Many of my low vision students could tell the next story, but Jody W. Ianuzzi has shared her personal experience with me that fits so many. She has gone through the experience "passing as sighted, of not using a cane and not learning blind skills" and how it almost killed her and her 4 year old son from not seeing a car. She has come out the other end to confidently travel and do anything she needs with blind skills. She now has a son 36 years old and a 26 year old daughter, who can attest to her "trying to pass as sighed."

Trying to pass as sighted takes a "tremendous emotional toll" on a person, as Jody explains, "They feel they have a horrible secret to hide and if it is found out they feel like they are a failure. They feel they must pick between being an incompetent blind person or a competent sighted person. They don't realize they can be a competent blind person with skills to succeed. So much effort goes in to 'passing skills' they miss out on learning the blindness skills they really need to succeed. Then when they can't succeed as sighted, they hate themselves and they feel like a failure.

I got past all this myself but it took years. I look back and I am angry at my parents and teachers for not teaching me what I needed to learn and for expecting me to be something I was not. On one hand, peope did not label me as blind, and was allowed to do more because I was passing and did not have that blind label follow me! Children labeled blind are often restricted on what they can do because the ignorance of those over them stops them. My self-esteem is intact now, but at what price. I know other blind people who had the same experience growing up in the 60s and they didn't do as well emotionally."
— Thank you Jody for this except

It is easier to change the mind of an administrator if they have no past experience working with teachers of the blind or blind students. However, even if they had and did not have a good experience, this is a way to change their minds to get more services and tools for the blind students in the district.

I have hundreds of videos and pictures from the last 20 years of children working on all sorts of equipment, reading braille, flying on a slate n stylus and using dozens and dozens of different types of technology that has enabled them to find their independence and succeed in school. I have walked into meetings with as many as 50 special education directors of all types of experiences and turned on a light bulb of understanding that burned through the room by showing these videos of blind and deaf/blind students on the technology that helped them.

After the general meetings, I go independently to the directors and talk to them about their students and what they need. They have me make a list of the equipment, where to get it and the cost. Because the videos have come from me and they know I can teach the tool, they are not concerned it will sit in a closet and collect dust–this is one reason why administrators can be hesitant about ordering expensive technology-it gets ordered and no one knows how to use it. Orders are placed, equipment comes in, and it gets setup and the students start learning…exponentially.

Because there is only one of me, I have both the Para educator and student there learning the lesson, so they can help each other when I am not there. As typical, the blind students learn the commands very quickly and it is them that are helping the Para educators learn their skills.

The directors will come around and observe us working, but I have changed the observation into lessons. The director sits at the computer and I have one of my students give them a lesson on the computer using talking software. I love it when the student begins the lesson by placing their hand on the mouse and saying: "We will just be getting rid of the mouse"…and they move it behind the computer. I have had students take the director through scanning, embossing, brailling, and all types of computer lessons. With this knowledge, the directors will help you as the teacher of the blind get the necessary equipment that is needed.

Start collecting those videos and pictures. BUT FIRST make sure you have a signed statement from the parents saying this is ok.

I believe the parents take it harder than the child about losing sight or being born blind. I have been in so many meetings where the mom is sobbing and the father sits stoically as they listen to the vision loss report. I have had moms stand up in the meeting and shout "My son is NOT blind!" and the dad turns away. I have simulation glasses of vision loss and have moms refuse to look through them because then they would have to admit their child really does NOT see well. I have had parents tell their child "you see well enough so try harder to see better." I have seen depression climb on top of a child and bring them to the lowest points in their lives over the fact they cannot see as well as their parents want them too. I have both sides of the story because the kids talk to me about what they cannot talk to their parents about. I see and hear what the parents are telling the kids every day. I have also noticed that the child gets their attitude from the parents about sight loss. Children want to please their parents, even if it hurts themselves in the process.

I also have parents who accept the low vision diagnosis and both parents and child go full into learning both low vision skills and blind skills to get the best of both worlds and become confident in all abilities. These children go onto become confident in who there are, as they know they can't see well, but can see an enlarged map with magnification, while reading from a braille book and typing their answers out on a computer with talking software.

I have had parents and children who are very low vision or even have moderate vision loss try to pass as sighted. Let me tell you that EVERYONE else knows you can't see well, so evoke pity from others as you try to fool yourself. They see the large print books on your desk with your nose 2 inches from the paper. They see you cannot do all your work or your work in general. They see you trip in the halls. They see you hunched over while you walk to find your way. Everyone is seeing that. Alternatively, they see that you are a confident traveler with a cane standing straight and tall. They see you easily reading braille books sitting up straight. They see your fingers on the computer, typing faster than the wind and outputting work faster than they. They see you as proud of who you are and what you are achieving. For a great story on one's own personal experience with low vision attitude, click on this link Customize Your Cane

With the parents who see blindness as a characteristic and not as a travesty and that their child will just need different tools to succeed in life, the child is well adjusted and learns along with her peers. People STOP seeing you as "this poor blind person," and begin being very impressed with your abilities and who you are becoming.

THINK about what attitude you are projecting

Every district I have gone in to, the children do not have computers, or I had a couple students who had computers but no idea how to use them.

My first quest is to get computers to every child and into every child's home: Nothing fancy, the basic machine will do. I start with the quest for desktop computers because they are the most prevalent. I want children to go from starting work at school, saving it to a memory card, taking it home and finishing the work.

I also know that these children will test the stamina of this machine, so, in general, I never seek out new machines. I don't want anyone to feel badly when it goes down and it will for any number of reasons.

I place an ad in the local newspaper or send out requests in my email looking for machines. I will take any type of PC. If I take in many machines, then I can take from one machine and add to another where something is broken. Then I end up with one good machine. The communities have always been very generous and most had this machine sitting in a corner and they had replaced it with a new one so they were grateful to get rid of it. I always tell them that I wipe the machines clean and I do for everyone's safety. As much as I would like to say all my students are angels…they are not, or they have a sibling that is not. This is usually the case. It is the sibling that ruins the computer…so just a head's up on that one.

Give your youngest to oldest student one of these coputers to practice those touch-typing skills. Once the student has gone through a couple years with this machine and they have proven they are responsible with it, and have successfully kept their siblings away from it, we head to groups that can help them purchase their own tools, especially if they are ready to graduate. Lions Clubs have always been a great resource; where the parents work, their companies have yearly budgets of giving, Microsoft donates thousands of machines all over and so many other avenues, but also people in the community who want to help in some way. They are retired and looking for worthy people who could use their financial support.

I want the student to be working for this equipment somehow also. It is hard to perfect this because you are depending on others to get the child where they need to be in order to help around the company who gave the money or help the couple who bought the equipment. More than anything so many of our students have not gained even the most basic skills of how to sweep a floor or do basic cleaning…..this issue is for another time—parents doing too much for their child

The child acquires the new technology, which is now something portable like a laptop, braille note, etc. that they can take anywhere. The school districts see this is the equipment they need and provide it at school for them. I can tell you that administrators are concerned about buying expensive equipment because so often something is bought then not used because no one knows how to use it. If you can show the school district you have the knowledge to teach it and know where to get it fixed, you will have a lot of support behind you.

So go put an ad in a paper, send an email, bring some basic computers in and start teaching those touch-typing skills with a free download of JAWS talking software to get them going. Alternatively, if you are blessed with a rich relative, tools make a great Christmas, Hanukkah or birthday gift.

Quick Lesson on scanning, spell checking and using a braille translation program: You need a scanner that is configured correctly to open in Word in addition to its other features, Duxbury braille translation program. Click on highlight words above which are links to find these programs.

1. Place the sheet of printed text on the scanner. If the scanner was configured correctly then open WORD, you should have a feature under your File menu (if you are using office 2003) Office 2010 deleted this feature so scan using your scanner options.
2. In Office 2003, hit ALT+F to go to your file menu and down arrow and you will see scan (with whatever OCR program you have) and enter and it will scan into WORD (if this is not configured correctly just call in the school tech and they can config this for you)
3. If you have Office 2010, scan then copy and paste the document from your scanning OCR program into WORD to spell check–CTRL+A to select all, CTRL+C to copy, go to WORD and CTRL+V to paste
4. Hit F7 to do a spell check, which will quickly take you through the corrections (ALT+C in spell checker to say change or backspace over the mistakes and type the correct word in then alt+c to change your correction)–far faster than doing it by hand–when finished with spell check–you can save it but this next way is faster right now. Do a CTRL+A to select all of the text, then do a CTRL+C to copy it
5. Open Duxbury, do a CTRL+N for new and enter on print layout,
6. To enlarge windows quickly do a START KEY+UP ARROW–it works faster than even ALT+SPACE then hitting x–this will give you a full visual field
7. Hit the command ALT+2 for contracted braille
8. Then hit CTRL+V to paste the text
9. CTRL+T to translate and it translates into contracted braille
10. CTRL+E to emboss–if embosser is not configured correctly, call your school tech people also to configure it correctly

Practice those hotkey commands again to remember them

Other lessons that will help

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
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

 

For all those who are a bit unsure about accessing the Internet, I want you to try these few commands

Computer and JAWS 11 or 12 on–do not try this with an older JAWS–it will not work well, you need to upgrade (you can download a free 40 minute demo in the meantime)
Open Internet Explorer (IE). In general, you can do a START KEY+M to access your desktop and hit the letter I until you come to Internet Explorer and ENTER to open–try that feature first.
Once IE is open
ALT+D to jump to your address bar. It is highlighted, so type in google.com and enter to open Google (you can do all these commands up to this point even without JAWS)
JAWS will hopefully say, "edit, type a text" if it did not say that, hit the letter e until you hear something close to that and enter for forms mode on–a form is an area where you can type information
Type: blue angels and enter to open selection
Hit the letter H for headings to jump to each heading–you will hear your search choice, landmarks then your headings
Keep hitting H several more times
Now hit SHIFT+H to go backward until you reach: Blue Angels: Official site and enter to open–listen for awhile and then we will go somewhere else
That is only one way to do this
Now CTRL+O to open a dialog box
type: gmail.com and ENTER to open
You are now in gmail to set up an account if you want or sign in if you have an account
ALT+F4 to close all windows
START KEY+M to access your desktop and hit the letter I until you come to Internet Explorer and ENTER to open
ALT+D to go to your address bar and type in: hj.com and ENTER to open
Freedom scientific now opens
Bring up your links with insert+f7 and hit the letter d for downloads and enter to open
Next page, bring up your links again with insert+f7 and hit j to listen to where jaws link is, then down arrow to Real Speak voices and enter to open
TAB through this page and try out all the real speak voices by hitting enter on the voice and a media player will open and play the voice
After you listen to the voice close it with, CTRL+F4 and TAB to next voice
When you find a voice you like, just TAB to the download button after the voice you like and ENTER to begin download. Just follow the wizard and the real speak voice will automatically install in your JAWS
ALT+F4 to close out of everything when done

Other lessons that will help

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
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

 

When a child has lost sight or is losing sight, no matter what age, they need multiple areas of instruction. If they are older, they need this more than ever.

If you can get a child when they are young, you can put them on a brailler, or Mountbatten for small fingers, a computer with talking software and some type of player for audio books: teach them the Nemeth and other blind skills needed and they can grow with the class.

If however, you have an older child come to you, especially if they are in middle or high school, they need a way to get that heavy bulk of work done within the day. If they are going to learn all those blind skills, you will need to show them the relevance of what you are teaching them. If you choose to teach them from an outside curriculum such as one of the braille curricula, which are great, BUT, they will fight you on this, whether passive aggressive or a direct "No". You will be adding to their burden of trying to do their regular classes already…they will think, "HOW am I going to do one more?"

The multi-level approach: Out of the students' day, they will have some type of English class. This is the ideal class to adapt into braille and use technology. You go to Bookshare.org and download the book, or rather you show them how to do it. You show them the thousands of their favorite stories are right there to read. You get him excited. You also download Victor Reader soft and install on the computer or you have a handheld reader. You go to JAWS and download Real speak voices of their choice so when they listen to books they are listening to a voice they enjoy. You get them signed up with the state book and braille library, you get them signed up with everything blind–for a list, go to a free download copy of web site resources on the OTHER TAB. He will need a minimum of an hour a day with you and you can pull him periodically from English because you will be working on the same lesson. If he is older and about ready to graduate, he will most likely need more time.

Now the student has the book on the computer. You also have him emboss the chapter he is presently reading right now in class. He will braille the pages, read the pages and listen to them on his computer, so he always has a way to keep up in his class. When reading braille, you will paragraph jump with him, as in you read and he follows then he reads. Go to Braille–Get them Hooked on this site. You show him how to type out all his answers to everything in WORD and then he emails the lessons off to his teacher. He will learn the technology incredibly fast. Even if he has never touched a computer before, which will happen if the child comes from another country, he will learn the keyboarding in about 4-5 hours, an hour a day over 4-5 days…don't try and do this in one sitting. The brain does not work that way. He will know enough JAWS commands to be fairly independent in 2 weeks. It happens fast. If he has something like a Braille Note, his braille skills will accelerate also because he is getting the audio, tactile feedback when he presses the keys. For orientation and mobility, you blindfold him so his listening skills are enhanced and honed and you quiz him on how to get from point A to point B in the building…then an O&M instructor takes him outside and they begin learning about city blocks.

As long as you the teacher know the braille strategies, the JAWS and computer commands, you will see him sail.Teach him the help menu so even if you don't know something he will learn it himself.

Lessons that will help

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
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

 

I use many methods for getting students going on their blinds skills. One way is using the Synchronicity of Braille & Technology. When I set up elementary rooms or my classroom for all the equipment to fit, I use the L shape of 2 desks, that way you can place braille books on one side so the child can read, then turn to the other side of the L and type out information on the computer. This is perfect for the elementary school setup. By the time they reach middle school and have all their blind skill foundation, they can move into almost all their books being electronic, minus the Nemeth books which, for now, need to be hard copy braille.

The students will have a brailler, or Braille Note in front of them along with the keyboard to the computer with talking software and the braille work on the other side of the L. I will have them read a line of braille, then braille it, read from display if using an adapted laptop or brailler, then type it on the computer. This way they are taking the braille and seeing how it relates to the print. They quickly learn that braille is braille with all its contractions and print is print and the contraction for" the" is t-h-e and so on. There is no confusion between braille and print and the children go onto become good spellers because of this knowledge and way of learning. If I am ever with them on their computer and they type a word, I will ask "What is the braille contraction for that word?" and they tell me. When the focus is on a braille lesson and they come upon contractions, I ask them, "How would you spell that on the computer?" Once again solidifying the Synchronicity of Braille & Technology.

When the children get to class, they have the familiar L shape arrangement, which helps them keep organized also. They know where to place their books as the computer is taking up one side. Each side of the desks shaped in an L has slots or drawers for storing tools underneath. Organization is key to any blind child so they can find their tools when they need them. When the child is organized and ready they can follow along with class and do just what everyone else is doing. Since the students have and know about many tools, they can choose what they will need at any given time. They learn the joy of reading through braille and the joy of being able to output information quicker than their sighted peers due to the use of the computer. If you know key commands, it is far faster than trying to locate a mouse with your eyes, and I am talking about sighted kids here. My students are far faster on the computer than sighted kids. When the sighted students get stuck, it is my students they turn to and who can get them out of trouble by telling them a keystroke. They know that and are very impressed with their speed and agility on technology as well as watching them read those beautiful dots with their fingers.

Here is kudos to our kids.

I am always blessed when teaching. I love teaching and seeking out the best methods that will help my students the most keeps me going, so I have to phrase this next sentence carefully because all my students bless me in different ways.

In the last few years, I have been so incredibly blessed by one particular child. The second grade teacher had gotten a hold of me at the end of the school year, saying this particular student was having a great deal of difficulty seeing and accessing her school work and wondered if I had any ideas for her. This young lady was not on grade level and struggled with everything. She has a condition where she was very small and has partial limbs; she had a useable finger, and half-useable thumb on one hand and a tiny finger extension on the other fixed limb. She had had many facial surgeries and just many surgeries in general. I could easily pick her out when I walked into the room. I just watched her for some time, in her adorable pink outfit, on her tiny frame. She had figured out how to grasp a pencil and was leaning over about 2 inches from her paper, slowly but surely printing out letters. When recess came, I asked if she would stay in with me and she agreed. The first thing I always ask children is "What do you want to be when you grow up?" She immediately replied, "A Princess." I smiled. Of course. Most girls want to be a princess. She was just like everyone else. We all are inside and it does not matter what the outside looks like.

Because it was the end of the school year and she had several more surgeries scheduled, I could not begin instruction with her until the middle of third grade. During the fall, I worked with the special education teacher, the Para educator and mom; teaching them braille and the technology that she would be using. She had an incredible team, all dedicated to her success.

After Christmas, as we began instruction, I noticed that the "finger" on her one fixed limb did not really have receptors to read braille, so I was depending on that one little finger on her other hand to read. I did have her use that special finger on the other limb to track the braille as she read with her right finger so she could create some type of speed. Over a couple of years and a lot of braille reading and computer instruction, that wonderful brain created enough nerves in that "finger" to start reading braille or at least the first word or two of each sentence. She increased her reading speed to 115 words per minute with LOTS of practice. Those tiny little fingers started to fly across the page. Her computer skills accelerated her also and with her blind skills, she is now on grade level. I might add that she has the most supportive mom who followed through on every lesson I handed out. Truly, her team of people at school and home has contributed greatly to her success.

She has become one of my brightest shining stars…literally. She is the first student I try out my new technology adventures with and she loves it. She can email, text or SKYPE me, which has become her favorite mode because of its accessibility features and when she is in school, she can text me to ask how to solve a problem. With a simple reply, she can fix whatever her issue is within seconds. She gets it, remembers and is now excelling and succeeding in life. Where humans place such value on beauty, her brains and abilities now can take her further than any pageant queen.

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

There is a quick easy and fairly inexpensive way to adapt a child's inability to see in the distance in the classroom.

For the Low vision child: Most classrooms today have a document camera or computer hooked to a projector that projects the teacher's work to the front of the room. Where it is completely inaccessible to children with visual impairments. With a simple VGA splitter, you can hook any size of monitor to that document camera and the world in front of the classroom is immediately brought to the child. In a pinch where something was not enlarged, the document camera can be turned into a CCTV (closed circuit TV) where the paper can be placed under the camera and immediately projected onto the child's monitor.

For the completely blind, I take a different approach. As teachers use their computer and projector to project to the front of the room, I have installed JAWS talking software on the teacher's computer. Then I hook the Braille Note to the computer or any other adapted laptop. With today's Bluetooth option, the cable can be eliminated now. However, if you have an older Braille Note that needs a cable, the information that is projected to the front of the room, immediately goes to the Braille Note and the child can read from the display while listening to the teacher. Now the blind child can "see" in the distance too. You can also connect a VGA splitter to the computer and project directly to the students monito so they can see right from their desk as everyone views information in the front of the room

Other lessons that help

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

 

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