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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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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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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 [] [] 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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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...
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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
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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. 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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O&M Portal for COMS

TSBVI Outreach has created an O&M Portal for COMS.  This page is simply the start of what we hope will become a great tool for COMS.  We will be adding to and updating regularly with the help of our talented Texas COMS.  Please share this with the COMS in your region and bookmark this page for future use. Kate Hurst Statewide Staff Development Coordinator
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Can an iPod be used with GPS and other apps that are handy for O&M instruction?

Often the question will come up about using an iPod touch or iPad with GPS; this post is intended to give at least a start to answering the question. The iPod and the iPad have different answers to the question though. If you have had a full night's sleep and or a fresh cup of coffee and are feeling ready to wade into the details, here we go...  The iPod touch and the iPad with WI-FI only do come with a digital compass app and when connected to a WI-FI network can determine your location. When they do not have internet access, they cannot use location information but the internal sensor will allow the compass to work.  Here is the description from Apple's iPod Touch product page: "For iPod touch with Maps, the Maps application provides your approximate location using information based on your proximity to known WI-FI networks (when on...
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New Orientation Technology on the Horizon

So many advances in technology are making their way into how people travel, from self-driving cars to phones that function as mobile travel agents; the world for travelers just 20 years from now will likely be surreal compared to today's travel world. Just as phones were once required to be attached to the wall and your finger had to turn the dial, and now we can talk on our phones hands free while multitasking other activities in just about any location. One of the new advances being developed will address challenges of orientation for indoor environments. For some fun dreaming of what future generations will be able to benefit from, read on to find out about a project at Auburn University. "Navigation devices used by blind people today lack the ability to operate indoors and other areas where GPS is not available, and are unable to help the user deal with items that...
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SIMO - Simplified Information for Mobility & Orientation

Just in time for warmer weather and those planning trips beyond the states or even just some summer professional development reading, here are two items to keep you connected with all things related to orientation and mobility. **The International Journal of Orientation and Mobility (IJOM)** The International Journal of Orientation and Mobility (IJOM) has the 2012 Edition, as well as all other editions, available on their new web store.  The link is [] and you have the option of purchasing a downloadable version or a hard copy version; the downloadable is half the price and the hard copy is delivered from Australia and might take a bit to arrive.  **SIMO - Simplified Information for Mobility & Orientation** "The Simplified Information Mobility and Orientation (SIMO) Project has been running in full since 2008. The project involves the development of an indoor way-finding/navigation system in conjunction with people who are blind and...
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Using YouTube to Inspire Your Kid to LOVE the Long White Cane

As a mom, I am often blown away and overwhelmed by the realization that I play such a big role as my sons develop their own beliefs and attitudes as they become men.  Thankfully, it is a daily, moment by moment decision that takes a very, very long time to happen.  And thankfully, we also have the ability to stop from time to time and consider taking a different approach.  Maybe even a different philosophy.  As one of the family support gals with the TSBVI Outreach team, I get to call it my job doing what I love – supporting families and watching them lead us into some pretty awesome systems improvement.   I also spend some time away from TSBVI doing something else I’m pretty passionate about – teaching Orientation & Mobility (O&M) to adults.   There is something pretty cool about witnessing people become confident travelers, especially when you get to...
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Michigan Severity Scales

The Michigan Severity Scales have recently been updated to include the ability to edit the file on an iPad or computer rather than having to print the PDF or annotate it with another program.  The Adobe Reader program shows the field areas to be filled in and the document/program will then automatically add the values entered for the total score.  You can save the edited version with a specific student's information and make updates to the file at a later time if needed. The updated files for Orientation and Mobility Scales can be found at: OMSRS Information and Guidelines [PDF] OMSRS+ Information and Guidelines [PDF]
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The Under 18 mph Crowd Is About to Make Some Noise!

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has moved forward with its efforts to meet the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010 and has released a proposal which now has a 60 day comment period before it proceeds. “Our proposal would allow manufacturers the flexibility to design different sounds for different makes and models while still providing an opportunity for pedestrians, bicyclists and the visually impaired to detect and recognize a vehicle and make a decision about whether it is safe to cross the street,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. Hybrid and electric vehicles, including motorcycles and heavy duty vehicles, traveling under 18 miles per hour would need to emit a sound to make the vehicle distinguishable from surrounding environmental noise. Read the press release from the U.S. Department of Transportation The proposal detail in PDF format can be downloaded from this link:
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Cane Donations Needed for Haiti

I'm on my way to Haiti to work in the St. Vincent's School for Handicapped Children. They have 350 students, 90 of whom are blind. I am hoping to develop a solid O&M program while I am there...nothing is in place at the moment. The school is under the auspices of the Episcopalian Church and is still trying to rebuild and regroup from that horrible earthquake two years ago. They lost buildings, students, and some teachers to that disaster. If you can help, with funds to purchase new canes, or have old canes hanging around that you are not using, could you direct them to me: Susan Culp, CTVI in New Mexico, and soon-to-be licensed COMS I am leaving from my sister's house in New Jersey on January 10th: Address for greatly appreciated donations: Susan Culp c/o Pattie Lyons, COMS 55 Rivers Edge Drive Little Silver, New Jersey 07739 Thanks in advance.
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Google Maps for iOS

It's Back, and It's Better: Google Maps has returned as a standalone app to the iOS.  The app now longer needs to be saved as a Web page icon to the device's home screen and can be downloaded directly from the Apple iOS App Store.  The new app from Google does not include route options for bicycles, but in addition to the default vehicle list mode for directions, it also includes public transportation and pedestrian mode.  The displayed route for the starting and ending points you enter will display results that are accessible via VoiceOver and for public transportation can even include the number and location of bus stops along the provided route so travelers will know what stops to be aware of as they near their destination if they choose to exit early, etc. So if you were previously utilizing this app when it was "built in" to the previous...
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There's never been a better time to get Tactile!

We found this wonderful gem written by Jim Durkel before his death. APH has a wonderful new tool for orientation and mobility called Tactile Town.  Here  is the description taken from the APH Web site: "This kit assists in the development of cognitive mapping skills by helping students who are visually impaired and blind perceive and organize their physical environment specific to concepts such as street layouts, intersections, route patterns, city block arrangements, etc. It encourages active participation and interaction with displayed map layouts so that concepts and skills, not conveniently accessed through real-life exploration, can be learned and practiced." I have to admit I have a personal bias toward using Tactile Town as I was able to use it during the field testing phase.  The number of uses was huge at that time and it continues to grow.  I use the set with students of all ability levels, from those...
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Opportunity to Raise Guide Dogs

We now have the opportunity to raise Guide Dog puppies in Austin!  The Lone Star Guide Dog Raisers are co-lead by Charlotte Simpson and Kelli Wiethorn.  We are working with Guide Dogs for the Blind, and have a lot of support through the San Rafael group and a group in Dallas/ Ft. Worth.  We hope to provide community education on blindness, and what better way to open a dialogue than puppies!! Our next monthly meeting is Monday, November 12th 7p.m.-8:30p.m.  The guest speaker will be Charlotte's student, Dallas Wiens (the first man in the USA to receive a face transplant).  Please join us in the Criss Cole auditorium (4800 N. Lamar, Austin, TX  78756) if you are interested! Lone Star Guide Dog Raisers Facebook Page: Lone Star Guide Dog Raisers Meetup Group: Dallas Wiens story: Charlotte Simpson O&M Specialist- Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center Work Direct Line: (512) 377-0416  
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