Winning a Mountbatten brailler could be one of the greatest gifts for your child.

HumanWare 2011 Braille Literacy Scholarship Program-Continue to go to the site and see about each coming year's contest

HumanWare
2011 Braille Literacy Scholarship Program
5128 Oak Point Way, Fair Oaks, CA 95628
Contact: Sharon Spiker
sharon.spiker@humanware.com
Deadline for Entries: Dec 31, 2011

Contact Sharon for details: Any child between the ages of 3-8 years old can apply for this scholarship to win a complete Mountbatten Learning System and all associated software and accessories.

Where any of my students who had difficulties with little or weak fingers, the Mountbatten was the machine the enabled them to learn braille with ease. This could be the solution for your child also.

I have had several students graduate and have someone talked them into going Mac instead of PC with JAWS– RIGHT before a major life change. Then they start emailing me with their issues of not being able to access what they need on their new Mac. This really is more a matter of a lack of knowledge than an inability of the Mac. The most difficult part about the major switch of technology is they did it going into college or before a major event in their lives. They go from knowing how to operate a PC with JAWS with confidence to a brand new piece of hardware and software. If you are daring and can learn fast, that is fine. But if you have a learning curve, changing to a brand new product right before going to college, or in the middle of college or just getting a job, might not be the best move. There is always going to be a lull in your life, when this approach may fit better. However, nothing wrong with a bit of a challenge.

For all of those who took the step into a Mac with voice over, but would like a bit more help, here are a few basics to get you going or moving faster.

Voice over is built into the Mac OS X Lion
Command+F5 will turn on voice over quickly
Turn on voice over before attaching a supported Braille display. When you plug in a braille display, Voice over will detect it

This information is taken from the Mac manual: You enter VoiceOver commands by holding down the Control and Option keys together, along with one or more other keys. The Control and Option keys are called the “VoiceOver keys,” or “VO keys” for short. They are shown in commands as VO—for example, to use the command VO-F1, you press Control, Option, and F1. You can assign VoiceOver commands to numeric keypad keys, keyboard keys, braille display input keys, and trackpad gestures, so you can use the commands with fewer keystrokes.

The first time you start VoiceOver, I highly suggest you take the Quick Start tutorial, an interactive tour of VoiceOver navigation and interaction basics. When VoiceOver is on, you can start the tutorial at any time by pressing VO-Command-F8.–Remember, the VO key command is: control+option+F8 for the tutorial

Let's practice reading a document.
Open a document
To read an entire document from the top (called “Read All”) without interacting with the document, press VO-A.
When you’re interacting with a document, to read from the VoiceOver cursor to the bottom of the text area, press VO-A.
To read a line, press VO-L. To move to the next or previous line, press VO-Down Arrow or VO-Up Arrow.
To read a paragraph, press VO-P. To move to the next or previous paragraph, press VO-Shift-Page Down or VO-Shift-Page Up.
To read a sentence, press VO-S. To move to the next or previous sentence, press VO-Command-Page Down or VO-Command-Page Up.
To read a word, press VO-W. To hear the word spelled, press VO-W again. To hear it spelled phonetically, press VO-W again. To move to the next or previous word, press VO-Right Arrow or VO-Left Arrow.
To read a character, press VO-C. To hear the character spoken phonetically, press VO-C again. To move to the next or previous character, press VO-Shift-Right Arrow or VO-Shift-Left Arrow.

If you selected the “Use phonetics” checkbox in the Announcements pane of VoiceOver Utility, characters are automatically read phonetically. For example, VoiceOver reads “a alpha n november t tango.” (If you do not want this feature, go back to your Utilities and turn it off)

Lesson to help teach

Mac, Word and Voice Over, the basics

The way blind people can find information in books has changed dramatically.

Years ago, a blind child would sit in class with the multiple volumes of braille books in front of them, which is great if they actually got them. But if a teacher asks the class to open up to page 243 in the novel, "Of Mice and Men" it takes the blind students many minutes to thumb through the correct volume, then to find the correct page.

Today, that is no longer true. Students download electronic textbooks from the Internet and load them onto their note takers or laptop. When the teacher asks everyone to turn to page 243, or any page in any book, our students can do a Find command and jump to the passage faster than the sighted students jump in their print books. There is a trick to doing this flawlessly. Page numbers can vary in books depending on versions, so this is how you get around that. The blind student asks the teacher for the first 3 words of the paragraph she wants everyone to turn to. Then the blind student types those 3 words in the find command and enters, and immediately jumps to the text and is ready to read from their braille display along with the rest of the class.

Another advantage of this method is the teacher hands out questions to the story that is being read. The student can read the question, do a Find command within the book and jump to the major headings dealing with the question. They can copy and paste that information out of the book, jump back to the document where they will be typing the answers and paste in the content and answer the question quickly.

The FIND command is powerful. In WORD, it is CTRL+F, on many note takers, it is SPACE+F. Always search using more than one word, and you can find your information faster.

Lessons to help you

Braille Note Lessons to take you through the Basics to more advanced skills

Eight lessons on Bookshare.org and JAWS

JAWS and Internet—how to get Going and Moving

NVDA is an Australian company that was started by a young college blind man, and friend of mine. The young blind man could not afford $1000 for talking software but needed a way to use the computer. So he and his friend wrote the talking software program that has become known as NVDA.

NVDA has a very computerized voice, but is also now compatible with some SAPI download voices, which you may enjoy more. It has many of the exact same keystrokes commands as JAWS. It can also be downloaded directly to a thumb drive and taken anywhere to about 80% of computers. It works better in Firefox than Internet Explorer and you may just want to stick with Firefox for its use. It cannot be utilized in all programs yet, but other industries are working with this little company, so believe more compatibility is just down the road.

The most important programs, like Microsoft Office and the Internet can be accessed and used with NVDA. If you would like to try this product out and they have the latest updates

http://www.nvda-project.org/blog/NVDA2011.3Released
NV Access is pleased to announce that NVDA 2011.3 has been released.
This release has been declared stable, which means it is suitable for
production use and is recommended for most users.
Highlights of NVDA 2011.3 include automatic speech language switching
when reading documents with appropriate language information; support
for 64 bit Java Runtime Environments; reporting of text formatting in
browse mode in Mozilla applications; better handling of application
crashes and freezes; and initial fixes for Windows 8.
Changes from 2011.3rc1 to 2011.3:
•Updated documentation.
•Updated translations.

To go through the user guide for comparison to other talking software, click on NVDA user guide

HINT: The NVDA key is the insert key

If you would like additional voices, use Espeak– http://espeak.sourceforge.net/download.html

If you just do not have a $1000 laying around right now for other talking software, this just may be the thing for you. If you do download and use this product please think about making a donation to the company so it can survive for all those others out there, that cannot afford the more expensive versions of talking software.

I was talking with a father last night at a conference in another state who was explaining they had just purchased a Fabulous new APEX for their daughter. Their teacher was reading the manual to learn how to teach it. In the meantime, they would like her to use it. Father is a techy, so I knew I could explain a few things and he could actually contribute to some of the instruction and really get her daughter kick-started on the Braille Note.

I sat him in front of my computer and explained it like this. On the Braille Note, if you hit 1 2 3 4 5 6 +space, that is main menu which is like hitting the start key (also called windows key) on a computer-I hit the key for a visual. All the menus are now available. As you press the space bar on the Braille Note, it is like hitting the down arrow on the computer, taking you through your menus (the light bulb went on so bright over dad's head, it lit up the room). If you have renamed your programs on the computer, such as W for word, then after you hit the start key, and hit W, you open word. On the Braille Note, you hit W and go to the word processor.

When you are on the Main Menu display, as you hit the space bar on the Braille Note to move through the menus and listen or read the display, you will know that quick key to get to where you want to go: B is for Bookreader, S is for Scientific Calculator, F is for File Manager and so on. Then you can be on main menu and hit B and your bookreader will open. Go back to main menu and hit F and your file manager will open. If you ever get lost in the Braille Note, you hit 1 2 3 4 5 +space bar and you will go back to main menu and you can start over.

The basic commands that follow getting into the Word Processor are, create or open a Folder, then create or open a File….c is for create, o is for open. On the computer, you do these commands at the end when you save. So just know, you do these up front on a Braille Note. You can do a save command to change it to a Word document as anything you save on a Braille Note is a Key Word soft document with the extension .kwb. Only a Braille Note can open this type of document so if you want to also use it on the computer, you must translate the document. into a .doc. S+space goes into save, X+backspace takes you through all the options of saving, just go to save as word document, type in the same name you used for the document you just brailled and enter, go back to main menu and now you can pull out your thumb drive, take it to a computer, open and use it.

If you are not sure what to do as you are working anywhere in the Braille Note, H+ space is your help menu. When you want to exit somewhere, e+space will exit you out. If you ever get totally lost, go back to main menu with 1 2 3 4 5 6+space.

That simple, now go have some fun! 

Lessons to help you

Braille Note Lessons to take you through the Basics to more advanced skills

When your child is a baby, hold and cuddle them often. While you are walking around describe what you are seeing and when they are old enough or can reach out, have them feel what you are describing. Every time you have them touch something while you are describing, they are creating images in their mind about the world.

Vary your child's experiences. They need to help you clean the house, cook dinner, go shopping, go on trips, smell a cow yard, play in a garden, smell and eat at different restaurants, and so much more. By them grasping an item and you gently placing your hand over top, you can teach them how to stir, string beads, dig a hole and learn everything else there is to learn about their surroundings.

If you hold your child often, tickle, and massage his different body parts while playing with him, he will have a greater chance of not being tactile defensive, which is where a child does not like to be touched but also does not like to touch things. If you start young and continue, the child learns that touch can be wonderful and that is how he is going to learn about the world. He must touch, smell, and hear…that is how he sees. In the book, The Brain that Changes itself" by Norman Doidge, he explains that when you integrate all the senses, they take over the visual cortex and images are created in the brain. For any child that has even a small issue in learning they will learn faster if you integrate all the senses. For a regular child with just blindness, they will just learn faster in general.

If a child can become aware of his own body, then he can place himself within the environment he is sitting or walking. He will learn how far away to stand from someone, he will be able to tell when a wall is approaching as he walks with his cane, because you can feel matter. Matter is any solid surface. If you are sighted, close your eyes and just start talking and walking toward a wall. You can feel the wall approach, through the sound of your voice bouncing off the wall and the "feel" of the wall on your skin as you approach. We need to teach our blind children that matter has substance and as they walk with a cane, they will be able to steer around any object because they will feel themselves approach it. They can also use echolocation, which is sound bouncing off matter. Hard-soled shoes are a great way to get sound to bounce of walls without anyone being aware of what you are doing as you walk. You may notice some children clicking their tongues. They have figured echolocation out, but everyone around them think they are doing something odd. They are just using the sound to bounce off walls to figure out where to go.

If your child has any vision at all, use a light box and let them choose the light level. Then place objects and colors on top of the light box so they can get a better idea of what it looks like. Next, have them pull off the object, close their eyes and just feel it. When you take sight away, touch and hearing kick in and their focus in on what they are feeling, not what their poor vision is trying to incorrectly see. In this manner, of no sight when they touch, they put it together with what they saw and have a truer idea of fact versus something off of poor vision. In this way, their world becomes alive, but more importantly, if the child loses any more sight, he will have learned how to put a 1 dimensional brailled object on paper into a 3 dimensional world because of all the "vision games and practice" with the closing of the eyes and touching after. Learning his colors, numbers and letters, will also be accessible in his knowledge bank, because of these "games" early on.

There are many wonderful web sites out there that give even more activities to do with your child. The biggest thing, incorporate everything, describe the world as you walk and let them touch, smell and listen and you will have a well-developed child, understanding the world. Now, incorporate the academics and you will have a child that can achieve anything he desires.

Has your computer slowed down over time. Here are some quick tricks to improve its speed and performance.

Windows 7- Speed up Your Computer

Every week you need to do maintenance on your computer. It is just like you cleaning your clothes. You also need to clean your computer if you want it to keep performing like the day you got it.

Be aware, the websites have viruses, spam and a slew of other things that will dump onto your hard drive and slow it down. Be careful where you surf. In addition, the more programs you put on your machine, the slower it will become also. However, we will talk about maintenance and speeding it up right now.

From now on, every week, you need to do the following. Disk Clean Up, Disk Defrag, Error Check

Disk Clean Up
1. Hit your Start key and type in disk
2. Down arrow to Disk clean up and ENTER-your computer will start scanning your computer
3. When the box comes up, you will check every square with a space bar
4. TAB to Ok and begin clean up. If you have not done this in a while or ever, it will take up quite a while.

Disk Defragmenter
1. Hit your Start key and type in disk
2. Down arrow to Disk Defragmenter and ENTER
3. Hit the space bar on C: and TAB to defrag—this will take some time also depending on whether you have done this before or not
4. Defrag any other drives you have
5. Do NOT interrupt this process

Error Check
1. Hit START KEY, arrow to Computer, and ENTER
2. Hit your applications key or right click on C:
3. Up arrow to properties and ENTER
4. CTRL+TAB to tools and ALT+C to check now and ENTER
5. When the dialog box comes up, hit space bar on both choices, it will find and fix your hard disk problems
6. TAB to Ok a box comes up saying to schedule it Just restart your computer now. When your computer comes back on, it will start going through the process. Normally, you will have a blue or black window with white letters taking your computer through the fix stage. Do not do anything until your computer goes to your desktop and everything looks normal.
7. Do NOT interrupt this process

Try it out now. You will notice an incredible difference in speed and performance. You can download this lesson from the OTHER Tab above

So has your computer slowed down over time? Here are a few things you can do to make marked improvements on the speed and performance of your computer

XP- Speed up Your Computer

Every week you need to do maintenance on your computer. It is just like you cleaning your clothes. You also need to clean your computer if you want it to keep performing like the day you got it.

Be aware, the websites have viruses, spam and a slew of other things that will dump onto your hard drive and slow it down. Be careful where you surf. In addition, the more programs you put on your machine, the slower it will become also. However, we will talk about maintenance and speeding it up right now.

From now on, every week, you need to do the following. Disk Clean Up, Disk Defrag, Error Check

Disk Clean Up
1. Go to Programs
2. Accessories
3. System Tools to disk clean up
4. When the box comes up, you will check every square with a space bar
5. TAB to Ok and begin clean up. If you have not done this in a while or ever, it will take up to an hour.

Disk Defragmenter
1. Go to Programs
2. Accessories
3. System Tools to disk defragmenter and ENTER to open
4. Hit the space bar on C: and TAB to defrag—this will take some time also depending on whether you have done this before or not
5. Do NOT interrupt this process

Error Check
1. Hit START KEY, go to My Computer, and enter
2. Hit your applications key or right click on C:
3. Up arrow to properties and ENTER
4. CTRL+TAB to tools and ALT+C to check now and ENTER
5. When the dialog box comes up, hit space bar on both choices, it will find and fix your hard disk problems
6. TAB to Ok and restart your computer. When your computer comes back on, it will start going through the process. Normally, you will have a blue window with white letters taking your computer through the fix stage. Do not do anything until your computer goes to your desktop and everything looks normal.
7. Do NOT interrupt this process

Try it out now. You will notice an incredible difference in speed and performance. You can download this lesson from the OTHER TAB above

Low Vision – SEE the Internet Better

Open Internet
1. Hit the command CTRL+ continuously until you get the screen to the size you want—hold down the CTRL key while hitting +
2. CTRL- will decrease the screen—hold down the CTRL key while hitting –
Get the Internet page to the size you like

If there is a picture on the Internet that is too small to view for your vision, do the following
1. Hit the PRINT SCREEN button –usually at the top right hand corner of the keyboard, in a set of 3 other keys…you probably have never used it before
(Many people on Facebook say they cannot see small pictures of their family even with the above commands)
2. Open Word and paste with CTRL+V (the image now pastes into your word document).

Increase the size
ALT+V, then hit Z
ALT+E to percent and type in 500 and enter
The picture will be enormous now, so take your mouse and move around the page to see what you wish to see. Use your slider bars at the bottom and the right hand side also. If you have a wheel on your mouse, just move the wheel to move around your page.

Be aware that when the picture enlarges, it may become blurry, but it will give you a better view than looking at it at 1 inch square

Other Lessons to help

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

 

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?

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