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BlindSquare and GPS App Questions and Answers

2016-01-20 Here is a series of questions from an Orientation and Mobility Specialist regarding BlindSquare. Hopefully these questions and answers will provide a bit of information you were curious about yourself…   1. "How do you pre-plan a route prior to going to the drop off? (I used simulate this location but I had trouble with it giving me the steps on how to locate the store from the bus drop-off)." Okay, this first answer may be a bit long as it will likely cover things that will be coming up in other questions as well, so please bear with me. First thing to remember, and to relay to the student, is an understanding of what each app can and cannot do so that there is a reasonable expectation for the app and the activity. BlindSquare cannot give you turn by turn directions in and of itself; so planning a route...
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Texas Yoga (follow up from Marty Klein after presenting at SWOMA)

Texas Yoga By Marty Klein Last week I was a keynote speaker at a conference in Austin, Texas, where I got to talk about the benefits of yoga and movement to a wonderful group of orientation and mobility instructors from all over the state of Texas. The experience was fun and enriching, and hopefully they all learned a few things from me and my presentation. The participants were warm and friendly, as was the staff from the Texas School for the Blind and visually Impaired. My challenge was not just to show them how yoga has helped me reclaim and sustain a healthy body over the years, but to impress upon them how important it would be for their visually impaired students to embrace yoga. “It all takes place, right there, on the yoga mat,” I enthusiastically told them. “This little two foot by six foot piece of rubber has made...
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Accessible Audio Comics!

Comics Empower http://comicsempower.com/about-us . This is from their website: Comics Empower is the online comic book shop that makes comics for the visually impaired! You will finally be able to take part in the comic book conversation! You can finally experience what has become a basic part of life and of the growing experience for so many!  What Are Comic Books for the Visually Impaired? * The comics are translated into audio form.  * Pages, panels, and texts are described in a way that doesn't break the rhythm of the story. * Twenty-two to twenty-four pages of comics are translated into thirty to thirty five minutes of audio recordings. * Readings include the letters pages, where the editors, writers, or publishers interact with the readers.  Sharon Nichols
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Texas Humanware Contact

As we all know, Dan Brown, Humanware rep. for blindness technology, has left Humanware for a different endeavor.  We will miss him but in the same breath, wish him well.  Below is the contact information for the new sales rep. who will serve our area.  Peter Tucic Blindness Product Specialist Central US Office: 800.722.3393 ext. 219 Cell: 630.460.5659 Peter is available to support your teachers and students.  Invite them to reach out to Peter to introduce themselves.  They are encouraged to seek support on the BrailleNote APEX and other HumanWare braille and speech devices as needed.  For information and support on HumanWare's Low Vision products your teachers are welcome to reach out to me.  I have included my contact information below.  Peter and I both look forward to hearing from you all. As we move through the year we hope we will be able to partner with you and your...
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Meteor Vibrating Pocket Watch

From the a.t. guys website: The Meteor Vibrating Pocket Watch allows you to independently know the current time without disturbing others. It features a simple, three-button design and is especially ideal for persons with hearing loss. The Meteor indicates time by inaudible and discreet vibrations. It has 3 buttons: The upper button for Hours, the central button for Tens of Minutes, and the last button for Minutes. Examples: 3 short vibrations indicate 3 Hours or 30 Minutes or 3 Minutes depending on the pressed button. 1 long vibration indicates 5 Hours or 50 Minutes or 5 Minutes depending on the pressed button. 2 long vibrations followed by 2 short vibrations indicate 12 Hours. no vibration indicates 0 Tens of Minutes or 0 Minute depending on the pressed button. The buttons may be pressed in any order For example, you can check just the Tens of Minutes and then the Minutes. Listen...
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Back-to-School Technology Questions? AER Information & Technology Division (Div 5) is here!

It's Back-To-School time again and that means you are going to have lots of technology questions that need answers. Where will you turn for help? The AER Information and Technology Division would like to be your resource. Email a question to and our members will share their expertise with you. You will receive an answer back as quickly as we can find what you need. Be sure to make your question as concise and complete as possible, with versions, models, platforms, etc. You have from now to September 18 to take advantage of this back-to-school offer. Don't miss out on a chance to get help with technology questions from your colleagues at AER. AER Information and Technology Division Leadership
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Gene Therapy: Treatment Affects More Than Eyes

Brain Building: Blindness Treatment Affects More Than Eyes  A gene treatment that targets the retinas of the eyes and can restore vision to some people who are blind actually affects not only their eyes, but also their brains, a new study shows. This article is on the livescience webpage. 
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From Online PDF to Print, Accessibly

When creating PDF documents that may be effectively shared online and still look nice when printed, make sure that you do not overlook these basic items.  semantically tagged content (headings, lists, tables) logical reading order (test with a screen reader) embed fonts descriptive hyperlinks, no "click here" language color contrast ratio 4.5:1 ​informational images have alternative text decorative images are marked as artifacts linked table of contents logical bookmarks  Accessibility Permission Flag is set to 'on' primary language is set tables are tagged with rows, headers These are just a few of the most important things to remember when creating your PDF document. If you have questions or would like more information, email me. See also https://helpx.adobe.com/acrobat/using/create-verify-pdf-accessibility.html and Matterhorn Protocol which is an accessible document that meets and models all of the above requirements:  http://www.pdfa.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/MatterhornProtocol_1-02.pdf 
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College Success Program

Learning Ally has been piloting a program where we offer access to online resources, mentors who have graduated successfully from an undergraduate degree and are now pursuing post graduate degrees.  This program is for students who are blind or visually impaired and are feeling the need for some support in college.  We match them according to standards that include, among other things: visual acuity and field of study.  Our mentors are located across the country, have undergone mentor training and are monitored by our staff to keep a feedback loop to staff between what students need and what we are providing.I am the Director for this program and have been the developer of the mentor program.  Our content and curriculum was stewarded by Kristen Witucki, who is a TVI as well as holding several advanced degrees in creative writing.  We have been fortunate to have access to an Advisory Panel that...
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Help Members Read with Bookshare Web Reader

Bookshare Web Reader, previously available only to Individual Members, is now available to students and other Organizational Members. Sponsors can help members read independently by following these steps: Log in to your Bookshare account. Set a login for your member. Assign books to a shared Reading List. After completing these steps, your member can log in on their own and read books independently. Learn more by attending an upcoming webinar. Bookshare website: www.bookshare.org  
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Win A Brand New BraillePen Touch Refreshable Braille Display!

Attention Students! Win A Brand New BraillePen Touch Refreshable Braille Display! Flying Blind, LLC Presents "The BraillePenmanship Giveaway"! Flying Blind, LLC (http://www.flying-blind.com/) and Harpo, the Polish-based manufacturer of the BraillePen and Mountbatten product lines, are offering one lucky student the opportunity to win a brand new BraillePen Touch Refreshable Braille Display valued at $995.00 USD! Here's how it works: Effective immediately we're offering any full-time vision impaired student the opportunity to draft an essay explaining to us how Braille has, is, and will impact their educational experience within the classroom, and within their community. We would also be interested to know how winning a brand new BraillePen Touch Refreshable Braille Display might impact the ways in which they would use Braille over the summer and in the coming school year. Essays should be 200-300 words in length and contain the student's name, the school they are/will be attending, current grade level,...
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Technology in Orientation and Mobility

2015-05-08 Technology in Orientation and Mobility A question came in about how technology is used during Orientation and Mobility lessons and I had so much fun typing the E-mail response I thought I share it as a blog post. There are so very many options today in terms of technology, but the basics of life shared in the terrific book Finding Wheels are still as relevant today as ever. The foundation of travel and getting where you want to go is enhanced by technologies but one still needs that special gray matter between the ears, a white cane or guide dog if non-visual or partial visual travel skills are needed, and a healthy serving of common sense. That being said, on with the toys : ) The Trekker Breeze is quite familiar to most folks as an accessible GPS solution that is on the verge of getting much, much better. HumanWare...
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Geocaching and Letterboxing for Orientation and Mobility Lessons

Geocaching and Letterboxing for Orientation and Mobility Lessons For those wanting to add some creative adventures to their Orientation and Mobility lessons, you can introduce the concept of Geocaching and Letterboxing. Here are some suggestions for activities: Have prepared locations for "letterboxing" with described directions, using cardinal directions from a known landmark and use the compass (braille, talking, or app from smart phone) as an orientation tool. Have students enter the location of a cache with latitude and longitude coordinates into BlindSquare (iOS) or APH Nearby Explorer (Android) to get some prompting by tracking the coordinates as a landmark. For a team activity, braille the clues and hints so that students can use their compensatory skills to read to the group. To develop concepts for Orientation and Mobility, be sure to use words that emphasize the concept in the directions, such as parallel and perpendicular, traffic side of sidewalk, cardinal directions,...
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Odin VI Talking Cell Phone

Looking for a simple accessible cell phone with just the necessities? This might be what you are looking for. http://odinmobile.com/phones/odin-vi-unlocked/ From their website: Odin VI — Unlocked $199.00 With New Activation and No Contract (May be used with service from AT&T, T-Mobile or any other GSM provider) The ODIN VI is a talking cell phone that is 100 percent accessible to the blind. It speaks everything that is on the screen, speaks the keys that you press and even prompts you to perform certain functions. Create your own contacts and move through your contact list to hear the names read out loud. Write text messages and hear your incoming messages spoken to you. Access your call log to learn which calls you missed. The ODIN VI speaks the caller ID, as well as the amount of battery charge, the signal strength and the time and date. You can even select between...
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Ensuring Accessible Educational Materials

We all know how important it is that our students get their instructional materials in an accessible format and in a timely manner.  It's written into the Federal IDEA law!  I hadn't seen the Dear Colleague Letter and the FAQ document that were issued in the fall by the Department of Justice and the Department of Education.  Check this out, from a recent post by the National Center on Accessible Educational Materials for Learning at : AEM in Elementary and Secondary Schools Accessible Educational Materials and the IEP In order to participate and achieve in the general curriculum, all students need educational materials that they can perceive and interact with. IDEA states that timely access to appropriate and accessible instructional materials is an inherent component of the obligation of public agencies to ensure that a free appropriate public education (FAPE) is available for children with disabilities. When AEM is explicitly incorporated into a...
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2015 Texas Deafblind Symposium

Once every two years, the Texas Deafblind Project hosts a big conference. This year's 2015 Texas Deafblind Symposium will host several nationally known speakers as well as many presenters from across Texas. Beginning February 19 with a pre-conference on pre-linguistic communication interaction, and continuing with the main conference the 20 and 21, with a theme of Mindfulness:  Active Attention to the Here and Now. Some of our best known speakers include: Bernadette van den Tillaart, Deafblind Consultant Haben Girma, Civil Rights Advocate Dr. Catherine Nelson, Assistant Professor, Department of Special Education, University of Utah Tanni Anthony, Director of Low Vision and Blindness Services, Colorado Department of Education Dr. Amy Parker, Coordinator of Professional Development and Products, National Center on Deafblindness Registration is closed, but detailed information on the sessions can be found at: http://www.tsbvi.edu/workshops-items/4203-tx-symposium-detailed
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Ai Squared (ZoomText) and GW Micro Merger

This might be old news to some but in May 2014, Ai Squared , the makers of ZoomText  and GW Micro, makers of Window Eyes have merged into one company.  I don’t how they are logistically going to do this since Ai Squared’s headquarters is in Vermont while GW Mico’s is in Indiana.   Anyway,  we’ll see if this is a good move or not.  Stay tuned.  If you want to read more on the merger here is a weblink. http://www.aisquared.com/about_us/categories/category/merger
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Apps for Independence in the Community and Orientation and Mobility

Apps for Independence in the Community and Orientation and Mobility I have a penchant for buying apps to check which work best for various activities. Here are a few favorites that are either specifically designed for blind or visually impaired users, or are apps that work well with VoiceOver. Many are multiplatform and available on iOS via the Apple Store, Android via Google Play, and Windows Phone via Windows Phone Store. GPS Apps: Apple Maps and Siri (built in iOS app, free) Apple Maps is built into iOS devices and can provide spoken location information and pedestrian directions, but it needs to tie into other apps to provide routing directions that involve public transportation Google Maps with Google Now and Talkback (free) Can provide location and directions with spoken information [https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/google-maps/id585027354?mt=8] [https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.apps.maps&hl=en] BlindSquare Terrific GPS app that is tailored to travlers who are blind and visually impaired. It integrates with other...
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Mixing O&M, Technology, and the Expanded Core Curriculum

Mixing O&M, Technology, and the Expanded Core Curriculum Here are some suggestions for using apps for each area of the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) as part of orientation and mobility lessons, and also a brief description of an option for a GPS app, BlindSquare. So, without further ado, here goes... Compensatory Skills: Braille Touch is an app that allows six finger entry of text into the iPhone and can be used for route directions, grocery lists, phone numbers, etc. Compensatory Skills are clearly represented in this activity, and rather than the Orientation and Mobility Specialist “Teaching Braille”, they merely encouraging the generalization of the student’s already developed braille skills for use in the community, without having to bring a Perkins Brailler to the grocery store. Recreation and Leisure: Geocaching is a fun activity that can be made accessible with GPS apps, such as BlindSquare. This is a great example of a mainstream...
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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! http://www.familyconnect.org/info/education/expanded-core-curriculum/a-holiday-approach-to-the-ecc/independent-living-skills-for-the-holidays/2345
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