There are more than 350 people meeting in New York this week to talk about the education of American children. Our nation's children are falling behind in many areas. Why is that occurring?

I have had the great pleasure of working with many incredibly dedicated teachers, but I also have parents who have actually said, "my child will not have or do homework at night." Sadly, the parents prefer not to have homework because they do not have an education and they do not want their child asking for help. When the child asks for help, it makes the parent feel inadequate. Alternatively, the child does not want to do the work because partying is far more important in their lives than studying.

I have known, unfortunately, teachers who put books in front of the kids and basically told them to just learn themselves. They have told me point blank, they are not going to learn anymore and are waiting for retirement.

I have had and have great parents that despite what is going on at school, make sure their child does their work, helps them when needed and gets them into activities to help them be well rounded.

I have also seen parents who have their children into everything and the child is overwhelmed and burned out, but will not tell the parents because they do not want to disappoint them.

I see kids putting far more importance into how they look, what they wear, and who is famous instead of thinking about the ideals of what education can do for them.

I see kids that prefer to stay up late, watch TV, and not want to come to school the next day because they are tired and the parents say okay.

I have seen children achieve despite all the other horrific things going on in their lives.

I have seen parents and schools working together to the greatest achievement of their children. A fine-tuned, well-oiled system, which involves the parents active participation with the school and their child and the parent and teacher have communication often about goals reached and new goals created.

I have seen such a wide range of reasons why or why not. I am a big believer in stopping the finger pointing and blaming everyone else and instead looking inside ourselves. As long as you point fingers and blame, that is where your energy will be going and it won't be in helping your child make the right decisions in their lives, enabling them to go on and do even better than you did.

Yes, if there are egregious errors, they must be corrected, but are you doing your part within the errors being made?

I tell my students, parents, teachers and Para educators that they do not have to know everything, just keep growing and when you do not know, ASK. Our goal is to make the next generation better than ours. That takes all of us to keep learning. Only together, helping each other and everyone doing their part, will we be able to rise above the ashes.

Are you doing your part?

Office 2003 and 2010 both offer thousands of symbols to insert into documents. However, if you were to go into the symbols option (Alt+I, then S in Office 2003) and (ALT+N, then U in Office 2010), you will see that Jaws cannot talk the majority of the symbols. However, Office 2010 offers an additional feature that has become invaluable.

Every week or so, we go through the list of symbols the students need for math class. Last week one of my students needed the angle for her geometry class. We first located it by following this path: Alt+N, then U, then M for more options, ALT+F to font, sy and down arrow to symbols and enter to open the symbols, TAB into the symbols options, down arrow to the angle and hit enter and close. Yes, an angle inserted into the document, but more importantly, it also inserted into the "20 most used symbols box." Check it out. ALT+N, then U to symbols, there in the first spot is the angle. Now JAWS will call it symbol 208. Fine for now as everyone works on accessibility issues. The student knows as they arrow around their document that symbol 208 ABC is angle ABC. JAWS will talk everything within those 20 symbols, so no sighted person is needed after the initial insertion of the 20 most needed symbols.

So the sighted person helps the blind person insert the 20 most needed symbols and the blind person now becomes independent in the class in typing our their work. Go back and insert the Greek pi π, then try inserting other symbols and notice how JAWS will talk everything within the 20 most used symbols.

Another additional feature with the symbols is when you open the symbol box, look down or TAB to the bottom and it will give you the shortcut key for the symbol, for example, if you hit these numbers and letter, using WORD, then do an Alt+X, it will turn into a pi: 03C0, Alt+X =try it, then go back and discover other shortcut keys for other symbols.

Another fast way to insert these symbols: smiley face, black smiley face, heart, diamond, club, spade, bullet, white bullet and hollow dot, is using the alt key with the numpad: alt1, alt2 and so on…try them out ☺☻♥♦♣♠•◘○

Other Lessons that may help you

Everything to get you going in WORD Office 2003 and XP

 

Everything to get you going in WORD Office 2010 and Windows 7 with JAWS

 

Everything to get you going in WORD Office 2010 and Windows 7 with Window EYES

 Eight lessons on Bookshare.org and JAWS

 

 Everything you need to use GMAIL in basic HTML or standard view

 

SKYPE—for Regular Vision, Low Vision, and Blind

 

 JAWS and Internet—how to get Going and Moving

 

There are many types of talking software from PC to voice over and Snow Leopard on Mac, but the one I prefer is JAWS talking software, though Snow Leopard on Mac is coming in close.

I have used JAWS (by Freedom Scientific) since the late 1990's. Several things I appreciate greatly about the company is that they are constantly working to update their product so it is always compatible with other new products. This causes great chagrin to many as a new license runs about $1000. I highly recommend getting the SMA (software maintenance agreement), which is a fraction of the cost and can keep your software up to date far less expensively. You really need upgrades to keep up with the constantly changing software products you want on your machine and Internet.

Another huge feature of this company is the support. If you need help loading this product or it has developed a hiccup–unexpected problems while using–they will help you resolve the problem.

However, the biggest feature is the ability to go anywhere and do anything. Truly, I can go anywhere on this machine and access anything I need. They are also constantly finding more ways to access those nasty Internet sites, where web designers have no idea how to use accessibility features…well JAWS is still inaccessible there too, but the additional commands they come up with make navigating the Internet a great experience.

For the person who wants to try before they buy, you can go to this link JAWS and download a free 40-minute version for yourself right now. When you run out of time, turn off your computer and every time you turn it back on, you get 40 more minutes. Make sure you learn some of the basic commands to truly give this a go. There are several lessons in this blog to help you on your way. Even if you have an older version than JAWS12, update an additional copy anyway to try the differences. You never know, you might have an upgrade you did not even know about, When you install, if you do, JAWS will just take over the old JAWS and do the upgrade for you.
 

Lessons that will help you

Bookshare.org and JAWS-Eight lessons to get you moving

GMAIL- Everything you need to use in basic HTML or standard view

SKYPE—for Regular Vision, Low Vision, and Blind

 

 JAWS and Internet—how to get Going and Moving

Everything to get you going in WORD Office 2003 and XP

 

Everything to get you going in WORD Office 2010 and Windows 7 with JAWS

 

Everything to get you going in WORD Office 2010 and Windows 7 with Window EYES

 

A blind person learning how to sew puts a new spin on the term blind stitch. I want all my students to learn to sew but it really is up to the individual. If they want to do anything, I want to find a way for them to do it. Astonishingly, I have had many students who want to learn to sew. Therefore, to set up a class, I went through lots of legwork and work and work and there will be more work in getting permission for this, but it is worth it. A class is set up where I teach the students adaptive methods.

We start with needle and thread. You can get a self-threading needle at any fabric store or online (go to self-threading needle). They made these special needles for people who had difficulty putting thread through the eye of a needle. Well, they are perfect for anyone who cannot see. Use a thimble at first also, so the child can poke the needle through the material and be able to feel the needle coming through without drawing blood on the other side. They will get to the point where the thimble is no longer needed, but to begin with, is a great tool. The basics are learning how to hem pants and sew on buttons. For practice, we take a piece of fabric and just start sewing buttons on, then when they are ready they usually have buttons they need re-sewn on their own clothes. The lesson allows them to now be able to fix their clothes.

Then we move onto the sewing machine. You can go to any sewing store and also buy a needle threader, which enables the blind person to easily thread their own needle–you can get one the size of a dime and very inexpensive to very fancy, costing much more, all work well. Next, I braille a large 11 x11 paper with lines from top to bottom: The student practices putting the sheet of paper in the sewing machine and lining up the braille line with the needle. They practice sewing the braille line repeatedly until they can sew a straight line. It does not take long. Once they have mastered that, we move onto material and a pattern. Depending on capability, it may be pillows or a skirt or vest pattern. They gain enough skills so they know if something rips, they can at least repair it.

I have had girls go onto jewelry making and design, making beautiful beaded necklaces' and bracelets. It is all a matter of attitude. If you want to do it, there is a way.

Watch video of student who uses the above techniques and uses a sewing machine

Think of space age technology or "Star Trek" and you describe the JORDY (Joint Optical Reflective Display)

The JORDY™ headset, "when worn like a pair of glasses, enables people with low vision to see objects at any range."

Whatever your eye condition is and you are having difficulties with seeing print, watching TV or watching people play sports, this could be the headset for you. It is not glamorous and you will need a bit of self-esteem to put it on, but it could be well worth it. Yes, people will turn and look but more out of believing you may have just beamed down from outer space.

This piece of equipment is especially advantageous for older adults who do not want to pursue learning Braille or computers or any other type of technology. It is simple and easy to use and has a small control panel that is quick to learn.

The older adults I work with find this very easy to learn and describe the above situation. They want to continue life visually and the JORDY allows them a quicker transition into options for low vision.

Other lessons that will help with low vision

 Low Vision Skills-Windows 7 Office 2010  
 Low Vision-XP-Office 2003

 

Low Vision – Increase the cursor size and add effects so you can find it FAST

1. Turn on Computer
2. Go to the Internet by clicking Find large cursor
4. Click on the link Large Color Cursors
5. When the dialog box opens, hit S for SAVE and save to your desktop so you can find it easily
6. Go to desktop and right click on it to exact the file—a wizard will automatically open and take you through the process—if you need more help, it is on the web page under this link: ScreenShots.asp
7. Now, Hit the START KEY
8. On XP, Hit C until you jump to control panel and enter to open
9. Hit M until you jump to mouse and enter to open
10. On Windows 7, after you hit the START KEY, type in MOUSE and down-arrow and enter on it
11. CTRL+TAB to pointers for both XP and 7
12. ALT+B to jump to Browse and enter to open
13. Your cursor options will open—SHIFT+TAB up into your list view of files and go to BIG CURSORS—they will start with BIG BLUE
14. Double click or arrow to and enter on the cursor you want to use
15. You will automatically go back to your pointers dialog box when you do this
16. ALT+A to apply your choice
17. Windows will ask you if you want to replace your original scheme
18. Hit y for yes and your cursor will now be the selection you choose
19. CTRL+TAB to POINTER OPTIONS
20. ALT+S to – Show location of pointer when I press the CTRL key
21. Now, if you cannot find your cursor, all you have to do is hit the CTRL key and you can immediately see it—try it now after you select this option
22. TAB to ok to close dialog box

Now you have a large cursor that you can see well. RED has been the most popular with my students. They can easily find that cursor by hitting the CTRL key. You try it now. Find your cursor quickly by hitting the CTRL key. Even if you want to use a smaller cursor, keep the CTRL key option and be able to find it FAST anytime.

Other lessons that will help
 Low Vision Skills-Windows 7 Office 2010  
 Low Vision-XP-Office 2003

 

Here are some Low Vision tips to see Words in Word better

1. Open Word
2. CTRL+N to open another new document, and ALT+TAB between these two documents
3. In Document1, Type: We can become bitter or better through tests and trials.
4. Hit ALT+V for view and Z for zoom
5. Up arrow to 200% and press enter
6. Your document is now at 200%
7. ALT+TAB to Document2
8. Type: There is a test in all testimonies.
9. Hit ALT+V then Z again for zoom
10. ALT+E to jump to percent that you want to increase and type in 500 and hit enter—hint: you can type any size in this box
11. Your page is now at 500%
12. ALT+TAB between both documents to compare document size
13. ALT+V, then z again and hit 1 for 100%
14. ALT+V, then z again and hit 2 for 200%

It is better to increase the zoom versus the font as the font will become distorted on the page as you type and if you forget to decrease the font size when you print it out, you will waste a great deal of paper. By increasing the zoom, you can see what you are doing and then print it out at the 12 or 14 sized font which is the typical font size of reading material.

Other lessons that will help

 Low Vision Skills-Windows 7 Office 2010  
 Low Vision-XP-Office 2003

 

I have taught many Little People with little fingers and many children who just did not have strong fingers because of a health condition or something similar.

Enter the Mountbatten Brailler (MB).

Watch video of 3 year old brailling alphabet:

Even at 2 or 3 years old, young children can press these keys. It is ideal for young learners because as they press the keys, the MB will give you verbal feedback on what letter you just hit. If the braille is correct, you move on. If it is not correct, with a quick keystroke, you can erase and rebraille the letter all with one movement or you can do it in two if the child needs to work on more finger dexterity. You use paper in this brailler, so as the child brailles, he gets the verbal feedback he needs, and he can place his fingers on the braille that he just embossed on the paper, giving him that perfect cause and effect of his actions.

I have also had children who were using two fingers on each key of a regular brailler and really struggled with pressing the keys. As soon as they were put on an MB all the problems disappeared and they were able to successfully braille with ease.

So any child that needs easy keys to press and/or who needs that cause and effect of pressing a key and getting the verbal and tactile feedback they need to understand what they are doing, this could be the machine for them.

Lessons and articles to help you:

First Steps in Great Braille Readers

Beginner Braille Reading

Braille Instruction begins at 3 years old

Braille Cheat Sheets

How to STOP scrubbing While reading Braille

Fast Braille Reading

Tricks to Learning Braille in your Teen Years or Later

Free Braille Books-Where to go to get Books

The Synchronicity of Braille & Technology

Braille Rap Song Lyrics

Rap Song to Learn Braille

As the school year begins, there are many things to do, but one of the most important at the beginning is getting our children familiar with their surroundings so they can walk anywhere they need, safely.

Ideally, they can come in before school begins the school year. That way it is quiet uninterrupted time for them to focus. I meet them in the office and we start walking to their room. As we walk, I have them touch easily identifiable parts of the wall, as my elementary kids, I know, will be running into them periodically and I want things familiar. I point out the water fountain and they take a drink feeling everything around it. The bathrooms are usually right next to it, but I want to keep them focused on walking directly to their room.

When we get to the room, I have them start at the perimeter, walking all around it, feeling all major obstacles and how to get around them when they come to them: Like the dictionary cart that protrudes about 2 yards from one wall, or where the teacher's desk area is and how to walk on the outside of it and around to the next wall. Then I have them go to the middle of the length of the wall (every wall) and walk from side to side so they get the idea of the length straight across and how big the room is. Then they start at the front of the room and walk through touching each desk so they know all placements. The names of the students will be on the desk, so they can learn where "Bobbi" or "Suzy" is sitting. At last, they will practice going from the front door to their locker, to their seat. From the teacher's desk to their seat. From Bobbi's seat to their seat and so on.

Then we walk back to the office and redo those steps until I can say, "OK, I will meet you at your room,” and they meet me there by themselves. When they do this successfully, we work on the bathrooms if they are not in the room, the cafeteria, library and so on in the building. Practicing one path at a time until success, then adding more. Then we go outside and practice these redundant skills until they are comfortable walking anywhere in and outside of school. This usually occurs over several days and that is best for their knowledge base to grow accordingly.

I am not O&M certified but I have been in so many areas where there were none. Fortunately, I have many classes in O&M and only lack a few credits from certification. I believe all Teachers of the blind need this type of background so if there is no one, we can at least be teaching the basics so our children can get to where they need to go, with confidence and safety.

 

Can I see a raise of hands of how many of us wanted to scream at inaccessible PDF files? I see 100% of our hands on the site.
For those of you who are not sure what PDF files are, they are files you open and JAWS says "no text found" or "blank". They are image files of text. In general, sighted people do not know this. All they see is the text. When I open one, I see a picture of words and then it is my quest to put it into text for talking software to read.

Yesterday, some of my most gifted Protechs-who used to be paras but have gained that training that has made them highly skilled, came to my place. I love it when people can come to my home as I have many tools of the trade that people can immediately see and use to their benefit. One of the main topics was how to access those PDF files. Most books come electronically or downloaded from the Internet, but they are in PDF format. They had been putting these through a scanner to process them into text, which was taking vast hours and one Protech was assigned to the task because of the quantity of students they have.

With a big smile, I said. let me show you something faster that will save you hours. I had one of those inaccessible PDF files sitting on my desktop from a teacher's email the day before. It was in Spanish however, which makes the scenario even worse. With a quick START KEY+M to access my desktop then an A (first letter of the icon I was going to) to access the PDF file, I hit that applications key (see lesson on this key in blog) and down arrow to open with, right arrow and down arrow to choose default program (now once you have your options in this menu, you can automatically go to it and if you arrow around you will see other programs there, most likely Adobe or other PDF programs) Once I open the dialog box, I go to browse and pick the program Openbook–Kurzweil will do this also. I hit enter a couple of times to confirm everything and the PDF file is immediately opened into Openbook.

I turn around from my desk and all mouths are open then a huge burst of smiles. I LOVE that! Making life easier for someone! They all immediately got the vast hours of time that would be saved using this method and couldn't wait to get back to school to tell the others.

In another method that will open many otherwise inaccessible PDF files is a Gmail email account. I send these PDF files to my Gmail as an attachment. When I open it, bring up links, I hit v for view and open a view of it in the internet. Once this is open, you can go to view option and view it as an HTML document. VIOLA, within seconds you have text that Jaws will read. VERY VERY fast…and free.

Of course, you always have the options of buying a PDF file converter. That lesson is for another time.

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