October 2011

Be that person who stands up and takes responsibility for your actions. If you do not have knowledge you need, you go out and find it and learn. If you fail at something, you look inside yourself and ask the question, "What more do I need to know to achieve this goal?"

Don't point your fingers at others and say, "You are not doing enough for me?" "You are the reason I am failing!", pub-3447701155434117, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0

Look at others and see how you can help. What can you do to improve someone's life? In turn, you make yours better. If you are always looking for ways to add, you will not subtract.

The only way to grow is to continually add. Life is math!! If you are always taking, little by little, you become less. You are subtracting from life itself.

The opposite is true too: If everyone keeps adding to the good and to knowledge, then everything grows.

AND, if you feel offend by this, maybe you are taking too much away from life….Something to think about!

One-step further than just digital handwriting into text: The Digital Ink Pad with Voice Recording. Compare this to the previous Digimemo on the site, which did not allow voice recording, or to be used as a functional PC Tablet when hooked to a computer.

This notebook sized pad allows you to hand write information (or a sighted person to do take notes in class, then hand back to someone who cannot see the board) But also add verbal notes, that when you upload it to your computer, the voice recording will be linked to the page. The product comes with Handwriting Recognition Software; Using MyScript Notes, OCR handwriting recognition software & you can transfer your handwriting to text.

In addition, In PC Tablet Mode; once connected to computer through USB port, Digital Ink Pad + could be used as fully functional PC tablet. If you already have a computer, this is a great addition to computing capabilities. The handwriting recognition software is also already included in the package when you buy it. After you upload your work, you can edit it on the computer.

The feedback on this product has been very positive: "What makes it better than the DigiMemo (my second option) tablet is that it has voice recording capabilities, a headphone slot for playing music (via a SD card), and if you connect it to your computer via USB, it becomes a fully functional tablet with the pen as a mouse"

Some tricks you will need to keep in mind if you buy this. Have several sheets of paper on the pad, use your best penmanship or tell the person who is taking notes for you to use good penmanship. Hold the tip of the pen up and don't rub your hand on the pad as you write. This is true for the digimemo also.

Are you wasting a lot of time ironing…or worse walking around with wrinkled clothes? Here are some great tricks to keep you looking good.

You can buy a board that helps you fold those clothes perfectly, with the perfect creases and lines, so it looks like you just picked them up from the dry cleaners without the dry cleaning bill attached.

For about $10-$20 you can buy many types of folding boards. Here are a couple links for you to choose from and you can explorer wider for more of a selection.

Bed, Bath and Beyond
Flip Fold I prefer this, due to the holes in the board that allow air to pass through for an easier fold.

You lay your article of clothing down on the folding board — just flip, flip, flip and fold. It's that simple. A bit of practice and you will be a pro. The flipfold board even has a video you can watch or listen to to understand the perfect folding method. Some come with magnets, so you can just stick it to the dryer to keep it out of the way. It is light and easy to use. You will get to the point where you may not need the board any more, but just may keep using it because it gives you such perfect looking clothes

Today, with permanent press clothes or just cotton and other blends, the first trick is to get your clothes out of the dryer IMMEDIATELY, so you have less wrinkles. I use this trick and rarely have to iron anything. However, collars on shirts are usually wrinkled so I re-wet them in the sink, press the collar the way it needs to look and hang up…When dry, it looks like someone ironed it. I have my stack of hangers and hang all our good shirts and pants up in the closet for the perfect crease in the slacks and shirts. Match the sewed seams first and feel for the crease that was ironed in on those slacks when you bought them, Then use hangers with 2 clips, one clip goes at each corner of your pants. If I try to fold dress pants, many times I cannot match the crease of the pants all the way down the leg, then you have 2 tiny ugly creases that run the length of the pant. By hanging them up on pant hangers click on link to see the type, you will have the perfect pant.

To match the colors of your clothes, you can use braille clothing labels and if you are a seamstress, you can easily braille in dots for the colors, but that takes a lot of time.

When you are done wearing socks, pin them together to drop in the dirty clothes, so when you are done washing and drying, you have the matched set of socks right there. No hunting for them. You can do this with anything that has a pair. Before placing anything in the dryer, shake your clothes out so you are not throwing a tight ball of waded up clothes in. You will just press wrinkles in that way. Then when the dryer cycle is done, you take them out immediately, hang up the good stuff, fold the daily wear stuff and you will always look pressed and put together.

Here are a few great articles on clothes preparation and grooming.
This is the Way We Wash Our Clothes
Ironing Things Out
Clothing, Grooming, and Social Acceptability: Part 1
Clothing, Grooming, and Social Acceptability: Part 2

Low vision-XP using HIGH CONTRAST options to see better

1. Turn on Computer
2. Hit your start key then C until you get to CONTROL PANEL and ENTER to open
3. Accessibility options is your first option, so enter to open
4. CTRL+TAB to display
5. ALT+U to select the option of high contrast
6. ALT+S to go to settings options
7. TAB to select—use shortcut-hit space bar to select
8. TAB to High Contrast appearance scheme
9. Keep hitting H until you jump to High contrast black #2 (extra large)
10. And enter to select and you will go back to the display option
11. Hit ALT+A to apply these choices and your screen will change
12. TAB to OK and close box
13. ALT+F4 to close control panel
14. The hot key to switch back and forth between regular screen and this option is: left ALT+LEFT-SHIFT + PRINT SCREEN –the print screen is all the way to the top right hand corner of your keyboard—on a laptop you will usually need to use the function or FN key and F11 to make this change—this varies depending on laptop layouts
15. Try another option-go back to accessibility
16. CTRL+TAB to display
17. ALT+S for setting and TAB to high contrast schemes and hit H until you jump to, High contrast #1 (extra large)
18. TAB to Ok, then hit ALT+A to apply
19. Open Word
20. ALT+V then hit z for zoom
21. Hit ALT+E for percent and type in 300% and enter
22. Begin typing—change the zoom size according to what you see best
23. Try other options–you can download this lesson from the Low Vision TAB above

Other lessons that help teach low vision skills

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


My fastest Braille readers are 2-handed readers, with butterfly motion.

So picture this: Both hands begin the braille line, and as they pass about the 3rd or 4th word on the line, the left hand goes back and down to the next line ready to begin reading as the right hand finishes the line. Smooth and seamless, floating down the page.

All fingers are down on the line, so the pinky fingers can tell when they are getting close to the end of a line, whether it ends in the middle of the page or at the end. If the child reads with the book on her lap, all those fingers support the book so it does not fall to the floor, giving the student the ability to easily read. This technique is especially helpful when they go into the elementary grades and read to younger students, impressing them with the beautiful flow and movement across those delightful dots. The sighted students come up on their knees to watch closer when they sit on the floor surrounding the braille reader, OH’s and AWES as they watch this wonderful braille butterfly movement. They truly believe it is magic to read those dots.

The students who read 300-400 words per minute, do their homework and pleasure read everyday and are always looking for their next novel.
The students who read 200-300 wpm, do their homework and pleasure read several times a week
The students who read 100-200 wpm, do their homework and maybe will pleasure read a couple times a week
The students who read 40-100 wpm, do their homework and rarely pleasure read during the week

To gain in speed, you need to use hard copy braille and the butterfly motion: Getting the flow and movement down on the page. On adapted laptops, you can use the book-reader and speed up the braille display to increase reading speed also. But the most important part of gaining speed…is to just READ!! And read a LOT.

Lessons and articles to help teach

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

It is that time of the year, where pumpkins abound and are ready to be picked, cleaned, cut, and eaten.

This is a great opportunity for blind children or any child for that matter, to help eat and decorate but also learn about math through counting pumpkin seeds and baking pumpkin pie, bread or cookies. But first, you need to go to a pumpkin patch to pick out the perfect pumpkin. Really, all the way to a field. Blind children will not understand how things are grown, if they only get food from a store, so head to a pumpkin farm.

After you pick the perfect pumpkin, it is actually best for you to have your child help you bake the "good" pumpkin pie, cookies or bread first, so they taste the end result, before diving their hands into all the goo of string, mush and seeds. They eat and enjoy, then onto the pumpkin. They will be more likely to dive in if they know they get more "good" at the end.

As you help them cut open the top and scrape out the insides, have them separate the seeds from the goo. Then they will count out the seeds into parts of 10, 20, etc., depending on age. Then have them place the seeds in a baking dish and bake the seeds, having them count as they place the seeds on the baking dish. They will find out how many seeds will fit flat on the dish. Have them spray the seeds with some cooking spray, salt the seeds and put in the oven to bake.

While the seeds bake, cut the pumpkin up, put in another baking dish, and bake that until soft and ready for pie, bread or cookies…whatever is the favorite of the child.

The other pumpkins, you get to help your child decorate for Halloween. They will start gaining incredibly fond memories of this time of season if you do this every year.

I have taught blind children downhill skiing for many years.

The thing that served me the best, though I get great ribbing for it, is my tangerine snowsuit. Some call it bright pink. I suppose it does change colors depending on the light.

The reason it has served me so well is my low vision students, even almost totally blind students could pick me out on the hill. Picture that bright pink or tangerine color glistening against the white of the snow. It was like a ball of sun pointing the direction to the students.

For beginners, I would ski behind giving directions. Right turn, left turn and so on down the hill. When they became more advanced, I could ski in front of them if they had some vision and they would follow my bright suit down the hill.

I have had this ski suit for over 20 years…hmm; wonder what it is made out of? Anyway, I hope I have it until I die. I have incredible fond memories wrapped up in this suit.

So for all you parents, as winter approaches, get your kids out on the hills. If they can walk, then they are ready. Just Google skiing for the blind in your area and you will be able to pull up a group that puts on these activities now and all year around. Some groups cater to just the blind, others to all different abilities. This is a great way for your children to make friends and work on their strength, along with orientation and mobility. The cost is also very negligible.

Fun for the whole family but more than anything you will see your child blossom like never before.

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

2011 Braille Literacy Scholarship Program
5128 Oak Point Way, Fair Oaks, CA 95628
Contact: Sharon Spiker
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 and JAWS

JAWS and Internet—how to get Going and Moving

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