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Blind advocates: Hollywood lobbying threatens deal for accessible books

Disputes between blind groups and content companies could kill copyright treaty.   From arstechnica (http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/05/blind-advocates-hollywood-lobbying-threatens-deal-for-accessible-books/) by Timothy B. Lee - May 10 2013, 8:04am CDT Exerpt of article: "For the last several years, negotiators at the World Intellectual Property Organization have been working on a copyright treaty that would make it easier for blind people to get accessible versions of books, like well-annotated audio books or large-print editions. But aggressive lobbying by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the Association of American Publishers (AAP), and other US copyright interests threatens to derail the negotiations, according to several advocates for the blind who spoke to Ars. "The main sticking point has been whether to try to use the treaty as a vehicle for enhancing copyright protections or whether the treaty should remain clearly focused on carving out an exception to allow works to be produced in accessible formats for the blind," said Frederic Schroeder,...
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BrailleTouch App for iPhone

The BrailleTouch app is now available in the US iTunes Store; free for the basic and then a purchase price to add in additional features such as text, E-mail, etc. It might be fun for students to try, especially the free version. It is awkward feeling at first but you get used to it as all fingers represent the same dots as they would on the Perkins Brailler. It helps to have a case on your iphone while learning to use the app so you have a surface to grip which prevents your phone from slipping out of your hand while learning to use the braille keyboard.
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Assistive Technology Needs for a Student with a Visual Impairment

Just in case you are having trouble figuring out what technology is out there for a student with a visual impairment, here is a resource that could help you out while making your supervisor (or the one who has the money) nervous. It was compiled by the good folks at the California School for the Blind:  Jerry Kuns, James Carreon and Adrian Amandi.  It is quite an extensive list. The file is a downloadable Word document and is listed as one of the links labeled "What's Available in Assistive Technology for Students with Visual Impairment-March 2011".   It has been updated to include iOS and Mac accessibility.  Of course, your student(s) may not need "everything" but this is a good reference for what type of technology is available.  Besides this resource document, included on the web page are various assistive technology topics.  It is quite a wealth of information. http://www.csb-cde.ca.gov/technology.htm Happy reading. Patrick Van Geem, TVI Assistive...
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Spellgate Accessible iOS game

Three University of North Carolina computer science students created a beginning spelling game app that is totally accessible! Spellgate, a free app, is now in the app store. Zoom and VoiceOver work well with the game. They also added an option in settings so that when you use the Refresh-able Braille Device (RBD), you can turn off the picture labeling if desired so that the RBD does not spell out the picture label. (Spelling out the picture label provides the answer!) You can also mute VO and the student will have to rely on reading the RBD letters. The students will continue to work on the game next semester, so please provide your input! They plan to do some fine tuning and hope to add letter recognition (matching letters) and a way for teachers to add their own words. Click on the link for more information: http://www.ifreeware.net/download-spellgate.html In the app store, you can...
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New Copyright Rules and Revised Braille System

New Precedent-Setting Copyright Rules Promote Access! and Revised Braille System Adopted in US! Copyright The Librarian of Congress recently announced a decision of significant import for the future of information access rights. Endorsing a favorable recommendation by the Registrar of Copyrights concerning a petition filed jointly by the American Foundation for the Blind and the American Council of the Blind, the Librarian of Congress has determined that copyright protection measures built into ebooks and other electronic materials will no longer pose needless barriers to the materials' use by people who are blind or who otherwise have print disabilities. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), it is unlawful to circumvent digital rights management or related technological protections built into a work, such as an ebook, unless the Librarian of Congress has established an exemption allowing circumvention in certain contexts. The exemption that the Librarian of Congress has established now allows individuals with...
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Testing for the pH Factor in Liquids using the LabQuest (1st Version)

This is a short four-part video demonstrating how students in a science lab at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired use the LabQuest equipment from Vernier Science .  They are finding the pH factor of four liquids: distilled water, tap water, milk and vinegar. The data collection device used in the experiment is the stand-alone LabQuest-Version 1.   LabQuest 1 is the only Vernier device that “accepts” the Sci-Voice scripting software.  With Sci-Voice installed, the LabQuest 1 device is able to voice the data.  This enables the student with a visual impairment to hear the incremental changes relative to time of any experiment that is recorded by a sensor probe used in conjunction with the LabQuest device.  Discerning the change in incremental findings of substances as they occur in real time is essential to laboratory experiments and data collection.   A pH sensor is plugged into one of the...
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Braille Writer App for Mac OS

If you have one of the super-duper Macs (geek talk for MacBook Pro or Air with 10.7-Lion or greater and 64 bit processor), there are a couple of apps in the Mac store that are braille writing applications.  Both applications are for those trying to learn braille by using six-key entry on a qwerty keyboard. The fancier one is Braille Writer Pro ($29.99). It can handle both contracted and uncontracted braille.  It can translate braille into English. Braille Writer Pro can also read and write files using the .dxb  (Duxbury) file format. You can email and/or print files either with or without translation.  There is also a dictionary that allows you to look up braille letters, numbers, symbols and contractions by using English or braille. The student version, Braille Writer Student (10.99), does not include the translation feature but does include the dictionary.  This one is good for students learning contractions...
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How to use VoiceOver on Mac OS X Mountain Lion

Mountain Lion is the latest Operating System (OS) from Apple for all of their Mac products. If you are purchasing or your school is purchasing a new Mac, chances are it will come with Mountain Lion as the OS. When a new Mac OS is created there are changes made to all aspects of the software including VoiceOver. This does not mean that any skills you might have learned are obsolete but that new features have be added. The new features are meant to make the computer more accessible using VoiceOver. The place to find how to use the new improved VoiceOver is on Apple's VoiceOver help website. This is from the Website. VoiceOver Getting Started This guide explains how to use VoiceOver, the advanced screen reader built into OS X Mountain Lion (version 10.8). This guide includes lists of VoiceOver commands. To navigate the guide, select a link from the...
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Online "Hark the Sound" Game

Hark the Sound, an educational game for blind students that uses the ARROW KEYS is now available online for free.  One of their new games for young blind students is called “Save the Animals”.  The game requires the student to identify the first letter of the animal they hear then press the correct braille letter on the keyboard.  The home row keys  FDS and JKL are used to type in the braille letters.  To access the online application and game, Go to:  http://www.harkthesound.org Click on “Browse the games now” Press your right or left arrow keys until you hear “braille games”.   Press your up arrow key once.  Continue to use your right or left arrow keys until you hear “Save the animals” then press the up arrow. A wonderful way to reinforce braille with a new student.
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iPad Curriculum for Students with Visual Impairments

Robert Miller of the Oklahoma School for the Blind Assistive Technology Lab has written an in-depth curriculum for using the iPad with VoiceOver, Zoom and Refreshable Braille Displays. The curriculum will guide you and your student step by step through setting the accessibility features up to teaching specific gestures and commands needed to use the iPad with VoiceOver and Zoom.  As with any shared curriculum, please give credit to the author or authors when distributing the curriculum.  Robert asks for any feedback to help him improve his curriculum. Three versions of the curriculum can be found on the Oklahoma School for the Blind website.  
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Free Braille Books

From the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults website: In 1997 the AAF (American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults) started this program to provide blind children a free Braille book every month from a popular children's reading series. The books are for the children to keep and collect for as long as they want them. The titles published every month are the same titles that are available in bookstores and public libraries everywhere. In the past ten years over one hundred seventy titles from popular children’s reading series were distributed to thousands of blind children. As we send the 2012 titles out each month, the corresponding BRF files will be available here. You will be able to download your free Braille books electronically by right clicking on the file or using the applications key to choose "Save Target As" in Internet Explorer or "Save Link As" in Mozilla Firefox.
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E-Texts

For my first blog entry, I want to share an editorial that was written by Nicholas Carr and first published in the Dallas Morning News on August 5, 2011. You can find the text of the editorial here: http://www.macon.com/schools-beware-the-e-book-bandwagon.html Let me start with a disclaimer that I am a fan of Nicholas Carr. This link will open a webpage containing a quick biography of him: http://www.nicholasgcarr.com I have been struck by his thoughts about how recent changes in technology are affecting brain development. What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains is amazing and scary all at once. It is also controversial and not universally accepted. Contrast Carr’s editorial with Governor Rick Perry’s call (reported April 7, 2010) to do away with all paper textbooks by 2014: http://www.nbcdfw.com/Gov-Perry-Wants-School-Texts-to-be-Online-Only-by-2014.html Clearly, Texas is not the only state looking at doing away with paper texts. And I will agree with some of the points...
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