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.)


Monday, February 28, 2011

Add a DVD to Netflix Before Its Release

DVDlater lists all the movies in theaters so you can save them to your Netflix queue. Just find the movies you want to watch, click the add button and once the movie comes to Netflix it will automatically be moved to your DVD queue. You will never have to remember what movies to add to Netflix and never miss a must-see movie again.

You can use DVDLater in three easy steps:

  1. Browse the DVDLater selection often for new releases you would like to see on DVD.
  2. See a movie you want to rent? Click 'Save to Queue.'
  3. When the movie is released to Netflix, it will automatically be sent to you.

How it works:

  • The website updates as new movies come out to theaters or release new trailers. Check back whenever you see commercials, movie posters, trailers, anything that makes you think 'I want that on Netflix.'
  • DVDLater uses the Netflix API so new theatre releases can go straight to your queue. The hassle of remembering and searching is over.
  • Simply add the movies you want to see from your browser and it will automatically be saved to your queue.
  • DVDLater does not store any of your personal information. You only need to be logged into Netflix.
Click this link to start watching movies with

Friday, February 25, 2011 Find Caregivers in Your Area or Sign Up If You Are a Caregiver is aiming to become one of the largest and most trusted networking organizations connecting families with childcare providers nationwide. Aside from Child Care, offers many other great services for your family such as Pet Care, Senior Care, Special Needs Care, Educational Care, Home Care and Personal Care. They allow you to connect with Caregivers in a safe, secure way so you no longer have to feel uneasy about who is coming into your home!

If you happen to be a Caregiver, you can sign up and be a part of their database so others can find you!

Click this link to visit

Our Visually Impaired Presidents

Adapted from an article by Kyla King | The Grand Rapids Press

Presidents' Day usually means a day off for most government workers, and a day without mail for the rest of us.

For a change of pace, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) wants to mark the occasion by reminding us of the “Get Eye Smart” public awareness campaign encouraging Americans to take charge of our eye health.

They accentuate the point by highlighting reported vision problems of three U.S. Presidents – Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.

lincoln1863-1187198463.JPGAbraham Lincoln

It seems Lincoln could not look a person straight in the eye because he had “strabismus,” according to the AAO.

What's that? The National Institute of Health defines it as “ a disorder in which the two eyes do not line up in the same direction, and therefore do not look at the same object at the same time.

The AAO say photos and portraits of Lincoln's left eye tended to roll upward, especially when the 16th president was tired or excited, and his dominant right eye did most of the work.

They also say Lincoln's left eye was set slightly higher in his head and drooped a bit because he was kicked by a horse when he was 10. They speculate he may have suffered from double-vision at times and nerve damage that resulted in mild paralysis of his eyelid.

0013588_2.JPGTheodore Roosevelt

According to eye doctor historians, the country's 25th President, Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, was partially blind in his left eye. Either from a blow to the head during one of his many boxing matches, or an earlier injury from his adventurous ways.

They speculate Roosevelt had an undiagnosed detached retina and say athletes in impact sports should take a lesson and be sure to use protective eye wear and seek immediate attention for injuries to the eye and head.

Lastly, they tell us Woodrow Wilson woke up in 1906 to find he was nearly blind in his right eye. That was seven years before he became the 27th president.

2006_06_0210.JPGWoodrow Wilson

The AAO said Wilson had severe bleeding in his retina, which back then eye doctors had no treatment for other than ordering patients to rest the eye for several months.

They speculate Wilson's reported high blood pressure may have been the cause. Eye historians say his vision eventually improved some a bit, but not enough to improve his golf game.

E-mail Kyla King: and follow her on Twitter at

Products Being Sold without Accessible Manuals

by Donna J. Jodhan

This is one of my pet peeves and I hope that my message gets out there. Too often, when products are sold and manufacturers beat their chests with pride because they swear that theirs are products that can be used by blind persons, there is one very important component missing; manuals are not in a format that we can read. It is very frustrating to purchase a product because the store has told you that it can be used by a blind person then when you take it home and open it up guess what? There are no manuals in Braille, or large print, or on CD, diskette, or on cassette.

How many times have I run into this situation and I am not alone. I purchase a calculator that is supposed to be blind friendly and there is no manual that I can read. I have to depend on sighted assistance. I have to ask someone to show me how to set the clock because there is no manual for me to read. Everything is in print. I buy a microwave and despite reassurances that I can hear the options in the menus, this is not the case. Only 75% of the menus have been designed with talking features.

Of course, the stores are not going to stand up for us. They sell a product that claims to be blind friendly and that's that. If we complain, then they tell us to go back to the manufacturer ourselves. Very frustrating indeed. I am going to give you two urls that you can visit in order to purchase products for the blind that come with manuals in alternate formats.

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:
Weekly Saturday postings on issues of accessibility:
blogs on various issues and answers to consumers concerns:

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

by Donna J. Jodhan

Someone recently put forth the following argument to me. Out of sight, out of mind; could this be the reason why society often forgets about blind and sight impaired persons when it comes to ensuring that they receive such things as: equal access to job opportunities, education, health services, equal access to sporting and recreational facilities, and everything else that the mainstream person has access to?

I listened with bated interest to this person's opinions and arguments and after our encounter I decided to take a bit of time to contemplate. It did not take me too long to formulate my own opinion. There definitely seems to be a common thread when it comes to blind and sight impaired persons being either forgotten or left out of many every day matters.

When it comes to sporting activities, I have found that in my home city of Toronto Canada, there is a definite lack of accommodation when it comes to sporting activities. Over the last decade, I have tried so many times to catch the interest of the Parks and Recreation folks in Toronto to raise the issue of blind persons being left out of sporting events and they have sheepishly admitted that more needs to be done but to date not much has been done.

A few months ago I had a meeting with some officials of a financial institute to discuss making more financial planning services available to blind and sight impaired persons and at that time I raised the issue of making information available in alternate formats such as Braille, large print, and electronic text. To my chagrin but not to my surprise, the officials admitted that they had never thought of doing so. I also had a similar meeting with a major supermarket chain in Toronto to discuss making their weekly specials more available to their blind and sight impaired customers either online or through a phone service and again, I was told that this had not been thought of up until now.

So the question of the day would be this one: Why is it that so many companies, cities, and even governments seem to often forget about the blind and sight impaired? Out of sight out of mind? Because the blind and sight impaired community is just too small to be considered or could it be something else? This is not just a Toronto Canada problem; it is Canada wide, North American wide, and even global wide.

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:
Weekly Saturday postings on issues of accessibility:
blogs on various issues and answers to consumers concerns:

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Go Fish: The Classic Matching Game with Braille

In this accessible version of the classic Go Fish kid-friendly card matching game, players make sets of four fish of the same kind by asking for cards from other players. Players can ask for cards by the numbers or by the names of the fish appearing on the cards. Cards in this set also show the number and fish name in Braille, so blind players can also join in on the fun. For 2-4 players. Ages 4 and up. Includes 52 playing cards plus 2 game instruction cards. Flash Card Measurements: 3.25" x 5.25"

Click this link to purchase Go Fish from

American Cancer Society Designed for Enhanced Accessibility

The American Cancer Society (ACS), in collaboration with the American Council of the Blind (ACB), has taken affirmative steps to make its website and other information accessible to people with visual impairments. The American Cancer Society's new website provides an improved experience for anyone looking for information, help or ways to fight back against cancer.

The website is divided into four main sections - Stay Healthy, Find Support & Treatment, Explore Research and Get Involved - that reflect the primary ways the American Cancer Society helps save lives from cancer.

The site is designed to meet guidelines issued by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) ( The guidelines, which do not affect the content or look and feel of a web site, ensure that sites are accessible to persons with visual and other disabilities. The guidelines are of particular benefit to blind computer users who use screen reader voice output or magnification technology on their computers and who rely on a keyboard instead of a mouse for navigation.

The Society's accessible website is part of a broader initiative to ensure the availability of cancer information to people who are blind and visually impaired. As part of that initiative, the Society has worked with ACB to develop a pilot program that will offer certain ACS materials in Braille, Large Print and Audio Formats to individuals whose disabilities prevent them from reading standard print.

Details of the information available in alternative formats can be found at Members of the public with visual impairments may call 800-227-2345 for more information and to request materials in other formats.

Find Similar Sites to Your Favorites with Similar Site Search

We all have our favorite websites and web-based services that we refer people to. Sometimes our favorite sites don't provide quite what our friends and colleagues need. In those cases, Similar Site Search can help you find websites and web-based services that are similar to your favorites. It's easy to use, just enter your favorite site's url and go!

Click this link to search with

Facebook Updates in Your Email

TheFriendMail provides fast and convenient access to Facebook directly from your email inbox.

You can create email alerts to automatically receive your news feed and get much better email notifications for Facebook. You can also "like", comment, and use other Facebook features just by sending email. Some things I've noticed:

  • Facebook is a lot less noisy than Twitter! It really helps to have TheFriendMail automatically send my news feed. I receive every 20 posts and usually get 2-4 emails a day.
  • I no longer need the app that auto-posts all of my tweets to Facebook. My friends didn't like that anyway :-)
  • It's effective to share links on Facebook because Facebook will show a thumbnail and description for the link. TheFriendMail will create the wall post correctly (unlike the Twitter-to-Facebook app).
  • I tend to get more comments when I post stuff on Facebook. I've actually become a lot more active on Facebook thanks to TheFriendMail.
Click this link to visit and learn about this accessible way to receive updates from Facebook!

Pediatric Eye Disorders

Some eye diseases affect children more predominantly than others. Here you can find out the symptoms, causes, and treatments of the most common pediatric eye-related diseases and conditions.


Amblyopia is a disorder in which the eyes are unable to coordinate their alignment or to maintain parallel focus. Simply put, the eyes don't want to play nice with each other.


Strabismus, also known as crossed or turned eye, is the medical term used when the two eyes are not straight. It occurs in approximately 2 to 4 percent of the population.

Retinopathy of Prematurity

Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) is a disease of the retina affecting prematurely born babies.

Congenital Cataracts

A congenital cataract is an opacity (cloudiness) of the lens of the eye that is present at, or develops shortly after, birth.

Stargardt's Disease

Stargardt's disease is the most common form of inherited juvenile macular degeneration. It is characterized by a reduction of central vision with a preservation of peripheral (side) vision.

Article Source:
Lighthouse International

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Cobra Screen Reader

Bay Area Digital is pleased to announce the availability of the acclaimed Cobra Screen Reader as a product offering from the company. Written by Baum Retec AG of Germany, this is a full-function screen reader product. Baum has over 25 years of experience in writing screen reading software for Windows operating systems.

COBRA simplifies working with Windows 7, Vista or Windows XP for blind and visually impaired computer users. COBRA incorporates all standard functions of a modern screen reader in an environment also guaranteed for the future. COBRA prioritizes what it does on user's requirements and outputs this important information from the computer screen into speech, Braille or as a magnified form.

COBRA For Everybody!

There are 3 versions of COBRA:

  • COBRA Braille -- With this package, you get Braille and speech output from Cobra
  • COBRA Zoom -- With this package, you get speech output and screen magnification from Cobra
  • COBRA Professional -- With this package, Cobra provides you with all the user modes: Braille; speech; and the magnified screen. You can mix and match as you choose for any situation.

Integrated screen magnification

Also available as of COBRA 9.1 is a powerful screen magnification capability with the following features:

  • Magnification from 1x to 32x
  • Full screen or split screen views of the computer screen
  • Edge smoothing with automatic recognition of foreground and background colours
  • Optical aids such as highlighting of the cursor and focusing on borders and mouse pointer
  • Extra large mouse pointer that can be displayed in different colors ]

The current version of Cobra is available from Bay Area Digital. For more information, contact Bay Area Digital: (888) 881-1998 or (415) 217-6667. Also, you can purchase the product from their website at
They have created a Daisy version of the English-language Cobra 9.1 manual at
They have also made available a text-only English-language version of the 9.1 User manual at

Bay Area Digital LLC is an adaptive technology company working in the fields of health care and superior quality technology for the blind and visually impaired. They create their own products as well as carry superior products from other companies such as the Royal National Institute of Blind People. The company publishes a quarterly newsletter, Pulses, which is available free to anybody requesting it. Bay Area Digital is majority-owned by the blind and visually impaired.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Accessible Way of Rowing to Fitness

by Tai Blas

I have recently discovered a completely accessible way to get fit: an accessible Ergometer (rowing machine) made by Concept2. With the addition of free computer software called Erg Chatter, the Concept2 performance monitor is made completely accessible to blind users.

With the purchase of a Concept2 Ergometer and either a model 3 or 4 performance monitor, you receive a 15-foot USB cable. Connect this to the back of the monitor on the rowing machine and connect the other end to a computer. Download the free Erg Chatter software, run the setup program, open the installed Erg Chatter program and you are up and running. It’s as simple as that.

You can press C from your computer’s keyboard to configure the data you want spoken to you and at what intervals you wish to receive updates. You can use your computer’s built-in speakers, plug in external speakers or attach headphones to your computer for updates.

I plugged one of the male ends of a Y-type audio cable into the earphone jack of a two-pound netbook next to the Erg machine and plugged the other male end into my iPhone. I then plugged my headphones into the female jack on the cable. This allows me to listen to music and hear my statistics as I work out.

Erg Chatter tells me my stroke rate per minute (the number of rowing strokes I take), my average split speed (the average length of time it would take me to row 500 meters), total elapsed time and the approximate number of calories necessary to propel you thus far into the workout. This calorie data should not be confused with the number of calories you as an individual have burned, as these stats are not one in the same. 

Erg Chatter has the ability to report your heart rate statistics when used in conjunction with a compatible wireless heart-rate monitor. The Model D Erg comes with a heart rate monitor, or you can purchase a heart-rate monitor from Concept2 for use with other Concept2 machine models using the PM3 and PM4 monitors.

I really enjoy the sport of rowing and look forward to getting out on the water this spring. And this is a great way to train and stay fit in the winter!

I am very impressed with Concept2′s commitment to building accessibility into its products. Currently, the company is working on an accessible application for rowing statistics that will run on the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Article Source:
Technology for the Blind

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sense of Science: Astronomy

Sense of Science is a unique series designed to make the world of science accessible, understandable, and enjoyable.

The main component in each Sense of Science kit from APH is a set of colorful, raised-line overlays designed to be used with a light box, or as stand-alone items. An accompanying guidebook suggests activities using the overlays and supplemental teacher-provided materials to enhance and extend the learning experience.

Three modules are currently available, Sense of Science: Plants, Sense of Science: Animals, and Sense of Science: Astronomy. Additional modules will be available in the future.

This is the third module in this tactile/visual science series. Unlike previous modules of this series, this set of materials is appropriate for a broader range of ages and grade levels of students with visual impairments and blindness. Activities incorporate a learning objective, a list of vocabulary and needed materials, a step-by-step procedure, extended activities, visual adaptations, math and language connections, and science tidbits. Activities are complemented by the included visual/tactile overlays and fold-out 2-dimensional displays.


  • A large print guidebook (braille edition available separately) with easy-to-follow activities, a glossary, and a list of resources and related websites.
  • A variety of visual and tactile overlays that can be used alone or with the optional APH Light Box or Mini-Lite Box (sold separately). Overlays include:
    • Cross-Section of the Sun
    • Lunar Eclipse
    • Milky Way Galaxy
    • Orbit of a Comet
    • Phases of the Moon
    • Planetary Orbits
    • Relative Sizes of the Planets
    • Solar Eclipse
    • Space Shuttle
    • Ursa Major/Ursa Minor
    • Moon Phases (small cards for sorting)
    • Galaxy Type (small cards for sorting)
    • Fold-Out Astronomy Displays:
      • Our Solar System Display (with separate print/braille labels)
      • Northern Circumpolar Dome
      • Relative Distances of the Planets
  • Two trays designed to slip under a light box ledge and provide a secure working area when using the overlays.
  • Astronomy Quick Fact Cards include print/braille "Fact Card" for each planet, the Moon, the Sun, and Pluto. These cards can be used as independent study/review, as a quiz game, or as a springboard for students to create and expand their own fact sheets.
  • Astronomy Worksheets include print, braille, and CD-ROM files of the following worksheets for student completion: Planet Fact Worksheet, Planet Ranking by Distance from the Sun, Planet Ranking by Orbital Period, Planet Ranking by Rotation Period, Planet Ranking by Size, Planet Ranking by Temperature, and Famous Astronomers. The CD-ROM contains the worksheets in these file formats: MS Word, PDF, and braille-ready (.brf).

Notes: Each overlay set is housed in its own protective and labeled clear-view folder. Braille labels are included for customer application.

Additional sets of Quick Fact Cards and Astronomy Worksheets are available for purchase separately.

Recommended ages: 8 years and up.

Catalog Number:
Click this link to purchase Sense of Science: Astronomy from APH.

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

Abby Diamond's Timeless Adventures Part 2

by Kristie Smith-Armand, M.Ed, CTVI

Abby Diamond is meeting up with famous authors of all time. Part 1 ended with Abby having met Beatrix Potter and now Hans Christian Anderson.

“What is the date now?” I asked.

“Why Abby, you are from the future. It is 1844 and a pleasant day indeed in Denmark. Abby, what is it you’re wearing? I like it, really,” Hans stated.

“They are sparkling blue jeans and my favorite pair,” I added cheerfully.

“Hans,” I began, “how do you tell stories?” I asked.

“Well, I create stories and my dad encourages me to use puppets so as to entertain children. I simply love to tell stories and to sing,” he said enthusiastically.

“Tell me a story now,” I begged.

“Well, okay. Here’s one of my favorites but I am afraid I do not have my puppets here with me, so I shall do my best to make it super entertaining.”

Hans began spinning a tale about a duck that was ugly and big unlike the other beautiful ducks in his family. Everywhere the Ugly Duckling went people made fun of him. However, Hans sums up that the Ugly Duckling grows into a beautiful swan.

“Hans, that is the most beautiful story ever! I love it!” I cried. “Where did you get the idea?”

“I’m afraid it is a reflection of my own life, Abby. I have always been such an outcast and not considered very attractive because of my large nose and tall gangly body,” Hans stated.

“Well, don’t be embarrassed around me,” I continued, “I think what I see is the best and the most handsome boy ever,” I beamed.

“How nice of you to say that, Abby. Thank you,” Hans said.

“Guess what, Hans? You know that I am from the future, right? Well, I know for a fact that the Ugly Duckling is about to become a beautiful swan. You will be one of the most famous storytellers of all time. You will keep getting more and more famous because of the way you tell the most beautiful stories. You will write many like: The Princess and the Pea, The Ugly Duckling, of course, Little Mermaid, Little Match Girl, Red Shoes, Emperor’s New Suit, Tinder-Box and many other classic tales,” I stated proudly.

“You know what, Abby? Suffering is good for us because it only makes the happy times even happier. You have made my day, and because of you, I will continue my writing even though I keep getting rejected. Abby, we must hurry. We have three minutes to get back to the library,” Hans yelled.

Hans and I flew back to the spot where we met, held hands while I repeated the words from his mouth, “And the matches gave a brilliant light,” I screamed with delight.

I once again felt myself floating and boom I landed right in the biography section landing on the floor right next to Jaxson and Glen. Yep from royalty to the dump is where I successfully landed.

“Hey, you crazy girl! Where did you come from? Hey can I’s borrow some money? I ain’t got no money to get a hamburger after I return this stinking book after my dumb-dumb book report for Mrs….”

I tuned out before I became depressed listening to Jaxson go on and on and on and on….

Chapter Eight- “The Sting”

After I recovered from landing literally right on Jaxson after my lovely trip to Denmark where I met the famous, Hans Christian Anderson, I was forced to return to the real world. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I love my friends and life; however, I have never felt so alive than when I spend time with an author who is so full of life and stories.

“Abby, you coming over today?” Neils asked after school. “Or you going to the nerdy library and read your boring books.”

“Neils, what is it with your attitude about books and authors? I hope to be an author one day and what are you going to say about me- that I am boring and dull?”

“I wouldn’t say that about you, Abby. At least I wouldn’t say it to your face,” Neils giggled.

“Oh, really, Missy,” I laughed. Neils and I began laughing and wrestling when Alison and Andrea walked up.

“Abby, Neils! You, two, are filthy and have leaves all in your hair!” Alison yelled. Alison tried really hard to not be a superstar like her mother, however, fate kept telling her differently.

“Yeah, you nutty girls,” Andrea chimed in teasingly. “Let’s go see a good movie. What about that cool movie where there are mean girls that attend a high school and the goofiest boy in school wins her love,” Andrea beamed.

“Hmmmm,” I said. “That sounds like a future love story for Neils and Jaxson,” I laughed and began to run wildly forgetting my cane and the fact that I was blind. Oomph! I landed in the bushes and the bees were not so happy with me. I got stung four times before my gang could pull me out of there.

The next day after my mom doctored me all up and bought me some ice cream for my bad misfortune, the gang came over to check on me.

“You really look swollen around your eyes,” Alison said innocently.

“Well, Alison that is what happens when bees are swarming your face,” Neils said bluntly.

“Guys, I am ready to go and see a movie- any movie,” I said. “I am ready to get out of this house and soon.”

“Can you wear a mask over your face before we go out?” Neils teased.

“Neils, has anyone ever told you when enough is enough?” I asked jokingly. She was pondering this question, so I answered it myself.

That night we all went to see a movie. We let Andrea pick which movie she wanted to see. The movie was really historical and good, but it scared me to think that there really was such a horrible time in history and that the story was true.

The movie was about one of the most evil men in history, Adolph Hitler. He punished and killed many people simply because they were Jewish. The movie, although very sad, taught the truth behind this evil dictator from Germany.

After the movie was over, we could not stop talking about the injustice in history. “WWII was a war that we joined after our soldiers were bombed by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii,” Andrea taught. “Franklin Roosevelt, the president at the time, declared war and we fought against Germany, Japan and the others who joined in with the madman, Hitler.”

“Andrea, you know so much. So what happened to the Jewish people that were taken to the concentration camps?” I asked sincerely.

“Most of them died, but there were some who escaped death but not starvation and sadness.”

After the movie, we walked to a new restaurant called Sadie’s that was right down the street.

“Ohhh, I love their hamburgers with that oozy sauce and steak fries,” Neils began salivating.

“Say no more,” I said. “I’m starving!”

We walked into the cool new diner and it was amazing. It was designed like an old coffee shop from the 1950’s. Andrea said that Elvis posters and other famous people from this era were all over the walls. She also said it was painted red, black and white and that the waitresses and waiters were on roller skates. I could hear the rolling sounds but was not really sure what was going on.

After we ate and ate and ate, it was time to go home.

“Bye, Bumble Bee face,” Neils teased.

“Bye, future wife of Jaxson,” I scored.

I was lying in my room thinking about the sadness of the most horrific time in history when my black phone rang softly.

“Hello,” I answered knowing good and well who was going to be on the other end of the phone.

“Abby, so good to hear your voice. How was your trip to Denmark to meet the greatest storyteller ever?” Young Caroline asked.

“Awesome, Caroline. What is going on in the background? I hear the television but cannot hear what it is saying?” I asked.

“This cool group, “The Rolling Stones”, are singing a new song called, “Brown Sugar”. Caroline began singing.

“Isn’t that song really old and the singers like really really old now?” I asked.

“Well, Abby, I am speaking from 1971 and you are seeing things from 2011, so we are seeing and hearing different things.”

“Watch out, Mother,” Caroline yelled.

“Abby, my mom just fell. Can you hold on?”

“Sure Caroline, but she’s okay although she will have a scar on her left knee from falling in the glass that she broke.”

“Wow, Abby! Our conversations are blowing me away,” Caroline laughed.

“Tomorrow you will meet another author. Go back to the regular spot in the library at 3:30 and repeat three times, “The Diary of a Young Girl”, gotta run.” And then the phone simply hung up.

Chapter Nine- “Diary of a Young Girl”

Once again I could not wait to run to the library and stand in the corner for another great adventure with an amazing author. Unfortunately, Mrs. Trammell did not know what great fate awaited me.

“Abby, I need you to stay after school today, and organize our next student council meeting,” Mrs. Trammell said.

“Mrs. Trammell can we please do the planning tomorrow? I have something really important to do today after school,” I pleaded.

“Well, okay. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Thanks so much, Mrs. T,” I beamed and raced to run out the door. I grabbed the handle on the door and tugged. Nothing happened. I tugged again.

“Mrs. Trammell, help me. The door is stuck.” I yelled.

“Oh, no, Abby, it isn’t stuck, it’s locked by Mr. Massey.

I wanted to faint. I was about to miss out on meeting one of the greatest authors of all time, but thanks to our custodian, Mr. Massey, Mrs. Trammell and I were about to have a slumber party inside the classroom. Just Mrs. T, our class pet, a rabbit named Albatross (meaning trouble) and me.

Just when I was about to give up all hope, the door opened, and for once I thought Mr. Massey’s voice was the sweetest one on the entire planet.

“Sorry I didn’t know you, two, were still in here,” Mr. Massey apologized.

“No problem, Mr. Massey,” I beamed and ran over and gave him a big hug.

By the time I made it to the library, I had one minute to say the magic words, “Diary of a Young Girl, Diary of a Young Girl, Diary of a Young Girl”, and just like that I found myself in Amsterdam standing beside one of my heroes, the great Anne Frank.

“Hello, what is your name?” Anne asked me. “No offense, but you are wearing the strangest clothes I have ever seen. Are you blind?”

“Hi Anne. I am dressed differently because I am from the future, and yes, I am blind. However, being blind does not stop me from having a great life. I read Braille, use technology, print and everything else others do- just in a different way,” I smiled.

“Printer machine?” Anne asked.

I told Anne all about computers, printers and the cool technology that we have now. She was so excited and kept saying, “Oh, my!”

Anne and I were standing on the sidewalk in Amsterdam carrying on like two long lost best friends.

“Abby, I would love to take you to the movies, but the Nazis will not allow Jewish people to attend. We cannot ride any type of transportation and must attend a school with only Jewish children. My sister, Margot, and I are very close, so we stick together, but Abby, I am scared of what is about to come,” Anne stated.

I could not tell her about how she, her sister and mother would not last through the war (WWII). I could only explain how important it would be to write in a journal.

“Anne, don’t you like to write?” I asked. “I mean, I want to be a writer one day, and I thought you may want to be one also,” I said.

“Yes, Abby. I love to write and one day I want to be a journalist or a famous author.”

“Where is your diary?” I asked Anne. I knew from reading that she had an orange and red checked autographed book where she recorded the most incredible facts and sadness from the war.

“I don’t have one, but tomorrow is my birthday, and I hope to get one,” Anne said happily. I reached into my pocket, and to my surprise, I had a twenty dollar bill which would buy much back in the early 40’s.

As luck would have it, Anne and I were walking down the street. She was describing the items in the window when we were walking down the street.

“Oh, Abby! I must tell my father that I see the diary I want. I mean it isn’t exactly a diary but an autograph book decorated in orange and red checks. It is amazing,” Anne giggled.

“I love writing, too, Anne, so I completely understand. Anne, would you mind taking me into the shop, so I can feel of the diary?”

“Yes, Abby, come inside and I will guide your hands,” Anne said happily.

Anne and I walked inside the shop, and she guided my hands across what will become the most famous diary in history.

I grabbed the autograph book and listened to the store- owner talk to someone standing beside him.

“Sir, may I purchase this?” I asked.

“No, Abby! You are way too kind. My papa will buy it for me, but I appreciate it so much,” Anne said sweetly.

“Here’s my money, Sir. We must have that particular diary.”

“Wow, what is a young girl doing with so much money?” he asked.

“Well, my family does have money,” I said without lying. “I love to share my wealth with others.”

“What a fine girl you are indeed. Just like Anne here, you will have a wonderful future,” the store -owner said.

I wanted to cry when I handed him the money and he placed the diary into Anne’s hands. I could not believe that I was about to be a huge part of history.

“Come on, Abby, let’s write in my diary. I want you to write the first line in it,” Anne smiled.

As Anne was talking I began to feel dizzy, and when I woke up, Anne, her entire family that included: her papa, mother and sister, were all crowded in a rather small room with three other families.

“Anne, where are we?” I asked.

“We had to go into hiding because we are Jewish. Otherwise, we would be sent to a really bad place and possibly killed by the Nazis. Come on, and I’ll show you around. We are actually living above my father’s shop.” Anne took me through the small surroundings. The first floor had the toilet and two small adjacent bathrooms. The next floor was a larger room with a smaller room beside it. As Anne was walking me around I felt a small ladder.

“Where does this lead to?” I asked.

“It goes up into the attic,” Anne whispered.

Anne told me earlier that during the day the families had to sleep and be very quiet, but at night, since no one was downstairs in the store, they were free to move around.

Anne read to me everything that she had written in the diary so far.

“Anne, who is Peter?” I asked.

“Well, Peter is now my boyfriend, although at one time I could not stand him,” Anne laughed.

I met Peter on the way up to the attic and really liked him. I could see that the two had fallen for each other or they were both really lonely for companionship.

“How do the people downstairs know that this apartment does not exist?” I whispered.

“There’s a bookshelf that keeps our secret,” Anne explained.

“Read me more of your diary,” I begged. However, we were interrupted by a loud noise downstairs.

“Oh, no, Abby,” Anne cried. “We’ve been caught. Here take my diary and hide it when we are gone. I’ll come back for it. The Nazis cannot see you because you are from the future. Thank you, Friend.”

I wanted to cry because I knew Anne would not return but her father would, so I had to take and hide the diary that my famous author friend and I shared.

Anne ran over to me, held my hands and said, “Abby, to get back to the future, I want you to say one of my quotes that I made up. Just stay, “Think of all the beauty that still surrounds you, and you will be happy.” She squeezed my hands and once again I felt myself land hard inside the library.

“Girl, you are one crazy broad! Every time I look up you is falling from the ceiling.” Yep, it was good ‘ol Jaxson jarring me back into current time.

Chapter Ten- “Into the Future”

After I landed in the library, I walked home with Jaxson. I was thinking about Anne and all of the famous authors I had met on this journey. How they had many obstacles to overcome and did so with so much grace. I was surprised to learn that they had encountered rejection with their writings. Jaxson- simple-minded as he was made me feel comfort as he was walking beside me. He was munching on chips, and I was eating my apple.

“Jaxson, I am so thankful that we live in America. I mean we have so much freedom as well as opportunity. I guess I am feeling so patriotic today,” I said philosophically.

“Yeah, Abby, I know what you mean. Can I have your apple if you ain’t eating it?”

“Sure and wow you think really deep about things, don’t you, Jaxson.” He ignored me, took my apple and munched all the way home.

When I got home Laura came over.

“Wow! Abby, I had so much fun learning about authors in Mrs. Trammell’s room and spending time with you and the authors in the library. Wasn’t that fun to pretend that you were actually there with Beatrix, Hans and Anne? I enjoyed my time with Jane Austen, Mark Twain and the others. I know that we are going to ace this project.”

“Me, too, Laura. I got so into it that I actually felt like I was there,” I grinned.

Laura left after lunch and I was listening to my screen reader read a new article on Anne Frank. The article said,

New evidence from the Diary of Anne Frank shows that Anne must have entertained another friend inside the hideout. It was recently discovered where inside the back cover of Anne’s diary she had written, “Thank you, Abby. I will never forget you.”

The article went on to say that no one knew who Abby really was, but I knew. I wanted to yell out that it is me, Abby Diamond, Girl Detective.

The Evolution of Talking Books in my Lifetime

by Karen Crowder

I remember when I received my first talking book machine from the Massachusetts commission for the blind in 1967.  Subtle improvements had been made over previous versions. There was an extra speed–8 rpm–and current books were on 16 rpm. The sound quality was excellent and patrons often played record albums with pleasing results.

People were already talking about cassette technology being on the horizon, a new adjunct to talking books.  But by the mid seventies, records were still the norm and new talking books were on 8 RPM hard discs, soon to be replaced by thin flexible discs.  New practices didn’t end with the discs either, as the well-made wooden talking book machines were replaced by lighter, less durable plastic models. 

The innovation of cassette books expanded literature available to us.  The first cassette books produced in the 70s were recorded at 1-7/8 speed and varied in quality.  I remember not being able to finish reading a best seller, “The Strawberry Statement,” in its entirety because the sound faded out towards the end of the recording.  By the late seventies, library patrons across the U.S. started receiving the new four-track players, opening doors to knowledge and accessibility previously unavailable to us.  We could read and discuss best-selling authors almost at the same time as our sighted friends.

It was a wondrous time for us as far as reading went.  Classics like “Gone With the Wind” were on eight four track cassettes and most college textbooks were housed in one small cardboard box.  But by 1999, we all realized cassette technology was on its way out and digital machines would soon stand in its place.  We wondered what, exactly, that meant for us.

Well, we were pleasantly surprised.  What a leap in portability, technology, and simplicity these books and machines are.  They are made to withstand years of use, with no moving parts, and twisted cassettes are a thing of the past.  You never have to deal with interruptions to turn or find that next cassette. The user guide is on a chip inside the player, eliminating the need for an instruction tape.  They have large buttons on top, all marked in Braille, and for non-Braille readers, each button speaks its function in a clear, pleasant voice.  Navigation options are endless and they are so easy to use.  Since getting this new machine from the Perkins Library, I have appreciated the simplicity of this player and the convenience of having an entire book on only one cartridge.

The most exciting thing is that you can download books as well, and don’t rely solely on a local library.  It’s wonderful that books will be in digital formats for future generations of blind children.  They will easily be able to download any book they wish to read directly on their computer or portable device.  They’ll never have to know what it’s like to have to listen to one book on countless records or cassettes.

I wonder if by 2015 we’ll be asking ourselves the same question we were in 1999: what comes next?

Article Source:
Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Meet Your Accessible Tests Team

The APH Accessible Test Department team is available to assist you with making your test items accessible for students who use braille, tactile graphics, large print, or audio media for test-related purposes. A major role of Accessible Tests is to review the test items, and to share and discuss our recommendations with you to help ensure that the items are accessible to test takers in whatever medium the items are to be presented. If APH is producing your test booklets in accessible media, the items are not produced until you are satisfied with the suggested adaptations. To discuss questions, please contact Debbie Willis at 800/223-1839, ext. 311 or email In order to request a free quote or to develop a contractual agreement, contact Doug Trent in Contract Administration by calling 800/223-1839, ext. 267 or emailing For more information, you are invited to view the Accessible Tests webpage by visiting We're here for you when you need us.

Carolyn Zierer, Test Editor; Kris Scott, Test Editor;
Debbie Willis, Director; Mark Alexander, Test Editor Trainee

Accessible Chess, Checkers and Variations Thereof for iOS

iOS developer Marcel Nijman has recently updated his assortment of chess and checkers games for iOS to include VoiceOver support. Besides traditional versions, several variations, such as Chinese Chess, are available as well.

With increasing frequency, we are seeing developers implement accessibility in their iOS applications, and the result is a rich platform that blind and sighted users can share. We recommend everyone click this link to check out Marcel Nijman’s accessible games for iOS.

Article Source:

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Master Your PC and Screen Reader!

by Deborah Armstrong

Are you trying to move from the beginner level to becoming an intermediate or advanced user of your screen reading software? For many, the challenge is remembering how to study and memorizing a myriad of hotkeys. It's even more difficult if the last time you studied you did not have a visual impairment. Here are some tricks for reducing the angst and tedium.

Different strokes for different folks. Get to know your learning style before trying to tackle the actual learning. Some people love to read manuals, and others just find them confusing. Some memorize better when sitting still in a quiet room while other people prefer to walk around and recite out loud. Some people like to study in a marathon long session, while others like to break lessons up in to small chunks. Some people enjoy chatting with others, and getting feedback about how their friends accomplish a task. Some people want to learn without interruption and distraction. Some enjoy asking questions and some are shyer, prefering to figure things out on their own.

If your computer teacher, your parents, or even your own internal bossy self wants you to learn one way, but you know you learn best using another method, stand up for yourself and be prepared to explain your learning style.

Set realistic goals. If you need to master Excel, PowerPoint and your screen reader's more obscure commands, you won't be able to do it all in one week. Make a plan, for example, focus this week on only learning excel and put the other to-do list items aside. For some people, it helps to write down a list of skills you want to master, and write down some dates you commit to working on their mastery. For others, simply setting a regular appointment is the key, for example, "Wednesday mornings I am going to work on Excel, every Wednesday morning until I run out of things to learn."

Being realistic means knowing your limitations too. If you want to be able to shop online, but you are new to using your screen reader with the internet, you won't be shopping this afternoon. It is true that your sighted friends can shop online with a minimum of skill, but you will replace your failed vision with a knowledge of how to use a screen reader, and learning a screen reader takes dilligence and time. If you were a touch typist before, chances are, you won't have much difficulty with a keyboard, but if you never touched a typewriter, you will need to practice before landing effortlessly on the correct key every time.

Make a plan. How, actually will you learn the information? Will you spend time with the product's training materials? Will you work in your school's computer lab? Will you read some web pages about the product, or download some tutorials from the internet? Will you get library books, for example using bookshare? Gather your learning materials and make a plan that is specific about what, when and how you will accomplish the goal.

Take notes. Too many people object to note-taking claiming they have a good memory. But why give yourself an additional impairment? You need that memory for everything that does not get written down. The act of writing something down helps solidify that information in your brain. If you aren't able to effectively write, use a cassette or digital recorder, and speak out loud. Reading over your notes later, or simply listening back to recordings you made will truly help you master skills.

If you are working with a teacher or friend, ask them to help you master one small skill at a time, for example, opening a file on your flash drive. Once you've practiced that skill, then summarize it in your notes. Don't try to note something while you are still in the process of learning it because you might log the steps inaccurately. But as soon as you master it, stop and note what you've learned.

Notes should define terms, remind you how to do things, and also how not to do something. For example, you might note that it isn't necessary to press enter after you type in information. You might note that the keystroke Alt-D takes you to the address bar, and make an additional note to remind you what in the heck an address bar is, anyway. A note may remind you how to select text and another note tells you what mistakes you commonly make when you think you selected some text but didn't.

Create cheat sheets. Using note cards, a Braille or large-print user can write a keystroke on each flash card, so that memorizing can happen anywhere, such as a long commute. What's really fun is to write up your own quizzes too, for example "Which keys do I press to move to a new frame on a web page?" You can alternate playing with quiz cards and then switch to reviewing the cards with the actual keystrokes you need to memorize.

You can also use a digital or tape recorder to tape your little quizzes, and then check your answers when you get home. If you feel you memorized something new, leave yourself a voicemail and see if you remember the keystroke when you check your messages back home! Playing games with yourself prevents the learning from becoming a chore.

Use bits of free time. Are you waiting for a bus, a dentist appointment, or a meeting to start? This is a great time to learn just one more new keystroke! Don't wait for a big block of free time, especially if your life is very busy. Research shows that even dogs learn best when training periods are short.

Dare to explore. Some sighted drivers get out the map, and plot a route in painstaking detail. Others drive around and note which buildings are on their route. Are you the sort of person who goes hunting for the restroom in an unfamiliar building before you need it or do you wait for someone to show you where it's located? If you are the waiting type, expand your horizons with a sense of adventure. Once you learn the restroom is next to the fire door, or on the opposite side of the hall from the cashier, you'll spend less time getting lost later. Whatever your style, learning how to explore a little can help you master a new environment, even if that environment is all digital. Check out all the programs menus. Working on a sample document or spreadsheet, try out different keystrokes to see what happens. Go through the online help, search for items and try reading some of the help screens. This is a fine way to learn program features, but it also is just a great help for your comfort zone.

If you have a magnification system, or sighted help, check out all the icons on a toolbar to see what they do. If you are a bit more advanced, use your screen reader: click on all the unlabeled graphics, note what happens, and give those graphics a label.

Ask co-workers to describe a program's screens, while you tape record their descriptions. If other co-workers use a particular software package, ask what things they click on, because even if you will perform the task with keystrokes, knowing how it is done with the mouse, can help you integrate more in school or the workplace. If you are familiar with the look of the programs you use, and you get stuck, a co-worker can tell you that the Information Window is open and you will know where you are.

Think Out of the Box. Ask a different person to explain a task to you. Read a different book on the subject. Try locating a choice on menus instead of just issuing a series of memorized keystrokes. Go over notes that are several weeks old for clues. But don't give up, just because the way you are trying to do something does not work. Dont' get overwhelmed. The popular screen reader JAWS has hundreds of keystrokes. But if you learn a new one each day in a year's time you will know how to accomplish far more using JAWS than many average users. The best way to stay commited to learning something new is to not overdo it and burn yourself out. Even practicing something new for just twenty minutes a day will get you to mastery, eventually.

Don't get too stuck. We all get confused. You try to open a file, and you cannot find it. You think you are following directions exactly, but the screen reader keeps repeating something irrelevant. When you get stuck, take notes on what's going wrong. This will help later if you ask tech support or a friend for help. It helps you too, because you start to learn the problem's symptoms.

For example, if you are sneezing continuously, you are showing symptoms of alergies or coming down with a cold. You can eliminate alergies if it isn't pollen season. Computer problems are similar. Knowing the symptoms will help you diagnose and eliminate issues later. If for example, your computer keeps reading the time out loud, that is a symptom that you accidentally turned on some setting you probably don't need. After you are shown how to disable that annoyance, you'll know what to do next time it happens.

Master the lingo. Another reason people get stuck is that what they read makes no sense. If the tutorial keeps jabbering about being in MSA mode, and you don't know what that means, here's a clue that you need to research the meaning of some terminology. You should not waste time reading information that makes no sense, or working with tutorials that aren't clear. If you are told to "click on options" to "adjust your choice" and you have no idea where options are and how choices are adjusted, these instructions will not help. If you are told to use your virtual cursor and you don't know what a virtual cursor is, you can't obviously learn how to use it.

Keep a list of terms you don't know when you run across them, so you can get them defined as soon as possible.

My mom, who is fully sighted, was stuck while reading the instructions to click on her browser. She searched the entire computer looking for an elusive browser to click on. She found Internet Explorer, and Firefox. She found web mail and many web pages she'd saved on her hard disk. My mom could not proceed in her learning because she didn't know that the word browser was simply a term for any software used to browse the web.

One of my friends was stuck because the instructions told him to press Alt-I for the insert menu, but he never got an insert menu. It turned out he was reading instructions for an earlier version of Microsoft Word. As soon as he got the right set of instructions, the problem went away. Don't be afraid to ask for help and keep asking if your first helper doesn't know the answer.

Another lady read the instruction "press Any Key when ready". Again, she vainly searched her keyboard for the Any key. If you are stuck because you can't locate that Any Key, consider that you are missing the obvious. Take a break and when you come back, try to read the instructions looking for a different meaning.

And if you are really stuck, give up on that one task and try something else. Perhaps your computer is configured wrong, or the instructions are misleading. Be specific in your notes about the problem. Instead of "it doesn't work" you'll be able to tell your helper the exact details, "when I press Alt-F for File, I don't get a file menu in this particular program." "When I select this download link, I don't think anything actually gets downloaded".

The most important thing to remember about getting stuck is the more clearly you can describe the problem, the more likely you will be able to get it solved. I worked for a decade in technical support and know this truth from experience. Describing a problem using specific, unambiguous language, is the best guarantee to getting it resolved.

Stop worrying. Many people fear technology because it will show how inept they really are. Computers make some people feel stupid. But the stupid people are those who give up before trying. Instead of focusing on becoming an expert, think just about the one little thing you are trying to accomplish today. Sure your boss wants you to be a wiz at the new order entery system, and maybe you are afraid of getting laid off if you can't become proficient. But worrying isn't going to make you an expert either. Today, your task is to get quicker at navigating in a spreadsheet, so focus on the keystrokes you need to know and stop agonizing over the big picture!

Last of all, be flexible. If you prefer to ask questions and you aren't getting answers that help, spend a little more solitary time with tutorials or manuals. If you would rather work alone, but keep getting stuck and giving up, then get on the phone with teachers or friends who can help. Or join many of the internet communities of friendly access technology users. If you usually prefer materials in Braille, but get only audio, allow yourself extra time to use the audio tutorial. If you cannot afford the expensive tutorial, and you are struggling with the free ones, maybe you just need to learn the meaning of some jargon, so don't forget that google is your friend.

This article started by telling you to know yourself and your learning style, but don't get stuck in a rut either. The best way to learn new things is to stay engaged, and becoming flexible will keep your interest and attention high.

Deborah Armstrong is an alternate media specialist at De Anza Community College in Cupertino California. Though she is blind, she works primarily with sighted students who have learning disabilities. "I decided to write this article to help other blind people, using skills I've learned from assisting those with a variety of learning differences."

Can Blind Kids Play with Toys?

by Donna J. Jodhan

This is one of the most frequently asked questions that I get and my simple answer to this is why not? Blind kids do not have to see in order to play with toys. Blind kids play with all kinds of toys and enjoy many of the things that most of their sighted counterparts enjoy. That is, except for those high tech toys.

When I was a kid, I played with dolls. I had doll houses, played ball games with my brothers, rode bicycles, and flew kites. I even had toy guns and played with my brother's toy soldiers and you know what? I had a whale of a time doing all of it. I developed ways to play football and cricket. I learned how to pitch marbles, and I even participated in hide and seek games. Boy did I ever play with all kinds of toys; from the regular girl's stuff to kicking tin cans in the road and playing ball hockey. True it is that my family and friends had to adapt things somewhat for me to play with them but despite this I had a world of fun.

If you are thinking of giving a toy to a blind child then please, please do not think twice about giving them something that they can certainly play with. Anything that does not include technology that is. Anything from dolls to doll houses, toy soldiers to toy cars, and so on. How do blind kids play with toys if they are unable to see? They use the touch and feel technique.

Blind kids can and do play with toys. Here is some contact info for you to check out.

Connie Leblond
Assistive Technology Center LLC

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:
Weekly Saturday postings on issues of accessibility:
blogs on various issues and answers to consumers concerns:

Don't Write Off Workers Who Lose Their Vision

by Donna J. Jodhan

Over the years, I have run into several persons who have had the misfortune to have lost their vision while on the job. Ranging from anything to an injury on the job to being afflicted with a disabling disease that has lead to blindness, it continues to be a challenge when it comes to companies being able to deal with an employee who has lost their vision while on the job.

There is no doubt that when such an occurrence takes place, it is extremely traumatic for everyone; for the employer who now has to adjust to someone who has lost their vision, the employee who now has to learn how to cope both on the job and at home and otherwise, and let us not forget the coworkers. In short, a huge change for everyone involved; a world come crashing down. However, all should never be considered as lost! That is, if things are handled in an orderly manner.

It may come down to this: Employers, employees, and management undergoing a period of training that includes such things as: A change or adjustment in attitude, an orientation to the world of blindness to include everyone involved, and a willingness on everyone's part to work together to accomplish common objectives.

It is not going to be easy but it can all be accomplished given lots of patience along with innovation and imagination. The evolution of technology has made it possible for workers who have lost their vision on the job to be retrained. In certain circumstances they may not be able to assume jobs that they held prior to their loss of vision, and the options and choices opened to them may not be as wide as when they were fully sighted but in today's world it is becoming easier to make adjustments.

More patience, more creativity, and more compassion and objectivity are what we need. True it is that it may be easier for companies to just place their newly blinded employees on long term disability but a compelling argument to this may be that in doing so, companies may just be depriving themselves of workers who are more than determined to perform and do it over and above the call of duty.

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:
Weekly Saturday postings on issues of accessibility:
blogs on various issues and answers to consumers concerns:

Monday, February 14, 2011

Settings to Use Gmail with the Braille+

The following Braille+/Icon email account settings appear to work with GMAIL. Please note that user names and account names are fictitious, and must be replaced with your own name and ID. Some other SMTP port number variants may work as well.

Account name: your-name
Account is default: yes;
Real name: your-name
email address:
Incoming mail server:
Incoming server type: Secure Pop3;
Leave messages on server? yes;
Incoming username: your-name
Incoming password: this-one-better-be-typed-correctly;
Outgoing mail server: Outgoing server type: SMTP over SSL;
Outgoing Authentication: requires authentication;

Medicare Handbook in Braille

The 2011 edition of the “Medicare and You” Handbook, which all Medicare recipients receive in the mail is now available in Braille. It comes in three soft cover volumes, 257 pages in Braille. This is the official US government Medicare handbook, covering what’s new, what Medicare costs, what it covers, health and prescription drug plans, and your Medicare rights. To order this publication in Braille call 1(800) 633-4227, ask to speak to an agent, and ask for Braille.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Express Burn those CDs

by Martin Courcells

I'm always attracted to simple applications. Much of the CD burning software out there is full of bells and whistles. Sometimes, I'd rather just have a straightforward, no nonsense application and have an easy way of simply burning a CD. Oh, and it has to be fully accessible. Sure, I can use my screen reader review cursor and find buttons to click, but sometimes I just want things to work. Here comes Express Burn by NCH software to the rescue.  

First, you can visit to read what Express Burn can do for you. For convenience, I have posted the direct link to the download below:

Click on the above link and choose "run" or ALT+R to commence downloading. You'll have to press ALT+R again to start the setup. Run through the various setup screens in order to install the program. Use the usual TAB, SHIFT+TAB and SPACEBAR to navigate these screens. One particular screen lists other products that NCH has created as well. You can choose whether to install them or not. Once you click finish, the program will install and then show a web page with further options. Simply close this screen, unless you want to read further.  

The Main Screen:

Go to the desktop by pressing WINDOWS+M. Press the letter E until you get to the Express Burn Icon. Press ENTER and you're in.  

On second thought, we're burning a CD right? So, put one of those nifty CD/R disks into your burner and close the drive. An autoplay screen will come up. ARROW around until you hear "Burn a CD with Express Burn". Press ENTER and the program will be launched for you automagically.  

The program cursor will always be in the ListView when you first start the program. This is where the data of your project will reside. It's presently empty since we haven't added anything yet. Let's TAB through the screen. And I'll list the buttons, with their accompanying shortcuts and a quick explanation of what they do:

  • Add File(s), CONTROL+A: let's you add 1, or many files to your project.
  • Add Folder, CONTROL+F: enables the dump of a whole folder to your project. Very handy if your albums are organized in folder fashion.
  • CD-Text, No shortcut: This is the button that activates the area where you can title your CD and verify your CD track names.
  • Edit with WavePad, CONTROL+E: (only visible when audio files have been added to the project). This is an audio editor also available through NCH Software.
  • Play, Function key F9: Plays the tracks.
  • Stop, function key F10: pauses the track.
  • Burn Audio CD, Function key F3: Will burn the project to a CD.

Creating and burning your first Audio CD:

Here is a quick example of how you would create and burn your first Audio CD. This presumes that you already have digital audio material to burn to said CD. You also know where this music resides on your computer. In general, for windows 7 users, this material would be under:

C:\users\JohnDoe\music, replace JohnDoe with your user name.

Under windows XP, the music folder is generally found under:

C:\documents and settings\JohnDoe\my documents\my music

Again, JohnDoe is replaced with your user name.

Enough of this nerdy stuff, let's get going.  

Adding Files:

  1. Press CONTROL+A to add files, or just TAB to Add files and press ENTER.
  2. A file manipulation window will open up. This is the same sort of window you would encounter in Word for example. You are at an edit box where you could type the filename. I prefer to go find the file by using the file panel. Depending on the flavor of Windows, you can reach this by pressing SHIFT+TAB once or twice. From there, use the UP and DOWN ARROWS to move through the folder structure, RIGHT ARROW to open a folder, LEFT ARROW to close one, BACKSPACE to move back within the folder tree and finally, ENTER to select one file.
  3. The audio file will be brought into the program and will appear in the list view.

    You can repeat the above process to add more files. Hint: You can add more than one file at once by holding down the CONTROL key while within the file list, moving around with the UP and DOWN ARROW keys and pressing SPACEBAR on the wanted files. Once you've selected the files, press ENTER and they will all be inserted into the project.  

Editing THE ListView:

Once you've got your list of files, you can ARROW through them to make sure they're all there. You can remove a file by pressing SHIFT+DELETE. You can delete the whole list by pressing CONTROL+DELETE. Let's Burn The CD:

You can either TAB to the Burn CD Button and press ENTER, or simply press F3. The Burn CD screen will be presented.

You can TAB through the selections if you're curious, or just press ENTER to start. The program will announce its progress during the burning process. Once it's all done, the CD will be ejected out of the drive. And you're done. Congratulations, you've completed your first music CD.

There are many more hidden options within this program. They are found within the menus. For example, you can burn Data CDs and both data and movie DVDs. You can even add more options to the free program by purchasing the full product.

Hopefully, the above information has given you enough to get started with this program. Happy Burning!

Protecting Your Dog Guide's Pawz

From the AccessContent Blog:

Since the cold weather has finally hit us, my concern has turned to the well-being of my trusty furry companion's little paws. Imagine walking bare foot in this cold? Yes, I know, they're paws are equipped for such things, but I'm more concerned about the amount of salt and cold water they have to walk through. I've done the booties thing; an expensive endeavor, especially since my guy tends to lose a boot per walk. I've also done the Invisible boots option; a viscous jelly-like wax-based product. Works pretty well, but he still jumps around when encountering salt and puddles.  

In comes a simple, yet effective product called Pawz, spelled with a z. These are booties that are essentially like oversized balloons. Here's how they work. No, you don't blow them up. Simply find the correct size for your pooch, slide them on and the top portion of the bootie will cling snuggly to the paw. Somebody was thinking when they designed these little wonders. You get 12 booties in one pack. They're environmentally friendly, disposable and will work in various conditions; especially cold weather and salt.

For more information on the Pawz booties, visit Make sure to visit the size chart before purchasing the boot as they should conform to the doggie's foot. It's a good idea to also visit the store locator as not all stores carry these booties yet.

Happy doggie walking!

Is Being Blind As Bad As Everyone Thinks It Is?

by Alena Roberts

As someone with a degenerative eye disease, I closely follow the research that is being done to restore vision in the blind.  However, as I spend more time with the blind community, I find myself less focused on having my vision restored, and more on accepting my blindness. This week I learned about a play called “Molly Sweeney,” which discusses the negative consequences of Molly’s vision being restored.

The play explores Molly’s life before and after she has the surgery. The character lost her vision as a young child and is very happy living in her tactile world. She falls in love, and marries a man who, unbeknownst to her, has decided to find a way to bring back her vision. Her husband’s attitude, in my opinion, closely resembles most of the people that I’ve encountered in my life. Most people can’t fathom losing their vision, so they often think that all of us who have lost our vision want it back. I’m sure that there are many who desperately want to have their vision restored, but I think there are more of us who have accepted who we are, and focus on the gifts and skills that we have without our sight, rather than focusing on what we could be doing if we could see.

With these things in mind, the question is, is being blind as bad as everyone thinks it is? My answer is no, and this is why. There are many times that I’m grateful that I can’t see. Some examples include not being able to judge someone by their appearances, not having to see the ugliness in the world, and the ability to use my other four senses that most people take for granted. These examples may seem inconsequential compared to what I could be experiencing if I had my vision, but the next time you wish that you could have your vision restored, think of what you get to experience that the sighted world doesn’t.

Article Source:
Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind

Fix the Web

Poor standards of web accessibility mean many people with disabilities are excluded from using big parts of the internet. Fix the Web is offering a solution!

People with disabilities can now report problems with websites in under a minute. Fix The Web volunteers then take these issues to the reported website owners. Hopefully, owners then fix their websites to insure accessibility. Great concept, but will it work? Only one way to find out I guess, click this link and submit a site to

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Save Printer Ink

Preton Saver is a handy utility for anyone who uses Windows with an inkjet printer, especially if much of the stuff you print is not for long-term storage and doesn't need to look pristine.

It's a simple utility which helps you save ink, and can also keep a running count of how much ink (and money) you've saved.  Best of all, you can get a free licence if you'll be using the program for non-commercial (ie, domestic) purposes.

To start, head to You'll need to supply an email address in order to get your free licence.  By return, you'll get a licence code and the download link.  Copy the licence code into your Windows clipboard.  Once the software is installed, and you've pasted the licence code into it, you're ready to go. 

Each time you print from a Windows application, the Preton Saver screen pops up. You can choose anything from a 0% to a 70% saving in ink, just by adjusting the slider. Then click the Print button and your print job proceeds as normal, albeit with less ink. Note to those who use screen readers, I have not tested the accessibility of the program's main screen.

If you're in the habit of printing out documents or emails so that you can read them in comfort, but you then quickly end up throwing them away, a program such as this is ideal.  It'll certainly save you money, and works very unobtrusively.  It runs under Windows XP and above, and is available in both 32 and 64 bit versions.  The initial download is less than 1 MB, but it does seem to download an additional 6 MB of files during installation, presumably to ensure that you always have the latest version.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Tips for Ground Beef

Ground beef may be browned ahead of time and frozen for quick and convenient use in spaghetti sauce, chili, sloppy joes, etc. Follow these tips for best flavor and quality.

  1. When making beef crumbles for later use, if possible, avoid using iron or aluminum cooking utensils as these speed flavor changes.
  2. Brown crumbles with onions or unroasted bell peppers which have antioxidant properties and slow flavor changes. OR, brown the meat, seasoned lightly, with one or more of these herbs and spices that have antioxidant properties: rosemary, sage, marjoram, thyme, mace, allspice and cloves.
  3. Use the seasoning and amount that will be most suitable for the recipes you make. Add more seasoning when you prepare the food, if needed, as freezing may affect the intensity of the flavor of spices and herbs.
  4. Do not use salt; add salt later when the meat is used in your recipe. Salt may hasten undesirable flavor changes in beef crumbles.
  5. Freezing the crumbles as part of a sauce, such as spaghetti sauce, also helps preserve flavor. Make sure the sauce covers the entire meat surface.
  6. Cool and refrigerate beef crumbles promptly in shallow containers. Containers may be placed in the refrigerator before beef has cooled entirely. Loosely cover refrigerated container until beef has cooled.
  7. Promptly transfer the cooled beef crumbles to plastic "freezer," NOT "storage" bags. Eliminate air pockets. Freezer bags are thicker than storage bags and will keep the food fresh longer. Label and date packages; include amount of beef or number of servings.
  8. Speed freezing and hasten thawing by freezing crumbles in a thinner, flattened shape in freezer bags. Do not stack packages -- the quality will be better if the beef freezes faster. A rounded shape takes longer to thaw through to the middle. Flattened packages also will stack better in your freezer. Place on a flat surface, such as a metal pan or cookie sheet until frozen. Then, remove and stack.
  9. Use frozen beef crumbles within 2 to 3 months for best flavor and quality. Freeze at 0 degrees F or lower.

IMPORTANT: Unless you plan to use beef crumbles within a day or two, freeze crumbles promptly after cooling for best quality and safety. If stored in the refrigerator for a day or two, transfer to a tightly covered container after they have cooled.

Cooking Directions

Use 90% lean and higher ground beef for these directions; 16 ounces raw ground beef yields equally to 12 ounces fully cooked ground beef crumbles.

  1. In general, brown no more than 1 pound of ground beef at a time. As ground beef browns, some meat juices are released. If you overload the skillet, moisture is trapped and meat is steamed rather than browned.
  2. Brown lean ground beef in large nonstick skillet over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes or until beef is not pink, breaking beef up into 3/4-inch crumbles. Remove beef with slotted spoon.
  3. Add one or more of the antioxidant foods and spices listed in number 2 under "Tips for Success" above to the beef as it is browning to aid in flavor retention during freezing. Alice's Note: I find it most versatile and time-saving to add one chopped medium onion to the beef as it is browning. So many recipes call for both beef and onions; I've made my life twice as simple by combining them.
Article Source:
Information on making frozen beef crumbles provided in part by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association on behalf of The Beef Checkoff. and by Kaiti Roeder, RD, Nebraska Beef.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Music to Mail

You like music. You have a number of artists that you really like and you want to stay informed about their music, be it new albums or any new single. Music2Mail keeps you up to date by sending you email notifications.

Features include:

  • Super easy single-page setup in 3 steps
  • Most extensive artist database - more than 570000 artists!
  • Releases about lesser known artists available
  • Daily updates
  • import
  • Notification frequency and type configurable

Registering to Music2Mail is easy and fast. Enter your artists by writing their name into the textbox or searching them individually in the search box. Submit to see if the artists are in the database. Enter your email and options and you are registered. Click the verification link, and you will get notifications and stay up to date.

Click this link to visit

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Abby Diamond’s Timeless Adventures Part 1

“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once.”
Albert Einstein

by Kristie Smith-Armand, M.Ed, CTVI

Chapter One- “Not Without Your Daughter”

Hi! Welcome to more adventures with me, Yours Truly, Girl Detective, etc., etc., etc., the one and only- Abby Diamond.

It was at the end of the summer, and it was almost time for me to go back to school. Not that I minded school; I actually loved seeing my friends and being on a schedule. However, what I do not like is waking up with the roosters after sleeping my life away all summer, but like it or not, school was on its way. Ahhh, good times!

My mom and Grandmother Elizabeth were going traveling a few hours away to Salado to shop, hang out, shop, shop, shop, so I was not going to let them get away without taking me. I heard them talking about going to Salado in the kitchen one day when I was passing through with a handful of chips.

“Mom, let’s go down to Salado and go to our favorite shop that has the different rooms filled with home décor,” my mom said enthusiastically to my Grandmother Elizabeth.

If you remember, my Grandmother Elizabeth is my mom’s mother, and she is blind like me. I inherited her eye condition, and we are true soul mates in more than just one way.

“Caroline, what a great idea!” Grandmother Elizabeth squealed sounding more like a seventh grader than an old lady. She is old in years, but not in anything else. I want to be just like her when I’m her age.

“When are we leaving?” I asked as I walked through the kitchen. Silence.

“I said when are WE leaving?” I repeated.

“Well, Abby,” my mom began slowly. “I was thinking that Grandmother Elizabeth and I would go, and you could have ‘the gang’ over and help your father watch Chip.”

“Nope!” I said emphatically.

“Here she goes with her stubborn streak, Mother,” my mom said as though I was not standing right next to her.

“Hello! I am right here,” I said.

“Okay, Abby. Mom is it okay if your Siamese twin goes with us?” I ignored the snide remark and kept my smart mouth closed because I wanted to go to the sleepy little town of Salado.

“Why, certainly, Caroline. We wouldn’t have nearly as much fun without our crazy girl,” Grandmother Elizabeth laughed.

“Weeeeee! Yaaahooo!” I yelled. “I’ve saved up money from doing chores and my birthday, so when are we leaving ladies?”

“Tomorrow soon enough for you?” Mom laughed. “I’m packing now,” I said and meant it. I ran up the stairs knocking Chippy down on the way up, apologized and kept running to my overnight bag.

I called Alison as soon as I got up to my room. Alison and I put Andrea and Neils on the call, so that we could have our daily gossip session.

“Hey Guys! I’m going to Salado with the old ladies and shop. I told them I was bringing my birthday money, but Grandmother Elizabeth never lets me pay for anything. Gosh, I love that woman.”

“You are crazy!” teased Andrea. “Where are you staying?”

“A really cool bed and breakfast right beside the shops. We stayed there once and it is an old mansion with creepy old steps, an air condition unit and squeaky floors. I loved it!” I beamed.

“Abby, are you going to use your fired-up imagination and pretend there are ghosts or something like that?” Alison laughed.

“Mmmmaaaayyybeeee,” I teased.

“Abby, why do you want to go with them?” Neils questioned. “I mean, your mom and Grandmother Elizabeth are really cool and fun, but wouldn’t you rather stay here with us?”

“Well, yes and no. You, see, Neils, if I stay here and hang out with y’all when Mom’s gone, guess who becomes numero uno babysitter? You don’t think my dad is going to play with Chippy all day, do you?” I said. “Plus, I am going shopping all day every day for two days!”

“Oh, yes. The ‘s’ word,” teased Andrea.

We talked on the phone for another forty-five minutes, and Alison told us about Jaxson and his new girlfriend, Penny.

“Penny?” Neils questioned. “Is it a girl or a coin?” We laughed and laughed and really laughed when Alison continued to tell us about Penny.

“My Aunt Blake’s dog is named Penny,” I laughed. “She’s perfect for Jaxson and is as tough as he is.”

"Who the girl or the dog?” I teased.

"Abby, you are really bad sometimes. I am talking about the girl of course. She was nice when I met her at the park the other day,” Alison continued, “but I would not want to mess with her. She has that look like she might take you down quickly if you looked at her the wrong way, and she corrects Jaxson’s English all the time. I heard her say, “Jaxson, stop sounding like an idiot. There ‘ain’t’ no such word as ‘aint’.” Jaxson just stands there like a goofus and grins. I think he’s in love,” Alison stated.

That was ‘TMI’ for me. You know, too much information, so I got off the phone and began to pack.

Chapter Two- “Salado, Texas”

Even though we were only going to be gone for two days, I packed enough clothes to last for five days. I took my smaller purse, so that I could carry all the bags I wanted, wore my hair up in a high ponytail, shorts, t-shirt and flip-flips, so that I would stay as cool as possible out in the Texas summer heat.

When we arrived in Salado after our two- hour drive, I was famished, so we went straight to my favorite place to eat in Salado, “The Tea Room”. It is decorated with beautiful hats and clothes that the owner lets Grandmother Elizabeth and me feel of every time we go there. I love how they serve you these cheese crackers that are homemade and actually made from Rice Krispy cereal.

“Yum,” I said aloud after I began eating my chicken salad sandwich, cold sweet tea and chips.

“You said it,” Grandmother Elizabeth and mom echoed.

After we ate, we toured the shop and Mom looked while we touched all of the cool things. Mom simply walks in front of us and we trail each other like elephants holding on to each other’s tails. We laughed hard because Mom said we were getting the stares, and I loved it. I love for people to stare at me. I know it sounds weird, but one day I want to be a famous writer or actress, I will be prepared for the day when I will be a superstar.

We walked from shop-to-shop and were having the best time ever. I didn’t buy much, but I was having so much fun feeling, smelling and touching everything in sight. I bumped into the cutest little three-year-old named, Peyton.

“Are you blind?” she asked me innocently.

“Yes, my grandmother and I are both blind. We cannot see, but we learn other ways.”

“I like you. You pretty,” Peyton said to me. After she said that I liked her, too.

“Thank you,” I said. “I can’t see you, but I know you are pretty because you are so sweet,” I said to her.

“Bye, bye,” Peyton said when her mother took her small hand. “Tell Abby bye,” Peyton’s mother said to me sweetly.

After we walked to a few more shops, my mom told Grandmother Elizabeth and me about a cool old bookstore on the corner, so we stopped in to take a look.

“It smells like old junk in here,” I snorted.

“That’s good ‘ol junk, Abby,” my grandmother teased.

I could feel and smell old books all over the place, but I was really fascinated by an old phone that I felt sitting on a table by itself.

“Is this a phone?” I questioned.

“Oh, yes, Abby,” my mother began. “It’s a phone like the ones I had growing up. Let me have your finger, and I’ll show you how to dial on a phone.”

My finger began swinging around on the old dial while I laughed.

“Wow. This is so cool. What color is it?” I asked.

“It’s a black one just like the one I had growing up,” Mom said.

“Mother, look at the phone that Abby found. It looks just like the one that we had.”

“Oh, Caroline. I can feel of the old dials, and it brings back so many happy memories. I can still remember our number. It was 391-0840,” Grandmother Elizabeth said.

While my mom and grandmother began looking around in another room, and I began to dial the phone number for kicks. My finger dialed to the right 391-0840 while it made an skkkk-skkkkk-skkkkk-skkkk sound.

Imagine my surprise when I heard a small voice from the other end of the telephone say, “Hello”.

Chapter Three- “Timeless Voices”

“Hello?” I questioned. “Who is this?” I was stunned. One reason was that the phone I was holding was not connected, the second reason was the phone number I dialed had not been in service for over thirty years.

“Hi. My name is Caroline. Who is this?” The voice on the other end said.

I listened for my mom and grandmother, and I could hear them engaged in a long conversation with the store- owner.

“My name is Abby. My mother’s name is Caroline. How old are you?” I asked confused

“I am eleven. I like the name Abby,” the voice on the other side said. “Hold on, Abby. I need to help my mom. She’s blind and needs help finding a spice. Hold on.” I gasped and waited.

“Okay. I’m back. My mother was born blind, but I have perfect eyesight, so far. My mom does not let not seeing get in her way though,” Caroline laughed.

“Caroline. My grandmother is blind, too. Her name is Elizabeth,” I whispered.

“That’s weird. That’s my mother’s name,” Caroline stated, and then the phone went dead.

“Abby, who are you talking to?” my mom asked as soon as I hung up the phone.

“Nobody, Mom. I was pretending to talk to someone from the past,” I choked and hoped I sounded authentic.

“Mom,” I continued. “Can I buy this phone?”

“Abby, you don’t want that old dusty thing, do you?” Mom questioned.

“Yes, I really do. It is just like the phone you use to have, and I think it would look so cool in my room,” I pleaded.

“Well, okay. If that’s what you want,” Mom added.

Honestly, I was a little afraid of the phone, but I could not resist and could hardly wait to be alone with the phone again. The rest of the afternoon we shopped until all of the little shops were closed down. I was looking around in one little shop and could not get my mind off of the conversation I had with a girl my age named Caroline.

That night my mom, grandmother and I went outside to sit by the pool. The two grown-ups were so engaged in talking about Katy’s masters program, Chip, and Brennan that they were totally ignoring me, which was fine with me. I took the dusty old spooky phone and went inside of the hotel room.

“Hey Mom. I’m going inside and watching television and play with my new old phone.”

“Okay, Abby. Just keep the sliding glass door open a little.” I agreed, ran to my bag, pulled out the old phone and began to dial 391-0840.

“Hello,” a small voice answered.

“Caroline? It’s me, Abby,” I said.

“Hello Abby. Abby, I have to confess something. I know you are from the future. Don’t ask me how I know, I just do.” I was too stunned to speak.

“Come on, Abby. How else could a phone from the past without chords ring a true number? You have dialed the past and you are talking to someone who is living in 1971. I’m eleven-years-old and I live with my mom who is blind.”

“Caroline, I have even more shocking news. I believe, too, that I am calling from the future, and I also believe that you are my mother.”

Just then my mother and Grandmother Elizabeth walked into the room, and Caroline hung up the phone.

“Abby, I could hear you talking to someone and thought for sure you were on your cell phone. I love how you still use your imagination even though you are in middle school.”

“She’s a writer, Caroline,” Grandmother Elizabeth said.

“Why, thank you, Ladies. Let’s hope one day I can use my imagination and write award -winning novels,” I teased.

“Well, let’s go eat at that wonderful barbecue place with the incredible pies,” my mom said.

“Say no more,” I yelled. I was pretending to be lighthearted and silly but was confused about what was really going on with the antique phone.

We ate dinner, went back to the hotel and fell asleep. Mom and I were in one bed and Grandmother Elizabeth was in the other. I wanted to tamper more with the phone but sleep overtook me, and I woke up the next morning ready to solve more of this mystery.

Chapter Four-“1971”

I could not wait to get home and actually be alone with my new old telephone, but Mom and Grandmother Elizabeth made us stop at the Czech bakery. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it is delicious, and I scoffed down two sandwiches before anyone could blink.

“Good thing you do not have a weight problem,” Mom and Grandmother Elizabeth chuckled. When we finally made it home, Chip ran up to me and begged me to play a new game that he and the neighborhood boys and my dad loved to play.

“Um, okay, Chippy. I’ll play with you this afternoon if you give me time to myself for a while. Okay?” I asked.

“Okay, Abby,” Chip said cheerfully. I finally made it into my room, shut the door, turned on music, so no one would think I was nuts talking into a very old phone and talking to a girl named Caroline from the past.

I picked up the dusty old phone and dialed 391-0840, and she answered.

“Abby, is this you?” Caroline asked.

“Yes, Caroline. It’s me. What is going on?” I questioned.

“Well, Abby, how do I break this to you? I believe that I am your mother, Caroline, but I am still a little girl in the past. For some reason, the phone is connecting us across time. I don’t understand it, but I can’t wait to find out all about my daughter, Abby,” Caroline said.

“Caroline. You will marry an awesome man named Jacob who is my dad. You will have an older daughter, older than me, named Katy and then you will have a younger son, Chip, in your early forties.”

“Oh, my gosh! Am I happy and how do I make my living? Am I a nurse, movie star, novelist?” she asked with anticipation.

“Well, you are a mom and a school teacher and are great at both jobs. We live in a really big house now, but at one time we were without much money. However, we have always been a happy family,” I stated.

“How did we make our money?” Caroline asked.

“Dad is going to work for your mother’s husband, Harry St. Claire.”

“Harry St. Claire? He hasn’t shown up, yet. My father has passed away, so I hope He’s nice,” Caroline cried.

“He’s very nice and very, very rich, so trust me, you’ll do fine. Caroline, what are you watching? I hear a fuzzy TV in the background?”

“I’m watching a great television show that is new. It is called The Brady Bunch, and it has three girls and three boys that are a new family since each of their parents just got married,” Caroline said.

“Wow! I know that show,” I grinned.

“Abby, I hear my mom coming, but I have a quick question. Is the public library still on Main Street?”

“Yes. Why do you ask?” I wanted to know.

“Meet me in the biography section tomorrow after school. I’ll be the younger, younger version of myself. Hahaha,” Caroline laughed and then abruptly hung up.

I was so ansy waiting on the three o’clock bell to sound. I could not believe what was happening. I was really going to meet my mother when she was my age after school. My friend Laura leaned over and asked, “What’s going on, Abby? You have a huge grin stretched across your face.” Laura had beautiful dark hair, brown eyes and porcelain skin. Laura and I became friends this year while we both struggled through understanding our Spanish teacher.

Laura looked over at me and said something that totally took me by surprise, “Abby, did you know that my mom and your mom went to elementary and middle school together back in the day?”

“No way!” I said. “That is so cool!” I said excitedly.

“Yeah, I saw a picture of the two of them rolling down a huge hill and then landing in a pile of clovers. My mom, Lisa, said they were looking for three-leaf clovers but didn’t find any, so why are you grinning?” she asked. I said nothing for a minute and then whispered, “I hope one day I can tell you.”

My life has always been so cool but not like it was going to be after school. After Mrs. Groggs, aka, Senorita Groggs, finally stopped speaking, I was racing to the door.

“Watch out, Speed Racer,” laughed Neils. “Neils, I have a secret to tell you and the gang, and y’all better not think I’m nuts,” I laughed.

“Think? We already know you’re crazy.” Neils teased.

“See you later, Friend. Neils, tell everyone to meet at the new restaurant tomorrow after school, and I will fill everyone in,” and then I raced out the door.

Chapter Five- “Time Passages”

After I got home from school, I changed into my blue jeans, my new tennis shoes and a sparkled red t-shirt.

“Mom, I’m going to the library and read for awhile,” I shouted and wanted to add, “See you back in 1971ish”.

I raced to the library and waited in the biography section and waited some more. Thirty minutes later, I was still waiting and wondering if I had dreamt this whole scene or used my overactive imagination once again to the extreme. Right when I was about to pick up my backpack and head home I heard a young girl’s voice, “Hi Abby. It’s me- Caroline.” My jaw dropped!

“Caroline? Your voice sounds like mine. Is it really you?”

“Yes, Abby, it’s me. However, I don’t think you would like what I am wearing from the 70’s nor can I figure out why you are wearing fake diamonds,” she laughed.

“Tell me what you are wearing!” I begged.

“I have on jeans that are low jeans similar to yours but my jeans have snaps on them. I have on a t-shirt that says, ‘Coke is the Real Thing’ and my long brown hair is parted down the middle of my forehead.”

“Wow! That is so cool!” I began and then stopped talking because before I could utter another word Jaxson showed up. Yes, folks, right here in the biography section Jaxson stood between my eleven-year-old mother and me.

“Hey! Abbbbyyyy-Can ya set me up with your friend?” Jaxson the slime ball squeaked out.

“Gross! Jaxson, get away from her before I let you have it!” I screamed.

“Jealous, huh?” the big- headed Jaxson said. “Eeeeck! Now go. This is my cousin. Now scoot! She has a very mean brother who will beat you up if you don’t get out of here.” I loudly stated.

“Okay, okay! Abster, cool your jets. I ain’t gonna fight nobody for no girl.”

“Is the red neck gone?” I asked.

“Yes, and Abby, please tell me he isn’t your boyfriend,” Caroline laughed.

“Hey Caroline, thank you for letting me come. Wow! She is beautiful and looks just like you,” a voice said.

“Who did you bring, Caroline?” I asked.

“Well, you know Laura who is in your class? Well, you told me about her and then I put two and two together. Lisa is Laura’s mother,” Caroline squealed. “Coooooool, and Laura told me the same thing!” I said. “Can I bring her with me here one day?” I asked.

“Probably not a good idea right now but later, okay?”

“Sure Caroline. I am just so happy about meeting you in person. Why are meeting here in the ‘Biography’ section?” I asked.

“Abby, reading is so important as is history. History tells us about past events that affect us even today. I have some magic powers now to allow you to actually meet some famous authors from the past. Who would you like to meet first?” Caroline asked.

“Really?” I asked. “Well, there are many, so I do not know how to pick just one,” I lamented. ,

“Don’t worry, Abby. This year you will meet them all,” Caroline beamed.

“Awesome!” I yelled. “How about Beatrix Potter, Hans Christian Anderson, Anne Frank, Mark Twain and Jane Austen for starters. We’re doing so much reading in Mrs. Trammell’s room on famous writers, so this should give my partner, Laura and me a chance to know even more than the other kids in the class,” I smiled and continued, “What happens next?” I asked.

Caroline began, “Abby, say the infamous words from one of the tales of Peter Rabbit: “Don’t go in Mr. McGregor’s garden; your father had an accident there and was put into Mrs. McGregor’s pie.”

“Really?” I asked. “Weird but okay.”

I closed my eyes and repeated the words softly in case old nutty Jaxson was nearby.

“Don’t go in Mr. McGregor’s garden; your father had an accident there and was put into Mrs. McGregor’s pie.”

I felt strange and began to feel dizzy. I could feel my body float up to the top of the ceiling and land on very soft grass. ‘Bump’, I landed and heard a voice of a young girl named Beatrix.

“Hello,” Beatrix said, her accent sounding like the characters from the Sound of Music. Of course, Abby thought, Beatrix Potter was from England.

Beatrix continued, “What is your name? Is that a cane? Or you blind?” Geez this girl could talk.

“Abby, yes and yes,” I grinned. “Are you really Beatrix Potter?” I asked.

“Oh, yes! I live here. If you could see you would witness a huge obnoxious house behind us,” Beatrix grinned.

“Abby, would you like to see my drawing room?” she asked.

“I would love that Beatrix!” I screamed with excitement.

“Abby, I don’t know if anyone will ever like my work, but I enjoy doing it so much, and since my mum won’t allow me to play with many other kids, the animals are my friends.”

“Beatrix, may I tell you a secret? I hope you do not think that I’m crazy when I tell you this,” I began.

“Oh, Abby. I already think you’re crazy because of the clothes on your back,” she laughed and we walked into an enormous house.

“Abby, wait to tell me your secret once we are inside my drawing room. My mum will already be asking so many questions about you. Here, put this on quickly before she tosses you out. You will be Lady Abigail from the states. You will be the daughter of royalty,” Beatrix began. Man, too bad old Jaxson couldn’t be here and scare the daylights out of Beatrix’s mother. I can just hear him now, “Hey Beatrix, where is your old lady? I bet she ain’t stepped outside that big ‘ol house in years.” We would all be tossed out and probably have the police called on us.

I put on a long soft dress. I could tell it was beautiful even though I could not see. I felt large beads and silk ruffles down the skirt part of the dress. Beatrix then added a beautiful hat and tied it around my neck.

“Beatrix, I am having so much fun already. I cannot wait to see your drawing room and tell you secrets about your life,” I laughed.

We were laughing when I heard Beatrix’s mother come inside.

“Beatrix, who is this girl? Is she blind?”

“Hello Mrs. Potter. My name is Lady Abigail and I am from the states here visiting my royal relatives,” I said cheerfully.

“You are, are you?” she asked inquisitively. I had a feeling that we were not fooling the elder Mrs. Potter, but I didn’t care. I wasn’t going to be here long, and I was going to take every advantage to learn about this amazing author who did not realize she was an author yet.

Chapter Six- “Peter Rabbit and Friends”

"Come on into my drawing room,” Beatrix begged.

“I can’t wait!” I said.

“Abby, may I see your hands?” After I agreed, Beatrix gently took my hands and allowed me to feel of her many of paintings of Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny and a funny paddle -duck named Jemima.”

“Beatrix, I have to tell you my secrets. I am from the future. Now, don’t think I’m crazy because I am telling you the truth. You will become a famous author. You will be rejected six times and then self-publish the books yourself. Next, someone will pick up your famous books and you will sell over forty-five million of them where they will be in forty-five languages!” I squealed.

“Abby, I hope you aren’t crazy because this is the best news ever!” Beatrix shouted.

“That’s not all, Beatrix. You will have your drawings on ceramics, furniture and on many other objects. You, Beatrix, will be rich and famous, but the best thing ever, is that children will continue to love your books for many many years to come.”

“Oh, Abby. Now that I know that information I will never be discouraged writing and drawing. I have thought many times that I am wasting my time, but you have given me confidence, and I will never stop writing and drawing. Abby, I am going to create a character named Lucy in Mrs. Tiggle-Wiggle and you will be Lucy.”

“Thank you, Beatrix!” I squealed.

“Abby, you must hurry and leave,” Beatrix yelled.

“Why Beatrix?” I asked.

“Because you can only stay here for a short while or you will be trapped forever.”

“Help me to return quickly,” I yelled.

“Here, hold my hands and repeat after me, ‘Flopsy, Mopsy and Peter Cotton-tail.” I repeated the words and whooooooooooosh- I was suddenly back in the library waiting to see Caroline and wearing my own clothes and not Beatrix’s dress.

While I waited on Caroline the librarian, Mrs. Reed approached me, “Abby, some little girl told me to give you this note in Braille.” I thanked Mrs. Reed and began reading the short letter. It simply said, “Dial the phone tomorrow at three-thirty and I’ll tell you what will happen next.”

That night I went to see the gang at Andrea’s house instead of the new restaurant. I told them my story and they got quiet.

“Abby, you need a hobby,” Andrea said flatly.

“Abby, you need a shrink,” Neils said.

“Oh, Abby, I don’t know what to think,” Alison bellowed.

“Abby, I think you are cool and can I go with you next time?” It was Jaxson with his big head sticking inside of Neils’ window.

“Go away, Jaxson!” we all screamed while Neils slammed the window shut.

“You just wait and see,” I said. “I’m going to teach all of you everything that I witness.”

“You do that, Abby,” Neils said. “In the meantime, can we stop talking so crazy and go play a game of goalball?”

Chapter Seven- “The Ugly Duckling”

It was last period and once again Laura and I were trying desperately to stay awake.

“Abby, can you tell me why you were grinning the other day?” Laura asked.

“Not yet, Laura, but hang in there. Who knows maybe you can go on an adventure with me soon.”

When the bell sounded, I raced outside and knocked down both Glen and Jaxson.

“Hey watch out!” screamed Jaxson and right on the money, Glen echoed, “Yeah, watch out!”

I laughed at the two goofballs and ran with my cane to my mom’s car.

“Why the hurry, Abby?” Mom asked. Like she didn’t know- or did she?

“Well, I really need to get to home before three-thirty because Jaxson is calling me and we are going to study.”

“Abby, since when does Jaxson study and since when do you want to help him?” my sly mother asked.

“Since, since…oh, just take me home quickly. I love to play with that old phone. Okay, Mom? I am so immature still but I just have to get home to that silly black phone.”

To my surprise, my mother began laughing.

“Oh, Abby, I hope you never change!” When we pulled up in the driveway I was already hopping out of the car using my cane as my guide.

I raced into my room and began to dial, 391-0840 and then I heard her voice.

“Abby, hi, it’s me Caroline.”

“I know, Caroline, and I am so glad to hear your voice. I just met Beatrix Potter and cannot wait to meet the next author. Caroline, one day I hope to be a famous writer myself.”

“Abby, I know you are going to be someone special. Wait a minute, you already are.”

Caroline and I laughed really hard and then she began telling me about her school and how they still used old large fans and that there was no air conditioner in the entire school. She, too, was shocked when I told her that our school (where she would one day teach) had air, heat, carpet and computers. Caroline was stunned and did not know what a computer was.

“Okay, tomorrow will be your day to meet another famous author, Hans Christian Anderson. He wrote several classics like, The Ugly Duckling, The Princess and the Pea and many more. Just go to the Biography section once again right after school tomorrow. When you get there, stand in the corner by large globe. Say the following words and be ready to met one of the most famous writers of all times.”

“What are the words?” I asked.

“I never dreamed of such happiness like this when I was an ugly duckling.”

“Okay, Caroline. I can’t wait to meet one of the greats!”

After a really long and tedious day, I dashed outside to get to the library but was basically stopped by my friends.

“Abby, why do you keep running away from us? Are you mad or have you gone nuts?” Neils barked.

“I told you guys what happened and none of you believe me. I’m on my way to the library now to meet one of the greatest children’s authors of all times- Hans Christen Anderson.”

“Oh, I get it now,” laughed Alison. “You and Laura are in Mrs. Trammell’s reading class learning about all the famous authors. You are really using your imagination for this one,” Alison laughed.

“Yeah, yeah, that’s it. May I please call everyone later? I have to get to the library,” I said excitedly.

“Abby is a nerd, Abby is a nerd,” teased Neils.

“You better watch it, Andrea Neil,” I scolded.

“Wow! You are pulling out the big guns now,” teased Neils. “Okay, Abby, call us later and tell Hans hello for me,” Neils continued.

After the gang kept me waiting I had only five minutes to get to the library. Thank goodness it was next door to the school. When I got inside I raced back to the Biography section and said the following words, ‘I never dreamed of such happiness when I was an ugly duckling,’ and then poof, I began floating to the ceiling, spinning and landed right beside the greatest storytellers of all time- Hans Christen Anderson.

“Hello,” a cheery voice said to me.

“Hello,” I answered back. “Are you the great Hans Christen Anderson?” I asked.

“I am Hans Christen Anderson, but I do not know about the ‘great’ part,” he chuckled. “What is your name?” he asked.

“My name is Abby. I don’t want to scare you but I am from the future. I know things that will knock your socks off,” I stated.

“That’s funny, Abby, ‘knock my socks off, eh?”

“How old are you now?” I asked.

“I am fourteen-years-old, and I can see that you are blind. If you could see me then you would not think I was so great. For a teen, I am much taller than my classmates who consider me not so intelligent. I work as a tailor, so that I can take care of myself. I am suppose to be some part of royalty here in Denmark, but who knows if that’s true.”

“Kids your age consider you dumb and unattractive?” I asked. I was thinking how bullies pick on the ones who are truly remarkable people and who are creative and extremely gifted.

“Yes. I am often times hit by the schoolmaster because he thinks I am not very intelligent. The other kids laugh at nose all the time,” he said sadly. “I love to sing soprano and absolutely could not live without writing poetry and telling stories,” he spoke more lively this time.

End of Part 1 - Next week Part 2

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