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Perkins SMART Brailler Contest at Wonderbaby

Wonderbaby has a program going on right now where families can apply to be visited by the new Perkins SMART Brailler. They get to keep it for two weeks then pass it on to the next family. When the program finishes WonderBaby readers will get to vote for which family gets to keep the brailler (so it's a promotion and contest all in one): http://www.wonderbaby.org/articles/backpacking-smart-brailler-event While this is a chance to work with a Perkins SMART Brailler for your child, the website is an excellent resource for parents and specifically parents of children with visual impairments. Give them a look.
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NaviDys For iPad Offers Total Control Over Browser Text

From Cult of Mac: Ever wish that you could change the font size in your iPad web browser? Well, with NaviDys you totally can. You can also switch up the font, and adjust letter spacing and line spacing. What is this browser? A type nerd’s dream? Well, maybe, but really it’s designed to make things easier for the visually impaired. Double-tapping a chunk of text to zoom in works great, except that once that wrapped text hits the edge of the screen it isn’t getting any bigger – not unless you want to pan left and right just to read a sentence. Navidys brings in a host of text-based accessibility options, including one thing that might just make it my go-to browser for reading: Christian Boer’s Dyslexie font. How much for this mobile marvel? Just $3.  
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Amazon Bringing New Accessibility Features to Free Kindle Reading Apps

Amazon Kindle press release Amazon today announced new accessibility features for the Kindle reading app, making it easier than ever for blind and visually impaired customers to navigate their Kindle libraries, read and interact with their books, and more. These new features are available starting today on Kindle for iOS, and accessibility enhancements will be available on additional platforms in the future. “We’re excited to introduce these new features to our Kindle for iOS app, making it easier than ever for our blind and visually impaired customers to access the vast selection of over 1.8 million books in the Kindle Store on their iPhone or iPad,” said Dorothy Nicholls, Vice President, Amazon Kindle. “With this update, we’re also making customer-favorite features—such as X-Ray, End Actions, sharing, highlighting and bookmarking—more accessible. We look forward to continuing to develop and extend our accessibility features on Kindle Fire and our other Kindle apps.” New...
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Amazon Bringing New Accessibility Features to Free Kindle Reading Apps

Amazon Kindle press release Amazon today announced new accessibility features for the Kindle reading app, making it easier than ever for blind and visually impaired customers to navigate their Kindle libraries, read and interact with their books, and more. These new features are available starting today on Kindle for iOS, and accessibility enhancements will be available on additional platforms in the future. “We’re excited to introduce these new features to our Kindle for iOS app, making it easier than ever for our blind and visually impaired customers to access the vast selection of over 1.8 million books in the Kindle Store on their iPhone or iPad,” said Dorothy Nicholls, Vice President, Amazon Kindle. “With this update, we’re also making customer-favorite features—such as X-Ray, End Actions, sharing, highlighting and bookmarking—more accessible. We look forward to continuing to develop and extend our accessibility features on Kindle Fire and our other Kindle apps.” New...
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iOS apps Developed Specifically for People who are Blind or Low Vision

I'm sure many people know, but in case you don't there are iOS apps developed specifically for people who are blind or low vision. And if you are unfamiliar with the AppleVis website it is an excellent resource for iOS apps and podcasts. http://www.applevis.com/apps/ios-apps-for-blind-and-vision-impaired
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Literacy in the Digital Age

Here is an interesting quote on a listserv Education and Technology that is full of fascinating information (http://www.educatorstechnology.com/) and it is a different twist on literacy:  "Lanham noted in "American Scientific", that "word literacy", meaning the ability to read and write, has gradually extended its grasp in the digital age until it has come to mean the ability to understand information, however presented " ( 1995, p. 198)."
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Accessible, Affordable Educational Technology… One person’s reflection on a new initiative

I recently read the “Impatient Optimists” blog posting on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation site entitled: Introducing inBloom: Accessible, Affordable Education Technology  First I have to say that I am not “a techie”.  In fact, I may be the only person that not only doesn’t have a smart phone, but doesn’t have any sort of a data plan on the cell phone that I do own… and sometimes use.  However, I am married to a techie and while the knowledge doesn’t rub off, the attitude does.  As a result, my beliefs in this topic can be summarized as follows: The goal of education is to increase independence and the ability to make choices in one’s life.  This applies to all children, regardless of their age or abilities. Technology is an important tool not only for education, but life outside of school, and eventually, of work. Accessible technology is not optional...
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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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Change Reaction Mac OS X Game for the Blind

ChangeReaction, Draconis Entertainment's classic audio  puzzle game for the blind and visually impaired comes to  OS X with new audio, three entirely different modes of  game play, a host of new features, and a cheaper price  tag! Primarily intended for blind and visually impaired gamers,  ChangeReaction is played via the keyboard and your  ears. Navigate the game board with the arrow keys,  dropping coins on the stacks to create chains of  explosions and rack up higher and higher scores! Match  three coins of the same denomination vertically or  horizontally to trigger a chain reaction that blows up all  adjacent coins of the same value! This game has no visual  element. Use your fingers, ears, and wits to rack up the  highest scores possible! Find the game on the Mac App Store. 
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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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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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Accessible Books for Texas

Most of you already know about this, but if you don't here a link to a website that explains the partnership between the State of Texas and Bookshare. http://www.accessiblebooks4tx.org.  The original focus of the the project is to educate educators on digital talking books, who qualifies for services, and how to obtain these books.   There are three outreach coordinators hired by Benetech (parent company of Bookshare) assigned to serve various ESC regions.  If need help with Bookshare issues this might be a good place to start finding answers to questions you might have.  Hope you find it useful. Patrick Van Geem, TVI Assistive Technology Consultant
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Artificial Intelligent (AI) Braille Tutor

The researchers at Quantum Simulations have recently been working on the development of an Artificial Intelligent (AI) Braille Tutor, and we are in the process of obtaining additional funding from the Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences (IES).  As part of this proposal we are seeking  a VI supervisors of public schools to agree to help us recruit TVIs and their students to work with us in the field testing portion of the project.  Quantum has successfully developed AI Tutors in the areas of chemistry, developmental math and accounting, and we have begun applying this technology to an AI Braille Tutor.  The field testing is vital to enable us to get feedback from expert braille teachers and their students, so we can report back to the Department of Education as to the value of using this technology in the process of teaching braille. We would appreciate your help with recruiting TVIs for the field testing. ...
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Access to Textbooks Article from AFB Accessworld

Access to Textbooks A Step Forward for Accessible Textbooks: A Review of the STudent E-rent Pilot Project J.J. Meddaugh Sponsored by a federal grant, STEPP was launched in 2010 by the Alternative Media Access Center and Georgia Tech University in partnership with CourseSmart, one of the largest distributors for college textbooks. Using the CourseSmart website, thousands of titles are available on a rental basis for online viewing. Titles are available for roughly half the cost of purchasing the physical book at retail price. While other programs are available that offer textbook rentals for students, this is one of the few examples where practically the entire system is accessible. CourseSmart offers an accessible reader that allows for simple navigation and searching of the book. For the full article see AFB Accessworld.
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Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM)

As the school year begins, families of students who have difficulty using typical printed instructional materials effectively often have concerns and questions about "accessible instructional materials" and if those materials could be needed by their children. The August back-to-school edition of the AIM Connector highlighted resources that address questions frequently asked by families at the start of school. Access the AIM Factsheet for Families AIM Basics for Families (2011). This booklet, available in English and Spanish, will help you and other members of your child's Individualized Education Program (IEP) team decide whether the student needs AIM, what type of specialized format the student needs, how to access the materials for the student, and what supports the student needs to use AIM. AIM: A Technical Guide for Families and Advocates (2011). This guide Includes background information on AIM provisions in IDEA, definitions of terms, a thorough description of the decision-making process for AIM, and where...
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Free On-line Video Tutorials for Voiceover!

Watch Brian Charlson, Director of Technology at The Carroll Center as he demonstrates how to use Voiceover  screen reader on the iPhone. Thesefree tutorials focus on the use of Apple products and blind friendly apps. There is also a videoUsing Apple TV with Voiceover showing how to use the digital entertainment center device, Apple TV. All videos are captioned and audio described. Enjoy the show! VoiceOver Screen Navigation on the iPhone 4S Using Apple TV with Voiceover Identify Anything with VizWiz on the iPhone Gestures with VoiceOver on the iPhone 4S Accessing BookShare with Read2Go on Apple iOS
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Take a Memo: Ten Tips for Successful Voice Dictation on a Mac

This article explains speech recognition past and present using built-in and purchased software. The article also has a nice explanation of the difference between speech dictation and voice control. If you have a student who needs to use speech dictation this article has very useful tips. The website is called "TidBITS Apple news for the rest of us".  This is the article URL. Sharon Nichols
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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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