Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

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

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Toolkit for Making Written Material Clear and Effective

On October 20, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released the Toolkit for Making Written Material Clear and Effective. The Toolkit is an 11-part health literacy resource whose purpose is to help people create written material in printed formats that are easier for people to read, understand, and use. Originally released in 1999 under the title Writing and Designing Print Materials for Beneficiaries: A Guide for State Medicaid Agencies, this updated and expanded version describes how to develop effective outreach products for all CMS populations. While the guidelines and advice offered in the Toolkit are geared to the needs of CMS audiences, most of them reflect general principles for effective communication of information that can be applied to any audience.

The Toolkit includes detailed guidelines for writing, graphic design, and culturally appropriate translation from English into other languages. It includes a book-length guide to methods of testing written material with readers, and covers special topics in writing and design. These special topics include cautions about using readability formulas to assess material, things to know if your material is for older adults, a comparison of written material on websites versus written material in printed formats, and an extended “before and after” example of using the Toolkit guidelines to revise a brochure.

The Toolkit is available on the CMS website as a sequence of downloads which you may view, save, or print from your personal computer.

The direct link to the Toolkit is http://www.cms.gov/WrittenMaterialsToolkit.
You may also find it at http://www.cms.gov under Outreach & Education.

Better Undergraduate Recruiting at CollegeJobConnect

From the website:

"CollegeJobConnect helps you connect with employers across the country. We are your tool for finding the perfect job.

With CollegeJobConnect you can research, apply to, and get recruited by companies from across the country throughout the whole year. Search through our company directory and find employers that match what you are looking for. Get your own personal career search underway in less than 5 minutes!

After you register, we walk you through how to set up your profile, which takes about 5 minutes. After that, you are ready to start applying to companies. Your profile also makes you discoverable by the employers. Talk about being in the game!

You can also view notifications and interview offers, track submitted applications, and browse featured companies. Our one of a kind directory includes over 5,000 companies that you can search through based on name, size, location, industry, and much more. Find companies that match what you are looking for! For each company, you can view a full profile to learn a bit more. You can also save each for later or you can submit an application.

Finally, we feature cool companies periodically at the top of our home page, so make sure you check back to see what's new."

Click this link to start looking for your next job with http://www.collegejobconnect.com.

A DAISY Reader Application for iPhone and iPod Touch

Levelware has announced the availability of InDaisy Reader, a DAISY reader application that allows iPhone and iPod Touch users to enjoy different flavors of unprotected DAISY 2.02 and DAISY 3 books from Bookshare, CNIB, HKSB, Huseby kompetansesenter, Internet Archive, JSRPD, PaTTAN, ReadHowYouWant and Vision Australia on their devices. Playback speed control, heading level navigation, text to speech capability and support for DAISY books from other organizations will be added in future upgrades.

For more information, please visit the Levelware website at http://levelware.com.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Job Seeker's Toolkit

The Job Seeker's Toolkit is an accessible, self-paced, and free online course that helps users develop skills and tools that last a lifetime. The course covers self awareness, career exploration tools, the preliminary employment process, the interview, and maintaining employment.

The Job Seeker's Toolkit also allows professionals to follow their students' progress and provide feedback. Professionals and families can easily register to generate a short code that students can include in their profile. This code will allow students to send associated professionals their completed assignments with the check of a box. Use it with your students or clients today!

The Job Seeker's Toolkit brings you:

  • Great tips & advice
  • Useful employment tools
  • Easy navigation
  • Capability for professionals to follow the progress and provide feedback on assignments

The Job Seeker's Toolkit was developed through the generosity of the Marriott Foundation. Click this link to visit The Job Seeker's Toolkit at the American Foundation for the Blind website.

Unsubscribe From Any Email Newsletter

Unsubscribing from mailing lists manually is so frustrating and time-consuming that most people continuously delete the email messages when they come in.

Unsubscribe.com is a service that will let you add a "unsubscribe" button to every email, so the next time you get email from a mailing list that you don't want, just click that button and the mailing list will be zapped from your in-box forever!

Both Gmail and Outlook are already supported, with Yahoo, Hotmail and AOL coming soon. There is a fee to use the service without limits, the free plan is limited to five unsubscribes per month.

Click this link to visit http://www.unsubscribe.com.

Monday, October 25, 2010

World Maps by APH Help Children Who Are Blind See the World

by Kristie Smith-Armand, M.Ed, CTVI

“Students Who Are Blind Are Seeing the World Through APH Materials ”

“This land is your land, this land is my land
From California, to the New York Island
From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me”

As the song, “This Land is Your Land”, states this land was made for you and me, but children without sight struggle to understand the concepts of land, bodies of water as well as other types of topography and with good reason. A sighted child can watch television, a DVD, look at pictures in a book or on a map and be able to understand spatial concepts, land and water formations when learning vocabulary terms.

However, children without sight are at times simply taught straight vocabulary words about the earth without any conceptual building, hands-on or real experiences. Educators and parents innocently deter students without sight when teaching children about rivers, lakes, oceans, mountains and hills. We just assume that if we say the word, the definition, and put it in a sentence, we have covered the skill.

Is it no wonder that some children with visual loss struggle with comprehending details about earth and its natural resources?

Thank goodness for APH’s Social Studies section that includes: History, Geography and Economics. APH recognizes that without hands-on, a child with no or limited vision will struggle with directions, spaces and time.

This school year I have had the pleasure of working with a new history teacher who is enthusiastic, energetic and includes my student who is blind in all activities. She has been concerned and asked many questions about how a difficult concept could be taught to someone who could not ‘see’ the images on her powerpoint presentations. Imagine her happiness when I showed up with a desk World Map, a Braille globe, an atlas and my favorite, the large colorful U. S. Puzzle Map. APH also offers a Braille state map collection that is embossed and printed for the four regions in the United States: Northeast Region, Southeast Region, Central and Western Region.

Students in upper elementary school or higher already recognize that pictures and symbols represent real objects, people and places. Nothing has helped general educators and children with a visual impairment more than the wonderful collection of hands-on learning about our great country.

My student placed his hands on the continents from APH’s “World at Your Fingers” one day and said, “Oh, I get it now!” The young history teacher began to have more confidence after this experience and realized that a student who was blind could learn as much as the others when adaptive materials are used.

Because of the American Printing House for the Blind, and an enthusiastic young teacher, my student without sight believes that ‘this land was also made for him’.

Friday, October 22, 2010

tennis for the Blind

Blind tennis originated in Japan when Myoshi Takei invented the sport in the 1980s before the first national tournament took place in 1990.

Myoshi lost his sight through cancer when he was 18 months old. He is totally blind; and currently works as a masseur in Tokyo. As a high school student he decided he wanted to play tennis and sought the help of his teacher Ayako to help develop the sport – not an easy feat considering a blind person can only imagine how tennis is played in the first instance, having never actually seen the game.

The Tennis Foundation is working with the Japanese Blind Tennis Association to develop the rules of the sport so there can be a consistent approach as the game expands both within our own country and overseas.

Key to the game is being able to hear the ball travel through the air. The ‘soundball’ is a table tennis ball with ball bearings inside for weight and noise; encased inside a foam casing which will not hurt a player should it hit them. It takes a lot of skill and practise for players to judge a ball’s height, direction and speed from the sound. It is advisable to start with some simple sound awareness exercises and drills.

It is important to find a quiet place to play for the player to hear the ball. For players with some sight; light/shade distraction from sunlight or confusing court colouration can also impact playing ability.

Players are classified according to their visual ability. The server will call out ‘ready’ and the receiver ‘yes’ before play starts. The one major rule difference is that three bounces of the ball are allowed for totally blind player (B1) and two bounces for B2 or B3 visually impaired players.

Players use a mini-tennis racquet, which has shorter grips. Court markings are reinforced by having string such as baling twine fixed down with masking tape, which the players can feel with their feet if they wear thin soled shoes; or locate with their racquet. A mini tennis net is used for B1 (totally blind) players, with a typical tennis court and normal net height for B2 or B3 visually impaired players.

Article Source:
Tennis Foundation

30-Love: Tennis Guidelines for Players with Visual Impairments or Blindness

  30-Love: Tennis Guidelines
for Players with Visual Impairments cover  

Learn this new and exciting sport that's making news around the world! Whether practicing against a wall, playing singles against an opponent, or participating in a round of doubles, adaptive tennis is a great sport for practicing sound localization skills and socialization. Meets national standards on physical education.

 

Helps players develop: ability to accelerate, leg strength, general body coordination, gross motor control, fine motor control, bone strength, agility, balance, and flexibility. Players learn a variety of skills, including: competing one-on-one, accepting responsibility, managing adversity, accommodating stress, planning and implementing strategies, solving problems, sportsmanship, and teamwork.

 
Includes
  • 2 blindfolds
  • 2 rackets
  • Set of 6 sound-adapted tennis balls
  • 30-Love: Tennis Guidelines for Players with Visual Impairments, Large Print
  • 30-Love: Tennis Guidelines for Players with Visual Impairments, Braille

Watch videos of tennis on: www.aph.org/pe/features.html

 

Note: Extra sound-adapted tennis balls are available as replacement parts.

  Catalog Number: 1-08110-00
Click this link to purchase 30-Love: Tennis Guidelines for Players with Visual Impairments or Blindness.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Create a Will Online

I must admit that this site is quite original. True to its name, it will let you create a legal will, just as easily as if being personally assisted by a lawyer.

You can take care of specifying your funeral instructions, determining who will inherit your property and who is going to be the legal guardian for your children…

The process in which a will is created is quite remarkable, just fill out a questionnaire. When you're finished, the will is assembled and presented so you can print it and have it signed.

Click this link to visit http://www.TheWillCreator.com.

With Vocaloids, Who Needs Singers?

I am always amazed at how advanced computer speech has become over the years. Remember those old speech devices in the 80s? That's nothing to the software I'm going to introduce you to now.

VOCALOID is an entirely NEW kind of instrument, that uses the natural tone and articulation of a real human voice as its source - allowing the user to synthesize incredible vocals, the like of which have never been experienced before. It can also sound like a real singer if required, with an unprecedented degree of realism for a synthesizer.

From the website:

"When it comes to creating vocal tracks, Yamaha's VOCALOID singing synthesis technology brings you exciting new options. Even a singing voice can now be SYNTHESIZED to a remarkable degree, through LOLA, LEON, MIRIAM, PRIMA and SONIKA, the VOCALOID virtual vocalists from Zero-G, thanks to the incredible new technology developed by Yamaha."

Let's take a closer look at one of these voices, TONIO.

"Once TONIO is installed into your PC he will allow you to create synthesized singing of unprecedented quality and remarkable realism.

With a vocal register that covers both baritone and tenor TONIO has a voice that will satisfy the most demanding of compositions. . Tonio has a voice that is full of unmistakable character, colour and charm. He will hit those high notes every time with perfect accuracy. Whether it's soaring leads, harmonies or backing vocals, Tonio can sing any word from the English language (and other languages too with a little work). Tonio is also very well suited if you want to be adventurous and experimental, since his voice can be easily modified and shaped in many ways.

In addition to singing any words or combination of syllables or phonemes you can imagine, TONIO will spread any sustained vowel (or voiced consonant) across as many notes as you like, with perfect legato. You can select from several different natural vibrato types and drag and drop your chosen type to any note or notes, and control the time-position and amount of the vibrato, and that's just the beginning.

IMAGINE what all this could mean for your music Now you can COMMUNICATE emotion so directly. You can add HUMANITY to ANY production in ANY style, with your own private virtual vocalist. You can create backing vocals in harmonies for your tracks. With skill and application you can create unprecedented vocal realism. OR... you can live in the exciting world between human and machine, where Vocaloid can even provide vocals that sound like they were performed by a superhuman virtuoso android. Using Vocaloid in this way, as a true hybrid of human voice and synthesizer, the potential for innovation is limited only by your own imagination."

Click this link to visit the Vocaloid DEMOS and TRYOUT Software page.

NOTE: As cool as this software is, I don't believe it to be accessible with screen reading technology.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Radio? Sure! Over Ten Thousand Stations

It's no secret that I love internet radio and streaming music over the web. I am still amazed that you can click a button and hear radio stations from the other side of the world.

I've found another Windows only application that is screen reader-friendly and will tune into more than twelve thousand stations! If you can't find something to listen to, you're probably not looking hard enough. The following directions from the AccessContent Blog will have you listening in minutes!

Launching Radio Sure:

If you've been successful with the install, the program should launch automatically afterwards.  An online radio station should start playing.  First thing to do is stop the music and configure a few things.  TAB through the screen until you hear "play Button".  Press the SPACEBAR and the stream will stop. 

TAB to options and press the SPACEBAR to activate the option pages.   

General Tab:

Remember, you can move between the tab pages by pressing CONTROL+TAB. 

A few things you might consider modifying in the general tab.

  • Whether you want the program to start with windows.  Don't see the advantage of this, as I'd rather control when it's playing.
  • Whether you want a stream to start playing when you launch the program.
  • And my favourite, Global hotkeys. I would urge you to enable this, as it then gives you the option of controlling RadioSure from anywhere.  See "Global Hotkey List" at the bottom of this entry.
  • Minimize the program to the system tray is handy, as it takes it out of the way.  You can summon it back to the foreground with one of the global hotkeys listed below.

We will skip the Skins tab, as it makes no difference to screen readers. 

Recording Tab:

Yes, you can record the streams with this program.  One thing you might consider changing on this tab:

  • The recording folder.  The default is to put it within a folder called music under the RadioSure program.  You can point this folder to any folder of your choice with the unlabelled "browse" button.  You can look around the other options on this tab at your leisure. 
 
The Advanced Tab:
  • You can choose your preferred audio device.  Leave this one alone, unless you are having audio issues, or prefer to use a specific device.
  • I'd suggest checking the "Always show station in the window title", so you can easily hear the station name by pressing INSERT+T withmost screen readers.
  • I'd uncheck "Show pictures related to songs", but that's just personal preference.  

Press SPACEBAR on the "OK" button and the setup is complete.

Yay! Let's start listening and finding radio stations.  

The Main Window:

The first area on the program window is the list of all stations; over 12000 from across the globe.  No non-terrestrial station as of yet, but who knows.

Navigate this list with the UP and DOWN ARROWS.  PRESS ENTER to start playing.

Volume Control:

TABBING brings you to the volume control.  It's independent from the system volume, which means it will not interfere with the screen reader levels.  Use PAGE up/PAGE DOWN for 20% increments. Use LEFT and RIGHT ARROWS for 5% increments.  And finally, use UP and DOWN ARROWS for 3% increments.   

Searches:

Another press of the TAB will bring you to the search area.  Simply type a station name, a genre or even radio call letters and the station list will be populated with the results.  No need to even press ENTER when done.  Press SHIFT+TAB twice to get back to the modified listing.  To get back to the full list of stations, erase the search term.  

Those are the main features of Radio Sure and should give you a good base to get started.  All in all, a nifty little program if you like listening to online radio, but are too lazy to go surfing the web to find them all. 

As promised, here are the global hotkeys.  They make using the program even sweeter.

  • (Shift + Alt + H) toggle hide/show Radio Sure
  • (Shift + Alt + Number pad Plus) volume down
  • (Shift + Alt + Number pad Minus) volume up
  • (Shift + Alt + M) Mute
  • (Shift + Alt + P) toggle Play/Stop
  • (Shift + Alt + S) Stop
  • (Shift + Alt + B) Back
  • (Shift + Alt + N) Next
  • (Shift + Alt + R) start/stop Recording.  
Click this link to download the Radio Sure player: http://www.radiosure.com.

Dog or Cane, You decide

by Romeo Edmead

For some blind people, the decision to travel with a cane or guide dog comes very natural, leaving no room for debate in their minds. Then, there are those who make a choice, but the internal tug-of-war never grants them the absolute conviction about their decision. The third and final group, used both a cane and guide dog for a substantial amount of time, and they are extremely satisfied with their final choice, even if that means alternating between the two. In order to provide legitimate perspective on both sides of the spectrum, only people who have used a cane and guide dog were interviewed for this article.

One person who goes back and forth utilizing both is 43-year-old Daniella Robinson. Ms. Robinson, who is employed full-time as a switchboard operator, lives in New Jersey and commutes to work in New York by train. Currently a cane user, Ms. Robinson has had several guide dogs throughout her life for a total of 18 years, while using a cane for approximately half that time. She pointed out some of the differences in treatment she receives when traveling with a cane or dog. Ms. Robinson said, “Sometimes when I would travel to the store with my dog while I was living in Florida, they would stop me periodically upon entry. Once I confirmed that my dog was a service animal, however, they would apologize immediately and proceed to be very helpful.”

Ms. Robinson went on to discuss some of her experiences when it comes to shopping with a dog in New Jersey, which she stated was nothing like those in the sunshine state. She said, “Forget about checking to see if the dog was legitimate, they would just say he’s not coming in. When they realize I’m not going to back down, it still does not phase them. Then they sometimes threaten to call the police, which I then tell them I would be glad if they did.”

Encountering ignorance from store employees, who refuse to allow dogs, is somewhat unfamiliar to other dog handlers however. Life-long California resident Ron Holmes, a computer instructor who has used dogs for 30 years and a cane for 10, said his problems arose when he would go shopping with a cane. Currently a dog user, Mr. Holmes recalled the offensive mumbles he sometimes heard when he entered a store. He said, “They would say oh no, what is he doing here? What does he want?” With his dog however, Mr. Holmes said it is the complete opposite from the moment he walks in. “They are very pleasant when I have a dog and even state they are glad to see me”, he said, “And we usually have a nice conversation as we shop.” Mr. Holmes wanted to clarify that he still uses his cane sporadically, but he said it is usually for situations that involve large crowds where the dog is more likely to be stepped on.

No matter what 51-year-old New York City Attorney Ray Wayne is doing, he uses his cane all the time and never plans on going back to a dog. He was a dog handler for 7 years and has used a cane for nearly 28 years. He used a dog during college and law school and said it was perfect for him at that time in his life. “When I was attending Harvard, I was in an unfamiliar city,” said Wayne, “And my dog helped me get acclimated much quicker than I ever would have with a cane.” He added that besides just getting around, people in class enjoyed having a dog there because it reminded them of their own pets.  “Even now that I work full time, I know many people would appreciate having a dog in the office,” said Mr. Wayne, “But I just don’t want the responsibility anymore. He said that despite the fact that the dog has to be accepted in the workplace, if another employee was allergic to dogs he or she would have rights too. Mr. Wayne also stated that he is not saying that would be anyone’s fault, but he just wants to minimize any dilemmas that are connected to his blindness. Besides the issues that may come up involving others, Mr. Wayne gave some insight about his relief on a personal level. He spoke about one freezing cold day last winter when he thought to himself, “Thank God I don’t have a dog that needs to go for several walks.” He concluded his thought when he said, “Maybe I’ll reconsider when they learn to use the toilet.”

Although Ms. Robinson agrees with Mr. Wayne about the extra responsibility of having a dog, she certainly plans on using one again someday. She becomes extremely attached to her dogs and needs time when transitioning from one dog to another. “I would say after I had to stop working each one of my dogs it took about 4 years before I was ready for another one,” said Robinson. “I need sometime to grieve and then to have a break from the responsibility.”

One aspect of using a dog Ms. Robinson certainly does not miss is the assumption that the dog is taking care of her. “People think the dog is your spouse and best friend too,” said Robinson. “I’ve even been asked who bathes and feeds the dog.” Mr. Holmes chimed in and said he can sympathize with some of the negative attitudes that are directed towards dog users, but he maintained that he will never need a break from using a dog. “It drives me crazy when cabs won’t pick me up,” said Holmes, “But then on the other hand I can go running independently which I can’t do as efficiently with a cane.”

If there is one thing Mr. Holmes, Ms. Robinson, and Mr. Wayne agree on it is that the decision to use a dog or cane is totally up to the individual. Situations vary based on factors such as location, age, gender, and health. They all wanted to reiterate that sharing their personal experiences was only for the purpose of expressing their opinions. Nothing was said with an attempt to persuade anyone in one way or another. Ms. Robinson had the last word and summed it up this way. “Both are equally viable methods of travel, it just comes down to circumstances and personal preference.”

Article Source:
Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind

Visualizing What Someone Looks Like

by Donna J. Jodhan

For most blind persons, this is a very difficult chore. However, if you were born with vision and then you have lost it later on in life, this is not too hard to do. Why? Because for someone who was born with vision, they have had the opportunity to see and it is easy to transform this into visualization after losing vision.

As for me, I was born with very little and when I was a teen I got quite a bit of vision that enabled me to see faces. What a shock it was for me. Before I received my new vision, I had imagined certain things about specific persons; specifically what they would or could look like and when I got to see the real person, then I had to learn.

In a few cases, I was halfway there but for the most part I had to learn about looks, faces, body structures, and so much more. I had to learn that everyone in their own way was unique in look. Each person had a unique walk and set of mannerisms. Each person had a unique combination of facial structure, skin color, mannerisms and gestures, and so on.

Now that I have lost most of my vision, I can still visualize and it helps me to characterize persons. Lots of fun for me.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and encouraging you to go out there and tell the world that yes indeed! Blind persons can certainly enjoy things by using their sense of touch. 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: http://www.donnajodhan.blogspot.com
Weekly Saturday postings on issues of accessibility: http://www.sterlingcreations.ca/blog/blog.html
blogs on various issues and answers to consumers concerns: http://www.sterlingcreations.com/businessdesk.htm

Commercials That Do Not Tell All

by Donna J. Jodhan

It has always been a standard practice for advertisers to create and produce commercials that are glitzy, flashy, and commercials that are packed with lots of visual effects. For after all, these are the ones that more often than not bring in the big bucks to all involved. All well and good for those who are able to appreciate the visual effects, but what about for those who are not able to enjoy all of this? Those who are blind, vision impaired, and those who have difficulty viewing TV screens?

Very often, when I am sitting down to watch or rather listen to some TV programs, I have difficulty understanding many of the commercials because there is not enough audio description for me to be able to fully grasp the content and meaning of the commercial in question. Certain sounds within a commercial often give me a hint as to what it is all about but at the end of it all, I am still missing some important pieces to complete the picture. For example; the commercial with noises of a family eating dinner, then I hear noises, but there is nothing to tell me what is happening in between.

Recently, I came across a commercial of a little girl asking if she could burst open a piñata. When her mom said yes, I heard the noise of the piñata being burst open followed by someone spitting out something. However, what I missed was this: There was a picture of the face of the father's mother on the front of the piñata and the sound of someone spitting out something was that of the father when he saw his mother's face on the front of the piñata. Finally, the mother-in-law herself was also in the room but her back was turned so she missed seeing her own face on the front of the piñata.

I hope that somehow, producers of commercials will be able to find away to inject more audio content into their commercials. It will not just benefit those with vision difficulties; the blind, the vision impaired, and those with learning difficulties, it would also benefit those with cognitive disabilities as well.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and encouraging you to go out there and tell the world that yes indeed! Blind persons can certainly enjoy things by using their sense of touch. 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: http://www.donnajodhan.blogspot.com
Weekly Saturday postings on issues of accessibility: http://www.sterlingcreations.ca/blog/blog.html
blogs on various issues and answers to consumers concerns: http://www.sterlingcreations.com/businessdesk.htm

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

On the Way to Literacy: Books that I like to Touch and that Touch Me!

by Kristie Smith-Armand, M.Ed, CTVI

The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) has an audacious collection of books called “On the Way to Literacy”. “On the Way” is a brilliant ensemble of books for young children that include: Giggly-Wiggly Snickety-Snick, Jellybean Jungle, Thinamajig, The Gumdrop Tree, Something Special, That’s Not My Bear and Geraldine’s Blanket and many other entertaining stories.

The storybooks are equipped with large print, Braille and beautiful high contrast pictures that greatly enhance the development of literacy and comprehension in young children who have a visual impairment.

As a teacher for over twenty-eight-years, I have witnessed children who were missing out on comprehension, vocabulary and the story background simply because they could not see the visual hints that assist young children in understanding the story’s meaning.

I will never forget sitting with my adorable kindergarten student during circle time while the teacher was reading a story about colors.

“What is a color?” my student asked me. “Do you eat it, play with it or what?”

My student, Yasmine, was completely blind and English was her second language, so the question was a very good one. While the other children were looking at pictures of the colors my student was left wondering what the book was talking about.

Yasmine taught me that colors can and should be taught along with other experiences in life. A child without vision needs to be taught colors and other concrete skills discovered through books and real experiences, so that they may participate in life with a strong understanding of their world and the people in it.

I finally began to understand that my students without vision would need hands-on and a concrete understanding of words and experiences in life.

I began to ask the kindergarten teacher that school year for a list of books that she would be reading to her class, and then I created story boxes for my student.

Nothing helped Yasmine more with comprehension and vocabulary than actually being able to feel the real objects mentioned in the story. The next time the color book was read, Yasmine smelled scented markers and tasted foods that represented the colors, she loved it. Colors were making sense to her now. She even commented to me one day that brown was her favorite color because she loved Snickers candy.

The “On the Way to Literacy” books from APH help to build meaning. When Geraldine loses her blanket in one story, children can ‘feel’ the blanket and touch how the blanket’s texture changes after many days of being loved by Geraldine.

When I introduced Roly-Poly Man to Yasmine, she was thrilled. She listened as the child in the story created a ‘roly-poly’ play-doh figure. Yasmine was even more thrilled when she and I created our own Roly-Poly Man from peanut butter play-doh. (You simply mix peanut butter with a white cake mix and make the consistency the same as bread dough).

The Gumdrop Tree comes with scented stickers and drawings that show the tree’s growth. I was able to teach shapes, colors, and sizes from this high interest book. Some other ideas that will enhance the story is to have the student feel the growth of a bean that has been planted in a wet paper towel, chew pieces of gum while discussing colors, take the already chewed gum and create a gum tree on a sheet of Manila paper. The student will absorb more information from the story when they are actively participating in the details from the book.

Jennifer’s Messes is a wonderful story that has thermoforms of familiar objects such as cereal, pretzels and crayons that Jennifer keeps spilling. Another great skill for enhancement would be for children to compare ‘real’ cereal to the tactual cereal in the book. It is important for students who have a visual impairment to understand that the plastic tactual objects are representations for the real objects.

Giggly-Wiggly Snickety-Snick comes with real objects and textures. In my opinion, this cute story demonstrates how real objects teach comprehension, vocabulary and that written words have true meaning.

Another favorite book offered from APH is Jellybean Jungle. Jellybean Jungle is a charming book that teaches counting from one-to-ten, rhyming words and color concepts. Another student, that I had a few years ago learned many of his colors from jellybeans, fruit, and Skittles and adored Jellybean Jungle.

Before a parent, educator or anyone else reads a book to a child with a visual impairment it is crucial for them to hand the little one ‘real objects’ from the story. The child will feel, smell, touch and taste the story and so it becomes real. I use all of the senses when teaching my students about a story, so that the background is already built. I can then do hand-over-hand tracking of the story with my student who will begin to make the connection that letters create words, words make sentences, sentences make a paragraph and a paragraph develops a well-told story.

When families and educators verbalize pictures from a story and inundate the child with real objects and understanding before the book is read, we will begin to produce students who have a strong understanding of literature and who are not behind their sighted peers academically. In Mesquite ISD the vision department does numerous hands-on strategies and have witnessed many student successes throughout the years such as: a radio researcher, a 4.0 college graduate, athletes, students who participate in the gifted program, and a school weatherman.

Children who understand their world through experiences either personally or by reading will be successful and great contributors of society. Nothing explains the outcome of good readers more than Dr. Seuss. "The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go." — Dr. Seuss, "I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!" Because of great reading materials from APH, our students who have a visual impairment are doing just that.

Your Voice As Your Password On PayPal

I love PayPal! I've used the service to purchase things from Amazon, Wal-Mart, eBay and various "one sale a day" sites on the net. The one thing I sometimes get a little nervous about is when I forget my password. I have this fear of being locked out of my PayPal account because I have a moment of brain freeze and temporarily forget my login information.
PoxPay is a cool service that uses voice biometric technology to uniquely identify and authorize purchases you make with PayPal. With PoxPay there is no need to enter a PayPal password, your voice + phone acts as your password.

Click this link to visit http://www.poxpay.com.

Clothing Care And Sewing Techniques

Carol Woodward, Homemaking Teacher at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Handicapped has presented an excellent summary of tips on Clothing Care & Sewing Techniques. Topics included are:
  • Marking Clothes
  • Threading A Needle
  • Using Scissors
  • Patterns and Fabrics
  • Machine Sewing
  • Hems
  • Ironing Clothes
  • Folding Clothes
  • Hanging Clothes
  • Laundry
  • Stain Removal
This article by Carol Woodward is available on the website of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Handicapped. Follow the web link below. Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired 1100 West 45th St. Austin, TX 78756 Phone: 512-454-8631 Fax: 512-454-3395 Web: http://www.tsbvi.edu/Education/clothing.htm

Automatic Needle Threader

Threading needles can be difficult for people, blind or not. Here's a nifty tool to get the job done. You put a needle in one of the little funnels (eye down), drop the thread over the slot next to the funnel, and press a button. The thread is pushed through the eye of the needle and it comes out the other side of the funnel. I love it, it's so simple and yet ingenious and can save so many people a lot of trouble. Click this link to purchase the Automatic Needle Threader from Lee Valley Tools.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Qwitter: the Accessible Way to Access Twitter

From the Qwitter Readme file:

Twitter is an insanely popular micro blogging service, that is, a service which allows you to post short little chunks of no more than 140 characters of text to the web at a time and have these updates, or tweets, as they are called in twitter speak, read by your followers, or the people who are following you.

Qwitter is a program created to make using the twitter system as easy and efficient as possible. There are many advantages to using a twitter client, and qwitter in particular. Here are just a few.

  • Using a client allows for easy and fast response to new tweets. No more going to the web page just to check if you've gotten a new tweet. In fact, one of Qwitter's best features is the ability to check your tweets no matter what you're doing. You don't even have to leave the application you're currently using.
  • Qwitter automatically alerts you when something new comes in, and wherever you are, you can use the various system wide shortcut keys to read your new updates. Once again, this doesn't even take you out of whatever program you're currently working in.
  • With the various buffers that Qwitter uses, you can limit what you see to certain types of tweets, such as replies, direct messages, and sent messages, along with your regular full messages list, and custom buffers that are created for aditional functionality.
  • Qwitter is very easy and intuitive to use.
Click this link to learn more about Qwitter: http://www.qwitter-client.net.
If you don't currently have a twitter account, you may create one at http://www.twitter.com/signup.
Listen and Learn Recordings has created an introduction and review of the Qwitter Client for Twitter: http://www.lalrecordings.com/node/31.

Send Audio with Your Tweets

As of the 4.5 version of Qwitter, you can record or connect audio files to your tweets with Qwitter. Q-Audio provides the backbone for the Qwitter Client's voice clip attachment capabilities. Once audio has been recorded or attached, you can continue to edit your tweet and send as usual. APH uses this method to record audio clips for both our Twitter and Facebook feeds.

You can click this link to visit http://q-audio.net but all the functionality of the site comes from the Qwitter program directly.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Students Can Get Microsoft Software Free

Being a student is often just as challenging for your wallet as it is for your mind. Different colleges require different, advanced toolsets. Each software suite could cost you a small fortune. If not supplied in volume licensing by your school or college grant, you will be building up some serious debt.

Luckily, most of the software giants like to give their programs to you without any charge.  It’s a simple matter of  investing in the future. If you’re a student, read on to find out just what you need to do to get your hands on some very cool software!

The MSDNAA is a Microsoft program in which most major high schools and universities around the world are enrolled. The institutions pay an annual fee, in exchange for which the appropriate (probably not if you’re studying dance) departments can download Microsoft freebies. These may include:

  • Windows Server
  • Windows 7
  • Visio
  • Visual Studio
  • .NET Enterprise servers
  • MSDN Library
  • Microsoft Project
  • Visual Studio
  • Expression (Web, Blend, Design, Media)
  • SQL Server
  • Exchange Server

For more information, look for the above certificate on the website of your teaching institution, or perform a Google search for “institution name MSDNAA” (without quotes).

Click this link to visit the MSDN Academic Alliance Home Page.

Couldn’t find any link between MSDNAA and your teaching institution? Not to worry, there’s another way to apply for free Microsoft software for students. This program is called Microsoft DreamSpark and it invests in high school and college students around the world under the motto “Dream today, create tomorrow“.

A list of the software available includes:

  • Visual Studio 2010 Professional / Express
  • Windows Server 2008 / 2008R2 Standard
  • Windows Phone
  • Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition / 2005
  • Expression Studio 4 Ultimate
  • SQL Server 2008 Developer / Express
  • XNA Game Studio 3.1
  • Robotics Developer Studio 2008 R3
  • Windows Internet Explorer 9
  • Microsoft Virtual PC
  • Windows MultiPoint Mouse SDK
  • Windows Embedded CE 6.0
  • Visual Basic 2008 Express Edition
  • Visual C# 2008 Express Edition
  • Visual C++ 2008 Express Edition
  • Visual Web Developer 2008 Express Edition
  • Windows Server 2003

You can sign up in the left sidebar of the Microsoft DreamSpark website. There are three ways of getting verified. The first way is to get an access code from a local representative (i.e. applied for by your teacher) and enter it online. Second is if you have an ISIC international students card. The third way is to manually select your school from an incredibly long list of verified colleges.

If you still weren’t able to get verified, take a look at this page. It details a number of alternative ways to apply for DreamSpark, depending on the country.

Heating Controls in the 21st Century

by Karen Crowder

Ten or twenty years ago, if it got cold outdoors on a late September day, all you had to do was turn a dial or lever on your thermostat and you had heat.  If you were blind, this was no trouble.  You could easily make markings with tape or a dot would tell you if you were at 70 degrees.  Heating your home in the dead of winter on a blustery January day was no problem–just turn the dial and you always had reliable heat. 

Programmable thermostats came in to everyday use a few years ago, and blind home owners or apartment dwellers who used them required sighted assistance to start the heat during the winter season.  Some programmable systems have buttons, but some are completely flat, making it almost impossible for blind people to set their heat at an optimal temperature.  The ones that do have buttons utilize a general mode button that forces you to memorize and count through functions and settings.  The only real accessible option is an expensive talking thermostat, which is not in everyone’s budget. 

I just came across this problem in my new apartment.  The kitchen and bathroom have dial controls but the living room and bedroom do not.  I looked at the three buttons and asked the lady who takes me shopping what they did. She said that the larger one is a mode switch, but how am I going to get around this so I can reliably set my heat?  The way I see it, I can either get a talking thermostat to regulate my heat, or hope that the landlord will give me an old-fashioned dial so I can regulate it.  Is the large investment of a talking thermostat worth the expense to heat the living room of a studio apartment?  It’s a question I will quickly need to ask myself, and so should every blind home owner or apartment dweller before the depths of winter are upon us. 

A dial-operated thermostat would be cheaper and anyone can operate it independently, adjusting heat to their comfort level.  The programmable thermostat is just one more step towards making us less, not more, self-reliant.  It is another reason, if these are to become an industry standard, that they should be made totally accessible.  In the next twenty years, barring a miracle, the visually impaired population is going to grow larger than it is now.  Because of age-related diseases and diabetes, and new blind veterans, the need for universally accessible appliances will need to be made mandatory.  This will be beneficial for people who cannot read, or for the swelling numbers of people with vision problems. 

So, for now, if my landlord cannot put an old fashioned dial in my living room, I have three choices: buy a small, efficient space heater for the living room, wear extra warm sweaters or jogging suits, or buy an expensive talking thermostat.  I will perhaps pick the second option, as less heat saves energy. It also saves on the electric bill, and on a tight budget, that is a blessing.

Article Source:
Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind

High Flying FlagHouse Services People with Disabilities

by Kristie Smith-Armand, M.Ed, CTVI

Five-years ago, I worked with an adorable two-year-old who had a visual impairment and many facial abnormalities. Asia was a special little soul who was not meant to be with us long, but what a difference this little girl made in my life and many others in her short two-years on earth.

Asia’s mother, Tabitha, was a dynamic parent who loved her daughter and expected great things from her and from the specialist who worked with her. Asia was not expected to do all the things that she was doing because of so many physical issues. However, Asia never knew this, and Tabitha did not accept anything but high expectations and happiness for her daughter. Asia waved her hand at others, blew kisses, loved to shop and had more personality than most children her age.

Because of Asia’s many physical problems, Tabitha was constantly searching for adaptive equipment that helped her toddler to succeed in life. One day when I was working with Asia, Tabitha brought me a catalog from a company with many cool adaptive devices and toys, and that catalog was FlagHouse.

“Ms. Kristie, can you order this large yellow ball and other items from FlagHouse for Asia?” she asked me one day.

“Yes,” I said, “But only if you’ll show me how I can start receiving these catalogs myself.”

FlagHouse has been in business since 1957 but began servicing special needs in 1975. This family operated company has many adaptive devices for everyone and anyone with special needs from infants to senior citizens.

During the past year, FlagHouse has debuted three new catalogs: Flying Start - for children up to age 5 in preschool environments with a focus on early intervention; Giant Leaps - for school-age children with special needs; and Going Strong for adults and seniors with special needs. Their catalogs are aimed at professionals in schools, special facilities, camps, hospitals, long-term care centers and rehabilitation clinics, virtually anyone who works with those living with cognitive and physical disabilities.

The president, George Carmel, is compassionate and caring just like the rest of his staff. Michelle Mathias, one of the Senior Brand Managers for Special Needs products at Flaghouse, encourages everyone to contact the helpful Flaghouse staff at 800-265-6900 any time assistance is needed. I know from experience that FlagHouse helps, guides and truly takes great care of their clients. The company knows and understands the needs and materials that will make a difference in the lives of those struggling with physical or cognitive obstacles.

My personal experience with this incredible company and the people who work at FlagHouse is personal. The company published five of my books that train teachers, professionals and families how to work with children who have a visual impairment as well as a Social Play guide available in each vision kit exclusively owned by FlagHouse. After Tabitha asked for more adaptive devices for her toddler, I wanted desperately to be a part of FlagHouse.

After Wee Play, Wee Learn, Wee Play in the Dark, Wee Are Ready, Views from a Vision Teacher and The Elephant in the Room were published, Michelle Mathias helped to create vision kits that enhance my activity books. A parent or a teacher can simply read the activities, pick up the activity kit and stimulate a child’s vision with no hassle or worry. The kits are also cost efficient and are available for families and schools who are on a budget.

FlagHouse is a company that understands that people all want the same things in life: to be independent, social, loved and happy. Just because a person has a disability does not mean that he does not need and want the same things in life that you and I do. Quite the contrary, a person with disabilities craves to do regular activities that we sometimes take for granted.

FlagHouse offers adaptive tools, toys, swings, and numerous other devices that assist people with physical obstacles to be able to meet their own needs and make choices for themselves.

I will never forget my precious two-year-old student, Asia, who taught me so much more than I ever taught her. She brought FlagHouse to me. She was one of the reasons that my books became published with a phenomenal company and that a vision section was created. Ironically, after I signed my contract with FlagHouse, the books were sent to ‘ASIA’ to be published. When I see a little girl’s room decorated in pink, I always think of my student who introduced me to a company that is caring, compassionate and gives much to people with disabilities.

When Asia passed away that following Christmas, the other specialist and I were devastated. To help ease our pain, my mother wrote a beautiful poem on this special little girl who made such a difference to so many.

“Baby Angel”

By Jamille Smith

Today Heaven is lit
With a rosy pink glow
An angel has come
From the earth far below.

Her journey here has ended-
Her story has been told.
Now Asia runs and plays through
Streets made of gold.
For more information on FlagHouse, please visit their website at http://www.flaghouse.com or call 1-800-265-6900.

Educational Videos at Teachertube

The goal of Teachertube is to provide an online community for sharing instructional videos. "We seek to fill a need for a more educationally focused, safe venue for teachers, schools, and home learners. It is a site to provide anytime, anywhere professional development with teachers teaching teachers. As well, it is a site where teachers can post videos designed for students to view in order to learn a concept or skill."

With TeacherTube, community members can:

  • Upload, tag and share videos worldwide.
  • Upload Support Files to attach your educational Activities, Assessments, Lesson Plans, Notes, and Other file formats to your video.
  • Browse hundreds of videos uploaded by community members.
  • Find, join and create video groups to connect with people who have similar interests.
  • Customize the experience by subscribing to member videos, saving favorites, and creating playlists.
  • Integrate TeacherTube videos on websites using video embeds or APIs.
  • Make videos public or private, users can elect to broadcast their videos publicly or share them privately with those they invite.

Most importantly, TeacherTube community members are a major part of the evolution of the site. Members are encouraged to not only upload educationally relevant videos, but also to make constructive comments and use the rating system to show appreciation for videos of value to one as an educator or learner. Users also have the ability to preserve the integrity of the site by flagging inappropriate videos. TeacherTube staff review flagged sites and will remove any inappropriate posts. With more collegial commentary and discussion through messaging and responses, the quality of this resource will only increase. The service is free for everyone and I'd love to see a "special education" channel.

Click this link to visit http://www.teachertube.com.

Watch Know

Watch Know is another collection of thousands of educational videos from across the Internet. The site is broken down into an easy-to-browse catalog. You can also use a standard search box to find videos. Although the site is gathering videos from all across the web from sites like National Geographic, many of the videos are drawn from YouTube.

Click this link to visit http://watchknow.org.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Use 800 Information Numbers and Skype to Call Any U.S. or Canadian Business for Free

So you're talking to a friend on Skype and you suddenly remember that you need to call a business to get something done. You are disappointed to find that you're out of calling credits and can't make that call. Don't give up! There might just be a way to use Skype afterall! This tip comes from the folks over at Lifehacker.

"Skype calls toll-free numbers in the U.S. or Canada for free. There are a couple of toll-free numbers, 1-800-373-3411 or 1-800-555-8355, that can connect you to any searchable business. Combine the two, and any business is accessible for free, from anywhere in the world.

Skeptical, we called 800-555-8355 from a Skype account that had used up all of its free SkypeOut calling credits, and the call went through. When the friendly automated operator asked, we said we wanted to be connected to the Salt Lick in Austin, TX. The listing came up, the robo-operator said "I'll connect you," and we hung up as soon as we got voicemail, it was, after all, about 5 a.m. in that time zone.

So next time you need to make reservations or chat up a business in the U.S. or Canada, whether from North America or anywhere in the world, try the one-two combo of Skype and your favorite 800 information service."

Friday, October 08, 2010

All-In-One Board Makes Learning Fun

by Kristie Smith-Armand, M.Ed, CTVI
“You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives.” ~Clay P. Bedford
I recently discovered an item from the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) after my friend and fellow vision teacher, Karen Clay, told me about it.
“You need to order several of these,” Karen told me on the phone one day. “There are so many useful ways to teach with this board and the materials that go along with it for all of your students,” Karen encouraged.
Karen and others who know me understand that I am fanatical about great teaching materials. I am a self-confessed vision nerd. People in my department and others are always laughing when they hear me opening up my new materials from APH, Discovery Toys, FlagHouse, Frog Street Press, etc. because I am loudly expressing my joy that makes learning exciting.
The other day while standing in my office, I put on my black apron from APH’s TOAD kit and was beaming that I now had an apron to use when working with my children who have cortical vision impairment (cvi). The physical therapist jokingly told me that I really needed to get a life and then asked, “Hey, can you get me one of those?”
After my fellow-vision nerd, I mean teacher told me about the All-in-One Board as well as the Textured Sorting Circles and Shapes (also from APH), I ordered one board. I waited a few weeks and then I ordered three more boards. I know and love Jim Durkell, who handles our APH materials, and was happy when he didn’t comment on my obsession with my new discovery.
The All-in-One Board is much to be excited about as it has a magnetic and VELCRO® brand side. You can use homemade items or the really cool Textured Sorting Circles and Shapes to teach concepts. The board comes complete with a package of dry erase markers, protective storing and carrying case and of course, the board itself.
I also use the All-In-One-Board with my toddlers. Teaching little ones to scribble and color is a very important brain developing skill for pre-writing and fine motor development. The children love their ‘scribble’ board.
For one of my older students in middle school who has a cognitive delay, we work on money skills, adding, subtracting and word building weekly with the All-In-One Board. He loves putting the materials on and then taking them off when we change our objectives. My student has a very short attention span, however, I can maintain his attention for thirty minutes when I am doing skills with the All-In-One Board.
There are many students who can be taught numerous skills with the All-in-One Board in every subject matter. Imagine a classroom teacher teaching in the classroom about the planets. With flannel-shaped planets, the student without vision would have a solid representation of how the planets lined up in distances from the sun.
Story time and flannel board stories are also a favorite for many students. Reading skills such as vocabulary development, recalling details, character development and understanding plot, setting and characters along with many other objectives can be better understood with this amazing item.
The Textured Sorting Circles and Shapes that I use frequently with the All-in-One Board come in a variety of textures, sizes and three basic colors: red, yellow and blue. What a great way to incorporate a Venn diagram to help children to understand similarities and differences. I also use the two items together when I am working with toddlers and teaching them to match shapes and colors, understanding the words big and small, positional words as well as likenesses and differences.
For my students with multiple disabilities, the All-In-One Board offers a black background of felt, so that a teacher or parent can easily add high contrast yellow or red felt characters, shapes or objects on the board.
The All-in-One Board has many professionals talking and children excited about learning new skills with a product that encourages interaction and a high interest level. When children learn and are having fun with The All-In-One-Board they will agree with Dr. Seuss’ wise words: “Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.”


VELCRO®, VELTEX®, and VELCOIN® are registered trademarks of VELCRO Industries B.V.

How to Download Your Information from Facebook

One feature strangely absent from Facebook has always been the ability to download your pictures, videos, messages, and other information to your hard drive. Now, with a few clicks, your updates can be easily saved.

All you need to do is head to Account, Account Settings, then to Download Your Information. From there, you can download a zip file containing all your profile information, including your photos, wall posts, messages, videos, friend lists, and other content. If you unzip the file, you can actually view a simple HTML page of your profile, with simple links to all of these things. It doesn't look like there's currently any way to re-import that information back to Facebook.

Article Source:
Lifehacker

Avoiding a Heartbreaker

by Donna J. Jodhan

I have learned the hard way that avoiding a heartbreaker may not always be as easy as you may think. Sometimes, and especially so in my case, I allow myself to be caught up in the moment as they say and in doing so I often fail to use my logic and experience to save me from heartaches.

This is what happened over six years ago when I decided to go for broke and gave my approval to the doctors to perform a third cornea transplant on me. This despite my gut feeling that I should have left well alone and that my doctor's warning that the success rate would probably have been 50-50%; but the quest for additional vision clouded my judgment and six months after the surgery my heart was aching and breaking and I was fighting to keep my life together.

Anything and Everything that could have gone wrong, did. My retina detached in three places and the cornea failed. As the doctor later said to me, it was one of the worst detachments that he had ever seen but there was more. In a subsequent surgery to repair the damage, the eye itself was damaged and a piece of my heart died that day. A terrible accident had taken place during the surgery and I was left to pick up the pieces all on my own.

My family and friends were extremely supportive but nothing could have helped me deal with this tragic loss. It's so easy to say that I should have done this or done that but it's too late now and all that I can do is to use this experience to save myself further pain for the future. The lesson here for me is this: Look before you leap. Think carefully before you act. Temper my hopes and dreams against reality.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and encouraging you to go out there and tell the world that yes indeed! Blind persons can certainly enjoy things by using their sense of touch. 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: http://www.donnajodhan.blogspot.com
Weekly Saturday postings on issues of accessibility: http://www.sterlingcreations.ca/blog/blog.html
blogs on various issues and answers to consumers concerns: http://www.sterlingcreations.com/businessdesk.htm

Attending Functions at Work

by Donna J. Jodhan

Attending functions at work is probably one of the more challenging things for a disabled employee. Each type of disability has its own unique challenge but for someone who is blind or sight impaired; I would like to list just a few of these.

It is always a good idea for someone in the workplace, a sighted employee, to ensure that when a function is about to take place, that the blind or sight impaired employee's needs are understood. Blind and sight impaired employees in the workplace often need help to do such things as navigate the room, find a seat, find the buffet table, and if it is a sit down meal to know what is being served. It is a good idea to have someone act as a so-call escort/tour guide through out the function. In addition, it is always helpful for a blind or sight impaired person if they are able to know where their friends are sitting or standing in the room.

When I worked in the mainstream workplace, I always made sure that whenever functions took place, there was someone around to help me find my way around. The buffet table was always my greatest challenge because of having to know what was being offered. Next came finding a seat, followed by being able to know what was on my plate; what was being served to me.

On the whole, it is always best for a blind or sight impaired employee to discuss these types of needs before hand with either a close colleague or even the manager if that fails. Many sighted employees either often take for granted that their blind or sight impaired coworker can get around or they simply forget to take these types of challenges into consideration. Some managers are very good at anticipating these types of needs while others do not think and need to be told. Once they are, things usually go a lot more smoothly. I think that the name of the game here is to avoid uncomfortable situations for everyone.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and encouraging you to go out there and tell the world that yes indeed! Blind persons can certainly enjoy things by using their sense of touch. 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: http://www.donnajodhan.blogspot.com
Weekly Saturday postings on issues of accessibility: http://www.sterlingcreations.ca/blog/blog.html
blogs on various issues and answers to consumers concerns: http://www.sterlingcreations.com/businessdesk.htm

REVISED! Desk Board with 27 Cell Slate & Large Stylus

Board now made with durable white plastic!

After writing four lines, open the slate and slide it down until the pegs fit into the next set of holes, and continue writing (up to 28 lines).

Includes
  • Desk board with clip for holding paper
  • 27 cell slate
  • Large handle stylus
Catalog Number: 1-00060-01
Click this link to purchase the Desk Board with 27 Cell Slate & Large Stylus.

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
E-mail: info@aph.org
Web site: http://www.aph.org
APH Shopping Home: http://shop.aph.org

CVI Complexity Sequences Kit

Card sequences for use by students with CVI who have had success with 2-dimensional materials.

APH's CVI Complexity Sequences Kit includes cards that present sequences of images designed to refine the ability to identify a target in the presence of increasing amounts of background information. These cards may be used individually or as a sequence and should be presented against a black or plain, light-absorbing background.

Designed to assist individuals with CVI improve ability to:

  • Recognize or identify simple, colored, 2-dimensional images presented in isolation
  • Recognize or identify images presented with increasing numbers of background elements
  • Identify a key image based on the salient features of that image
  • Recognize or identify images presented in a variety of locations and with increasing numbers of background elements
Includes
  • Ten sets of eight Sequence Cards stored in vinyl pouches
  • Blackout window to isolate the target image
  • Guidebook in large print and on CD in brf, html, dtb, and text formats
  • Three-ring binder

Note: Braille Guidebook available separately.

Recommended ages: Preschool and up.

Catalog Number: 1-08156-00
Click this link to purchase the CVI Complexity Sequences Kit.

American Printing House for the Blind, Inc.
1839 Frankfort Avenue
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 6085
Louisville, Kentucky 40206-0085
Toll Free: 800-223-1839
Phone: 502-895-2405
Fax: 502-899-2274
E-mail: info@aph.org
Web site: http://www.aph.org
APH Shopping Home: http://shop.aph.org

The Expanded Core Curriculum Forum

ECCadvocacy.org is a joint website of the American Foundation for the Blind and Perkins School for the Blind, dedicated to ensuring that children who are blind, visually impaired, and deafblind have access to equal and appropriate education through the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC).

ECCadvocacy.org is a grassroots forum and a central resource and gateway to more information about the Expanded Core Curriculum, a curriculum that provides students with the foundational skills they need to access the core curriculum and achieve independence throughout their lives. The site advocates for inclusion of the ECC as an integral part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) scheduled for re-authorization in 2011.

Whether you are a parent, teacher, administrator, or just someone concerned with providing effective education to all children, you are invited to join the community. http://www.eccadvocacy.org/eccforum.asp

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Meet The Mother of All Curriculums, Frog Street Press’ Pre-K Curriculum

by Kristie Smith-Armand, M.Ed, CTVI

(Sung to the tune of Sesame Street’s theme song) “Can you tell me how to get, How to get to Frog Street Press.

Come and play
The new curriculum is A-OK
Friendly themes and learning there
That’s where we meet

Can you tell me how to get,
How to get to Frog Street Press
It’s a magic ride
With lots of learning once inside
Every door will open wide
To smart people like you and me

Can you tell me how to get,
How to get to Frog Street Press…”

I may not know much about song writing as you may have noticed, but I can tell you after twenty-eight-years of teaching, I know a great curriculum when I see one, and Frog Street Press’ Pre-K curriculum is the mother of all curriculums.

Headed by a dream team of authors and writers, an incredible integrated curriculum meets the needs of all children, and when they say All Star Team of authors- they mean it! The Who’s Who of team writers is lead by Dr. Pam Schiller, a noted professor, public speaker and author of many books on researched-based information, activities, and stories for younger children. No other company can top the cast and crew who put together this curriculum. Becky Bailey, PhD, Steve Spangler, Sharon Burnett, Amy Noble, Dr. Clarissa Willis and many other specialists gathered together with their expertise and created a curriculum that is child-centered, in English and Spanish with a focus on Social-Emotional Development. To top it off, the extraordinary group of educators built in special accommodations for children with special needs.

The brilliant nine thematic units are: “My School and Me”- Mi escuela y yo, “My Family and Friends”- Mi familia y mis amigos, “Giants”- Los gigantes, “Choices”- Decisiones, “Stories and Rhymes”- Cuentos y rimas, “I Build! I Create! Pedo construir! Puedo crear!, “Things That Move”- Cosas que se mueven, “Animals”- Los animales, “Changes”- Cambios.

Young children will learn throughout the school year with several instructional materials and books (Poetry, Alphabet, Developmental, Wordless), music, CD-Roms, DVD’s, manipulatives, colorful card photographs, and story folders. Children will experience many activities that train young minds to retain and enjoy learning throughout the school year.

Let us take an imaginary walk down the street where learning and fun are guaranteed. Do not leave anyone behind because this curriculum meets the needs of everyone- from bilingual to special needs as well as adaptations for young learners.

First, we will come to City Hall where the heart of the program is kept- the nine themes with four weeks of instruction each in English and Spanish. Please feel free to take pictures of the beauty inside of City Hall where learning is meaningful and fun.

Next, we will enter inside of the Literacy Library where you will find a variety of resources on the shelves of the library. Yes, you already know about the awesome books and now you see the magnetic letters, a resource book on Spanish Literacy, Literacy CDs, a Tabletop Pocket Chart and Rebus Posters. Shhh, shhhh! I know it is tempting to sing along with the materials, but we are inside a library and must be quiet.

Let’s keep moving and go inside the Frog Town Elementary School. This child-friendly school stores the colorful vocabulary cards and photographs that will entice children to express their thoughts through oral language development, practice literacy skills, and get ready for this one…the back of the vocabulary cards gives the word and pronunciation in five languages. The school also houses Alphabet Wall Cards, Nursery Rhyme Flip Charts, Cultural Rhymes, Compound Word Cards as well as English and Spanish word cards. WHEW! I need a break after all of that excitement and will now go inside the Lilypad Theatre.

The Grand Ole Opry has nothing on this theatre as it comes equipped with thirty-four Story Folders, Storytelling on DVD, Games and Patterns, CD, and hold on to your heart, a DIGITAL ONLINE LIBRARY!!!

Can you handle more, because next door is the Big Frog and Tadpole Bookstores with personal narrative books like A Chance for Esperanza? Esperanza (which means hope) is a story about a little sea turtle who cannot find his way to the ocean because of sand in his eyes. Dr. Pam Schiller beautifully illustrates through her words how she coaxed the little guy with a flashlight to find his way into the ocean. This amazing story teaches that we cannot leave even one sea turtle behind. There are also predictable text, nonfiction and informational text as well as classics like Little Red, Fiction, Sara Sidney’s Runaway Adventures, Poetry and Fantasy books.

I need more cash, so that I can go back to the bookstore and buy my own copy of Esperanza. Let’s stop at the City Bank, and while I get more money you can tour the incredible engaging math books, valuable resources, music and manipulatives.

What’s that great music I’m hearing? Oh, next door is the Science Museum where the musical and talented Steve Spangler has his tools for Science Exploration that comes with a mixing tray, a magnetic wand, rainbow peepholes and much more. Adorable books like: Edie’s Backyard Bugs, Animal Lies and Critter Hide-and-Seek are just a few science books that young children will love.

Let’s keep moving where we will sit down for a nice chat and a treat. Frog Street Café supports emotional development and several unbelievable resources for socially and emotional growth. I see Fanny Frog’s house outside of the window. Wave at Fanny and nod your head in agreement as she is letting us know that learning is fun on Frog Street.

Kid’s Castle is the last stop on our tour where meeting special needs for children is met with several useful tools and resources as well as a broadened Physical Development area for fine and gross motor development.

I just had another burst of energy with all of these amazing materials in Kid’s Castle. Help me to grab the ends of the parachute and bounce the beach ball and beanbags up and down as we strengthen our large motor skills.

There is so much more to take in, but we must now end our time together on Frog Street.

I hope you enjoyed your tour of The Mother of All Curriculums, and remember, like the song says, “Come and Play, the new curriculum is A-OK” If you’re wondering how to get, how to get to Frog Street Press call 1-800-884-3764 or click this link to visit their website: http://www.frogstreet.com.

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