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


JAWS talking software uses a special command to do so much: Insert+4 is "Symbol to Print"
Open Word, turn JAWS on and have some fun

When you are in WORD and need to type all those fancy characters for Spanish….Insert+4 will bring up your Spanish symbols
¡Buenos días!
Hasta mañana.
¿Cómo está usted?
¿Qué tal?
or you speak a bit of Portuguese and need a cedilla mark: Açai

When you are in Math class, Insert+4 will bring up your math symbols
7 • 5



and give you the ability to do those fancy symbols easily and quickly AND JAWS will say the names correctly

Insert+4 does so much more, so try it out!

Other lessons that will help teach

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


I use this one particular method repeatedly because it serves me so well. Well, it actually serves my students well. Especially those who lose their sight later: Later is later than 3rd grade. You just need to employ different strategies to achieve the same goals.

One small example. A student came to me during the summer to gain Braille skills. He had been low vision trying to "do Braille" but poor vision gives poor speed.  He had learned most of the alphabet and a handful of contractions, but could not read Braille at all and had a difficult time remembering how to braille in general. I told him to close his eyes and feel…his fingers tuned in as his poor vision tuned out.  I had him place his fingers over top of mine as I placed my hands on the Braille sheet of words. I slowly moved my hands in the "butterfly" motion, which I call it, because your hands glide together across, split a few words in, and the right hand finishes the sentence and the left hand begins the next in a smooth floating motion…just like a butterfly. I increased the speed so he could feel the gentle and easy movement across the page. He had no idea it was that easy.

I told him he would be reading Braille by the end of summer if he would commit at least an hour, but I asked for 2 hours a day…Ok, I know in my head, what teenage boy is going to read for 2 hours a day in the summer, or really ever?..but I put it out there. I know with even a minimal amount of effort he can do it with the next method I use.

He first begins with brailling. He only brailles about himself. His life. What he likes or does not like. I have him braille 3-4 rows of the exact same words in a sentence, using all contractions. He first tells me the sentences he wants to use. I pick out all the contracted words and have him braille these first, over and over until his fingers start to flow. Then I have him braille the sentences. Example. I like to fish. (he will braille that for 3-4 rows–sometimes more depending on the ability of the child's learning patterns). Next row. I like to fish with my dad.
I have him use 11 x 11 paper, so really, only those 2 sentences fit on a page. He takes out what he has just brailled and positions his hands on the braille paper. At first, I need to help him read the page. However, by the second reading he can do it almost independently. Before he goes home for the day, he has his braille sheets to practice for the next couple of days along with flash cards of a brailled words that he had difficulty with in reading.

There are a couple things going on here. I need him to get the flow of his hands reading well so he cannot be struggling with reading the braille. That is where we get all those bad habits from; scrubbing the braille, flying fingers, 1 handed reading. The reading must be easy at first and if it is about the person, they remember. With the constant repetition of the words, he begins picking up the feel of the contraction and the word and flows through the page.

By the end of the summer, as in 2 months, he was reading Braille at 32 words per minute and he only practiced reading about 3 hours a week. On his final day of testing his skills, I asked him, "Are you surprised at how fast you can read Braille?" Very matter of fact, he said "No, you told me I could, so I expected it."

When he went back to his school, he emailed me and told me his teacher was very impressed with his braille reading ability, both ability to read it, but read it with a beautiful 2 handed flow.

Lessons that will help teach

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


I have had many past students and people who just found me along the way ask why their Jaws does not work well with the Internet any more. As soon as I ask them what version of JAWS they are using, I have my answer.

In general, when you update the Internet, you need to update your Jaws. Example, when JAWS 7 was out, it ran great with Internet Explorer 7 (IE7), but then IE8 came out and if you did not update to JAWS 10 you would have problems. JAWS 11 worked even better with IE8 and JAWS 12 works great. So, if you would have purchased the upgrades when your purchased JAWS 10, you would be a happy camper because the upgrade fee would have been a lot cheaper than buying 3 whole new licenses.

Exceptions to the rule. However, when IE9 came out, JAWS 12 did not work well with it. IE9 needed a lot of work and JAWS worked on its updates also to make these 2 work together. Now it works well…but that took months.

In general, if your JAWS is working well with what you have, don't be anxious to update quickly. Let the companies work out the bugs in their hardware and software. Talk to people around you about their experiences and when you get the green light, update your JAWS and Internet together. And if you are having problems with your JAWS, it is most likely too old.

Lessons that help teach–Jaws 12 and above, where Jaws is indicated

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 have many browsers on my machine as each one does something different…some very annoying features and some fantastic.

When I want a great virtual connection with video plugins and there is not a blind child on the other end, but I will be joining a meeting, I go Chrome. It truly is a fast browser. However, if I try to turn JAWS on while Chrome is open…. JAWS will NOT open. As soon as I close Chrome, JAWS starts chatting away. Let's just say there are compatibility issues here.

Internet Explorer (IE) offers some good features and in general, you can move around quite easily and get to where you want to go. There are hotkeys for almost everything and in general, it is very friendly. However, if you want to do video plugins, for example, Google chat or video plugins, JAWS in general will tell you what you are typing, if you hit backspace he may just say blank, blank, blank. When someone replies to you, you will NOT hear what is typed. So there are inaccessible features with IE and JAWS.

For a great browser that makes a huge majority of things accessible where they would not be, Firefox is it. Example, if you want to chat using Gmail, you hear everything you type, JAWS repeats the letters you erase, AND you hear everything the other person is typing. JAWS will even tell you someone is texting you and JAWS will tell you who it is. Firefox keystrokes can take you far and wide easily with JAWS.

Safari is completely inaccessible…well, you can fool it in some places, but forget it, and it is too much work.

However, none of the browsers offers you keystrokes to access video. Shameful!

So what should a blind person do if they want to video chat to their Mom and Dad in France or Argentina? Or a student to teach?…enter SKYPE. You can download special JAWS scripts to allow JAWS to talk everything in SKYPE. You can make calls, video, chat, add contacts, you name it, all for free, even calling thousands of miles away. When someone is texting you, SKYPE tells you their name and you hear a typing sound as they type in their text. When they hit enter and send the text to you, you hear everything in the text. You can disconnect and connect with ease. You can do everything you want using JAWS.

So for now, or at least with the knowledge I have right now, I find SKYPE to be the best in video, chat, text, and all features accessible with JAWS though it is not a browser but a great addition to browsers: Internet Explorer is good for a huge majority of surfing and Firefox if you just want everything accessible…or at least most things.

A student came to me when she was 16 years old. She had spent years trying to keep a brain tumor at bay, until one day, she woke and the majority of her sight was gone. She could no longer do the world visually. She was very depressed at first because she really wanted to graduate with her class and it was only a couple years away. But her hopelessness quickly transitioned into hope as she learned her blind skills.

She flew on the technology but resisted braille. She loved math though and was clearly unsure how to do it blind. We started with Nemeth code, NOT braille. She learned Nemeth very quickly and sailed through her math classes. Little did she know, she was learning the Braille code along with her Nemeth. When I finally got her to try a Braille book, she was a bit surprised how well she read the book.

Yes, I taught her braille going through the back door of ease versus the front door of resistance. Once a child gets something in their head of whether they will or will not do something, it is not worth the fight. As teachers, we need to bring them along on the journey by showing them how they can do their favorite things. Then the child discovers that they inadvertently learned what you wanted them to learn in the first place.

Lesson that helps teach

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

Today I figured out a new feature in JAWS Tandem. JAWS Tandem is where I connect to people far away and can teach them a lesson virtually on their computer–I had guessed I could do this special trick, but did not have a chance to try it until today.

As one student was working on her Nemeth, reading from her book and inputting answers on her computer, we ran long on our time and she needed to go. She did not have time to email it off to herself to complete from home. She was working on a computer at school as her laptop had gone down the day before. So here comes the magic, I copied her work and pasted it to my computer, saved it and emailed it to her, so when she got home, she could open her email, download her homework and continue working on it.

With another student, somehow she managed to have many font sizes on her math work that she was working on during the day. It looked very odd, so I tried this feature again, by copying it off her computer and pasting it to my WORD on my computer. I have 2 monitors, so literally I can work off one while still be connected on the other. I figured out the problems on the page, then copied it off my computer and placed it back on hers all within 30 seconds. When I pasted it back, I then showed her what she had done to make it look so odd. The "ah ha" moment came and now she knows what NOT to do next time.

I still have that incredibly happy glow….as I just finished the last lesson of the day and just had to share the wonderful magic with all of you.

Lessons to help you teach

JAWS and Internet—how to get Going and Moving

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

Remote Access using SKYPE

SKYPE—for Regular Vision, Low Vision, and Blind

Skype texting and making a Video Call—with additional JAWS scripts

Skype texting and making a Video Call—no additional JAWS scripts

GMAIL-Google Talk, Firefox, and Chat

One of my older students is taking geometry, which has a lot of algebra and our wonderful Pythagorean Theorem. I went over the basics of the calculator on her laptop during the summer so she would be familiar with it when the time came to use it in class.

During our sessions, I always try to begin homework with the students so they know how to tackle it when they get home. She has a great spatial understanding of how to layout math problems, taking it from Nemeth and putting it in print, so it is just doing all the long calculations to get the correct answer that is required. The one attached to the computer is fully accessible to the talking software and is free, versus buying a scientific calculator for almost $300 somewhere else.

She would read from her Geometry Nemeth book, calculate the answer in her head as she typed it out on the computer, and then she would recheck her answer on the calculator. She grew in her confidence of finishing answers more quickly because now she had a way to double check her work to make sure she truly had the correct answer.

Get list at:  Calculator shortcut keys — This is free for download

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