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Showing posts from December, 2011

Little Christmas Tree

by Donna J. Jodhan It was the night before Christmas and in my dreams, I slipped lazily and happily into memory lane. Another time had come and as I stood there, the little Christmas tree twinkled in front of my eyes. The tree smelled so wonderful! It gave off the scent of warm pine. The colored lights danced in front of my eyes as they took turns blinking on and off. I moved o so carefully towards my little Christmas tree; being careful not to step on packages neatly piled in front of it. I had to get as close as I could so as to see everything. My partial sight only allowed me the luxury of seeing things very close up and at best only a few things at a time. Nevertheless, it was enough for me. I gingerly reached out and placed my index finger on one of the little lights; a little yellow one. Then I took my time at identifying other colors. Red, blue, and green. Then I had to take my time at finding a spot where there were no lights. I found it after a few moments an…

Someday At Christmas

by Donna J. Jodhan One of my favourite Christmas Carols is "Some day at Christmas"; made popular by the late Michael Jackson. Yes, some day at Christmas; when I could wake up on a peaceful morning and welcome yet another special day with my loved ones around me and the Christ Child in my heart. When I would be able to say "Finally! All is well and now blind kids will have an equal opportunity to be like their mainstream counterparts." When they can play with mainstream toys and be able to use cell phones and IPods just like sighted kids. When they would be able to play with games just like their sighted friends and not have to worry about inaccessibility. When their classrooms and playgrounds would be free of accessibility barriers and they would have an equal opportunity to be just kids! Some day at Christmas when I could go to bed just before Santa makes his rounds knowing that all of my wishes have been granted. That all websites have been made acces…

A New Year Brings New Opportunities

In 2005, I started working at the American Printing House for the Blind as the Expert Database Coordinator. My job was to write articles for an online database called Fred's Head. The Fred's Head Database was named after APH's Product Support Specialist Fred Gissoni. Fred is blind and has worked in the blindness field for many decades. The idea behind Fred's Head was to collect and make available the tips and resources that Fred had in his head and make them available to anyone via the APH website. The software was originally designed for Louis, a searchable database of books that are available in accessible formats. The database was modified to house the Fred's Head articles, but it had a weakness. Because a user created an invisible login when they visited the site, all articles in the database were invisible to internet search engines like Google as well. I remember my first few days of working in the database. Articles had to be constantly checked for accura…

GWSkype

Ever since the initial release of the Skype client in mid 2003, people from all around the world have used it to initiate high-quality voice and text conversations, send and receive files, and stay in touch with one another. The visually impaired community, likewise, has used Skype since then to facilitate equal communication with each other and their sighted counterparts. However, as the service has grown, so too has the program. For years, screen reader users have kept up with Skype's ever-morphing interface either with custom patches, scripts, or apps. While largely successful, such utilities must be constantly maintained as any new version of Skype can, and often will, cause previously working scripts or apps to stop functioning properly. In mid 2011, Skype announced its SkypeKit developer program. This service allows program developers to directly access nearly all Skype services without the additional need of traversing its user interface. Developers, therefore, can create…

Holiday Guide for Family Members of People with Vision Loss

The holidays are finally upon us. 'Tis the season for shopping for gifts, gathering around the table with loved ones, and hosting relatives from near and far. Every year at this time we get a lot of questions from the family members of people with vision loss. They ask, "What's the best gift for my mom now that she has macular degeneration?" or "What can I do to make my home comfortable and safe for my visually impaired grandma who's visiting this holiday season?" To help you find that perfect gift and easily make your home more vision loss friendly, the staff at the American Foundation for the Blind has created a Holiday Guide filled with great gift ideas and decorating tips. They also have some travel tips for you to share with your visually impaired loved one who may be flying or taking the train to see you this holiday season.

Click this link to read the Holiday Guide at the AFB Senior Site.

Feel ‘n Peel Sheets: a Carousel of Textures

by Kristie Smith, M.Ed, CTVI“Then the carousel started, and I watched her go round and round. . . All the kids tried to grasp for the gold ring…” J.D. Salinger The other day, I met with one of my favorite early childhood specialist, Michelle. We discussed how one of our young, totally blind students was not responding any more to textures. When you asked to see the baby’s hands, she would withdraw and make a sad face. “What can we do?” Michelle asked, “And why has she just begun to dislike textures?” I responded that the only thing that came to my mind was that she was becoming more aware of her surroundings and was noticing more sounds, textures and perhaps more vision- in other words, she was becoming overwhelmed. I promise you, I received a gift from God today when I went into my cubicle to do an order. There in my chair sat a box labeled Feel ‘n Peel Sheets Carousel of Textures and I did not remember ordering it. Talk about perfect timing. Ecstatic is an understateme…

Can Blind People Be Mainstream People?

by Donna J. Jodhan This is a very thought provoking question and one that is often asked of me. In response, I would venture to say that the answer is probably no and I say this with a lump in my throat. For as long as society continues to treat us with a difference, with kid gloves, or as second class citizens; we should not expect to be classified as mainstream. However, let's just say that if all of this were to somehow and magically change, if somehow we were to find ourselves in an almost perfect society, then the chances of us being classified as mainstream would be greater; but we need to be realistic. People who are blind are different because they are unable to see. They use or employ different strategies to live their lives. They use different technology in order to communicate; that being access technology. They depend on sighted assistance to help them deal with those tasks and challenges that require eyesight in order to complete them. The list can go on a…

The Right to Read

by Donna J. Jodhan So many of us take the ability to read for granted. We are living in an informational society and a knowledge based economy and it is so vital for us to be able to read whatever we desire, when we desire, and in whatever mode we desire. For people who are blind, the right to read is so important and must be preserved at all costs. True it is that we, as people who are blind, have seen progress; the evolution of devices that enables us to red more freely and widely. We can now access more books online; much more than a decade ago. The digital era has enabled us to start taking advantage of digital media but there is still much more work for us to carry out if we wish to truly preserve our right to read. We need equal access to library facilities and services. In other words, whatever the mainstream person has access to, we should have as well. We need to be able to download the same books that the mainstream person can download and we need to be able to acc…

TextExpander App Saves Keystrokes

by Paul Hamilton
It may not be quite accurate to describe this app as “nearly free” at $4.99, but for users who really need to reduce keystrokes when writing, the price probably will not seem excessive.
TextExpander is an iOS app that is based on a utility that has been available for Mac OS X, from SmileOnMyMac. This app works by offering customizable abbreviation expansion.  The user creates “snippets” of text for frequently used longer phrases, sentences, or such things as addresses and signatures.  For example, I could create the snippet pwbp for ‘Paul has written another brilliant blog post about a helpful learning resource.’  Then whenever I type ‘pwbp’ into any app that is enabled to work with TextExpander, the full sentence is automatically input.
Text can be typed directly into TextExpander’s text-editing utility and then copied and pasted or sent elsewhere.  Or, TextExpander will work inside an extensive and growing list of other apps that have been designed to work …

Multiplication/Division Table Kit

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This handy kit helps students quickly find the products and quotients of whole numbers.Large print/braille tool helps math students with multiplication and division problems. The chart is printed/embossed on white index stock and is punched for a 3-ring binder. Alternating rows are highlighted to help low vision students easily track numbers. The Multiplication/Division Table Kit has been expanded so students can find the products of two whole numbers from 1–10 or the quotient of a related division problem.Includes10 charts (grids)Print guidebookNote: APH does not sell a braille edition of The Multiplication/Division Guidebook. This publication is available from the APH website as a free download in the accessible formats of .brf and .txt.

Catalog Number: 5-82700-01
Click this link to purchase the Multiplication/Division Table Kit.

American Printing House for the Blind, Inc.
1839 Frankfort Avenue
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 6085
Louisville, Kentucky 40206-0085
Toll Free: 800-223-1839
P…

Moving Ahead Series: Goin' on a Bear Hunt, Splish the Fish, The Boy and the Wolf, and Turtle and Rabbit

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Storybooks designed to be the next step for students who have had experience with simple tactile representations such as those in APH's On the Way to Literacy Series. Moving Ahead storybooks introduce symbolic representation, more complex illustrations, and an increased emphasis on text. These read-aloud books combine tactile pictures, print/braille text, and a fun story.
Goin' on a Bear HuntGoin' on a Bear Hunt is the first title in this series. In the process of hunting for the bear, the reader follows a tactile line through the "tall grass," up a "hill," etc. until the child reaches the "cave" and then back home again. At the end of the book is a fold-out tactile "map" to use in retelling the story. The book's illustrations include braille words provided on customer-applied labels, allowing the reader to choose contracted or uncontracted braille.
The Reader's Guide, (braille edition sold separately) contains general in…

Clean Your Freezer with Vanilla to Cast Out Musty Smells

If your freezer's musty scent is infusing your frozen foods and ice cubes with the scent of old socks, home and living site Real Simple recommends a quick wipe down with vanilla extract to cure the problem. By dampening a cotton pad with a small amount of vanilla extract, the stale smell wafting out of your freezer will be banished away and in turn, your frozen foods and ice will taste a little better. It's a simple and quick fix to remove the funk that seems to plague even the cleanest of freezers.

Army Captures Kentucky School for the Blind!

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How are you commemorating the impact of the Civil War on the schools in your state? Few were left untouched by the terrible conflict. In the autumn of 1862, as the tides of combat rolled across Kentucky, Louisville was in a constant state of turmoil. Confederate armies had entered Kentucky that summer, determined to capture the city and destroy the Union army’s most important western supply depot. On Frankfort Avenue, a series of entrenchments were constructed, and for a time, it looked like war would halt the start of the school year at the Kentucky Institution for the Education of the Blind (KIEB). Union army officers had their eye on the school buildings, planning to convert the modern main building into a hospital. But the board of visitors at the Institution was well connected and, for a time, used their influence to stave off moves to seize the campus.After the battle of Perryville on October 8th, however, thousands of wounded were flooding into Louisville. Although their…

Low Vision Meta-Analysis Available

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Dr. Kay Ferrell, right, and Elaine Kitchel, APH Low Vision Project Leader APH commissioned "A Meta-Analysis of Educational Applications of Low Vision Research." The report, finalized in fiscal year 2011, was authored by Dr. Kay Alicyn Ferrell, Dr. Cherylann Dozier, and Dr. Martin Monson. It represents a comprehensive search of scientifically based research in the area of low vision. APH is appreciative of the collaborative efforts and contributions of all those who worked under the umbrella of the National Center on Severe and Sensory Disabilities to complete this work. Please visit the following link to access the full report: http://www.unco.edu/ncssd/research/LowVisionMeta-Analysis.shtml

APH Wings of Freedom Winner Ralph Brewer Spins a Tale of Gratitude

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Would you like to be inspired and awed? If yes, then listen to this 12 minute presentation by our 2011 Wings of Freedom award winner, Ralph Brewer. Ralph, the retired Tennessee School for the Blind Superintendent, shares his life story. Your heart will be touched!If you are interested in learning the history of the Wings of Freedom Award, the other APH Awards, and those who won them, visit our Awards From APH web page.

Stars of the APH Museum Exhibit Videos!

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There's an exhibit in the museum that shares information on the Act to Promote the Education of the Blind (1879). Videos show students using APH products as well as APH Ex Officio Trustees sharing their responsibilities. Historical information is offered by several government leaders.Here are the three videos that play every day from that exhibit – and from our YouTube site.Students - Dr. Michael Bina and students of the Maryland School for the Blind
Ex Officio Trustees - Lou Tutt (CO)*, Leslie Durst (IN), and Nancy Niebrugge (CA)
*now Executive Director of AER
Government Leaders - Kentucky Governor Beshear, U.S. Congressman Yarmuth, and U.S. Senator McConnell

The Importance of Knowing

Would like to get your comments about this post from Donna. How much do you rely on people with site to get you through your daily tasks? The Importance of Knowing by Donna J. Jodhan It is always important to know; but when it comes to someone who is unable to see! It's even more important. Like it or not, the eyes see all and absorb all and it is what the sighted world use in order to complete any picture. For me, I use other strategies to complete a picture but to be very sure that the picture is complete and accurate, I depend on sighted assistance. I need to know when things match; like my clothes, like my décor. I need to know what gestures are being carried out around me; especially when I am in a business meeting. I need to know what expressions persons around me are communicating to me and to each other. I need to know where things are in my home so that I do not bump into objects, and that I can find what I am looking for. I need to know what information is bei…

Access Technology Versus Mainstream Technology

by Donna J. Jodhan Well, what more can I say to add to this topic that is very near and dear to my heart. To put into perspective: Access technology is much more expensive than its counterpart and much less available on the market.
It is extremely challenging to have access technology repaired as opposed to its counterpart.
There are less manufacturers of access technology hardware and less developers of software.
The profit to be made for those who develop and sell access technology is much less than for those who do the same for mainstream technology.
Access technology has to be developed in such a way as to adapt to the mainstream world. So there is the picture. Now where do we go from here? About 18 months ago, I bought a PDA that was developed for people who are blind; a real find for me and one that I found to be really forward thinking because of its features. A few weeks ago, I was told that this PDA will no longer be manufactured and as of June 2012, no more hardware mainte…

Free Books from Daria

Books can inspire.  They can enchant.  They can delight and they can heal. Multicultural books can be especially powerful in celebrating diversity and teaching tolerance and helping us explore the world in a way that is creative, positive and powerful. Multicultural children’s performer, DARIA (Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou)  has created a website where you can get books for free. Here's what she writes:

Dear Friends: When reviewing books or visiting libraries, I often get wonderful copies of great books that I’d love to share with you!  Most are new, but some are library discards (in good shape). If you’d be willing to spread the word about this website by sharing a Tweet or Facebook entry or email, then I’d love to send you one of the books for free. I even pick up the postage! So take a look at what’s in my wonderful freebie book bin this month! If you want a book, e-mail me at daria@makemusicwithme.com and I’ll write back to request the correct address to send it.  Just one …