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There is a great deal of functional software for student who are visually impaired to learn, including JAWS and Zoomtext. However, even children that are ready for JAWS need a break in their day to do something that is interesting to them. A variety of software is available that makes sounds and may increase a child's interest in using the computer.

Below are some programs that have sound, speech, etc. and can be beneficial as well as fun.


 

IntelliTools

Try software by IntelliTools, and the TACK-TILES KEYPAD for IntelliKeys. IntelliTools software creation tools such as IntelliPics, IntelliTalk II, etc. provide a lot of flexibility in the approach to enjoying the computer. IntelliTools has software that will run on PCs or Macintosh computers. Their web site http://www.intellitools.com/ has an activity exchange with scores of programs free to download. New programs are added frequently. Only a few are specifically focused on the visually impaired. The KEYPAD is very new to the market. I've played around with modifying programs I've downloaded from that site written for use by the sighted. It's not very difficult in many cases. Get TACK-TILES Keypad at http://www.tack-tiles.com.

Math Flash

I hope you will try Math Flash from APH (The American Printing House for the Blind, Inc.). It has sounds, speech, animated characters, helps improve math skills, and is actually fun! (A child could work the problems mentally and/or on his abacus.) Math Flash runs on a PC with Windows 95 or later. It is recommended for ages 6 years and up. It is easily modified from super easy to increasingly difficult - very user friendly. You have to promise to let your student or child use it most of the time; don't worry he'll let you have a turn so you too can have a little fun!

The cost is $24. You can even download a demo version before you spend the money. Check it out at:
http://www.aph.org/
http://www.aph.org/tech/mf_info.htm 

Magic Match

We have the game Magic Match by MindsEye2. It is a matching game with various themes. It can be played alone or with a second player who is blind or sighted. My son likes this game; he is in the second grade. Magic Match has really helped him with keyboarding skills! I would highly recommend this product. 

 

The above information was gleaned from the AER listserv and edited by Information Resources at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

by Holly Cooper

For students with visual impairments we typically use assistive tech to:

  • Modify presentation of learning media to compensate for sensory and motor deficits (such as screen magnification, voice output, and braille translation, switch activated software)
  • Facilitate interaction with peers and others
  • Provide opportunities for recreation and leisure activities
  • Practice and enhance performance of cognitive concepts
  • Practice and enhance performance of vocational activities
  • Assist with activities of Daily Living

Hardware

Low Tech Devices

Low tech devices can give kids great opportunities for play, interaction with peers, ability to partially participate in activities by using electric appliances, and early experiences with augmentative communication devices.

Let's take a look at some switches, interfaces and other products you might be interested in.  Sources for purchasing these items are in your handout.

  • Ablenet: switches, powerlink
  • Don Johnston: Switch Interface
  • Enabling Devices: Take N Talk

Switch Accessible Software

Switch accessible software can allow kids with disabilities to practice concepts and skills.  There are now a multitude of software games and activities available for kids at the cause/effect level.  Software packages that that reinforce skills like matching and learning pre-academic and academic concepts that are switch accessible and accessible for blind and visually impaired users are harder to find, but getting better.

Cause/Effect

Free:

  • Senswitcher
  • Northern Grids for Learning
  • (other sources are in your handout)

Commercially Produced:

  • RJ Cooper: Rad Sounds, others
  • Judy Lynne Software: Cause Effect Cinema, others

Academic and Pre-academic Concepts

  • Judy Lynne Software: Match It, Visual Motor Skills
  • RJ Cooper: Early and Advanced Switch Games
  • Attainment Company: Books on CD: Grooming for Life, and others
  • Laureate Learning: Nouns & Sounds (a real winner, concepts for kids functioning at 24-48 month levels, voice output, auditory scanning, Wow!)

Talking Books

Switch accessible talking books are great.  They can give students with disabilities the following opportunities:

  • Opportunities to participate in literature based instruction
  • Opportunities to participate in a shared activity with a peer
  • Opportunities to access language experience stories about real events in their lives
  • Opportunities to review steps in a activity they are learning
  • Opportunities to practice switch use in a functional context with content meaningful to them

It's pretty easy to make switch accessible talking books Using Power Point or Clicker 4.  I'll demonstrate one made with Power Point.  Included in your handout are tutorials on making books.  For a tutorial on making one with Clicker 4, see the resources list.  After the overview, we'll come back and work our way through a page of a talking book in Power Point.

  • PowerPoint
  • Clicker 4

Clicker 4

I'll show you some examples of what Clicker 4 does.  (See my Clicker 4 handout) It's got a great built in tutorial that will walk you through the steps of creating communication and choice grids.  You can make simple choice making grids, communication grids, grids to write sentences and stories, and of course, talking books.

Reach Software

(I may run out of time and skip this, for more info, see Applied Human Factors on the Resources list.  They have a free demo you can download and try out.)  This is a software package that features a switch accessible on-screen keyboard.  You can customize you own keys so that they perform two or three keystrokes to open an email program or perform other functions.

Making a Talking Book

See the tutorial provided for assistance.  We will work through setting up a couple of pages.  The source for the tutorial is listed on your resource list.

by Holly Cooper

Linda Burkhart
www.lburkhart.com
She literally wrote the book on switch activated battery operated toys.
Her handouts are on line at http://www.lburkhart.com/handouts.htm

Stages
A set of materials about using technology with kids with disabilities
By Madalaine Pugliese
http://assistivetech.com/corporate/home.aspx

Our Website at Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

AAC Intervention.com: Augmentative/Alternative Communication Intervention
Julie Maro, Caroline Musselwhite
http://aacintervention.com/

AAC Intervention.com: Activity Ideas
http://aacintervention.com/nursery.html

Creating Literature Based Communication Boards
by Lori Tufte
http://aacintervention.com/litboards.htm

Families & Advocates Partnership for Education
http://www.fape.org/pubs/index.htm
The publications page of this site has some good resources, two nice ones on technology:

  • Assistive Technology for Infants and Toddlers
  • 1997 Individuals With Disabilities Education Act Amendments Increase Access to Technology for Students

Tutorials
Here's the source for the Talking Book tutorial, plus others:
Assistive Technology Training Online:
http://atto.buffalo.edu/registered/Tutorials.php

Here is some free software that is designed for kids that are switch users or are not yet academic learners

Inclusive TLC
http://www.inclusive.co.uk/downloads/downloads.shtml
available switch accessible games include
Talking Faces - free, switch accessible software (included on the disk we made you) and Inclusive CD Player - switch accessible on-screen CD player

Northern Grids for Learning
http://www.northerngrid.org
SENSwitcher - free switch accessible software, including documents for how to install, how to assess switch skills using data collection sheets included in the files, description of the levels of learning built into the different games, etc.
http://www.northerngrid.org/ngflwebsite/sen/Download.htm
The above is free, but is sent to you in zipped files and consists of several parts, so you may want to have someone handy to help you access it and set it up for the first time.

 

by Sharon Nichols

Self-Advocacy: 

Use of a single cell augmentative device to respond in a group setting.

  • The Big Red device is recorded with the student's name, the switch also has her name in Braille taped to the top, when it is her turn in circle time she tells the teacher how to say and spell her name.

Social Skills:  

Use of a single cell device and tactile symbols to interact with peers.

  • Another student uses the same device with a tactile symbol attached to the top to respond to the question "what is the weather today?"
  • The student can use the single cell device to greet peers as the enter they the building or classroom.

Career Readiness:

Use of a Power Link to participate in a general education setting to practice job skill activities.

  • The Power Link is connected to an electric pencil sharpener and a single switch device. As the 3rd graders insert their pencils, the MIVI student sharpens the pencil by turning on the sharpener with the switch device.

Daily Living:  

Use of a Power Link to participate in daily living activities.

  • The student participates in cooking activities using a blender connected to a Power Link and a single switch device.
  • Other common electrical devices that can be useful may include a food processor, a back massager pad, a hair dryer, a tape player, and a radio.

Leisure:

Use of a Power Link and a Big Red switch to participate in leisure activities.

  • The student can operate a battery powered card shuffler.
  • Low vision students can work with a peer to make designs with a Bite Lite. The MIVI student, must turn the Brite Lite on and off.
  • The student can access computer activities such as Happy Duck, K-1, Touch.

Choice Making:

Use of a rocker switch to make a choice between to items.

  • The student will make a choice between two choices for a snack, two songs, or clothing using a rocker switch that has been modified with large print, enlarged picture symbols, tactile symbols or real objects.

Resources:

Levin, J. & Scherfenberg, L. (1990). Selection and Use of Simple Technology in Home, School, Work, and Community Settings .Minneapolis, MN: AbleNet, Inc.

Levin, J. & Enselein, K. (1990). Fun for Everyone A Guide to adapted Leisure Activities for children with Disabilities, MN: AbleNet, Inc.

Catalogues:

  • Inclusive technology for Learning and Communication 
  • Attainment Company, Options for Special Needs
  • Able net

by Sharon Nichols

Note Takers

  • Reinforcement/Reward - Create a file called "braille", the classroom teacher can have the student turn on the APH Scholar and practice the braille alphabet.
  • Spelling Test - Help the student create a file called "spellwords", let them practice spelling their words for the upcoming test.
  • Teach the classroom teacher how to connect the APH Scholar or Braille Note to the computer for a visual display. This will encourage the teacher to "help" with the note taker.
  • Help the student create separate class folders (Science, LA, Social Studies), have one file in each folder called, "homework". Have the student write their assignments and due dates then create a "hard return". This will make each assignment appear on a separate line in the file, which will make it much easier for the student to access.
  • Help the student create a file called, "phone". Follow the procedure of inserting a hard return after the name and number is written. This will allow the name and number to appear on the same separate line.
  • Help the student load the games which come with the APH Scholar disk. Remember computer games are how most students learn to use the computer!
  • Look at the TEKS for Technology, and ask your local tech teacher for ideas.
  • One of your greatest resources is other VI teachers, talk to each other and exhange ideas.

Warning! Although the note takers have calculators built in, the Perkins braille writer is still the only way to teach math skills. It allows both spatial and step by step verification for the student.

Computers

  • Begin using "Talking Typer" from APH to teach keyboarding skills. The program is free and keeps important data such as: words per minute, mistakes in lessons, and sequential lessons. This program is self-voicing, which means it speaks straight out of the box.
  • Use "Math Flash" from APH to reinforce math skills. It has a variety of settings: addition, subtraction, multiplication, etc. The skill level can be set by the teacher, as well as how many problems in each drill set. Most important, it is a game!
  • Check out www.tsbvi.edu Computer Games for Students with Visual Impairments.
  • Consider using "Connect Outloud" from www.freedomscientific.com. This is the same as JAWS, but only works with MS Internet Explorer, Outlook Express (email), and it's own word processor. It is a great start for younger students!

Resources

http://www.setbc.org/res/guides/default.html
Print Resouces for technology. Has guides for the Mountbatten braille writer, Intellitools, ACC devices, and other VI technology.

http://www.pegmarston.com/

  • Curriculum for Teaching Blind Students
  • Microsoft Word: Typing with Keyboard Commands
  • 20 Printed Lessons for Teachers Braille and Word Files for Students
  • Margaret Marston, Ph. D. Copyright 2001

IEP Objectives for Using Digital Talking Books. If you don't know what these are, check it out!

http://www.setbc.org/projects/virg/p2_09.html
Visually Impaired Resource Guide - Assistive Technology for Students who use Braille
Braille Lite

http://www.setbc.org/projects/virg/part2.html
Visually Impaired Resource Guide - Assistive Technology for Students who use Braille

http://tte.tamu.edu/
Texas Text Exchange - Welcome to the Texas Text Exchange - the first web-based digital library of electronic books for exclusive use by students with disabilities!
The TTE has 441 books online and 100 active institutions in the US and Canada.

http://www.pulsedata.com/handlers/display.cfm/8,420,18,24,html
Pulse Data Releases KeyWeb, The First Portable Web Browser For Persons Who Are Blind

Put this page together quickly based on a request. It is a very cursory (no pun intended) treatment of keyboarding software. We can make it better.  If you have reviews (positive, negative, whatever) of any of the above, or any new software, or teaching techniques, lesson plans, etc. related to this topic, please share them with Jim Allan. I will post them to this page, so all teachers can benefit from your experience.

  • VI Technology Resource Guide Keyboarding Skills - excellent source for skills list and strategies
  • Search Closing the Gap Resource Directory - search for "keyboarding" to see a list of available keyboarding software. Includes short review, product description, and manufacturer contact information.
  • About One Hand Typing and Keyboarding - Resources, Instructions and Motivation
  • Talking Typing Teacher - built-in speech
  • SuperKids Software Review of Typing Software - good overview of keyboarding software.
  • Ultrakey: SuperKids Software Review of UltraKey.
  • Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing: SuperKids Software Review of Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing Version 5.
  • Mario Teaches Typing: SuperKids Software Review of Mario Teaches Typing 2.
  • Type to Learn: (www.sunburst.com/) SuperKids Software Review of Type to Learn.
    comments from vision teachers (from AERNET)
    From Carla Wirzburger
    This program comes on disk and CD in both MAC and PC formats. It has  large print options and I've used it very successfully with low vision students of various abilities and ages. I've also had a couple of paraprofessionals learn to type along with my students. It is a little unusual in that it does not teach the home-row keys first. I find this is great for kids who might have trouble remembering the whole home-row as taught in traditional programs or kids who might have more difficulties learning to coordinate their ring and little fingers. However, if I'm working with a student with good motor-memory and coordination, I prefer a more traditional home-row approach.
    From PBJGal
    It's a very good program. Although I do not believe that it was designed with only visually impaired people in mind, it has some very good qualities. The contrast is good; there is some speech; there is not a lot of visual clutter and there are a variety of lessons and games available. It works well with Close View - a screen enlargement program on the Mac.
    From Pam Zipperer
    If your student has low vision, Sunburst Company has a great program called "Type to Learn."  I have used it with students as young as four years old.  You can set all types of parameters as far as mastery, words per minute, etc.  It's the best keyboarding program I have found.  I would work for about 15 minutes with my student making sure he was using the correct finger placement, etc; after a few years, he was able to work independently.  We just kept increasing the number of words per minute he needed to type, before he could move to the next level.  toll free number is 800-321-7511.
  • Infogrip, Inc. - One-handed, other keyboards, and alternative input devices.
  • Keyboarding For Kids
    Teach your child in 10 easy fun lessons by Barbara Aliaga
    SELF-COUNSEL SERIES
    International Self-Counsel Press Ltd.
    Editorial Office
    306 West 25th Street
    North Vancouver, BC V7N 2G1
    CANADA

If you have reviews (positive, negative, whatever) of any of the above, or any new software, or teaching techniques, lesson plans, etc. related to this topic, please share them with Jim Allan. I will post them to this page, so all teachers can benefit from your experience.

by Sharon Nichols

Email:

In today's world learning to use email applications is a natural activity for most students. The rewards are almost immediate! Here are some ideas to help your student jump into the glorious world of email.

  • Have student use email to contact the VI teacher with questions or weekly updates. (Depending on access to equipment and homework load the student may need a designated time at school to do this!)
  • Students can email each other. Several of our students met at a VI low vision day and exchanged email addresses.
  • Email your student encouraging messages, information on interesting web sites, or even a joke. This gives them opportunities to practice opening and reading their email.

Phone book:

Help your student set up phone book file using a computer or Braille notetaker.

  • Practice phone skills using the phone book file your student has created.
  • Encourage your student to add new numbers to the file monthly (family, friends, teachers)
  • Have your student call the State Library to order books and keep the number in the phone book file.

Calendar:

Use the calendar function on your student's computer (as in Microsoft Outlook), or a Braille notetaker. Your student could learn to use this function to keep up with class assignments and projects. All students learn to keep an assignment notebook and using technology can reduce the bulk of paperwork your student carries.

Writing Journal:

Allow your student to keep their writing journal in their Braille notetaker or computer.

  • Have to student print out journal entries at the end of the week to place in a notebook. Allowing them to keep one progressive journal per week, gives the student daily practice on locating, opening, and saving files.
  • Show your student how to create a "diary" on their device.

Notetaking:

Use technology in the classroom to take notes. Students can listen to or print out note files to study for exams.

Completing Classroom Assignments:

Students should use their notetakers and computers to complete as many classroom assignments as is appropriate. (Remember, that math must be written on a Braillewriter.) Technology allows students to turn in work on time and in a format that the teacher can read.

Use Scanners to Access Materials:

Teach your students to scan print materials and use OCR software to access those materials. This will be a skill for life!