Showing posts from April, 2016

New Career Advantage Employment Preparation Primer for Visually Impaired Persons

The National Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision (NRTC) at Mississippi State University has received funding from the United States Department of Education’s National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) to create Career Advantage, an employment preparation primer for blind and visually impaired persons. The NRTC describes this new program as follows:

Are you blind or visually impaired? Are you making the transition from high school, college, or other training program into the workforce? Or are you an adult seeking to find or change employment? If so, this self-guided program was designed for you!

Career Advantage offers eight instructional modules which you can explore at your own pace. Portions of the program require advanced reading levels, which those with a high school degree typically have. The first four modules provide tools to take you, step by step, through the processes of self-assessment, career exploration, development of effectiv…

Throwback Thursday: OCR the Old-Fashioned Way!

Our object this week may not look like much, a couple of large putty colored plastic and aluminum boxes.  You’d need a suitcase to carry them around, but today their equivalent fits in your pocket.  This is a Kurzweil Personal Reader by Xerox from about 1988.  The box on the left is an optical scanner.  It worked much like a modern flatbed scanner.  You raised the lid, laid your reading material down on the glass plate, and scanned your material one page at a time.  The box on the right was stuffed with electronics that took the scan and converted it into synthesized speech.  In essence, the Personal Reader worked like a photocopy machine, but instead of printing a copy of a page, it read the page out loud.  (Incidentally, the machine used Digital Equipment Corporation's DECtalk, a speech synthesizer and text-to-speech technology developed in the early 1980s, based largely on the work of Dennis Klatt at MIT.)  With the Personal Reader, almost anything that was in print could be re…

Quick Tip: The Quick Tips Archive


Use Facebook Messenger to Book a Ride with Lyft or Uber

Facebook recently added a very useful service to its Messenger app, an app you can use even if you don’t have a Facebook account.
Messenger now allows you to book a ride with Lyft or Uber directly through Messenger as long as the particular service is available where you live. Facebook says the following about its new offering: Today, we’re expanding the services available to you with our launch of transportation on Messenger. With this new feature, you can request a ride from a car service without ever needing to download an extra app or leave a conversation. It’s super easy and doesn’t take you away from the plans that you’re making with your friends or family.
Admittedly it is rather difficult to spot the location of this service in the app; I located it while browsing the newest version. In order to utilize this service, you must open up any conversation you are having in Messenger.
Once you do this, flick down past the options for text, camera, etc. Locate the “more” option and doub…

Throwback Thursday: Crab Braille Duplicator

Our object this week is an interesting device introduced by the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) around 1968 to emboss metal stereotype plates by hand.  The “Crab Braille Duplicator” was manufactured by the Coventry Gauge & Tool Company in Coventry, England.  Coventry did other braillewriters and slates for RNIB as well, under the brand name Matrix.  The basic design for the “Crab” was based on the much older Stainsby-Wayne Braillewriter (introduced around 1903) and it worked in much the same way, except its heavier castings allowed it to emboss metal rather than paper.  Each time the keys were pressed, the carriage would advance one space to the right until it reached the end of the line.  Pins on the carriage fit into holes in a backing board and could be advanced down the board one line at a time, literally by the lifting the carriage and sliding it down one position.  The most distinguishing feature on the machine, its widely splayed six keys, is what gives it the…

Quick Tip: Joy Player File Extensions. Make sure the files you add to the Joy Player have the right extensions so they play as they should.


Throwback Thursday: Commemorative Medal

Our object this week is a new acquisition, donated by Mireille Duhen.  Ms. Duhen works at the Association Valentin Haüy in Paris, and is constantly reminding me how many innovations in education for the blind had their roots in France.   It is a commemorative medal, cast in bronze, remembering Dr. Valentin Haüy (1745-1822).  It features his face in profile on the right, with his hair neatly pulled back into a pigtail tied with a bow and his sideburns curled.  Dr. Haüy founded the first school for blind students in the world in Paris, France in 1784, the Institut Royale des Jeunes Aveugles .  He also invented the tactile book.  By the time the medal was made, the name had been changed to Institut National, reflecting the fall of the monarchy during the French Revolution  This medal, sculpted by Frederic de Vernon, was completed in 1887.  A rectangle left blank on the back of the medal allowed it to be used for various awards, in this instance the Prix Wilkins de Varney.  The award was …

Quick Tip: The Shafer Reading Stand, great for holding large print books!


Accessible ThermostatsPart One

My goal for this post seemed simple enough--to identify and discuss options for accessible thermostats which blind people could control. Finding talking thermostat options was easy enough, however, I also knew that options existed which permitted smartphone users to control thermostats using the aforementioned smartphone. Thermostats which fall into this second category are much more numerous so we will discuss those options in the second installment of our series. For now let's look at talking thermostat options.

At one time, blind people had two talking thermostat options; one was the Kelvin Talking Thermostat. While several references to it still exist online, the reviews and commentary that one will locate dates back to 2007-09 with perhaps a sparse reference to 2012-13. Most sites show the Kelvin as no longer available while one review from 2009 says that it is a clearance item. This site states that it is available, but I was unable to locate an accessible way to add it to th…

JAWS and MAGic Student Edition Available through APH

Freedom Scientific and the American Printing House for the Blind have partnered to make a “JAWS® and MAGic® Student Edition” available starting today to K-12 students in the U.S. using Federal Quota funds! These special software subscriptions are purchased exclusively through APH and allow students to install full versions of JAWS and/or MAGic on ANY computer they access (up to three machines). This allows students to have 24 hour, 365 day-a-year access to their computers at both school and home! One subscription purchase gives the student access to full versions of both JAWS and MAGic with all updates included. For more information, go to

Cerebral/Cortical Visual Impairment: A National Conversation

Cerebral/Cortical Visual Impairment: A National Conversation The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) and the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) came together to sponsor a full day workshop on CVI at the AFB Leadership Conference in Arlington, Virginia held March 3, 2016.
The conversation was designed to unite a core group of people to work together to build upon prior knowledge, initiate research, and discuss best practice interventions in support of the CVI population.
Presenters shared their work on CVI assessment, research, intervention strategies, need for multi-disciplinary teaming and the development of university coursework for future vision professionals. Attendees shared their concerns and needs regarding this complicated diagnosis. Discussion points arose related to the need for theory-based, ongoing research, educational product development, adaptations for curriculum, and guidance in the area of orientation and mobility. A CVI Division of AER was proposed and…

April APH News

The April 2016 APH News is now available. Read about new products, an article on a conference discussing Cerebral/Cortical Visual Impairment, the Orbit Reader 20, JAWS and Magic Student Editions, and much more. To read the full version go to

Quick Tip: Time For Art. Check out this book featuring loads of art projects specifically designed for individuals with blindness or visual impairments!


Touch Mapper: Create a Tactile Map of any Outdoor Area

Touch Mapper,, is a service where anyone can create a tactile map automatically of any outdoor area. A typical map, 17 cm (6.7 inches) across, costs 35 euros (about 40 dollars though prices are subject to change). If you happen to have access to a 3D printer, you can print the map yourself, free of charge.

The maps include roads, buildings, railways and water areas. Roads of all sizes are included. Since pedestrian roads are often the most essential ones to label, they are elevated tactually more than other roads shown on the map. This feature allows blind people more easily to locate or determine a route that they intend to navigate on foot.

You can choose between different scales and map sizes. Roads can be printed in a different color than the rest of the map if desired.

The website is quite accessible with screen readers. The area that you wish to map out is selected by entering a street address into the edit box, and a tactile marker is placed on the map in that…