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.)


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Digit-Eyes Converts Your iPhone into a Barcode Reader

Digit-Eyes is a cost-effective and powerful software application (app) that works on the iPhone 3Gs. It is set up so you can use it no matter how much sight you do or do not have. It lets you make text or audio labels you can read with your iPhone. It also lets you point your phone's camera at a can on the pantry shelf, find the Universal Product Code or European Article Number and find out what's in the can by automatically and instantly looking the item up in the Digit-Eyes product code database.

With Digit-Eyes, no special hardware is required! All you'll need is the phone you already have, your Internet-connected computer, a package of labels and a regular inkjet or laser printer.

The system consists of three parts:

  1. The free Digit-Eyes website where you create pdf files of your own Digit-Eyes text and audio labels;
  2. Acrobat, a free product from Adobe Systems, used on your own computer to print the labels;
  3. The app for your iPhone, that allows you to:
    • scan standard UPC or EAN codes;
    • read your own text labels with VoiceOver or
    • create your own audio labels.

Harnessing the power of the iPhone and the world-wide web, Digit-Eyes offers unmatched scanning and labeling tools at a fraction of the cost of conventional special-purpose hardware. With Digit-Eyes, all you need is a package of address labels and the phone you already have.

Click this link to visit

Monday, June 28, 2010

Visually Impaired People Can Count Drops

Easy-to-use acoustic sensor for droppers helps visually impaired people to count drops of any liquid, with any dropper.

The acoustic sensor for droppers has a rectangular shape. The sensor area is on the top surface and is marked by a rectangular groove mark, for easy tactile perception. On the bottom surface there is the room for a 9V battery and the product plastic label. The headphone output jack is placed on one side.

Put the headphone in your ear and connect the cable to the device, plugging it in the output jack on the side of the device, which will then switch-on automatically.

Put the device on a table or a flat surface, with the sensor area up. Put a plastic glass on the sensor area, within the rectangular groove mark. No precision is required, but ensure that the bottom of the glass is placed within the mark. Keeping the glass steady with one hand, start dropping the liquid into the glass with the other hand. Anytime a drop falls into the glass, its vibration is amplified by the device and you will hear it through the headphone. The device helps you count drops of any liquid!

For more information, contact:

dr. Raul Pietrobon
V. G. Carducci 35/B
28062 Cameri (NO)
Phone: 0321 51 80 18
Fax: 0321 18 50 900

VA Makes Filing Claims Easier and Faster

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is reducing the paperwork and expediting the process for Veterans seeking compensation for disabilities related to their military service.

VA has shortened application forms to reduce paperwork for Veterans. The new forms, which are being made available on VA's Website at, include:

  • A shortened VA Form 21-526 for Veterans applying for the first-time to VA for disability compensation or pension benefits. This form has been cut in half - from 23 to 10 pages. It is immediately available to Veterans via Web download, and will be available through VA's online claim-filing process later this summer at
  • VA Form 21-526b for Veterans seeking increased benefits for conditions already determined by VA to be service-connected. This new form more clearly describes the information needed to support claims for increased benefits.

In order to make the claims process faster, VA has also introduced two new forms for Veterans participating in the Department's new fully developed claim (FDC) program, which is one of the fastest means to receive a claims decision.

Gathering the information and evidence needed to support a Veteran's disability claim often takes the largest portion of the processing time. If VA receives all of the available evidence when the claim is submitted, the remaining steps in the claims-decision process can be expedited without compromising quality.

To participate in the FDC program, Veterans should complete and submit an FDC Certification and VA Form 21-526EZ, "Fully Developed Claim (Compensation)," for a compensation claim, or a VA Form 21-527EZ, "Fully Developed Claim (Pension)," for a pension claim.

The forms were designed specifically for the FDC program. These six-page application forms include notification to applicants of all information and evidence necessary to "fully develop" and substantiate their claims. With this notification, Veterans and their representatives can "fully develop" their claims before submission to VA for processing.

Along with the application and certification, Veterans must also submit all relevant and pertinent evidence to "fully develop" their claims. A claim submitted as "fully developed" may still require some additional evidence to be obtained by VA, to include certain federal records and a VA medical examination.

VA provides compensation, pension, education, loan guaranty, vocational rehabilitation, employment, and insurance benefits to Veterans and their families through 57 VA regional offices.

Disability compensation is a tax-free benefit paid to a Veteran for disabilities that are a result of -- or made worse by -- injuries or diseases that happened while on active duty, active duty for training or inactive duty training. Pension is a benefit paid to wartime Veterans with limited income, and who are permanently and totally disabled or age 65 or older.

For additional information, go to or call VA's toll free benefits number at 800-827-1000.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Audio Defibrillator for the Blind

by Jasper Hamill

She’s already shown Scotland that blindness is no barrier to becoming a successful DJ …

But now Jill Daley has proved the visually impaired can become life-savers as well.

The 33-year-old radio presenter has been learning how to use techniques to help resuscitate people who are suffering heart attacks.

Staff at Clydebank’s Golden Jubilee hospital demonstrated that defibrillation units, used to treat heart problems by giving electrical shocks, can be used easily by blind people.

The machines come with written instructions but also have technology which gives audio instructions, meaning a blind person could use one in an emergency.

Jill, who also learned CPR, which is used on heart attack victims, said: “I didn’t have a clue about CPR or defibrillation machines before this.

“Now, if someone collapsed, immediately after complaining of chest pains, I would now know precisely what to do.

“These skills are important not just for blind people, but for everybody.”

She added: “I now know what to do if someone is having a heart attack and I also know that a blind person can use a defibrillation machine in, say, a shopping centre or suchlike.”

Defibrillation machines are kept in public areas in case of heart attacks.

Jill was taught at the Golden Jubilee Hospital, Clydebank by Calum Cassidy, a resuscitation officer, and cardiology nurse Joanne Kelly.

As a visually impaired person, Jill claimed she might notice vital signs in a patient.

She said: “I would notice little things that others might not. So I would be able to check someone’s breathing by the feel of their chest going up and down or by feeling their breath on my face. “It showed me there are no reasons why someone with visual impairment couldn’t do a CPR course and save someone’s life.”

She did the course as part of the Fun Friday section on her radio show on Insight Radio, a charity station staffed by blind and visually impaired people.

Her previous challenges have included driving a tank, fire-breathing and helicopter flying.

Jill lost her sight at 19 as a result of diabetes but has forged a successful career in radio.

Click this link to visit

Article Source:
Evening Times

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Personalized Books

Here's a sweet site I just ran into called MeeGenius. The site contains a library with books for kids that can be read on the site itself, over the iPhone, or through the iPad.

The books come with audio playback and word highlighting, and can be personalized just the way you like them. Meaning, your kid's name can be added to the book story in a snap. For example, you can change the character names in Little Red Riding Hood to the original names in your family and make the story your own.

The children's book reader app for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad has the same functionality, (audio playback, word highlighting and auto-play). The books are displayed on a digital bookshelf and your child can simply choose his favorite book when the app is launched.

Best of all, you can read all the books at the site for free. Or download the iPhone/iPad apps (for a decent price).

Click this link to visit the MeeGenius Library at

Book By You

Now, if you're looking for something for your sweetheart, this site has something you'll find very interesting.

"Enjoy the adventure of starring in your very own personalized novel! You co-author our books by providing the names and features to include in your personalized novel. These  are full-length, 100 to 200-print page books that look and feel just like classic paperback novels."

For two years, I got one of these for my wife for Valentine's Day and she loved them! I highly suggest them to anyone who's looking for something different for that special someone.

Click this link to build your own book at

On the Way to Literacy: Early Experiences for Visually Impaired Children

This newly revised handbook and series of 18 storybooks contain vital information and activities to enhance the development of literacy in young blind or visually impaired children.


Handbook for parents and teachers addresses communication, hand skills/tactual exploration, concepts, and book experiences. Recommended ages: birth to 5 years.


Storybooks introduce large print, tactile illustrations, and braille. Illustrations provide opportunities to use finger and hand skills. Recommended ages for storybooks: 2 1/2 to 5 years, except Gumdrop Tree.

WARNING for Gumdrop Tree: Choking Hazard -- Small Parts. Not intended for children ages 5 and under without adult supervision.

How On the Way Is Sold

The handbook and storybooks can be purchased separately or as sets. The books in the sets are grouped together for your ordering convenience, and are not sequential in terms of level of difficulty.

On the Way Storybooks with Real Objects and Textures

Giggly-Wiggly, Snickety-Snick (Set III)
Giggly-Wiggly, Snickety-Snick

Words capture a range of tactile experiences -- bumpy, smooth, crunchy, etc. Envelopes on the pages can be filled with real objects (not included).
Catalog Number: 6-77502-05 Click this link to purchase Giggly-Wiggly, Snickety-Snick.

Something Special (Set I)
Something Special

A young child searches for a lost possession; features objects fixed to the book pages.
Catalog Number: 6-77500-05
Click this link to purchase Something Special.

That's Not My Bear (Set II)
That's Not My Bear

A well-loved teddy bear is lost and cannot be replaced. The special bear and others offered by the family are represented by furry shapes.
Catalog Number: 6-77501-01
Click this link to purchase That's Not My Bear.

Geraldine's Blanket (Set II)
Geraldine's Blanket

A girl's treasured blanket becomes worn and patched over time, but is never outgrown. Squares of fabric illustrate the fate of the blanket.
Catalog Number: 6-77501-02
Click this link to purchase Geraldine's Blanket.

On the Way Storybooks Illustrated with Thermoforms (molded plastic shapes)

Jennifer's Messes (Set I)
Jennifer's Messes

Thermoforms of familiar objects such as breakfast cereal, pretzels, and crayons illustrate the messes made by Jennifer.
Catalog Number: 6-77500-06
Click this link to purchase Jennifer's Messes.

Jellybean Jungle (Set III)
Jellybean Jungle

A counting rhyme about a magical jungle filled with jellybeans. From one to ten, the jellybeans appear in rows for easier counting. Scented stickers included.
Catalog Number: 6-77502-01
Click this link to purchase Jellybean Jungle.

Gobs of Gum (Set I)
Gobs of Gum

A rhyming story about "big blobs, small gobs, and sticky icky strings of bubblegum."
Catalog Number: 6-77500-08
Click this link to purchase Gobs of Gum.

Roly-Poly Man (Set I)
Roly-Poly Man

A young child creates a "roly-poly" figure from pieces of clay.
Catalog Number: 6-77500-07
Click this link to purchase Roly-Poly Man.

Thingamajig (Set III)

Jamie is a collector of "thingamajigs" -- coins, marbles, buttons, and other common objects. His treasures introduce the concept of grouping items, and identifying missing items.
Catalog Number: 6-77502-04
Click this link to purchase Thingamajig.

On the Way Storybooks with Raised-Line Drawings

The Longest Noodle (Set I)
Longest Noodle

A child finds the world's longest noodle. Raised lines illustrate a shoelace, a jump rope, etc.
Catalog Number: 6-77500-01
Click this link to purchase the Longest Noodle.

The Blue Balloon (Set II)
Blue Balloon

A special balloon takes on extraordinary shapes and performs amazing feats. Illustrated with brightly colored, raised balloon shapes.
Catalog Number: 6-77501-03
Click this link to purchase Blue Balloon.

The Littlest? Pumpkin
Littlest Pumpkin

When the littlest pumpkin in the patch isn't chosen to become a jack-o'-lantern, things seem very bleak -- until a child discovers his hiding place! Raised lines and die-cut foam pumpkins.
Catalog Number: 6-77504-00
Click this link to purchase the Littlest Pumpkin.

That Terrible, Awful Day (Set I)
That Terrible, Awful Day

A young child's popsicle gets smaller as everyone shares a taste.
Catalog Number: 6-77500-04
Click this link to purchase That Terrible, Awful Day.

The Caterpillar (Set I)
The Caterpillar

A visually impaired child discovers something in her backyard. Has raised line drawings of a hand, foot, steps, and a fuzzy fabric caterpillar.
Catalog Number: 6-77500-02
Click this link to purchase The Caterpillar.

Silly Squiggles (Set I)
Silly Squiggles

A wormlike creature stretches, squeezes, and squirms into various shapes in this rhyming story.
Catalog Number: 6-77500-09 Click this link to purchase Silly Squiggles.

The Gumdrop Tree (Set III)
The Gumdrop Tree

A tree which grows from a gumdrop! The raised-line drawings depict the growth of the tree. The gumdrops are shown in a row, circle, square, etc. Includes scented stickers. For ages 5 years and up.
Catalog Number: 6-77502-03
Click this link to purchase The Gumdrop Tree.

Bumpy Rolls Away (Set I)
Bumpy Rolls Away

Bumpy the Ball rolls down a hill, down steps, onto a sidewalk, along an alley, and into a box.
Catalog Number: 6-77500-03
Click this link to purchase Bumpy Rolls Away.

Special On the Way Book Lets Children Create a Story About Themselves

Book About Me (Set I)
Book About Me

A "Me Book" for children to create, with fill-in-the-blank sentences in braille and print, and space to add illustrations and text.
Catalog Number: 6-77500-10
Click this link to purchase the Book About Me.

On the Way to Literacy Book Sets

On the Way? to Literacy: Complete (Set I)

On the Way to Literacy: Book Set I

One print handbook and one each of: Something Special; Jennifer's Messes; Gobs of Gum; Roly-Poly Man; The Longest Noodle; That Terrible, Awful Day; The Caterpillar; Bumpy Rolls Away; Silly Squiggles; Book About Me. 10 storybooks total.
Catalog Number: 6-77500-00
Click this link to purchase On the Way to Literacy: Book Set I.

On the Way? to Literacy: Complete (Set II)

On the Way to Literacy: Book Set II

One each of: That's Not My Bear, Geraldine's? Blanket, The Blue Balloon. 3 storybooks total.
Catalog Number: 6-77501-00
Click this link to purchase On The Way to Literacy: Book Set II.

On the Way? to Literacy: Complete (Set III)

On the Way to Literacy: Book Set III

One each of: Giggly-Wiggly, Snickety-Snick; Jellybean Jungle; Thingamajig; The Gumdrop Tree. 4 storybooks total. Gumdrop Tree 5 years and up.
Catalog Number: 6-77502-00
Click this link to purchase On the Way to Literacy: Book Set III.

On the Way to Literacy Handbook and Related Video

REVISED! On the Way to Literacy Handbook, 2nd Edition

On the Way to Literacy Handbook

This extensively updated handbook guides teachers and parents in supporting a young child's first steps towards literacy. Each edition includes a CD of accessible files.

Catalog Number: 8-77520-00

Catalog Number: 6-77520-00
Click this link to purchase On the Way to Literacy Handbook, 2nd Edition 2.

On the Way to Literacy: APH SoundPage

APH SoundPage

The APH SoundPage, an OWTL storybook accessory, allows readers to create their own sound effects and recordings. Slotted to hold up to three eight-second digital recording/playback devices (two included in basic set, with additional devices sold separately), the page can be clipped into the 3-ring binder of any OWTL storybook. The User's Guide contains suggestions for use as a part of story reading, as well as suggesting other uses for the recording device.

APH SoundPage:
Catalog Number: 6-77505-00

Replacement Item:

Additional Digital Recording Device:
Catalog Number: 6-77505-01
Click this link to purchase the On the Way to Literacy: APH SoundPage.

Related On the Way Product: Pumpkin Puzzles

Pumpkin Puzzles

APH offers two pumpkin puzzles related to the On the Way to Literacy book The Littlest Pumpkin. These puzzles, sold as a set, depict the Littlest Pumpkin and another jack-o'-lantern face. Orange and black foam puzzle pieces are reversible.
Catalog Number: 1-08835-00
Click this link to purchase the Pumpkin Puzzles set.

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:

Kiddie Records Weekly

Welcome to Kiddie Records Weekly, Classics from the Golden Age. Their purpose is to share those classic stories with you and your children, or your grandchildren. Come here to listen to these classics with them.

All the past weeks are archived so you can spend quite some time here surfing through this collection. From Roy Rogers to Woody the Woodpecker there are some famous voices to grace your ears with.

I remember listening to these kinds of records on my record player, and going to the grocery store to get a new "Peter Pan" record. Sometimes the records came with "Read Along" books. I used to check the records out of the library every weekend as well. I want for my children and their children to be able to share the experience, even if it is through an mp3 file on the internet.

They are doing us a great service in preserving what was on these records for future generations. To surf this site you can use the side menu or you can click on the record album covers to visit different sections of the archive.

You'll notice that the albums are scheduled ahead too by date. So you have a good idea of when you want to come back for a certain album. This site is a treasure, don't you think it is time to go treasure hunting?

Click here to visit the Kiddie Records Weekly home page:

Another great site for classic records is the Children's Vinyl Record Series. From the site:

"There were a number of children's record series (vinyl records) sold in the US during the 1950's and 1960's. Among them were Tale Spinners for Children, Golden Records, Mercury Storyteller, Pathways of Sound, Telegeneral Let's Pretend and Riverside Wonderland." MP3 files can be downloaded by visiting this site! Click here to visit the Children's Vinyl Record Series website.

Stories for Kids from the Denver Public Library: Grades 0 to 4

Denver Public Library's Podcasts for Kids is a constantly-growing story resource from a variety of authors including Beatrix Potter. There are also folktales, fairy tales, interviews, songs, news, nursery rhymes, and story time favorites. Teachers First has a review and suggestions on using this site In the Classroom.

Click this link to visit Stories for Kids from the Denver Public Library at

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Text-To-Speech Reader For Public Domain Classics on the iPad

As far as iPad ebook readers go, iBooks is probably the most beautiful one, and in terms of design there are far worse looks an aspiring reader app could ape. And that's just what vBookz did: it took iBooks' look, adding a few flourishes like ribbon bookmarks, and gave it the gift of text-to-speech.

For those who didn't follow Kindle text-to-speech saga, here's the jist: authors didn't think that buying the rights to read their ebooks necessarily gave readers the right to listen to those ebooks. It got messy. But vBookz sidesteps that whole business by including books from the Gutenberg Project, which are public domaine.

Now public domain isn't just esoteric old stuff, it's good old stuff. Mary Shelly's Frankenstein, Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, all of these are in the public domain and included in the vBookz download, and an in-app store lets you seek out and download the other 20,000 ebooks in the public domain. And then it reads them to you.

You can adjust the rate of speech and choose between a man or woman's voice. Impressively, a magnifying bar rolls over the words as they're read, allowing you to follow along with the speech. The $5 app also allows readers to purchase access other languages, potentially a powerful tool for someone learning a second language.

Click this link to purchase vBookz from the iTunes App Store.

Add Universal Keyboard Shortcuts to Windows Media Player

If you use a standard keyboard without media keys, or want universal access to Windows Media Player when it's in the background, WMP Keys is the perfect plug-in. It sets customized, universal shortcuts for playing and rating WMP tracks.

Close down Media Player, install WMP Keys, then open it back up and head to your Options. In the "Background" category in your Plug-Ins menu, enable WMP Keys, and hit Properties if you want to venture beyond the defaults, which generally involve Ctrl+Alt key combos.

WMP Keys is, best of all, a free download for Windows systems. Click this link to download WMP Keys from Microsoft.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Tired of Windows Update Nagging? Tell Windows to Leave You Alone!

If you like the convenience of automatic updates but not the irritation of Windows nagging you to reboot your machine, Leave Me Alone! is a simple workaround that requires no registry editing or disabling of Windows update.

Microsoft likes to “help out” by installing patches in the middle of the night.  That is a good thing.  But whatever goodwill they earn with this convenience is immediately destroyed when first thing in the morning a “reboot computer” message appears.  And appears… and appears… If you choose Restart Later, it waits about 10 minutes and then pops this screen up again.  Argggh!

When you run it and click the "Leave Me Alone" button, it temporarily turns off the source of these restart messages. It is certain to boost your productivity when the constant nagging starts, reminding you that your computer needs to be restarted for the updates to take effect.

Leave Me Alone! is freeware, Windows only. Click this link to download Leave Me Alone!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Microsoft Tool Helps Developers Create Programs Viewable by the Visually Impaired

Microsoft’s Innovation Labs in Israel has made available for download a technical preview of Digital Lens, a tool for developers interested in making their applications viewable by those with certain vision impairments.

Digital Lens emulates conditions like color blindness and blurry vision, enabling designers and developers to identify potential user-interface issues and fix them before they release their applications.

The tool is available for 32-bit Windows 7 only. Digital Lens also requires users to have an Aero Theme enabled in order to work correctly.

Blind Insurance Adjuster Has Seen it All

by John Christie

Mary Jo Seller fills out incident reports for the Schmitt Adjustment Service. She takes general liability, property, and auto reports from insurance companies from as far north as Freeport, Illinois, to parts of southern Illinois/Indiana, and west to Grinnell, Iowa. Whether it involves a minor fender-bender, a fire, storm damage, broken bones and, yes, the neighbor’s dog damaging the pool lining–she has taken the report.

Using a tape recorder, Seller records the initial report and then goes back to fill out the necessary forms later on. By using a tape recorder, she gets all the information that the person is telling her on tape and doesn’t have to worry about having the person repeat the information. If she was writing everything down, the whole process would take much longer. If she decided to utilize current technology for the blind, she could easily record her information on the Victor Reader Stream.  

Seller also handles the run of the mill calls. “If I am not able to answer a question or assist someone, I usually take a message and give it to the adjuster,” she said.

She also said that having no prior experience in the insurance business has been a learning experience for her.

Seller seems to like her job even though she had no prior experience doing it because the job has made her grow. The job has also fulfilled a need for her to work and be self-sufficient. The bottom line is that even though she’s blind, she wants to be like everyone else and work and have a fulfilling life.

Article Source:
Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Marking Your Mail

One of the hardest tasks for a blind or visually impaired person to do is keeping track of their old mail. At least for me it is. I can have somebody read to me my new mail, but if later I want to read the mail that I left for later reading, I would have to find another person to assist me in finding those again.

One way I found to avoid this problem is to open the envelope carefully so that the flap is still in one piece and use this part of the envelope to mark it with a brailler or with the slate and stylus. If for some reason the flap ripped when being opened you can always mark on the envelope itself.

I mark the envelope with the name of the sender and the date I opened it (For example: Telephone Company, June 29, 1999).

I found that this way I can go back on my own to look for what I need to have re-read again and not waste time trying to look through the pile a second or third time.

In addition, once I have prepared my bills to be mailed, but don't want to mail all of them at once, I look for small discrepancies among the envelopes in order to recognize them as to which is which. For example, some of them may have a cellophane window, others may have a window, but without the cellophane, or the texture of the paper some may be rougher than other envelopes may be.

Contributor: Mario Eiland

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Let's Get Linked In

by Martin Courcelles

Social media never seems to end.  Today, we'll be talking about a service called LinkedIn.  This is sort of like Facebook, but for professionals.   


As with all social media, you need to sign up for this service as well.  So let's do it. 

Go to the following link:

If using the JAWS for Windows screen reader, press INSERT+F7 and then the letter F until you hear "Join Today" and press ENTER.

Now, a simple form will show up.  Fill out your first name, last name, email address and password. Tab to the "join Today" button and press ENTER.  

Now, we get to the fun.  Yet another new form. Type in the required information and press ENTER on the "continue" button.  Information in this area is important so you can get matched up with your work colleagues.   

Next, we get to LinkedIn's way of finding your contacts.  I will let you explore this on your own, as each method is different.  Or for those of you who don't want to do this, just tab to the "Skip this step" and press ENTER.  

Confirming your account:

To make sure that you're truly a human, they have sent a message to your email account.  Go there open the message and press ENTER on that link to confirm your LinkedIn account.  A new page will open.  Press ENTER on the confirm button.   

Do you know these people?

We're almost done here.  LinkedIn will now try to generate a list of people you may know.  My fictitious account did not generate anybody I know, so I guess that's a good thing.  Again, you can go through this page to see if you know anyone, or just press ENTER on the "skip this step" link.  

Final Step:

This is more my style.  The final form lets you fill out email addresses of people you know.  They don't even have to be in the system.  Just list all email addresses and separate them with commas.  Tab to the "Save invitations" button and press ENTER.   

Accessing your LinkedIn Account:

So you're done, what now? 

Well, the first thing I would suggest is visiting the settings page, just to make sure that everything, including the privacy settings are set up to your liking.  You can also update your profile and do searches to find more people to add to your list of contacts.  Spend a bit of time exploring.   

Alternate way to access LinkedIn:

Yes, there is indeed a different way to access this service.  Visit:

This is a very stripped down version of the main site.  Unlike the minimalist version of Facebook where you have access to pretty much everything this version of LinkedIn is missing the Inbox, hardly has anything under settings and you can't make any changes on your profile.  However, there are good things.  The "updates" page  is very easy to navigate; complete with shortcut keys.  Searching for new people to add is also straightforward.  The "contact" page is also useful to create new messages that utilize your favourite email package instead of the online web mail.   


LinkedIn is another way to connect yourself to work colleagues and other professionals.  It's amazing what you can find utilizing such a system.  The mobile version of the webpage is useful for quick access to your updates, new contact searches and finding of email addresses.   

See you on LinkedIn.

Article Source:
AccessContent Blog

be-B: Braille Education Ball

Danielle Pecora has created the be-B (Braille Education Ball) that allows users (both blind and sighted) to learn Braille letters in a fun and playful way! The ball has 26 magnetically attaching pegs on it (one for each letter of the alphabet). One side of the peg has a Braille letter on it, while the other side shows the corresponding Latin letter. The ball also has 26 indented circles on it, each with a Braille letter. There is a raised line on the side of each peg and underneath each Braille letter on the ball to orient users as to which side is down. The object of the "game" is to match each Braille peg to its corresponding spot on the ball. The toy also has an electronic device in it that "speaks" the letter that is touched on the ball and which emits a chime when a Braille peg is correctly matched with its corresponding letter on the ball. Both fun and educational, be-B is a toy that turns learning into a challenging game that engages multiple senses and encourages cognitive development. Suitable for ages 3 and up.

Click this link to learn more about this future product and its designer.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Shape Board from APH

Shape Board

The revised Shape Board has proportional shapes that contrast brightly against the yellow pegboard. Students learn to discriminate, sort, and classify different geometric figures according to size, shape, color, or position on the pegboard. Also aids in understanding up, down, right, and left.

This kit consists of 25 geometric figures and a board with three columns of five pegs. It includes five different shapes (square, rectangle, triangle, circle, and pentagon) in small, medium, and large sizes. Print and braille instructions are also included.

Recommended ages: 4 years and up.

Catalog Number: 1-03710-01
Click this link to purchase the Shape Board 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:

Look Up Amazon Products By Size

Don't you hate when you buy an appliance or piece of furniture that doesn't fit the space you have in your house or apartment? It happened to me with a stove several years ago. I wish I had been able to use this website to help.

From the website:

“ lets you search through products by size. Our mission is to make it as easy as possible to find the products that fit your space, be it furniture, home electronics or even large appliances. You can find all the products you need for your new apartment in a size-friendly search environment.”

How cool is that? Now, if you're like me and you're not sure how to measure that new thing you want to purchase, you will be pleased to know that a measuring guide is available.

Click this link to visit

Burn CD Images with ISOBuddy

Ever download a file with a really weird disc image extension (MDF? PDI? B6I?) and no clue how to get at it? ISOBuddy is there for you. It burns or converts nearly any image file, even the Mac-specific DMG.

ISOBuddy is as simple to use as it is wide-ranging in its compatibility. Point it at the file you're sure is a disc, but your system isn't sure how to handle, and tell it where you want the output file to go, or hit Burn to load it onto a disc. It covers all the super-specific formats put out by specialty burning software, and as stated above, can convert and burn Mac DMG files. Once you've got an ISO out of ISOBuddy, you can usually burn it from any burning program you prefer, or use a compress/decompress tool like 7-Zip to view and extract its contents.

ISOBuddy is a free download for Windows systems only. Click this link to visit the DVD-Ranger website to learn more about ISOBuddy.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Free Credit Counseling and Financial Tools

When your debt stress begins to spiral out of your control, credit counseling can sometimes be the answer—if you can find a reputable group. CredAbility provides many free services, and are available 24/7 to help you strengthen your finances.

Formerly known as CCCS Atlanta, has long provided ways for you to get financial advice, whether via telephone or at one of their locations in the southeastern US. They even offer live chat on their web site, allowing you to talk to someone instantly and get advice on formulating a plan of action to ease your financial stress. Their services include budget and credit counseling, foreclosure prevention, and housing pre-purchase education. They even offer a number of tools on their website, like an auto loan calculator, credit card calculator, and even a financial dictionary.

What further separates CredAbility is that most of their services are free, unlike a lot of the less reputable groups out there that charge upfront fees. They will charge a small fee when helping you work with bankruptcy, and a monthly fee when using a debt management plan, however. They've been around for a long time and have a number of knowledgeable people at the ready, so whether you need just a bit of advice or an all-out planning session, they're a resource worth checking out.

Click this link to visit

Friday, June 11, 2010

World’s First Talking TV Now a Reality

by Andy Sennitt

TVs that can talk to their owners are now a reality thanks to British high-tech company, Ocean Blue Software. Expected in UK stores by the end of the summer, the company’s low cost text-to-speech technology, dubbed “Talk@TV”, is being built into set top boxes from Korean company, Arion Technology, which will be branded and distributed by major retailers in the UK from August.

The new set top boxes are like regular Freeview or satellite boxes, but will be able to talk to their blind or partially-sighted owners – advising, via speech technology, the TV programming schedule, for example what’s on and when. Owners will be able to adjust the speed and verbosity of the voice to suit their needs, choose to enlarge or reduce font sizes and change background and text colours. A re-designed and easy to use remote control will also be included.

The technology has been developed in partnership with digital TV chip giant, STMicroelectronics, whose processors lie at the heart of most TVs and set top boxes. Phase two of the development will introduce voice activation technology to allow owners to talk back to their TV sets – “channel up”, “channel down”, “volume up”.

Ocean Blue’s Talk@TV will be available in different languages and dialects; the UK version supports both the Scottish Gaelic and Welsh language for example. The technology behind Talk@TV is a derivative of the pioneering work and development between the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) and Ocean Blue over the last three years. The development won an IABM Award for Excellence in Design and Innovation, was nominated for a Royal Television Society award and shortlisted for an IMS TV Innovation award in the USA.

The Arion Talking set top box will be available in a number of UK retailers.

(Source: Ocean Blue Software/Arion Technology)

After this article was posted, I received the following email:

It is neither the first or, if you believe "open" is better, the best. There is an open source project in Spain that has already released firmware for several decoders with TTS (in Spanish and English) and other accessibility features. You can read about it at (in English) and download the firmware at

(it is in Spanish but you can get Google to translate it).

It will also be sold by a number of set top box makers later this year.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

More Video Games Needed for Persons with Special Needs

by Donna J. Jodhan

As an avid computer games player, I'm constantly seeking ways to scream the message to video game developers that they should be focusing some well needed attention on developing video games to meet the demands and needs of consumers with special needs. When I was growing up it was difficult for me to find mainstream games that I could play let alone enjoy. I remember having to find ways to either invent my own games or ask a sighted friend or family member to help me play.

Things have improved a lot since then but I do believe that things could be much better. Before anyone goes off on a tangent, let me define what I mean by making it easier for persons with special needs to play video games. At the present time, almost all of the attention is focused on catering to mainstream players. Those players who can appreciate those glitzy and fancy graphics, those players who have the ability to carry out quick hand-eye movements, players who are blessed with super hand-eye coordination, and players who can use their hands, eyes, and ears to enjoy video games. However, what about those players who do not possess eyesight? Those players who are unable to use their hands? Those players who can't hear very well? Those players who have difficulty seeing the screens? In short, blind persons and disabled persons.

More and more aging baby boomers are getting into the video game trend and it would be wise for video game developers to keep this in mind because much sooner than later aging baby boomers are going to become your main customers and then what? With an aging population comes the fact that more and more persons are going to be suffering from disabling diseases, vision and hearing loss, plus much more.

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:

Unable to Spot Leaks

by Donna J. Jodhan

Spotting leaks for me is probably one of the most trying things in my life. A few weeks ago as I was sitting on my bath tub, I was alerted to the fact that there was a leak in my bathroom. You see, my meditation was interrupted by a big fat drop of water that fell onto my head. So, up I got and climbed onto the side of my bath tub to investigate. I moved my hands cautiously around on the ceiling and soon and sure enough, I was right! Two of the tiles on my ceiling were completely water logged and had begun their final journey downward.

Now, had I not been assaulted by that bold and presumptuous drop of water, I probably would never have known that such a leak existed and what could have happened is anyone's guess. Probably, the tiles would have fallen either on me or in my bathroom making a real mess. If I were able to see, chances are that I would have spotted this leak long before the big fat drop of water warned me but that's life for me. The same thing would apply if the leak had come from down below. That is, from my own toilet. I probably would have felt the water first before knowing about it.

In the world of a blind person, we are often warned by touch after the leak has started whereas for the sighted world leaks are often spotted visually. Or, we are treated to the sensation of wetness or powdery stuff that tells us that a leak has indeed made its way into our world. So, how do I deal with spotting leaks? Not easy for me but I do need to take precautions. I am always listening for running water if I have not myself initiated it. In the kitchen, my hands are constantly roaming along the bottoms of mugs, cups, plates, saucers, pots and pans, shopping bags, plus more. I am constantly feeling my way along my counters and dressers to ensure that nothing has leaked out of rice, pasta, salt, and sugar canisters and I am constantly checking bottles and jars.

I check my fridge regularly for spills and leaks. I check my bathroom regularly for leaks from various jars, bottles, and various containers. My hands are constantly checking makeup cases for leaking powders and liquids. Painful you ask? Not really when you think of what could happen if you do not check on a constant basis. Just a part of my life.

If you would like to learn more about how blind persons cope on a daily basis then visit

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:

Accessibility News Service

by Tom Babinszki

One of the best resources on accessibility news on the net is I've been reading it for quite a while now, I thought I would share it with you.

The site is maintained by Geof Collis, who is in search for all kinds of top quality accessibility news around the clock. Geof compiles and maintains news items on this site, and also publishes a weekly newsletter with the updates, it comes out every Saturday morning, without an exception.

This newsletter has saved me valuable time, as I know that everything that's important and happens in the industry I will hear about it in a week, or even sooner if I check back on the site.

I find this service very valuable, and I would highly recommend subscribing to it. To receive the weekly updates, just send an e-mail to: and ask to be subscribed.

Article Source:
Accessibility Tips and Tricks

Myths about the Blind at Work

by Bob Branco

As we all know, it is quite difficult for a blind person to find gainful and productive employment, not necessarily through his own fault, but mostly because of society. There are many employers who not only feel that the blind can’t compete on equal terms with the sighted on the job, but are also at risk on that job. We know that neither one of these assumptions are true, and thankfully there are people who know what the blind are capable of.

Since College, I was employed eight times, and for the most part my bosses weren’t worried about how I conducted myself, because they saw how I handled things on a day to day basis. Having said that, I ran into a problem while working as a receptionist for a construction company. I worked there, without incident, for nearly a year, but then, for whatever reason, the company had to relocate to another building. Suddenly, my job was on the second floor, not the first. Despite how confident I am about new surroundings no matter where I go, my boss had a different idea once I started my job on the second floor. I wasn’t at my desk for no more than a few minutes when he approached me with an affidavit to sign. He wanted me to agree not to sue the company for any liability if I happen to fall down the stairs. In his mind, being the sue happy society that we are, it wouldn’t take much for my family and I to sue him if I fell, especially if I was injured. At the same time, one of my sighted co workers slipped on a banana peal in the office and fell. Do you think my boss asked him to sign such an agreement? No, because the other guy was sighted, and I suppose my boss felt that the sighted employee had no reason to fall down the stairs like I allegedly do.

Needless to say, I refused to sign the agreement, using the logic that anyone can fall down his stairs for any reason, whether the person is blind or sighted, so why should I release the company from any liability just because I’m blind? What if my boss, or one of his other workers, left an obstacle in my way? According to my boss, I’m blind, so it wouldn’t be his fault. He didn’t say that, but what else would you think if he purposely asked me to agree to release his company from liability while he never approached his sighted workers in this fashion?

For several days, my boss insisted that I sign the agreement, but I continued to refuse. Finally, his lawyer must have told him to stop insisting that I sign the agreement, because it was never mentioned again, and I know that he approached his lawyer to find out what legal leg he had to stand on, where I kept refusing to sign.

Have any of you had similar experiences on the job? It wouldn’t surprise me if you had, because it’s as I said, lots of employers are worried about how their blind workers conduct themselves. These employers don’t know that the blind are at no more risk for injury on the job than the sighted. Any insurance agent can testify to that.

Article Source:

Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Tactile Paving

Tactile paving (also called truncated domes, detectable warnings, Tactile Ground Surface Indicators, detectable warning surfaces) is a system of textured ground surface indicators found on many footpaths, stairs and train station platforms to assist blind and vision impaired pedestrians.

Tactile warnings provide a distinctive surface pattern of "truncated domes" or cones (which are small domes or cones that have had their tops cut off, or truncated) or "truncated bars" detectable by long cane or underfoot which are used to alert people with vision impairments of their approach to streets and hazardous drop-offs. People who are blind or visually impaired are alerted of impending danger from vehicle impact or a grade change. There is a disagreement in the design community and the community of users if the interior use of these bars represents a tripping hazard.

Originally instituted at crosswalks and other hazardous vehicular ways by countries like Japan, the United Kingdom and Australia, among others, the United States picked up the standard in the early 1990s, after passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Canada started incorporating the use in transportation first in the 1990s then added them to the built environment in the early 2000s.

Click this link to read more about Tactile Paving from Wikipedia.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Sync and Speak

Sync and Speak is an iPhone application that reads Twitter and RSS feeds aloud to you. Are you a commuter? Would you like to be able to catch up with the Twitterverse without straining your eyes, fumbeling around the screen or being conspicuous on the bus? Sync and Speak is your answer.

Adding new RSS and Twitter feeds is a snap with the convenient presets for popular feeds. Password-protected RSS feeds are supported.

Sync and Speak is offered exclusively via the iTunes Store. Click this link to learn more about Sync and Speak!

Friday, June 04, 2010

Internet Broadcasting Audio Tutorial

Jonathan Mosen and Brian Hartgen have developed The Mushroom FM Fun guys Guide to Internet Broadcasting. This is an audio tutorial that will help get you up and running in the world of internet broadcasting. The tutorial runs for 3 hours 20 minutes, and covers things like:

  • A detailed look at StationPlaylist Studio that shows how to set up and run this software in an Internet broadcast situation. You'll learn about the benefits of using a mixer, how to cope with requests, how to use cart machines and more.
  • A look at options for getting your broadcast to the Internet, including using facilities within StationPlaylist Studio, using free Winamp tools, or the optional StationPlaylist Streamer.
    Using the Sam Encoders with soon to be released JAWS scripts to optimise your streaming experience.
  • A session where you hear all the tools we've discussed in action as an actual radio show goes to air.
  • A brief overview of StationPlaylist Creator and how it can be used to make live Internet broadcasting easier.

The tutorial is available for free download in two formats. The DAISY version can be played using DAISY playback software on your PC, such as the free FSReader that is included with JAWS 11 and above. It can also be played on portable devices such as the Victor Reader Stream, Book Sense, Plextalk Pocket and Bookport Plus. The DAISY file is a little bigger to download, however the DAISY navigation makes moving between sections of the tutorial very easy.

The MP3 version of the tutorial can be played on your PC or any MP3 capable device.

Both tutorial files have identical content, they are only different formats. Both downloads are zip files. You can extract them using the built-in zip support in Windows.

Download the Mushroom FM Fun Guys Guide to Internet Broadcasting in DAISY format.
Download the Mushroom FM Fun Guys Guide to Internet Broadcasting in MP3 format.

Replay Music from Applian Technologies

The Applian Technologies for Blind Users site was created by an enthusiastic user of these recording products for Windows-based computers. Here's a quote from the page that sums up why people like this software.

"Does your streaming leave you screaming? Do your flv files give you flack? Are you at a loss about lossless content? Don't know a rar from a wav? Does your IPOD give you indigestion?

Then Replay Music is the answer. Created with accessibility in mind, Replay Music easily solves all these questions. If you can hear it, Replay Music will clear it. From WMV to MP3, Replay Music gets the Grammy for it's powerful recognition and capture capability. From Face Book to You Tube, you'll get flawless digital files of your favorite clips and tunes.

Replay Music can provide Artist Track and Album information on thousands of current selections. Building a music library has never been easier.

Who knew that a program like Replay Music could be so much fun to use? And best of all, it's completely legal-no catches. And no subscription fees.

I love what Applian has done with this product. It's a breeze to use! Like a tiny tape recorder on your C drive, Replay Music converts and saves. You'll get a folder of each day's efforts ready to access and review. Talk Radio Fans will like the way Replay Music interfaces with streaming audio from internet radio stations.

Replay music is the choice for me. So don't Record a Total Mess. GET REPLAY MUSIC AND GET THE BEST !"

Click this link to visit the Applian Technologies Info For Blind Users page.

Tim Cordes: one of the few sightless doctors in the country

It’s not uncommon for co-workers to stumble upon Tim Cordes (pictured) sitting in the dark.

Cordes is blind.

As an infant, he was diagnosed with Leber’s disease, a rare degenerative condition of the retina that gradually steals one’s sight. Cordes still remembers one of the first times he heard someone trying to explain how his impending blindness would affect his life. “Your son can be president of the United States, but he’s never going to fly a plane or drive a car,” an ophthalmologist explained to his parents when Cordes was about 7.

He never did fly a plane or drive a car. In fact, when most of his friends in Cedar Falls, Iowa, were learning to drive, a 16-year-old Cordes got his first guide dog, a German shepherd named Electra.

But Cordes didn’t shrink from life. He’s now a 34-year-old trailblazing physician who is wrapping up the third year of a four-year residency program with UW-Madison’s department of psychiatry.

Cordes has been reticent to share his story, not wanting to become a poster boy for overcoming visual disabilities. But he’s slowly becoming more at ease telling his inspirational tale. Earlier this spring, the husband and father of two young boys wowed 450 members of the Madison Civics Club with a speech at Monona Terrace titled, “How I See Possibilities.” In July, he’ll give a similar talk in Dallas at the National Federation of the Blind’s annual convention. And he contributed a chapter for a book to be published later this summer by the Association of American Medical Colleges that is designed to guide medical schools in accommodating students with disabilities. Cordes’ chapter deals with the use of service animals.

Cordes was valedictorian of his class at the University of Notre Dame in 1998, posting a 3.99 GPA while earning an undergraduate degree in biochemistry and conducting research on antibiotics. He then was accepted into the UW School of Medicine and Public Health’s medical scientist training program, completing the notoriously challenging sequence that requires a student to finish both medical school and a Ph.D.-level research program.

Over the years, Cordes also earned black belts in jujitsu and tae kwon do, carried the Olympic torch during its cross-country journey to the Salt Lake City Games in 2002, and developed computer software that uses a number of musical instruments, varying tones and left-right speakers to allow those with vision problems to conceptualize and study protein structures.

Dr. Brad Schwartz still remembers the paperwork Cordes forwarded to the UW Medical School when applying to the medical scientist training program.

While most attempting to head down this path are high achievers, Schwartz says Cordes stood out from the pack due to his Medical College Admission Test scores, 3.99 GPA in a demanding major and his interesting research on antibiotics. It was a reference letter from a Notre Dame researcher, however, that floored Schwartz, who was director of the program in the spring of 1998.

Schwartz says his admissions review committee agreed Cordes was a "one-in-a-million" candidate and assumed "every program in the country would be fighting to get him because he was so remarkable."

But that wasn’t the case. In fact, Cordes applied to eight schools, but no one else showed interest. During one med school exit interview, doctors and researchers at a rival Big Ten Conference institution made it clear to Cordes, who has only a limited amount of light perception, that there was no way a blind student could complete the school’s required coursework and rotations to earn a medical degree.

Cordes doesn’t appear bitter about these rejections, but his mother, Therese Cordes, acknowledges it was a difficult time for her son. “To have someone tell Tim he’s not good enough, despite all he accomplished, was very, very tough on him,” she says.

Even at UW-Madison, those close to the situation say some top medical school administrators were adamantly opposed to admitting Cordes. Concerns centered on two factors: the cost to make all the necessary accommodations for a blind student; and the fear that the Association of American Medical Colleges might frown on a school admitting a student who couldn’t see.

In the end, Schwartz stood his ground against the naysayers and Cordes was ultimately one of 143 students earning a slot in med school out of 2,300 who applied. Although no official records are kept and there are various scales to measure the extent of vision loss, published reports in 1998 indicated Cordes was only the second blind person ever admitted to a U.S. medical school. The first was David Hartman, a 1976 Temple grad and psychiatrist in Virginia whom Cordes considers a role model.

Some members of the Medical School were guarded about Cordes’ chances of success at first, says Schwartz. “But I can tell you, each year that he went along he won over more and more people,” he says. In the years to come, Cordes would learn the lessons and complete the tasks asked of every other doctor-in-training.

In the classroom, he used books on tape and in Braille to learn the fundamentals. He also relied heavily on a computer that could read downloaded texts and e-mails at a blistering 500 words per minute, something Cordes can easily understand but would sound like gibberish to someone accustomed to normal-paced speech. The university also provided him with a machine “It looks a little like an Easy-Bake oven,” says Cordes that makes raised-line drawings so he could interpret images using his sense of touch.

In the lab, he helped dissect a human cadaver and used his fingers to identify the various nerves, muscles and organs. “I was the guy who reached into the chest and pulled out the lungs,” says Cordes. When it came to hospital rotations, he helped deliver babies (earning Student of the Year honors in the obstetrics and gynecology rotation), observed surgery — “I felt blood flowing through an aorta” — and intubated patients during an anesthesiology rotation.

The school also hired “visual describers” to tag along with Cordes and his seeing-eye dog to help Cordes read paper charts or act as his eyes during a physical exam. In 2004, he earned the title of medical doctor.

His Ph.D. work centered on biomolecular chemistry and the makeup of proteins, a field that relies heavily on colorful, computer-generated models of complex molecular structures. Out of necessity, Cordes wrote a computer program that replicates the 3-D images using a range of audio tones and surround-sound speakers, allowing him to “visualize” the proteins in his head. In 2007 he earned his Ph.D.

Although Cordes isn’t one to puff out his chest and say “I told you so,” he is proud of the fact he never allowed others to squash his dreams. “Choosing to ignore what other people say, when they say it can’t be done, is a powerful tool,” says Cordes.

When Cordes started his medical school journey more than a decade ago, he had no desire to work directly with patients. Research was his passion, and the medical scientist training program is designed to develop people who can bridge the gap between basic research and clinical work.

But while working his way through the various rotations during his third year of medical school, Cordes started to zero in on a specialty and re-think his career options. He knew he couldn’t be a radiologist but thought any other area was up for grabs. A four-week psychiatry rotation at the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital stood out.

While he enjoyed interacting with the patients, Cordes also saw the potential to conduct groundbreaking research in the study and treatment of mental disorders.

So after earning his M.D. and Ph.D., Cordes in 2007 entered a four-year, psychiatry research track residency program, which allows him to spend time working with patients and conducting research. Although he notes there has been no single “ah-ha” moment, Cordes says it’s becoming clear his desire to work as a clinician and teacher of future doctors is stronger than his drive to focus solely on research.

Cordes’ typical week currently consists of two-and-a-half days at the Veterans Hospital, where he helps supervise the medical interns in an inpatient psychiatry unit, and one full day of outpatient care at a UW Health clinic in University Research Park, where he oversees more than 100 patients. He also spends a half-day attending lectures and gets one full day for research. His research mainly consists of mining data and searching for interesting patterns using the Midlife Development in the United States survey, which examines the lives of people ages 30 to 70 in such areas as physical health, psychological well-being and factors that might lead to mental illness.

At the Veterans Hospital, he also worked on a clinical trial systematically rating symptoms in patients with post-traumatic stress disorder.

While he has a proven track record as a researcher, Cordes is also earning kudos as a clinician.

Body language and expressions often convey information to therapists, but Cordes is able to pick up on these cues despite his sight limitations. He says he’s “gotten good at listening to people, not just what they’re saying but hearing how their body moves or what direction they’re talking in.”

Colleagues say they can’t recall an instance in which a patient did not want to be seen by Cordes because he is blind. In fact, says Braus, Cordes’ disability seemingly allows him to more easily connect with patients.

It’s not easy keeping pace with Cordes, even if you can see.

With sprinkles just starting to fall one dreary spring morning, Cordes and Vance, his loyal guide dog for the past nine years, walk briskly from the bus stop to his office.

The ride from near his home on Madison’s East Side to UW Health’s Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, which is across town in University Research Park, takes about 40 minutes — not bad considering Cordes has to transfer buses on the UW-Madison campus. The jaunt from the final stop to the clinic takes about five minutes at a quick pace. Somehow, Cordes narrowly misses several potholes on the driveway leading to his office. Those who have watched Cordes for years insist he has some sort of internal radar.

Before long, Cordes is heading up a set of stairs leading to a back entrance of the clinic. He scans his security badge to gain entry to the facility; it’s just past 7 a.m.

Using his sharp memory and displaying complete trust in Vance, Cordes quickly moves down a hall to his office, drops off his jacket and backpack, and heads back down a hallway to separate locked rooms that house medical records and the mail. He intuitively slides his hand over the keypad security system, and quickly taps out the code. Inside, Braille labels allow him to promptly grab the correct patient records and mail.

Back in his office, he sets the papers neatly on his desk before flipping open his laptop and scanning through e-mails using screen-reading software that ticks off the messages in quick order. Like clockwork, Jeanne Harris, one of Cordes’ visual describers, arrives in the office at 7:10 a.m. to read over any faxed-in requests for prescription refills or hand-written notes, charts or surveys Cordes can’t read himself. (For many printed materials, he can take a picture of a document with his smart phone, and a program will read it to him.)

Ten minutes later, the paperwork is cleared, Vance is resting on the floor in the office, and Cordes is preparing for a day of numbers-crunching research on his computer.

It’s easy to be impressed by how efficiently Cordes operates, but he wishes others would view it as ordinary. “Just like you, I have a job to do and I figured out how to do it,” he explains. “To me, it’s gratifying how profoundly routine this all seems at times.”

Even those closest to Cordes — the ones who have never doubted his potential — confess it’s difficult to view this all as merely routine.

Therese Cordes still has vivid memories from three decades ago when she put a 2-year-old Tim in the car and drove him to meet with the University of Iowa’s highly regarded pediatric ophthalmologists. The experts there gave her little hope, rattling off a list of things her only son would never be able to do.

Tim Cordes credits his mother for being a rock of emotional support over the years, while his father, an engineer, was pragmatically supportive, the problem-solver and the one who helped Tim get up to speed with many of the technological gizmos he relies on.

It also didn’t hurt that Cordes was being pushed by two older, successful sisters, both of whom were valedictorians of their high school class (Tim finished as runner-up during his senior year) before also moving on to Notre Dame.

What, exactly, the future holds for Cordes isn’t clear. After he completes the four-year residency program, he’s considering additional training so he can help people with drug addiction problems. Another option is to land a position working with military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and severe brain injuries, work Cordes enjoys and finds rewarding.

No matter what direction Cordes ultimately decides to push his career, he has no intention of becoming part of what he calls "today’s risk-averse society."

Cordes adds proudly: "I learned to swing on monkey bars, which I could not see well, over asphalt. I learned that if you fall it hurts, so you try not to fall. But it’s still worth swinging."

Article Source:
The Capital Times

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Audio Darts for the Blind

Audio Dart Master is the first accessible dartboard designed for home use by those who are blind and visually impaired. The board uses computer and speech technology to enable blind players to orient shots. All menus speak and the board’s online help provides the rules for 12 different games.

To start, you use arrow keys to select the number of players (inserting names, if desired) and the game you wish to play. You throw your darts, then go to the board and hit the Change Player arrow. Audio Dart Master tells you to remove your darts and then calls the next player to their turn. There’s a Stats key to remind players what the score and who’s up. The board also has sound affects: when you match an opponent’s round total in “Killer,” (knocking their score back to zero), you hear a scream; getting “three-in-a-bed” prompts a triple “boing” sound. They make the game more fun.

Audio Dart Master gives directions; it combines clock-face terms with point value (e.g. 1:00, 18) to help blind people learn the board’s layout. Audio Dart Master also indicates when darts hit in or out of the double or triple rings, that’s a big deal for someone who can’t see; it enables them to adjust their aim on the next shot. You can find boards that will call out numbers, but won’t add scores, indicate position, teach games, or provide online help. Audio Dart Master is also smaller and far less expensive than other talking boards designed for arcades.

Audio Dart Master exemplifies technology’s profound impact on the development of accessible recreation. The board’s programming doesn’t simply adapt a game for the blind, but provides efficiencies and interactivity that afford all players a deeper appreciation of darts.

Click this link to learn more at

Bill Nye Debunks Top Eye Myths

Was Bugs Bunny right? Do carrots really improve your eye sight? Well, not exactly. Eating carrots won't make you see better than you already do, but Bugs' favorite snack is packed with important vitamins and nutrients that can help protect vision.

This is just one example of a common eye myth that has led to confusion about vision health and proper eyecare habits.

To help educate Americans on eye health and debunk common myths, VSP Vision Care has created a series of webisodes called VSP EyeFiles(SM) featuring the iconic Bill Nye the Science Guy. As a scientist, engineer, comedian, author and inventor, Bill is best known for making science entertaining and accessible. His lifelong mission is to help people everywhere understand and appreciate the science behind our world.

As part of this initiative, VSP Vision Care sent an online survey to VSP doctors across the country, asking them for the most common vision-related myths they hear from their patients on a regular basis.

The VSP doctor myth research survey revealed that:

  • Myth: Working many hours in front of a computer screen will harm your eyes.

    Fact: 31 percent of doctors say they hear this myth on a daily basis. Although using computers will not damage vision, fatigue, headaches, neck pain or eye strain may occur with use over extended periods of time. This overuse can result in a serious condition called Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). To help prevent CVS remember the 20-20-20 rule; every 20 minutes, spend 20 seconds looking at something 20 feet away.

  • Myth: Wearing glasses tends to weaken the eyes.

    Fact: 24 percent of doctors say they hear this myth on a daily basis. Glasses do not weaken eyes. Eyes lose the ability to focus on near objects as people get older, a natural digression called presbyopia. Presbyopia, which means "old eye" in Greek, becomes noticeable between the ages of 38 and 42. The bottom line is glasses do not weaken eyes; rather eyes naturally become weaker with age.

  • Myth: Sitting too close to the television will harm your eyes.

    Fact: 11 percent of doctors say they hear this myth on a daily basis. Despite what your mother told you as a kid, sitting closer than necessary to the television may cause headaches, but will not cause eye damage.

Other alarming myths that VSP doctors heard from patients on a regular basis included:

  • Myth: As long as your eyes don't hurt, you can wear contact lenses 24/7.

    Fact: If your contacts aren't the overnight-approved, extended wear variety, don't treat them that way. Daily wear contacts need nightly soaks to clean and disinfect them. Contacts are a great alternative for lenses, but proper contact care is needed to prevent eye irritation and infection.

  • Myth: Children do not need to have their vision tested until they are at least five.

    Fact: The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends a six-month eye exam to make sure the baby's eyes are developing correctly and to scan for serious problems such as cataracts and tumors. Eighty percent of what we learn is through our eyes, and one in four students has a visual impairment problem. One study shows a whopping 85 percent of America's pre-schoolers haven't received a vision exam by age five. Experts recommend that children see their eye doctor at six months, between the ages of 2 and 3, before entering kindergarten, and annually thereafter to ensure their eye health and learning progression.

  • Myth: If you can see fine, your eyes are healthy and you don't need an exam.

    Fact: Many eye and vision problems have no obvious signs or symptoms. It is important to make annual visits to an eye doctor to receive comprehensive eye exams. Through an exam an eye doctor can detect signs of serious health conditions including diabetes, brain tumors, and high cholesterol, before physical symptoms are present.

  • Myth: You cannot get cataracts unless you wear glasses.

    Fact: Cataracts are caused by the aging and deterioration in the lens of the eyes. This is a normal process that occurs in about half of adults between the age of 65 and 75. Everyone can develop cataracts, whether or not they wear glasses; in fact, glasses can actually help postpone cataract surgery.

To view Bill Nye's VSP EyeFiles, please visit or

What is Computer Vision Syndrome?

Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) is a very real eye problem that affects many people who spend long hours at the computer screen. It is no less an example of repetitive strain injury (RSI) than the strain on the wrist which is often brought on by excessive keyboard activity.

In Computer Vision Syndrome the work environment itself can contribute significantly to the problem. Inadequate lighting, harsh fluorescent lighting, glare from windows and sitting too close or too far away from the computer monitor can all exacerbate the condition. The color of the text background and the way in which the contents are displayed on the screen can also be contributary factors.

There is a fundamental difference between reading text in print and text on a computer monitor. When reading text on printed material the eye easily focuses on the letters as they are straight lines. On a computer screen this is not the case as the letters comprise a number of pixels or tiny dots which require the eye to constantly refocus. This creates fatigue and eyestrain.

Symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome

A syndrome can be described as a concurrent set of symptoms associated with a medical condition. While the most commonly experienced symptom is eyestrain causing eyes to feel tired, other parts of the body are affected as well. Headaches, backache and neck ache often accompany eyestrain as do blurred vision, double vision and/or distorted color vision.

Slowness in changing focus is another symptom. A slight delay begins to develop in the eye's ability to bring the newer image into focus when quickly changing from looking at something in the distance to looking at something close to (or vice versa). Overuse of the focusing muscles tires the eyes and a dry or burning sensation often accompanies eyestrain.

Everyone's at risk of developing Computer Vision Syndrome if he or she, young or old, spends long periods of time working at a computer. The key to prevention or minimization of the problem is to take regular breaks from the monitor and walk about periodically.

When visiting the eye doctor make sure you communicate the fact that your daily routine involves at least 2 hours' work on a computer. The good news is that, in the vast majority of cases, computer eyeglasses can be prescribed which will entirely eliminate the symptoms. These generally require a different prescription from regular eyeglasses. Features incorporated into computer eyeglasses may include a computer tint, UV tint, anti-reflective coating and even a prism. Remember, though, prevention is better than cure and incorporate one very important feature into your work environment - take a break!

For more information on vision, click this link to visit


EyeDefender is a software package that will nudge you, in various ways, every hour or so to give your eyes a break. After you install EyeDefender, you'll be able to set up how often you want to rest and for how long. I chose 2 minutes every 60 minutes. You can choose different images to look at for your break period and you can always stop your break by hitting the Esc key.

If you don't want to install EyeDefender, setting a simple reminder for yourself to take a break every hour, and blinking frequently for about 2 or 3 minutes should also help alleviate symptoms.

To see what EyeDefender will look like after you install it, watch this screencast from
Click this link to download EyeDefender:

Print Documents in Batches Without Opening Them

Got a host of documents to print? Load them into PrintConductor, and no matter what program created them, you can batch print them without opening the various applications they came from.

PrintConductor doesn't require much more explanation. If you're planning to print the same batch of documents more than once, you can save your queues to a file for later loading. PrintConductor is a free download for Windows systems only.

Click this link to visit

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