Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

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

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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Throwback Thursday Object: Early Large Type Book

Early Large Type Book
Our object this week continues our December holiday theme.  Hall of Famer Robert Irwin started his career leading classes for blind students in the Cleveland public schools in 1909.  One of his many innovations was the creation of “conservation of vision” classes around 1913 for low vision students.  These later became known as “sight-saving” classrooms and to facilitate his work, Irwin founded a publishing company to print the large type books his students would need.  Our object is one of Irwin’s books from the Cleveland Clear Type Publishing Committee, “The First Christmas Tree,” from 1926.  It was printed in a 30 point san serif font, with no illustrations.  It is bound in a simple green linen.  The story, by American religious writer Henry Van Dyke, revolves around a trip by the Christian missionary St. Boniface in the 8th century A.D. to tribes in Germany.  Let’s just say that Marvel’s super hero Thor is the bad guy and leave it at that.  But my favorite part is the State of Louisiana Free Textbook Form pasted inside the front cover. It required students to pledge to a “Good Citizenship Code,” including a promise to “arrange my books neatly in my desk” and “respect and take care of the Property of the State.”  This example was donated to APH by Warren Figueiredo at the Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired. The first picture is a wide shot of the book; the second shows the title page while the third is an example of the book's text.

Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Throwback Thursday Object: Hellen Keller Describes One Christmas As a Student at a School for the Blind

Our object this week continues our celebration here at APH of the holiday season.  In the December 1906 issue of Ladies' Home Journal,  author and activist Helen Keller describes the Christmas holidays as experienced by herself and other blind students at the Perkins Institution for the Blind in the late 19th century.  Enjoy!

*The Ladies' Home Journal, December, 1906


Christmas in the Dark, by Helen Keller

When I was a little girl I spent the Christmas holidays one year at the Perkins Institution for the Blind. Some of the children, whose homes were far away, or who had no homes, had remained at the school. I have never known a merrier Christmas than that.

I hear some one ask: "What pleasure can Christmas hold for children who cannot see their gifts or the sparkling tree or the ruddy smile of Santa Claus? "The question would be answered if you had seen that Christmas of the blind children. The only real blind person at Christmas-time is he who has not Christmas in his heart. We sightless children had the best of eyes that day in our hearts and in our finger-tips. We were glad from the child's necessity of being happy. The blind who have outgrown the child's perpetual joy can be children again on Christmas Day and celebrate in the midst of them who pipe and dance and sing a new song!

For ten days before the holiday I was never still a single moment. I would be one of the party that went Christmasing. I laid my hands on everything that offered itself in the shops, and insisted on buying whatever I touched, until my teacher's eyes could not follow my fingers. How she ever kept me within the bounds of the fitness of things, maintained the scale of values, and overtook the caprices of my fancy, is matter of amazement. To the prettiest doll I would adhere a moment, then discover a still prettier one, and by decision the more perplex her and myself. At last the presents were selected and brought home.

Next, a great Christmas tree, a cedar which towered above my head, was brought to the house where the children lived and planted in the middle of the parlour. Preparation kept'. us busy for a week. I helped to hang wreaths of holly in the windows and over pictures, and had my share in trimming the tree. I ascended and descended continually on the ladder to tie on little balls, apples, oranges, cornucopias, strings of popcorn and festoons of tinsel. Then we attached the little tapers which should set the tree aglow. Last came the gifts. As we placed one and then another, it became more and more difficult for my fingers to thread their way in and out between the candles, the dangling balls, and the swinging loops of corn and tinsel, to find a secure position for the gifts. It seemed as if the green, sweet-scented branches must break with the burden of love-offerings heaped upon them, and soon the higher branches did begin to bend alarmingly with each heavier bundle, "like the cliff-swallow's nest, most like to fall when fullest."

One of the last gifts I hung in the midst of the thick branches was a most unseasonable and incongruous exotic -- a toy cocoanut palm with a monkey, which had movable limbs, and which at the pressure of a spring would run up and slide down with a tiny cocoanut upon his head. Behold the miracle of toyland, a palm grafted upon a cedar! What matters botany? When a little girl wants anything to happen at Christmas, it happens and she is content.

Finally the tree was trimmed. Stars and crescents sparkled from branch to branch beneath my fingers, and farther up a large silver moon jostled the sun and stars. At the very top an angel with spread wings looked down on this wondrous, twinkling world -- the child's Christmas world complete! But I think the stupendous view must have made him a little dizzy, for he kept turning slantwise and crosswise and anywise but the way a Christmas angel should float over a Christmas tree.

My teacher and the motherly lady who was matron in that house were children themselves; it really seemed as if there could not be a grave, experienced grown-up in the world. We admonished each other not to let fall a whisper of the mysteries that awaited the blind children, and for once I kept the whole matter at a higher value than a state secret.

On Christmas Eve I went to bed early, only to hop up many times to rearrange some package, to which I remembered I had not given the finishing touches, and to use all my powers of persuasion with the unruly angel whom I invariably found in a reprehensible position.

Long before any one else was downstairs on Christmas morning, I took my last touch-look at the tree, and lo! the angel was correctly balanced, looking down in serene poise on the brilliant world below him. I suspected that Santa Claus had passed that way, and that under his discipline the angel, probably only a demi-angel, had been released from his sublunary infirmities. I turned to go, quite satisfied, when I discovered that Sadie's doll had shut her eyes on all the splendour that shone about her! "This will never do," I said -- "sleeping at this time!" I poked her vigorously, until she winked, and finally, to show she was really awake, kicked Jupiter in the side, which disturbed the starry universe. But I had the planets in their orbits again before it was time for them to shine on the children.

After a hurried breakfast the blind children were permitted to enter the parlour and pass their hands over the tree. They knew instantly, without eyes, what a marvellous tree it was, filled with the good smells of June, filled with the songs of birds that had southward flown, filled with fruit that at the slightest touch tumbled into their laps. I felt them shout, I felt them dance up and down, and we all crowded about and hugged each other in rapture.

I distributed all the gifts myself and felt the gestures of delight as the children opened them. Very pretty gifts they were, well suited to sightless children. No disappointing picture-books, or paint-boxes, or kaleidoscopes, or games that require the use of sight. But there were many toys wonderful to handle, dolls, both boys and girls, including a real baby doll with a bottle in its mouth; chairs, tables, sideboards, and china sets, pincushions and work-baskets, little cases containing self-threading needles that the blind can use, sweet-scented handkerchiefs, pretty things to wear, and dainty ornaments that render children fair to look upon. Blind children, who cannot see, love to make themselves pretty for others to see.

There were animals, too, fierce lions and tigers, which proved that appearances are most deceptive, for when one took their heads off one found them full of sweet things. One girl had a bear that danced and growled whenever she wound a key somewhere in the region of its neck. Another had a cow that mooed when she turned its head.

The older children received books in raised 'print, not mournful, religious books, such as some good people see fit to choose for the sightless, but pleasant ones like "Undine," or Hawthorne's "Twice-Told Tales," or "The Story of Patsy," or "Alice in Wonderland." Fairy tales, novels, essays, books of travel and history, and magazines well filled with news of the world and gossipy articles are thumbed by the blind until the raised letters are worn down. Books of gloomy, depressing character, and many that are full of dry wisdom and no doubt very good for our morals, are likely to repose on the top shelf until the dust takes possession of them. The blind are rendered by their very affliction keenly alive to what is joyous and diverting. Their books are necessarily few, and most of them ought to be delightful and entertaining.

After we had touched our presents to our hearts' content we romped and frolicked as long as the little ones could go, and longer. If you had looked in on our unlagging merriment and had never seen blind children at play before, you might have been surprised that in our wildest gyrations we did not run into the tree, or knock over a chair, or fall into the fire that burned on the hearth. I think, we must have looked like any other group of merry children. You would have learned that the way to make the blind happy at Christmas, and all the time, is to treat them as far as possible like other persons. They do not like to be continually reminded of their blindness, set aside and neglected, or even waited on too much.

Had you been our guest you would have received a gift from the sightless, for they have one precious gift for the world. In their misfortune they are often happy, and in that they give an inspiring challenge to those who see. Shall any seeing man dare to be sad at Christmas or permit a little child to be other than merry and light-hearted? What can excuse the seeing from the duty and privilege of happiness while the blind child joins so merrily in the jubilee?

"Tiny Tim" was glad to be at church on Christmas because he thought the sight of him might remind folk who it was that gave the lame power to walk. Even so the blind may remind their seeing brethren who it was that opened the blinded eyes, unstopped the deaf cars, gave health to the sick, and knowledge to the ignorant, and declared that mightier things even than these shall be fulfilled. All the afflicted who keep the blessed day compel the affectionate thought that He abides with us yet.

The legend tells that when Jesus was born the sun danced in the sky, the aged trees straightened themselves and put on leaves and sent forth the fragrance of blossoms once more. These are the symbols of what takes place in our hearts when the Christ- Child is born anew each year. Blessed by the Christmas sunshine, our natures, perhaps long leafless, bring forth new love, new kindness, new mercy, new compassion. As the birth of Jesus was the beginning of the Christian life, so the unselfish joy at Christmas shall start the spirit that is to rule the new year.
Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind


Friday, December 16, 2016

Get Information for and About Children Who Are Blind from Paths to Literacy


In this post, we wish to share a comprehensive online resource called Paths to Literacy that provides a wide range of information for and about children and youth who are blind, deafblind, or have multiple disabilities. Besides general information about Paths to Literacy, we also will share a specific post to their blog written by an APH employee.

What Is Paths to Literacy?


We received the following description of Paths to Literacy from one of its main contributors:

Paths to Literacy http://www.pathstoliteracy.org/ is an online Community of Practice, devoted to literacy for children and youth who are blind or visually impaired, including those with deafblindness or multiple disabilities.  A collaboration between Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired and Perkins School for the Blind, the site offers lesson ideas, resources, tech updates, and more.  The emphasis is on practical ideas that can be used in the classroom, home or community.  Topics range widely, from braille drawing to UEB lesson ideas to the creation of story boxes and experience books.  There is an active presence on social media as well, with lively discussions, questions, and frequent updates.

Subscribe to the free weekly newsletter to receive posts, such as this one on beginning tactile graphics.  The site welcomes contributions from its readers! Parents, veteran TVIs, graduate students, and O & M instructors all share ideas, questions, and resources.  Contact pathsto.literacy@perkins.org for more information.

APH Contributes to Paths to Literacy’s Blog


We encourage you to peruse their site, sign up for their newsletter, read their blog, and interact with them on social media. We also wish, however, to highlight one specific blog post that was written by an APH employee.

Reach Out and Touch the Picture: From Concrete to Abstract Thinking was written by Dawn Wilkinson, APH’s Early Childhood Project Leader who also is a certified teacher of the visually impaired. In this article, Wilkinson describes the process of teaching a child who is blind to learn increasingly more complex concepts through the reading of tactile graphics. As a student who is blind begins to understand simple concepts included in a tactile graphic, the student can proceed to learning more advanced concepts and, eventually, learn to read braille.

Wilkinson’s article describes how children who are blind have learned from several APH products like one book in our On the Way to Literacy Series entitled Jennifer's Messes (shown in the included photo). Learn about several APH early childhood products and develop a greater understanding of how children who are blind progress in their learning and recognition of objects by reading this informative post at http://www.pathstoliteracy.org/blog/reach-out-and-touch-picture-concrete-abstract-thinking.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Throwback Thursday Object: APH Employees Standing behind an Unusually Unique Ornament

In honor of the holiday season, our object this week comes from the photograph collection of long time APH employee Jim Hill.  Jim was an amateur photographer and he loved APH and all of its various characters.  Before he retired a few years ago, Jim donated his huge collection of snapshots of his coworkers and we are still going through it.  This photograph features four women standing with big smiles on their faces behind an impossibly ludicrous table ornament that looks straight out of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”  It is constructed of six or seven striped orange boxes of gradually decreasing diameter, topped by an orange cone and a glass tree topper.  The whole confection is wrapped with a string of electric lights and tinsel garland trimmed with tiny glass balls.  It towers over the four women.  Betty Cook, a receptionist, stands on the far left next to office manager Jane Kent, another unidentified lady is partially obscured behind the table decoration—maybe she is hiding?—and on the far right is a lady in a wonderful print dress that we can identify only as “Joanne.”  The picture is dated December 1974 and it is a lot of fun.
Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind

Friday, December 09, 2016

The Sero App: Available for Your Listening Pleasure

One can find a plethora of apps and websites that broadcast music, sports, and talk shows. Many are excellent resources providing seemingly endless entertainment. As good as these services are, they, with just a few exceptions, fail to include audio with a special interest to or created by people who are blind and visually impaired. One app seeks to change that.

Sero


Sero, formerly iBlink Radio, contains several types of information and resources especially tailored to people who are blind or anyone who wishes to know more about blindness issues and concerns. The app, developed by the assistive technology company called Serotek Corporation, offers both free content and paid/premium content.

History


Thanks to Serotek’s technical support, here is a brief history of Sero:

The iBlink Radio app was first published to the iOS App Store in the fall of 2009. We released the first Android version in the spring of 2011. In 2012, we extended the iOS version with access to the paid subscription service, which was then known as SAMNet (System Access Mobile Network). The Android version got a make-over in late 2013 and limited access to SAMNet in mid-2014. We announced last year that we would rebrand iBlink and SAMNet as Sero. (Sero was released in September).

Free Content


Here is a summary of the categories of the free Sero content:

  • Audio Tutorials and Interviews--some of which deal with Serotek products while others discuss general computer concerns
  • Blindness Resources--over 30 websites, organizations, and content providers with information about many topics related to blindness and visual impairment
  • Community Radio--over 40 radio stations run by people who are blind and visually impaired
  • Podcasts--nearly 60 series of podcasts covering assistive technology, other blindness-related issues, and more
  • Reading Services--nearly 50 services, some of which are specific to a state while others read national magazines
  • Sero Premium Content Sampler--a list of some of what is available as a paid subscriber to Sero
  • Local Content--displays all resources from all categories that are based in or near your current location
  • Recently Played--a list of content you last accessed on the app

When you find something you like, you can save it as a preset and access it from the presets section. Also, if you want to find something quickly, you can type into the search field which you reach when you first open the app.

Paid/Premium Content


Here is a listing of some of the categories of Sero’s premium content; you can view all of them on the app.

  • Featured Movie
  • Featured TV show
  • Email--allows you to create a Sero email account
  • Community forums and chat rooms
  • News--audio and text news covering sports, tech, current events, and other topics
  • Sports--schedules, headlines, and information about different sports including beep baseball
  • Weather--enter requested information to get weather for any United States location
  • Entertainment--consisting of accessible games, audio books, and 14 other categories
  • Information--32 categories of information including content of interest to the blind community, the place where some of the free Sero content resides, radio, technology, food, shopping, and more
  • Website--a way for you to create and customize your own website

You can save favorites, add stories to a section called My Newspaper, bookmark sites, and save information from the app that is important to you. If you wish, you may still search for content. The search feature is especially useful for locating free content that is placed elsewhere once the premium content is unlocked.

Cost


A Sero subscription costs $16.95 per month or $149 per year. Or, for $21.95 per month or $240 per year, you can get the Sero subscription plus access to Serotek’s DocuScan Plus for Windows and Mac and their System Access screen reader for Windows. Read about these two pieces of software on the Serotek website.

Serotek wants people to make informed decisions about their products. As a result, all Serotek products, including the Sero app, offer a 14-day free trial so you can review all of the premium content for 14 days and then purchase it if you wish. The other great thing about the trial is that no credit card is required to receive it, and you do not have to contact Serotek if you do not want to pay for the premium content. To sign up for the trial, you must create an account; you do that by tapping “Log in” on the home screen of Sero. Enter your information, and create the account. You should receive an email fairly quickly. Open it and click the included link to verify your email address. If you fail to do so within three days, your account is deleted automatically.

Other Considerations


When you view the available material—free or premium—the content is listed alphabetically. For example, as you flick to the right on the screen showing free content, you hear the app say: “Blindness resources” … “Community radio” … etc. Double tap on the category you want to explore, and its selections appear alphabetically as well. Sero is available in the iOS, Mac, and Android App Stores.

Normally I advise people to search for an app in the appropriate App Store instead of trying to find its link because this procedure usually is easy to do. In this case, however, you must search diligently as there are other apps with Sero in their name. These apps have nothing to do with the field of blindness, and some are apps you must pay to download. To know if you are downloading the correct app, you should hear, “Sero, formerly iBlink Radio”. Be sure to download the app with that description. Alternatively, you may search for “iBlink” and locate the app in the same way. If you would prefer to find it straight from a link, get it on the iOS app store at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sero-formerly-iblink-radio/id332027117?mt=8 or the Mac App Store at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sero-formerly-iblink-radio/id905524144?mt=12 or on the Google Play store at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.serotek.iblink&hl=en.

Monday, December 05, 2016

December 2016 APH News

APH News
 is your monthly link to the latest information on the products, services, field tests, and training opportunities from the American Printing House for the Blind. 
A Few of This Month’s Headlines:

  • Annual Meeting 2016 Photo Memory Photo Album
  • New Products: TADPOLE Interactive Images
  • Field Tests and Surveys, including Interactive U.S. Map
  • On the Road at New York State School for the Blind
  • Treasure from the Migel: Hall of Fame Living Legends Video
  • Social Media Spotlight: Throwback Thursday from the APH Museum
  • Quick Tips Corner: Some Favorite Videos
  • APH Travel Calendar and more…
http://www.aph.org/news

Friday, December 02, 2016

iDentifi: Object Recognition for Visually Impaired


Apps used to recognize objects and/or read text for people who are blind and visually impaired have increased in number. We have discussed TapTapSee recently, an others exist as well.

This post details iDentifi, a new free app that attempts to describe objects and read text for people who are blind and visually impaired.

What is iDentifi?


Anmol Tuckrel, a high school student from Toronto, Canada, began work on the app about a year ago. According to a TechCrunch article, Tuckrel was fascinated by the possibilities of machine learning and computer vision. The app uses Google Vision, CloudSight and Google Translate, all trusted resources that can distinguish objects easily. These facts indicate that iDentifi uses artificial intelligence to identify objects whereas apps like TapTapSee use crowdsourcing.

Using the App


Before attempting to use the app, please note that you must be connected to the internet to use it. The app’s layout is quite easy to comprehend. Its initial screen contains four buttons, one in each corner of the screen--“Settings” in the top left, “Instructions” in the top right, “Select photo” in the bottom left and “Take photo” in the bottom right. Of course, if you flick left and right, you will locate the same buttons in the same order. Knowing their location, however, allows you to find the button you want without extra flicks or swipes.

Each button and the area surrounding it is brightly colored with a different color included for each button or area of the screen. As a result, people with low vision can distinguish the buttons easily, and individuals who use both VoiceOver and their remaining vision benefit since the app’s functionality is excellent in both cases.

Settings


If you press the “Settings” button, you first choose the language for all interactions with the app from the list of over 25 languages. Next is the mode button where you choose from “Images low accuracy”, “Images high accuracy”, or text. The low accuracy mode provides a general description of the picture you take and returns the quickest response. The high accuracy mode gives you a more detailed description of the image and requires more time for receiving a response. In text mode, the app tries to read the text from the image you’ve taken.

The final setting is speaking rate—how fast you want the app to speak to you when it reads its results; the settings are very slow, slow, normal, fast, and very fast.

Instructions


The instructions describe some of the app’s functionality and tell you the location of important buttons on the app. The instructions do not stay on the screen, but if you need to hear them again, double tap the instructions button a second time.

Select Photo


Selecting a photo sends that photo to the app; iDentifi then tries to determine what is in the photo. You must allow iDentifi to access your photos and also the camera. Once you hit the select photo button, you see the standard camera interface that you would use to send a photo to Facebook, include one in a message, etc.

Take Photo


When you double tap this button, you see a screen that mimics the standard iPhone camera screen with buttons for flash, viewfinder, camera mode, camera chooser, take picture, and cancel. If you are satisfied with the camera settings, double tap the “Take picture” button, located just above the iPhone’s home button. You will hear a sound as the phone takes the picture. You then can select “Retake” or “Use photo”, found on the bottom left and bottom right of the screen respectively. If you have usable vision and believe that your picture is not satisfactory or if you just want to use a different picture, select the retake button and start the process over.

If you tap on use photo, you hear the app say, “Loading”. At this point, the picture runs through the app for identification purposes. You can retake a picture as many times as you like, but you must hit the use photo button for the app to begin the identification process. All photos you take using this app are not saved. The identifications given by the app are not able to be reread and do not remain on the screen, but you can try the three-finger quadruple tap gesture to put the response on the clipboard and add it to a message, email, etc.

Limitations


Currently iDentifi is available on the iOS platform only; the developer plans to create an Android version in the future. Because the results of the picture recognitions are not shown on the screen, individuals who are deafblind and anyone using a braille display may have problems accessing the results. The app will read text and does a good job doing so. It will not replace an OCR app like KNFB Reader, though, especially if you store files for later reading. If you don’t need to store the file or go back and read it multiple times, iDentifi will work well.

The developer hopes to increase the available languages to close to 100 and wants the app to work in video mode. He appears to be responsive and open to suggestions so send them and help improve the app.

Finally, the only other limitation, as is the case with all camera apps, is the ability of each person to take a suitable picture. Fortunately, you do not have to have the camera perfectly centered to take a usable picture.

Conclusion


The iDentifi app is an excellent choice for anyone who is blind and visually impaired. It identifies objects quite well and reads text reasonably well also. Remember to turn the mode to text if you want the app to read text; otherwise, it will simply tell you there is text without reading it. The results with the mode set to high accuracy are very good; its descriptions of objects and their colors are quite helpful. You may find that this app also doubles as a color identifier, at least for basic colors. Would you like to see the app in action? Watch this short video and view another one included in the TechCrunch article written about the app. For more information about iDentifi, visit the website at http://getidentifi.com/#home-section. The site discusses the numerous awards and the press coverage the app has received and tells you how to get support or make comments about the app. Get the app at the following link or search for iDentifi on the app store; remember that the d is the only capitalized letter.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Throwback Thursday Object: Tactile Picture of a Turkey



To celebrate Thanksgiving and the subsequent holidays, this week, our throwback object comes from our excellent collection of nineteenth century tactile prints by Martin Kunz (1847-1923).  Kunz was a pioneer creator of mass-produced tactile graphics, operating out of the print shop at the Blind Institute in Illzach, Germany.  He also published influential tactile science illustrations and maps that were used in schools for the blind across Europe and the United States.  His pictures were embossed in wooden molds and—as this one is--reinforced with varnish and plaster.  The second picture shows the Illzach printing operation with the heavy iron press and molds stored on racks.   Our glorious turkey— meleagris gallopavo—is joined on the print by fellow ground birds grouse, partridge, and guinea hen.   There are print captions in French, Italian, German, and English.  The braille captions are in German Braille.
  
Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind

Friday, November 18, 2016

Solving Those Frustrating CAPTCHAs

 


The Problem


Creating an account on many websites, something that should be simple for anyone to do, often is burdensome for someone with blindness and visual impairment because the final step often includes the solving of a CAPTCHA. Having sighted assistance may not be a viable option, and even when it is, someone who is blind should be able to complete this task without it. In this post, we will define the term “CAPTCHA”, describe why one is used, and offer some solutions that individuals who are blind and visually impaired may use to solve them independently.

What is a CAPTCHA?


If you’ve spent any time online, you’ve encountered a CAPTCHA. The official CAPTCHA Site explains the tool. It is used to tell humans and bots apart. A CAPTCHA is a program that generates a test which humans can pass and current computer programs cannot. The term CAPTCHA stands for Completely Automated Public Touring Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart. It was coined in 2000 by four individuals from Carnegie Mellon University.

The reason for implementing a CAPTCHA makes sense; no one wants spam, viruses or worms in their inboxes or on their sites. No one who runs a blog wants to spend time filtering through spam comments. Having demonstrated the usefulness of a CAPTCHA, we are left still with the problem that the CAPTCHA has brought with it, namely that most CAPTCHAs are inaccessible, and some of those that are accessible are not usable because their speech is incomprehensible or their images are so unrecognizable that someone with blindness or a visual impairment cannot solve them.

Available Solutions


Accessible CAPTCHAs


As noted above, there are some fully accessible CAPTCHAs. A site like Text CAPTCHA offers simple text CAPTCHAs for people who run websites or blogs to use on them. These CAPTCHAs consist of a question posed to you such as a simple math problem, for example. According to the official CAPTCHA site mentioned previously, there is a greater likelihood of bots finding the answer to such a simple CAPTCHA, especially if it is used on several sites. This option, while it provides an accessible CAPTCHA, seems not to be used very often and may not be as secure as some other, less accessible, options.

reCAPTCHA


The reCAPTCHA site from Google claims to offer CAPTCHAs that are easy for people to solve and hard for bots to decode. Here is where the problems with reCAPTCHA begin.

Inconsistent reCAPTCHAs


reCAPTCHA, as advertised, offers an accessible CAPTCHA which consists of spoken numbers. The demo CAPTCHA on the site is relatively easy to use. If every CAPTCHA were like this one, the problem for people who are blind and visually impaired would be greatly minimized.

Allow me to include a couple of personal experiences to demonstrate the problem with reCAPTCHA. A site I visited recently had a reCAPTCHA heading on it. You checked a box that said, “I’m not a robot.”

After a delay of nearly a minute, a CAPTCHA appeared along with an option for an audio CAPTCHA. Having selected the audio CAPTCHA, rather than letters or numbers, I received a seemingly continuous series of difficult questions. For instance, I was asked to select from the list all of the “Belgian ails.” I had to check all the correct answers using check boxes that corresponded with each answer. Later I was told to select the “Creepiest movies.” The questions never got easier.

To make matters worse, some of the labels corresponding to the check boxes read inconsistently with my screen reader. Needless to say, I was unable to complete the task I sought to complete.

reCAPTCHA claims to be simple to use; however, in this particular case, it was anything but easy. In another instance on another site with a reCAPTCHA, I received an audio message that said something about the computer transmitting signals of some sort. I was told to try again later. Perhaps the system thought my computer was a bot? Regardless of the reason, I decided to consider other options for dealing with CAPTCHAS.

CAPTCHA Be Gone


CAPTCHA Be Gone, developed by Accessible Apps, is a browser extension for Internet Explorer and Firefox. The developers hope to make it available for other browsers in the future. CAPTCHA Be Gone, when it is integrated with the browser, solves a CAPTCHA with one simple keystroke and places the answer on the computer clipboard automatically. Simply paste the solved CAPTCHA into the edit box on the site and hit the button to move forward, and the CAPTCHA is solved, usually in under 15 seconds.

You can pay for CAPTCHA Be Gone monthly or annually--$3.50 per month ($3 monthly during the initial rollout of CAPTCHA Be Gone) and $33 annually. Since CAPTCHA Be Gone is a browser extension and not software, it is downloaded somewhat differently.

To order or get more information, visit the CAPTCHA Be Gone website. You can do several things on the site, namely, listen to a demo of CAPTCHA Be Gone in action, sign up for a newsletter that tells you when something changes, find CAPTCHA Be Gone’s Twitter page, or sign up for the service. You must sign up by creating an account and follow the directions in the email you receive. Don’t worry—the site doesn’t make you solve a CAPTCHA to sign up!

If you want to know more about CAPTCHA Be Gone’s developers, visit the Accessible Apps website. There you can find out how to follow them on Twitter and read about their growing list of accessible software titles including Hope, QRead, QCast, QFeed, Chicken Nugget, and QSeek.

WebVisum


WebVisum is a free  extension/add-on exclusively for the Firefox browser that, among other things, solves many CAPTCHAs. We were reluctant to include it because it has been available then not available then available and now seems to be unavailable again. According to the site that describes it, WebVisum works with the current version of Firefox; however, it is unclear if the extension was updated recently. The site states that you must use the latest version of Firefox; WebVisum will not work with older versions of the browser.

Keep the following things in mind. On the page listed above, you can download the add-on; however, you cannot use it until you create an account, and you cannot create an account without an invitation from someone who already uses WebVisum. Fortunately, if you fill out the form on that page and describe who you are and why you need the add-on, you should receive an invitation rather quickly. Go to the actual WebVisum homepage. On that page, choose “Register”. Enter your information, and wait for the registration code to arrive in your email. Once you receive it, follow the directions in the email.
While researching WebVisum, we discovered another problem. The extension is not "signed", another way of saying that it is considered experimental and appears not to be approved officially by Mozilla, the makers of Firefox. This matters because all add-ons that are not signed/approved, starting with Firefox 43, are disabled by default and cannot be downloaded. Firefox's help site states that one can go into Firefox and change this setting and allow unsigned add-ons to work, but it requires a high level of technical knowledge to even attempt to do this. To complicate things further, I was unable to get to the stated location and even attempt to make the change. In summary, WebVisum seems like an excellent tool; it is worth getting an invitation and waiting to see if it will again be available to use; however, it is unlikely that you will be able to use it right away. Getting WebVisum signed should be easy to do; however, it appears that its developers have chosen not to remedy the problem at this time. You may wish to contact the WebVisum team using the link on the site. The site does state that it may take a long time to get a response. The best hope, then, may be for many people to contact them, indicating to the developers that people want to use WebVisum.

Conclusion


While you may encounter a site that uses a text CAPTCHA, such sites are few and far between. Expect to run into mostly inaccessible or only partially accessible CAPTCHAs. While the two resources outlined in this post have their limitations, they may solve the problem for most people who are blind and visually impaired. While other add-ons exists that claim to solve CAPTCHAs, CAPTCHA Be Gone and WebVisum were created specifically to assist people who are blind and visually impaired. We look forward to hearing about your experiences with these browser extensions.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Throwback Thursday Object: Morrison "Perfection" Wire Stitching Machine


I apologize for the quality of the photograph of our object this week, but the stitcher is on exhibit in our basement and the lighting there is poor.  I hope the story makes up for the bad image.    A wire stitching machine was used in the APH bindery to staple the spines of braille magazines, sheet music, and pamphlets.  The machine feeds wire from a spool, cuts it, forms a staple, drives it, and folds over the points.  An operator used foot pedals to control the action.  Similar machines are still in use at APH every day although we also use an automatic stitcher/folder line too.  We acquired our first wire stitcher around 1902 and purchased our first "Perfection" model in 1910, but we bought this one used.  The Illinois Braille and Sightsaving School, now the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired, was a major producer of braille music scores before it closed its print shop in the summer of 1963.  Most of the machinery in the shop was bought by APH and brought to Louisville later that year.  This machine still has the state of Illinois inventory tag.

Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

November, 2016 APH News


**This Month’s Headlines:

  • You Can Test BrailleBlaster Beta
  • New Products
  • Give Us Your Feedback on Teacher's Pet Software!
  • Talking Typer for iOS: Field Testers Needed!
  • APH Is Looking for Your Input on Audiojack!
  • Touch, Label, and Learn Poster: Human Skeleton Survey
  • Share Your Creativity with Carousel of Textures!
  • A Bold, Strong Annual Meeting
  • First-Ever APH/AER Rehabilitation Institute
  • 16th Annual National Prison Braille Forum
  • APH Partners on a Landmark Book Project
  • Typhlo & Tactus Tactile Book Contest 2017
  • Compilation of National Listserv of State Vision Consultants
  • Find a Winter Sports Camp!
  • Tactile Art Products and Materials
  • Together with Braille Tales
  • APH Travel Calendar and much, much more… //www.aph.org/news

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Throwback Thursday Object: APH Variable Speech Control Module


For readers of audio books, especially folks reading technical or reference material prior to the age of computer indexing, you often wanted to scan through material quickly to find the passage you needed.  Talking book machines for blind and visually impaired readers started to include such features almost from the very beginning.  But the first such controls were simple, speeding up the phonograph.  Most kids of my era know how entertaining it could be to play a 33 rpm record at 45.  It speeded it up, yes, but the singer sounded like one of Santa’s elves.  Sound guys called that “chipmunk distortion.”  Later machines that appeared in the 1970s included a component that adjusted the pitch as you increased the speed, and kept the speaker’s voice sounding relatively normal.  But if you couldn’t afford to buy a new player, you could get our Object of the Week, the APH Variable Speech Control Module.  It was basically a phonograph accessory allowing recorded speech to be increased or decreased without pitch distortion.  It was introduced in the APH catalog in 1976.  A digital version came out in 1999.  It used proprietary technology developed by the VSC Corporation, which took the “chipmunk” out of speed listening. It is a rectangular aluminum box about 6 inches square with a patch of wood grain on the front.  I’m not sure why everything in the 1970s had to have fake wood grain, but there you are.  On the front are sliding switches to adjust the pitch and volume and jacks for a headphone and to bring in the signal from the phonograph or cassette player.
Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Throwback Thursday Object: A Tactile Puzzle from England

Our object this week comes from England.  It is a colorful 31-piece puzzle of a galleon, a type of large sailing ship in use from the 15th through 17th centuries, in full sail.  It is made from plywood with a paper illustration glued to the top.  The ship itself is raised higher than the background pieces.   The Royal National Institute for the Blind(RNIB) was founded in 1868 as the British and Foreign Blind Association for Promoting the Education and Employment of the Blind.  Its name changed to the National Institute for the Blind(NIB) in 1914, and to RNIB in 1953.  In 1920, the NIB expanded its mandate to include the production and sale of  "Apparatus for Use by the Blind" and produced its first catalog soon after.   It introduced its first tactile puzzles around 1927.

Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Throwback Thursday Object: Morrison Heady and his "Talking Glove"


I can’t believe it has taken me this long to blog about today’s object of the week.  It comes from one of my favorite Kentuckians, Morrison Heady (1829-1915).  He called it his “Talking Glove.”  It is a basic man’s leather glove—there was a day when a gentleman would not leave the house without his hat and gloves—with the twenty-six letters of the alphabet stenciled in black ink across the inner surfaces of the palms and fingers.
Heady lost his vision in separate accidents as a boy in Spencer County, Kentucky and his hearing at age 40 after a fall from a horse.  Inventor, author, and teacher, known as the "Blind Bard of Kentucky," Heady invented this method to continue communicating.  Although Heady invented it independently, it had been known for centuries following the work of George Dalgarno in Oxford, England in 1680.  Heady was the fundraising agent for the American Printing House for the Blind in the 1860s.  He traveled all around central Kentucky demonstrating a model printing press and collecting donations.  And he was a popular neighborhood storyteller.  Kids would tap their story requests into his glove and like a human jukebox, Heady would launch into wild tales that delighted his audience.  You can still buy his biography on Amazon.
This glove was donated by Nancy Scalabroni.  Her great, great grandmother was Emarine Heady Beard, Heady’s beloved sister.  Unfortunately, Nancy’s uncle had the glove laminated in plastic, a process that is difficult and expensive to reverse, but we’re working on it. The first photo shows the glove; the second picture is of Morrison in a dark suit, top hat, long white beard. He is wearing the glove and is talking with five neighborhood kids who cluster around him, one of whom is spelling out something to Morrison by tapping on the glove.
 
Micheal A. Hudson
Museum Director
American Printing House for the Blind

Friday, October 21, 2016

Resources for Persons with Disabilities for Finding Employment


Inspired by National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), we intend to highlight in this post several resources available to anyone with a disability that they can use to locate employment. While a few of them are local or regional in scope, most are available to anyone in the United States. Some of the listed agencies offer tips for finding employment; others offer job boards, job listings, and career fairs. Note that we are not including vocational rehabilitation services or offices for the blind as these vary by state.

There also may be other local resources that you may obtain; check with the appropriate personnel in your state or region. For the sake of clarity, we placed these resources into what we are calling “restricted” and “unrestricted” resources. We use the term restricted to indicate either that the resource has a limited scope, i.e., its services are only available to people in a particular area of the country, or the resource is only available to people with an active case with their vocational rehabilitation office.

Restricted Resources


Equal Opportunity Publications Career Expos


Equal Opportunity Publications (EOP), sponsors career expos throughout the year. At these expos, individuals with disabilities can meet with prospective employers and discuss job possibilities. Unfortunately, these expos happen only in selected cities like Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C. However, the site also hosts an online job board that is national in scope. You can search for positions throughout the country or view their featured jobs.

Additionally, the site mentions several magazines published by the organization including Careers and the Disabled Magazine. The site describes itself by saying, “Since 1968, Equal Opportunity Publications, Inc. (EOP) has led the way in diversity recruitment with a portfolio of seven national career magazines, a diversity website, online job board, and Career Expos for women, members of minority groups, and people with disabilities. Check out their site at http://www.eop.com/index.php. You may "like" them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.

Talent Acquisition Portal


“The Talent Acquisition Portal® (TAP) is an online system which includes a national talent pool of individuals with disabilities looking for employment and a job posting system for businesses looking to hire.”

TAP provides businesses with pre-employment and disability awareness training. The one thing to keep in mind is that TAP is linked to vocational rehabilitation services; it appears that a person must have an open case to use TAP. The TAP site notes that when viewing resumes, recruiters have “a direct link to the local VR office of the candidate” and that office’s team member. Thus, one can only use the service if he or she has an open case with a state vocational rehabilitation office or an office for the Blind. Find out more about TAP at their website, "Like" them on Facebook, Follow them on Twitter, or follow them on LinkedIn.

Unrestricted Sites


GettingHired


“GettingHired.com is an employment resource specifically for individuals and veterans with disabilities. Facing an unemployment rate that is almost twice the national average, GettingHired seeks to improve employment opportunities for those individuals by connecting them to inclusive employers who are actively looking to diversify their workforce.”

As part of a direct communication with someone from the site, we received the following information:

We are America’s largest online career community for individuals with disabilities. We are a free employment resource and job seekers with disabilities can search for open jobs on our fully accessible website, listing over 100K jobs nationwide: across all industries & experience levels. The 180+ companies that work with us are actively seeking to hire more individuals with a disability and include many Fortune 500 employers such as IBM, Lockheed Martin, Coca-Cola, Disney, MetLife, General Motors & many more.

GettingHired assists persons with disabilities seeking employment in several ways. It offers a number of free 30-60-minute webinar presentations on various topics related to gaining employment. If you create a job seeker account at this link, you can be updated whenever a new webinar is posted. Webinars are presented once each month and are archived on the site. Creating a job seeker account also is how you begin searching for open positions.

GettingHired also offers online job fairs. These career expos allow job seekers to interact with employers online without having to leave one’s home. They also produce their Getting Hired Career Insights Blog with additional job seeking information. Visit their homepage at http://www.gettinghired.com. You may connect with them via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Plus.

CareerConnect


CareerConnect, a site administered by the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), connects job seekers who are blind and visually impaired with mentors who can teach and advise them on any number of subjects. Individuals must register and create an account to take advantage of this feature. Besides contacting mentors, job seekers can utilize tools for writing and improving resumes, developing better interviewing skills, and use other portions of the job seeker toolkit to determine what type of jobs might be best for them. There are exercises available for assessing one’s skills and abilities and plenty of material to read about becoming a more confident and qualified applicant. Although CareerConnect does not offer job boards, its mentoring option is tremendously helpful. Any person who is blind and visually impaired may sign up to mentor others; at the same time, this service is available to anyone who wishes to take advantage of it. If you are trying to determine what kind of work you want to do or if you are looking to change careers, you may benefit from this service; if you are succesfuly employed, you can choose to help others achieve their goals. Read more about CareerConnect at http://www.afb.org/info/living-with-vision-loss/for-job-seekers/12

Disability Job Exchange


This is another site which seeks to assist both people with disabilities and veterans with finding employment. They host virtual career fairs, some of which are aimed more at veterans. They also offer a national online job database and a listing of companies who work with them. Unfortunately, when navigating the list with a screen reader, the list appears to be images with no alt text descriptions so one would have to click on each link to see the company’s name. Nevertheless, despite this one accessibility concern, the site lists many companies that it works with and offers a detailed search functionality. See their site by navigating to http://www.disabilityjobexchange.com/. They are available on social media also. Visit them on Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube

Think Beyond the Label


Think Beyond the Label (TBTL), is another site looking to connect employers and job seekers with disabilities. They maintain a job board which is unique because it lists employers that are actively recruiting candidates at the top of the board. TBTL also offers success stories of people with disabilities who are working, interview tips, resume assistance, tips on appropriate attire for interviews, and information on exactly how companies recruit people with disabilities. All of this information is readily available on their site for job seekers http://thinkbeyondthelabel.com/job-seekers. Find them on Facebook and Twitter, join their LinkedIn group, or subscribe to their YouTube channel.

abilityJOBS


“We are the Leading Website dedicated to employment of people with disabilities. We are also the largest resume bank with tens of thousands of job seekers with disabilities, from entry level candidates to PhD. If your company is looking for talent, you have come to the right place.” This is abilityJOBS’s description of its site.

The job board is easy to locate, and the site has dedicated pages for job seekers and employers. The site shows some featured jobs on its homepage as well as news articles concerning disability issues. It also provides a link for receiving ABILITY Magazine, which it produces, and their one obvious social media offering, the Facebook feed for ABILITY Magazine, is also found on the homepage. Find abilityJOBS at http://abilityjobs.com/.

AbilityLinks


AbilityLinks, based in Illinois, recently held an online job fair in recognition of NDEAM. The site notes that 60% of its users are from the Chicago area, and 40% are from areas throughout the nation. The site says the following about what it does:

AbilityLinks is a nationwide, web-based community where qualified job seekers with disabilities and inclusive employers meet and gain access to valuable networking opportunities.

Job seekers who want to connect to employers by voluntarily self-identifying having a disability use AbilityLinks to post resumes and apply for jobs. No information about disability type is asked.

AbilityLinks Information and Referral Counselors, that have a disability, provide a caring human touch.

AbilityLinks states that at least 600 users have reported finding employment through the site. One unique feature offered by AbilityLinks is a personalized job counseling session with one of their consultants. A consultant may help to provide a job seeker with direction and guidance in many areas. For more information contact them at info@abilitylinks.org or call 630/909-7440.

Bender Consulting Services


Bender Consulting Services is focused on employment of persons with disabilities, but they focus both on public and private sector jobs as they note in the description of their services:

At Bender Consulting Services, Inc. our mission is to recruit and hire people with disabilities for competitive career opportunities in the public and private sectors.

As the economy is continuing its recovery, and employment numbers are increasing, an overwhelming 13 million Americans with disabilities remain unemployed. Since 1995, Bender Consulting Services has worked to solve these critical social and business issues by providing employers with reliable talent, and giving well-trained individuals with disabilities the chance to display their abilities and enhance their lives through solid careers. To date, Bender Consulting Services has placed individuals with disabilities in major organizations such as CSC, Highmark, Bayer Corporation, Anthem, Inc. and many federal agencies. These individuals have expertise in information technology, finance/accounting, engineering, human resources, mathematics, biology and other professional areas.

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA, Bender Consulting Services also has a strong presence across the United States and in Canada through its sister company, Bender Consulting Services of Canada.

Bender Consulting Services partners with CareerEco several times a year to host their own virtual career fairs. Similar in format to the virtual career fairs offered by other listed sites, these job fairs require a job seeker to log into a special platform where the job seeker chats with the employer. Since the job seeker uploads a resume before the event, the employer knows at least something about the candidate most of the time. Usually the list of available employers appears on the site before the career fair so job seekers can select which companies they wish to talk to and hone their search.

Virtual career fairs, however, are only a small part of Bender’s many services. They gather resumes and interview potential candidates for positions and attempt to match prospective candidates with potential employers. Often available positions are full-time though some are 12-month positions. These short-term positions are best for individuals just starting out in the workforce, perhaps individuals nearing the completion of their post-secondary education.

Bender also maintains a database of individuals seeking federal government employment, collects resumes, and offers a list to interested agencies. The agency, having viewed the list of candidates, contacts individuals it wishes to interview. A completed resume and a Schedule A letter is required to join this database.

Bender’s application process is lengthy and detailed, requiring more than one interview with a potential candidate. They strive to fit individuals seeking employment with a job that is well-suited to their qualifications. In addition, Bender’s site is quite extensive; we have only mentioned a few of the highlights here. They offer many other programs and information about employing people with disabilities; begin exploring what Bender has to offer by visiting http://www.benderconsult.com/. Read their blog, Chick out their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter and LinkedIn and subscribe to their YouTube channel.

Searching for a job can be overwhelming; finding specialized resources for conducting a job search, especially as a person with a disability, can add to the challenge. Nevertheless, we have gathered these resources with the belief that you, yourself, may benefit from utilizing them or that you may share them with someone who may benefit from them. Although many of the sites are similar as far as what they do, each site probably has relationships with different companies and organizations. Therefore, the more sites you use, the more likely it is that you will find suitable employment. Please remember that we have not included state rehabilitation services, college career services, mainstream employment websites, or specific city, state or federal government sites that assist people in finding jobs since those will vary depending upon your location. We wish you well with your search for new or more appropriate employment. If you find a job through one of these sites, let them know, of course, and share your success with us.

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