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Braille Production with MacOS

Many school districts are switching to MacOS for various reasons, particularly around the issue of virus protection.  The problem for us in the field of visual impairments is that much of the accessibility software is PC (Windows OS) based, especially when it comes to embossing and braille production.  There is an emulation software called VMware Fusion which is now in its 4th edition so it can work with MacOS 10.7 (Lion). Emulating software (according to Wikipedia)  duplicates (or emulates) the functions of a first computer system in a different second computer system, so that the behavior of the second system closely resembles the behavior of the first system.  In this case, the MacOS can now run Windows XP or 7  as a separate application.  Windows-based applications are now able to almost run in the same way as they do on a PC computer.  The emphasis is on “almost”.  There are some...
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OATS (Open Source Assistive Technology Software)

There is a website called OATS which stands for Open Source Assistive Technology Software.  The address: Oats Software ( will take you directly to their software repository.  This page contains a list of open source software categories that are all related to assistive technology applications.  There are a few applications geared towards persons with visual impairments.  Although these applications were extensively tested, be sure to run a virus protection scan as they are open-source software. Pat Van Geem Assistive Technology Consultant TSBVI Outreach Department
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Two Useful Assistive Technology Websites

Found some websites that might be of interest to all of us in the field of visual impairment using assistive technology.  Thought I might share them.   Google Products Accessibility Features Google has an accessibility web page that explains some of their products’ accessibility features for users with visual impairments.  Some of the Google applications are: Chrome, Android, Gmail, Docs, Calendar, eBooks and Google Voice.   The accessibility features these applications offer are: low vision settings, shortcut key commands, syncing with Outlook, and screen reading.  Included also are accessibility features for users with hearing impairments. Google Accessibility (   Tech Vision Blog There is a blog called Tech Vision by a Denise Robinson, Ph.D., TVI, that contains a wide range of assistive technology information.  It is a remarkable source for all type topics ranging from Duxbury to IPads.  Please take a gander at the listed (according to months and years) on the left sidebar. ...
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Federal Communication Commission Launches Accessibility Clearinghouse

The Federal Communications Commission has launched its accessibility clearinghouse in an effort to connect more consumers (including children and young adults) to accessible telecommunication options. Accessible Clearinghouse Also quickly, this is a great site that is linked on the FCC’s page for helping consumers and their families find accessible wireless options. Accesswireless website As all children and young adults use mobile technologies as a part of their daily lives, it is critical that our students with visual impairments and deafblindness have options. So glad that the FCC is taking a strong leadership role in helping people with disabilities have access. Please share! Amy T. Parker, Ed.D., C.I. & COMS Research Assistant Professor Virginia Murray Sowell Center 806-742-1997 X 248 office
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Free Digital Textbooks on Windows 7 using JAWS or WindowEyes

Access Technology Institute are offering two free digital textbooks.  Both books are tutorials on Windows 7 using either JAWS or WindowEyes.  The books are downloadable as .zip files.  When extracting the files, five file formats are available: Word 2007(.docx), plain text (.txt), DAISY, .html, and individual MP3 files.  These are rich resources for students or TVIs who now can access these files using various software and/or devices, such as DAISY playback devices/applications, braille notetakers, or computers.   Cathy Ann Murtha, author of the textbooks, structures her tutorials in a way that makes it easy and pleasant to learn. The same structure could be used to teach students access software applications.  Please take advantage of this free offering.  The website address is:   Pat Van Geem Assistive Technology Consultant
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The Department of Transportation's Air Travel Accessibility Proposal

We are reaching out to you because of the big stake you have in the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) efforts to maintain the rights of travelers with disabilities. We encourage you to join the conversation at Regulation Room and help DOT get this new regulation right. Regulation Room is part of Cornell University’s e-Rulemaking Initiative.  DOT has proposed new regulations that will: Require airlines and airports to make check-in kiosks accessible to travelers with disabilities; and, Require airlines and travel agents to make their websites accessible to individuals with disabilities. Very few travelers with disabilities have commented on this important proposal, but there is still time to submit your comments before the January 9th cutoff date. Many people who would benefit from the proposal don't realize that DOT needs to hear from people who agree with the proposed regulations, not just those who disagree. We Urge You To Participate Before Time...
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Parent Training "Pay it Forward"

Are you a seasoned parent that has been in the trenches for a few years? If so, you are probably frustrated with at least one of the systems that provide services for your child and family. These services are based on policies developed by politicians and administrators that have little if any experience raising a child with a disability. You may want to challenge some policies and procedures and advocate for changes that would benefit your child as well as others with disabilities but don’t know where to start.   Participants in the Texas Advanced Leadership and Advocacy Conference (TALAC) learn where to start, how to advocate successfully and have the chance to practice these skills with policymakers. You will become confident and competent in your ability to make a difference in your community and statewide. If you are regularly giving support and information to others new to disability, then I encourage you...
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"Sign with Your Child" Video Series

Parents and extended families of children with deafblindness often ask where they can go to learn sign language. There are many options, which begin with their school district, regional day school program for the deaf, community colleges and churches.  Recently I learned of this on-line resource that can be very helpful with basic sign language.   Challenge Discovery Projects, a Virginia-based 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, provides school-based and community programs for youth that address bullying, violence, substance abuse and emotional health. In addition, Challenge Discovery Projects offers emotional health and substance abuse counseling to the deaf and hard of hearing.  The Parent Child Advocate Program (PCA), part of Challenge Discovery Projects, addresses the multiple needs of families with children who are deaf or hard of hearing by offering sign language skill development, providing psychosocial education and facilitating access to community resources. The PCA program advocates early intervention in teaching social and communication...
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Gayle Unplugged blog

Check out Gayle Unplugged:  a blog by a woman with blindness that offers practical advice on daily living skills. Gayle Unplugged blog.
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Technology Decision Making Tool - AIM Navigator

The AIM Navigator is an accessible, web-based tool designed to help local educational teams think through decisions about accessible instructional materials for students.   It has sections to address assessing student need, determining appropriate instructional formats, decisions on purchase/acquisition of appropriate formats, and related training/supports to support student progress.  There are many helpful sections with in depth information available to help with each step in the process, and the Navigator generates a student summary that can follow a student across their years of schooling as well as a To Do list documenting next steps for the team.  This FREE tool is found on the National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials website at AIM Navigator. Outreach Director Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired
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Braille Institute IPhone/IPad App for Vision Simulations

At the recent SWOMA Conference a teacher shared a great app from the Braille Institute that show vision simulations.  Vision simulations are nothing new, but this one let you point your camera on your phone or IPad and see a vision simulation of a real-time scene.  Using touch-screen controls, the user can select one of the four simulators to replicate the symptoms of that particular disease. The application uses the device camera to allow the user to see the world through digital filters simulating the symptoms and experience of the disease. Using sliding touch-screen controls, the user can manipulate the severity of the symptoms. The real-time still images can be saved by the camera and stored for later review in the image gallery, or to be shared. Check out this free app at the Braille Institute. Kate Hurst Statewide Staff Development Coordinator Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired
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Voiceover How-To Resources

While this website has more than VoiceOver screen reader for the Mac and iOS, tutorials it also contains other computer information. I just wanted to point it out as an excellent resource with tutorials for VoiceOver. The site's name is Tech-Ease. Another good site for VoiceOver with iOS is AXS Lab maintained by Daniel Göransson.
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High Touch and Low Incidence - What I have learned from the Deafblind Census

In a conversation I had with Jay Gense, director of the National Consortium on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB), he estimated the incidence of deafblindness for children and youth birth to 22 years old in the United States is around .01%. The incidence in Texas is slightly higher at about .017%.  This means that out of the 4 million plus students in public education in Texas, around 750 are identified as having both hearing and vision problems.  Here is a different perspective:  4 million miles will take you around the Earth at the equator 161 times.  It is almost exactly a 750 mile drive from Houston to El Paso.  Quite a difference (And you thought Texas was so big!). One of the lessons I have learned from looking at the Deafblind Census is that no two of the students are alike.  There may be 79 students who are considered deafblind as the result of...
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Teacher of the Deafblind (TDB) Pilot Program

There is a movement afoot in the world of deafblind education..... Movement afoot you say?!?!?  That's A Big Yes Pardner.... TSBVI Outreach is currently partnering with the Region 4 Education Service Center on a Teacher of the Deafblind (TDB) Pilot program. The Pilot program is just starting on it's first year of a two year cycle. Select teachers and administrators from the Cy-Fair Regional Day School for the Deaf, Katy ISD, and TSBVI's Comprehensive Programs are participating. Our goal is to start small with this group, define the role of a TDB, establish a great program for technical assistance, and grow it into a sustainable model that is recognized on a state and national level. Another really great aspect of this program is that we are able to work with Texas Tech, who has online, graduate level, coursework in deafblindness. We are encouraging our Pilot TDB's to enroll and reap the...
Recent Comments
Guest — Linda Hagood
I have heard that Amy Parker is no longer affiliated with TTU. This is such a great loss for Texas! Her absence will certainly i... Read More
Saturday, 11 February 2012 08:17
Guest — administrator
Yes, it is a great loss to Texas and her absence will be felt. We are also going to gain a national resource with her move, so in ... Read More
Wednesday, 15 February 2012 10:03
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Emerging Writing

I just listened to a presentation on emerging writing in children who are 3-5 years of age.  What I kept thinking to myself was “How can we support the participation of children with visual impairments in emergent writing activities?” Here is a definition of emergent writing and a link to the paper it came from: “The broad construct of emergent writing includes the physical marks that young children make on paper, the meanings that children attribute to these markings, and the social contexts in which the writing takes place (Clay, 1975; Rowe, 2008).”p.54 Preschool lab Ohio State University  Getting the physical marks on paper may be the hardest part for a child with a visual impairment.  In children with typical vision, these marks start out as scribbles and/or pictures. For some children with visual impairments, just providing high contrast markers, good lighting, using a light box as a writing surface, using...
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"mouthing pillow"

While watching a video of a student we see on an ongoing basis, we got the input of one of our local occupational therapists, and what great input she gave!  We watched this student, who has visual impairment and very limited motor abilities, play by continually flipping a pillow onto her face.  While the pillow was on her face, she appeared to be moving her mouth a little bit.  This student, due to motor limitations, has not been able to bring objects to her mouth to explore them.  Our OT suggested creating a "mouthing pillow."  We used a firm, foam pillow that would not be floppy, made a pillow case from "headliner" fabric because it sticks well to the male velcro, and sewed elastic with notebook rings so that objects could be affixed and removed easily for washing the case.  The objects we selected it have characteristics similar to objects that...
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Writing, Organization, and Extended Time

While thinking about writing while creating a workshop on the topic, I was thinking about the practice of giving students with visual impairments shorter assignments (5 pages instead of 10) and/or extended time (paper due in 5 weeks instead of 4). Both practices may have merit but then I was struck by a possible third option.  That third option would be teaching better organization skills and keeping assignment length and due date the same. I was particular struck by this as I was approaching some writing projects of my own.  Regardless of the length of what I am writing, my habit is and always has been to do my writing within days (hours!) of the due date.  Not a good strategy.  I wonder how many students with visual  impairments use the same strategy?  I can tell you from experience this was not a good habit to get into once I was...
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Neuroscience and Writing

While preparing a workshop on writing by students with visual impairments, I found a general education web site about writing.  This was the National Writing Project at One of the articles at this web site was about how writing can impact the brain.  That article is “Writing and the Brain: Neuroscience Shows the Pathways to Learning” at As I read the article, I thought about the need for students with visual impairments to write more and to write as part of a collaborative effort.  Logistics may make that harder for students who use Braille but I think it behooves us as teachers of students with visual impairments to think of ways to make that happen. Jim Durkel APH Materials Coordinator
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Resource for Working on Listening Skills

This website is actually designed for ESL students, but can be used with a variety of students working on listening skills. Often students are listed as auditory learners but have not worked on developing their listening skills, so this website might offer one resource.
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The Accessibility of Four Types of Electronic Documents

Accessibility of electronic files as supplements for online courses or lessons is an important issue for students with disabilities.  General education teachers, who actually do most of the electronic production for students, do not seem to understand the accessibility issues of these documents.  If a document is not made accessible, the user with disabilities can experience difficulties in: document navigation, clarity of content, searching for specific information, and user fatigue due to the complex document layout.  There are four major types of electronic files that are used for online or off line lessons. The Four Types of Electronic Documents Electronic documents are used for various reasons, such as: activities, reference material, supplemental information, worksheets, and other assignments.  Students get the documents through email, by downloading them from learning management systems or through a file sharing system. Depending on the author, accessibility of these files can vary greatly.  The electronic documents...
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