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Recent blog posts
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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Posted on in Outreach Technology
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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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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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 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 is...
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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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Posted on in Outreach Technology
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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Posted on in Outreach VI Team
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 aer@cast.org: 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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Posted on in Outreach Technology
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 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 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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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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Posted on in Family Matters
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 www.texaschargers.org.  Hope to see you there!...
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Posted on in Orientation and Mobility in Texas
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...
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Posted on in Texas Deafblind Project
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).  ...
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Posted on in Outreach VI Team
Thought this was an interesting article.....certainly makes a case for active learning at all levels. http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/08/06/336361277/scientists-say-childs-play-helps-build-a-better-brain...
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Posted on in Orientation and Mobility in Texas
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: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=799199576770749&id=109521635738550 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...
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Posted on in Family Matters
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: http://www.dads.state.tx.us/news_info/faqs_fact/index.html 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...
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Posted on in Outreach Technology
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 http://odinmobile.com/phones/odin-vi/. 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...
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Posted on in Orientation and Mobility in Texas
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. KeyMaps 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...
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