Other Blind Tools

Orientation and Mobility made easier

By Julie Adkins

If you are an independent traveler, or you like to have control over planning your route and finding places around you, I just can’t say enough good things about an app called BlindSquare.  Okay, it costs $30.00.  So, you may ask, why would I want to spend $30.00 on an app if my phone has a GPS app built in, and I can just ask Siri to give me directions wherever I want to go?  First of all, it finds many more places than your iPhone does. This is because behind the scenes it uses data that has been input by thousands of users of a very popular app called Four Square.

Secondly, the app makes it extremely easy to find places to go and things to do (these are called “Points of Interest” or POIs in GPS apps).  Everything is broken down into categories, like Food, Arts and Entertainment, Nightlife spots, Outdoors and Recreation, and Shop and Service, and then each category has a list of subcategories of things as specific as Afghan Food, or Falafel Restaurant (in Food), or Shoe Repair or ATMs (in Shop and Service).  You can just read through the list of places in each category to see what is available, or have it announce the places to you as you are walking or riding.

If you need directions, you can ask it to give you directions to your destination through the built in Maps app, Google maps, or several other popular navigation apps, such as Wav, TomTom, and Navigon. You can even order an Uber ride from right within the app.

If you are walking or riding and having BlindSquare announce Points

of Interest to you as you go, you can use a filter to narrow it down

to just the information you want to hear.  The example they give is

that you want to go shopping for clothes, but you don’t know which shops you want to visit.

You would ask BlindSquare to only tell you places in the Shop and

Service category as you are walking through the city (and of course then you could even narrow it down to one of the subcategories if you wish, like clothing store).  Or maybe have it only look for Food if you are looking for restaurants.  And, of course, you could just search for a specific place if you know exactly where you want to go, or have it search within a specific distance.  Easily save places to your Favorites so you can find them again quickly.  You can even

simulate a trip from a certain spot so you can find out in advance what will be around you when you go somewhere, preplan your routes for when you will be there, and so on.

You can ask Blind Square to tell you what points of interest

(including intersections) are around you within a certain radius, and you get to

choose the radius.  It even has a feature called Look Around that allows you to point your phone in a direction and find out what is located in that particular direction (again, you get to choose the distance).  Just shake the phone to exit this Look Around mode.  When you are walking, you can also just shake the phone to find out where you are.  You can even leave your ears open to listen to traffic and

other sounds in the environment by using bone conducting head phones. No, I didn’t realize there was such a thing, either.  Apparently they have been in use by walkers and joggers for quite some time.  There is a link within the BlindSquare app to find them on Amazon.  It appears they range from about $50 to $150, depending on their features, such as battery life and sound quality.  I would imagine you would want to be sure they are wireless (Bluetooth).

If you want to read about all the features Blindsquare has to offer

(yes, there are more!), you can find the help file on the internet at https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1Rz0w2tRq0uAVx9DQ0hpyVCX9G3c8IundPnzksTI1nVQ.  Also check out this YouTube video of a blind person walking around by herself in a mall to see how it can work indoors with devices called iBeacons that transmit information about the person’s location as he or she walks by: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jH-Bdjmgb4.  No, sorry, these iBeacons are not set up in your local mall. But this shows what is possible for independent travel in the future.  The video has dialogue in another language, so if you use a screen reader, be sure it is set to read captions.  There are other videos about BlindSquare on YouTube-just be sure they are in English.

If you want to try BlindSquare out without buying it, they have a demo version called Blindsquare Event that is free. You can’t use it to get around in your environment (it is not going to connect to any GPS apps), but it lets you try out its other features as if you are located in places like Times Square in New York or Big Ben in London. When the app opens, choose the option for Demo, and then choose the simulated location you want to explore.

 

Julie Adkins

Assistive Technology Trainer

Graphing Scientific Calculator link:  http://appadvice.com/appguides/show/graphing-apps-for-ipad

If you are looking for a standalone calculator,  Sight Enhancement Systems, develops scientific calculators that are designed for the visually impaired.  They call it the “SciPlus”.

The main differences compared to the tablet Apps are:
– speech output in various languages
– large, tactile buttons (a major advantage over touch screen apps, which also makes our calculators desirable for people with various fine motor challenges)
– adjustable contrast, invertible, backlit display

…and yes, they do have a graphing version.

In addition to the above features, another reason people purchase them is because of the requirement that various districts have prohibiting computers or web-connected devices (which is what smart phones and tablets are) into exams.  We’re very proud of our calculators, but in the end that’s all they are — calculators, and that’s actually what many people like about them.

If you need help, contact:
Rob Hilkes
Sight Enhancement Systems
613.276.4145
rhilkes@sightenhancement.com

So many people ask, “How fast should my child be reading?” Here are the national standards as presented by Jerry Johns, a leading reading specialist in the country. Click on the link to download your copy Reading Speeds. 

For an another extensive list of information on Braille standards go to California Reading Standards

I use these same standards for my blind and low vision students. If you set high standards then children will meet those standards. I have taken on beginner students and told them how fast they would be reading braille in a couple months, even in middle and high school. Just remember the older you start the longer it will take for them to gain speed.  At the end of the 2 months, as their fingers would fly across the page reading braille, as I timed them, at the end I would ask, “So did you really think you would be able to read that fast?” They would reply, “Of course, you told me I would be able to.”

So tell them, they can, and they will.

Tricks to use
Time them every week, so they see their progress
Have them reread the same material to get flow and fluency
Have them braille the material first using contractions, then read what they wrote

 


Music for the Blind

All of his music-education career Bill Brown has been teaching his students to play songs “by ear.” In the early 1990’s he started recording his “by ear” lessons so that his students could take the lessons home and learn more songs at a faster pace. He noticed that this style of learning was of a particular advantage to his visually impaired students.

As these “Guitar by Ear” and “Piano by Ear” song lessons became available through mail-order, he added two beginner courses to his line up of “by ear” offerings – ”Intro to the Guitar for the Visually Impaired,” and “Intro to the Piano for the Visually Impaired.” Through the use of these “Intro to” courses a beginning student could learn the basics needed to enter Bill Brown’s “by ear” world, even if this student was visually impaired.

How to touble shoot a braille display and find those drivers when it won’t connect correctly-Make sure you have the latest firmware update: http://tech.aph.org/rbd_info.htm Also, make sure that in your talking software setup you have no display selected before updating firmware

Steps: After update

You’ll need to install the usb and serial drivers if you’re using Windows in device manager

Refreshabraille 18

Installing USB drivers on Windows 7 and Windows 8: You can download the newest drivers on the APH website: this is the newest drivers as of April 2015 if you do not have a CD  http://tech.aph.org/rbd_upd.exe

1.       First, insert the CD that came with your Refreshabraille 18 into your CD Drive (or use link above). Then insert the included USB connector into the Refreshabraille 18 and your pc. Windows will attempt to automatically install the appropriate drivers but it will fail.

2.       On Windows 7: press the Windows key to bring up search. Type in “device manager.” Select Device Manager from the list of found items. On Windows 8: press the Windows key and X to bring up a list of options, one of them being Device Manager, select that option.

3.       Look for the Refreshabraille 18 under the heading “Other Devices” and hit enter.

4.       Select the option to Update Drivers.

5.       Windows will now present you with the options to let it search automatically for the drivers or for you to browse for the location manually. Select the option to find the location manually.

6.       Now simply enter your CD drive information into the search bar. Typically this will something such as D:\. After entering this information, hit enter. Windows will now begin installing the driver software and a dialog box will pop up asking you whether you would like to install this device software. Select install.

You have now completed installation of the Refreshabraille 18’s USB drivers. You will now need to install the serial drivers.

Installing Serial Drivers:

1.       First locate the Refreshabraille 18 under the heading “Other devices,” it will be called “USB Serial Port.” Select this item. Now repeat steps 4 through 6 from when you installed the USB drivers to complete installation.

2.       Make note of what com port it has installed to, as you will need this information when getting some screen readers to recognize the Refreshabraille 18.

 

Watch on YouTube also: Setup Braille display on PC-trouble shooting it

 

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