio books for children, it reminded me of my library time at KSB.

The stories on this site were originally published in Braille and were distributed as cassettes included. They are now being released as CD's and MP3s. The site, , focuses on assisting children in coping with fundamental life skills, through entertaining audio stories. The children find the adventures filled with music and sound effects entertaining and parents love the message they send to their children.

One To Grow On audio stories are designed to be fun for children with exciting sound effects and creative storytelling. While listening, children are infused with ideas and ideals that help them cope with issues they may encounter while growing up.

All of the MP3 and CD audio stories teach important life lessons. The stories empower children with tools that help them grow their self-esteem, build strength of character and help give them the courage they need to cope in a challenging world. 

For more information, please contact:

Trenna Daniells
One To Grow On!
Phone: 800-514-6820
f: 303-816-1624
"Children love the story and Parents love the Message"

Thursday, April 22, 2010 Location-Based Audioguides

Here's a fun resource and website to visit where you can create audio walks around places, add in a map, append a photograph, using an iPhone etc. Great for educational use, though the strength or weakness lies in the person creating the walk of course.

Woices is a FREE internet service that allows people to create, share and consume echoes, audio records that are linked to a very specific geographical location or real-world object. Woices ultimate goal is to extend reality by creating a new layer of audio information, what we call the echoesphere, that will make the world a more interesting place.

Users with an account can group some of their echoes and create a walk. A walk is a collection of related echoes, usually geographically close so that they can be listened in sucession (during a 'walk'). Walks are dynamic since users can keep adding or removing echoes from their walks.

Echoes are words, left by one person at some precise place, that can be later listened to by anyone, as if their author was still there. Echoes can be about anything you want, from history, art or curiosities to personal memories or advice. An echo can even be a poem.

Creating a walk can be difficult for someone who uses a screen reader. The site is Flash-based, so you will need the help of a sighted person if you wish to create a walk. Listening to a walk is accessible, even though the buttons on the Flash player are not labeled. Experiment around a bit and you'll get the hang of it. Click this link to visit

Can't Find Your Cat? This Device Can Help

Cats aren’t like our dog guides at all, where the latter are more obedient, returning upon your recall command without wandering off in their pursuit of happiness. Cats on the other hand, have a strong mind of their own, often doing what they want without your consent or approval.

Have you ever needed to find your cat and find that they go out of their way to insure you aren't going to administer their monthly flea spray or put them in a room for the night?

The Lost Feline Locator can help you keep tabs on Garfield. A homing tag is attached to his collar while a credit card sized handset will broadcast a radio frequency that penetrates walls, doors, and furniture to locate the tag. There are eight LEDs and a tone that help guide you in the direction of your cat. In order to make the task easier, the audible tone becomes louder as you home in on your feline friend, but be aware that you are tracking a moving target. The Lost Feline Locator has a working range of at least 200 feet.

Click this link to purchase the Lost Feline Locator from Hammacher Schlemmer.

Want to Teach the Blind?

If you’re interested in learning how to become a teacher of blind students, or if you’re wondering if this career choice is for you, then the National Federation of the Blind has a site for you!

They have developed a one-stop resource on teaching blind students to provide you information about this highly rewarding career. With 90% of blind children not being taught Braille, a 45% high school graduation rate for blind students, and a whopping 70% unemployment rate amongst working age blind adults, the time to make a difference is here!

Would you like to help others find out about this rewarding career? You can join their Teacher Recruitment Network. Prospective teachers or teacher candidates can learn about how the Teacher of Tomorrow Incentive Program can help you! Apply today to be part of their Teacher of Tomorrow Cohort program.

Current teachers, paraprofessionals, orientation and mobility instructors, and Program administrators, can join their Teach for Independence Network and visit the Blindness Education Station, a place to learn about best practices for working with blind students, and a place to share some of your own tricks of the trade!

Click this link to visit the Teach Blind Students website at

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Doctor, I'm Seeing Spots

by Laura Legendary

A Braille labeler is one of those devices that can be easily overlooked or dismissed in favor of other, more exciting gadgets. However, a Braille labeler is not only a great tool for helping you to become better organized, it can be a great way to quickly learn Braille.

If you have learned to read Braille, then you probably have one of these handy little tools already. If you don't read Braille, this labeler can be a fun tool that may motivate you to learn. Braille really isn't that difficult, and one of the best ways to learn Braille, in my opinion, is to use it everyday on everyday things. You will learn much more quickly to recognize the dot patterns when you already know what the item is that you are trying to identify.

For example, if you are using a Braille label to mark a can of peas, and you know that when you go grocery shopping you typically buy canned peas, carrots and green beans, it will be fairly easy to figure out that four Braille characters is the can of peas. Four letters. Peas. The number of letters in the words "green beans" and "carrots" clue you in to the contents of the other cans. You will be surprised how quickly you pick up the 'feel" of the dots, and a Braille labeler will help.

Still not exciting enough for you? Well, if it helps, I do think my labeler vaguely resembles the Starship Enterprise.

Years ago there was an office gadget that was called the 'P-Touch." It was used to emboss alpha letter characters on narrow strips of adhesive tape that you could then apply to just about anything so as to easily identify items at a glance. You used it by rotating a dial on top of the unit until you selected the letter you wanted. Then, you pulled the "trigger" and the letter was stamped into the plastic tape. After you completed the label you wanted, the gadget clipped off the length of tape and you affixed it to the file folder or cassette tape or whatever it was you wanted to label.

A Braille labeler works the same way; only the letters are Braille characters. Simply spin the dial to select the letter you want, then pull the trigger and voila! You have an adhesive label to stick on your boxes, cans, files, CD's, cosmetics, electronics...anything. Find it faster with a Braille labeler. Soon you’ll be seeing (or, feeling) spots all over the place. That's my prescription for better organization!

  Click this link to purchase a Braille Labeler from Independent Living Aids.

Copyright 2010 by Laura Legendary

Laura Legendary is a speaker, author and educator specializing in disability awareness, accessibility and assistive technology. Visit Eloquent Insights at to request Laura for your next event. Find Laura's Accessible Insights blog at

APHont For Low Vision Readers

These days, people with low vision have more and more material to read. As our population of senior citizens grows, information previously available only in small print is now commonly prepared in large print. We need to pay attention to how we format material, whether in hard copy or electronic media, to give readers with low vision optimum comfort and greater efficiency.

Studies by Drs. Mansfield, Legge, and Bane at the University of Minnesota show that certain fonts provide significant advantages to readers who have low vision, as well as to those with normal vision. These researchers tested readers using fixed-width fonts, variable-width fonts (proportional), serif (with tails and curlicues) and sans serif fonts to see how they affected reading speeds and acuities. They found that people with low vision had higher reading speeds and better reading acuities when they used sans serif fonts with fixed width. Although differences in speed and acuities were smaller than for the low-vision group, they found the same to be true for readers with normal vision. They concluded that "choice of font could make a significant difference in both normal and low-vision reading performance."1

When you prepare material, you can enhance reading performance by observing a few simple rules. These rules hold true for both people with low vision and those with normal vision. The benefits may be appreciated more by low-vision readers. These rules are:

  1. Employ fonts without serifs (APHont, Verdana, Arial, Helvetica).
  2. Employ fonts with a fixed width (APHont, Verdana, Arial, Helvetica).
  3. Use bold letters whenever possible.
  4. Use APHont, Verdana, Arial, or Helvetica as the default font in electronic media.
  5. Be sure to provide good contrast between the background color and the print color. (Black on white is good, but for many readers white on black--or yellow on black is better.)
  6. Make sure the print size is large enough for your reader to use comfortably.

Fancy fonts and italics may look attractive to you. For the reader with low vision, however, they can be confusing and sometimes impossible to read. When preparing materials for readers with low vision, a simple rule of thumb is: the simpler, the bolder, the better.

1 Mansfield, J. Stephen, Gordon E Legge, and Marc C. Bane. "Psychophysics of reading. XV. Font effects in normal and low vision." Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science. July, 1996.

This article by Elaine Kitchel was reprinted from Technology Update 14 (Fall-Winter 1998): 29-30. Updated 8/2002 (APHont added)

APHont: A Font for Low Vision

APHont (pronounced Ay'-font), was developed by APH specifically for low vision readers.

APHont embodies characteristics that have been shown to enhance reading speed, comprehension, and comfort for large print readers. The entire APHont Suite (Regular, Bold, Italic, and Italic Bold) is available free-of-charge on the APH web site.


  • Higher crossbars.
  • No serifs.
  • Wider letters.
  • Heavier letters.
  • Letters more open
  • Larger punctuation marks.
NOTE: APH makes no claim that APHont is an appropriate font for children who are just learning to read.

How to Request APHont

Before downloading APHont, users must validate that APHont will be used by or for visually impaired persons. Visit to fill out a short verification form. You will then be able to download the font.

APHont for Web Pages

APHont can and has been used on web pages. But there are a couple of issues to examine.

  1. If APHont is not already stored on the viewer's computer in the font files folder, the web page will appear in whatever font is their default font.
  2. APHont is available free to persons who have visual impairments, or those persons serving and preparing documents for them. If other people happen to use the font in that process, for instance if you prepared a document in APHont for an audience that included people with visual impairments and other people with or without other disabilities used the document as well, that would be a fair use of the font.
  3. APHont is available from our website, after the downloader certifies that he/she has a legitimate use for the font. But the font available there is for PC only.

    If a Mac user needs to use the font, they must contact me directly by e-mailing me at and I will send the Mac version. There is no warranty of correct performance with the Mac version because we did not make the Mac font. Click this link for instructions on using APHont on a Mac.

  4. Because APHont is a large format font, it looks best at sizes of 14 points and larger.

You can download the font from here:

APHont embodies all the features that have been proven, through science and testing, to be helpful to persons with visual impairments. Other fonts that are very acceptable for low vision audiences are Verdana and Antique Olive. Many people think Arial is acceptable because it is a font without serifs, but it is not a good one because the letters are far too close together.

The Priority Barrier

by Donna J. Jodhan

I don't think that fellow vision impaired persons would be too shocked to hear mme ask this question: Is there a priority barrier in the midst of our society? What exactly am I talking about? It is this: Do we face a priority barrier because of our blindness? A question that continues to haunt me and one that I hear several others asking on a continual basis.

Whenever a doctor says things like "Well, why should you be concerned with this because you can't see it anyway" it leaves me to wonder. Whenever a doctor deliberately turns away from me and chooses to speak to the person accompanying me, it makes me wonder if they just can't be bothered to speak to me because in their eyes I am either not much of a priority or they do not believe that I can understand what they are saying.

Whenever a customer service person tells me that it is just too costly to send me my statements or other information in an alternate format, it sure makes me feel that I am just not a priority on their radars. When governments cut programs and services that directly affect the well beings of disabled persons it is no wonder that many of us ask ourselves why. Are we not Human Beings? Persons with as much rights as our fellow Canadians? Persons who must be treated equally? For after all, we pay our taxes on time and I don't think that our government would be too amused if we were to say that we would not pay our taxes because we did not feel that we were receiving equal access to information and services.

I have had a few persons telling me in the last few weeks that they have been to meetings where it has been asked if information is going to be available in alternate formats and the overwhelming response has been that it is just too costly to provide information in alternate formats.

Nine out of 10 times, whenever budget cuts and/or job cuts take place both within private industry as well as within government departments, the cuts almost always affect the well being of the disabled. We seem to be one of the first groups to be directly affected. For some reason, we seem to be expendable in the eyes of the majority. I am wondering out loud whether this is due to the general attitude that we are not really considered as contributing members to society; economically as well as socially, probably could never be, so why should we be made a priority?

Could it be that the statement out of sight out of mind would be most suited for this editorial? Could it be that much of society would prefer not to make us a priority because they feel uncomfortable with us and vulnerable because they are afraid of becoming disabled at some point in time in their life? If the picture were angled in a different way to focus on a particular province, a particular religious group, or a particular group of persons based on language or race, chances are that they would most definitely feel the same way about being faced with a priority barrier.

Before you take the big step to call me a negative nagger, I will acknowledge that despite its existence, the priority barrier has become a bit less steep in recent years but it is threatening to rise again and will surely do so if we do not act now to start bringing it down and reducing its size to manageable proportions.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day. If you'd like to learn more about me, then you can visit some of my blog spots at:
Donna Jodhan! Advocating accessibility for all:
Weekly Saturday postings on issues of accessibility:
blogs on various issues and answers to consumers concerns:

Create a Simple Web Page from Email and Share It Within Seconds

Posterous is almost certainly the quickest way to create a web page and get it online.  Post a simple text message, or include additional content such as an MP3 file or a picture.   Unlike traditional blogging and publishing services, such as Blogger or FaceBook, you don't even need to sign up for an account.

Think of something to say, then email it to Within a few seconds, you'll receive a reply telling you the address of your published page. Click on the link, and it's there for you (and the world) to see.  

It really is that easy.  Web publishing doesn't get easier, or quicker, than this.  If you want to show your holiday photos to family or colleagues, or publish the agenda for your next club meeting, this is the simplest way to do it.  

Initially your published page will be given a unique URL, albeit not a particularly friendly or memorable one. It can be changed, just view the page and click on the button to "claim the account".  You can then change the name (the bit before to anything you like, so long as it isn't taken already.  And of course you can assign a password to the account too, so no one else can continue contributing to it.  

Posterous is clearly no substitute for a full-featured web publishing system like Drupal, Joomla or WordPress.  But nothing compares to it for speed.  In the time it takes to send an email, you could publish your message as a web page instead. There are plenty of free places that you can publish content on the web.  Blogger,, MySpace, Facebook, and plenty more.  But for sheer simplicity, Posterous is definitely worth a look.

Click this link to visit

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Are We The Same Because We're Blind?

by Donna J. Jodhan

One of the most embarrassing mistakes that mainstream folks tend to make is this one: They seem to think that all Blind persons are the same; they look the same, walk the same, and even speak the same. Most of them even have guide dogs!

A few years ago, a lady at work told me that she had seen me walking along the hallway and I seemed to be lost. She went on to say that when she approached me to render assistance, I rebuffed her and she wanted to know why. She even accused me of being rude. I was quite taken aback and started to rack my brain trying to recall my whereabouts on that day. I became quite perplexed and concerned because almost all of the time, I go to great lengths to ensure that I am polite to anyone offering assistance to me. After a minute or so, I asked to describe my physical attributes and what I was wearing that day. I will hasten to add that this conversation took place over the phone.

Just imagine my surprise when she told me the following: She described me as having long blond hair, about five feet six inches tall, heavy-set, and wearing a red suit. I let her finish and when she had done so I politely told her that I was five feet two, had jet black hair, and was slim. In addition, I did not own a red suit. Just imagine the silence at the other end. She quickly excused herself and hung up.

You see, much of society honestly believes that most blind persons look alike but I'd like to dispel this myth. The one thing that blind persons have in common is this: We are all visually impaired but this is where it ends. We do not look alike, we have varying degrees of vision loss, we think differently, we speak differently, and some of us use canes to get around while others use guide dogs. It's like saying that all Americans look alike and speak the same. If you take a minute to think about it, it's absolutely laughable and without logic.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day. If you'd like to learn more about me, then you can visit some of my blog spots at:
Donna Jodhan! Advocating accessibility for all:
Weekly Saturday postings on issues of accessibility:
blogs on various issues and answers to consumers concerns:

Monday, April 19, 2010

NIB and the Ballpoint Pen

The basic ballpoint pen stamped with "U.S. Government" is a work day staple for millions of military personnel and federal employees. The pen consists of seven different parts and meets 16 pages of military specifications, including that it be able to write for a mile with no fading or smudging and withstand extreme heat and cold.

For more than 40 years, standard black pens have cluttered the desksof thousands of federal employees, hung on a chain at post offices across the country and slipped into the pockets of countless military personnel. Yet few have realized that this government-issue pen has a history to rival that of any monument. Blindworkers assemble the pens in factories in Wisconsin and North Carolina under the brand name Skilcraft as part of a 72-year-old legislative mandate. The original 16-page specifications for the pen are still in force: It must be able to write continuously for a mile and in temperatures up to 160 degrees and down to 40 degrees below zero. It has been used in war zones and gas stations, and was designed to fit undetected into U.S. military uniforms. Accord ing to company lore, the pen canstand in for a two-inch fuse and comes in handy during emergency tracheotomies.

The unassuming pen stamped with the words "SKILCRAFT U.S. GOVERNMENT"in white letters has endured despite quantum leaps in communications technology that have rendered lesser tools obsolete. Taking over from the fountain pen, it has withstood the adventof the rubberized "comfort grip" and the freely flowing gel ink, not to mention computers, instant messages and smartphones. The U.S. Postal Service alone orders 700,000 a year. Annual production at the Greensboro, N.C., plant has dropped during the past two decades from 21 million pens to about 4 million, but it remains a bestseller among Skilcraft's office supplies.

The National Industries for the Blind is trying to keep it that way by reminding federal agencies that it is the official ballpoint pen supplier to the federal government, even if agencies sometimes buy from other suppliers.

the pen is more performance than pageantry. The original design, brass ink tube, plastic barrel, not shorter than 4 5/8 inches, ball of 94 percent tungsten carbide and 6 percent cobalt, has changed little over the decades. It costs less than 60 cents. The pen's roots date to the Depression. The 1938 Wagner-O'Day Act required the federal government to buy certain products made by the blind, there by creating jobs for a then-marginalized population. First came mops and brooms, but the program eventually expanded to include a full line of cleaning and office supplies under the brand nameSkilcraft. The pens account for about $5 million in sales each year. About 60 percent of business is from the military, but the Agriculture, Commerce and Justice departments are all reliable customers, according to NIB. The pens are primarily issued through government agencies, though civilians can buy them by request through some retailstores.

The pens have spawned their own folklore. The length of the pen is said to be equivalent to 150 nautical miles on Navy maps, helping pilots navigate in a pinch. The metal tip has reportedly been cited as the maximum length for a woman's fingernails in the military.

Article Source:
Ylan Q. Mui
The Washington Post
Sunday, April 18, 2010

Webster’s New World Large Print Dictionary

Easy to read, authoritative, and up to date

No more struggling with the fine print, thanks to the Webster’s New World Large Print Dictionary, which has all the outstanding features of other Webster’s New World dictionaries.

  • More than 60,000 entries, including all the current vocabulary needed for everyday use
  • Technical, scientific, cultural, business, and professional terms
  • Clear, highly readable type
  • Foreign words and phrases often used in English
  • Biographical and geographical entries conveniently included in the main A—Z section
  • Etymologies -- word histories that add depth and historical context to the understanding of a word
  • Appendix with weights and measures, U.S. and Canadian data, U.S. presidents, and books of the Bible

With all this information presented in highly readable type, this is the one large print dictionary that you can’t afford to be without.

From the Inside Flap

"Based on the unique Webster’s New World database, the most up-to-date authority on current American English usage, and set according to the type standards of the National Association for the Visually Handicapped, this Webster’s New World® Large Print Dictionary is the finest reference work of its kind, offering all these features:

  • Completely revised and updated
  • More than 60,000 entries
  • Technical, scientific, cultural, business, and professional terms
  • Biographical and geographical entries included in the main A—Z section
  • Foreign words and phrases often used in English
  • Etymologies -- word histories for those who need more than a simple definition
  • Appendix with weights and measures, U.S. and Canadian data, U.S. presidents, and books of the Bible"

Once you begin using this authoritative, user-friendly reference work, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it! Click this link to purchase from

Website Shows How a Disability Can Save You Money

After raising three children, David Squar and his wife were about to downsize and buy a smaller home.

Looking over the real estate contract, Squar noticed a question in "tiny type" asking whether the house was being purchased to accommodate a disabled person.

The answer was yes. Squar's wife has multiple sclerosis, and they planned to remodel their new home to make it wheelchair-accessible.

Checking the box, it turned out, saves the couple about $1,200 a year in property taxes.

Not even Squar, a longtime escrow agent, had been aware of the discount, which made him wonder if there were other discounts he had overlooked.

As a result of his research, Squar launched, which lists more than 30 types of discounts for the disabled in 50 states, including property tax relief, federal and state income tax disability deductions, and utility discounts. Members pay $25 a year per state for access to the information.

Click this link to visit

Article Source:
The Hartford Courant

Seven Tips To Help Cope With Vision Loss

Dealing with vision loss is challenging. For people with glaucoma, macular degeneration, or another vision problem, low-vision aids can help optimize remaining vision and improve the ability to perform daily activities.

Some examples of low-vision aids are telescopes, closed-circuit televisions (a small television camera is mounted on a movable tray; documents or other objects are moved under the camera and viewed on a small monitor), magnifying glasses, clocks and phones with large numbers, and large-print reading materials. Telescopes and closed-circuit televisions require an evaluation and prescription from an eye care professional as well as training in how to use them.

Many low-vision aids are available through low-vision clinics and low-vision rehabilitation services. Researchers are also testing implantation of a miniature telescope into damaged eyes.

Mild vision impairment has little effect on day-to-day activities, but moderate to severe vision impairment can make it difficult for people to perform common household tasks. Ophthalmologists and low-vision counselors recommend these simple, practical strategies to help patients with low vision maintain their independence.

  1. Always leave doors completely open or completely closed. This reduces the risk of accidentally walking into the door edge if you have low vision.
  2. Tack down loose rugs and use non-slip mats beneath them. Or you can hold down rugs with furniture to prevent slipping and tripping.
  3. Tape a colorful piece of paper to all clear glass doors. If you have low vision, this will help you determine whether the door is open or closed and prevent collisions.
  4. Avoid using glass-topped coffee or end tables. The edges are extremely difficult to see, making bumping injuries more likely if you have low vision.
  5. Mark the important settings on the dials of the stove, washer, dryer, and other appliances using brightly colored tape.
  6. Mark the outer edge of all indoor and outdoor stairs. Use a strip of paint or non-skid material in a color that contrasts with the rest of the step. The strip should extend about two inches from the edge -- both horizontally and vertically -- and should go across the full width of the step. This reduces the chances of tripping or falling on the stairs if you have low vision.
  7. Separate clothes according to color and then use labeled dividers to identify them.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Google Helps You Find Followers on Twitter

In the beginning, there was a Twitter suggested users list. Now Twitter lists interesting users by category, which makes it much easier to find cool people to follow who are into the same things that you are . . . if you don't mind sifting through all the lists, that is.

Thankfully, there's an alternative that will help streamline the following process. Google rolled out Follow Finder, a site that uses your followers and followees to introduce you to more Twitterers. Just enter your Twitter name, and Follow Finder will create a list of people you might like and other users who are following the same people you are. It's a good way to expand your Twitter horizons and beef up your own follow list!

Click this link and find new friends on Twitter:

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Labeling Controls On Household Appliances Using Braille

Labeling the controls on some household appliances may prove helpful. Many modern microwaves have no tactilely detectable buttons. Here Braille labels can serve a dual purpose: not only do they help to locate the function keys, they also identify them. Even if appliances have tactile controls, it may still prove useful to label some of them, especially if you do not want to make the effort to remember many different settings. Thus you may wish to attach Dymo tape labels to your dishwasher, your washing machine, and your dryer. These labels are especially helpful with the type of washing machines, which use a dial to select different wash cycles. You can use little triangle-shaped Dymo tape arrows to point to the beginnings of various stages and place some identifying letters or words nearby.

You will probably not need or want to label every single appliance in your home, especially those that you are already familiar with or others, which are simple to use. But, on the other hand, do not be shy about labeling anything; after all, the manufacturers always include print labels for sighted consumers.

Some complex appliances such as videocassette recorders may require a different approach. In addition to labeling some buttons, you may wish to make note of the layout of the control panel since there may not be enough room to label all keys. You may also want to write down the sequence of steps for operating your machine. As you are programming the VCR, you can then refer to your notes on the procedure. If you have a remote control device with a complicated layout, you may again wish to take notes on the function of each key. After all you will want to take full advantage of the power of your remote control when you are lounging in your recliner, zapping through TV channels.

This excerpt is from "101 Ways To Use Braille" by Ellen Waechtler. The article first appeared in the Summer, 1998, issue of the Braille Spectator, a publication of the NFB of Maryland, and is reprinted with special permission from the author.

Braillable Labels and Sheets from APH

Braillable Labels and Sheets

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 this link to purchase Braillable Labels and Sheets from APH.

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:
APH Shopping Home:

Louis Database of Accessible Materials for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Louis Database and APH File Repository

Produced and maintained by the American Printing House for the Blind (APH), the Louis Database of Accessible Materials for People Who are Blind or Visually Impaired contains complete bibliographic and location information for more than 163,000 titles of accessible materials from over 200 agencies throughout the United States. These items include books in braille, large print, sound recording, and computer file; braille music; and American Printing House for the Blind (APH) products.

Louis is updated daily and is searchable free via the APH website. Persons without Internet access who require reference assistance can contact APH using its toll free number.

Click this link to visit the American Printing House for the Blind home page:

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

How to Order a Subway Sandwich

How to Order a Subway Sandwich

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit
Ordering a sandwich from Subway can be more complicated than the average person would think. There are certain steps that need to be looked at to get that perfect sub.


  1. Decide before you approach the counter what type of bread, meat, and veggie you want. Do not wait until coming to the front of the line to begin deciding. If you are unsure, allow others to order first.
  2. Ask any questions you have before beginning the order process.
  3. Tell the staff the type of bread you would like (Italian, white, wheat, honey oat, Hearty Italian(sprinkled with cornmeal) or herbs and cheese) and if you would like a six inch or footlong. Keep in mind that if you are with a friend, you can buy a footlong sub and share it and still get more than enough to eat. Also available are flatbread and salads.
  4. Tell what type of sandwich you would like. If you don't know the exact name, the staff can help determine what you want. For example you don't know the name of it, but your friend had you try a sandwich with chicken and a sweet sauce. The staff can quickly tell that you want the chicken teriyaki.
  5. Add cheese if desired. Not all Subways carry the same kinds of cheese, and some cheeses look similar, so be specific. Do not just say the white cheese as almost all Subway cheese variants are white.
  6. Decide upon warming. Would you like your sandwich placed in the oven and toasted or microwaved,(Note, Subways in the UK no longer allow the microwaving of sandwiches,only the meats) Toasting a sandwich is a good idea if it is a wet sandwich like meatballs or with a hot meat like steak or chicken. Try cold cut subs hot for a different taste.
  7. Tell the worker what type of veggies you would like on your meal. Be specific a little lettuce or a lot of pickles,.
  8. Order condiments: mayo, mustard, sweet onion sauce, etc. If you're not ordering off the menu, nothing is 'automatically' put on.
  9. Pay at the register the amount you are told. Unless the price seems very unreasonable, do not argue or comment about the price because it is preset by the computer. Unless a wrong item was rung up there is nothing a member of staff can do to change the price. However, if you wish to save money, avoid going for the combo deal. Also, you can ask for water and they will provide you with a free cup.
  10. Say thank you.


  • Be as polite as possible, for the happier the Subway employee is, the better crafted your sub will be.
  • When you have a large order, be extremely polite, especially if it is a busy time.(It's more polite to place large orders over the phone) A tip is always a very nice gesture in thanks for these big orders.
  • Subway has recently introduced an option called "The Works" which includes every veggie offered: lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, pickles, red onions, green peppers, & (optional) jalapenos & banana peppers. This greatly simplifies your order if you want a lot of things, with a few exceptions. For example saying "I want the works with no pickles or hot peppers" is much quicker than saying "I want lettuce, and tomatoes, and cucumbers, and olives and-" etc.
  • If you go during off-peak times (between lunch and dinner and late evening) there are likely to be fewer employees. Therefore, if there is a big line, do not expect to be served quickly. Be nice to the employee(s) because this can be a very stressful situation for them.
  • If you go to the same store often, learn the employees' names and, if not busy, strike up a conversation with them. Friendly, repeat customers make everyone's day better, and if employees like you, they are more likely to bring specials and discounts to your attention.
  • If you think the employee did not put the proper amount of any item (especially meats or cheeses which cost extra), or if you think they are putting on too much, you should politely ask to see the chart that tells each Subway employee the standard quantities. This will better inform you for this and future orders. Each Subway store should have this chart available to the employees, but it is generally behind the counter (not in a public area) so please be polite and patient if making this request.
  • Do not be surprised if you are asked the same question about your prospective sandwich by several different employees. It is rare that the same employee completes more than two or three steps of making your sandwich before getting distracted and wandering off to do something else.


  • Many Subway restaurants do not accept coupons from other franchises. Therefore, do not be surprised when they do not accept your coupon and read it carefully before using. If you have a question, ask them before you use it.
  • Many Subways do not accept checks either so ask about this before the hassle.
  • Do not berate the staff member because they do not have an item you want. Ask to talk with the manager, he/she is the person responsible for ordering supplies and, if asked politely, might get that other kind of cheese or your favorite kind of chips for next week.
  • Do not anger the people who prepare your food. They can make your lunch very unpleasant.
  • DO NOT ATTEMPT TO ORDER WHILE TALKING ON A CELL PHONE! This is extremely rude and will almost definitely lead to your sandwich being made incorrectly.
  • Please don't call cucumbers 'cukes' or 'cucums.' Please.

Related wikiHows

Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Order a Subway Sandwich. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.

Windows 7 and Vista Explained

When I first started working with computers, DOS was the only operating system for PCs. As time passed, I began to understand that the world was moving over to Windows and that I would have to as well.

It took some time for me to build up the courage to experiment with Windows, and with the help of a book called Windows 98 Explained I eventually did learn how to be productive in the Windows environment.

If you are serious about learning Windows with your choice of assistive technology, I strongly suggest you purchase the updated book Windows 7 and Vista Explained, A guide for blind and partially sighted users.

Award-winning and internationally renowned Dr. Sarah Morley Wilkins has been training Windows Concepts to blind and visually impaired users and their trainers since 1993, based on her highly successful Books and diagrams describing the fundamental concepts of Microsoft Windows to blind and visually impaired users.

Her imaginative pioneering books and Training materials provide a thorough grounding in Windows from a non-visual perspective, and are independent of any particular screen-access technology - empowering all users to work independently and with sighted colleagues.

If you're wanting to learn the Windows operating system, click this link to visit the WinGuide website:
Click this link to purchase Windows 7 and Vista Explained from the RNIB website.

Sarah Morley Wilkins' books have also been available at the National Braille Press, use the contact information below to see if they are currently available:

National Braille Press
88 St. Stephen Street
Boston MA 02115
Phone: 617-266-6160
Fax: 617-437-0456

The Lady Vanishes with audio description and closed captions

Stranded in an inn in the Eastern European dictatorship of Bandrika, pretty socialite Iris Henderson (Margaret Lockwood) makes friends with a sweet old governess, Miss Froy (May Witty) and makes enemies with a snotty young musician, Gilbert (Michael Redgrave). As they all board the London-bound train the next day, a blow to the head leaves Iris disoriented. After Miss Froy mysteriously disappears and the trains passengers and crew claim she never existed, Gilbert is the only one who doesnt think Iris is mad. Like all good Alfred Hitchcock films, this 1938 tale is full of entertaining twists. Watch for hilarious British dandies (and cricket fans) Caldicott and Charters, secondary characters who appeared in several other films.

CaptionMax is the world's largest provider of quality audio description, closed captioning, and subtitling. Thanks for watching our fully accessible public domain movies. Be on the lookout for more to come and contact us if you have any suggestions.

Click this link to visit
Click this link to visit CaptionMax on Youtube.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Tangle Toy and Tangle Book Kit

Tangle Toy and Tangle Book Kit

With its infinite knot shapes and variety of colors and textures, the Tangle Toy can be used in various forms to encourage a child to explore, move, and play. The Tangle Toy includes segments that feature bright, primary colors, and each color has its own unique texture. The curved segments may be combined to create contrasting sections which can be twisted and moved to provide a visually interesting object to help catch a child's attention. For a child who is blind, the textures present a tactually interesting target. Because each colored segment has its own unique texture, activities which are generally focused on using specific colors are easily adapted for the child who is blind.

Tangle Book and Toy Kit (includes one large print guidebook and three Tangle Toys):
Catalog Number:1-08750-00

Optional Braille Guidebook:
Catalog Number: 5-08750-00

Replacement Large Print Guidebook:
Catalog Number: 7-08750-00
Click this link to purchase the Tangle Toy and Tangle Book Kit.

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:
APH Shopping Home:

Torsten Brand

The following was posted to and is reposted here for your information. We'd like to thank for gathering the links at the end of this post.

Torsten Brand, one of the most influencial men in the development of accessible cellular phone software, died on April 12, of complications from an operation. He was 45. Torsten attended Universität Hannover in Germany from 1984-1991. In 2002, he partnered with Marcus Groeber and founded Brand & Groeber Communications, which began development of screen reading technology for Nokia phones. In 2004, the startup was purchased by Scansoft, which later became Nuance. He served as the Product Manager for Mobile Applications at Nuance Communications Inc. until his untimely passing. He had most recently led the release of Talks version 5, supporting 5th edition Symbian-based cell phones including touchscreen models. He leaves behind 4 children. A post on the Handytech North America Twitter sums up the feelings of many in saying, "You've done so much for the blind community. We will all miss you." Below is a collection of some of Torsten's interviews from around the net.

Learning Braille is Easier than You Think

Learning Braille is Easier than You Think
By: Kathryn Aqua

As the campers flocked to mail call, Holly heard her name and headed toward the sound of the voice. “Here you go, Holly! Put your hand out!” She stretched her hand forward and felt the soft, smooth paper envelope touch her skin.  

With a big grin, Holly tore open the envelope and pulled out a letter. After a week of camp, she had been feeling a little homesick and looking forward to a letter from home. She could not wait to know what her mom had to say.  

Sliding her fingertips across the paper, Holly’s face fell. The letter was print. She had known it would be print. Her parents did not know Braille. Even so, she hoped sometimes that maybe her mom would surprise her by learning. Now she would have to wait until someone could read the letter to her. Holly sighed. How she hated having to wait! She hated having a reader too. Sometimes her mom wrote private things in her letters and Holly felt embarrassed for another person to read them.  

She counted the pages. Three. It was a long one! She folded the paper and slipped it into her pocket, wondering how long it would be before she found a sighted person who had time to read the news from home to her.  

“Did you get a letter?” Holly’s friend, Ruthie, bumped her left arm.  

“Yeah, but I have to find a reader.”  

“Oh, Too bad,” Ruthie consoled her. “I got one too! My mom says my grandpa is going to come for a visit right after camp is over. I’m so excited! He’s going to take us fishing!”  

“You are so lucky that your mom knows Braille. I wish my mom would learn it. It’s not hard; she just says she doesn’t have time.”  

That night, Ruthie tucked her Braille letter from home under her pillow. As she lay in the dark, her fingers traced the words, “Grandpa is coming” over and over until she fell asleep. Holly put her letter in the pocket of the shorts she would wear the next day. She still did not know what her letter said. Maybe tomorrow someone would have time to read to her.  

Holly was right; learning Braille is not hard. Ruthie’s mother learned Braille right alongside her daughter, with the help of a cheat sheet. Parents can learn Braille by sight. Since we already know the print alphabet, Braille is easy for us to learn.  

Parents sometimes think learning Braille is hard, says Carrie Gilmer, the president of the Minnesota Parents of Blind Children, and a parent of a blind son who is now a university student. “Braille is not something you have to ‘stop and learn,’ you can take a few minutes out of each day to learn a little Braille. There are different levels of knowing Braille. You don’t have to be an expert. It’s okay to use the cheat sheet.”  

The important thing to a blind child is that mom and dad demonstrate that Braille is important, and that their blind child is important enough for them to learn Braille.  

Carrie says she has never heard a blind person say that they did not care whether or not their parents learned Braille. “Either they say, ‘I’m glad my parents learned it,’ or ‘I wish my parents knew it.’” She says children who grow up with parents who never learn Braille tend to feel a sense of isolation from their family. “They feel like Braille is such an important part of their lives, but their parents were not interested enough to learn.”  

When a parent learns Braille, it communicates to the child that their needs and interests are important and valued. It also show’s that the parent values Braille, which can motivate the child to be more accepting of learning it as well.  

Where can a parent go to learn Braille?  

A list of additional resources is listed below, but all you really need is the cheat sheet and you are in business. With the cheat sheet in hand, all you have to do is sit down at the brailler and start. If you make a mistake, flatten the dots with your fingernail, hit the backspace bar and try again.  

The best way to learn Braille is simply to use it. When my daughter does her homework, I sit down with her and pull out my Braille cheat sheet. This is my time to review my Braille. I am available if she needs help with her homework. “Mom, I can’t remember how to spell should.” I remind her. She says, “What is the contraction for that? I remember there is a contraction for should, but I can’t remember it. Is it sh and d?” I check to be sure. Yes, Annmarie, that is correct! She is able to finish her homework with confidence.  

The benefits of learning Braille have been many. Not only can I write little love notes to my daughter and help her with her homework, I can also review her school work. When Annmarie was in public school, her classroom teacher did not know Braille. Sometimes Annmarie’s answer would be marked wrong when it was actually correct. The person who transcribed her work from Braille to print had made a mistake. By checking her work I was able to be sure that Annmarie got the credit she deserved.  

What is stopping you from learning Braille? It’s easy! Go ahead and give it a try! Surprise your child with a Braille love note when he or she gets home from school.  

Resources for Parents to Learn Braille

  1. Talk to your child’s teacher of the visually impaired (TVI). Some vision departments have resources available for teaching parents Braille. Many TVI’s are willing to spend a little time introducing you to the brailler and the alphabet to get you started.
  2. The Hadley School for the Blind offers a free Braille correspondence course for parents of blind children. Visit their website at for more information and a list of available courses.
  3. Just Enough to Know Better from National Braille Press is a great book resource for learning Braille. This guide will give you the Braille basics, along with some flash cards you can put on the refrigerator and a cheat sheet with all of the Braille contractions. To order, just call NBP at 800-548-7323 or visit their website at
  4. The Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and the Blind offer a website called Dots for Families: Ongoing Literacy for Families of Children with Visual Impairments at This website has a series of free lessons to teach parents basic Braille, along with a free cheat sheet you can print out. There are a lot of additional tips for using Braille, including instructions for making designs using Braille, and methods for adapting print books for your blind child.
  5. has free Braille lessons. Another website with free Braille lessons is Braille through Remote Learning at
  6. If you are very ambitious, you might be interested in the free Braille transcriber’s course available through the National Library of Congress at
  7. Because Books Matter: Reading Braille Books with Young Blind Children is a free book for parents available through the KSB Library and Family Support Center. To request your copy, contact Heather Davis, KSB Librarian at or 502-897-1583 ext. 254 or Mitch Dahmke, Family Support Specialist at or 502-897-1583 ext.221.

Human Sexuality Resources

Human sexuality is an important topic that raises lots of questions with those individuals approaching adolescence.

How do people have babies? How do I go about making friends and dating? What is menstruation? What are the differences between the male and female bodies? What is sexual intercourse?

Unfortunately it is also a topic which many people feel uncomfortable addressing. And while sighted individuals may learn much about the physical characteristics of the opposite sex, appropriate and inappropriate sexual expression, and the act of having sex, by watching TV, movies, or the body language of their older peers, the blind and visually impaired need to learn these things in a "non-visual" way.

In this record we will share some information and resources that may be very useful to you when trying to find ways to address this important topic as a parent, as a teacher, or as a friend of a person who is visually impaired.

At the California Transcribers and Educators of the Visually Handicapped Conference 2001, Lynette Ship and Kristina Bao, Psychologists from the California School for the Blind conducted a presentation on Human Sexuality. With Lynette's permission, we have transcribed valuable information that was handed out during their workshop.

As an introduction to the topic, we have transcribed the California School for the Blind Family-life Philosophy:

"Human Sexuality is an integral part of our personality. One's thoughts, feelings, values, ideas, and decisions are entwined and relate directly to how we feel about ourselves and others. This sexuality relates to how we feel about ourselves as males and females, and how, in these roles, we relate to others.

The rights of persons who are visually impaired include the same opportunities, responsibilities, and concerns as those shared whit the general population. This includes the right of sexual expression consistent with normative community standards. Students with visual impairments are often less able to recognize, understand, and express their sexual feelings appropriately. They are, therefore, in need of special guidance and education to help assist them in comprehending their own emotional and sexual development."

To achieve the goal of helping individuals comprehend their emotional and sexual development, Lynette and Christina suggested a Family-life class as part of the education and guidance that the school can provide to the visually impaired person. The following is a list of important topics that educators may address as part of this class:

Family life topics

Emotions: What are they, and how do we identify them
Friendship: What is a friend?
Gender identification and roles
Parts of the body: public vs. private (verbally and tactually)
General and Personal Hygiene
Social behavior and relationships: Difference between
public and private Places: differences between appropriate and
inappropriate places (verbal and non-verbal communication)
Human reproduction: No-coital sexual behavior and intercourse
Birth Control
Sexual Health: Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD's) and AIDS prevention
Homosexuality and bisexuality
Legal and illegal sexual behavior
Inappropriate touching, sexual exploitation, sexual abuse and rape
Adult living life styles
The single life, couples and marriage, group living facilities
Parenting, families-child care
Life cycle: wellness and illness
Aging: death and dying

During the workshop, it was mentioned that Family-life education does not stop at school. The way parents handle issues at home is as important as how they are handled at school. In this respect, the presenters shared some important points to remember when addressing Family-life education at Home:

1. Speak frankly
2. Use correct terminology
3. View parents as partners
4. Discuss school lessons
5. Assist with homework
6. Recognize social taboos and
7. Maintain open communication

To assist parents as well as educators in answering questions and addressing topics, Lynette and Christina provided participants with a comprehensive list of resources. The list includes curricula, books, videos and information on where to find Life-size anatomical teaching figures of the human body.


Bignell, Steven. Family Life Education: Curriculum Guide. Network Publications, Santa Cruz, 1980.

Calderone, Mary & Johnson, Eric. The Family Book About Sexuality. 10 E. 53 Id St., NY, NY 10022.

Calderone & Ramey. Talking with Your Child About Sex. Random House, NY, 1982

Gordon, Sol. The Sexual Adolescent. Duxbury Press, N. Scituate, MA

Johnson & Kempton. Sex Education & Counseling of Special Groups. 2600 1st.St., Springfield, IL 62717

De Spelder & Strickland. Family Life Education Resources for the Elementary Classroom. 1982

Edwards & Wapnick. Being Me (for the Developmentally Disabled) the Hearing & Visually impaired), Socialization and Sexuality Guides. Ednick Communications, Box 3612, Portland, OR 97208

Harris, Roble H. it's perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex & Sexual Health. Candlewick Press, MS, 1996

McKee, Lyn., Blacklidge, Virginia. An Easy Guide for Caring Parents: Sexuality and Socialization. Planned Parenthood: Walnut Creek, CA. 1986

Monat, Rosalyn Kramer. Sexuality and the Mentally Retarded: A Clinical and Therapeutic Guidebook. College Hill Press, San Diego. 1982

Siegel, Peggy C. Changes in You (series and companion guide for teenage boys and girls). Family Life Education Associates, Virginia, 1992.

Human Sexuality: Values & Choices, The Search Institute, 122 W. Franklin, Suite 525, Minneapolis, MN 55404 (not for special learner, but a good junior high program paired with video tapes -adaptable with many special groups.)

McKee & Blacklidge. An Easy Guide for Caring Parents: Sexuality & Socialization. Planned Parenthood, 1291 Oakland Blvd., Walnut Creek 94596


Rodriguez & Birch, James Stanfield. Socialization & Sex Education, The Life Horizons Curriculum Module, Co., Inc 1991 (companion guide to below)

Kempton, Winfred. Life Horizons I & III 12 parts, with 1,000 slides to counsel and teach socialization and sexuality to students who are developmentally and learning disabled. James Stanfield Publishing Co., P.O. Box 41058, Santa Barbara, CA 93140. (800) 421-6534 for catalog. Fax (805) 897-1187

A. Crage. Living Your Life: A sex education & personal development, program for students with severe learning difficulties. LIDA, 1991, order from: Living & Learning, 2195 Turnage St., Salem, OR 97304, (800) 521-3218,

Being with People, a social skills training program featuring video modeling by the New Eticats, James Stanfield Publishing Co., (a funny, very effective teaching aide for friendship & dating skills). (800) 421-6534


The following instructional materials mav be useful in developing instructional activities and/or augmenting and adapting existing sex education curricula:

Life-size anatomically correct teaching figures. Teach-a-Bodies instructional Dolls P.O. BOX 101444 Ft. Worth, TX 76185 817-923-2380

17" anatomically-correct teaching figures. Victoria House Dolls. P.O. Box 663 Forestville, CA 95436 707-887-1516

Rubber models of female and male genitalia. Jackson Pelvic Models. 33 Richdale Ave. Cambridge, MA 02140 617-864-9063

Models of fetus at various stages of development. Nasco West. 1524 Princeton Modesto, CA 95352 209-543-1234

Life-sized female and male instructional charts. Planned Parenthood of Minnesota. Resource Center 12900 Lagoon Ave., Dept. 300 Minneapolis, MN 55408 612-823-6568

Basic Tactile Anatomy Atlas

Basic Tactile Anatomy Atlas

This two-volume set of thermoformed tactile graphics gives a comprehensive overview of the body. Includes the skeletal, muscular, nervous, and endocrine, cardiovascular, lymphatic, respiratory, digestive, urinary, and reproductive systems. Each tactual diagram has braille and print labels accompanied by a brief braille description. A print version of each brailled text is contained in the included Instructional Text. Recommended Ages: 12 and up.

Basic Tactile Anatomy Atlas:
Catalog Number: 1-08845-00

Replacement Instructional Text (regular print):
Catalog Number: 7-08845-00
Click this link to purchase the the Basic Tactile Anatomy Atlas.

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:
APH Shopping Home:

Teen Sexual Health

Here's another resource. From the site:

"Answers to your questions about teen sexual health and sexually transmitted diseases."

Click this link to learn more about Teen sexual health and sexually transmitted diseases from

Find TV Episodes with Google

Google expands their video search engine by adding a TV show filter that allows you to sort videos by season and episode. While YouTube and Hulu remain vastly popular, Google's episode search yields surprisingly impressive results.

Google Video doesn't restrict the results to sites that are licensed to stream TV shows, so many videos come from a variety of sources, from Amazon's Video on Demand service to Russian streaming sites (of questionable legitimacy). Unlike YouTube, which also has content restrictions, Google Video no longer has the option to play videos inline. For longer-running shows like Doctor Who and South Park, the episode search filter proves exceptionally useful.

To use it, just perform your search at Google Video (, then click the Episodes link in the search options sidebar. There's even an option for finding captioned videos!

Article Source:

Optical Braille Recognition: Read Braille with a standard scanner

OBR - Optical Braille Recognition - is a Windows-based software package that allows you to "read" single and double sided Braille documents with a standard scanner. The retrieved information is presented as the text that can be used in all types of Windows applications.

The Braille information in a small letter or a complete Braille Book can be retrieved into computer form in the same easy way, even if you do not read Braille at all.

The recognition from a good quality Braille document is excellent. But even scanning an old worn-out Braille document, the fault frequency is surprisingly low. By using standard Windows functions your Braille handling system will be complete and effective.

Everyone who works with Blind people and does not read Braille will benefit from using the OBR. For example: teachers who do not read Braille, public organisations communicating with Blind individuals and Computerised Braille Libraries.

The scanning process is quick and simple. With just a few commands and in less than thirty seconds, you can receive the text representation of the Braille page, both sides in one scan!

Click this link to learn more or to purchase the Optical Braille Recognition program.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Can We Keep Up with Technology?

by Donna J. Jodhan

It's the story of our lives as blind and visually impaired persons. The constant struggle to keep up with technology is not going to change for the near or even distant future. True it is that there have been significant strides in the past two decades but it does not seem to be quite enough.

When I look back to two decades ago, we were using the beginnings of screen reading technology to work in mainframe environments but since then we have seen the arrival of so many different types of screen reading software, magnifying software and hardware, and self voicing browsers.

In the good old days technological barriers did not seem to be as important as they are today simply because technology over two decades ago was still very much in its infancy. Today however, the landscape has changed dramatically and everywhere we turn there seems to be technological barriers facing us. A little over two decades ago we did not have things to contend with such as the Internet, cell phones, PDAs and other hand held devices, digital devices, and so on. Today, the picture is very much different and forecast for technological growth is one of tremendous spirals with no turning back.

There is no doubt that huge steps have been made in the access technology arena but unfortunately and sad to say, these steps could be seen as pitifully small in comparison to the evolution of mainstream technology. It just seems as if every time there is a breakthrough in the access technology arena, it is quickly wiped out by huge gains in the mainstream technology arena. Sounds familiar? So, how can we work to make these gaps narrower and more manageable?

For one thing, we could start to lobby various levels of government and we can do this by coming together to draw up a plan that is filled with justification and common sense. We need to bear in mind that when we approach the big boys we need to do it constructively, logically, and methodically and we can do this by plotting a straight and narrow path. Above all, we need to develop a strategy that shows others that if we are given the tools to keep up with technology, it would not only benefit us, but many others. For the one thing that I learned from my wise old dad was this: If you want to identify a problem, you can gain valuable points by suggesting a solution and show how it would benefit not just yourself, but others as well.

The path to keeping up with technology is not going to be easy. It will mean engaging in several tasks simultaneously such as: Developing a plan, lobbying the necessary levels of governments and companies, interacting with hardware and software developers, and most importantly of all; convincing them that the plan stands to create a win-win situation for all stakeholders. What would be a very great and pleasant shock is if we can somehow pull this off.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day. If you'd like to learn more about me, then you can visit some of my blog spots at:
Donna Jodhan! Advocating accessibility for all:
Weekly Saturday postings on issues of accessibility:
blogs on various issues and answers to consumers concerns:

Vision Found and Vision Lost

by Donna J. Jodhan

There's not many people who can say that they were lucky enough to have gained some vision after being born blind. This was the case for me as a teen and on a typical fall day my doctor in Montreal informed me that he could give me a corneal transplant in order to improve my vision. Even now after all of these years, my heart still beats like a jack hammer as I recall the memories of it all. True to his word, DR Joel Rosen of Montreal Canada delivered on his promise and three months after the transplant, my world had changed. Going from almost total darkness to sunshine was something that I will never forget. My world had suddenly exploded into a kaleidoscope of colors and I had found myself just literally wanting to see as much as I could. I felt like a kid in Wonderland!

I could see people; my mom and dad and I will never forget the morning when I first discovered that I could see their faces. I rushed into the bathroom and as I gazed dazedly into the mirror I realized that I looked just like mom. I wept for joy and as the tears came pouring down my cheeks I thanked God for having sent DR Rosen to me. I could see the fat snowflakes chasing each other around. I could see the blue skies and the fluffy white clouds. I could see the green grass and the delightful colors of flowers. I could see so much more. Spring in Montreal allowed me to go out and explore; looking at passersby, learning to play basketball and roller skate, and walking down town with my best friend Char.

Some friends took me to a strip bar to see what it was like and what an experience that was. I enjoyed as much as I could and even learned to read and write but the phenomena for the doctors was this; I was somehow able to read print and to this day I can not figure out why. I remember sitting next to my dad on the sofa and reading the sports headlines in the Montreal newspaper as he proudly looked on. Then when I saw my two beloved brothers for the first time! My twin Jeffrey did not look anything like me! He was tall, handsome, and possessed a pair of skinny legs. My older brother Robert was shorter, looked more like me, and looked like a little boy. Then I went around visiting all of my cousins and aunts. What a treat!

I had 25 wonderful years of new vision. I was still categorized as blind but I did not care. I played ice hockey and air hockey. I enjoyed the placid green sea with those lazy white capped waves gently rolling onto the golden sand. I loved the sparkling sun rises and the peaceful sunsets. I enjoyed watching hockey on TV as well as figure skating. My beloved Montreal Canadiens team rushing up the ice in their red jerseys. The silver Air Canada jet bird gliding lazily over a deep blue Caribbean ocean with the sun streaming down on it from above. I learned to draw and paint and do so much more. I never tired of looking at pictures of my beloved granny, my hero Pierre Trudeau, Robert F. Kennedy, JFK JR, and all of those other handsome hunks, too many to mention. Then there were photos of my dogs when I was growing up! Forever imprinted on my mind along with the rest.

25 wonderful years of memories; too many to fit in to 100 suitcases. I will never forget and I thank God, DR Rosen, and all those who helped to make my memories lasting and cherished ones. My world may be dark now but the candles still flicker in my mind. The sparkling sunrises and the peaceful sunsets are still a part of me. The blue skies, golden sand, waves as white as lace, gorgeous flowers, and everything else are still a part of my world. I never got to see granny's gentle expression but her photo lingers in my mind and images of my dearest dad and beloved brother Robert who are now in Heaven will always be with me; in waking hours and in my dreams.

I am one lucky person because I was able to see all of this for a time whereas so many other blind persons would never be able to enjoy it. I think that by now you probably have the picture. Time for me to put away my book of memories for now.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day. If you'd like to learn more about me, then you can visit some of my blog spots at:
Donna Jodhan! Advocating accessibility for all:
Weekly Saturday postings on issues of accessibility:
blogs on various issues and answers to consumers concerns:

Blind Man Breaks Speed Racing Guinness World Record

Turkish blind pop singer Metin Senturk has defied the odds by breaking the world speed record for driving by a visually-impaired person, according to Guinness World Records.

Senturk reached a new record of 181.44 miles per hour, against the wind in his Ferrari F430, with a 600 horsepower engine. The event took place at the runway of an airport in the eastern Turkish town of Urfa.

During the record attempt, Senturk was given verbal instructions by Volkan Isik, a former rally driver, who followed behind him in another car.

Isik was Senturk's eyes, yelling out directions to Senturk who was wearing an earpiece in his helmet as he drove. Senturk's wife was present, watching her husband on the sidelines.

Turkey's famous blind singer, widely known for his sense of humor about his physical disability was officially recognized by Guinness as the Fastest Speed For a Car Driven Blindfolded or Blind. When asked how he felt about breaking the record, Senturk said, "I don't think there is any word to describe this feeling. I am really happy. I know that it was really hard, like a dance with death." And he said he wouldn't be giving up his new crown anytime soon. "We really worked hard and we believed in ourselves and achieved it at the end. No one can take this record from us. Whoever tries to take it, I am going to beat this one by adding 20 more kilometers and this record will stay with us, forever," he told reporters.

Senturk said the attempt was a project of the World's Handicapped Association, which was founded by himself.

The old record was scooped by a British bank manager Mike Newman with a speed of 176.47 mph.

Article Source:
Most Amazing World Records 2010-2009

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Easy to See Balloons

Regular old balloons are so last century; now there’s illuminated balloons.

ILLoom Balloons are just like normal balloons except they have a pull tab at the bottom that activates an internal LED light to light up the balloon. The balloons will stay lit for up to 15 hours, come in 5 different colors and you can blow them up with either air or helium. They are available only in the UK for now.

I’d be curious if these are any brighter or cooler looking than simply sticking a glowstick into a balloon? Well, it might be worth it for a child with low vision to enhance their seeing where the balloons are, and to help them have as much fun with them as their sighted friends.

Click this link to visit

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