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.

Have you ever gone to a page and sat there wondering what you should do to get to where you want to go. Have you ever been ready to shoot your computer because you hit a key and it got you lost on the URL express highway? Well, here is a way for you to take control of JAWS and get him to do what you want to do.

On any page, you go to, and for now as a learner, any page…you need to hit INSERT+F1. The command will give you all the keystrokes of that page. It will tell you information that you need to know to get around and do what you want to do.

Next, when you open an Internet page and JAWS starts gabbing along, just know that his cursor is moving very quickly down that page. That typical command that you use and sometimes does or does not work is because the cursor has moved beyond that command. So hit the CTRL key to shut him up. Get him to the top with a CTRL+HOME. Now your cursor is at the top of the page and you can move according. In the Internet, hit the letter H to jump to your headings, then SHIFT+H to move back. Bring up your links and notice that you are exactly in your links as where you are on a header. If you stop some place in a page, your links will follow your cursor, or vice versa. CTRL+HOME again. Now it B for button and move through finding all the different buttons; CTRL+HOME; Now hit; and move to your landmarks.

Now INSERT+6. Major commands are here to tell JAWS what you want done. For now, just TAB and arrow around to see all the features. A lesson could easily be written everywhere you stop in this dialog box.

Practice taking control with the above commands to start on your journey of "Being the Boss of JAWS"

Lessons that will help teach and learn

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

 

Many people do not know that this key even exists. It is very powerful and enables you to move around your computer quickly, giving it commands and taking control in every window. I am talking about the APPLICATIONS key, if you do not have one, SHIFT+F10 works also. The applications key is like hitting your right click on a mouse to get sub-menus. On a desktop, it is the third key from the right of the space bar…on laptops; well it can be any place, so hunt it down, either on the bottom or top of the right side of the keyboard.

Let's practice some commands to see this power. START KEY+M to minimize everything on your computer: all your windows drop to the task pane and you now have access to the desktop icons. Hit the letter J for JAWS. If you are not a JAWS user, hit the letter of any icon on the desktop. You jump to the icon and it is highlighted, hit your applications key and up arrow to properties. TAB to shortcut key and hit the letter J. CTRL+ALT will automatically be inserted with the letter J. If you are doing an icon other than Jaws, hit the letter of the program you want to make a hotkey for, but be aware you can not use the same letter as another keystroke that has been used. ENTER to close the box. You have now made a hotkey or shortcut key for JAWS. Turn off Jaws with insert+F4; now turn him back on with CTRL+ALT+J. So when JAWS gets a nasty hiccup on you in the middle of going somewhere, turn him off and turn him back on and the hiccup disappears.

Next magic: Open Word. Misspell a word. Arrow into the misspelled word and hit your applications key. You will have the correctly spelled word in the list (if you did not butcher the word too badly—WORD needs to have the spelling somewhat close to figure out what you wanted). Misspell several more words to see the power in this key.

Now let's make a list. Type the word cat, hit ENTER, type dog, hit ENTER, type fox. NOW, shift+up arrow and select all those words. Hit your applications key. If using Office 2010 , hit N for numbering and right arrow to the number and enter and everything will be automatically numbered. For Office 2003, after you hit the applications key, hit n for bullets and numbering, CTRL+TAB to Numbered and right arrow to numbers and enter to select. Your list is now automatically numbered.

Hit your applications key again and down arrow through all your options to see what is available to you every time you hit that key. It will change as you go through different windows.

Lessons that will 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
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

 

Are you one handed and wish you could type faster? Are you missing your hands or arms? Are your hands shaky and it is difficult to type? If you have any difficulty typing at all, this may be a solution for you.

Office 2003 does have a speech recognition built into it to use. You speak and the computer types out what you are saying.

However, Windows 7 has taken a leap in speech recognition abilities. By speaking to your computer, you can get it to open any menu and go anywhere. You can dictate letters, do your homework and print it off or go into the Internet and email it. You can surf on the Internet and scroll through pages of information. With a quick "Start Listening”, the computer listens to your voice and commands. With a "Stop Listening”, the computer stops listening.

If you are using talking software, you will need assistance in setting up the program as nothing else can be talking while you are training the program. Once the computer gets to know your voice, you can control it anyway you need. If you want to dictate in Word, you will need to limit JAWS ability to talk until you want him to, a quick hit of the CTRL key is enough to control him, but you may want to restrict him even more. You begin talking and a dialog box opens where you say all your sentences. Once you finish dictating, you say "insert" and the text is inserted into the document, you can make corrections as needed with F7 to spell check with Jaws.

Click on this link to go to: Common commands in Speech Recognition

If you need a really serious program that packs all the power of combining speech to text then giving feedback with JAWS (as they actually work together), go to JSAY

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
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

 

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.

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