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 25, 2013

VIP Software Guides

The VIP Software Guides website (based out of the UK) for users of JAWS screen reading software, has detailed and helpful guides for how to use JAWS with various operating systems, the internet, email, and more.  The guides are free and in HTML format.

Operating Systems Guides
  • Windows XP
  • Windows Vista
  • Windows 7
  • Windows 8 - The newest version of Windows is giving almost everyone a headache, regardless of visual acuity. In this section, you can learn about using JAWS with the start screen, the app display, the taskbar, searching, and file explorer, as well as how to customize the start screen and other features.
Other Guides
  • Internet - Including IE 8, Wikipedia, HTML, and websites for free audio recordings
  • Email - Including Outlook Express and Gmail
  • Audio software - Audacity and Windows Media Player 
There are also some guides for screen magnifiers and a links page.

Friday, February 22, 2013

If I Believe

By Donna J. Jodhan

If I believe in me, then others will believe too and in turn, if I believe in others then soon the world will start believing.  This has been my motto for all of my life and it continues to work for me.

When I was a kid, I believed that if I worked hard enough I could achieve my objectives at school and it worked.  When I was a teen I believed that if I pushed myself hard enough I could accomplish my goals to obtain a master's degree in Business administration and you know what?  I was one of the first blind persons in Canada to graduate with a master's degree in business administration from McGill University.

When I graduated, I believed that if I tried hard enough, I could become a member of any blue chip Canadian company and you know what?  I did it in grand style.  I worked for companies like the Bank of Montreal, IBM Canada, and the Royal Bank of Canada. Through good times and bad times, I kept on believing in myself and when I was downsized in the 90s, I still kept on believing in me.

I have been in business for myself for the past 15 years and for the most part it has been a continuing struggle to keep believing in me but at the end of the day belief is what keeps me going.  As a professional student at heart, I have managed to use belief to become one of the first blind persons in the world to obtain certifications in Microsoft Systems Engineering and Novelle Network Administration and I will keep on using belief to enrich my academic as well as my professional life.  I am also going to use belief to convince others to believe in themselves.  As I see it, belief is the only way for us to keep on believing.  If I continue to believe in me, then my task to help the kids of the future believe in themselves will only become easier.

 I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day and urging you to go out there and share my blogs with the rest of the world.  I invite you to contact me anytime at

Monday, February 18, 2013

Sacred Texts: Where to Get Them in Alternate Media

Alliance Ministries Audio Bibles

This organization, based out of Brandenton, Florida, will put an audio version of a Bible onto a blank NLS cartridge. All the customer needs to do is send them a blank cartridge with a note specifying which version of the Bible is wanted, ie. King James Version, etc. Other than the cost to ship the cartridge to Alliance Ministries, the service is free. 

Mail the blank cartridge to:

Alliance Ministries
Audio Bibles
PO Box 621
Bradenton, FL  34206

DAISY Scriptures

This web page contains Daisy audio and text versions of scriptures from several faiths, perhaps most notably the New International Version of the Bible and the Qu'ran.

Click here to visit DAISY Scriptures

Helping Hands Braille Ministry

The Helping Hands Braille Ministry has a great number of braille books that relate to the church and some braille Hymnals. There are too many to list here, but you can click this link to see their entire list of books.

KITABA: Islamic Texts for the Blind

The Islamic Texts for the Blind project is a social enterprise community project dedicated to empowering and promoting the growth and well being of visually impaired Muslims and their communities through meeting their religious, educational and developmental needs, thereby advancing accessibility and awareness.

To read more about KITABA, volunteer or become a member, please visit

Bibles for the Blind prints and distributes the Bible in braille without charge to the blind and visually impaired throughout the world who are otherwise unable to afford to read God's Word. has announce that the BRF files they use to create hard copy braille bibles are available on their website. The KJV Bible, 17 BRF files, The daily devotional My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers 4 BRF files and more are ready for download at:

Unitarian Universalist Resources for People with Vision Impairments

The following resources are now available for those with impaired vision.

Spoken Word

The following are currently available on four-track audio tapes with tone indexing and Braille labels.
  • UU World: No cost from Identity-Based Ministries.
  • Chosen Faith: Two-tape set is $12 from the Massachusetts Association for the Blind.
  • UU (Unitarian Universalist) meditation manuals: From the Massachusetts Association for the Blind.
  • UU Pocket Guide: From the Massachusetts Association for the Blind.
MP3 format CD The following is spoken word, searchable, and with tone indexing:
  • Welcoming Children with Special Needs by Sally Patton: No cost from Identity-Based Ministries.
Digital Files in Microsoft Word: These can be sent as an email attachment or a CD, and converted on an individual computer to any size font for printing, to spoken word (screen reader), or to Braille.
  • Unitarian Universalist Pocket Guide: No cost from Identity-Based Ministries.
  • Singing the Living Tradition, all lyrics and readings: No cost from Identity-Based Ministries.
  • Soul Work: Anti-Racist Theologies in Dialogue, edited by Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley and N.P. Jones: No cost from Identity-Based Ministries.
  • Weaving the Fabric of Diversity (Religious Education curriculum): No cost from Identity-Based Ministries.
Because of copyright restrictions, these alternative format media are for use only by people who cannot utilize them in regular printed form.

Contact Information

Email: or

The Massachusetts Association for the Blind has hundreds of books on 4-track tape for sale, including, many progressive books. For more information, email rpierson @ or call 617-926-4232.

Christian Record Services

Christian Record Services provides free Christian publications and programs for people with visual impairments. The goal of the many volunteers, employees, and trustees of Christian Record Services is to reach every blind or visually impaired person in North America with their free Christian publications and services. Services include:
  • Subscription Magazines are available in braille, large print, and audio cassette.
  • Full-Vision Books combine braille and print, enabling blind parents to read to their sighted children and sighted parents help their blind children learn to read braille.
  • The Lending Library lends more than 2,000 volumes in braille and audio cassette.
  • Gift Bibles and Study Guides are available in braille, large print, and audio cassette.
  • National Camps for Blind Children are operated throughout North America.
  • Scholarship Assistance is given on a limited basis to blind young people trying to obtain a college education.
For more information, contact:

Christian Record Services, Inc. / National Camps for Blind Children
4444 South 52nd Street
Lincoln NE 68516-1302
Phone: 402-488-0981
Fax: 402-488-7582

Bartimaeus Alliance of the Blind, Inc.

Bartimaeus Alliance of the Blind, or BAB Inc., was designed and created primarily to minister to the needs of blind and deaf-blind individuals for Bible teaching and ministry; to promote Christian growth through Bible centered teaching and fellowship; and to provide study and reference materials centered in the Christian faith. 

Born the 4th of July on a farm in western Iowa, Grant Metcalf gradually lost his sight over the space of a year as a result of an injury suffered when he was 7 years old. Enrolled at the Iowa School for the Blind at 8, he graduated high school in 1958. Soon, Grant moved to the San Francisco bay area where he met and married his wife, Judi--they have 2 daughters; Shari and Pam, and 1 grandson, Anthony. 

Grant has worked as a masseur; mechanic (rebuilding automatic transmissions); musician; darkroom technician and medical transcriber at Seton Medical Center; and as Executive Director, President and General Manager of The East Bay Center for the Blind in Berkeley, California. 

Nelly Metcalf, Grant's mother, was a devout Christian who would read the Bible to her son and pray with and for him. Her last gift to Grant was a braille Bible when he was 15. 

Grant has always been active in the local church. He has scrubbed bathrooms, taught Sunday School, accompanied congregational singing, provided special music, served as a deacon, and occasionally preached at Gospel missions. 

Grant now serves as coordinator of the Bartimaeus Bible Conference. This annual event has provided an opportunity for ministry in a special way to the blind. Out of this activity has grown the Bartimaeus Alliance of the Blind, a non-profit, Christian organization, dedicated to serving blind and deaf-blind individuals through a Bible teaching ministry: promoting Christian growth through Bible centered teaching and fellowship, as well as making available study and reference materials centered in the Christian faith. 

For more information, contact:

Grant E. Metcalf
Bartimaeus Alliance of the Blind, Inc.
P.O. Box 572
South San Francisco, CA 94083-0572
Phone: 650-589-6890

On this site, you'll find a variety of pages offering good Bible study and reference tools, for example, Lewis Sperry Chafer's Systematic Theology, Arno C. Gaebelein's Annotated Bible Commentary, along with more books by these and other authors. Additionally, over the last two years, a lot of time has been spent gathering and preparing New Testament Greek grammars, lexicons, and several versions of the Greek New Testament in braille ready files. You will also find recorded messages from the annual Bartimaeus Bible Conference, as well as interesting articles and life stories on the personal pages. 

Some of the books come in braille ready files and print format, the majority only in print. Things believed to be under copyright in the Christian Bookshare section or in the Braille Library section require a qualified membership to access, but , there are plenty of Public Domain articles and books.
They also have a few items that are free or at low prices in hard copy or audio form which are free or which involve a small donation. These include the popular Solar Talking Bible, which they call the "Pocket" Bible", in either King James or New American Standard (NASB) versions. Proof of visual impairment or reading disability is required. They have a 7 volume Brail Bible Dictionary for a "donation" of $100 They also offer two Bible story books for kids and several versions of the Bible in various formats. Applications are available on the website, but there will be an additional phone call for verification of information relating to disability. This is a great deal for the pocket Bibles. They sell anywhere from $70 to $119 from commercial sources. 

If you are not familiar with the website, >>do come check it out and see if there is anything you find of interest: >>

The Bible In Excel

John Walkenbach of The J-Walk Blog: has created an Excel version of The Bible. (Note: The blog will no longer be updated, and a note on the blog says that it will be up at least through November 2012, and as of February, 2013, it's still there but we can make no promises of how long it will be up.)

"I found a text file with the complete King James Version of the Bible. I wrote a few macros and dumped it all into an Excel workbook. Each book is on a separate worksheet, and each verse is in a separate cell.
It has a handy hyperlink table of contents so you can jump to any book. I also wrote some summary formulas to calculate the number of characters in each book, and the average number of characters per verse. Then I added a word count feature: Enter a word and it displays the number of occurrences in each book." 

You can click this link to download The Bible In Excel. It's a 1.8 Mb zip file, and it expands to a 6.1Mb Excel workbook.

Here's a website that contains The Bible as HTML and audio:

Electronic Bibles

You can now purchase electronic versions of The Bible. Click this link to visit or click here to visit

Talking Bibles International
419 East Grand Avenue
Escondido, CA 92025
Phone: 760-745-8105

The Solar Powered Talking Bible

Need your bible on the go? Got bad vision? Dependent on solar power? Then the Solar Powered Talking Bible is for you! It's easy to use, no batteries required, and runs about 14 hours on a full charge. And it comes with a free set of earbuds! 

The Solar Powered Talking Bible is perfect for the 50+ crowd, the visually impaired, or anyone on-the-go who wants to hear the Word of the Lord."

Order by phone from First Street Online: 866-915-8324 and mention promo code: 33063 or Click this link to visit to learn more.

The Bible in MP3 Audio Format

Welcome to the AudioTreasure site where you can download the Bible in the popular mp3 audio format and find links to Bible audio resources in many languages. 

(Some of their mp3 Bibles can be legally copied and given to others.) 

You can also order Bibles in mp3 audio and DVD format from their online store.
Bibles in mp3 available for Free Download
  • The World English Bible Old and New Testaments
  • The King James Bible voice only
  • The King James Bible soft music background
  • Hebrew Old Testament narrated by ASI
  • Spanish Reina Valera Nuevo Testamento y Salmos
  • The Mandarin Bible narrated by ASI Old and New Testaments
  • Cantonese NT narrated by ASI
  • Italian New Testament narrated by ASI
  • Hindi New Testament narrated by ASI
  • Russian New Testament narrated by ASI
Click this link to listen to download these texts as MP3 files: . The New International Version of The Bible can be streamed from
Links to more Bible audio in different languages
Talking Bibles International has produced The Bible in 68 languages which are now available in the RealAudio format from their website. Click this link to visit

If you are looking for a bible in large print or braille, the following agencies offer different versions in alternate formats:

  • American Bible Society
    Phone: (212) 408-1200
    The following versions are available in braille:
    Complete King James Version

    Psalms New Revised Standard Version

    New Testament New Revised Standard Version (5 volumes)

    The following versions are available on tape:
    Complete King James Version

    Complete King James Version in Spanish

    Complete Today's English Version

    Psalms - Today's English Version

  • Bibles for the Blind and Visually Handicapped International.
    Phone: (812) 466-4899
    The King James Version
    - Available in Braille, free
  • Hosanna Ministries
    Phone: (800) 545-6552
    The Holy Bible
    available in English and Spanish
  • Lutheran Braille Workers Union
    Phone: (800) 925-6092
    The complete New International Version
    is available in braille.
    Parts of the New International Version are available in different languages. The International Children's Bible is available in GRADE 1 Braille.
    The Complete New International Version is also available in large Print - 18 pt.
  • Christian Church Without Walls
    Address: P. O. Box 26247
    Wilmington, DE 19899
    The King James
    and the New American Standard Version are available in large print 13.5 pt. Send a written request stating that you are legally blind, and what version you want to receive. These bibles are free of charge.
  • Aurora Ministries
    Phone: 941-748-3031
    Address: P. O. Box 621
    Bradenton, Florida 34206
    Old Testament, New Testament, and Bible Studies materials are available free of charge.
  • The National Library Service (NLS) has a list of sources for sacred writings on their FTP server. This is a large text document, around 38 pages, so you will probably want to use your word processor's search feature to find the book or books you are looking for. The list includes sources of braille, large print and audio formats of several different editions of the Bible and of sacred writings from other major religions such as the Koran, the Torah, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Tibetan Book of the Dead. For more information, call the NLS at the toll-free number below.

    National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
    Toll Free: 800-424-8567
  • Bible Gateway: Bible Gateway provides the Bible online for both research and study purposes. Currently, there are eleven different versions available in nineteen languages including German, Swedish, Latin, French, Spanish, Arabic, and Tagalog (the main Philippine dialect). Additional versions and translations are being added as permissions to use these are obtained.
  • Biblseekr: Biblseekr is considered by some to be the most accessible Bible search program. Some new versions of the Bible have recently been added to its options.
  • Large Print Documents on CD "Prayers & Psalms for Today" is a CD that can help in all kinds of life situations. It includes selections from Prayers and Thanksgivings, Prayers for the Sick, Prayers for Use by a Sick Person, as well as The Psalter from The Book of Common Prayer (1979) of The Episcopal Church, USA.
    The CD is in APhont, a special font designed for people who are blind or visually impaired. The font was developed by the American Printing House for the Blind. The CD is formatted in Microsoft Word. The main body is in 20 point. The material is laid out for 8.5 x 11 inch paper.
    The material on "Prayers & Psalms for Today" can be printed out and distributed to the blind or visually impaired, including shut-ins, college and seminary students, clergy, people in nursing homes, prisons, and hospitals. The prayers and Psalms can be made into a booklet. ISN'T TECHNOLOGY AMAZING?
    Blind individuals with electronic notetakers and special software, and visually-impaired people with access to computers can use the CD. Optical character reader equipment that can read documents formatted in Microsoft Word should also be able to read the "Prayers & Psalms for Today" and "The LARGE-PRINT Book of Common Prayer" CD material.
    "The LARGE-PRINT Book of Common Prayer" CD includes the entire Book of Common Prayer of the ECUSA (1979). It is formatted in Microsoft Word, 18 point type and is laid out for 8.5 x 11 inch paper. The BCP CD can be used to help prepare large-print worship materials. It was also suggested that it can be adapted and used to help children.
    Both CDs have been distributed to bishops, clergy, deacons, churches, seminaries, colleges, bookstores, resource centers, prison ministries, eye-care professionals, hospitals, military and veterans' hospitals, mental-health ministries, and individuals throughout the U.S. They've been ordered by ECUSA, United Methodist, Free Methodist, Anglican, and Assembly of God churches and/or social service agencies.
    To order "Prayers & Psalms for Today" or "The LARGE-PRINT Book of Common Prayer" CD, please send a self-addressed, stamped 6x9 envelope with three 39 cent stamps attached (four if it's a padded envelope) to me at:

    Ann Dahlen
    1900 6th Avenue, Apt. 513
    Rock Island, IL 61201.

    If you need more information, please email me at or
The E-Sword Bible Program is a powerful study tool featuring several versions of the Bible as well as dictionaries and commentaries. the program is quite usable with speech, and to make it more useful, there is a low-traffic mailing list where users can ask and answer accessibility questions. To join, send a blank message to

Optasia Ministry

Optasia Ministry has formed for the purpose of providing free, significant Bible study resources to those with visual disabilities who use screen reading software. Operating under a provision of the U.S. Copyright Code, Optasia Ministry is able to provide free materials such as commentaries, Greek and Hebrew word study, theological and ministry resources to those with visual disabilities. Also available is a New International Version Bible (and other Bible versions) which work well on a Braille note taker. Many of these copyrighted resources are not available to those with visual disabilities in any other way.
For more information, contact:

Tom Vos, director
Optasia Ministry, Inc.
185th St.
Wellsburg, IA 50680
Phone: 641-869-3305

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

DAISY Online for Book Port DT

APH is excited to announce the first U.S. implementation of DAISY Online! This amazing service utilizes the features of the new Book Port DT to provide users the ability to find, download and play DAISY content without the need for a computer! DAISY, or Digital Accessible Information System, is an international standard for the Digital Talking Book (DTB).

The debut of DAISY Online brings Newsweek and Readers Digest—which APH has provided in braille and audio formats free of charge for many decades—to the Book Port DT!

In addition, DAISY Online makes available, to those Book Port DT users who are registered with Bookshare, access to Bookshare’s collections of accessible books, newspapers, and more. Bookshare currently provides access to more than 175,600 titles.

 The Migel Library has now made over 1,000 books from its research collection available free of charge in DAISY format. The Migel is one of the largest historical collections of non-medical books and magazines related to blindness in the world. Those titles, which already are available on the web through the Migel website, will be made available via Book Port DT soon.

To see how to use the Book Port DT with these services, see

For more information on the Book Port DT, visit APH at

For more information on Newsweek and Readers Digest, visit APH at

For more information on DAISY, visit the DAISY Consortium at

For more information on Bookshare, visit Bookshare at

For more information on the Migel, visit APH at

Monday, February 11, 2013

What's Your Type? A Key to Input Methods for VoiceOver Users

By: Chancey Fleet

When Voiceover made its mobile debut in June 2009, there was exactly one way to type: you used the integrated “virtual keyboard." Sighted users did it by hunting and pecking. Voiceover users did it by locating a letter and then typing that letter with a “double tap” (two quick presses with one finger) or a “split tap” (one finger drops anchor at the letter’s location while a second finger taps, once, anywhere on the screen). While this method worked as advertised, a short email composed this way could leave the average user tapped out, so to speak, and ready for a traditional keyboard and perhaps a traditional siesta. Thankfully, iOS (the operating system shared by the iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad) has matured to include some significant keyboarding improvements for Voiceover users; and third-party application developers are entering the mobile composition space with some pathbreaking alternatives. Here’s a rundown of three ways to compose text using the touchscreen of your iOS device. (Note: I’m a fan of dictation, Braille displays and Bluetooth keyboards. Such a big fan that I think they deserve to be covered separately).

Virtual Keyboard

The much-maligned onscreen keyboard has actually grown up to be sort of decent. A “touch typing” mode is now available in iOS’s Voiceover settings which allows you  to locate the character you want to type with a single finger. When Voiceover speaks that character, simply lift your finger and that character is typed. Another new setting, “Typing Echo," lets you specify whether Voiceover should echo every letter or word as you type. Voiceover also speaks auto-corrections so that you will always know when iOS corrects your  spelling.

The pitch: Never carry an extra device with you and don’t waste time learning an additional app. Wherever you are in iOS, you already have the virtual keyboard. iOS’s built-in keyboard also comes with the advantage of “Shortcuts” – snippets of text you’d rather not type over and over again, associated with quick character combinations you don’t mind typing, stored in your Keyboard settings. For example, “CFg” is the shortcut I use to write my entire, much longer email address. To date, shortcuts that you assign in iOS do not work with third-party virtual keyboards.

The hitch: Using the iOS virtual keyboard demands precision and, even in touch typing mode, requires three steps to enter a letter: find it, hear it, type it. Experienced users can achieve respectable rates of speed with the onscreen keyboard, but those three steps do limit your top speed.

The assist: SpeedDots are affordable, clear screen protectors with tactile markings for letters on the virtual keyboard as well as critical controls throughout IOS.


After almost one full year of energetic news coverage about the app, BrailleTouch made its App Store debut this January. BrailleTouch is free to try - $19.99 if you’d like to copy, email, Tweet, Facebook or message the text you’ve brailled. To use this app, you must hold the phone facing away from you in landscape orientation and tap any finger once on the screen to initiate typing. Then, drop the same fingers you’d use on a Perkins Brailler to start Brailling. Flick a finger from left to right for space; flick two fingers from left to right for enter; and flick two fingers from right to left to expose a menu that includes Help, Clear and several ways to send your text somewhere useful. 

The pitch: Six-fingering Braille onto a touchscreen feels delightfully retro. Educators and students of Braille will find a lot to love in this pocket-sized practice method, particularly since it provides reinforcement by announcing every letter or symbol you Braille, even in the free version.

The hitch: BrailleTouch only supports Grade 1 Braille for now. While the six dot targets are spread out along the left and right sides of an iPhone held in landscape orientation, making the dot positions easy to hit after just a little practice, BrailleTouch essentially lives on a tiny island at the center of an iPad. (This is called 2X mode and is how all iPhone apps that have not been optimized for iPad show up). Unless you have preternaturally good aim, what you’re likely to experience with this app on the iPad is nothing short of a FailTouch.

The assist: While the developers report that a majority of users prefer to Braille with the same fingers they’d use on a Perkins, some people may prefer to Braille by pressing their fingers directly onto the spots where dots would go, spatially, in a vertical cell. If you’d rather Braille this way, visit the BrailleTouch Settings where you can “flip” the locations of dots 1, 3, 4 and 6; and where you’ll also find a high-contrast color scheme for low-vision users.

Fleksy – Happy Typing

This is essentially a QWERTY keyboard with the letters and symbols removed. You enter text by pressing, by dead reckoning, where you think the letter you want is. At the end of each word, you swipe a finger from left to right. Hopefully, Fleksy’s predictive engine has guessed what you meant and rendered your taps into the English or Spanish word you wanted. If not, swipe down with one finger to move through a list of suggestions (Fleksy may have recognized “from”, for example, when you actually meant “drum”, “drug” or “iron”). Fleksy also allows you to touch the characters you need more precisely – just as you would with IOS’s built-in virtual keyboard - if the word you need is not in Fleksy’s dictionary (that’s “Conchita”, not “gunshot”, thanks). Swiping a finger from left to right to complete a word, then swiping up, delivers the characters you actually typed. Additional gestures are available for inserting punctuation, numbers and symbols. Touching the top half of the screen at any time invokes a menu that includes instructions and (in the $4.99 paid version) options for copying your text to the clipboard and clearing the screen or sending it out to a tweet, mail, message or Facebook post.

The pitch: Fleksy is almost unnervingly accurate and, as long as what you’re typing is mostly comprised of standard English or Spanish words, it’s perhaps the speediest option of the bunch. The $4.99 price tag is relatively easy on the wallet. The iPad version makes use of the extra room by providing full portrait and landscape keyboards.

The hitch: Fleksy corrects inaccurate typing. It does absolutely nothing for poor spelling – in fact, typing one letter too many or few (“wenever” instead of “whenever”, for example) defeats Fleksy’s predictive powers entirely. The only suggestions you’ll get with Fleksy have the same number of letters that you actually typed. 

The assist: Fleksy boasts an excellent set of instructions, accessible by touching and holding the top half of the screen while the app is running. These can be navigated by heading using the rotor and they are highly recommended reading before you get started.

So, which onscreen keyboard is right for you? Veteran braillists - and those of us looking to sharpen our Braille skills - can finally compose braille on our iOS devices without the addition of costly hardware. Meanwhile, a growing legion of Fleksy "happy typists" is ditching the "hunt and peck" method in favor of "hit and predict." Particularly on the iPad, with its full-sized QWERTY layout in landscape mode, Fleksy might just be the fastest way to type on glass. For those of us who communicate in a language other than English or Spanish, iOS's built-in virtual keyboard is the clear leader, providing custom keyboards for the over 30 languages supported by iOS itself. The built-in keyboard is also the logical choice for those of us who rely heavily on auto-correct and shortcut features. Since both Fleksy and BrailleTouch come in free versions that let you try out their keyboarding mechanics before you buy, the real key is to sit down and take each of them for a test-drive.

--Chancey Fleet is an adaptive technology specialist at Jewish Guild Healthcare and is working toward an MA in Disability Studies at the City University of New York's School of Professional Studies.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Cooper Kendall's Story

USABA / WellPoint Foundation National Fitness Challenge Help Visually Impaired Athlete go from Biggest Loser to Biggest Winner
Printed with permission from Lacey Markle, USABA        

   On December 25, 2011 I weighed myself and saw the red arrow point towards 240 pounds. I knew that this was an unhealthy weight for a 15 year old and realized I had to do something about it. I could no longer blame my low vision on the fact that I was not physically active (I am considered a B3 - visual acuity above 20/600 and up to visual acuity of 20/200 and/or a visual field of less than 20 degrees and more than 5 degrees in the best eye with the best practical eye correction). I was supposed to be participating in the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) and WellPoint Foundation National Fitness Challenge but I had not even done anything with that yet, which said a lot about me at the time. After weighing nearly 240 pounds I was highly motivated to finally do something about my overweight body and make a change in my life for good. I knew if I set my mind to it, I could win and beat the competition by losing the most weight.
            On December 27, 2011 I took action. I went outside in 20 degree weather for a run, a simple 3.2 mile loop, which became my daily activity. I got to the point that without my daily run I felt lost and anxious. I ran every day for two months before ending the streak due to poor weather, but the next day I was back in my routine. I began to feel good about running and started to pick up my mileage to five miles; a long run for me. By this point I was about 200 pounds and I added dieting to my daily exercise. People were starting to notice my weight loss and for the first time in my life I started to feel like an athlete. I continued to run for a few more weeks and eventually made one of the best decisions of my life by signing up for a local club rowing team. The week before crew started, I ran 11.6 miles and the feeling of being able to run that far was new to me, it felt remarkable. Once rowing started I took some time off from running and began training and conditioning for the rowing team. The conditioning started off very hard because I had been burning fat and muscle throughout my running career, and I did not have much muscle to begin with. Circuit training and rowing machine workouts eventually become easier and by the time we got to the boat I was eager to start learning how to row. Rowing changed my body even more than running, I started to see muscles accumulating and I actually got my weight down to 180 pounds - my lowest yet and it is an awesome feeling!
            I had a fire inside me that motivated me to become the best rower I could and although I was a novice, we had a pretty decent crew team. I rowed through the spring and into the summer with the Blood Street Sculls, learning skills from specialized trainers and coaches. As I got more into rowing I bought an Erg Rowing Machine and used it at home for many of my workouts. By September 2012, I was ready to go back to the Blood Street Sculls and be a better athlete. After running and rowing I finally saw myself as a real athlete because I was fit enough to row 5,000 meters and I was moving up in the boat lineups. This was one of the best feelings ever; I was actually accomplishing what I set out to do. As the rowing season came to an end, I made a promise to myself that winter was no longer an “off” season for me. Although, I shifted my interests to the school musical, I continued to be in training mode by lifting weights and doing cardio. I set a goal of returning back to the Blood Street Sculls in the spring and to make my school's varsity rowing team.
            I learned that setting goals was the best way for me to live my life. After watching myself accomplish what I set out do it, I am more open to trying new things. If people tell me to try something, I immediately go for it. I know that even if I do not get it right away with practice I will one day succeed.
            Even though I was participant in the USABA and WellPoint Foundation National Fitness Challenge and I wanted to win, I also wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. Losing weight was mainly for me, but because I lost weight I received the benefits of an awesome trip to Colorado Springs, Colorado in June 2012 to attend the National Sports Education Camp, which was a reward for the top boy and girl who lost the most weight and decreased their body mass index. It was really neat to show myself off as an athlete and meet other people who had been applying themselves in various ways throughout the National Fitness Challenge program. I know that without the start of the USABA and WellPoint Foundation National Fitness Challenge I would not have found the motivation to get active and lose weight. Being a part of this program was the best thing that has ever happened to me and truly changed my life for the better. Now, I see a lot of potential in myself and I am truly proud of how far I have come with changing my life.
Cooper after, Judo in CO
Cooper ready for the school dance

About the USABA and WellPoint Foundation National Fitness Challenge
            The objective of the National Fitness Challenge is to provide teenagers who are blind and visually impaired opportunites to achieve a higher level of fitness and to maintain or reduce their body mass index. Last year 16 agencies participated in the National Fitness Challenge and this year’s program has grown extensivly with more than 20 participating agencies from across the United States who will provide more than 700 teenagers who are blind and visually impaired with an opportunity to increase their physical fitness levels and live a healthier and more active lifestyle.
            In order to keep track of each participants success, every agency submits baseline data and monthly updates that are used to create achievable fitness and weight loss goals for each teen. Mark Lucas, executive director of the United States Association of Blind Athletes, said, “Last year the number of students participating in the program was 603, and of these 603 students 393, or 65%, maintained or reduced their body mass index. With number like that we predict a great success rate for a second year of the National Fitness Challenge.” With the renewal of this grant from the WellPoint Foundation, through the partnering agencies, USABA will provide each agency with sports equipment as well as fitness and nutrition coaches for teens particpating in the program.
            “The WellPoint Foundation helps us continue meeting the company’s commitment to helping children and adults live active lives and avoid the health risks associated with sedentary lifestyles and obesity,” said Bill Smith, president and general manager of WellPoint’s Disability and Life business. “We believe no one should be denied the right to enjoy the physical and emotional benefits associated with exercise; therefore, we are very proud to once again partner with the USABA to ensure that vision impairments do not limit the recreational opportunities afforded to teenagers across the country.”
            Research has consistently shown that individuals who participate in regular physical activity to improve their health have higher energy levels, a lower risk of health-related diseases, improved psychological health, and lower rates of depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, because of the many barriers and misconceptions about their abilities, approximately 70 percent of the nearly 56,000 children and youth who are blind and visually impaired in the United States do not participate in even a limited physical education curriculum. The implimentation of the National Fitness Challenge is one program USABA and the WellPoint Foundation are using to break down these barriers.

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