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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 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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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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VIStars is a non-profit organization in Massachusetts that provides after-school programs for students who are blind or visually impaired. Their mission is to create safe, accessible and stimulating environments where students can acquire skills related to their unique visual needs. They promote social interaction with other students with visual impairments while exposing the group to recreation and leisure activities, independent living skills, career education and leadership skills.  Their goal is for the students to transfer the skills they learn at VIStars to their individual school and community experiences.  Check out their website:   Especially note the video of Precious, a visually impaired young lady, singing “I will Never Ever Live Without My Cane”:
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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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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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Need ACVREP Credits?

Need ACVREP continuing education credits?  Check out Perkins E-learning website. Perkins E-learning Website Kate Hurst, Statewide Staff Development Coordinator Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired Outreach Programs
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iOS 6 Maps for Travel

Now that you've upgraded to iOS 6 on your device, what do you do for transit directions? With all the nice things that came along with the recent update to Apple's iOS, there was one change that may affect the way Orientation and Mobility Specialists share information with students/clients, and for travelers in general who use public transportation.  The built in Maps application that was previously a Google Maps iteration has now switched to an Apple creation.  One feature notably absent is the ability to select pedestrian or public transportation options for directions when creating a route.  This was a nice feature for planning travel and changing plans while on the go in previous versions of iOS.  So what is there to do now? One solution is to go to the built in browser, Safari, and navigate to  This will bring up a mobile version of Google Maps and will likely...
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New School Year

Just to get things rolling with a new school year beginning, here are a few links with loads of information, inspiration, and answers to many questions that students/clients may have. BlindHOW, "Finding answers & sharing knowledge related to any question regarding blindness & visual impairment" Braille Institute documents and multimedia files for information, research or education. VisionAware™, Resources for Independent Living with Vision Loss And, looking forward to professional development... AER will hold its next International Conference in San Antonio, TX in 2014.  The AERBVI Board also approved a request from the Orientation and Mobility Division to hold a separate conference in 2013 specifically focused on Orientation and Mobility, similar to the "mega conference" held in New Orleans, LA in 2003 with over 600 in attendance.  Location and date are yet to be determined.  
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New Feature on Ambutech Canes

If you have ordered a new Ambutech cane recently you will likely be surprised to find a new feature when changing your cane tip.  Ambutech is now including a Cordlock device with all canes that use the hook style tip.  Previously when changing a tip you had to be careful to hold the cord so that it would not release back into the cane shaft after being pulled out as the tip was removed.  Many people would place a pencil or pen between the knot on the cord at the loop and the cane shaft to make replacing the hook style tip a bit easier, and then remove it after the new tip was installed so the cord and tip could be drawn back into the shaft of the cane.  The challenge with this approach was that a pen or pencil was not always nearby when changing a tip and using...
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PUT IT ON YOUR CALENDAR: 2012 SWOMA Conference Nov. 1-3, 2012 @ TSBVI in Austin, TX Registration information available later this summer Check our website for statewide trainings listing.
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Summer Professional Development Opportunities for Orientation and Mobility

June 30th Contemporary Issues in Rehabilitation and Education For the Blind 11th ANNUAL REHABILITATION AND ORIENTATION AND MOBILITY CONFERENCE Hilton Anatole Hotel, Dallas, Texas Sponsored by National Blindness Professional Certification Board (NBPCB) and Professional Development & Research Institute on Blindness (PDRIB) Louisiana Tech University. July 18-22 AER International Conference Hyatt Regency Bellevue, Bellevue, Washington Alternatives For those that are not able to attend a conference and would still like to participate in professional development activities, Association for Education of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) offers on-line training topics specific to orientation and mobility, that are also approved for Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (ACVREP) credit hours. Chris Tabb  
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Cane Quest in Austin!

The first ever Cane Quest in Austin will be held on Saturday, May 19th.  It is a collaborative project sponsored by ESC XIII and TSBVI Outreach and School; the event's purpose is to applaud our students' commitment to continuing to grow in developing their O&M skills.  As such, it is not expected that students will have reached their highest efficiency level to participate.  The basic criteria:  students in grades 9 - 12, 20/600 or less in the better eye with correction, has had training in the areas of residential, business, city bus, escalators, stairs, and soliciting assistance,  and use of human guide is not the primary mode of travel when in community settings.  Students will be monitored by O&M specialists, and there will be a distance learning Cane Quest Q and A in the fall (date TBA). Any questions can be directed to: Diane Barnes, ESC XIII O&M Consultant 5701 Springdale Road, Austin TX 78723 512.919-5331 Additional Details for Cane Quest...
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White Cane Law Bumper Stickers

pedestrians with cane and dog Have you ever been frustrated by drivers that don’t seem to know the White Cane Laws? Now you can create awareness Every place you drive your car.   Order your White Cane Law Bumper Stickers And help fund SWOMA Conferences   Mail your check payable to TSBVI-SWOMA Fund #4727 Mail to:  _(your name)    __________________________________________________________________ Your Address:  ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­__________________________________________________________________________ Number of bumper stickers ordered:   __________                                     Check enclosed for:  $__________ Send orders to:  Carrie Keith, TSBVI Outreach, 1100 W. 45th St., Austin, TX  78756  ?Questions:  512-206-9314 Size:  3-inches by 11-1/2 inches
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