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, July 30, 2010

VA/GSA Contract Products from APH

APH is proud to announce our Veteran's Administration Federal Supply Schedule contract number V797P-4266b. Nearly 100 selected APH products are available for purchase under this contract. Search for APH products at this General Services Administration website:

To request a brochure containing the Authorized Federal Supply Schedule Price List for selected APH products, call toll-free at 1-800-223-1839.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Good and Bad of Curb Cuts

by Donna J. Jodhan

If you take the time to think about it, curb cuts can either be a blessing in disguise to many but at the same time it can also be a real curse to others. For many it is a welcome relief while traveling along the sidewalks, but for many blind and visually impaired persons it is quite the opposite. Shocker or shaker? Probably a shocker to the mainstream pedestrian but neither shocker nor shaker to the blind and visually impaired walking wounded.

For those emergency medical technicians, curb cuts represent a great alternative and time saver when negotiating sidewalks in a hurry. For a delivery person, it also saves time and energy when dragging heavy or clumsy packages. For those in wheelchairs, it is a real bonus and the same could be said for moms with strollers but for those of us who are unable to see these new wonders! It is not.

If a blind person is using a cane to travel then the picture is this: They have great difficulty being able to tell the difference between the end of the sidewalk and the beginning of the street. In essence, when they go to find a street corner, they find themselves not being able to tell where the actual street corner is and often time they find themselves wondering helplessly into the street. It was easy for me when I had enough vision to tell the difference but now that I am almost totally blind I often find myself hesitating whenever I feel the sidewalk sloping downwards as I approach a street corner. I am never sure where the actual corner is and in addition, I have no reference points to help me determine what ends where and what begins where.

I have had several clients and friends complain to me about this but what to do about it is very hazy at best. Curb cuts do indeed benefit more people than not so I do not think that too many of those in authority would be very willing to listen. So for the time being we may just have to put up with it all.

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:

Online Hindi Audio books and E Books for free download.

Are ebooks available in Hindi? Hindi is a convenient, and crucial, first step to reaching all Indian languages, or as many as we can reach anyway.
This, the Digital Library of India, is a JACKPOT! Check this out first. E books in almost all the Indian languages.
Here's a list of sites dedicated to Audio books in Hindi:

Myths about Blindness

by Bob Branco

Being blind, we sometimes have to answer questions from sighted people who are genuinely curious about how we live. While it’s true that many sighted people understand that the only thing different about the blind is that they can’t see, others are so out of tune with our world that they take their curiosity outside the box.

I have a blind friend who is a father of three children, has a degree in engineering, is quite intelligent, and tries his best to support his family like anyone else would. He does his own grocery shopping, which, in all honesty, is quite common for a blind person, as long as he receives reasonable assistance.

A sighted person found out that my friend did his own grocery shopping, and asked him if there were grocery stores for the blind. I think that most of us know that there aren’t any, but someone asked the question. The irony here is that although we know that there aren’t any grocery stores for only blind shoppers, the person who asked was very sincere. Let’s use common sense. If there was such a thing as a grocery store for the blind, how long do you suppose it would be in business? There aren’t enough blind people to keep a store like that going.

Another inquisitive sighted person wanted to know if the grocery stores put Braille on their meats so that a blind shopper would know what he’s buying. Again, if we all were to simply stop and think, and realize that no one has ever seen such a practice at any grocery store, then a blind person wouldn’t have to be subjected to these questions. Are these questions being asked just to make conversation, or is the person asking these questions so oblivious to the real world that she actually believes what she’s asking?

One day a blind person was asked how he knew where to aim when going to the bathroom. A Boston cab driver once asked a blind female passenger if she needed to be fixed in order not to have any children. In that case, it wasn’t just that the question was so ridiculous, but it was none of the cab driver’s business. Then again, would he have asked a sighted female passenger that question?

Another common belief in society is that the other senses of blind people are sharper than those of the sighted. In other words, the blind are supposed to hear things better, smell things better, etc. The fact is the other senses of a blind individual are not better at all. The blind simply train themselves to use these senses more, and that’s all. My hearing is probably just as good as the average sighted person’s hearing, but I rely on it more because I have to.

Article Source:
Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Eat the Seasons

If you're trying to increase the amount of fresh and local food you're eating, it helps to know what's in season. Eat the Seasons tells you what fruit, vegetables, nuts, and meats are in season.

Visit the site and you're immediately shown what's in season for the US and Canada, for those across the Atlantic you can switch to the UK/Ireland view for more accurate results. You can click on individual items in the list of seasonal foods to read more about the nutritional content, buying and storing tips, and interesting facts about the food in question.

While you're checking out seasonal foods don't forget to take a peek at the Epicurious Seasonal Ingredient Map and how to lower your food bill by shopping for food in season.

Click this link to visit

Accessible Crossword Puzzle Games for the Blind

Spoonbill Software's Blind Gamers Crossword Puzzle

BG Crossword Puzzle allows vision impaired and blind players to solve Crossword puzzles downloaded from the Internet. As with all Spoonbill Software's Blind Gamers games, it is self-voicing, no need to use your screen reader. For the benefit of vision-impaired players, the crossword is presented in the normal crossword grid format. In addition, the answer words and the clues are displayed in two lists which can be navigated using the arrow keys on your keyboard. This pair of lists can be maximized to fit your screen allowing the words to be more easily read.

Blind players also use the arrow keys to move up and down the list of words and clues and can use the W key to speak the current word, or the C key to speak the current clue. By default the across words and clues are presented first. You can switch to a display of the down clues by hitting the D key on your keyboard, and back to the across clues by hitting the A key.

There are many helpful features to make solving crosswords a pleasant experience. May we suggest that you follow the Tutorial when first starting up the program?

Send your request for BG Crossword Puzzle to Ian Humphreys, together with your full name and country of residence to: For example:  My name is Karen Black from Florida, USA, please send BG Crossword Puzzle. Please allow up to four days for delivery.

Click this link to find more games from Spoonbill Software.

Talking Word Puzzles

Talking Word Puzzles

Lets the user create or solve hidden word and crossword puzzles in large print and with high-quality speech feedback. As the player navigates through the puzzle, the program announces the contents of that square. Speech feedback in hidden word puzzles also indicates marked and unmarked letters, valid and invalid words, word lists or clues to words, and motivating phrases. Speech can be turned off. Talking Word Puzzles makes it easy to create your own puzzles. You make up the word list, and the software creates the puzzle for you, entering the words into one of several puzzle formats. Recommended ages: all ages (dictated by the puzzles created).

Requirements to Run

  • 300 MHz Pentium or compatible processor or faster
  • Windows 98, Windows 2000, or later (Including Windows XP)
  • CD-ROM drive
  • Sound Card and Speakers
  • At least 64 MB RAM
  • 15 MB free hard disc space
Talking Word Puzzles:

Catalog Number: D-03440-00

Electronic Distribution:
Catalog Number: D-03440-ED
Click this link to purchase Talking Word Puzzles.

Download APH Software Demos:

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:

Sirius XM: More Accessible To The Visually Impaired

The original Pulsar app brought Apple and Sirius XM together to create magic. Apple computer users could finally stream Sirius XM’s Premium Online content the way it should be done. Pulsar did it right! For starters, a browser wasn’t required. The interface was clean, elegant and easy to use. A third-party app wasn’t required to make it work. Users only had to enter in their username and password once. Best of all, the music wouldn’t stop playing with annoying timeouts. They did forget one thing, the blind and visually impaired.

Now, Sirius XM Radio is more accessible to the visually impaired, thanks to the utilization of Apple’s VoiceOver technology in the newly updated Pulsar online streaming app.

Rogue Amoeba spent some time working with visually impaired users to determine the best way to utilize Apple’s VoiceOver technology in the application. With approximately 15 million blind and visually impaired individuals in the United States, this new accessibility to Sirius XM’s Premium Online content, made possible by Rouge Amoeba’s Pulsar App, gives Sirius XM an edge over competing services which do not allow for this accessibility.

In addition to its utilization of Apple’s VoiceOver technology, the update brings some other new and welcome features as well. A Dock menu feature was added, which provides access to Pulsar’s playback controls from Pulsar’s dock icon, even while the application is hidden. A “Jump to Live” command was added, which provides for the restarting of live content at the end of the pause buffer. Growl notifications now coalesce (only one is shown on the screen at a time) and many small bugs were fixed with the update.

Rogue Amoeba’s Pulsar application is compatible with both Sirius and XM online subscriptions, whether users have a US or Canadian account. Pulsar 2.1 is available from Rogue Amoeba’s website,, or you can get Pulsar for free with the purchase of any of the company’s other Mac OS X products. Users of previous versions of Pulsar can update to Pulsar 2.1 for free.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Print n Share from Your iPhone

Wouldn't it be great just to print out an Email or an iPad or iPhone contact address and phone number, or quickly print out a web page to read later? Move files to or from your computer and print them. How about printing photos from your iPad or iPhone Photo Album? Or even take a picture and print it out immediately!

The Print n Share app for the iPhone allows you to print to any WiFi or shared printer on a WiFi network. Not only that, by installing the publisher’s Weprint software on your computer, you can print through your 3G connection from most anywhere.

Print n Share works with both the iPhone, iPod Touch and the iPad. It will print most anything you can imagine, from photos to Word documents. Overall, if you are only going to consider one program for printing, this is the one to consider due to its versatility, publisher tutorials and positive user reviews. As a bonus, this app can turn your iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch into a hard drive on your WiFi network.

Click this link to learn more about Print and Share.

ADA 20th Anniversary: US Disability facts and Statistics

July 26, 2010 marked the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which guarantees equal opportunity for people with disabilities in public accommodations, commercial facilities, employment, transportation, state and local government services and telecommunications. Unless otherwise indicated, all the data is from the Americans with Disabilities: 2005 report at

Population Distribution

  • 54 million: Number of people who have a disability. They represent 19 percent of the civilian noninstitutionalized population.

By age:

  • 5 percent of children 5 to 17 have disabilities.
  • 10 percent of people 18 to 64 have disabilities.
  • 38 percent of adults 65 and older have disabilities.
  • 12.4%: Number of females with a disability, compared with 11.7 percent of males.

Source: 2008 American Community Survey

Using or Needing Assistance

  • 11 million: Number of disabled people 6 and older who need personal assistance with everyday activities. These activities include such tasks as getting around inside the home, taking a bath or shower, preparing meals and performing light housework.
  • 3.3 million: Number of people 15 and older who use a wheelchair. Another 10 million use a walking aid, such as a cane, crutches or walker.

Specific Disabilities

  • 1.8 million: Number of people 15 and older who report being unable to see printed words.
  • 1 million: Number of people 15 and older who reported being unable to hear conversations.
  • 2.5 million: Number of people 15 and older who have difficulty having their speech understood. Of this number, 431,000 were unable to have their speech understood.
  • 16.1 million: Number of people with limitations in cognitive functioning or who have a mental or emotional illness that interferes with daily activities, including those with Alzheimer's disease and mental retardation. This group comprises 7 percent of the population 15 and older. This included 8 million with one or more problems that interfere with daily activities, such as frequently being depressed or anxious, trouble getting along with others, trouble concentrating and trouble coping with stress.

On the Job

  • 13.3 million: Number of 16- to 64-year-olds who reported difficulty finding a job or remaining employed because of a health condition.
  • 46%: Percentage of people 21 to 64 having some type of disability who were employed. The employment rate ranged from 75 percent of those with a nonsevere disability to 31 percent with a severe disability. For those without a disability, the employment rate is 84 percent for the same period.
  • 59%: Percent of people 21 to 64 with difficulty hearing that were employed. The corresponding percentage for those with difficulty seeing was 41 percent.
  • 48%: Percentage of people 21 to 64 with a nonsevere disability who work full time. This compares with 63 percent without a disability and 16 percent with a severe disability.
  • 6%: Percentage of disabled workers 16 and older who used public transportation to commute to work. In addition, 69 percent of people with a disability drove alone, 13 percent carpooled, 4 percent walked and 3 percent used a taxicab, motorcycle, bicycle or other means.
  • 21%: Percentage of disabled workers 16 and older who worked in the educational services and health care and social assistance industries.

Income and Poverty

  • $2,250: Median monthly earnings for people 21 to 64 with a nonsevere disability. This compares with $2,539 for those with no disability and $1,458 for those with a severe disability.
  • $2,252: Median monthly earnings for people 21 to 64 with difficulty hearing. The corresponding figure for those with difficulty seeing was $1,932.
  • 12%: The poverty rate for people 25 to 64 with a nonsevere disability. This compares with 27 percent for those with a severe disability and 9 percent of those without a disability.

Serving Our Nation

  • $36.3 billion: Amount of compensation veterans received for service-connected disabilities in fiscal year 2008.

Source: Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2010, Table 511


  • 98%: Percent of transit buses that were lift- or ramp-equipped, as of 2007. This represents an increase from 62 percent in 1995.

Source: Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2010, Table 1079


  • 28%: Percentage of people 25 and older with a disability who had less than a high school graduate education. This compares with 12 percent for those with no disability.
  • 13%: Percentage of people 25 and older with a disability who had a bachelor's degree or higher. This compares with 31 percent for those with no disability.

Source: 2008 American Community Survey

Editor's note: The preceding data was collected from a variety of sources and may be subject to sampling variability and other sources of error. Facts for Features are customarily released about two months before an observance in order to accommodate magazine production timelines. Questions or comments should be directed to the Census Bureau's Public Information Office:

Phone: 301-763-3030
Fax: 301-763-3762

Article Source:
Disabled World

Descriptive Video Brings Films to Life for the Blind

by Alena Roberts

The other night my husband and I watched the new Alice in Wonderland. Just for kicks I asked him to check if there was a descriptive video track. Much to my surprise there was, and so for the next few hours I was able to fully experience the film. Watching movies and TV with descriptive video is like a whole different experience for me. I really get to imagine what people are seeing and no longer do my sighted friends and family have to attempt to describe what’s happening when there is no dialogue. I especially appreciate the descriptions when there is a lot of action happening on screen because those scenes are especially difficult to describe unless you’ve seen the film before. It’s taken a long time, but I think that one day soon most if not all films will have descriptive video tracks included. Sony has already committed to including it in all their releases and I’m hoping that other studios will follow their lead. I used to believe that finding films with descriptive video was impossible, but I recently found a website that has hundreds of offerings. The Blind Mice Movie Vault is a site that offers free downloads of films in mp3 format. The files include the film with the descriptive video track. It’s really fun to lounge on the couch while my mp3 player or computer plays the film. Since I don’t need a screen to watch the film on, an audio file is perfect. To start enjoying these films, please visit this link.

If instead you want to be able to enjoy films with your sighted friends and family, here is a link to a list of all the dvd’s that currently have a descriptive video track. Enjoy!

Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind

Monday, July 19, 2010

Demonstrate Braille With Cards From APH

I'm going to give a presentation on how to read braille. Do you know of anything I could use as handouts?

APH Alphabet Card Folder

. APH Alphabet Card Folder (50-pack)

Designed to raise the awareness of braille among print readers, this card displays the braille alphabet, a sample of large type, and provides a brief history of APH. Folds in half vertically. Sold in packs of fifty. As an educational service, up to five individual cards are available free on request by phone. Note: Not available on Quota.

Catalog Number: 1-04000-01
Click this link to purchase the APH Alphabet Card Folder (50-pack).

Braille Alphabet and Numbers Card

Braille Alphabet and Numbers Cards

Intended to increase the awareness of braille among print readers, this card presents the alphabet, numbers, and limited punctuation signs in braille and in regular type. A simple sentence in uncontracted braille is included, allowing for translation practice. 100 per package. Not available free. Note: Not available on Quota.

Catalog Number: 1-04020-00
Click this link to purchase the Braille Alphabet and Numbers Cards. 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:

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Test Your Password Strength at How Secure Is My Password

The folks over at Lifehacker have found another great site for us to talk about.

How Secure Is My Password is a no-frills password checker that dishes the dirt on your password strength or lack there of.

How Secure Is My Password is a simple site with a singular focus, forcing you to think about the strength of your passwords. Enter any string of characters and it will tell you how long a brute force attack against that password would take using modern computers.

NOTE: For the sake of security, we'd strongly recommend constructing fake passwords for testing purposes rather than using your actual password. Consider the site an interesting exercise about how adding a few characters and symbols to your password can increase its security. You can never be too paranoid about security!

Simple passwords like "Password" are immediately flagged as weak, identified as one of the most 500 common passwords. Plug in something a little trickier like RedDogLa$er4225#Niner and you get a nice comforting response "It would take about 7 septillion years for a desktop PC to crack your password".

Click this link to visit

Retrieve the Software Installation Keys From Your PC

You know how it is.  You buy some software on CD, or online, and install it.  The program works perfectly for ages and then one day it doesn't.  Maybe you decide to purchase a new PC.

Time for a reinstall of your applications.  Except that you forgot to write down the installation key of that software, and the CD case (or confirmation email) has long since been lost.  So you face the prospect of having to buy another licence for that can't-do-without application.

If that sounds familiar, here's a possible solution.  A tiny, free utility for Windows (XP and above) that retrieves and displays the installation keys for loads of Windows apps.

The utility in question is called Softkey Revealer, and you can download it from No need to install anything - just unzip and run and then copy those keys somewhere safe, before you forget again!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Helen Toolbar Application from AFB

From the AFB website:

"We offer you a free downloadable, fully accessible, web site rating toolbar application (which we affectionately named "Helen") that will enable you to have your voice heard as you experience problems and/or success in using any website. And, most importantly, Helen™ will enable the collective voice of the user community to be heard by website providers, extending Helen Keller's lifetime efforts and legacy as an advocate for those whose voices might not otherwise be heard".

The Helen Toolbar Application is Freeware provided by the American Foundation for the Blind. Click this link to visit the AFB website to download.

Blind Crafting for Everyone

by Susan Roe 

I have been an avid crafter both before and after I lost my sight over thirty-two years ago.  There is nothing I love more than working on a project and actually seeing it through to completion.  Whether I sell an item, give it to someone or donate it to a charity, I always have the satisfaction of knowing that there will be someone somewhere who will appreciate owning what I do best. 

There have been quite a few people who have either encouraged my crafting or have taught me different skills.  My mother, Katherine, first taught me to crochet when I was eight years old.  She showed me how to crochet granny squares in matching or contrasting colors.  We would then sew them together to make warm afghans for our beds.  She didn’t stop with crocheting, and soon taught my sister and I to quilt by hand, as well as how to use a sewing machine. When we were small children, she made handmade Hobby Holly dolls and sold them to make extra money for our Christmas presents.  Later on, she tried her hand at the cutest little clothes for Cabbage Patch dolls and they were even more popular. 

Not too long before I lost my sight, I had just discovered a talent for drawing.  My sister Pattie encouraged me to start taking art classes in school like she did.  She was a wonderful artist herself, starting with drawing and painting.  When Pattie began having vision problems of her own, she switched to wood carving.  No surprise to us, she excelled in that craft as well.  Pattie had just started showing me some basics of oil painting when I lost my sight at age fifteen. 

I have never allowed my blindness to be a hindrance in my day-to-day living and that included my current crafts and learning new ones along the way.  Pauline, a family friend, took the time to teach me how to knit and it has been my favorite ever since.  She also introduced my family to liquid embroidery, making Christmas ornaments with beads and sequins, and latch hooking rugs.  From school I learned to work with clay, coil and reed basket weaving, and tapestry weaving using colored burlap.  I even managed to take a class on using the potter’s wheel while attending my local community college.  Luckily, I stopped myself from adding a potter’s wheel to my small one bedroom apartment before I started rearranging the furniture. 

Believe it or not, my crafting curiosity still was not satisfied.  Pattie and I took ceramic classes, enjoyed working with beads, making hats and scarves on circular and rectangular lap looms, and successfully figured out how to crohook.  When I attended our local Rehabilitation Center for the Blind one summer, they showed me how to set up my sewing machine to make it easier to use.  I have heard that curiosity killed the cat, however, it only expanded my thirst for crafting to collecting the tools of the trade along with many books and magazines covering even more crafts.  I could definitely open my own crafting store. 

My mother-in-law, Anna Roe, was another lover of crafting.  She loved knitting, crocheting, and plastic canvas work.  To her credit, she also passed on crafting to her children as well.  Matt likes to draw and paint, wood working, and Native American leather working.  I suppose Anna also passed on to Matt some of her patience, because he does tolerate my boxes of yarn and shelves of crafting books.  In fact, he doesn’t even get antsy while we are in a craft store.  Matt is really good at ferreting out all kinds of hidden crafting treasures. 

On a sad note, when Anna passed away, Matt and his family asked if there was anything of her’s that I would like to have in remembrance.  I didn’t hesitate and asked for anything dealing with her knitting and crocheting.  Well, my ever-growing craft stuff was increased by four large boxes.
With all of my accumulated crafting energy and supplies, I needed an outlet for my items because I just couldn’t keep it all.  I sell a few items here and there as well as making items for friends and family.  My biggest joy is knitting and crocheting for the Webb of Hope, a charity group that is run through the Red Cross.  A local group of women get together here at Black Creek Baptist Church and meet once a week.  They share patterns, discuss items being made and who the organization will be sending them to, both in the United States and several countries over seas.  The women also provide lessons for those who want to learn and participate with them as well as providing yarn so it doesn’t have to cost you anything. 

Over the years, I have done searches on the Internet and have found several on-line crafting groups, and several of them have been for blind crafters.  I had to narrow my participation down to only one blind crafting group or I would never tear myself away from the computer.  This group works together from the Krafters Korner and is filled with some of the most talented crafters I have ever known.  Everyone is either blind, low-vision, or works with the blind.  The Krafters Korner also provides lessons to its members via conference calls and everyone works at the project together.  All classes are recorded for the students that attend each class and are provided as downloadable MP3 files for easy reference at a later date.  Some of the classes have been beginning and advanced knitting, beginning and advanced bead working, soap making, origami, plastic canvas work, small loom weaving and even tips for finding the best tool for the job, to only name a few.  They are even working on knitted and crocheted helmet liners for our soldiers over seas as a community charity project. 

I have even taught two classes myself, coil basket weaving and paper basket weaving which seemed to be a success with those who attended.  I have only taken one class, which was a beading class for making your own Rosary.  The teacher even gave a brief history on the different styles of Rosaries through the years.  All classes are open to members once you have paid your $10.00 membership dues.  Krafters Korner also has a weekly Monday Night Chat which runs from 8:00 Eastern Time to about 9:30 via the conference line.  This gives everyone an opportunity to talk to someone about their crafts and exchange information as well.  Members also have the opportunity to get help with problems they may be experiencing with a project in order to work through it instead of getting frustrated enough to set it aside, never to be picked up again. 

I have found that many members take their projects quite seriously and even attend numerous crafting shows as venders or sell their wares at Farmers Markets.  There are those who have been blind and crafting for several years, or they find themselves wanting to learn to craft.  Also, there are those who have been sighted crafters for years and recently lost their sight and now want to find ways to continue crafting.  It is really nice when a member seeks encouragement with continuing a craft after losing their sight and seeing the eager responses from other members sharing and explaining how they have managed to continue that very craft.  All of this and more can be found at the Krafters Korner.  They have even had guest speakers on blind wood working so they can explain how they manage their wood working craft with no sight. 

Joyce Kane is the group moderator and President of the National Federation of the Blind Krafters Division.  She has been an avid blind crafter for many years and is always available to assist members who are eager to learn new crafts and techniques from others in the group.  You can call Joyce for more information at (203) 378-8928 or via e-mail at Please feel free to visit Krafters Korner at  Krafters Korner has also recently gone International, bringing blind students from around the globe into their classrooms with the use of SKYPE.  Come and join us and see what you can learn!

Article Source:
Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

What to Consider When Buying a CCTV

by Laura Legendary

Many people believe that once their eyesight begins to deteriorate beyond the point at which they can easily read large print, their reading days are over. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are innumerable tools available that enable people with vision loss to relax with their favorite reading material. One of the best of these tools is a device called a CCTV. More recently, they have been referred to as video magnifiers. These devices, which in many cases do not require a computer or any knowledge in the use of a computer, enlarge nearly any printed text to nearly any size.

The letters CCTV stand for "Closed Circuit Television." If that sounds familiar, you're right. Security cameras use similar technology to provide surveillance capability for retail establishments, parking lots and hotels. Simply put, a CCTV is a closed-circuit system that consists of a camera directly connected to a monitor. In the case of a low vision CCTV, the two pieces are connected via a cable. They are also usually situated in direct proximity to each other, as opposed to a security matrix which may position the camera far away from a monitoring screen.

There are many CCTV's from which to choose. Unlike their security system counterparts, low vision CCTV's offer specialty features that are specifically targeted to the needs of a person with vision loss. Here is a list of some of the features to look for that may help you to make the correct buying decision.

First, know your budget. These devices can drastically range in price, from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. As with a computer, the price can differ based upon the "bells and whistles" you get with that particular model. However, unlike a computer, it is still possible to find a CCTV unit that is pretty basic, and might be just what you need to get back to your favorite novel.

Next, determine what size monitor you need. Since different types of vision loss manifests differently in different people, the size of the screen may matter more than you realize. For example, if you have Retinitis Pigmentosa, a very large monitor may not be suitable, because the enlarged text may extend beyond your visual field, and that would require that you continuously turn your head from side to side, so that you can take in the entire image. If you have diabetic retinopathy, and have "blind spots" or 'drop outs," then a larger screen may be preferable. Many of the monitors now offer LCD displays and flat screens.

You might also determine whether or not you prefer black text on a white background, resembling a typical printed page, or what is called 'inverse video" that changes the text to white on a black background. Again, depending upon your particular type of vision loss, if you are very light sensitive, you may find that a blazing bright white background is uncomfortable, and that your eyes feel less irritated when you read white text on a black background.

Most CCTV's offer a full range of color combinations, so that if your ideal viewing tones are yellow text on a blue background, or orange text on a red background, you can choose whatever combination works for you. If you are color blind, there are some CCTV's that are not color capable. White and black is it.

You can still find a manual focus model, but these are becoming more rare. If you have an eye disease that is progressive, at some point you may lose your ability to determine whether or not something is actually in focus at all, so an auto-focus unit is best. The manual focus models are usually much less expensive, though.

There are some CCTV's that can be used in conjunction with a television. Simply plug the camera cable into the 'video in' port on the TV. This allows the camera unit to be brought anywhere, and you can use it in a hotel room, at someone else's home, or at work, and this allows the unit extreme portability. You can also connect the camera unit to your laptop, which is very convenient if you need to make a presentation and read your handwritten notes. Other CCTV's can be directly connected to your desktop computer monitor, and you can switch between the view from printed text content to computer screen content, and some even offer a 'split screen view, so you can see both. If you work at a job that requires you to read text while doing data entry, for example, copying a list from paper to computer, this is a handy feature.

In most cases, the camera unit is positioned directly above a freely moving X-Y table. The printed material is placed flat on the table, and the table is what is adjusted to bring the text into view. The table glides on ball bearings so that the page doesn't wiggle or jump, thereby distorting your view of the text. The text image is displayed on the monitor, where the size, color and focus of the image can then be adjusted. Many of the more current models do not have a sliding X-Y platform, instead, you can clamp the camera unit, which is mounted on an adjustable arm, directly to a desk. This is convenient for smaller spaces, but it does require a certain amount of positioning of the paper to achieve a readable view. However, some video magnification technology is so sophisticated you can practically turn the printed page upside-down and the camera corrects for it. Some units come with software that will allow for “freeze frame” capturing of images for best stabilization.

Due to the proximity of the camera unit and the monitor, a CCTV allows you to read almost anything--labels on cans, boxes, toiletries, manuals, cooking directions on product packaging, icons or lettering on small electronics, and even look at photographs. I'm referring to the printed kind. Remember those?

A CCTV can be a major expenditure, but the investment is well worth it. A CCTV will enable you to get back to accomplishing those tasks that you thought were lost to you. It will help you to preserve your privacy and dignity, allowing you more functionality and independence at home or work. No one will have to read your mail to you, or a personal letter, or the instructions on a personal care item ever again. Enjoy a greater quality of life with the purchase of a CCTV.

Happy viewing….

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

Another place to learn about CCTVs is They have descriptions and pictures and prices and who makes them, etc. There is even a classified ad section and one for reviews.

The site is Government supported, reliable and free. It lists all kinds of assistive technologies, even discontinued models for the benefit of those looking at used ones.

accessible talking maps for the Windows PC

Sendero Group expands the power of accessible location information to the Windows PC with Sendero Maps. Sendero Maps allows the user to have fun exploring his or her environment and to develop location literacy in the process. Sendero Maps can be used by itself on the PC or as a partner product to the five other Sendero GPS products.

With an intuitive user interface and the power of the PC, accessible maps are at your fingertips. Just type a destination, select a route and you are on your way. Sendero Maps for the PC enables you to:

  • Explore rural roads or city streets, intersection-by-intersection.
  • Record personal Points of Interest and add rich audio content like restaurant menus or museum descriptions.
  • Hear your direction of travel. Check the odometer for distance traveled.
  • Search a 15 million Points Of Interest database in North America for everything from airports to zoos. and choose one as your destination.
  • Create and follow a route to that destination.
  • Easily save and print or emboss routes to take with you or to share.
  • Create longer more complex routes on the PC and then transfer them to your Sendero GPS product.
Click this link to visit the Sendero Online Store to learn more!

Friday, July 02, 2010

Trials and Tribulations in the Airport

by Ann Chiappetta

I stood at the ticket counter waiting for the skycap for assistance to the departure gate.

My bag was checked and my dog had done her business before arriving. I was mulling over the threat of my flight being canceled due to the storm settling in over lower Westchester and Long Island when the skycap appeared. I could tell he was pushing a wheelchair. The thoughts about canceled flights were replaced by predicting how long it would take me to convince the ticket agent and the skycap that I didn’t need the wheelchair.

“Excuse me,” I said to the ticket agent, hoping to head things off, “I don’t need a wheelchair, just a sighted guide.”

I knew from experience that trying to explain it to the skycap was an effort in frustration. Stating my needs to the ticket agent was my best bet.

“You don’t want help?” she asked.

“I just need sighted assistance. I have a guide dog. I can walk.”

“You have a dog? Can it sit in your lap?”

I took a deep breath,

“Look, all I want is a sighted guide to help me through security and lead us to the gate. I don’t want a wheelchair.”

The skycap perked up.  “I no take you with no chair,” he said and walked away.

“Get your supervisor,” I suggested. The girl agreed and after a moment of heated whispering with the supervisor she escorted me to the security line.

 The real fun began with taking apart my bag and dropping my belongings into bins: shoes and jacket in one, electronics open and out of cases in another and yet one more for my carry on bag.

“Make sure you stay with my stuff,” I said to the ticket agent, knowing that my belongings might be an easy target for light fingers.

I tried to convince the security agent to let me go through and then call the dog through but he wasn’t willing to take my suggestion and practically pushed us both into the arch of the metal detector. After we set it off, the security agent herded us into a Plexiglas booth to wait for a female security agent for my pat down. I groan, wishing my husband, who is a Federal agent, could’ve escorted me. I wanted to tell them to wand my dog, not me, but I just let them do what will get us through the line with the least resistance. The humiliation of a pat down is bad enough, then to make things more frustrating, the female security agent who patted me down pet my dog and I wanted to slap her hand. Instead, I packed up all my things, put on my shoes and got to my gate.

After three hours, every outbound flight was canceled due to the storm. I eventually got home, only to be reinserted into the airport phenomenon again the next day. Fortunately, the second run went much better than the first.  No pat downs, just a wand to the dog and that’s it. I breathed a sigh of relief when we touched down in California.

Six days later, I caught my return flight to New York. Remembering the humiliation of the pat down in JFK, and wanting desperately to avoid another, I asked the security agent to allow me to go through the metal detector alone.

“Let me go through first. My dog will sit and stay until I call her. I won’t set it off; it’s my dog’s harness that does it.”

The man said, “Miss, you sound like you know what you’re doing, so go ahead.”

I wanted to kiss him.

My dog behaved impeccably, and soon I was slipping back into my shoes and shrugging on my backpack.

After touching down in New York, on our way to the car, I think, what’s Amtrak like? Maybe a bus would be less trouble. Then again, time is of the essence and wasting it is inconvenient. At least I know how to avoid those humiliating pat downs. That alone was worth the trip.

Article Source:
Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind

SayText: a Free, Accessible OCR App for Blind iPhone Users

SayText reads aloud the text in the image that it creates with the iPhone. It is intended for visually impaired users. It is a free spin off product from the DocScanner team.
  1. Place the iPhone in the center of a document and double-tap the “Take picture” button.
  2. Slowly elevate the iPhone upwards from the document, until the whole document is in picture. A beep sound indicates, that the document has been detected. The camera will shoot automatically when focused.
  3. While the OCR is running, tap the screen to hear the progress status.
  4. When the OCR is ready, swipe right on the screen to listen to the document. 

Read Websites with RoboVoice

RoboVoice is a web service that will let you have any page that you come across when surfing the internet read out loud. This means that you can visit a page, have it read aloud while you head to another and navigate it as usual. The first page will continue to be read in the background.
The implementation of RoboVoice is accomplished by dragging the bookmarklet that is provided into your browser’s toolbar. Once that has been taken care of, you will be able to activate it (and deactivate it) at will
The one and only requisite for using RoboVoice is having Silverlight installed. If you don’t have it, don't worry, an official download link is provided on the application's website. The installation shouldn’t take more than a minute or two.

Add Convenient Accessibility Tools to Any Browser

The free JISC TechDis bookmarklet and user script does something long overdue for web users. It creates a toolbar that makes text bigger, changes its font, reads it out loud, spell checks it, and even pulls its references.

Crafted by the University of Southampton's electronics and computer science school, the toolbar is offered in one of three ways:

  • as an instant toolbar bookmarklet that can be used on pretty much any browser,
  • a Greasemonkey-style user script that can be installed just as universally,
  • a Windows-only installer that does the installing for you.

What the toolbar itself does is to provide a ton of neat tools; text-to-speech reading, font fixing and magnification, spell checking, and reference searching—that exist in a lot of different places in the browser, and in other browser add-ons, but make more sense as a click-to-activate toolbar.

This is a great tool for students, those who have trouble with the web's standard layouts, and anyone looking for an easier go of reading a page. It's a free download for any browser on any OS.

Click this link to download the JISC Techdis Toolbar.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

First Blind Person To Climb Mount Everest

Erik Weihenmayer (born September 23, 1968) is the first blind person to reach the summit of Mount Everest, on May 25, 2001. He also completed the Seven Summits in September 2002. His story was covered in a Time article in June 2001 titled Blind to Failure. He is author of Touch the Top of the World: A Blind Man's Journey to Climb Farther Than the Eye can See, his autobiography.

Erik is an acrobatic skydiver, long distance biker, marathon runner, skier, mountaineer, ice climber, and rock climber. He is a friend of Sabriye Tenberken and Paul Kronenberg, the co-founders of Braille Without Borders, whom he visited in Tibet to climb with them and teenagers from the school for the blind.

A documentary film based on the project, Blindsight, was released in 2006. Another documentary, Fellowship of the Andes, was produced by Dutch filmmaker Bernd Out. The film shows how Erik inspires a team of blind and visually-impaired students on their mountain trek across the Andes in June 2006. In addition, Erik is an active speaker on the lecture circuit. He is represented by Leading Authorities speakers bureau.

Erik is also one of the premier motivational speakers in the world. His speaking career has taken him around the world, from Hong Kong to Geneva, from the 2005 APEC Summit in Chile to the 2008 Presidential Inaugural Celebration in Washington DC. Erik speaks to audiences on harnessing the power of adversity, the importance of a strong “rope team,” and the daily struggle to pursue your dreams. Clearly, Erik's accomplishments show that one does not have to have perfect eyesight to have extraordinary vision.

Erik Weihenmayer is a world renowned author and adventurer with two books published; his memoir Touch the Top of the World, and The Adversity Advantage, co-authored by business and adversity expert Paul Stoltz.

He has taken part in numerous film projects, from Farther Than the Eye Can See, the award winning documentary of his historic Mt. Everest expedition, to the newly released BLINDSIGHT, which chronicles his expedition with six blind Tibetan teenagers to 21,500 feet on the flanks of Mt. Everest, higher than any team of blind people have ever stood. (

An Interview With Erik Weihenmayer

Click this link to visit Erik Weihenmayer's website:

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