Build Expanded Core Curriculum Skills Using 12 Days of Christmas

I think using the 12 days of Christmas is a cool way to incorporate some of the ECC into your child’s life. Take advantage of that unstructured time over the holidays and keep your children busy. All your children will benefit. Remember to make it fun!

9th Annual Texas Chargers Retreat

Mark your calendars!  The 9th Annual Texas Chargers Retreat is just around the corner, October 31st-November 2nd, 2014.  We will meet once again, at beautiful Camp Allen in Navasota, TX for a weekend of encouragement, inspiration and FUN!  This year is EXTRA special since it falls on Halloween.  Pack your costumes for a trunk or treat held Friday evening.  This retreat is for the whole family and includes activities for all kids.  The keynote speakers are Judi Brookshire and Tina Prochaska.  They have decades of experience working with people who are deaf and specialize in diverse family dynamics.  For more information and to register visit  Hope to see you there!

New TEA Approved Courses

New innovative courses submitted by the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired’s Curriculum Department, Braille Reading and Writing, Orientation and Mobility for Students with Visual Impairments I, II, III, and IV, and General Employability Skills have been approved for use as innovative courses beginning in the 2014-2015 school year. We appreciate the hard work that you and your staff contributed toward the creation of these courses.

The course Braille Reading and Writing will remain in effect until the English language arts and reading Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills are revised.  The course Orientation and Mobility for Students with Visual Impairments I, II, III, and IV will remain in effect until the physical education Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills are revised.  The course General Employability Skills will remain in effect through the 2015-2016 School year.

Please note that the approved courses may serve as state graduation elective credit only and are not approved to substitute for any required state graduation requirements.

Information regarding the PEIMS course codes and abbreviations are below.  Information regarding the courses will be available on the innovative course website ( soon.

Course name PEIMS Code Abbreviation
Braille Reading and Writing N1100505 BRAILLE
Orientation and Mobility for Students with Visual Impairments I, II, III, and IV N1160510 ORIENMO
General Employability Skills N1290060 GEMPLS

Debra Sewell
Curriculum Coordinator
Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Article on CHARGE Syndrome

Here is an article written by a friend of ours. Liz Lewis has a sister who is an adult with Charge Syndrome.  Liz is also an anthropologist who uses her profession to better understand the disability community.  Her latest article,  In the Community but Alone is about her sister’s community living arrangement and, more broadly, on the need for more social inclusion and services for adults with disabilities in our communities.  She has given me permission to share so feel free to pass it on if you like.  Also, I encourage you to check out Bloom (a blogspot for parents who have kids with disabilities). 

New Ambutech Canes

AmbuTech has introduced a new line of canes that have colored grips, tips, and other patterns. To quote from the AmbuTech web site, “…a fresh cane design available in four bright color schemes. You are unique. Your clothes, your hair and your accessories all reflect who you are, and soon your cane can too. We’ve given our canes a new cheerful modern look and made the grips available in four vibrant colors.”
Canes can now be ordered with either blue, pink, green, or orange color schemes.
Here is a link to a web page additional details/pictures:
Hopefully this will give students a way to express their individuality and personal style and still retain the legal and identification benefits of a white cane that adds a bit of “cool” factor.
Chris Tabb
Outreach COMS

Medicare Waiver Program

Medicaid Waiver Programs are the best long-term help for children and adults with disabilities in Texas!  Call NOW to get on the years-long waiting lists!!

Medicaid Waiver Programs – General information

  • Medicaid Waiver Programs have 10+ years waiting lists!
  • Eligibility based on child’s income (not the parents)
  • Purpose: to keep a person with disabilities living in the community instead of a nursing home or institution.
  • Services may include nursing care, attendant care, respite, therapies, adaptive aids, medical equipment, home modifications, service coordination, pre-vocational services, community living supports, supported employment, assistive technology and more.
  • Family MUST keep their contact information current; call waiting list numbers
  • More information:

CLASS (Community Living Assistance Support Services)

  • Serves individuals with physical disabilities and related conditions occurring before the age of 21. Individuals with intellectual disabilities may be eligible but not when the primary diagnosis is ID
  •  (877) 438-5658 for information and to get on the waiting list

MDCP (Medically Dependent Children’s Program)

  • Serves children and youth under 21 who have significant medical disabilities
  • (877) 438-5658 for information and to get on the waiting list

HCS (Home and Community-based Services)

  • Serves children and adults who have intellectual disabilities and certain related conditions (includes Autism); must meet functional requirements for Local Authority ID group homes
  • For Austin/Travis Co, (512) 483-5800; for other counties, call (512) 794-9268 to find the nearest Local Authority

CBA (Community Based Alternatives)

  • Serves individuals over the age of 21 with physical disabilities, must meet medical necessity for nursing home care
  • For information and to get on the waiting list call (512) 438-4882.

DB/MD (Deaf-Blind Multiple Disabilities Program)

  • Serves individuals who are deaf and blind and have additional disabilities, over the age of 18 years; Must meet functional eligibility requirements for Local Authority ID group homes
  • For information and to get on the waiting list call (877) 438-5658.

TxHmL (Texas Home Living) Austin/Travis Co. (512) 483-5800

  • Serves children and adults with intellectual disabilities; must meet functional eligibility requirements for Local Authority ID group homes

Odin Accessible Telephone

The ODIN VI is a cell phone with buttons that is one hundred percent accessible. It allows someone without sight to enter and access contacts, access a call log, text message, set alarms and more. The phone speaks a number of languages, including English and Spanish. A number of State agencies for the blind, including agencies in Massachusetts, New Mexico, Colorado and Oregon, have started showing the ODIN to clients. The phone is also being sold by Perkins School for the Blind. You can learn more about the phone, and listen to an instructional podcast on the phone, at Also, attached is a flyer with information regarding the phone.

As mentioned above, residents of Texas who are blind are in a unique position since they can obtain the ODIN VI for free because it has been included in the Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program. As of today, Texas is the only State that subsidizes the purchase of this device (although California is considering doing the same). I’d love to be able to make the ODIN VI available to your clients! Attached is the application that must be filled out in order to receive a voucher to acquire the phone. Also, the following is a link to the STAP website:

BrailleNote Navigation

For Students and Travelers with an Apex BrialleNote there is a new tool for orientation and mobility in the most recent update. The latest software update for the Apex provides an accessible map solution from Sendero Group called KeyMaps. It allows the user to virtually explore areas all over the country and can also be upgraded to a full GPS solution with a bluetooth receiver, etc

Here is the post from HumanWare about the KeyMaps software that is included in the KeySoft 9.4.1 update.

KeySoft 9.4.1 includes a new application on all Apex units called KeyMaps. In partnership with Sendero Group, KeyMaps brings the first included completely accessible mapping experience for those with visual impairments. Using only your Apex, you can:
Download maps of your chosen country,
Find a specific address or point of interest,
Look up phone numbers and additional information for points of interest,
Virtually walk around a chosen location,
Create and learn routes from one point to the next.
Once you choose the “Navigation” option from the Apex’s main menu, or by pressing N, the application will be launched and you will be asked to register to obtain a license. You must follow the registration steps as the license is necessary to download your different maps and use the product. To complete the registration process, your Apex must be connected to the Internet. Each user can download their country’s map freely. If you would like to download any additional countries, or to purchase a license for outdoor use of the KeyMaps application, please contact your local HumanWare office.
The KeyMaps application is an English only application and runs using the English speech regardless of your system language.”
For those not familiar with Sendero Maps, you can find additional information on the Sendero Group’s Support and Documentation Web page ( or the Sendero Group announcement page
HumanWare also has an announcement page ( with full details of the KeySoft update.
Chris Tabb
Outreach COMS

Computer Programming Camp for TVIs

For the fourth year now, the Washington State School for the Blind will host a workshop on teaching computer science to students with visual impairments called the “Experience Programming in Quorum Workshop” (aka EPIQ Workshop). The workshop will be held on July 17-23, 2014

As part of the workshop, you will learn programming basics in a Java-based programming language called Quorum. The inventor of the language, Dr. Andy Stefik, will lead the workshop and teach you how to use Quorum to create dynamic websites with your students. The platform, developed by Dr. Stefik, is 100% accessible to all students, including those with visual impairments and blindness.

The language is currently being taught at the Alabama School for the Blind, the Washington State School for the Blind, and the Maryland School for the Blind along with many smaller sites around the country to students with visual impairments. The language and the curriculum developed by Dr. Stefik and his colleagues is also being used by middle and high schools across the nation because of the simplicity of the language.

We would love to have any interested TVIs again join us this summer in Vancouver, Washington. Registration, housing and most meals are free to TVIs. Financial assistance for travel will be provided as funds are available.

If more information about the workshop and the application, please go to Quorum TVI Camp